Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Milk Bar Funfetti Birthday Cake

  Our friend Mrs. A has been creating pinterest worthy moments long before blogs and pinning were a thing. We have been blessed to share in a good part of those moments, from unbelievable themed birthday parties to the most All-American 4th of July barbecues, and Christmas wouldn't be the same if we didn't giggle over trivia games and stuff ourselves with her famous meatballs on Christmas Eve. She has been making our lives special in so many ways for the past 25 years, and such a wonderful friend deserves a special birthday dessert. 

We wanted to make something amazing for Mrs. A, and this cake has been on the special occasion list for quite a while, so her birthday was the perfect time to pull out all the stops.

 This is a really long and involved recipe, but each step on its own is relatively easy and they can be done several days in advance.  This is not something that can be done at the last minute, and takes a bit of planning, but it is absolutely worth it.  The cake itself is delicious, with flavors similar to the boxed Funfetti of childhood, but better because it is homemade.  The crumb layer inside gives a nice sweet crunch, and the frosting is light and smooth, and not overly sweet.

Our family would not be the same without Mrs. A, and we look forward to many more celebrations with her. We know we can count on her for beautiful, creative decorations, and we will bring the cake. 

Birthday Cake
adapted from Milk. Momofuku Milk Bar by Christina Tosi

1 recipe Birthday Cake
1 recipe Birthday Cake soak
1 recipe Birthday Cake frosting
1 recipe birthday Birthday Cake crumb
1 6 inch cake ring
2 acetate strips 3 inches wide and 20 inches long.
One bottle clear vanilla extract (you need this if you want it to taste like the boxed  funfetti cake.)

Birthday Crumb
1/2 cup (100g)  granulated sugar
1 1/2 tablespoon (25g)  light brown sugar, tightly packed
3/4 cup  (90g) cake flour
1/2 teaspoon (2g) baking powder
1/2 teaspoon (2g) kosher salt
2 tablespoons (25g) rainbow sprinkles
1/4 cup (40g) grape seed oil
1 tablespoon (12g) clear vanilla extract

Heat oven to 300f

Combine the 1st six ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer. Mix on low speed until well combined.
Add the oil and vanilla and paddle again to distribute, continue paddling until mixture forms clusters.
Spread the clusters on a parchment or silpat lined baking sheet. Bake for 20,minutes, breaking them up occasionally. The crumbs should be slightly moist to the touch, they will dry and harden as they cool. Cool completely before using in recipe.

Birthday Cake
4 tablespoons(50g) butter, room temperature
1/3 cup (60g) vegetable shortening
1 1/4 cups (250g) granulated sugar
3 tablespoons (50g) light brown sugar tightly packed
3 eggs
1/2 cup(110g) buttermilk
1/3 cup (65g) grape seed oil
2 teaspoons (8g) clear vanilla extract
2 cups (245g) cake flour
3/4 teaspoon (3G) kosher salt
1/4 cup(50g) rainbow sprinkles
Additional 2 tablespoons (25 g) rainbow sprinkles

Heat oven to 350f

Combine the butter, shortening and sugars in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together on medium high speed for 2-3 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, add the eggs, and mix on medium high speed for 2-3 more minutes. Scrape the sides of the bowl.
On low speed stream in the buttermilk, oil and vanilla. Increase speed to medium high and paddle for 4-6 minutes until the mixture is practically white, twice the size of the original fluffy butter sugar mixture and completely homogenous. Don't rush the process,  there should be no streaks of fat or liquid.

On very low speed add the cake flour, baking powder, salt and the 1/4 cup of  sprinkles. Mix 45-60 seconds, just until your batter comes together. Scrape the sides of the bowl.

Spray a quarter sheet pan with cooking spray and line it with parchment paper. Spread the batter in an even layer in the pan. Sprinkle the remaining 2 tablespoons of sprinkles evenly over the top of the batter.
Bake cake for 30-35 minutes. The cake will rise and puff, doubling in size, but  will remain slightly buttery and dense. At 30 minutes, gently poke the edge of the cake with your finger, the cake should bounce back slightly and the center should no longer be jiggly. Leave in the oven for an extra 3-5 minutes if it doesn't pass these test.
Remove cake from oven and cool on a wire rack.

Birthday cake soak
1/4 cup (55g) milk
1 teaspoon (4g)  clear vanilla extract
Whisk together in a small bowl.

Birthday cake frosting
8 tablespoons (115g) butter, room temperature
1/4 cup (50g) vegetable shortening
2 ounces (55g) cream cheese
1 tablespoon (25g) glucose or  2 teaspoon (12g) corn syrup
1 tablespoon (18g) corn syrup
1 tablespoon (12g) clear vanilla extract
1 1/4. Cups (200g) confectioners sugar
1/2 teaspoon (2g) kosher salt
Pinch (.25g) baking powder
Pinch (.25g) citric acid (fruit fresh)

In the bowl of a stand mixer, with paddle attachment combine butter, shortening and cream cheese, paddle on medium high for 2-3 minutes, until smooth and fluffy. Scrap down the side of the bowl
With mixer on low speed,  stream in the glucose, corn syrup and vanilla. Change speed to medium high and beat 2-3 minutes until silky smooth and a glossy whites. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
On low speed,add confectioners sugar, salt baking powder and citric acid and mix to incorporate. Increase the speed to medium high and beat. For 2-3 minutes  until you have a stark white smooth frosting.

Invert cake on clean parchment paper, peel off the parchment on the bottom of the cake. Use a six inch cake ring to cut out 2 cake circles, these are the top 2 layers. You will use the scrapes to fit into the cake ring for the bottom layer. Clean cake ring

On a clean piece of parchment place your cake ring line the inside with an acetate strip, and fit the cake scrapes in the ring and tamp to an even layer.

Using a pastry brush on 1/2 the birthday cake soak.

Spread 1/5 of the frosting in an even layer over the cake.

Sprinkle with 1/3 of the birthday crumbs evenly over the top of the frosting. Use the back of your hand to anchor them in  place.

Use the back of a spoon to spread a second 1/5 of the frosting as evenly as possible over the crumbs.

With your index finger, gently tuck the second strip of acetate between the cake ring and the top 1/4 inch of the first strip of acetate, so that you have a clear ring of acetate 5-6 inches tall-high enough to support the height of the cake.

Set a cake round on top of the frosting, brush with remaining birthday cake soak, spread with 1/5 of frosting, followed by 1/3 cup birthday cake crumbs, 1/5 frosting. Top with remaining cake layer and cover with the last 1/5 frosting. Garnish frosting with the remaining birthday crumbs.

Freeze complete cake for 12 hour to set the cake and filling. I just put mine the the fridge overnight.
3 hours before serving remove cake from freezer and pop the cake out of the cake ring,push up form the bottom,  peel off acetate , cover in plastic wrap defrost in the fridge for minimum 3 hours.

** I have assembled cakes with the cake ring and acetate strips, but this time I was serving this cake at a big birthday dinner so I use 1  1/2 x the recipes and baked the cake batter in 3 - 8 inch cake pans. I  weighed all ingredients and assembled the cake on a cake plate without using acetate strips and chilled overnight in the fridge

printable recipe

link; Foodie Friday

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Lemon Spaghetti

We are very fortunate to have some wonderfully talented people in our lives, and one such person happens to be Doug Braun, owner of Presidio Winery. Doug is passionate about producing biodynamic, sustainable wines in the Santa Barbara, CA area, and showcases his wines in his tasting room in  nearby Solvang, CA.
After talking all things wine and food recently, Doug and I decided to combine our talents with some wine and food pairings using his wine choices from the Presidio Wine Club. One of the wines for March was the 2012 Pinot Gris, a medium bodied white wine, with apple and pear fruit notes and a nice mineral finish. We tasted this wine with a couple of recipes, but this lemon spaghetti really made both the wine and the recipe shine.

The lemon flavor in the pasta really picked up the fruit in the wine, but was also not overpowered by the slight bitterness at the end. As for the pasta itself, it was a really easy recipe to make. The sauce can be mixed and the shrimp can be cooked in the time it takes the pasta to boil, and then everything is tossed together to make a delicious, easy dish perfect for busy weeknights and the upcoming warmer spring evenings.

Lemon Spaghetti with Shrimp
Adapted from Giada De Laurentis, via Food and Wine

Vegetable oil, for frying
1/4 cup capers, rinsed, drained and patted dry
1 pound spaghetti
2/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice (from 3 lemons)
1 pound large shrimp, shelled and deveined
1/2 cup chopped Italian flat leaf parsley ( or basil), plus more for garnish

In a skillet, heat 1/4 inch of vegetable oil until shimmering. Add the capers and fry over moderately high heat, stirring, until browned and crisp, 3 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the capers to paper towels to drain.
In a saucepan of salted boiling water, cook the spaghetti until al dente. Drain, reserving 1 cup of the cooking water. 
While the pasta cooks, in a medium bowl whisk 2/3 cup of the olive oil with the grated cheese, lemon zest, ¼ tsp.salt (or to taste), and 1/3 cup of lemon juice. Reserve remaining lemon juice to add as needed for taste.

In a very large skillet, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil until shimmering. Season the shrimp with salt and pepper, add to the skillet and cook over moderately high heat, turning once, until just opaque, about 5 minutes total. Reduce the heat to moderate and add the pasta, lemon sauce, half of the reserved pasta water and the 1/2 cup of parsley. Cook, tossing, until the pasta and shrimp are coated, 2 minutes, adding more of the pasta water if the spaghetti is dry; transfer to shallow bowls, garnish with parsley and the fried capers and serve.
printable recipe
Lemons vary in acidity and flavor. Start with 1/3 cup of juice add more to bring up the flavor if necessary. 
 If you don't do shrimp this would be just as good as a side dish with grilled chicken or scallops.
The original recipe called for basil, but I used flat leaf parsley for its fresh citrusy flavor.

For more information on Presidio Wines visit their web page

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Lemon Bars

 One of my favorite things about cooking and baking is that each season has something to look forward to in the kitchen. The summer brings overflowing  vegetable from the gardens and juicy stone fruit, the holidays are full of pumpkin and peppermint, and January brings an abundance of citrus to the table.   

We love to have a bowl of tangerines and oranges for snacking and fresh juice, limes are squeezed into fun cocktails, and lemons very quickly turn into these lemon bars. We have been making these for so many years I'm not sure where the original recipe came from, but I do know that they are a staple in January when we are looking for a sweet treat to highlight all the lemons we acquire!

Lemon Bars
2 cups plus 2 Tablespoons flour
½ cup powdered sugar
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup butter, soft or melted
4 eggs slightly beaten
2 cups sugar
6 tablespoons lemon juice
Zest of one lemon
1 teaspoon baking powder
Optional  1/2 -1 teaspoon citric acid 
Pre heat oven 350F.
Butter and flour or line with a foil sling a 9x13 pan (quarter sheet pan)
In a food processor combine 2 cups flour, ½ cup powdered sugar, salt and butter. Pulse to mix. Press mixture evenly into prepared pan. Bake for 20 minutes.
In medium mixing bowl add eggs, beat with electric mixer to combine. Add sugar, lemon juice, zest, remaining 2 tablespoon flour, baking powder and citric acid is using. Beat until thoroughly combined. You can use the food process for the filing.  Pour over baked crust. Bake at 350 for 25 minutes, until center is set and edges are golden.

Cool in pan. Sprinkle top with powdered sugar. Cut in desired size and sprinkle with more powdered sugar.
If your lemons are not tart enough add ½- 1 teaspoon citric acid (fruit fresh) to the filling.
For easier cutting line baking pan with a foil sling, (Line pan with 2 sheets of foil - one down the length of the pan extending  over the ends and the other over the width extending over the sides.) spray with PAM. When the bars are cooled, lift the sling out of the pan to a flat surface for cutting.
 printable recipe

Thursday, December 18, 2014


Fudge is one of those treats that seems to be reserved for Christmas parties and cookie trays, which is probably a good thing because it is hard to stop at one tiny piece of this rich, chocolatey treat. Through the years, each of my children have become designated makers of a particular treat, and Mini Me is the fudge maker in our family. Mimi Jr makes seven layer bars, Boy Mimi is always right by my side while divinity is cooking, and Mr. Mimi has happily accepted his role as chief taste tester. 

My family has been making this fudge recipe since the 1950's, and we have learned a few things along the way. First, candy making can be tricky. Although we have success more often than not, we have had a few batches deemed failures. For us, the fudge needs to be smooth and creamy, not grainy, with a  deep chocolate flavor. Second, use a chocolate that you like to eat. We have changed the recipe from Hershey's bars to high quality milk and dark chocolate. Third, be careful when cooking the syrup. Keep a pastry brush in a cup of water near by to clean the side of the pan when sugar crystals form, and do not over cook the syrup. Use a good, accurate thermometer and have a timer handy. Every time I try to guess on time or temperature, something goes wrong and I end up wishing I had set a timer. Most importantly, have an excited taste tester around to lick the spoon when you are done, and plenty of bags for gifting this favorite holiday treat. 


1 - 12 oz can evaporated milk
4 1/2 cup granulated sugar
4 oz butter
12 oz dark chocolate,chopped
8 oz milk chocolate,chopped
1- 7 oz  jar marshmallow creme 
1 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
Optional: 1-2 cups chopped nuts

Butter a 9x13 pan

In a large bowl combine the chocolate, marshmallow creme, salt and vanilla. Microwave on high for 1-2 minutes to soften the chocolate. Set bowl aside. 

In a deep pot combine butter, milk, and sugar, and cook, stirring, over medium low heat until it comes to a boil. Do not stir in the sugar crystals from the sides of the pan, but use a pastry brush dipped in water to clean away the sugar. Stirring continuously, boil for 5 minutes, or until mixture reaches 234 degrees f. After the first 5 minutes, check the temperature every minute. It does not usually take more than 7 minutes total.

Remove from heat and pour syrup over the chocolate mixture. Stir until the chocolate and marshmallow creme have melted and are completely incorporated, add nuts if using. Pour into prepared pan. Smooth the surface then score fudge in desired size pieces. Let cool completely before cutting.
printable recipe

link:Foodie Friday

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Pumpkin Streusel Coffee Cake

One of my favorite things about the holiday season is all the kitchen traditions we have made over the years. We always have Indian Pudding on Thanksgiving, Mrs. A's meatballs on Christmas Eve, and days upon days of cookie baking and decorating. We've been making this pumpkin coffee cake for many years, and it is the perfect thing to have around for breakfast with a cup of coffee, or as an afternoon snack while decorating our mountains of cookies. 

The basic recipe comes from the Moosewood Restaurant Book of Desserts and  we have added a few twists to make it our own. The cake is moist and soft, and full of the fall spices that make everything so fragrant and delicious. While we find it pretty much perfect as is, this simple cake is easily adaptable; throw in a handful of chocolate chips or dried cranberries to start your own kitchen tradition.

Pumpkin Streusel Coffee Cake
adapted from Moosewood Restaurant Book of Desserts
1 cup butter
2 cups brown sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cup pumpkin puree
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1 cup chopped toasted walnuts or pecans

3/4 cup butter
1 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
Pinch of salt
1/2 cup chopped toasted walnuts or pecans

1 1/2 cups powder sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
pinch salt
2-3 tablespoons milk

Pre heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a 9x13 baking pan with cooking spray.

Make streusel topping:

In a medium bowl, with your fingers blend the first 5 ingredients together, making a moist crumble. Add the nuts and mix to combine. Set aside.

In the bowl of your mixer cream together the butter and sugar, until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.  Add the eggs, one at a time. Add the vanilla and pumpkin puree and continue to beat until thoroughly mixed.  Stir together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, salt, ginger, cloves and allspice. Add to the pumpkin mixture and mix until combined then fold in the nuts. Pour batter in prepared pan, smooth top and sprinkle streusel topping evenly over the top
Bake in for 40 -50 minutes, until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool.

When cake has cooled mix together icing ingredients in a small bowl, adding enough milk so that icing drizzles from your spoon. Drizzle the icing over the cooled cake. (I put the icing in a sandwich bag, snip off the corner and drizzle away)
Printable recipe
Link:Foodie Friday

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Fun Fall Treats

No matter how old my children get, they never get tired of holiday treats. I still make them hand made Valentines, Shamrock cookies, and Easter baskets, and Halloween is another favorite holiday for festive treats. Here are a couple of fun ideas that travel well, so they are perfect for sending to kids who are off at college, or a friend who you know would love a little holiday spirit. Both of these are coated in candy melts which help to seal them and keep them fresh during their travels.
These mice cakes are also a chance to use the egg cake mold that I only use at Easter. They are easy and cute and my kids have loved these since they were little, Make your favorite cupcakes and bake them in the egg mold pan. I like to chill the fully baked cakes in the refrigerator for an hour or so to help firm them up before dipping in grey candy melts. I use 80 % white to 20 % black candy melts to make gray. Once they are dipped, use sliced almonds for the ears, mini chocolate chip for the nose, and licorice whips for the tail, with red non perils for the eyes. when dry use a food writer to draw on the whiskers, and you have yourself the only mouse you ever want to see in your kitchen.

We all love anything involving peanut butter, so when I saw these a few years ago I knew they would make the perfect addition to a Halloween care package to send to Mini Me. The pumpkins are Ritz crackers with peanut butter sandwiched in between and dipped in orange candy melts. Once they dry, draw on the face details with a food writer or  black candy melts.
In addition to these, I usually tuck in some caramel corn, granola and spiced nuts for a great package of homemade treats that gets everyone ready for fall!
Link foodie Friday

Friday, August 29, 2014

Rocky Road Brownies

Good, old fashioned brownies are hard to beat, but if there was dessert to challenge them, these Rocky Road brownies would be it. They start with a rich brownie base, and take it up a notch by adding chocolate, nuts, and marshmallows. A little cream cheese is added to keep these soft and almost creamy, and to balance the sweetness from all the chocolate and marshmallows. These have made many summer BBQ appearances, and just might grace our dessert table over this long weekend.

This recipe comes from the  Only In California (1989), a cookbook published to raise funds for the Children's Home Society of California. I have several small cookbooks from various clubs and societies around the world, and I have found some of my favorite recipes in them. Many of these include recipes submitted from home cooks, and there is something fun about recreating a dish that you know another family loved enough to share in a book. I hope you enjoy these brownies as much as we do!

Rocky Road Brownies
Via Only in California

1/2 cup butter
1 square unsweetened chocolate
1 cup sugar
1cup flour
1/2 cup chopped nuts
1 tsp baking powder
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs

6 ounces cream cheese
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons flour
1 egg
1/4 cup butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup chopped nuts ( I use peanuts, but any nut is fine)
6 ounces chocolate chips

3 cups miniature marshmallows
1/4 cup room temperature butter
1 square unsweetened chocolate
2 ounces.cream cheese
1/4 cup milk
1 pound sifted powdered sugar
Spray with baking spray, or grease and flour a 9x13 pan. Pre heat the oven to 350 degrees F.

1. Make the bar: melt butter and chocolate over low heat or in the microwave. Add remaining bar ingredients and mix well. Spread in prepared baking pan.

2. Filling: Beat cream cheese, butter and sugar until smooth. Add egg, and vanilla mixing well. Add flour, beat until fluffy. Stir in the nuts. Spread over the bar mixture and sprinkle with chocolate chips. Bake at 350 degrees F. For 25 minutes

3. Frosting : Melt butter, chocolate, cream cheese and milk. Stir until smooth. Beat in sifted powdered sugar continue beating until smooth and satiny. Set aside until brownies come out of the oven.

 4. When brownies are done, remove pan from oven, sprinkle the marshmallows on top and return the pan to the oven and bake 2 minutes longer, until marshmallows are puffed. Remove from oven and immediately pour frosting over marshmallows and swirl together with a knife. Cool before cutting.

Printable recipe

Link:Foodie Friday

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Sugar Cookies

We have had a lot of celebrations this spring and summer, and we use every one as an excuse to make decorated sugar cookies. All we need is a theme or some color ideas, and we get baking!

 Our extended family welcomed two new baby girls this year. My sister is very lucky to have two new granddaughters! Baby H was born in May, and then Baby E followed in early June. They are both beautiful little girls already, and I see a future full of dress up and tea parties. 

For both showers, we did a tray of onsies and bibs, in pink for girls, and some cookies with the initial of each baby name in colors that coordinated with the baby rooms. Both moms gave us ribbon samples or pictures of bedding and we used those colors as our guide. 
 Mimi Jr. recently said adios to a co-worker, who happens to love all things western. We took this as an opportunity to try some new cookies. We have never made boots or bandannas, but they were fun to do, and now we are ready for any Western themed parties that comes our way. 
for a tutorials on the bandanas   and marigolds
visit The Sweet Advemtures of Sugar Belle 

  We took on the task of cookie baking for a few spring parties hosted by friends, and nothing says springtime like some pretty blooms. It was fun to try new techniques for decorating, and we liked that these are an easy way to add some festivity to the table. 

Zinnias (top)I used a petal tip, with fairly firm icing holding the tip  perpendicular to the cookies surface  Marigolds (bottom)
I followed the tutorial at  sweetsugarbelle 

After four years that simultaneously dragged on and flew by, Mini Me graduated from UCI.

with her BSN.

She worked so hard and I know she will make an amazing nurse. The Mimi's are all very proud of her, and we will continue to supply her with cookies wherever she ends up.
 In just the first half of this year, we have had so much fun making and decorating cookies for friends and family.  I know there are many more occasions in the coming months that will be calling for cookies, and we will gladly get out our rolling pins and piping bags and bake away!

Sugar Cookie Recipe

Link: Foodie Friday