Monday, June 23, 2014

Having our cake and definitely eating it too!

If you haven't figured it out by now, I love to bake.  I love all kinds of baking and trying all new kinds of baking.  But through the years I have learned that cake is not my forte!  I can bake cookies, brownies, breads, biscotti, but cake for some reason always gives me a hard time.  Frostings, ok, but cake...  I'll take that box of Betty Crocker.  So, why did I decide to make 2 challenging ones within a week?  I have no idea.  LoL! 
The first one happened for Father's Day.  I asked the hubs what he wanted me to make and he wanted burgers (I could do that!) and white cake.  If anyone knows this man of mine, then they know he is as simple as they come when it comes to food.  Every birthday its white cake and white frosting.  BORING!  So I made the suggestion for a Neapolitan Cake I found on Pinterest.  Remember me saying I'm terrible at cake?  Yeah, I guess I'm a glutton for attempting past failures over and over.  I figured three layers of three different flavors, I have three kids, each get a layer to make and all is happy and equal.  Ha!  I had my work cut out for me!  BUT.  All in all I think it turned out pretty darn good!  Probably one of the best cakes I've made.  :)
Now, where I got the recipe from, she makes 5 layers.  I did 3 whole layers instead of all the cutting layers in half and all that jazz.  Each flavored cake made 2 cake layers, so I used one and wrapped and froze the others.  So, quite literally, I have a whole cake in freezer.  She also used jam inbetween layers and did a strawberry buttercream.  I did regular buttercream between and all over our cake.  Without further ado, here ya go!

Neapolitan Cake
adapted from Sweetapolita
Strawberry Cake

2 cups white sugar
1 (3oz) package of strawberry gelatin (JELL-O)
1 cup butter, softened
4 eggs, room temperature
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup whole milk, room temperature
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup strawberry puree made from frozen sweetened strawberries (or you could use unsweetened and add a tablespoon of white sugar) (I used fresh strawberries from the market, added 2 T sugar and processed them until they were fully pureed.)

1. Prepare two 9″ round pans (butter and flour, or parchment lined).
2. In a large bowl, cream together the butter, sugar, and dry strawberry gelatin until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each. Mix vanilla and milk together. Combine and whisk dry ingredients, adding to creamed mixture and alternating with milk/vanilla until just combined. Blend in strawberry puree. Pour into prepared pans.
3. Bake in 350 F for about 25 minutes, or until inserted toothpick comes out clean. Allow cakes to cool in pans on wire rack for 20 minutes, then inverting onto wire rack to finish cooling.

Chocolate Cake


  • 1 3/4 cups (220 g) all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups (400 g) granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup (90 g) Cacao Barry Cocoa Powder - Extra Dark
  • 2 teaspoons (10 g) baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon (5 g) baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon (9 g) salt
  • 2 eggs, at room temperature, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup (237 mL) strong, hot black coffee or espresso
  • 1 cup (237 mL) buttermilk, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup (119 mL) vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon (15 mL) pure vanilla extract

  • Directions:
    1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Prepare 2 x 9" (or 3 x 8" for slightly shorter layers) cake pans with butter and flour or parchment paper.
    2. In bowl of electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, sift all dry ingredients. Add remaining ingredients to mixture and mix for 2 minutes on medium speed (you may need the plastic splashguard that comes with mixer). 
    3. Divide among prepared pans. Batter will be liquidy.
    4. Bake for 20 minutes and rotate pans in oven. Cakes are done when toothpick or skewer comes clean, about 35 minutes. Try not to overbake. 
    5. Cool on wire racks for 20 minutes then gently invert onto racks until completely cool.
    Vanilla Cake

    1/2 cup butter
    2 cups white sugar
    3 1/2 cups flour
    1 teaspoon salt
    3 teaspoons baking powder
    1 1/2 cups ice water
    1 teaspoon vanilla
    4 egg whites beaten stiff

    Add sugar to the butter and beat until light. Sift dry ingredients and add alternately with ice water and vanilla, beating thoroughly after each addition. Fold in the beaten egg whites. Pour into greased layer pans and bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes. Cover with Angel Feather Icing and be tactful about the number of candles.

    Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

  • 1 cup (227 g/2 sticks/8 oz) unsalted butter, softened
  • 6 cups (750 g/1 lb + 10 oz) icing sugar (confectioners')
  • 1/2 cup (125 ml) whipping cream (35%)
  • 2 tablespoons (30 mL) pure vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon (15 mL) water
  • a pinch of salt

  • Directions:
    1. In an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and icing sugar on low speed until just combined. Increase speed to medium and beat until well-incorporated, about 3 minutes.
    2. Add the vanilla, water, whipping cream and salt, and whip on med-high speed until fluffy and smooth--about 3 more minutes. If consistency is too thick, add more water 1 teaspoon at a time, then whip again for 30 seconds or so. If your frosting is too thin, you can add more icing sugar a few tablespoons at a time until you achieve desired consistency.
    I used the buttercream inbetween each layer of cake and all over.  I had more than enough to be generous with it.  I had some left over so I used a ziplock bag, snipped the corner off and dotted around the bottom and top.  Then I took a cookie cutter I had of a helicopter and put sprinkled inside of it and when I lifted it back up we had a sprinkle helicopter on top.  It looked cute!  I baked 2 flavors of cake 1 day and did the third and frosting the next.  It worked out well and the kids had fun each baking their own special layer for daddy. 

    Next, I had my Bible study ladies over for a fellowship and fun night.  I asked everyone to bring a food that was something momma made, family tradition or something like that.  My mom is such an incredible cook, I wasn't going to try to copy her.  But every year for my birthday I would ask her to make German Chocolate Cake.  She isn't a big baker, but does have a few goodies up her sleeve!  This is one.  It is my absolute favorite!  And no store bought one can  hold a candle to it.  Yum!!  Just don't count the calories and double the frosting.  Yes, you heard me, double the frosting.  Just do it.  Eat it.  And never speak of it. 


    1 (4 ounce) package Baker's German sweet chocolate
    1/2 cup boiling water
    1 cup butter
    2 cups sugar
    4 eggs, seperated
    1 tsp vanilla
    2 cups all-purpose flour (I used GF flour and it turned out perfect!)
    1 tsp baking soda
    1/2 tsp salt
    1 cup buttermilk

     FROSTING (this is a single recipe...  you know you want to double it.)
    1 1/2 cups evaporated milk
    1 1/2 cups sugar
    4   slightly beaten egg yolks
    3/4 cup butter
    1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
    2 cups shredded coconut
    1 1/2 cups chopped pecans

    -Preheat Oven at 350ºF.
    - Melt chocolate in water, cool.
    - Cream butter and sugar.
    - Beat in egg yolks.
    - Stir in vanilla and chocolate.
    - Mix flour, soda, and salt.
    - Beat in flour mixture, alternately with buttermilk.
    - Beat egg whites until stiff peaks form; fold into batter.
    - Pour batter into three 9-inch layer pans, lined on bottoms with waxed paper.
    - Bake for 30 minutes or until cake springs bake when lightly pressed in center.
    - Cool 15 minutes; remove and cool on rack.
    - Combine evaporated milk, sugar, slightly beaten egg yolks, butter or margarine and vanilla in saucepan.
    - Cook and stir over medium heat until thickened. Remove from heat.
    - Stir in shredded coconut and chopped pecans. 
    - Cool until thick enough to spread.

    If you happen to find yourself in a world where you cannot find German chocolate or sweetened coconut like I did, here's what you do...
    For sweet German chocolate simply use semi sweet chocolate and add 1 T sugar per ounce of chocolate.  So for this recipe I added 1/4 cup sugar to the boiling water and 4 ounces of semi sweet chocolate.
    For sweetened coconut, I could only find dehydrated or desiccated coconut.  I followed the directions HERE and it worked perfectly!

    Happy Cake Making!!

    Saturday, June 7, 2014

    Gluten Free Sandwich Bread (that doesn't suck!)

    It's been roughly a year and half since I started this gluten free journey.  I still have no "medical reasons" for eating gluten free.  But I can tell you that now when I do eat it, I feel awful!  I started to have alot of stomach issues, I won't get into the details, and figured I'd cut out gluten to start and see how it helped.  I was amazed that within just a few days I felt so much better!  I've dabbled with paleo and clean eating and still just try to make as much from scratch and as chemical free as possible.  I am by no mean close to perfect or do this all the time with everything, but I sure try my best.  I fully admit that I am a coffee and sugar addict.  I'm ok with that.  I try to limit my sweets (and alcohol) to the weekends, but I don't always succeed with that either.  I'm a stress eater.  So food is my best friend and my enemy sometimes.  I've always had a love for baking and pastries.  I love them!!  When I started gluten free eating that was the hardest for me to deal with.  I could do without the pasta and bread, but to not be able to bake or eat my favorite hot chocolate chip cookies would have killed me.  I was determined to find a way to continue what I already did, just with a gluten free twist. 

    That's when I found my All-Purpose Gluten Free Flour Blend that I use for everything.  It is the best one out there and definitely beats any of the pre mixed blends at the grocery store.  Using that blend I have made everything from cookies, biscotti, biscuits, Thanksgiving gravy, sweet breads, angel food cakes and tons more!  I am yet to have a fail with it.  I highly recommend this blend! 

    Now that I've figured out the regular baking part of being gluten free I thought it was time to step up a notch and start trying "real" breads.  I want to try all kinds!  If you have ever had gluten free bread, you know it is not the same as real bread.  It is desert dry.  I decided to start with the basics and try a sandwich bread first.  I remembered a friend posting on Facebook that she found a good recipe by Googling "gluten free bread that doesn't suck."  So, that's exactly what I did.  First one that popped up was a blog that a woman wrote about the same thing I was trying to accomplish. 

    First I had to make a different flour blend than my usual one.  This was hard for me.  I have attachment issues when I find something I like.  (Just ask anyone that knows me about my chapstick attachment.)  But I did it.  Like her, I couldn't find potato flour so I used instant potato flakes and processed them to make them as fine as I could for the flour blend.  Here's what you  need to make that.  You'll need the whole recipe of flour to make the bread recipe.

    Brown Rice Flour Blend

    Makes 4 cups
    1⅓ cups brown rice flour
    1⅓ cups tapioca flour/starch
    1⅓ cups cornstarch
    1 tablespoon potato flour

    Word of warning, it is a lot of starch so it will "puff up" in a cloud while mixing.  I had flour everywhere!  After a year and half of gluten free baking I'm sure that you have to have some scientific tendencies to bake this way!  Once you have that mixed up and ready you can get on with the rest of the bread recipe.  Here we go!

    Gluten Free Sandwich Bread (that doesn't suck)
    from One Good Thing by Jillee

    4 cups Brown Rice Flour Blend (see above recipe)
    1 tablespoon xanthan gum
    1 tablespoon gluten-free egg replacer
    2 teaspoons salt
    ½ cup powdered milk  (I omitted this and added 1/2 cup of warm whole milk instead)
    3 large eggs at room temperature (If you are allergic to eggs you can replace the 3 eggs with: 9 Tbsp. water and 3 Tbsp. ground flax seed)
    ¼ cup butter at room temperature
    2 teaspoons cider vinegar
    ⅓ cup honey
    1 package (2¼ teaspoons) active dry yeast (not INSTANT dry yeast)
    2 cups warm water (Since I used 1/2 cup of warm milk I only used 1 1/2 cups of warm water)

    • Spray cooking spray into two 8-inch bread pans.
    • Add the yeast to the 2 cups of warm water and stir until mixed. Set this aside to activate while you mix the rest of the ingredients.
    • Mix the flour blend, xanthum gum, gluten-free egg replacer, salt, and powdered milk together in a medium-size bowl and set aside.
    • Put eggs, butter, vinegar, and honey in the bowl of your mixer. With the paddle attachment, mix together for about 30 seconds. The butter will be chunky, that’s OK.
    • Add half the dry ingredients to the wet mixture in the mixer. Mix just until blended, and then add the remaining dry ingredients and mix for another 30 seconds, until blended.
    • With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the warm water and yeast mixture, then turn the mixer to medium-high speed and beat for 4 minutes.
    • After the 4 minutes your bread dough should resemble thick cake batter.
    • Spoon the dough into your greased bread pans. Dip your fingers in water to smooth the top of the dough, if desired. Set aside in a warm place to rise for approximately about 50 to 60 minutes.   While dough rises, preheat oven to 375 degrees.
    • When the dough has risen to about an inch above the top of the pans (My bread took closer to 1 1/2-2 hours to rise that much, but then had a big whole in it after baking that you can see in the picture below of it cut.  That usually happens when bread rises too long.  So use your judgment with this.), place the pans in your preheated oven on the middle rack and bake for 45 to 55 minutes or until the bread’s internal temperature reaches 200 degrees with an instant-read thermometer. (This is very helpful! It’s hard to tell when gluten-free bread is done. But if you don’t have an instant read thermometer you’re going to have to use your best guess based on your particular oven.)
    • Remove the bread from the oven and let cool in pans for 10 minutes. Then remove loaves from pans and place on a rack to cool. (As you can see, I brushed the top of mine with butter when they came out of the oven.)
    • After allowing it to cool COMPLETELY (this is important! Don’t rush it and cut into it while it’s still warm or you will flatten it.) I very, VERY carefully started cutting it into slices. This is ALSO very important…let your bread knife do the cutting for you! You provide the “sawing” action, but let the knife blade do the work. Don’t press down, just keep “sawing” across the top until you get all the way to the bottom of the loaf and hit the cutting board. The bread slices will keep their shape much better this way!

    This bread smelled sooo good while it was baking!  It came out gorgeous too!  It tasted like real bread.  It was soft and moist and delicious!  I will definitely make this more!  I can't wait to try French toast, grilled cheese and so much more.  My turkey sandwich was super yummy!  It did dry out a little by the next day.  I froze the second loaf.  We'll see how it is after it's been frozen. 

    I will leave  you now to your own opinion.  Give it a try and tell me what you think.  I don't think I'll be buying any at the grocery store again anytime soon.  :)

    Tuesday, June 3, 2014

    Rainy Day Fun with Homemade Play-dough and Brown Bag Popcorn

    We are coming up on our 3 month mark of living across the pond.  One thing we have learned is that we can't always tell the kids to go play outside anymore.  It rains here.  :)  For Memorial Day weekend we didn't have plans and pretty much stayed home.  The kids had a four day weekend from school and it poured rain the entire time.  By the time we hit day three they were getting antsy.  So, I did my usual and began to scroll through my Pinterest boards and found Play-dough.  I don't know why I hadn't thought of it earlier or why, up to until now, I have never made my own.  My kids all love Play-dough, especially my little one.  We threw out what we had before we moved and I hadn't gotten around to getting more yet.  So my girls and I hit the kitchen to try to whip some up.  It was so simple and we had everything we needed.  It was great.  They were even more excited to play with it since they made it and it kept all three of them busy for the next two days!  This is a great "recipe" if you haven't tried it before.  It is soft, not super salty, fast to make and the kids are guaranteed to love it.  :)  What do you do for rainy days??

    Ingredients: 1 C Flour
    1 C Water
    1/4 C Salt
    1 TBSP Vegetable Oil
    2 tsp Cream of Tarter
    Food Coloring (actual coloring or a kool-aid packet will do)
    Sparkles (If you wanna be a fun mom!)
    Sauce Pan and Wooden Spoon

    Pour everything in the saucepan, in not particular order.  Mix it well.
    Once the mixture is (mostly) clump free. Heat over MEDIUM heat.
    Stir. Don’t stop stirring. After a few minutes it will start to clump up.

    Stir, Stir, Stir.  Just keep stirring until the Play Dough is formed. It will  form one big clump.
    Remove from heat, and knead by hand.
    Once cooled it’s ready to go. Package it up for some party favors or stocking stuffers.  Or grab your cookie cutters, plastic scissors, rolling pin, etc.. and let your kids go to town.

    *This recipe yields about a cup and half of dough. 
    *I use this recipe for each color I make. 
    *Should last about 6 months


    We also love family movie night around here!  We try to have one at least once a month, if not once a week.  We, of course, always have to have popcorn.  I think my oldest could live on popcorn alone.  I hate microwave popcorn.  For me, it is always a last resort.  When I first saw my friend over at Change of Pace blog about making Brown Bag Popcorn, I knew she was a genius!  I love making it this way.  Each person gets their own bag, it is the perfect amount and there isn't any added junk to it.  Give it a try for your next movie night or even for an afternoon snack. 

    Brown Bag Popcorn

    Add 1/4-1/3 cup popcorn kernels to a brown paper bag, fold the bag over twice then heat in a microwave — folded side down — for 2-3 minutes.  And Ta-Da!  So simple and so good!  Add melted butter, salt or whatever you'd like and enjoy!