Red Velvet
September 5, 2011, 3:23 pm
Filed under: Dessert, Food and Recipes | Tags: , , ,

Red velvet has a special place in our hearts. It’s one of the few desserts that my husband will eat, and it was served to us on the night of our rehersal dinner. The first Valentine’s Day after we were married, I made these cupcakes in cute little silicone heart shaped cupcake molds. I’ve been making them ever since.

Recently, a group I’m involved with at work had a bake sale. I made these, and people flocked to them. I add a little vanilla bean to the icing so you get those cute little specks througout the frosting. Store leftovers in the fridge to keep the icing at its peak.

Don’t even think about the WW points on this one… It’s a treat, and it’s a Paula Deen recipe. That means butter, lots of it! If I know it’s just going to be and my husband snacking on them, I’ll split the recipe in half. Works good either way!

Red Velvet Cupcakes
Recipe slightly adapted from Paula Deen
Makes 24 cupcakes

For the cupcake:
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cocoa powder
1 cup vegetable oil
1 cup buttermilk, room temperature
2 large eggs, room temperature
2 tablespoons red food coloring
1 teaspoon white distilled vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the Icing:
1 pound cream cheese, softened
2 sticks butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 cups powdered sugar
1 vanilla bean, seeds removed

1. For the cupcakes: preheat your oven to 350. In a bowl, mix together your wet ingredients (oil, buttermilk, eggs, food coloring, vinegar, and vanilla) until well combined. You can use either a hand mixer, whisk, or stand mixer. In a seperate bowl, sift together your dry ingredients (flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, and cocoa powder). Add the dry ingredients to the wet and mix until well combined.

2. Line a muffin pan with liners and fill each cup 2/3 full. Bake for 20-22 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.

3. Set out cupcakes to cool. While they are cooling, whip together your cream cheese and butter, whipping on medium high until thoroughly combined. Add vanilla extract and beans. Add powdered sugar slowly, whipping on high until icing is light and fluffy. Once the cupcakes are fully cool, cover generously with icing and serve.


Cheesing it Up

This year, for his birthday dessert, my husband requested cheesecake. If you know my husband, then you know how much of a triumph this moment is for me. Starting off as a picky eater when we both were wed, his tastes have broadened slightly, making me a very, very happy girl.

I have been making this cheesecake for years now, and it’s my absolute favorite. A pecan crust, creamy center, and ease of preparation make this dessert worthwhile.

Vanilla Bean Cheesecake
Recipe courtesy of Ganache

For the crust:
2 cups Graham cracker crumbs
1/2 cup chopped pecans
4 tbsp melted butter
2 tbsp sugar

For the cheesecake:
4 8 oz blocks of cream cheese, at room temperature
1 cup sour cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 vanilla bean, split, seeds removed
1 tbsp flour
4 eggs
1 cup sugar

Line the outside of a 9 inch springform pan with tin foil, crimping it around the pan to make a waterproof barrier.

Preheat your oven to 350.

Mix crust ingredients together in a bowl and press into the bottom and up the sides of a 9 inch springform pan. The bottom of a measuring cup or large glass works great in pressing the crust up the sides and packing in all the crumbs for you!

Bake for 10 minutes, at 325, until crust is set and slightly brown. Remove and let cool slightly. Crank your oven up to 450.

Meanwhile, in the bowl of a food processor or with a stand mixer, combine cream cheese and sugar until well blended and slightly fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, blending well after each use. Add remaining ingredients and blend well. Pour into cooled crust.

Place unbaked cheesecake into a larger baking pan where the springform pan can sit flat. Pour in recently boiled water in the larger pan to create a hot water bath, being careful not to splash into the cheesecake.

Bake at 450 for 10 minutes, reduce the oven to 250, and not opening the oven, bake for one hour. Remove the cheesecake from the oven and the water and allow to cool at room temperature. Remove the foil and cool the cheesecake in the fridge overnight to set properly. Next day, slice and serve.

All the Rage

Cupcakes are all the rage these days. There’s a cupcake store on nearly every corner with a delicate cake, piled high with frosting, calling your name.

Maybe with nursing I’m in the wrong business. I long to be covered and flour and powdered sugar serving delectables to the public. But, for now, I cook for those I love, the families and friends that make life sweeter.

I made these for a wedding shower not too long ago, and they were a hit! Better than your cupcake store on the corner, you can serve up a little portioned controlled sweet from your oven (unless you eat more than one, which is possible with these!).

Hummingbird Cupcakes
Recipe courtesy of

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 cup mashed ripe bananas (from about 3 large bananas)
1 tablespoon clover honey
1 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup crushed pineapple, drained
1/4 cup hot water
1 batch of vanilla bean cream cheese icicng (see recipe below)

1.Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a standard 12-cup muffin tin with cupcake liners; set aside.

2.In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt; set aside.

3.Place butter in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment; beat on medium speed until fluffy. Add sugar, and cream together until well combined, 2 to 3 minutes.

4.Add eggs, one at a time, beating slowly after each addition. Add banana and honey and mix on low until well combined. Add pineapple; mix on low until combined. Add 1/2 cup pecans; mix on low until well combined.

5.With the mixer on low, slowly add one-third of the flour mixture, followed by one-third of the hot water. Repeat process twice, alternating flour mixture and hot water, and ending with hot water. Mix until just combined.

6.Fill each muffin cup two-thirds full with batter. Transfer to oven and bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 24 to 26 minutes. Transfer pan to a wire rack; let cupcakes cool completely.

7. Top with icing and remaining chopped pecans.

Vanilla Bean Cream Cheese Icing
Recipe slightly adapted from

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
4 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
6 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1 vanilla bean, split, seeds removed

Combine butter, sugar, vanilla extract, cream cheese, and vanilla bean seeds in a mixer and mix until well combined and fluffy.


I made a batch of yogurt the other day that went south. Apparently, with yogurt, you need to start with new starter every few batches. So, because I didn’t do this, my yogurt never thickened, and just remained milk.

Here’s how you recover that mess into something else wonderful:

Homemade Ricotta
Recipe courtesy of Barefoot Contessa’s How Easy Is That? Cookbook

4 cups whole milk (you can just use your leftover milk mixture from the yogurt)
2 cups heavy cream (omit this if using your leftover yogurt mixture)
1 tsp kosher salt
3 tablespoons white wine vinegar

1. In a heavy bottomed saucepan, add milk, cream, and salt. Bring to a full boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally to prevent scorching on the bottom.

2. When at a boil, remove from the heat and add vinegar. Stir, and allow to sit for one minute. Curds will separate from the whey.

3. Line a strainer with cheesecloth, a tea towel, or a thick layer of paper towels. Pour curd and whey mixture into the strainer and allow to drain at room temperature for 20-30 minutes.

4. Cover and refrigerate in an airtight container, will last for one week. Use to spread in your lasagna, mix with fresh chopped herbs and spread on bruschetta, or drizzle with honey and serve with fruit for an italian inspired dessert.

Sugar, Spice, and Everything Nice
April 15, 2011, 12:09 am
Filed under: Dessert, Food and Recipes | Tags: , ,

They say that girls are made of sugar, spice, and everything nice, but so are these cinnamon twists.

We are huge fans of anything cinnamon sugar around here. Toss in a little cardamom, and you’ve got me hooked. Cardamom is one of my favorite spices. Used a good bit in Indian cooking, it’s subtle flavor wins me over every time. I’ve used it a good bit in other desserts: sugar cookies, biscotti, and now in these cinnamon twists.

These are perfect with coffee, with a slight nuttiness and chew from the sesame seeds. You might consider making a double batch…

Cardamom and Cinnamon Sugar Twists
Slightly adapted from Giada de Laurentiis

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
1 (9 by 10-inch) sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed and cut into 20 (1 by 4-inch) pieces
1 egg, beaten

1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Line your baking sheet with a piece of parchment paper, set aside.

2. In a bowl, mix together your cinnamon, sugar, cardamom, and sesame seeds. Take 2 pieces of dough, and twist together to form a rope shape, pinching the ends to seal together. Brush each rope of dough with the beaten egg, then dip in your spice mixture, pressing lightly to get a good thick coating. Place spice side up on your baking sheet. Bake for 10-12 minutes until puffed and golden brown.

3. Cool on a wire rack, brew a pot of coffee, and serve.

Dinner for Friends, Part 2

This cake was the finishing piece of the dinner for friends. It was so delicious, I thought it deserved a post all to itself.

Again, to remind you, this meal will make you look like a rock star, promise.

Back to the cake: more apple than batter, when this cake bakes, it becomes almost like an apple pudding. Think of the texture of bread pudding, replace the bread with apples, and that will almost get you to this cake. I kept being overly paranoid about it not being done in the center, but once it cooled to room temperature and settled, it was absolutely perfect.

I made this cake the morning of the dinner party, to cut down on things to cook later in the day, and to allow the cake to fully cool to room temperature. It would be perfect dolloped with a bit of creme fraiche, sour cream, or whipped cream and served alongside a steaming hot cup of coffee or tea. The only thing I’d suggest is to line the bottom of your springform pan with a piece of parchment cut to fit. The cake is so sticky, this would help you move it to a cake stand for presentation later.

Marie-Helene’s Apple Cake
Recipe Courtesy of Dorie Greenspan’s Around my French Table

3/4 cup all purpose flour
3/4 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
4 large apples (choose different kinds, I used 2 granny smith and 2 honeycrisp)
2 large eggs
3/4 cup sugar
3 tbsp dark rum (could substitute a little rum extract)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
8 tbsp (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled

1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees, with an oven rack set to the center of your oven. Take a 9 inch springform pan, line bottom with a 9 inch round of parchment paper and butter everything well.

2. Whisk flour, baking powder, and salt together in a small bowl. Peel your apples, cut them in half, remove the cores. Cut the apples into 1 to 2 inch chunks.

3. In a seperate bowl, beat the eggs until foamy. Pour in sugar and whisk until blended, about a minute. Whisk in rum and vanilla. At this point, add half the flour mixture, whisk until just combined. Add half the butter, stir to incorporate. Follow this with the remaining flour mixture, whisking to combine, and then add remaining butter. Mix gently after each addition to achieve a smooth batter.

4. Using a rubber spatula, stir batter and all chopped apples together, ensuring that each apple is coated with a bit of batter. Scrape the mixture into your springform pan, using the spatula to smooth out the surface and make sure the cake is even.

5. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes, until the top is browned and a knife inserted into the center comes out mostly clean. Transfer to a wire cooling rack, cool for five minutes. Using a butter knife, run the knife around the edges of the cake, seperating the cake and pan. Remove the side of the springform pan slowly to make sure nothing is stuck. After this, allow to cool completely to room temperature. After it has cooled, you may transfer to a cake plate. Serve.

It’s a Southern Thing
March 11, 2011, 5:25 pm
Filed under: Dessert, Food and Recipes | Tags: , ,

I’ve had this recipe in my back pocket for a while to share with you.

As I’ve told you before, I grew up in south Mississippi. The land of church socials, good hearty food, and where my grandmother’s cuisine was top notch. One of the prized desserts: pound cake.

I’ve tried many pound cake recipes trying to replicate those of the older southern women generation, trying to re-create the crisp crust and melting interior. Perfect accompaniment to sweet tea or a cup of afternoon coffee. This is the closest recipe I’ve been able to find in both texture and taste. It’s heavy, dense, has a fine crumb, and tastes like pure butter.

I can make this and imagine myself sitting in my grandmother’s company again. Hope you enjoy!

Honey Vanilla Pound Cake
Recipe courtesy of Ina Garten, from her
Back to Basics cookbook

1/2 pound(2 sticks) unsalted butter, at cool room temperature (leave butter out for about an hour)
1 1/4 cups sugar
4 extra large eggs; at room temperature
2 tablespoons honey
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
2 cups sifted cake flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1. Preheat your oven to 350. Grease a standard loaf pan with cooking spray or butter.

2. With a mixer, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 to 4 minutes.

3. In a bowl, add eggs, vanilla, zest, and honey, but do not mix together. Add mixture, one egg at a time with mixer running, allowing each egg to be fully incorporated before adding the next.

4. In a separate bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, and salt. Add to butter and egg combo until just combined, being careful not to overly mix and make the batter tough.

5. Pour into your greased loaf pan, smooth out the top, and bake for 50 to 60 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in the pan for a few minutes, remove from pan to a cooling rack to finish cooling before slicing.