Marble Cake

marblecake (2)My dog licked this cake. Before you get out the torches and pitchforks and come after me shouting that chocolate isn’t safe for dogs, I assure you that I’m well aware, and no canines were harmed during the licking of this cake. It was unglazed at the time, meaning Tucker’s delinquent tongue connected with the vanilla exterior only. And yes, I cut the piece that he licked and tossed it in the trash, lest anyone end up like Lucy Van Pelt in It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, proclaiming that her lips touched dog lips.

Anyway…marble cake is such a classic, but until yesterday I’d never made one from scratch before. I do remember the marble Duncan Hines cakes of my childhood, when on a very rare occasion (because neither she nor my dad ate chocolate) my mom would make them for my brother and me. This cake was easy to make, though I think I overbaked it just slightly – it was wonderful yesterday, but a bit on the dry side today. Next time, I’ll pull it just a few minutes earlier.

Ingredients

For the cake

  • 3 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1 1/4 cups (2 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 5 eggs, at room temperature
  • 3 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil

For the glaze

  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 3 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons milk

Preparation 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Generously grease and flour a 10-cup Bundt tin. In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt and set aside. In a 2-cup glass measuring cup, stir together milk and sour cream and set aside. In another medium bowl, stir together cocoa powder and oil and set aside.

In a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together butter, sugar, and vanilla extract until the mixture is fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, accompanied by 1 spoonful of the flour mixture and beat until just combined. Once all eggs are added, alternatively add flour mixture and milk/sour cream mixture, beginning and ending with flour, until batter is smooth.

Remove 2 cups of vanilla batter and stir into the cocoa/oil mixture to combine completely. Spoon vanilla mixture into your Bundt tin and make a trough through the batter, then add your chocolate batter. Swirl with a knife or small spatula to marble, being careful not to over-mix so you don’t totally blend the two together. Alternatively, you could add vanilla and chocolate batter in layers (vanilla, chocolate, vanilla) and swirl them together, or dollop them in and swirl them – however you achieve your marble is fine with me.

Bake for 50-55 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Remove from oven and cool in the tin on a wire rack for about 20 minutes, then flip onto a wire rack and cool completely before glazing.

To make glaze, stir together powdered sugar and cocoa powder, then add vanilla and 1 tablespoon milk. Add additional milk to reach a drizzling consistency, then pour over the cake, allowing the glaze to drip down the sides.

Lemon Bundt Cake

lemonbundtcakeEarlier this week Mike needed lemon juice for something, so I zested the lemon and saved it for baking. I don’t like to waste ingredients, so I whipped up this lemon bundt cake, an easy recipe that yields a lovely treat. You’ll notice below that the recipe uses the zest from two lemons, but the juice from just one. You can always reserve lemon juice and use it for cooking or baking by storing it in the fridge for 2-3 days.

This recipe is adapted from my poppy seed cake, and next time I think I’ll toss in some poppy seeds for a classic lemon poppy combination. One thing I love about baking is that when you find a reliable recipe, you can adapt it however you like by adding different flavors. I plan to adapt this recipe many times in the future.

Ingredients

For the cake

  • 3 cups flour
  • 2 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon butter extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon extract
  • Zest from 2 medium lemons

For the icing

  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • Juice of 1 medium lemon

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 10-inch Bundt tin.

In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt; set aside. In another large bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, vegetable oil, extracts, and lemon zest. Stir in flour in three batches, mixing to combine completely.

Pour batter into prepared tin and bake for 50-60 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool in tin for about 15 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

To make the icing, place powdered sugar in a medium bowl and add lemon juice about 1 teaspoon at a time to reach a thicker pourable consistency. Pour over cake and allow to drip down the sides. Allow icing to set before serving.

Store in an airtight container at room temperature for several days; this cake stays moist much longer than I expected. Makes about 12 servings, depending on how generous you are with your portions.

Chocolate Strawberry Cupcakes

chocolatestrawberrycupcakePeople can go all out on Valentine’s Day, buying expensive chocolates, sparkling jewelry, and dozens of roses. But some of my favorite Valentine gifts have been hand-drawn or fashioned from construction paper by my nieces and nephews, requiring only creativity and some art supplies.

I’m also a fan of home-baked gifts for any occasion, and these chocolate strawberry cupcakes are an easy option for a Valentine’s Day treat. You just need cocoa powder for the cupcakes and could substitute strawberry jam for the fresh strawberry puree if that’s what you have on hand. 

Ingredients

For the cupcakes

  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons flour
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons Dutch process cocoa powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the frosting

  • 12 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 3 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • About 1/3 cup strawberry puree 

Preparation 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a cupcake tin with paper liners; my batch made 13 cupcakes. 

In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Stir together, then add water, oil, and vanilla extract. Whisk until the batter is smooth; it will be thin.

Using a two-inch cookie scoop, scoop batter into prepared cupcake tin, filling wells about 2/3 full. Bake for 18-22 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Remove from cupcake tin and allow to cool on a wire rack completely before frosting.

To make frosting, combine butter and powdered sugar in a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat on low speed until the sugar is fully incorporated into the butter. Add vanilla and strawberry puree to taste, beating to combine. Fit a piping bag with a large star tip (like the Wilton M1) and pipe generous swirls onto each cupcake. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for 1-2 days. Makes 12 or 13, depending on how full your cupcake wells are filled. 

Sparkling Sugar Hearts

sparkingsugarheartFor some, Valentine’s Day brings the opportunity to go all out with romantic gestures and elaborate plans, while others grumble that it’s a made-up holiday meant to sell cards, candy, and flowers. For me, Valentine’s Day usually means baking something heart-themed, and this time it was a simple batch of sugar cut-out cookies coated in sparkling red sugar for my favorite Maryland girls, Maureen and Margaret.

Sugar cookies are one of my favorite things to bake, though they didn’t used to be. I found them a challenge until I came across a good recipe, the one below, and have adapted them for many a holiday using a range of decorations. I usually top sugar cookies that will ship somewhere in sugar, instead of frosting, for durability. I also find that pressing the cookie into the sugar, rather than sprinkling the sugar on top, provides a more even coating and allows the sugar to stick better.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 4 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1-2 teaspoons water
  • Red sanding sugar

Preparation

Stir together flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl; set aside. Cream together butter and sugar until fluffy. Add eggs and beat well. Add vanilla and about half the flour mixture, beating until combined; beat in remaining flour. If necessary, add 1-2 teaspoons of water for a less crumbly dough; you’ll need a more pliable dough to roll and cut later.

Divide dough in half and knead each just slightly until dough sticks together.  Form each half into a disc and wrap in plastic. Refrigerate until just barely firm, about 20-30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line several baking sheets with parchment paper, then place red sanding sugar on a plate or in a shallow dish.

Roll dough to 1/8 inch thickness and cut into heart shapes, then press the tops of each cookie into the sugar to coat. Place on baking sheets about 1-2 inches apart – they don’t spread much when baking, but you don’t want to crowd your baking sheets.

Bake for 8-10 minutes, until just golden. Remove from oven and allow to cool on cookie sheets for 2-3 minutes before carefully transferring to wire racks to cool completely. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for 3-4 days; if shipping, pack between layers of waxed paper. Makes about 4 dozen 3-inch cookies.

Snow Queen Cupcakes

snow queen cupcakesWinter gets a bad rap, but I love it. I think snow is beautiful, appreciate seeing the branches of the trees, and actually prefer cold weather to warm. If I had my choice between Florida and Maine, I’d choose Maine every time. So here at midwinter, I’ve whipped up some cupcakes worthy of a snow queen, a simple vanilla cupcake recipe topped with vanilla buttercream and blue sugar and pearl sprinkles.

Pearl sprinkles can be a bit unwieldy, so I recommend placing the cupcakes in a bowl or other container to catch any runaways during sprinkling and gently pressing the pearls into the frosting using the tip of a knife.

Ingredients

For the cupcakes

  • 1 1/4 cups cake flour
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 1/2 cup sour milk (1/2 tablespoon vinegar mixed with enough milk to yield 1/2 cup – stir and let stand for 5 minutes before using)

For the frosting

  • 1 cup butter, at room temperature
  • 3 1/4 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons vanilla extract
  • Blue sugar sprinkles
  • Pearl sprinkles

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line cupcake tines with paper liners; this recipe yields 17 cupcakes.

In a medium bowl, whisk together cake flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt; set aside.

Place eggs in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and beat on medium speed for 30 seconds. Add sugar and continue to beat for another 30 seconds. Add vanilla and canola oil and beat on medium speed for 1 minute.

Add flour mixture and sour milk alternatively in three batches, beginning and ending with the flour, scraping the sides of the bowl frequently. Batter will be very thin.

Using a quarter-cup measuring cup, scoop batter into prepared regular-sized cupcake liners, filling half full. Use a teaspoon measuring spoon to fill miniature cupcake liners.

Bake for 13 – 16 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Remove from oven and remove cupcakes to a wire rack to cool completely before frosting.

For the frosting, beat butter on medium speed for 1 minute, then add powdered sugar and beat on low speed until all of the sugar is incorporated. Add vanilla and beat for another 2 minutes on medium speed. Fit a piping bag with a large star tip (I use the Wilton M1) and pipe swirls onto each cupcake. Top with blue sugar crystals and pearl sprinkles. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for 2-3 days.

Lemon Poppy Seed Sandwich Cookies

lemonpoppycookiesFlavor pairings always interest me, and lemon and poppy seed is probably one of my favorites. Today’s lemon poppy seed sandwich cookies are inspired by the fact that I had some lemons in my fridge I needed to use and that I wanted to make something vaguely black and gold, in honor of my beloved Pittsburgh Steelers and their miraculous presence in the playoffs. I’ll be waving my Terrible Towel this evening against Kansas City, for sure.

Black and gold baking can present a challenge if you’re not interested in using black food coloring, which I tend to shy away from for its propensity for staining one’s lips and tongue a rather ghastly color. While these are much more black and yellow (cue the Wiz Khalifa song!) than black and gold, they are absolutely delicious. Next time, I’d bake my cookies for a minute or so less so they’re just slightly softer and the filling won’t squish out quite as much when you take a bite. In any case, here we go Steelers!

Ingredients

For the cookies

  • 8 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 egg, at room temperature
  • zest of 1 small lemon
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons poppy seeds

For the filling

  • 4 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • zest of 1/2 lemon (or use more zest to taste)
  • 1/4 teaspoon lemon extract
  • 1 tablespoon milk

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line three baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add egg, lemon zest, lemon juice, and vanilla extract and beat to combine. Scrape down your bowl and add the salt, baking powder, baking soda, and flour and mix on low to combine completely. Stir in poppy seeds.

Using a 1-inch cookie scoop, drop scoops of dough onto prepared baking sheets. Bake for about 9-10 minutes, until edges are set and tops no longer look shiny. Remove from oven and cool on the baking sheets for about 1 minute, then place on a wire rack to cool completely.

To make filling, combine butter and powdered sugar in a mixer and beat on low speed until the sugar is fully incorporated into the butter. Add lemon zest, lemon extract, and milk and beat to fully combine. Place filling in a piping bag for easier cookie assembly.

To assemble, flip cookies over and pipe a dollop of filling into the center of half of the cookies, then top with a second cookie and press gently to spread the filling. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for 2-3 days. Makes 17.

Super Chewy Oatmeal Cookies

honeyoatmealraisinMy cousin Barb and her family gave me a lovely baker’s gift set from Penzeys, including vanilla sugar, cocoa, cinnamon, and a lovely surprise called baking spice, for Christmas this year. Baking spice is a combination of two types of cinnamon, anise, allspice, mace, and cardamom – it is a delicate flavor that I now know can be used a bit more generously in various baked goods, and I plan to mix it into various muffins, quick breads, and cakes in the future.

These treats are adapted from a “make-it-mine” recipe base in the Better Homes & Gardens Baking book, where you choose your ingredients and flavorings to create whatever you like. The honey in this recipe definitely gives it the ultra-soft, super-chewy texture, so if you’re looking for a crispier cookie I’d recommend using brown sugar or a combination of brown and white instead. Also, I used a combination of rolled and quick-cooking oats because that’s what I had on hand, but you could go with just one or the other if you like.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking spice
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 2 cups old-fashioned/rolled oats
  • 1 cup quick-cooking oats
  • Optional: 1 cup golden raisins

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line several baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a mixer, cream together the butter, sugar, honey, baking soda, baking spice, and salt until light and fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla and beat to combine, scraping the sides of your bowl well. Add flour and mix on low to combine, then stir in oats.  If using, stir in raisins – alternatively, you can make a few batches of plain cookies, then add the raisins later, which is what I did.

Using a one-inch cookie scoop, drop generous scoops of dough onto the baking sheets. Bake for 9-10 minutes, until edges are just golden but centers still look puffy and slightly. Remove from oven and cool on baking sheets for about 4 minutes, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for 3-4 days. Makes about four dozen.

Blood Orange Bundt Cake

bloodorangebundtOnce again, blood orange season is upon us. Last week I picked up a bag of these little beauties at the grocery store, and today I whipped up a retro-looking blood orange Bundt cake for my dear friend Diana, along with a blood orange Madeira cake for Mike and me for New Year’s weekend. The original Bundt recipe comes from Cooking LSL, another blogger I found via Pinterest.

I debated about whether to glaze or drizzle the Bundt or just leave it plain, and I decided to go with a simple almond drizzle to complement the orange flavor. You could also use blood orange juice in your drizzle if you like, but it’ll be pink, rather than the beautiful rich red of blood orange. I had to adapt my recipe slightly because I didn’t have buttermilk, but sour milk – a combination of vinegar or lemon juice and milk, works just fine.

Ingredients

For the cake

  • 3 cups flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 cup butter, at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 4 eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup blood orange juice (from 3 oranges)
  • Zest from 3 blood oranges
  • 3/4 cup sour milk* or buttermilk

For the drizzle

  • 1 1/4 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • About 3-4 teaspoons water

*To make sour milk, combine 2 1/3 teaspoons vinegar and enough milk to equal a total 3/4 cup liquid. Stir, then let sit for about 5 minutes before using.

Preparation 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Generously grease and flour your Bundt tin.

Sift together flour, salt, and baking powder; set aside. In a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 3-4 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating and scraping down your bowl between each. Add orange zest, orange juice, and vanilla and mix on low to combine. Add half the flour and milk, mixing on low to combine, then add remaining milk and flour and mix on low until completely combined.

Pour into Bundt tin and bake for 1 hour to 70 minutes, until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in tin for about 25 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

To make drizzle, combine powdered sugar, almond extract, and 2 teaspoons water; add enough additional water to make a drizzly icing. Spoon over the top of your cake or pipe from a piping bag (I piped mine from a bag to control it better). Allow icing to harden before storing; wrap in plastic and store at room temperature for 3-4 days. Makes about 12 servings.

Vanilla Pumpkin Cupcakes

vanillapumpkincupcakePumpkin treats continue through Christmas, with many bakers serving pumpkin pies or pumpkin roll in addition to a host of holiday cookies. If you’re wondering what to do with leftover canned pumpkin, wonder no more. There are many recipes for whatever amount you have; in my case, I had 10 ounces left over from baking Tucker’s pumpkin peanut butter dog treats, so I took eight ounces of that and made it into these vanilla pumpkin cupcakes (which sounds a bit like a candle you may have received this holiday season). Pumpkin is a dog-safe food, so I gave Tucker the remaining two ounces; he lapped it up, then went to take a nap.

There are many frostings you can choose for pumpkin cakes and cupcakes – cream cheese frostings are very popular – but since Mike will take these to work, I went with a buttercream, which doesn’t require refrigeration. You could go with cinnamon or another spiced frosting, but I chose a simple vanilla and it paired very well.

Ingredients

For the cupcakes

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ginger
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

For the frosting

  • 10 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
  • 2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons vanilla extract

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line cupcake tins with paper liners; my recipe yielded 14 cupcakes.

In a large bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger. In a large glass measuring cup, combine pumpkin puree, vegetable oil, eggs, sugar, and vanilla extract. Mix well, then add all at once to the flour mixture. Stir until well combined and smooth.

Using a two-inch cookie scoop, fill cupcake wells about 3/4 full. Bake for 17-20 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean. Remove from oven; immediately remove from tins and place on a wire rack to cool completely before frosting.

To make frosting, beat butter on medium speed for about 1 minute, then add powdered sugar and beat on low until the sugar is fully incorporated into the butter. Add vanilla extract and beat for 1-2 minutes. Frost cupcakes as desired; I just used an offset spatula this time, rather than a piping tip. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for 2-3 days.

Danish Butter Cookies

buttercookieMy grandma Zella, an excellent cook and baker, taught me most of the foundational aspects of baking when I was growing up. But she also appreciated the convenience of certain store-bought treats, including Little Debbie snack cakes and that iconic blue tin of Royal Dansk butter cookies. You know them well – your grandma had them, too. The cookies were a lovely mix of shapes; swirled like a wreath, round, rectangular, and my personal favorite, the pretzel. 

There are several copycat recipes out there; some use cake flour, while others use all-purpose. I went the all-purpose route and appreciated how simple they were to prepare. A note about the dough: nearly every recipe I found claimed that you could pipe this dough through a star tip, but I’m here to tell you that unless you’re a power lifter, you’re unlikely to be able to do so. I tried, and I failed…so I decided to go the easy route and just scoop out dough, roll it into balls, flatten them, and sprinkle them with sugar. They are absolutely, positively one of the best cookies I’ve ever made. Now if only I had a blue tin around here somewhere…

Ingredients

  • 1 cup butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg, at room temperature 
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 cups flour
  • Coarse sugar, for topping

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a mixer, beat butter and sugar together until very light and fluffy, about 3-4 minutes. Add salt, egg, and vanilla extract and beat to combine. Add flour a few tablespoons at a time, mixing well, scraping the bowl often. Once all the flour is added, stir with your spatula a few times to ensure that the flour is fully incorporated into the dough.

Using a 2-inch cookie scoop, scoop portions of dough and roll into balls; place on the baking sheets and flatten with your hand. Sprinkle with coarse sugar and bake for 15-20 minutes, until edges are just golden brown. Remove from oven and cool on baking sheets for a few minutes, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to one week. Makes 26.