Brownie Ice Cream Sandwiches

The temperatures may not feel like it, but today, Labor Day, marks the end of the summer (albeit unofficially) for many. After the heat and humidity we’ve had this summer I say bring on Fall and the lower temperatures. The trees in my yard have been suffering from what I have coined “summer foliage.” The leaves are turning brown and falling due to a combination of a lack of rain and the heat. How can so many people really think that climate change doesn’t exist? Anyhoo… If you are looking to hold on to summer a bit longer and all the cold treats that come with it, then whip up a batch of these super simple Brownie Ice Cream Sandwiches to enjoy on those days that are still unbearably warm.

While you could use your favorite brownie recipe to make these, I opted to use a box mix. Ideally you would like two 9-inch square pans to make these so that after you prep your brownie batter you can divide it amongst the two pans to bake. But, if you only have 1, after you prepare your batter divide it in half and bake the first half and let it cool in the pan for 10-15 minutes before removing it to bake the other half. Either way, allow the brownie layers to cool completely before moving on to the next step.

Once the brownie layers had cooled, I lined one of the 9-inch square pans with plastic wrap leaving an overhang on all sides. I placed one of the brownie layers in the pan with the top side facing down and then spread ice cream over it in an even layer and then topped it with the other brownie layer, top side facing up. I covered it with plastic wrap and placed it in the freezer overnight. Truthfully, you only need to freeze it for a minimum of two hours.

The next day I inverted it onto a cutting board, removed the plastic wrap and sliced it into 9 brownie ice cream sandwiches with a serrated knife. To make slicing it easier, I ran the knife under hot water prior to slicing. Once they were sliced, I had to work fast as the ice cream was starting to melt a little. I decided to leave three of them as is, topped three of them with chocolate syrup and chopped walnuts and the last three I coated with sprinkles around the sides. I placed them on a baking sheet and put them back in the freezer for about 20 minutes so they could firm up.

And finally, I wrapped each in plastic wrap to store in my freezer to enjoy for the warmer days that I am sure will still come!

Brownie Ice Cream Sandwiches

Ingredients:

1 18 to 18.75 oz box brownie mix

1 qt. vanilla ice cream (or any flavor of ice cream, gelato or sorbet you like)

Chocolate Syrup, optional for decorating

Chopped Walnuts, optional for decorating

Rainbow Sprinkles, optional for decorating

Directions:

Preheat the oven to the temperature on your brownie mix.

Prepare the brownie batter per the directions on the box and divide in half. Bake in two 9-inch square pans or bake one half and then the other. If using only one pan, let the first brownie layer cool in the pan for 10-15 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely and then bake the other half.  If using two pans, allow the brownie layers to cool completely in the pans before removing. Bake for 16 to 18 minutes, or until the edges are set and a tester inserted in the center comes out with crumbs.

Line a 9-inch square pan with plastic wrap, leaving an overhang on all sides. Place one of the brownie layers in the pan with the top side facing down. Spread the ice cream over the brownie and then top with the other brownie layer with the top side facing up. Gently press down the top brownie layer. Cover with plastic wrap and freeze for at least 2 hours.

Invert onto a large cutting board and remove the plastic wrap. Use a serrated knife to cut into 9 ice cream sandwiches. To make slicing easier, run the knife under hot water.

If decorating…

To top the brownies with walnuts, spread a teaspoon or two of the chocolate syrup on the top of the brownies and then sprinkle with some of the chopped walnuts, pressing them down lightly to adhere.

To add sprinkles to the sides, pour some sprinkles onto a plate and then press each side of the ice cream sandwich into the sprinkles.

Once the brownie ice cream sandwiches have been decorated (or just sliced if you are not decorating) place them on a baking sheet and back in the freezer for 15-20 minutes so they can set. Remove from the freezer and wrap each in plastic wrap and store in the freezer until ready to enjoy!

Chocolate Kahlua Cake with Strawberry Buttercream Frosting

My first attempt at making this cake was a fail. I settled on using a box cake mix as my starting point and doctoring it with additional ingredients besides the ones called for on the box. I must have added in a few too many ingredients because the cake had a weird texture – kind of rubbery – and the bottom of it had a dense appearance. And the flavor just wasn’t there. Thankfully on my second attempt the flavor and texture were spot on.

On my second attempt I kept things a bit simpler. Along with the eggs and oil measurements suggested on the box, I swapped the water for coffee and added in sour cream, Kahlua and vanilla extract. Adding the coffee helped to really enhance the chocolate flavor, as did the Kahlua. While box cake directions say to mix everything together at once, I opted to beat together all my ingredients except for the cake mix until they were well incorporated and then sifted the cake mix over the mixture and beat it in on low speed until it was just combined. More or less following the method of most cakes that are made completely from scratch.  

Once my cake layers were baked and cooled, I wrapped them in plastic wrap and refrigerated them overnight. I find that it’s easier to level and frost cold cake layers. The cakes are less likely to break apart and there’s much less crumb.

The next day I made the frosting. Contrary to my recipe directions below, I added all the ingredients for the frosting into my stand mixer at once. Either works. If you follow method, I suggest beating everything together on medium speed until the ingredients are incorporated and then raise the speed of your mixer to medium-high for at least 5 minutes to get the frosting light and fluffy. Don’t fret if the frosting appears to be curdled or separated. Just keep beating it, it will come together. I probably beat mine for just shy of 10 minutes. I made this frosting on a fairly warm day so it was a bit soft once it was done so I popped it in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes so it could firm up. I checked it every 10 minutes to make sure that it wasn’t getting too firm. I didn’t want to have to wait for my frosting to “defrost” after all that.

Once it was ready, I transferred about a cup of the frosting to a piping bag fitted with a large star tip and set it aside. After leveling the cakes, I spread about half of the remaining frosting on top of one of them and then placed the other one on top. And finally, I frosted the entire cake with the remaining frosting. My plan was to make this a naked cake so I was well aware that I wouldn’t have enough frosting to completely cover it.  

Once the cake was frosted, I piped dollops of frosting around the cake leaving space between each to fit a strawberry. I opted to slice my strawberries in half, but you could place whole strawberries between the dollops as well. Just make sure to leave enough room. You could also omit the strawberries altogether and just decorate the top of the cake with dollops of frosting.

And then it was time to enjoy a slice. This cake was delicious! The frosting reminded me of strawberry ice cream. Not overly sweet with just the right amount of strawberry flavor thanks to the fresh strawberries added to the frosting. And it was the perfect accompaniment to the chocolate cake.  

Chocolate Kahlua Cake with Strawberry Buttercream Frosting

Ingredients:

For the Cake:

3 large eggs

1 cup coffee

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1/2 cup sour cream

1/4 cup Kahlua

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 15.25 package chocolate cake mix (I used Duncan Hines Devil’s Food)

For the Frosting:

1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature

3 cups confectioners’ sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1/2 cup diced strawberries

3 tablespoons heavy whipping cream

Additional strawberries for topping

Directions:

For the cake: Preheat oven to 350 F. Spray two 8-inch round pans with baking spray.

In a large bowl combine the eggs, coffee, vegetable oil, sour cream, Kahlua and vanilla extract. Beat with a hand mixer on medium speed until well blended.

Sift the cake mix over the mixture and then beat with the hand mixer on low speed until just combined. Divide the batter among the prepared pans and bake in the preheated oven for 30-35 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted in the center of the cakes comes out clean.

Cool the cakes in the pans on a wire rack for 10 minutes, then remove and allow to cool completely on the racks.

For the Frosting: In the bowl of a stand mixer cream together the butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy. Add in the vanilla extract, diced strawberries and heavy whipping cream and beat on medium-high speed until the ingredients are incorporated and the frosting is light and fluffy. If the frosting is too soft to spread refrigerate for about 30 minutes to firm up.

To assemble the cake: If decorating the top of the cake, fit a piping bag with a large star tip and fill with about a cup of frosting and set aside. Level the cake layers if necessary. Spread about half of the remaining frosting on top of one of the cakes and top with the other. Then frost the top and sides of the cake with the remaining frosting. Finally, pipe dollops of the reserved frosting on top of the cake leaving space between each to place either a whole or halved strawberry. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Recipe first appeared on Bead Yarn & Spatula

Semi-Homemade Almond Croissants

One of my favorite pastries are Almond Croissants. I also love just a plain old croissant as well. I’ve looked at recipes to make both and while they don’t seem complicated, it’s just so much easier to buy them. Well, plain croissants that is. You can pretty much get them at any supermarket that has a bakery. Granted, some are better than others. Whereas I find that Almond Croissants can only be found at certain bakeries or cafés and unfortunately, they aren’t always that good. I have tried to make pseudo Almond Croissants with crescent rolls and almond paste and it was a total fail. Well, a fail in the taste department. They did look good. Recently though I came across a recipe for Almond Croissants that started off by using store-bought (or homemade if you are so inclined) croissants and were doctored with a delicious almond filling. I had high hopes for them. They were starting off with an actual croissant and filled with an almond filling that included almonds and almond paste – the more almond flavor the better. And I must say, they didn’t disappoint. These would be a great addition to your Easter brunch this weekend and could really impress your guests!

After getting a good batch of croissants…

I started off by making the filling for them. In the bowl of my food processor I pulsed toasted sliced almonds until they were finely ground. I then added in almond paste and sugar and processed the mixture until it resembled fine meal. Finally, I added in an egg, Amaretto, vanilla extract and salt and processed everything until it was smooth and creamy. As it was the mixture is too loose to spread on the croissants, so, I transferred the mixture to an airtight container, covered and refrigerated it overnight. The following day I let it sit at room temperature uncovered so it could get to the right consistency.

Once the almond filling was ready it was time to prep the croissants. I sliced each of them horizontally and spread a few tablespoons of the almond filling on the bottom of each cut half and arranged them on a large baking sheet.

Next, I topped them with the top half of the croissants and spread about a tablespoon of the remaining almond filling on top of each. I then pressed about a tablespoon of sliced almonds on each.

I baked them in a 375F preheated oven for about 8 minutes. After letting them cool for about 15 minutes I sifted confectioners’ sugar on top of them.

These were delicious, just as good and possibly better than any decent Almond Croissant I have gotten at a bakery or café.

Semi-Homemade Almond Croissants

Ingredients:

8 large store-bought croissants

1 1/2 cups sliced almonds, divided

7 ounces almond paste*, broken into small pieces

1/3 cup sugar

1 large egg

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

1 tablespoon Amaretto**

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon salt

Confectioners’ sugar for dusting

*Depending on the brand you purchase, you could also use 8 ounces.

**The original recipe called for brandy

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 F. Spread 1 cup of the sliced almonds in an even layer on a baking sheet. Bake in the preheated oven for 8 to 10 minutes, or until golden brown. Tossing the almonds at the halfway point. Let them cool to room temperature.

In the bowl of a food processor add the toasted almonds and pulse until finely ground, about 12 pulses. Add the almond paste and sugar and process the mixture until it resembles fine meal, about 15 seconds. Add the egg, butter, brandy, vanilla extract and salt and process the mixture until it is smooth and creamy, about 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer the mixture to an airtight container. Cover and refrigerate until the mixture is firm, at least 30 minutes and up to 4 days. If you opt to refrigerate the mixture for more than 30 minutes, let it sit at room temperature uncovered for 15 to 30 minutes before using.

Preheat the oven to 375F. Slice each of the croissants in half horizontally. Spread 2 tablespoons of the almond paste mixture on the cut side of each bottom. Top with the top half of the croissant and place on a large baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining croissants. Spread about a tablespoon of the remaining almond paste mixture on each croissant top and then gently press the remaining sliced almonds onto it (about a tablespoon per croissant). Bake in the preheated oven for 5 to 8 minutes, or until the almonds turn a light golden brown. Let the croissants cool on the baking sheet for 15 minutes. Dust with confectioners’ sugar.

The croissants are best eaten the day they are made, but, can be stored in an airtight container for 1-2 days.

Recipe from Food & Wine

Chocolate Comfort Cake

Similar to the Rum Cake I posted last month, this Chocolate Comfort Cake was made by doctoring a box cake mix. While some frown upon using a box cake mix there are some advantages to doing so, especially when you are doctoring them. They can save you time and by having all of the dry ingredients pre-measured and combined it can ensure a foolproof cake.

So, how can you doctor a cake mix? Add an extra egg for a cake that is richer. Swap out the water with milk or buttermilk, or with coffee for a chocolate cake. Add in cream of coconut or orange zest to a white cake, or a flavored extract. All of these will alter the flavor and texture of the cake to make it more homemade.

Using a dark chocolate cake mix I added in sour cream, freshly brewed coffee and a package of chocolate pudding mix to spruce it up.

Once the batter was prepped I poured it into a Bundt pan I sprayed with baking spray.

And after baking for about 55 minutes it was ready. I was concerned that the batter would overflow while baking but thankfully it didn’t.

After letting it cool in the pan for a few minutes I inverted it onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Once cooled it was time to enjoy a slice and this is definitely a comfort cake. Thanks to the add-ins it didn’t taste like a box cake at all.

 

Chocolate Comfort Cake

Ingredients:

1 package Dark Chocolate cake mix

1 small package of chocolate pudding mix

4 large eggs

1 cup sour cream

3/4 cup canola oil

3/4 cup brewed coffee

1/2 cup sugar

 

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 F. Spray a Bundt pan with baking spray (or grease with butter and lightly coat with cocoa powder) and set aside.

In a large bowl combine all of the ingredients and beat with a hand mixer on low speed for 30 seconds and then on medium speed for 2 minutes.

Pour into the prepared pan and bake in the preheated oven for 50-55 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted comes out clean.

Let cool in the pan for 10 minutes and then remove from the pan and cool on a wire rack completely.

Recipe from Taste of Home

Rum Cake

I might be a little late to post this cake. Typically, Rum Cake is made around the holidays and I had every intention of making this around Christmas, but plans changed. Let’s be honest though, Rum Cake is good anytime of the year. Anything good is good anytime! I will let you know upfront that this is a semi-homemade Rum Cake and is truly simple and easy to make. I’ve seen recipes online that contain nuts, additional extracts and so forth, but, not with this one. Do not fear though, it does not skimp on flavor nor deliciousness.

To make the batter for the cake I combined a box of yellow cake mix along with a small box of vanilla pudding mix, rum, water, vegetable oil and eggs. I then poured it into a Bundt pan that I sprayed with baking spray.

After baking for about an hour in a 325 F preheated oven the cake was done. I placed it on a wire rack and immediately made the rum sauce to pour over it.

In a medium saucepan I combined a stick of unsalted butter along with sugar and rum and cooked it over medium heat until the butter had melted, the sugar dissolved, and it began to boil. The mixture was the consistency of a thin syrup.  Just a note, you don’t want to make the sauce before the cake is done. It may become too thick to pour onto the cake it and it won’t get absorbed as well.

While the syrup and cake were still hot, I poured the syrup over the cake. I use a butter knife to loosen the sides of the cake from the pan so that the syrup could go down the sides of the cake as well.

I let the cake cool in the pan for about 45 minutes and then inverted it onto a wire rack to cool for a few minutes more before transferring it to a cake board and then covering it with plastic wrap to refrigerate. In case you are wondering, yes, the cake did absorb all of the syrup. When I flipped it onto the wire rack there was none left in the pan and the cake did not feel sticky or anything.

After refrigerating overnight, it was ready to be served. And it was a hit with everyone who tried it!

Rum Cake

Ingredients:

For the Cake:

1 Box yellow cake mix

1 small package of vanilla pudding mix*

1/4 cup light rum**

3/4 cup water

1/2 cup vegetable oil

4 eggs, at room temperature

 

For the Rum Glaze:

1 stick unsalted butter

1 cup sugar

1/4 cup light rum

 

*I used Jell-O

**I used Bacardi Gold Rum

 

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 325 F. Spray a Bundt pan with baking spray (or lightly grease and then coat with flour) and set aside.

In a large bowl combine the ingredients for the cake and using a handheld mixer beat on medium speed until smooth. Transfer to the Bundt pan and bake the preheated oven for 50 – 60 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean.

Transfer to a wire rack while making the rum glaze.

Wait until the cake is done to make the glaze. In a medium saucepan combine the ingredients for the glaze – butter, sugar & rum – and cook over medium heat until the mixture begins to boil. Once the mixture begins to boil it’s ready. Use a butter knife to loosen the sides of the cake from the pan. Pour the hot mixture over the cake and along the sides of the cake.

Let the cake cool in the pan for 40 – 45 minutes and then invert onto the wire rack to cool completely.

The cake is best served cold so once it has completely cooled wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Recipe from Hallmark Channel

Hidden Heart Cake

Are you looking for something fun to bake for Valentine’s Day but are thinking that it’s too late? Well, this may just be the cake for you. All you need is 2 boxes of cake mix (I used white & chocolate), a loaf pan, a 2-inch heart cookie cutter and pink (or red) food coloring. While I used a white cake mix tinted pink for the hearts inside of a chocolate cake, you could try pink hearts inside of a white cake, red hearts inside of a white cake, red hearts inside of a yellow cake and so forth. It’s really up to you.

To begin, I prepped a box of white cake mix per the directions and then tinted it pink with a few drops of gel food coloring. I then poured it into a loaf pan that I sprayed with baking spray and baking it in a 350 F oven for 40 minutes, the cake wasn’t quite done but was browning considerably along the top so I dropped the temperature to 325 F and baked it for another 10 minutes. I let the cake cool for about 20 minutes in the pan and then transferred it to a wire rack to cool completely.

After the cake cooled I sliced it into approximately 1 inch slices. Some of the slices were a little thicker, some a little thinner. In the end, it didn’t matter.

Next, using a 2-inch heart cookie cutter I cut hearts from the slice of cake and set them aside. Those mini heart were for a different project that turned out to be a fail… Oh Well.

You will have a bunch of cake scraps left, I ended up snacking on a few pieces and then tossing the rest. If you make cake pops, or have been wanting to make pops, save these scraps for that.

I then prepped the chocolate cake mix per the directions on the box. I spread about a 1/2 inch later of the batter onto the bottom of my loaf pan that I prepped with baking spray.

Next, I arranged the 2-inch hearts in a row down the middle of the pan, leaving a small space between the first and last heart and then pan, while making sure the hearts in the middle were as close together as possible. This is why I said that if your slices aren’t exactly 1-inch thick it won’t matter. Once you line them together it will all be good.

I used a ladle to slowly pour the rest of the batter along the sides and on the top of the hearts. You don’t want to just pour the batter into the pan, this could disturb the hearts and you could end up with chocolate in between them. I did make sure that the hearts were completely covered with the batter. You don’t want a heart peeking out of the top of the cake… that would ruin the surprise.

I then baked it in a 350 F preheated oven for about 40 minutes. I inserted a cake tester and the inside was a still a little underdone so I lowered the oven temperature to 325 F and baked it for an additional 10 minutes, similar to what I did with the pink cake. Once again, I let the cake cool for about 20 minutes in the pan then removed it and let it cool completely on a wire rack.

Once it was cool it was time to slice and see if my hidden heart cake was a succes… And it was!!!

Rainbow Cookie Cake

This cake might be a stretch as a holiday cake, but, since I normally make Rainbow Cookies around the holidays I figured a Rainbow Cookie Cake would be a nice addition as a holiday cake. It definitely has a bit of a wow factor and it’s much easier & quicker to make than the cookie version.

One of the things that made this cake easy was using three boxes of white cake mix. I prepped each following the directions on the package and added in 1/2 teaspoon of almond extract to each. While the almond flavor was noticeable, I think it would have been better to add in 3/4 to 1 teaspoon of extract to each. Or, you could skip the extract altogether and grate in almond paste. I would suggest buying one package of almond paste and dividing it into three equal parts. Once the cake mix was prepped I then added in gel food coloring to achieve the pink, yellow & green colors. Here’s a tip, instead of adding a bunch of one color to achieve your desired shade, add in a little orange to the yellow, add a drop of red to the pink and a bit of blue for the green. This will also result in more vibrant shades of each color as well.

I baked each of the layers in a 9 inch square pan. While the directions said to bake the cakes in a 350 F oven for about 35 minutes, I found that after 30 minutes my cakes were still undercooked so I lowered the oven temperature to 325 F and baked the cakes for an additional 10-12 minutes. I let the layers cool in the pan for about 15 minutes and then inverted them on wire racks to cool completely.

Once the layers were cooled I leveled each of them with a serrated knife. I placed the pink layer on a cake board, trimmed side up, and spread about 1/2 cup of raspberry jam. I repeated this step with the yellow layer and then topped the cake the green layer, trimmed side down. While the directions called for the cake to be frozen for 1 hour, unfortunately I used a round cake board that wouldn’t fit in my freezer so I ended up refrigerating it for about 2-3 hours. Don’t worry if your layers are not flush, i.e. not the same width, you will be trimming the sides of the cake once you top it with chocolate. This ended up happening to me because while both of the pans I used were 9 inch squares the sides of one of the pans was straighter than the other.

Before removing the cake from the refrigerator I made the chocolate topping. I melted chocolate and butter together in the microwave in 30 second intervals. Well, to be truthful, I microwaved it once at 30 seconds and the second time at 45 seconds and then stirred it together until smooth. I set it aside for about 10-15 minutes so it could cool and thicken before pouring it on the cake. If you pour it right away the chocolate will be too thin and just run down the sides of cake when you try to spread it. Also, you won’t be able to create the usual wavy lines in the chocolate that rainbow cookies normally have.

Once the chocolate was ready I removed the cake from the refrigerator and poured the chocolate over the top and using an offset spatula I spread it into a thick even layer over the cake. And for the final touch, using the tines of a fork I created wavy lines in the chocolate. If you find that the chocolate isn’t holding the wavy pattern, wait a minute or two and then go over the patter again with the fork. It could just be that the chocolate needs to cool a bit more. I then returned the cake to the refrigerator so the chocolate could set, but, not harden.

And finally, I trimmed all for sides of the cake. I did find this part a bit tricky as my cake was crumbling while doing so. Partly because, as per the directions, I only used eggs whites in the batter which produces a much lighter cake. You could use whole eggs as opposed to the egg whites which would produce a denser and moister cake and one that is slightly yellower, which would be good when tinting the yellow layer of the cake.

So, everyone who tried this cake, including me, loved it. They all agreed that it was light and not crazy sweet. The perfect type of dessert.

Rainbow Cookie Cake

Ingredients:

Cake:

3 16 to 18–ounce boxed of white cake mix (plus the required ingredients)

1 1/2 teaspoons pure almond extract

Pink, yellow and green gel food coloring

1 cup seedless raspberry jam

Chocolate Topping:

2 4–ounce bars semisweet chocolate, chopped

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Spray a 9-inch square pan with baking spray and set aside.

Prepare 1 cake mix per box directions adding in 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract. Tint with the pink food coloring, stirring well making sure no white streaks remain. Transfer to the prepared pan and bake in the preheated oven for 35 minutes. Let cool in the pan for 15 minutes and then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Repeat to make the yellow and green layers.

Trip the tops of each of the cakes to make level. Don’t worry if the widths of the cakes are different, you will even it out at the end.

Place the pink cake, trimmed side up, on a cake board and spread with 1/2 cup of jam. Top with the yellow cake, trimmed side up, and spread the remaining jam on top. Top with the green layer, trimmed side down. Freeze for 1 hour.

Microwave the chocolate and butter together in 30 second intervals, stirring after each, until melted and smooth. Let it cool slightly.

Pour the cooled chocolate over the top of the cake and using an offset spatula, spread the chocolate in a thick even layer over the cake.

Using the tines of a fork create a wavy lines pattern in the chocolate. Return the cake to the freezer so the chocolate can set, but not harden, about 15 minutes.

Using a long serrated knife trim all four sides of the cake.

 

Recipe notes:

You can use whole eggs as opposed to the recommended egg whites on the box directions

For a stronger almond taste try adding in more almond extract, or substituting it with almond paste.

To achieve brighter shades of pink, yellow and green, add a little red to the pink, orange to the yellow and blue to the green

You can place the cakes in the refrigerator as opposed to the freezer, but, will need to leave them in longer.

Recipe from Food Network

Zebra Cake

It’s one thing when a cake is appealing to the eye on the outside, but, when you cut into a cake and reveal a hidden surprise on the inside your eyes widen in wonder and delight. That’s the excitement behind a Piñata Cake. Who wouldn’t want to cut a slice of cake to only have sprinkles and candy come cascading out? A smile (and squeals from little one’s) is sure to follow. The same can be had when the cake itself reveals a pattern or design. Think of a Checkerboard Cake (Sorry for the pictures in both of those posts – Nighttime baking is not a blogger’s friend when it comes to taking pictures.)

I recently made a cake to celebrate a friend’s daughters (aka my nieces) dance recital performance – it was their first. Since I was making a cake for one of their birthdays the day before I didn’t want to make another chocolate cake for their recital celebration. And since I was making a themed cake for that birthday I also didn’t want to make a cake that I would have to heavily decorate – I was actually able to find doll-sized versions of their dancing shoes to top the cake with so I figured that was perfect enough decoration. So, I figured I should do something special with the inside. After a little thought I decided to make a zebra cake with a Nutella mousse filling since they both like the hazelnut spread.

To make things super easy I went with box cake mix – a yellow cake mix and a chocolate cake mix. I prepared both per the box directions. Whenever I use cake mix I normally use Duncan Hines. One of the reasons, and it will sound silly, is because it has a Wilton approved emblem on it. Truth be told though, Duncan Hines is perfect for making a zebra cake because they do not have pudding in the mix which can make the cake batter thick and not ideal for making this cake.

Once my batters were prepared, I poured a ¼ cup of the yellow cake batter in the center of two 8-inch cake pans that I sprayed with baking spray. Next, I poured a ¼ cup of the chocolate cake batter in the center of the yellow cake batter, and then a ¼ cup of the chocolate cake mix in the center of the previously poured yellow cake mix. I continued in this pattern until the pan was about 2/3 full. You won’t use all of the batters, but, just about.

I gently tapped the pans down and then baked them in a preheated 350 F oven for about 45 minutes, until a cake tester inserted in the middle came out clean. I let the cakes cool in the pans for about 15 minutes and then inverted them on cooling racks to cool completely.

One cooled, I torte the cakes to remove the dome that formed on both. The zebra pattern was instantly visible and I was quite excited that it worked.

The pattern was even more visible once the cake was layered and cut into.

You could really customize this cake. Use a white cake mix and tint it colors to show your team spirit, someone’s favorite colors or even a gender reveal cake.

And here’s a pic of the birthday cake I made the same weekend – An Elena of Avalor themed cake.

A Delicious Short-Cut Peach Pie

Short-cuts aren’t always a bad thing. When you are driving they can get you where you have to go quicker and hopefully help you avoid some traffic along the way. In our day-to-day lives they can make us a bit more efficient to get daily tasks completed. And in baking they can guarantee us a flakier crust and fruit that’s perfectly ripe for a pie!

A few weeks ago I got it in my head that I wanted to make a peach pie. I’m actually not a big fruit pie fan – I’m not that keen on fruit pie filling, especially when it’s on the runny side – but, I think the Pillsbury Pie Crust sitting in my refrigerator got me thinking. I’ve made pie crusts from scratch once or twice before but, like I said there’s nothing wrong with taking a short-cut every now and then. I went one step further with my short-cut and opted to use frozen peaches. I just wasn’t in the mood to peel and slice a few pounds of peaches.

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I combined 2 pounds of frozen sliced peaches with sugar, flour, lemon juice, cinnamon, allspice and almond extract. I decided on the almond extract after reading that many bakers used to add the nut – sometimes called a “bitter almond” –  that’s inside the pit of the peach to the pie while baking to give it an almond flavor. That practice has since diminished as it was discovered that the nut contains trace amounts of cyanide, granted you would have to eat a large quantity of them for anything to happen, but, who wants to bite down on something hard when they are enjoying a piece of pie.

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Next I unrolled one of the pie crusts and pressed it into the bottom of the pie dish.

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I then added the filling and mounded it slightly in the middle and dotted it with small pieces of unsalted butter.

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Instead of just unrolling the other pie crust on top of the pie I decided to give it a little pizazz with a lattice pattern that wouldn’t require weaving. First I sliced the top pie crust into 6 1-inch strips…

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And then divided those strips in half to end up with a total of 12 1/2-inch strips.

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I laid five strips across the pie, doing my best to equally space them

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Then I laid four strips across the previous strips diagonally.

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And after some trimming and crimping, voila, a simple lattice pattern.

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I then placed the pie on a baking sheet in a 400 F preheated oven for about 25 minutes. I then lowered the oven to 375 F and baked the pie for about another hour. Prior to lowering the temperature I brushed the top of the pie with an egg wash to ensure a nice golden brown color. I kept a close eye on the pie and when I noticed the rims of it were browning a tad bit too much I covered it with aluminum foil. I knew it was time to take the pie out of the oven when the filling was bubbling.

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After letting it cool it was time to slice into it…

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And I happy to say that the pie was a perfect consistency… Not too watery and not too dry! It was a definite winner!

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Peach Pie – Adapted from here

1 box refrigerated pie crusts, softened as directed on box

Filling:

2 pounds of sliced and peeled frozen peaches (Use frozen, do not thaw)

3/4 cup sugar

1/2 cup flour (I doubled the amount the original recipe called for to allot for the water the frozen fruit would release while baking)

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon all spice

1/2 teaspoon almond extract

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

1 large egg

Directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 400 F.

2. Make the filling by mixing the peaches in a large bowl with the sugar, flour, lemon juice, cinnamon, all spice and almond extract.

3. Unroll one pie crust and place in an ungreased 9-inch pie plate. Add the filling, mounding it slightly in the center and dot with the butter.

4. Unroll the second crust and dust it lightly with flour and cut it into 1/2-inch wide strips. Lay half of the strips on the pie in one direction, leaving about a 1-inch space between each strip. Lay the remaining strips on top, crossing them diagonally to make a faux lattice pattern. Trim the edges of the strips leaving a small overhang and crimp the edges into the bottom crust with your fingers.

5. Place the pie on a baking sheet and place it in the oven for 20 minutes. Lower the temperature of the oven to 375 F and brush the pie with an egg wash (beat the egg with a tablespoon of water). Bake for another hour until the filling it bubbly. If you notice the out crusts of the pie is browning too quickly cover it loosely with aluminum foil. Once baked, transfer to a rack to cool completely before slicing. Store remaining pie in the refrigerator.

 

Checkerboard Cake

I’ve attempted to make a Checkerboard Cake two times before and both times I didn’t have much luck. The first time I followed the directions on the pan set  I have for it exactly, even following the recipe for the cake and I didn’t like the taste of the cake and my cake batter ran into each other so it didn’t look all that great when I sliced into it. The second time I opted to use box cake and while the cake tasted better I still had the issue of the cake batter running so once again not all that checkerboard looking when I sliced into it. According to the directions for the pan set you put the ring separator into the pan, pour the batter in, remove the ring and then bake. This wasn’t working for me, so on this (my third) try I opted to bake the cakes first and then use the ring separator to cut the cakes and then assemble it for the checkerboard pattern and I’m happy to say I didn’t strike out! Granted it was a bit messy to assemble but it wasn’t anything that couldn’t be fixed (or hidden) with a little frosting.

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Using Betty Crocker’s Super Moist Milk Chocolate and Yellow cake mix I prepared the cakes according to the directions on the box.

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After letting the cakes cool I took the ring separator and sliced each of the cakes into three rings.

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And then the messy part began… Assembling. As you can see some of the rings broke up a little, but like I said frosting covered up all the little imperfections. To make sure the rings of the cake wouldn’t fall apart when slicing I “glued” them together with icing along the inside of each ring.

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After covering the first layer with frosting I added the second layer and then spread frosting on it as well.

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And finally the third layer…

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I’ll admit the final product was a bit lopsided and could have used a little extra frosting (I used two containers of Betty Crocker’s Milk Chocolate Frosting to get to this point) but this was an afternoon whim of baking to see if the technique would work.

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And the moment of truth… I got a pretty decent looking checkerboard!!! The saying is true… If at first you don’t succeed try, try, try again. And I’ll definitely be trying it again with more time and frosting.

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