Tuesday, March 15, 2016


It is tempting to use cake mixes. From-mix cakes turn out moist while from-scratch ones often do not. However, once one studies the ingredient list on a cake-mix box, one may vow to never go there again. That's what I did and thus began my search for tried-and-true basic vanilla and basic chocolate cake recipes. I have made this recipe only as cupcakes, but they were tasty.

Basic  Vanilla  Cake
Serves 12

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup butter at room temperature
1 ½ cups granulated sugar
4 large eggs at room temperature
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
½ cup water at room temperature
¾ cup heavy cream at room temperature

1. Butter two 9-inch-diameter, round cake pans, and line the bottoms with parchment or waxed paper cut to fit bottoms of pans. Butter papers, and then dust pans with flour, tapping out excess.
2. Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt in medium-sized bowl until combined.
3. Beat butter in large bowl, using stand-mixer on medium-high speed.
4. Gradually add sugar, and beat until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
5. Reduce mixer speed to medium. Beat in eggs, one at a time, scraping down bowl as needed.
6. Beat in vanilla. The mixture may look separated at this point.
7. Mix water with cream in measuring cup intended for liquids.
8. Stir flour mixture into creamed mixture in three batches, alternating with half of cream-water mixture. Do not over-stir.
9. Divide batter between prepared pans. Bake in 350°F. oven until cakes are lightly golden on top and centers spring back when lightly pressed, about 25 minutes. If anything, undercook slightly, since cakes will continue to cook in hot pans. Cupcakes will need 10 to 12 minutes.
10. Transfer pans to racks, and let cakes cool 10 minutes. Then run knife around the edges of pans, and turn cakes onto racks to cool cakes completely. Remove paper from cakes’ bottoms. You may trim tops of cakes with long serrated knife to make them level before frosting.

Recipe from Food Network Kitchen

Tuesday, March 8, 2016


Too many sugar cookies look nice but don't have much to recommend them as a dessert. This recipe makes a delicious cookie, and, another plus, the dough is easy to handle, important for a rolled cookie.

Any holiday is an excuse for making sugar cookies ... if you need an excuse. Older children can make and bake the dough. Nearly any child can decorate them.

Faith Durand's  Best  Cut-Out  Sugar  Cookies
2 to 3 dozen

1 cup unsalted butter, softened at room temperature for 1 hour
2 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1 teaspoon orange or lemon zest, optional
1  1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 cups flour

1. In a large bowl, cream butter and cream cheese.
2. Beat in granulated sugar. Beat for several minutes or until light-colored and fluffy.
3. Beat in egg, vanilla and almond extracts, and, if using, orange or lemon zest.
4. Beat in baking powder and salt.
5. Gradually add flour until fully incorporated and soft dough is formed.
6. Divide dough in half and wrap flattened balls of dough in plastic wrap. To freeze plastic-wrapped dough, put in freezer bag and freeze up to 1 month. To thaw, leave in refrigerator overnight and then proceed with recipe. If not freezing dough, chill at least 1 hour or as long as overnight.
7. Let chilled dough sit for about 15 minutes at room temperature. Cut cookies out of dough rolled to 1/8" to 1/4" thick and place on ungreased baking sheets about 1" apart. Cookies will rise when baked.
8. Bake in 350°F. oven for about 8 minutes, depending on thickness. Let cool for 5 minutes on the cookie sheet, then remove to wire rack.
9. Cool completely before icing or decorating, and store in tightly covered container.

NOTE: The dough handles beautifully. The cookies are quite sturdy after baking. They are delicious without the zest. 

Sugar Cookie Decorating Ideas
    Ice with a sugar glaze; then sandwich with Nutella between two cookies.
    Glaze with warmed jelly; then sandwich with another cut-out cookie on top. (Valentines' Day hearts)
    Drizzle with melted chocolate.
    Ice with royal icing and stick on candy dots for decoration.

    Use a glaze made from sifted confectioners' sugar and milk. Paint it on with a pastry brush. It's easier than spreading a buttercream frosting and will not cause the cookies to get as soft. These cookies don't need softening.
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