Sunday, September 25, 2011

Cinnamon Crumb Coffee Cake

I made this for a party at work a couple weeks ago. It disappeared even faster than the Black Forest Gateau, even though it came out a little more "done" than I would have liked. If I make it again I'm going to watch the baking time very carefully.

Cinnamon Crumb Coffee Cake

1 cup brown sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
4 tablespoons cold butter
2/3 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1/4 cup sugar
3 eggs
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup sour cream

Line the bottom of a 9-inch square pan with wax paper. Spray paper and sides with cooking spray. Preheat oven to 350.

In a small bowl, prepare the crumb filling and topping by mixing together the brown sugar and cinnamon. Cut 4 tablespoons of cold butter into small pieces and then mix into sugar and cinnamon using a pastry blender. Add the walnuts. Set aside.

In a large mixer bowl, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, beating well after each addition.

In a medium bowl, mix together the flour, baking soda, and baking powder. Alternate adding flour mixture and sour cream to the butter, eggs, and sugar.

Pour half of butter into prepared pan. Sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar mixture. Top with remaining batter and then remaining cinnamon and sugar mixture.

Bake 50-60 minutes. Let stand in pan for 5 minutes before removing from pan.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Black Forest Gateau

When I saw this recipe in a cookbook, I had to look up the word "gateau." (French words and I just don't get along.) It turns out that "gateau" simply means "fancy cake." I guess that's fitting for this cake.

I love black forest cake, and someday I'll have to post my high school German teacher's super easy recipe for black forest cake. (It's truly a cake, and not a fancy "gateau.")

Here is my version of the Black Forest Gateau.

Black Forest Gateau

5 eggs
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup cocoa
6 tablespoons butter, melted
15-ounce can of dark sweet cherries, pitted
2-1/2 cups heavy cream
2 tablespoons powdered sugar
4 tablespoons kirsch/cherry brandy (optional)
a few maraschino cherries with stems (optional)
chocolate sprinkles (optional)

Cut a piece of wax paper into 2 circles to match the bottom of two 8-inch cake pans. Place a wax paper circle on the bottom of each pan and then spray the pans with cooking spray.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a mixer bowl, beat together the eggs and sugar for 10 minutes. Mixture should become thick and pale. Sift together the flour and cocoa. Fold gently into egg and sugar mixture. Melt the butter and fold in gradually.

Pour batter into cake pans. Bake for 30 minutes. Cake should spring back when touched lightly. Cool for 5 minutes and then turn onto wire rack. Peel off wax paper.

While cake is cooling, drain and chop cherries. Whip cream until soft peaks form. Add powdered sugar and incorporate into whipped cream. Take two-thirds of the cream and mix with chopped cherries.

Split each cooled cake horizontally. (If desired, you can sprinkle each layer with a tablespoon of cherry brandy.) Place one layer on cake plate. Spread one-third of cherry whipped cream on top. Place another layer on top. Spread with cherry whipped cream. Repeat one more time and then place finally layer on top.

Use reserved whipped cream to frost cake.

To achieve the decorated version in my photo. Place some of the plain whipped cream in a decorating bag with a star tip and make rosettes along the top and stars along the bottom. Drop chocolate sprinkles inside circle of rosettes. Make three large rosettes in center of cake and place a maraschino cherry in each rosette. Sift powdered sugar over top for frosted look.

Yields: about 16 servings

Sunday, September 11, 2011

How to Make a Dora Cake

Buying a character cake pan is always an option when your child wants their favorite cartoon character on their birthday cake. But what if you can't find that cake pan or you're worried that you'll spend $13 only to use the cake pan once because next year your child has a new favorite? This is when I use my old transfer technique!

Dora Birthday Cake

I found this photo of Dora online. Then I copied it into a Word document and made the picture big enough that it would cover most of a 9 x 13 pan. Then I used my transfer technique which you can find on this blog entry.

I did the best I could matching the colors and then added a couple buttercream flowers in the corners since I noticed Dora is often pictured with bright orange flowers around her. I used tip 2D to create the flowers on some waxed paper. Then I threw them in the freezer to harden for a few minutes. After I arranged them in the corners, I added a few silk leaves that I bought at the craft store.

Because there was little room to write "Happy Birthday," I decided to make it look like Dora was saying it. On a purple index card, I wrote the Happy Birthday message. I glued it to the back of another purple index card and taped a lollipop stick in between the two. Then I inserted the stick end into the cake so that the message would stand up.

Presto! A Dora birthday cake!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Book Review: The Me Project by Kathi Lipp

Do you long to make baking or perhaps food photography your career? Or do you just have a dream to take your food obsession to the next level? :)

If you've got a goal to accomplish (food-related or otherwise) but have no idea where to start, you might want to check out Kathi Lipp's book The Me Project: 21 Days to Living the Life You've Always Wanted.

If you've been following my blog, you know I started reading this book several weeks ago. I had originally planned on reading the book as intended--one "project" at a time for 21 days--but life never goes as planned, so I flew through the last seven chapters yesterday to post my review on time.

This book was almost exactly what I thought it would be. Yes, it reminded me of Julia Cameron's The Artist's Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity. Both books talk about following your passion one step and one day at a time, and both talk about your passion being from God.

Cameron emphasizes that God is the Creator, and thus all creative acts and thoughts come from Him. He wants us to be creative! We shouldn't feel guilty about our artistic endeavors. God is the ultimate artist. Why wouldn't He want us to be artists, too?

Kathi Lipp has a similar belief. If we pray and we listen to Him, God will always lead us down the right path. We shouldn't feel guilty about following our dreams; our dreams were planted in our hearts by God. Our goal is to use our God-given talents as God intended, in whatever life He has uniquely designed for us. (Sounds a lot like what I used to tell my Catholic school students!)

As I also predicted, Lipp's book at times reminded me of Catholic author and speaker Matthew Kelly. In chapter 3, Lipp tells us to start a 50/50 journal, basically a journal in which you write down 50 goals you want to accomplish in the next 50 years. When I read this, I thought, Hey, wait a minute! I've done this before.

I hopped up, ran to my nightstand, and sure enough, there it was. A folded piece of loose-leaf paper numbered 1-50. Last year when I heard Matthew Kelly speak, one of his requests was that we all go home and write down 100 goals for ourselves, a task he made all his employees do.

I unfolded my piece of paper. Only 29 goals. Yikes, I was behind! For the next few days, I tried to add more goals. I'm still only at 43, but maybe that's a good thing. The truth is, I think I could come up with a longer list of goals I've already accomplished.

So who should read this book? Busy moms who feel unfulfilled.

I wouldn't recommend this book to men. The intended audience is clearly women.

And to be perfectly honest, I'd have hesitations about recommending it to single women. As someone with a lot of experience in this area, I cringed after the first few chapters. It's clear the author is expecting moms to read this, and it feels like, once again, the single woman got shafted.

You see, Lipp talks at length about using her husband for support while at the same time explaining that women need to take time for themselves. They can't devote all their time to their husbands and children, letting their own dreams fall to the wayside.

While I wholeheartedly agree with Lipp, I can't help thinking of those women whose dream might be to become a wife and mother. To hear a woman with a husband and kids complain her life isn't all she thought it would be could be a little stab in the heart to some women. Let's fact it, some women never find their soul mates no matter how many times they ask God for a life partner. And even if they are lucky enough to find a man who loves them and is willing to marry them, the woman still might not be able to have the children she wants.

And then there's the kind of single woman who is perfectly content to be single. She's come to terms with the unmarried vocation God is calling her to. (See this book by Catholic author Beth Knobbe for an example of that.) Even that kind of self-assured woman might get a little squirmy during the opening chapters of this book. Lipp seems to be saying that husbands and kids can take up most of a woman's time, keeping her from working on her dreams.

Gee, is that all that gets in the way? If that's true, I should be J.K. Rowling, Agatha Christie, and C.S. Lewis all rolled into one by now! I've got so much free time on my hands because I'm not caring for a husband and kids, why haven't I made more of my life?

O.K. I'm exaggerating, but you see how guilt can quickly set it. All I'm saying is that I think there's room for another book in this market, one aimed at single women who want to accomplish whatever plans God has intended for them.

The good news is that Lipp delivers her 21 steps with a lot of humor and a realistic perspective on life. She isn't a preacher on a soapbox telling you what to do. She seems like the kind of woman you want to chat with at the coffeeshop--and she'd be more than happy if you paid for her latte. :)

Lipp deftly weaves in inspirational quotes from everyone from Walt Disney to Samuel Johnson while still tying in plenty of scriptural passages. Her ideas are do-able and she provides practical examples from people who have followed her advice.

So if you know a busy mom who needs a jumpstart to following her dreams, consider sending her The Me Project. It's a little spiritual booster shot for creative women.

Kathi Lipp is a busy conference and retreat speaker, currently speaking each year to thousands of women throughout the United States. She is the author of The Husband Project and The Marriage Project, serves as food writer for Nickelodeon, and has had articles published in several magazines, including Today’s Christian Woman and Discipleship Journal. Kathi and her husband, Roger, live in California and are the parents of four teenagers and young adults. For more information visit her website:

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Cranberry Walnut Brownies

Sometimes I make a dessert with the intention of posting it on this blog, and then I almost forget to snap a photo before the dessert disappears!

Such is the case with these brownies.

I brought them into work. My team loved them, and I brought home a few leftovers. Then what? Yesterday I realized there were only two left, and I hadn't taken a picture yet! So the photo you see below is of the last two remaining brownies. They aren't as moist as they first were, but I have to say that the dried cranberries seemed to keep the brownies moist longer than usual.

Cranberry Walnut Brownies

10 tablespoons butter
5 oz. semisweet chocolate
2/3 cup sugar
2/3 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
2/3 cup flour
3/4 cup chopped walnuts
3/4 cup dried cranberries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Line a 9 x 9 inch pan with foil. Spray with cooking spray.

In a microwave-safe bowl, melt chocolate and butter 2 minutes on high. Stir every 30 seconds. If necessary, continue to melt at 30 second increments.

Stir in both kinds of sugar, eggs, salt, and vanilla. Add flour and stir. Mix in dried cranberries and walnuts. Spread into pan.

Bake 25-30 minutes until knife comes out clean. Cool on wire rack.