Easter Carrot Cake

This is the best carrot cake I’ve ever had in my life. My entire family felt the same way. I’ll never be able to try another version.

When my friend gave me this special cookbook, she mentioned that the carrot cake recipe was wonderful and that it incorporated crushed pineapple. I can’t believe I waited so long to make it! The author notes that this is their most popular cake- and that its sales in the bakery double every year. It really was unbelievably delicious.

This recipe was adapted from Kathleen’s Bake Shop Cookbook: The Best Recipes from Southampton’s Favorite Bakery for Homestyle Cookies, Cakes, Pies, Muffins, and Breads by Kathleen King, founder of Tate’s Bake Shop. I roasted the walnuts, reduced the baking time, and lined the cake pans with parchment paper.

Yield: One 9-inch, 2-layer cake

For the Cake:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp coarse salt
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups vegetable oil (I used canola oil)
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 cups grated carrots (from 5 to 6 carrots)
  • 1/2 cup chopped raw walnuts
  • 1 cup crushed and drained pineapple
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Roast the walnuts until lightly browned and fragrant, about 5 minutes.
  3. Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees, preferably on convection.
  4. Grease two 9-inch round cake pans. Line with parchment paper, grease paper and dust pans with flour.
  5. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon.
  6. In another large bowl, mix sugar and oil.
  7. Beat in eggs with an electric mixer. (I used a hand held mixer.)
  8. Stir in carrots, roasted nuts, and pineapple.
  9. Stir in the flour mixture.
  10. Pour into prepared pans. (I use a scale to ensure that the pans hold an equal amount of batter.)
  11. Bake for 35 minutes on convection, or up to 45 minutes in a standard oven, or until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean.
  12. Remove pans to a wire rack and let cool for 15 minutes before removing from the pans.
  13. Let the cakes cool completely before icing.

For the Cream-Cheese Icing and To Finish the Cake:

  • 1 pound cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup butter (1 stick), softened
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 2 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together the cream cheese and butter until smooth.
  2. Add vanilla and mix.
  3. Beat in the sugar, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary.
  4. Spread the icing between the 9-inch layers and over the top and sides of the cake.
  5. Chill before serving. (I made the cake a day in advance.)

Note: This cake is very moist and keeps for at least a week in the refrigerator; it also freezes perfectly unfrosted.

One Year Ago: French Apple Cake

Two Years Ago: Carrot-Cake Thumbprint Cookies

Three Years Ago: Outrageous Chocolate Chunk Cookies

Four Years Ago: Jacques Pepin’s Plum Galette and Raspberry Custard Tart

Five Years Ago: Carrot Cupcakes and Cheesecake Brownies

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Linzer Hearts

We drag out holidays in my house. One day just isn’t enough of a celebration. 😉

We were so busy eating leftover Mardi Gras King Cake on Valentine’s Day, I had to make a belated Valentine’s Day dessert! The truth is that I was procrastinating a little bit. As much as I wanted to make this special dessert for my husband, I really didn’t want to peel the hazelnuts. :/ I was quite happy to find a method to remove the skin by blanching the nuts. This method is a little bit time-consuming but it completely removes the bitter skin. Yay!

These cookies were very special- completely worth every minute of work. My husband wants me to add them to our Christmas cookie assortment! (in a different shape, of course) The blanching method used to peel the hazelnuts was adapted from Rose Levy Beranbaum, via Fine Cooking.com. The cookie recipe was adapted from Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook. Wonderful!

Yield: 9 3-inch sandwich cookies and 14 2-inch heart cookies

  • 4 1/2 oz (1 cup) raw hazelnuts
  • 4 T baking soda, for blanching the hazelnuts
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp coarse salt
  • 2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp freshly grated lemon zest
  • 1/2 cup raspberry jam, for filling
  • 1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar, for dusting

To Blanch, Peel, and Roast the Hazelnuts:

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees, preferably on convection roast.
  2. Bring 3 cups of water to a boil. Add 4 T baking soda and the hazelnuts.
  3. Boil for 3 minutes- expect the water to turn black. Run a nut under cold water and see if the skin slips off easily. If not, boil the nuts a little longer until the skins slip off.
  4. Strain and then cool the nuts under cold running water, slip off the skins, blot dry with paper towels.
  5. Place peeled nuts on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Roast in the preheated oven for 7 to 10 minutes, until fragrant.
  6. Remove from the oven and let cool to room temperature.
  7. Pulse the nuts in a food processor until finely ground.

To Make the Cookies:

  1. In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt.
  2. Whisk the ground hazelnuts into the flour mixture; set aside.
  3. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter and granulated sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes.
  4. Add the egg yolks, vanilla, and lemon zest; beat to combine, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.
  5. With the mixer on low-speed, add hazelnut-flour mixture, and beat until just combined, about 10 to 15 seconds.
  6. Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured work surface or onto plastic wrap. Divide in half and shape into flattened disks.
  7. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate at least 1 hour or overnight. (I refrigerated overnight.)
  8. Remove one disk of dough from the refrigerator, and let stand until softened slightly. (This will help keep the dough from cracking when rolled.)
  9. Between layers of plastic wrap or on a large piece of parchment paper lightly dusted with flour, roll dough to 1/8-inch thickness. Wrap in plastic wrap and transfer to a baking sheet. Place in freezer and freeze until firm, about 20 minutes.
  10. Repeat with second disk of dough. (You can stack the parchment and dough in the freezer.)
  11. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees, preferably on convection. Line 3 baking sheets with parchment paper.
  12. Remove one sheet of dough from the freezer. Working quickly, cut into heart shapes with a 3-inch cookie cutter. Cut out the center from half of the shapes with a 2-inch cutter. (If the dough begins to soften too much, return to the freezer for a few minutes.)
  13. Transfer the cookies to the prepared baking sheets about 1 1/2 inches apart. (I kept the similar shaped cookies on separate sheets as they had the same baking time.) Freeze until firm, about 15 minutes.
  14. Repeat with second sheet of dough.
  15. Bake on the center rack, one cookie sheet at a time, rotating halfway through, until cookies are crisp and lightly golden all over, about 17 minutes for full 3-inch hearts and 15 minutes for the open hearts and full 2-inch hearts.
  16. Let cool slightly on cookie sheet and then remove to a wire rack to cool completely. (Cooled cookies can be stored overnight in an airtight container at room temperature before filling.)
  17. Spread the flat sides of the whole hearts with jam.
  18. Sift confectioners’ sugar over the open hearts.
  19. Just before serving, top open hearts with jam. Cookies should be eaten the day they’re filled.

Two Years Ago:

Three Years Ago:

Four Years Ago:

Five Years Ago:

Vanilla Cupcake Ice Cream Sandwiches

Who isn’t a fan of an ice cream sandwich? We love every variation in my house, so, naturally, I had to try this version using vanilla cupcake tops.

This recipe was adapted from Food and Wine, contributed by Candace Nelson. I made the cupcake tops using a muffin top pan to give them more surface area- genius, right?

We gobbled up these all-American treats for dessert during the Super Bowl this year. I filled half with salted caramel gelato and half with vanilla bean ice cream. The vanilla ice cream-filled sandwiches were our favorite.

Yield: Serves 6

  1. Preheat the oven to 325°, preferably on convection. Coat a standard muffin pan or a muffin top pan with cooking oil spray.
  2. 
In a medium bowl, whisk the flour with the baking powder and salt.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk the milk with the vanilla.
  4. In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle, beat the butter with the sugar 
at medium-high speed, scraping down the bowl once or twice, until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.
  5. At medium-low speed, beat in the eggs one at a time until incorporated.
  6. At low-speed, beat in the dry ingredients and the milk mixture in 3 alternating additions until smooth.
  7. Spoon about 1/4 cup of the batter into each prepared cup.
  8. Bake the cupcakes for 15 minutes if using a muffin top pan, or about 18 to 25 minutes in a standard pan, until a toothpick inserted in 
the centers comes out clean.
  9. Let cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then cool 
completely on a wire rack, about 1 hour.
  10. Working with 1 cupcake at a time, carefully slice off the cake top. Reserve 
the cupcake bottom for another use.
  11. Arrange the top smooth side down 
on a platter. Repeat with the remaining cupcakes. Freeze the tops for 1 hour.
  12. Spread 1/4 cup of the ice cream 
onto each of 6 cupcake tops.
  13. Close the sandwiches with the remaining cupcake tops and gently press together. Wrap individually in plastic wrap.
  14. Freeze for at least 30 minutes before serving.
Note: The ice cream sandwiches can be wrapped in plastic and frozen for up to 1 week. Let soften at room temperature for 10 minutes before serving.

One Year Ago: Cinnamon Swirl Bread

Two Years Ago: Country Apple Fritter Bread

Three Years Ago: Soft Baked Snickerdoodles

Four Years Ago:

Five Years Ago:

Sticky Banana Toffee Pudding

Happy Mardi Gras! I am making our traditional King Cake today, but I thought that this dessert could also be an appropriate celebratory option. It reminded me of a New Orleans bread pudding with some of the flavors of Bananas Foster, another famous New Orleans dessert.

The recipe was part of a Food and Wine magazine article, contributed by Laura Rege, titled “Ugly Delicious!” The author makes the point that a lot of delicious food isn’t Instagram drool-worthy. I didn’t really think that this dessert was that ugly, but it was delicious! 🙂

Yield: Serves 9

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature, divided, plus more for greasing
 (I used cooking oil spray for greasing)
  • 3/4 cup boiling water
  • 6 ounces pitted dates, chopped (1 cup)
 (I used Medjool dates)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 3/4 cups light brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3 medium-size overripe bananas, mashed (1 cup)
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • unsweetened whipped cream, for serving
  1. Preheat oven to 350°, preferably on convection. Grease a 9-inch square metal cake pan with butter or cooking oil spray.
  2. In a small heatproof bowl, pour the boiling water over the dates; stir in the baking soda.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.
  4. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle, beat 1/4 cup of the butter with 3/4 cup of the brown sugar at medium speed until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes.
  5. Beat in the eggs, one at a time.
  6. At low-speed, beat in the flour mixture until just combined.
  7. Add the date mixture and bananas, and beat at low-speed until just combined.
  8. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan, and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 30 minutes.
  9. Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, combine the heavy cream, the remaining 1/4 cup of butter, and the remaining 1 cup of brown sugar. Bring to a gentle boil over moderate heat, and cook until slightly thickened and deep golden, about 3 minutes. Keep warm.
  10. Transfer the pan to a wire rack. Using a skewer or toothpick, poke holes all over the cake.
  11. Pour half of the warm sauce over the cake, and let stand until absorbed, about 10 minutes.
  12. Serve warm with the remaining sauce and the whipped cream.

One Year Ago: Pear & Cranberry Pie

Two Years Ago: My Mother-in-Law’s Napoleon Torte

Three Years Ago:

Four Years Ago:

Five Years Ago:

Butterbeer Cupcakes

My son was blessed with a snow day on his 13th birthday! We were able to load him up with his favorite meals all day long. 🙂

After having Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins for breakfast, some sort of meaty concoction involving kielbasa, sliced sourdough baguette, melted cheese and garlic powder prepared by my husband for lunch, and his ultimate favorite, Thai One-Pot, for dinner, we topped off the day with these Butterbeer Cupcakes. ❤

He is such a Harry Potter fan; he has read the series over fourteen times, now losing count. After visiting both Harry Potter Worlds at Universal Studios in Orlando, he is a HUGE butter beer fan as well. (We tried every version available. 🙂 )

This recipe is from PastryAffair.com, adapted from Amy Bites. I added cream to the frosting and halved the ganache recipe. I halved the recipe below with success; I weighed one beaten egg to use “half” of an egg.

I can’t believe that I have a teenager in my house! So sad to make “13” Number Cookies

Yield: 18 cupcakes

For the Butterbeer Cupcakes:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • generous pinch of coarse salt
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar, packed
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon butter flavoring
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup cream soda (I used Dr. Brown’s)
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C), preferably on convection. Line a cupcake tin with baking cups.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
  3. Using a stand mixer, beat together the butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy.
  4. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.
  5. Beat in the vanilla extract and butter flavoring.
  6. With the mixer on low, add 1/3 of the flour mixture, then the buttermilk, 1/3 of the flour mixture, cream soda, and then the remaining flour. Mix just until incorporated. Do not overtax!
  7. Fill cupcake liners 3/4 of the way full and bake for 15 minutes one tin at a time, or 16 minutes for 2 trays (rotating halfway through baking), or until the cupcakes are golden and spring back when touched.
  8. Cool completely before frosting.

For the Butterscotch Ganache:

  • 5.5 ounces (1/2 package) butterscotch chips
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  1. In a small saucepan on medium heat, melt the butterscotch chips into the heavy cream, stirring until smooth.
  2. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature before using.

For the Butterscotch Buttercream:

  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/4 cup butterscotch ganache (recipe above)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon butter flavoring
  • pinch of coarse salt
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 2-4 T heavy cream (as needed)
  1. Using a stand mixer, beat the butter until light and fluffy, about 2 to 3 minutes.
  2. Mix in the butterscotch ganache, vanilla, butter flavoring, and salt.
  3. Beat in the powdered sugar for 2 to 3 minutes, until incorporated.
  4. Add the cream a tablespoon at a time until desired consistency is achieved (I used 4 tablespoons).
  5. Beat until light and fluffy, about 2 to 3 minutes.

To Assemble:

  1. Pour butterscotch ganache into a plastic squeeze bottle. Stab the tip of the bottle into each cupcake, completely immersing the tip, and fill with butterscotch ganache until it starts to overflow.
  2. Fill a pastry bag with butterscotch buttercream and pipe onto the top of each cupcake.
  3. Drizzle on the butterscotch ganache, as desired.

Notes:

  • If you have any leftover butterscotch ganache, it can be used as ice cream topping.
  • Store cupcakes in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Bring to room temperature before serving.

I’m sharing my birthday treats at Angie’s Fiesta Friday #207 this week, co-hosted by my friends Judi @Cooking with Aunt Juju and Lily @Little Sweet Baker. I also brought these cupcakes to What’s for Dinner Sunday! Enjoy! 🙂

One Year Ago: Crème Brûlée

Two Years Ago: Eleventh Birthday Longboard Cake!

Three Years Ago: Black Hole Birthday Cake

Four Years Ago: Minecraft Enderman Cake

Five Years Ago: Birthday Cake Gallery

Christmas Cookies 2017

Traditionally, I make one new holiday cookie to share with our neighbors and co-workers. This year, I made an assortment of old favorites. I just didn’t find a new cookie that caught my eye!

Of course, when it was “too late,” a friend gave us a gift of homemade butter brickle.  It was beyond fabulous! I would love to add it next year, or something like it, like an English Toffee recipe that I found from the New York Times. But that’s next year. 😉

Happy Holidays to you all! Enjoy your time with family and friends. ❤ Best wishes for a wonderful 2018!

Cookies from the Top:

Cookies Left to Right:

Bottom Row:

One Year Ago: Christmas Cookies 2016

Two Years Ago: Christmas Cookies 2015

Three Years Ago: Christmas Cookies 2014

Four Years Ago: Christmas Cookies 2013

Five Years Ago: Christmas Cookies: 2012

Double Apple Pie

I have never made an apple pie that I didn’t enjoy. Apple pie is delicious! 😉 But, I am still seeking a pie that I absolutely love- a pie that will end the search for the perfect pie.

This pie was lovely, with notes of ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. I used a combination of apples and sliced them in a food processor. The pie crust incorporated vodka to ensure a flaky result; my Mother-in-law always utilizes this trick. The filling, thickened with tapioca and apple butter, held together perfectly. I baked it the day before Thanksgiving and it kept well at room temperature.

I served it at the end of our Thanksgiving feast along with my favorite Pumpkin Chiffon Pie and Pecan Pie Bars. Most of us eat small slices of whichever dessert strikes our fancy- topped with either whipped cream or served with vanilla ice cream. This recipe was adapted from The New York Times, contributed by Melissa Clark.

Yield: One 9-inch pie

For the Crust:

  • 2 ½ cups/300 grams all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon/2.5 grams coarse salt
  • 2 ½ sticks/20 tablespoons/285 grams unsalted butter, chilled and cubed
  • 4 tablespoons/60 ml vodka
  • ¼ to ½ cup ice water

For the Filling:

  • 3 pounds/1 1/3 kilograms apples, peeled, cored and thinly sliced crosswise (1/8-inch) (I used a combination of Sweet Tango, Envy, Granny Smith, and Fuji apples)
  • ½ cup/99 grams granulated sugar, more as needed
  • 2 tablespoons/30 grams dark brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons/30 grams quick-cooking tapioca
  • 1 ½ teaspoons/3 grams ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon/3 grams ground ginger
  • ¼ teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • pinch ground cloves
  • 1 ½ tablespoons/22 ml lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoons/45 grams apple butter
  • heavy cream or milk, as needed
  • turbinado sugar, for sprinkling, as needed
  • vanilla ice cream, whipped cream, sour cream or crème fraîche, for serving
To Make the Crust:

  1. In a food processor, pulse together flour and 1/2 teaspoon salt.
  2. Add butter and pulse until mixture forms 3/4-inch pieces.
  3. Mix vodka with 4 tablespoons ice water (or use 1/2 cup ice water).
  4. Add half the ice water mixture to dough, pulse a few times, then continue adding liquid a tablespoon at a time until dough just comes together (you might not use all the liquid). Dough should be moist, but not wet, and hold together when pinched. If there are visible pieces of butter in the dough, all the better.
  5. Between layers of plastic wrap or on a lightly floured surface, gather dough into a ball. Remove a third of the dough and form into a disk. Form remaining dough into a disk.
  6. Cover both tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour and up to 5 days.

To Complete the Pie:

  1. On a lightly floured surface, roll out larger disk to a 12-inch circle. Transfer dough to a 9-inch pie plate. Fold over any excess dough, then crimp edges. Prick crust all over with a fork, then chill crust for 30 minutes or up to 24 hours.
  2. While dough chills, heat oven to 400 degrees, preferably on convection.
  3. Line chilled crust with foil or parchment paper and fill with pie weights or dried beans. Bake for 15 minutes; remove foil and weights and bake until pale golden, 5 minutes more. Cool on rack until needed. (You can bake the crust up to 24 hours in advance.)
  4. Toss apples with sugars, tapioca, spices, 1/2 teaspoon salt and the lemon juice. Fold in apple butter. Transfer apples to crust and press gently to make sure fruit is tightly packed.
  5. Roll out remaining dough disk to a 10-inch round. Use a knife to cut strips 1 3/4 inches wide (or desired width). Arrange strips over the filling in a lattice pattern.
  6. Brush top of crust with heavy cream or milk. Sprinkle with granulated or turbinado sugar.
  7. Place pie on a rimmed baking sheet lined with foil. Bake 15 minutes; reduce heat to 350 degrees and continue baking until crust is golden brown and juices are bubbling thickly, about 1 hour 15 minutes more.
  8. Let pie cool on a wire rack for at least 2 hours before cutting.
  9. Serve with ice cream, whipped cream, sour cream or crème fraîche.

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