Mother’s Day Vanilla Naked Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting & Strawberries

Not to brag, but Mother’s Day was my daughter’s favorite holiday when she was little. ❤ It has now been surpassed by her birthday, Easter, and Christmas, of course, but she still recognizes it is an important day. 🙂 She tirelessly made this cake- completely independently- for Mother’s Day this year.

My son made a family favorite (my choice!), Penne with Vodka-Cream Sauce, for our Mother’s Day dinner. He served it with garlic bread and a giant salad. This lovely dessert topped off our celebratory meal. Lucky me! 🙂

The recipe was adapted from one of our favorite birthday cakes, Rainbow Sprinkle Cake, contributed to The New York Times by Julia Moskin. She used 8-inch pans, omitted the sprinkles, and modified the proportions and baking time. She also topped the cake with fresh strawberries. Delicious.

For the Cake:

  • 1/2 cup/110 grams unsalted butter (1 stick), slightly softened, more for pans
  • 1 1/2 cups/190 grams all-purpose flour, more for pans
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 2/3 cup/158 ml whole milk
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup/200 grams granulated sugar
  • 1 whole egg plus 2 egg whites

For the Cream Cheese Frosting:

  • 6 ounces cream cheese, slightly softened
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter (3/4 stick), slightly softened
  • scant 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt, more to taste
  • 2 1/4 cups/225 grams confectioners’ sugar, sifted, more to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 pound fresh strawberries, optional

To Make the Cake:

  1. Heat oven to 325 degrees, preferably on convection, and place a rack in the center.
  2. Butter and line the bottoms of two 8-inch round cake pans with parchment paper. Butter the parchment. Flour the pans, coating the bottom and sides, then tap out any excess flour.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
  4. In a small bowl, stir together milk and vanilla.
  5. In a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter and sugar at medium-high speed until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes.
  6. Reduce speed to low and, with mixer running, slowly add egg and whites and beat until smooth and creamy, 1 to 2 minutes. Scrape down bowl.
  7. Add half the flour mixture, then the milk mixture, then the remaining flour mixture, beating to blend after each addition.
  8. Scrape down bowl and blend once more.
  9. Remove bowl and use a spatula or spoon to fold in sprinkles by hand.
  10. Divide batter evenly between the pans (approximately 400 g per pan), and bake until the tops are just dry to the touch and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes. Rotate the pans halfway through baking. (She baked the cakes for 22 minutes.)
  11. Transfer pans to a wire rack and let cool completely, at least 2 to 4 hours, before turning out.

To Make the Frosting & Finish the Cake:

  1. In a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat cream cheese, butter and salt together at medium speed until light and fluffy, 2 minutes.
  2. Reduce speed to low and, with mixer running, slowly add sugar and beat until smooth.
  3. Beat in vanilla just until incorporated.
  4. Taste frosting; you should be able to taste the cream cheese and a little bit of saltiness, as well as the sweetness. If desired, add more salt or sugar. Keep refrigerated.
  5. Turn cooled cakes out of pans.
  6. Using a bread knife, cut off any domed or uneven parts of each cake to make flat surfaces.
  7. Place one of the cakes on a platter or a cake stand, cut side up. Line the edges with parchment or wax paper to keep the cake stand clean.
  8. Using an offset spatula, frost the top.
  9. Stack the other layer on top, cut side down.
  10. Place remaining frosting on top of the cake and, working from the center outward, frost the top and sides of the cake, as desired. (She kept the sides relatively naked.)
  11. Top the cake with sliced strawberries, as desired.
  12. Refrigerate cake 30 minutes or longer to set. Serve cool.

Tres Leches Cake

I made this incredibly moist sponge cake for dessert after our Cinco de Mayo feast this year. It would be perfect served after any Mexican-inspired meal.

The recipe was adapted from my food blog friend Ronit Penso’s Tasty Eats blog, originally posted as a round cake on MySliceofMexico.ca. I modified the method and the baking time for a convection oven, used sea salt and a combination of vanilla bean paste and extract, and modified the amount of topping.

Although I reduced the amount of topping, we found that it was absolutely essential. I also thought that the fresh strawberry garnish made it even more beautiful and delicious. Festive and great.

For the Cake:

  • cooking oil spray, for pan
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting the pan
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp fine sea salt
  • 1/3 cup whole milk, at room temperature
  • 2 tsp vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract
  • 7 large or extra-large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 cup granulated sugar

For the Syrup:

  • 1 can (12 fl oz/354 ml) evaporated milk
  • 1 can (14 oz/396grms) sweetened condensed milk
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream

For the Topping:

  • 1 cup heavy cream, cold
  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar, sifted
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste
  • fresh strawberries, sliced
  1. Preheat the oven to 350F (175C). (I used the convection setting.)
  2. Coat the bottom and sides of a 9”x13” (23×33 cm) metal baking pan, and dust with a bit of flour. Turn the pan upside down and tap on it, to get rid of excess flour. Set aside.
  3. Whisk the flour with the baking powder and salt.
  4. In a liquid measuring cup, mix the milk with the vanilla bean paste. Set aside.
  5. Place the eggs in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk. Start whipping on low speed and gradually add the sugar.
  6. Once the sugar has been added, increase the speed to medium-high, and whip until frothy and thick, about 3 minutes.
  7. Lower the speed to medium. Add the flour mixture, alternating with the liquid ingredients (milk/vanilla), in three batches, and beat shortly, about 10 seconds, after each addition. You should have a smooth and frothy batter.
  8. Pour the batter into the prepared pan.
  9. Bake for about 25 minutes on convection, or up to 35 minutes in a standard oven, until the cake is deep golden in color and if you gently press on the top it springs right back. The sides should also begin to pull away from the edge of the pan. (I baked mine for 27 minutes on convection.)
  10. Place on a wire rack to cool slightly while you prepare the syrup.
  11. In a bowl with a spout, combine the evaporated milk, condensed milk and heavy cream.
  12. Prick the top of the cake with a toothpick or fork.
  13. Pour the syrup over the top of the cake. Keep at room temperature until all of the syrup is absorbed.
  14. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours, preferably overnight. (I chilled mine overnight.)
  15. Just before serving, make the topping. In a large cold bowl, combine the cold heavy cream, powdered sugar and vanilla.
  16. Whip with a hand blender on medium-high to high speed, until firm peaks form, or as desired. (I stopped whipping the cream somewhere between soft and firm peaks.)
  17. To Serve: Slice cake and top each slice with a dollop of topping and a sliced strawberry.

Magnolia Bakery’s Vanilla Confetti Cupcakes

My daughter and I made these cheerful cupcakes together. She is obsessed with sprinkles! 🙂 She wanted to give them to her friends as a little surprise. We put one in each of their mailboxes with a note. ❤

The cupcake recipe is from The Magnolia Bakery Handbook- A Complete Guide for the Home Baker: Baking Made Easy with 150 Foolproof Recipes & Techniques by Bobbie Lloyd. The recipe is adapted from their recipe for “Everyone’s Favorite Vanilla Cake.”

The vanilla frosting recipe is from Martha Stewart’s Cupcakes, via Martha Stewart.com. We used fine sea salt and weighed the ingredients when possible for both the cake and frosting. They were moist and tasty- Fun too!

For the Vanilla Confetti Cupcakes:

Yield: 24 cupcakes

  • 3 cups (345g/12.2oz) cake flour
  • 1 3/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp fine sea salt
  • 1 cup (240g/8.5oz) whole milk (I used 1%)
  • 1/2 cup (115g/4oz) sour cream
  • 1 cup (2 sticks/226g/8oz) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cup (300g/10.6oz) granulated sugar
  • 1 3/4 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 4 egg whites, at room temperature
  • 1 cup (130g/4.6oz) confetti sprinkles, plus more for decoration, if desired (We used rainbow sprinkles)

For the Fluffy Vanilla Frosting:

Yield: frosting for 24 cupcakes (about 4 cups)

  • 1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature  
  • 1 pound (16oz/4 cups) confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  • pinch of fine sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • gel food coloring, for tinting, optional
  • confetti or rainbow sprinkles, for decoration, optional

To Make the Vanilla Confetti Cupcakes:

  1. Preheat the oven to 325F. (I set my oven to convection.) Line two 12-cup muffin tins with paper liners.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
  3. In a liquid measuring cup, whisk together the milk and sour cream until no lumps remain. Set aside.
  4. In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter, sugar, and vanilla on medium speed until light and fluffy, 3 to 5 minutes. Scrape the paddle and the sides and bottom of the bowl.
  5. With the mixer on medium speed, slowly add the egg whites, a little at a time, beating until incorporated before adding more. Once the egg whites have been incorporated, stop the mixer and scrape down the paddle and the sides and bottom of the bowl.
  6. With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture in three additions, alternating with the milk mixture, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients. Mix for about 15 seconds, just until incorporated.
  7. Scrape down the paddle and the sides and bottom of the bowl. Add the sprinkles and mix for 20 to 30 seconds, until smooth and combined.
  8. Using a scoop or a 1/4-cup dry measuring cup, evenly ration the batter into the prepared muffin cups.
  9. Bake for 20 to 24 minutes, or until the tops spring back when touched and a cake tester inserted into the centers comes out clean.
  10. Let the cupcakes cool in the pan for 30 minutes. Remove and let cool completely on a wire rack.

To Make the Fluffy Vanilla Frosting & To Decorate the Cupcakes:

  1. In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter on medium-high speed until pale and creamy, about 2 minutes.
  2. Reduce speed to medium. Add the confectioners’ sugar, 1/2 cup at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping down sides of bowl as needed; after every two additions, raise speed to high and beat 10 seconds to aerate frosting, then return to medium-high. This process should take about 5 minutes. Frosting will be very pale and fluffy.
  3. Add salt and vanilla; beat until frosting is smooth. The frosting can be tinted with food coloring, if desired.
  4. To decorate, fill a piping bag with desired tip and pipe onto cupcakes. Top with additional sprinkles, if desired.

Note: If not using immediately, frosting can be refrigerated up to 10 days in an airtight container. Before using, bring to room temperature, and beat on low speed until smooth again, about 5 minutes.

Brown Sugar Cookies

One more recipe from Sarah Kieffer’s new cookie book!

These wonderful cookies may have tasted even more spectacular because they looked so simple and unassuming. Wow. The extra teaspoon of molasses may have been the secret ingredient. Like her snickerdoodles, they had a crispy edge and soft center.

The recipe was adapted from 100 Cookies: The Baking Book for Every Kitchen with Classic Cookies, Novel Treats, Brownies, Bars and More by Sarah Kieffer. I chilled the dough prior to baking and modified the cookie size. I also reduced the amount of granulated sugar needed for rolling. Great!

Yield: 30 to 32 cookies

  • 364 g (2 1/2 cups plus 1 T) all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 3/4 tsp salt (I used fine sea salt)
  • 1 cup (2 sticks or 227 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 350 g (1 3/4 cups) dark brown sugar
  • 1 tsp molasses
  • 1 large egg plus 1 large yolk
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 50 g (1/4 cup) granulated sugar, for rolling
  1. Adjust an oven rack to the middle of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (180 C). (I did not use the convection setting.)
  2. Line rimmed sheet pans with parchment paper.
  3. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, and salt.
  4. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium speed until creamy, about 1 minute.
  5. Add the brown sugar and the molasses and beat on medium speed until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes.
  6. Add the egg, yolk, and vanilla, and beat on medium speed until combined.
  7. Add the flour mixture and beat on low speed until just combined.
  8. Place the granulated sugar in a small bowl.
  9. Using a medium-sized cookie scoop, ration the dough into 30g (1 oz or 1 1/2 T) portions. (At this point, I wrapped the scoops with plastic wrap and chilled them. I baked half after 1 hour and the other half after 24 hours.)
  10. Roll each ball in the granulated sugar and place 8 cookies on each sheet pan.
  11. Bake one pan at a time, rotating halfway through baking. Bake until the sides are set and the bottoms are light golden brown, 12 to 13 minutes (for the chilled dough).
  12. Transfer the sheet pan to a wire rack and let the cookies cool for 5 to 10 minutes on the pan, then remove them and let them cool completely on the wire rack. Repeat with remaining dough.

Note: Store cookies in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.

Cinnamon Roll Blondies

One of the most dangerous things I’ve ever done is to “join” baking groups on Facebook. The beautiful baked goods that are shared make me feel compelled to bake and to try cookbooks that are raved about.

This recipe is from 100 Cookies: The Baking Book for Every Kitchen with Classic Cookies, Novel Treats, Brownies, Bars, and More by Sarah Kieffer. This book has a major fan base online. I’m only one recipe in and am already a huge fan. 🙂

Baked goods that involve cinnamon-sugar are a crowd-pleaser in my house so selecting cinnamon roll blondies out of this book was an obvious choice. These blondies had the added bonus of incorporating nutty brown butter too. I weighed the ingredients when possible. Fabulous!

Yield: One 9×13-inch pan, about 24 small blondies

For the Brown Butter Blondie Base:

  • 2 cups (284g) all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 cup (2 sticks or 227g) unsalted butter
  • 1 cup (200g) granulated sugar
  • 1 cup (200g) brown sugar (I used dark brown sugar)
  • 1 1/2 T pure vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp salt (I used coarse salt)
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 4 large egg yolks, at room temperature

For the Cream Cheese Filling:

  • 4 oz (113g) cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup (50g) granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • pinch salt (I used coarse salt)

For the Cinnamon Sugar Swirl:

  • 1/4 cup (50g) brown sugar (I used light brown sugar)
  • 2 T unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • pinch of salt (I used coarse salt)
  • 1 T ground cinnamon

To Make the Brown Butter Blondie Base:

  1. Adjust an oven rack to the middle of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (180 C).
  2. Grease a 9×13-inch (23×33-cm) baking pan and line with a parchment sling. (I used a metal baking pan.)
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour and baking powder.
  4. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt 12 tablespoons (170g) of the butter. Brown the butter until it is dark golden brown and smells nutty, about 2 to 3 minutes.
  5. Remove from heat and add the remaining 4 tablespoons (57g) butter to the pot, swirling the pot until the butter stops foaming.
  6. Add the granulated and brown sugars, vanilla, and salt, and stir to combine. Let the mixture cool to room temperature.
  7. Add the eggs and egg yolks and whisk until combined.
  8. Transfer the butter-egg mixture to the bowl with the flour mixture and stir until just combined.
  9. Transfer the batter to the prepared pan, and smooth into an even layer. Set aside while you make the toppings.

To Make the Cream Cheese Filling:

  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese on medium speed until smooth, about 2 minutes.
  2. Add the granulated sugar, vanilla, and salt, and mix on medium speed until well combined.

To Make the Cinnamon Sugar Swirl:

  1. In a small saucepan or skillet, melt the brown sugar, butter, and salt together over low heat until the sugar is dissolved.
  2. Remove from the heat and stir in the cinnamon until combined.

To Assemble:

  1. Dollop the cream cheese and cinnamon sugar over the top of the brown butter blondie batter base in the prepared pan, alternating between the two.
  2. Drag the tip of a butter knife through the batter, creating swirls. (I created swirls parallel to the length and the width of the pan.)
  3. Bake for 25 to 29 minutes, or until a wooden skewer or toothpick inserted into the blondies comes out with only a couple of crumbs. (The testing spot should be in a central location that does not have the toppings because they will appear wet when the base is fully baked.)
  4. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool completely.
  5. Use the parchment sling to gently lift the blondies from the pan. Cut into bars.

Note: Store blondies in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 days. (We placed a few in the refrigerator and they were also absolutely fabulous chilled.)

Frosted Sugar Cookie Bars

These soft sugar cookie bars were one of the most popular recipes this week on The New York Times’ website. They described them as “worth the hype” and, with their cheerful frosting and sprinkles, as “happiness in a 9-by-13 pan.” 🙂

Thanks to cream cheese in the dough, they are soft and tender- similar to Lofthouse cookies, my daughter’s favorite cookie. I made them to celebrate the release of my daughter’s middle school musical. Despite the limitations caused by Covid, the school was able to successfully stage their annual musical in a movie format instead of live performances- great. She had a lot of fun participating in the show.

This recipe was adapted from American Girl Cookies, via The New York Times, contributed by Margaux Laskey. I baked the dough in a rimmed sheet pan and used Meyer lemon juice in the frosting. I love bar desserts! They would be a crowd-pleaser served for Valentine’s Day, a birthday, or just as a special treat.

Yield: 20 cookies

For the Cookie Base:

  • 1 cup/225 grams unsalted butter (2 sticks), at room temperature, plus more for greasing the pan
  • 2 3/4 cups/350 grams all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 (8 ounce/225 gram) package cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups/300 grams granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • lemon zest, optional (or Meyer lemon zest)

For the Frosting:

  • 6 tablespoons/85 grams unsalted butter (3/4 stick), at room temperature
  • 2 cups/245 grams confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 tablespoon milk or heavy cream, plus more as needed (I used whole milk)
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice, plus more as needed (I used Meyer lemon juice)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, plus more as needed
  • 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • a drop or two of gel food coloring, optional
  • assorted sprinkles, for decorating, optional

To Make the Cookie Base:

  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees, preferably on convection.
  2. Lightly butter (or coat with cooking oil spray) a 9-by-13-inch baking pan or rimmed sheet pan. Line the pan with parchment paper, running it up the two long sides of the pan and letting it extend past the rim by about 2 inches.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour and salt.
  4. In a large bowl with an electric mixer, or in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter and cream cheese on medium speed until well blended, about 1 minute.
  5. Add the granulated sugar and beat until smooth, about 1 minute.
  6. Add the egg, vanilla, and lemon zest, if using, and beat on low speed until well combined, about 1 minute.
  7. Turn off the mixer and scrape down the bowl with a rubber spatula. Gradually add the flour mixture, mixing on low speed just until blended, about 1 minute.
  8. Using a spatula, scrape the dough into the prepared baking pan. Using damp fingers or a greased offset spatula, spread the dough into an even layer.
  9. Bake just until the edges are starting to turn light golden brown, and a toothpick inserted in the middle has moist crumbs, 20 to 25 minutes. (Do not overbake! The bars should be quite moist, and almost slightly underbaked in the middle.)
  10. Remove the pan from the oven and set it on a wire rack. Let cool completely. When fully cooled, remove the bars from the pan using the overhanging parchment paper.

To Make the Frosting:

  1. Place the 6 tablespoons of softened butter in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat the butter on medium speed until creamy, about 1 minute.
  2. Add 1 cup confectioners’ sugar, beating on low speed until fully combined, then repeat with remaining 1 cup confectioners’ sugar.
  3. Add the 1 tablespoon milk or heavy cream, 1 teaspoon lemon juice, the vanilla, salt and food coloring, if using, and beat on medium speed until the frosting is light and fluffy, scraping down the sides halfway through, about 4 minutes. Add more milk if needed to thin out the mixture. Add lemon juice and vanilla to taste.
  4. Using a spatula, spread the frosting on top, then decorate with sprinkles, if using. Cut into 20 bars and serve.

Note: I stored the leftover cookies in the refrigerator and we actually preferred them chilled.

Glazed Chocolate Cake Donuts

My kids haven’t had a snow day in a couple of years, but today we had our second snow day of the season. We were very happy for the break from reality. 🙂 Everyone slept in this morning and then my daughter made this special breakfast. ❤

These baked donuts were quite a treat- I had to post them right away. The recipe was adapted from bunsinmyoven.com. They were very light, tender, and moist. The batter would also be great to bake in mini-bundt pans. Next time!

I’m looking forward to another indulgent breakfast tomorrow morning… We just found out that my kids have another snow day! 🙂

Yield: 12 mini donuts

For the Donuts:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder, sifted
  • 1/4 cup mini chocolate chips
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg
  • 6 tablespoons sour cream or Greek yogurt
  • 1/4 cup milk (preferably whole milk)
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil

For the Glaze:

  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/4 cup milk (preferably whole milk)
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • pinch of coarse salt

To Make the Donuts:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees, preferably on convection. Coat two mini-donut pans with cooking oil spray.
  2. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt.
  3. Whisk in the mini chocolate chips.
  4. In a small bowl, using a hand-held mixer, beat together the vanilla, egg, sour cream, milk, and oil.
  5. Stir the wet ingredients into the dry until just combined.
  6. Using a small cookie scoop or spoon, distribute the dough into two greased mini-donut pans.
  7. Bake for 7 to 9 minutes or until the tops spring back when you touch them and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with only a few moist crumbs.
  8. Let the donuts cool in the pan for 5 minutes before inverting onto a wire rack.
  9. Let the donuts cool completely before glazing.
To Make the Glaze:
  1. Place a piece of plastic wrap, parchment paper, wax paper, or newspaper under a wire rack to catch drips of glaze.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together the powdered sugar, milk, vanilla, and salt until smooth.
  3. Dunk the donuts in the glaze to fully coat and place on the wire rack to set, about 5 minutes.

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