Sunday, January 23, 2011

Lemonade Cake

There is a famous saying, "When life hands you lemons, make lemonade." When life hands me lemons, I bake.

It all started when my friend, Bal, asked me if I would help stage her home to put on the market. I'm not a stager by any means, but I watch enough design shows to know what buyers of today look for and what makes them cringe. Plus, she's a sweetheart and I couldn't say no.

As we were moving and rearranging furniture, I mentioned to her I was a firm believer that bowls of fruit placed strategically in main living quarters sell a home. She looked at me like I had a third eye, but she must have taken what I said at face value, because she went and bought 12 out-of-season lemons at $1 each to display in her kitchen. Yikes! I mean, you can't just eat lemons on their own. Apples. Absolutely. Pears. Of course. Lemons. Ugh.

Funny enough, the day after the open house, her home sold! It was only on the market ONE DAY! I am now completely convinced it was the lemons that sealed the deal.

So here we are, left with 12 lemons that need to be used up. We could make lemonade or make a refreshing Lemonade Cake. 

No contest.


3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, room temperature
2 cups sugar
4 large eggs
1 cup milk
4 tablespoons finely grated lemon peel

⅓ cup fresh lemon juice
⅔ cup sugar

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Grease two 8" or 9" loaf pans. You could also use a bundt pan, but I find it's a cake worthy of sharing with a friend or neighbor! In this post, I used two 9" loaf pans.

Mix flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl; set aside.

In a large bowl, mix butter and sugar until creamy. Add one egg at a time and mix well.

Add flour mixture in 3 additions, alternating with the milk in 2 additions, and beating only until blended after each addition.

Stir in lemon peel.

Note: When zesting a lemon, be sure to avoid the white pith. It's very bitter and not very nice!

                                           LIKE THIS....

                                          NOT THIS....

Divide and scrape batter into prepared pans.  Level batter.

Bake for 1 hour or until a toothpick comes out clean. Please know that no matter what size pan you choose to use, the bake time will not change!

Cool cake in pan for 5 minutes. Remove cake and place on foil or wax paper.

Prepare glaze. My Grandma taught me to warm the lemon juice and melt the sugar within it. It makes a clear glaze that is the consistency of lemonade and with no sugar granules in each bite.

Poke holes with a skewer. This step ensures the glaze gets into the cake, making it lush and lemony from the inside out!

Brush glaze over entire cake.

Cool completely and enjoy!
Happy Baking!

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Saturday, January 22, 2011

Super Chocolate M&M Cookies

My daughter loves to go through my cookbooks.

My BFF, Beth, gave me a fabulous cupcake cookbook for my birthday last year and my daughter immediately claimed the book as her own (partially because the cover was pink). It now sits on her bookshelf alongside the other best loved books and bedtime stories. One night, she actually chose that book for my husband to read and he actually made up a story about a little cupcake and it's adventures. It was quite riveting and incredibly heartwarming.

We thought we would make some cookies for a playdate she had this afternoon with her BFF. She opened up the cupboard that houses the plethora of cookbooks and choose carefully, but wisely. Monster Cookies was the winner. 

These cookies are huge and definitely live up to the title of the cookbook. As she skimmed her little fingers through the pages, she chose the Super Chocolate M&M Cookies.

These gorgeous mounds of heaven have a little something for everyone. Chocolate. M&Ms. Raisins. Peanuts.

Mmmm. Mama like.

Recipe adapted from the Monster Cookies Cookbook

2 cups all purpose flour
⅓ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup butter, softened at room temperature
½ cup shortening
1 ⅓ cups packed brown sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup M&Ms or candy coated chocolate pieces
1 cup raisins
¾ cup salted peanuts, coarsely chopped

Preheat oven to 350ºF.

Combine flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt in medium bowl; set aside.

Beat butter, shortening & brown sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy.

Beat in eggs and vanilla until well blended. Gradually add the flour mixture, beating at low speed until well blended.

Stir in candy, raisins, and peanuts.

Drop dough by 1/4 cupfuls onto ungreased baking sheet. I like to use silicone mats whenever I bake. Space 3 inches apart and flatten slightly.

Bake cookies 13 to 15 minutes. Cool 2 minutes on cookie sheets and transfer to wire rack. Cool completely.

Yield: 18 to 20 4-inch cookies

Happy Baking!

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Friday, January 21, 2011

Zucchini Spice Cupcakes

Martha Stewart is my hero. Seriously. Who else can make a poncho the hottest must have item of the season all from the confines of a 6x8 jail cell? Although, I'm not a poncho girl, I do love her recipes.

The first time I made Martha's Zucchini Spice Cupcakes, it was for a friend's backyard BBQ party. To say they were a hit would be an huge understatement. They flew off the plate and left it rocking in its wake. The second time I made them was for a girlfriend's baby shower. I was almost adopted by the family.

There is something wonderful about zucchini. Aside from all the health benefits, it's such a versatile fruit. Yes, that's right, I said fruit. My mother would grow it in her garden every year. She would plant it one week and be cursing the high heavens the next because it had taken the entire backyard hostage. Yet, there she was every winter planning for her next bountiful crop with, you guessed it, zucchini taking first place.

I am thankful for zucchini. Although it's virtually tasteless on it's own, pair it with roasted red peppers, onions, and goat cheese on a panini and you got yourself the best damn sandwich this side of the hemisphere. Zucchini bread with a nice cup of tea on a cold January morning?

Sign me up. Like yesterday.

Recipe adapted and slightly modified from Martha Stewart's Cupcakes

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
2 tablespoons ground flaxseed
1 cup vegetable oil
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
¾ teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
2 cups packed light brown sugar
3 cups packed grated zucchini, drained VERY well
1 cup walnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped
Preheat oven to 350°F. Line standard muffin tins with paper liners.

Whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves.

In another bowl, whisk together oil, eggs, vanilla, and zest until well blended; whisk in brown sugar until smooth.

Stir in zucchini

Add flour mixture and stir until just combined. Stir in walnuts. Divide batter evenly among lined cups, filling each three quarters full.

Bake, rotating tins halfway through, until a cake tester inserted in centers comes out clean, about 20 minutes.

Transfer tins to wire racks to cool completely before removing cupcakes. Cupcakes can be stored overnight at room temperature or frozen up to 2 months, in airtight containers.

Now for the best part....


I halved the original recipe because it made SO much!

½ cup unsalted butter, room temperature
6 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
2 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

With an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat butter and cream cheese until fluffy. Reduce speed to low. Add sugar, ½ cup at a time, and then vanilla, and mix until smooth.

Yield: About 24 cupcakes.

Happy Baking!

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Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Confessions of a Foodie

Food brings people together. No matter what the occasion or season, it is an important and essential part of the moment.

My name is Jenny. And I am a foodie.

While I have many passions in life, if I had to pick one that stands out above the rest, baking definitely takes the pun intended. If baking is the addiction, cookies are the drug. If there was a $10 bill and a cookie on the table, I'd take the cookie.

There is something special about creating delightful desserts and confections using simple ingredients such as butter, eggs, flour and sugar. It's like a group of close girlfriends. Each of them are wonderful on their own, but put them together and the end result is something better (most of the time) than what you started out with.

I fell in love with the culinary arts when I was about 13. I can't pinpoint my "AHA!" moment, but I do remember my Home Economics teacher telling me that I had made the prettiest cheesecake she had ever seen. It wasn't long after that I became obsessed with food and perfecting it.

Once cooking programs really hit the airwaves, I was hooked. I remember the first time I watched Martha Stewart on TV. She was making a gorgeous rustic apple tart. I sat there thinking, 'I can so do that!' I found myself glued to her 30 minute program every weekend, jotting down recipes on the back of my math homework. (Which could explain my calculus teacher's surprising weight gain that year).

Before long, I became a bit of a cookbook fanatic. I would hit bookstores, garage sales, church rummage sales, my mother's collection - you name it, I needed to have it.

By the time I was 25, I had about 50. Of course, as the years went on, I would purge to make room for new editions, but I can proudly say I have used every cookbook that was in my possession at least once! My collection is now down to about thirty due to space issues, but it's so hard to pass one by.

I have also learned to become quite adventurous in the kitchen. Over the years, I gained the knowledge to know what flavors and spices work best with what dishes and what recipes would become instant classics and which ones needed to run for the hills. I am happiest when I am in the kitchen - and so is my husband. I often joke that I put the Woman's Movement back 50 years because I enjoy cooking, baking, and, wait for it - cleaning too. I could possibly be the only woman in North America that gets excited to receive kitchen utensils, appliances, and gadgets as gift.

Thankfully, my passion was passed along to my favorite little sous chef. She got the baking bug at the tender age of two and was mastering the hand 'mixert' - as she called it, not long after. Now four years old, she is a whiz the kitchen. I can only hope my little man is just as lucky.

I am super excited to take this journey and see what comes of it. I know I will have many successes and many fails, but it'll be fun to see where it takes me. I hope to meet other folks who love food as much as I do and share passions with them. That's where the fun will really begin.

We'll just have to wait and see.....

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