Banana Cake

There’s a local bakery and sandwich shop here in my town that is absolutely amazing.  I took my daughter there one afternoon for lunch, and we got some sandwiches and cookies for dessert.  It was a cute little shop, and the owner seemed to know almost everyone that came in to get something to eat.  After introducing myself to the owner and talking with him, I told him about being culinary school and how I also did a lot of baking at home.  That’s when the conversation really started.  He cut us two samples of his famous caramel cake, and after taking one bite…I was in heaven.  It was absolutely amazing, and I called my husband afterwards, telling him that for my birthday this year, I wanted a caramel cake from this place.

banana cake

Although he didn’t have the recipe available for this cake, he did have a recipe published in the local newspaper for his banana cake.  I took a picture of the recipe and got started a few weeks later at home.  There are a few minor modifications to the recipe, but overall it’s pretty much the same.  For the icing though, he does use banana extract instead of vanilla, but I decided to go with vanilla for this cake.  And since I’m a little picky on texture, I pureed the bananas with the wet ingredients before putting it all together.  Such a wonderful banana flavor, especially paired with this delicious cream cheese icing!

Banana Cake Recipe:

2 1/2 cups all purpose flour

3/4 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

3 ripe medium bananas, mashed

3 large eggs

3/4 cup buttermilk

1 stick butter, melted

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease and flour three 8 inch cake pans.  In a large bowl, combine flour, sugars, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon, mix well.  Add mashed bananas, eggs, buttermilk, butter, and vanilla.  Beat with electric mixer at medium speed for 2 minutes or until smooth.  Pour into pans and bake for approximately 25 minutes.  Cool in pans for about 10 minutes, then remove cakes from pans and finish cooling on cooling racks.  Layer with icing.

Cream Cheese Icing:

1 lb. powdered sugar

8 oz. cream cheese, softened

1 stick butter, softened

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Cream butter and cream cheese together in bowl using an electric mixer for 2-3 minutes.  Add vanilla extract and powdered sugar, then continue beating for another 3-4 minutes until smooth and creamy.

 

Pumpkin Bars

Well, it’s October…which can only mean one thing.  Fall Recipes!  So, for the rest of this month and up until Turkey Day, I’ll be diving into as many Fall Recipes as possible.  To me, Fall Recipes are when we start moving towards the warm comfort foods, but mostly dealing with apples, pecans, cranberries, cinnamon, caramel, gingerbread, and the big one…pumpkin.  So, we’re starting out with some Pumpkin Bars this time around.

pumpkin bars

As the fragrant flavors were swarming through the kitchen when these guys were baking in my oven, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on them.  Luckily, I had some cream cheese icing left over from a hummingbird cake I made over the weekend to smother all over the top of them, which is exactly what I did.  I cut two pieces for myself and my husband (he shared his with our daughter, since he literally just wolfed down two s’mores cookies), and the two of them polished their piece off…which our daughter started asking for more.  As I was getting  her ready for bed, my taste buds were screaming at me to get another piece.  So, I got into a mental argument with myself over this.  That stuff was so awesome, you know you want another piece.  Don’t do it, you’re already full and you don’t need it!  So, I made the courageous decision to get that stuff OUT of the kitchen this morning.  Taking up space in the fridge is my excuse, and I’m sticking to it.  But holy cow, these will DEFINITELY be made again.  Amazing!

For the Pumpkin Bars:

4 eggs

1 cup white sugar

2/3 cup brown sugar

1 cup vegetable oil

1 (15 oz.) can pumpkin puree

2 cups all purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease a 9×13 inch baking dish.  In a medium mixing bowl, add all ingredients and beat with electric mixer at medium speed for 2-3 minutes, until mixture is smooth.  Pour batter into pan and bake for approximately 30 minutes, or until toothpick inserted comes out clean.  Cool completely before topping with cream cheese icing.  Store in refrigerator.

For the Icing:

4 oz. cream cheese, softened

1/2 stick butter, softened

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 cups powdered sugar

In a small mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese, butter, and vanilla until smooth.  Add powdered sugar, and continue mixing until smooth.  Spread over top of cooled Pumpkin Bars.

Red Velvet Cake with Cream Cheese Icing

The world famous red velvet cake.  My grandmother has made this cake for YEARS, and we all get so incredibly excited when we find out she’s making it.  She usually makes it as one or two layers, but I decided to go crazy and make a three layer cake with this recipe instead.  You know, because the cream cheese icing is so ridiculously good, that this was the best way to utilize as much icing as possible into the cake without eating just the icing itself…which you easily could with this recipe.

red velvet cake 2

My grandmother always put pecans in the cream cheese icing, but several family members aren’t really fans of nuts in their icing (I tell them they’re nuts for not liking nuts), so I went for the nutless icing in this recipe.  And although she’s given us the actual recipe for this cake, it never quite turns out like she makes it, so I decided to improvise and make my own version…which is what I’m sharing with you.  This is it, the end result.  I decided to go with using sour cream in the cake to ensure the moistness throughout, without losing any of that red velvet flavor to it.  But I’ll be honest, once I go to culinary school and start learning more, the chances of changing and perfecting this recipe are highly likely, considering it’s one of those recipes that I would like to categorize as signature…because it’s got to be just that awesome.  And one of the great things about red velvet with the use of food coloring is the fact that you can make your red velvet cake any color you want.  In fact, my grandmother has made blue velvet and green velvet.  Personally, I want to see purple velvet, so that’ll be a future experiment for sure.  😉

Red Velvet Cake Recipe:
2 1/4 cups flour, sifted
2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon cocoa
1 cup buttermilk
1 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vinegar
2 teaspoons vanilla
8 oz. sour cream
1 teaspoon red food coloring

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Combine all ingredients and beat with electric mixer at medium speed for 2-4 minutes, until blended.  Spoon batter into 3 greased and floured 9 inch cake pans.  Bake for approximately 30 minutes, or until toothpick inserted comes out clean.

Cream Cheese Icing:
2 lbs. powdered sugar
2 (8 oz.) pkg cream cheese, softened
2 sticks butter, softened
2 tsp vanilla
1 c. chopped pecans (optional)

Beat cream cheese, butter and vanilla with electric mixer at medium speed for 2-3 minutes until smooth.  Add powdered sugar and continue mixing for another 3-4 minutes.  Spread in between layers and on top of cake, store in refrigerator.

Polka Dot Cookie Cake

Yay, polka dots!  My sister-in-law actually sent me a link of a cake that was baked with polka dots.  She claimed that her kitchen might blow up if she attempted this, but thought I would be interested.  Heck yeah, I was.  When I clicked on the link and saw that the original idea of this was created with different colors cake balls that were already baked and then put inside the cake to be baked again, I wanted to do something different.  In my chocolate chip cookie cupcakes, I bake an entire chocolate chip cookie inside each cupcake.  Those things are so delicious, that I decided to try it out this way with a cake, but with the polka dot concept.

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First, I took the easy route and bought two of the pre-made sugar cookie packs of cookie dough at the grocery store.  I cut them up into six pieces and let them soften.

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Using an electric mixer, I colored each little batch of cookie dough.

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With a mini cookie scoop, I distributed the cookie dough so that all of the dots are approximately the same size, then put them in the refrigerator to slightly harden before rolling them into balls.

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I made the cake batter, then rolled each little scoop into a ball, and placed it on top of the batter in the pans.  I used 3 10-inch pans.

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The finished product!  I went a little crazy with the colorful sprinkles, simply because I liked all the added color.  For the icing, I went with cream cheese on this particular cake.  No reason other than the fact that I love cream cheese icing, but you can use vanilla with this cake as well.  Bake in oven at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes, or until sides of cake slightly pull away from pan and the top is a light golden brown.

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Look at all of those beautiful colors!  Make sure you don’t over cook the cake, because then the cookies will be a little harder to cut through when serving.

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Ohh, that’s a big chunk.  Yes please, I’ll take that one.

White Cake Recipe:

1 box Duncan Hines cake mix

1 small box instant vanilla pudding mix

1 cup oil

1/2 cup water

4 eggs

8 oz. sour cream

Combine all ingredients and mix well at medium speed for 2-4 minutes.  Spoon into cake pans and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until tops of cake are a light golden brown and slightly pulling away from sides of pan.  Sit pans on cooling rack and cool for 12-15 minutes, then turn out of pans onto cooling racks, cool completely before icing.

Cupcakes for Cancer

Although I may not be able to cure cancer…yet…that doesn’t mean I can’t honor the people who have battled cancer.  There are two cancer benefits on the same day in two different cities that are 150 miles apart, and I’m donating several dozen to both places.  Crazy?  Yes, that just may be the case here.

These strawberry cupcakes are going to a breast cancer benefit in Columbia.  A family friend is close with a woman who has battled breast cancer, fought through and now helps organize a huge benefit they have every year.  When she contacted me about donating some cupcakes for a good cause, I said, “Absolutely!!”  I contacted the lady and asked her how many people attend the benefit, and she said about 400.  Ho.  Lee.  Cow.  May have caught her off guard when the amount I told her was going to be six dozen that would be donated…but for a good cause?  Sign me up!  Strawberry cupcakes popped into my head first.  Maybe it was because they’re pink, or maybe because they’re just so delicious.  Either way, that was the flavor that was chosen.  They’re topped with cream cheese icing, and a chocolate ribbon.  Doing something special as a topper seemed like the best option, so I ordered the chocolate mold from amazon.com and used hot pink chocolate to make these little guys.

These cupcakes were very close to my heart.  A very good friend that I’ve known for almost 20 years lost her mother to cancer just a few weeks ago.  Several months ago, Rhonda Brown (who has put together the Relay for Life in Myrtle Beach) jokingly told me that she stalks my baking on Facebook…and she thought I should enter the cupcake contest they’re having at the benefit.  I chuckled and said, “Maybe.”  Rhonda had battled cancer on and off for 18 years, so when I found out that it had come back again, I wasn’t too worried because she had fought it off two times before that.  Just a month ago, things took a turn for the worst.  The cancer had spread to her liver, and it was too late.  That was a very long and emotional day, waiting to hear exactly what was going on.  I kept hoping to hear that things had turned around and she pushed through again…but unfortunately, that wasn’t the case.  At her funeral, I told her daughter and husband that I wanted to enter some cupcakes in the contest for her, because she was the one who wanted me to do it.  So, I asked them what her favorite flavor was.  They responded, “Anything with pecans.”  The first thing that popped in my head was German Chocolate cupcakes, so here they are.  German chocolate cake with coconut and chunks of German chocolate, a coconut pecan filling, topped with German chocolate coconut pecan icing…and topped off with a purple chocolate ribbon.

I’ve known Rhonda since I was 13 years old…  She knew me as a talkative, bratty and lovable kid who always called her “Mom” and raided their refrigerator and pantry, looking for food when I spent the night at their house.  I’ll always remember her laugh.  She was always laughing and smiling.  Even when I was being a smarty pants, she would cut me the “look” but still have a little grin…and I would say, “Okay” and sheepishly smile back at her.  She will continue to live on through her daughters, because both of them have so many of her wonderful qualities.  She will always be missed.

In loving memory of Rhonda Sue Brown.

Daisy Themed Girl Baby Shower

My cousin is pregnant with a baby girl, and the family decided to throw a baby shower for her…  And guess who was asked to make the cake?  I’d be happy to!!

She loved the neapolitan cake I made for Christmas, so she requested the same flavor for her shower.  Her sister and I were coordinating how to decorate the cake, and she loved the idea for a bow on top of a square cake for a present.  So, here it is!  I used light pink buttercream to cover both tiers, and decorated with brown and a darker pink fondant.  I love the two-toned bow, it’s so cute.  The letters are made out of the fondant letters and numbers set, only the brown part is fondant, and the darker pink background is chocolate.  I attached lollipop sticks to the back of the letters to stand up on the cake.  The only downfall?  Well, the lower case P couldn’t be at the same level as the other letters.  Next time when making letters stand up on a cake, I’ll just go for all caps.  😉  Surprisingly, as time goes on, I’m less concerned about the icing reaching that perfectly smooth consistency and more concerned about the icing tasting yummy…which is why this cake’s buttercream icing isn’t all that perfect.  Technically, it’s more of a cream cheese icing, because…well, cream cheese icing is delicious.  Especially with the neapolitan flavor.

On to the cupcakes…  Under the chocolate icing is…Neapolitan!  You must be shocked.  Under the pink icing are the caramel apple cupcakes.  I tinted the cinnamon cream cheese icing a light pink to go along with the theme, and made the chocolate rattles and daisies to go on top.  Baby’s middle name is going to be Daisy, so of course there are daisies involved in this shower!

More daisies!  And rattles.  These are all chocolate lollipops, and super cute.  I was very happy with how the color scheme turned out for these lollipops, and they ended up being a good size.  Lots of sugar!  But hey, isn’t that what baby showers are all about?

Here’s the inside of the neapolitan cake…pretty and ohhhh so yummy!!

Caramel Apple Cupcakes with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Icing

Now that’s a mouthful…literally!  These cupcakes combine the flavors of caramel, apple and cinnamon.

I was wondering how the cupcakes were going to turn out, telling myself after they came out of the oven, “I should’ve put cinnamon in the batter.  Oh well, I’ll put it in the icing this time and see how it turns out.”  It was fabulous.  This way of making the cupcakes was MUCH easier than the other recipes I’ve seen, where you have to peel, core and chop up 3 apples to put into a cake.  I really didn’t have time for all of that, but knew that I had to give this recipe a shot.  Success!  I can’t wait for my mom to try these, she’s going to love them.  🙂

Caramel Apple Cupcakes Recipe:

1 box Duncan Hines caramel cake mix

1/2 cup oil

3 eggs

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 can apple pie filling

Mix all ingredients well, beating at medium-high speed until batter is well blending and apples are grated into smaller pieces.  I used a potato masher to help speed up the process with getting the apples into smaller pieces.  Using ice cream scoop, spoon batter into lined cupcake pan, bake at 350 degrees for approximately 22 minutes.  Cool completely and cover with icing.

Cinnamon Cream Cheese Icing Recipe:

1 stick butter, softened

1 lb. powdered sugar

1/4 cup water

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 can Duncan Hines cream cheese icing

Combine all ingredients and beat at medium speed for 5-7 minutes.

Other Fall themed cupcake flavors:

Pumpkin Cupcakes

Cinnamon Hazelnut