Pumpkin Sweet Bread…Or Is It Cake?

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Everyone knows that bread and cake are two different things. You use bread to make a sandwich. You serve cake at a birthday party. You wouldn’t use one in place of the other, right?

Yes, there are some breads and cakes that do fall squarely into each category. But sometimes, you wind up with a magical creatio that falls somewhere in between. Enter Pumpkin Sweet Bread.

I really wanted to make a pumpkin bread, but I was tired of looking at all the existing recipes on the internet (and there were oh so many). I wanted something new – something I could call my own. So I hit the old pastry school text books for some basics to start with, and built my very own pumpkin sweet bread recipe from scratch.

The dough was wonderful. I could not stop eating it. It reminded me of a thick cake batter. It was then that it hit me: this was no ordinary sweet bread. This was some sort of bread/cake hybrid that could be sliced and used on a sandwich OR frosted and jabbed with some candles as a birthday tribute.

the bread of frankenstein.

the bread of frankenstein.

I had successfully created something new. My work here is done. 🙂

Pumpkin Sweet Bread/Cake.

What you’ll need:

1 lb 4 oz Flour

10 oz Sugar

1.75 oz Baking Powder

.25 oz Salt

6 oz Eggs

14 oz Almond Milk

.5 oz Vanilla

8 oz Melted Butter

1 cup Pumpkin Puree

1 cup Pumpkin Chips

What you’ll do:

Preheat the oven to 375. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs, almond milk, vanilla, melted butter, and pumpkin puree. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry, and mix until just combined. fold in the chips, but be careful not to over mix – the dough/batter should be lumpy. Grease two 9×5 loaf pans and divide evenly between the two. Bake for approximately 40 minutes. The outside should have a little bit of crust, the sides should begin to pull away from the pan, and a toothpick inserted should come out clean. Serve alone, with a giaze, as part of a sandwich, or frost it for a birthday. The options are endless!

a happy birthday sandwich?

a happy birthday sandwich?

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The Easiest Pumpkin Cake in the Universe.

In my last post, I mentioned that I was going to bake a pumpkin cake, because I can. so I did. It was a pumpkin-shaped pumpkin cake, to be precise. It ended up looking like this:

Pumpkin shape; pumpkin cake.

Pumpkin shape; pumpkin cake.

It started off looking like this:

It's a cake in a box.

It’s a cake in a box.

Yes, that’s a boxed carrot cake mix. I told you this was easy. You open the box, pour the mix into a bowl, and blend in the three ingredients on the back of the box:

Mix as directed.

Mix as directed.

In addition to these, all you need is 1/2 cup of pumpkin puree, so add that in, too, and mix well. Pour the batter into two greased 8″ pans, and bake at 350 for about 25 minutes. While the cakes are cooling, make the pumpkin frosting, which is also super easy:

2# conf sugar

1 cup shortening

1/2 cup pumkpin puree

1 tsp cinnamon

2 tblsp water

Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl, until smooth and creamy. The frosting will be the perfect orange color as is.

When icing the cake, keep the layers rounded, and keep the rounder one on top.

waiting to turn into a pumpkin.

waiting to turn into a pumpkin.

Add your decorations (stem, leaves, whatever you desire) and there you have it. A pumpkin-shaped pumpkin cake.

Easy and delicious.

Easy, festive, and delicious.

I love fall baking. So much pumpkin, so little time…

When Life Gives You Lemons.

Last week was a full moon. Last week, I was very emotional. Maybe the two are related, maybe not. But either way, I was feeling a little “life is giving me lemons-ish” all week. I tried talking to people about it, and although that helped in the moment, as soon as I was alone again, the lemons returned. Usually, I’d go for a run when I can’t shake that feeling, but I recently was diagnosed with Tendonitis in my left ankle. That means no running. For a while. This might have been the biggest lemon of all. Not being able to run is the most frustrating thing that has ever happened to me. So, what did I do? I started riding my bike and swimming.

A whole new world.

A whole new world.

These things are great, but the problem is that I’m not very good at them, and I was pretty good at running. So it’s like starting all over again. After a few bike rides though, I am really starting to enjoy it. So much so, that I want a new bike now. So maybe this particular lemon can become lemonade after all.

Even so, I still had the full moon blues, as I like to call them. I needed something else to help me break out of this funk. So, I turned to the only other thing I could think of that always helps me feel better – baking. And not just random baking for the sake of baking; this called for the big guns – baking with purpose.

I thought about who might want/need some baking in their life. I immediately thought of two people, and went to work. The first project was a Pink Lemonade Cake. I found the recipe here, however I made a few changes, as usual. I used pink lemonade concentrate, I omitted the lemon juice, and I had no milk in the house whatsoever, so I used the one cream-based product I always have on-hand without a doubt – vanilla ice cream. I used 1/3 cup ice cream blended with 1 cup of water. It worked perfectly.

An experiment in pink.

An experiment in pink.

The cake was well-received and devoured by all. I was feeling happy because others were happy. This was helping.

All that remained.

All that remained.

Baking project #2 was a beer bread. I’ve made beer bread before, and it has yet to turn out anything other than delicious, so I picked up some beer (Chocolate Pumpkin Porter by Evil Genius Beer Company, to be exact), and made yet another good-lookin’ and equally good-tastin’ Beer Bread.

The beer makes the bread.

The beer makes the bread.

The bread was a hit, too, and I was then able to surf the emotional wave right out of the end of the week and safely back to shore.

For now.

Zen and the Art of Grandfather Clock Maintenance.

This past weekend, my husband I inherited this Grandfather Clock from my Aunt. It was originally my Grandmother’s, and my mom says she remembers when she was little and hearing the chimes ringing throughout the night (in a good way). The clock is about 66 years old. It looks like it’s brand new.

Looks like no time has passed.

Like no time has passed.

It also still works. We got it to chime at 8pm the other night.

We still haven’t gotten it to continuously keep time – the pendulum eventually stops swinging. According to the manual that was still tucked inside the door of the clock, its trial and error – you just have to keep adjusting the pendulum until it works. Ain’t nobody got time for that.

But at some point, somebody did. 66 years ago, when this clock and others like it were brand new, somebody bought it, read the manual, and set it, trying over and over to get the screw on the pendulum adjusted exactly right so it would keep time. I tried three times. And decided I’d rather pay someone money to come out and set it rather than sit there and adjust the darn thing myself.

Had I been a single lady when I inherited this clock, I also would not have dusted the chimes and reattached them after stringing them with new strings, attached the weights (in proper order from heaviest to lightest), or even bothered to figure out the part of the pendulum and the screw at all. All these acts were meticulously performed by my husband. I did sit and read the manual so we could figure out how to set the time without breaking it. But honestly, I think I only did that because he was doing all these things and I felt like I needed to contribute.

I’m not sure what it is, but technical details such as these do not interest me. I love the clock. I love how it looks. I love how it sounds. I cannot pretend to care how it works or even want to learn. Is it because I’m lazy? I started to wonder.

When I have to figure something out, I can and I will. I know deep down inside that I could have set the time, and the chimes and the weights and even the pendulum if i keep trying. But I just don’t want to. I don’t want to know how things work sometimes. I just want them TO work. And to be beautiful and bright and perform with precision and grace.

I don’t think I would have given my lack of desire to study the inner workings of the clock any thought had I not recently also started reading this book:

zenbook

One of those books that changes how you think.

I’m not finished it yet, but I am intrigued by his idea of Romantic understanding vs. Classical understanding:

“A classical understanding sees the world primarily as underlying form itself. A romantic understanding sees it primarily in terms of immediate appearance.”

I am definitely from the romantic school of understanding. I don’t think it’s because I was born that way or have something in my brain that makes me that way. No, I believe I chose to be that way. I remember taking the SATs in high school, and scoring higher on the math section then on the verbal section (this was back when there were only two sections). I considered myself and arts person, not a math person. I was angry that I scored higher on math. Math was boring. I did not want to be associated with it in anyway. So I chose not to be.

I chose poorly.

What I didn’t realize until reading this book and seeing the Grandfather Clock, is that math is just as beautiful as Art. And just as creative. I should have realized this when I was in pastry school. It was not the finished look of the dessert that most interested me – it was what made it happen: what reacted with what and in what amount to create that perfect chemical reaction of a dessert. I love baking because I LOVE chemistry.I always have. And I’m not ashamed to admit it anymore.

I’m not the best cake decorator. I’m not neatest pastry chef. I am, however, pretty darn good at creating new and delicious desserts.

Just another baking experiment gone right.

Just another baking experiment gone right.

And I WILL get that pendulum to swing again – I promise. But first, I have this great idea for a pink lemonade cake that I need to try out. 🙂

Kosher Brownies vs. Jewish Apple Cake: a Dessert Duel.

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So here’s a little story for you.

Last week, my fiance and I were invited to a Passover Seder. The hosts, knowing that I was a baker, asked us to bring a dessert. I of course jumped at the chance to make something for this special occasion, and I started going through some recipes, thinking of what I could bring. I settled on a Jewish Apple Cake, since not only do I love it, but I hadn’t made it in quite some time! The one thing I love about my recipe is that it always turns out perfect! I was so pumped to present it as our contribution at Seder.

Perfect for Passover.

Perfect for Passover.

It started off excellent. The batter was perfect, the apples were crisp and tasty. It looked great when I put it into the oven. As it was baking, it still looked great, but it seemed to be taking a long time to cook all the way through. I took it out, and had to put it back in the oven, because it wasn’t done yet. Finally, it was done, and it looked a little….flat. This wasn’t the end of the world, since it wasn’t supposed to be super fluffy – the apple cake is very dense. I let it cool in the pan for a bit, and then went to flip it out onto the cooling rack, and nothing. The cake did not come out. It was stuck in the pan, like REALLY stuck. I did what I normally do in this situation – I ran a knife along the sides and center. Bundt pans seem to be the worst at sticking, so I wasn’t too surprised at this. The knife usually does the trick. Not this time. After going around the perimeter multiple times, the cake still would not budge. Finally, after one more time around and practically digging the knife completely underneath the cake, it began to come loose. And then, boom! Half of the cake fell out. And then a bunch of crumbs. And then the other half (in pieces, I might add). And just like that, my perfect for Passover Apple Cake was ruined.

The good news – I had made the cake a day early, so I had time to try again. I really didn’t feel like making a whole new apple cake, though. So what should I do? I suddenly remembered seeing this box of cake mix in the kosher section at the grocery store, so I snagged it.

a quick mix fix.

a quick mix fix.

Now I knew this cake mix would not equate to the glory that is my scratch Apple Cake, but it looked good, and I was getting short on time. The next morning, I opened the box, ready to create an easy second cake for the dinner that evening.

Yes, it was easy.

Yes, it was tasty

Yes, it was way too small.

Not much bigger than an apple.

Not much bigger than an apple.

There was no way I could show up with this tiny cake! It would barely feed just me and my fiance! Now I was starting to panic. I had started becoming comfortable with the resignation that I would  have to actually purchase an already made dessert, when I had one last idea. Brownies. I don’t know where it came from, but there it was. I googled “Easy Kosher Brownies” and sure enough, found what I was looking for. And to top it off, I just so happened to already have all of the ingredients. I headed back into the kitchen for the third time, and hoped that three times really was the charm.

once, twice, three times the brownie.

once, twice, three times the brownie.

It was. The brownies cooked perfectly, were big enough, and when I cut them and removed them from the pan, they retained their shape perfectly.

redemption.

redemption.

I had been redeemed. My faith in my baking had once again been restored. As an added unexpected bonus, a few people wound up telling me these were the best brownies they ever had. So I guess it was meant to be in the end.

brownies for the win.

brownies for the win.

The brownies were the clear winner here, and I can honestly say that I’m glad the Apple Cake fell apart. Sometimes things fall apart for a reason. We just have to be patient and remember to never give up, because Good Things Come to Those Who Bake. 🙂

Recipe: Coconut Cake with Coconut Buttercream.

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I had a few requests for the recipe of the Coconut Birthday Cake I just made for my mom, using Vita Coco Pure Coconut Water. It may have been the best coconut cake I’ve ever had, and it was certainly the best one I’ve ever made! So, I’d be happy to share it with those who’d like to give it a try! Heck, I’ll even share the recipe for the frosting.

Coconut Cake.

What you’ll need:

1/2 cup light brown sugar

1 egg

1 tbsp canola oil

1 tbsp baking powder

1 cup flour

1/4 cup half and half

1/4 cup Vita Coco Pure Coconut Water

What you’ll do:

Preheat the oven to 350. In a large bowl, combine the sugar, egg, and oil. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour and baking powder. Add the flour mixture, half and half, and Vita Coco to the original bowl, and beat until smooth. Grease one 8″ or 9″ pan (or a heart-shaped pan, like I did), and pour all of the batter in. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

 

Coconut Buttercream.

What you’ll need:

4 oz (1/2 stick) butter (melted)

2 oz shortening

10 oz confectioners sugar

1/4 tsp Madascar Bourbon Vanilla

3/4 oz Vita Coco Pure Coconut Water

What you’ll do:

In a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter, shortening, and confectioners sugar until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla and Vita Coco, mix until smooth and shiny.

Don’t forget to cover the sides of your cake with fresh coconut!! 🙂

One Cake to Rule Them All: A Valentine Birthday Cake.


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My mom’s birthday is two days before Valentine’s Day. Every year, I make her a cake, and I try to make it exciting and different each year. Last, year, I did this one. This year, I decided to use these heart pans that my aunt gave me that I had yet to use, and was always hoping for a reason to use them. Well, what better reason than a birthday cake for my favorite lady, which also happens to be right around Valentine’s Day??

I went with an easy coconut cake, because that’s my mom’s favorite. I actually used Vita Coco Pure Coconut Water this time though, in both the cake and the icing – something I’d never done before, but it wound up working out fabulously.

coconut water

living la vita coco.

I baked the cake in the heart-shaped pan, and it just looked so cute, cooling on the rack, in all it’s heart-shapey-ness.

i heart this cake.

i heart this cake.

Next, I frosted it with the coconut water frosting. It was very….white.

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white iced.

Next, I added fresh coconut to the sides.

coconut siding.

coconut siding.

Then, I started decorating. First the border and the main flowers, all in pink, in honor of Valentine’s Day.

pretty in pink.

pretty in pink.

Then, I added the birthday wish, in dark chocolate.

they say it's  your birthday.

they say it’s your birthday.

And finally, I added a few more minor embellishments.

cake: complete.

cake: complete.

Once the cake was complete, I brought it over to my mom’s house to surprise her. She in turn, made me take half of it back home, like she always does. 🙂

one half of this will be mine.

one half of this will be mine.

Happy birthday and Happy Valentine’s Day, Mom. Hope you liked your (half of) cake! 😀

 

 

 

Recipe: Salted Caramel Hazelnut Cake Brownies.

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That’s a long name right there.

The recipe I started with was simply called “Nutella Cake.” But what I ended up with was so much more. It was snowing, and I really wanted to bake something, but I wasn’t about to go back out to get any missing ingredients. I found a recipe for Nutella Cake in my binder. It looked like something someone probably gave me, but it was very vague and it seemed to be missing some key details, like how to mix the ingredients together (did it matter in what order?) and what temperature to bake the thing at (when in doubt, go with 350). It also called for Nutella (obviously) which I thought I had, but it turns out all I had was this:

salted caramel hazelnut spread (not Nutella)

salted caramel hazelnut spread (not Nutella)

Although this was clearly not Nutella, I deemed it a suitable replacement, and marched onward with the cake. Upon further investigation, I realized that the recipe called for butter – a lot of it. I, alas, had only a little. Refusing to leave my house in the snow, I improvised, replacing most of the butter with shortening. The batter seemed awfully thick, more like brownies than cake, but I didn’t let that dissuade me from baking it. When it was done baking, it definitely looked more like brownies.

not nutella, not cake.

not nutella, not cake.

It smelled pretty good, and appeared to have baked properly, so I went with it, and waited for it to cool. When it finally cooled, I sliced into it, and sure it enough, it was definitely more brownie-like.

definitely brownies.

definitely brownies.

The next step was to eat one. And then another one. And then another one. They were THAT good. Two people even said they were the best brownies they ever had (wow!). Even though they were neither Nutella nor Cake like the original recipe claimed, the Salted Caramel Hazelnut Cake Brownies were definitely a major success, and will be made again. Maybe I’ll even make them for my own wedding this Spring….and now you can make them too!

wedding worthy.

wedding worthy.

Salted Caramel Hazelnut Cake Brownies.

What you’ll need:

1 box of chocolate cake mix

1 egg

4 oz of shortening

———–

1 8 oz package of cream cheese (softened)

2 oz butter (half a stick)

2 oz shortening

1 cup confectioners sugar

1 cup Jif salted caramel hazelnut spread

What you’ll do:

Preheat the oven to 350. In a large bowl, combine the cake mix, egg and shortening. The batter will be thick. Grease a 9×13 pan, and spread the batter across the bottom (using your hands makes it easier). Set aside. In a separate bowl, cream together the cream cheese, butter, and shortening until smooth. Mix in the sugar and salted caramel hazelnut spread until there are no lumps. Pour mixture evenly on top of the cake mixture in the pan. Bake for 35 minutes, or until the cake starts pulling away from the sides of the pan. Let cool completely, cut and serve.

A Birthday Cake to Fall For.

I made a birthday cake last week, but this was no ordinary birthday cake. I was tasked with creating a “Fall” birthday cake – made up of the flavors and colors associated with this time of year. The only requirement was not too much orange. Sounded like something I could do (and enjoy very much, what with my fall baking obsession and all). The cake itself was to be pumpkin spice (yay!), the icing was to be pumpkin buttercream (DOUBLE yay!), and the decorations were to be in fall colors. It was a half sheet cake, so it’s not the smallest cake, but it’s not the biggest either. So, here’s what I came up with.

falling for cake.

i think that possibly maybe i’m falling for cake.

For the flowers, I started off with red, and then slowly mixed in yellow as I went along. It created a subtle and well-blended color shift.

color blend.

color blend.

I also tried a new recipe for the “rose icing” as it’s sometimes called. I found it to have a better consistency than what I was previously using. Good thing I wrote it down.

the rose knows.

the rose knows.

In the end, I was pleased with how the cake turned out both flavor-wise and decoration-wise. And who knows, you may find me teaching some decorating classes come next year….time will tell… 😉

 

Recipe: Pumpkin Pumpkin Cake.

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I really wanted to use the rest of the can of pumpkin that I opened for the Soft and Chewy Pumpkin Cinnamon Chip Cookies before it went bad, so I just had to make another pumpkin dessert, stat. Also, while on the hunt for pumpkin cider, we stumbled across this, and I had to make it mine:

have your pumpkin and drink it, too.

have your pumpkin and drink it, too.

As if these weren’t signs enough, the universe was truly speaking to me, when I came across this perfect pan:

perfect pumpkin pan.

perfect pumpkin pan.

Now that all the pumpkin planets were aligned, I went to work. First, I started brainstorming (while drinking Pumpkin Cider for inspiration) until I came up with a new pumpkin cake recipe that pleased me. (Note: the cider is NOT in the recipe, but does make an enjoyable accompanying refreshment).

Pumpkin Cider not included.

Pumpkin Cider not included.

Next, I baked the cake. I was concerned that due to the shape of the pan, the cake would stick, so I really really greased it. (Like REALLY greased it).

greased up.

greased up.

The over-greasing worked, and the cake popped out perfectly – no breaks, no uneven parts. I then went ahead whipped up some pumpkin buttercream using the liqueur, and proceeded to create some art.

still life with pumpkin.

still life with pumpkin.

I shared it with friends, and it was a big hit! And you can make it, too! Here’s how.

Pumpkin Shaped Pumpkin Cake.

What you’ll need:

1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed

1 egg

1 tblsp canola oil

1 tblsp baking powder

1 1/4 cups flour

1/2 cup pumpkin liqueur

1/4 cup pumpkin puree

What you’ll do:

Preheat the oven to 350. In a large bowl, combine the brown sugar, egg, and oil. In a separate bowl, whisk together the baking powder and flour. Add the dry ingredients to the wet. Add the liqueur and pumpkin puree, and mix until smooth. Pour into a very well greased pumpkin shaped pan. Bake for 18 – 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean, and the cake pulls away from the sides of the pan.

Pumpkin Liqueur Buttercream.

What you’ll need:

1/2 cup shortening

1 lb confectioners sugar

1/4 cup pumpkin puree

2 tblsp pumpkin liqueur

What you’ll do:

In a large bowl, cream together the shortening sugar and pumpkin puree. Add the liqueur, a little at a time, until the desired consistency is reached.

The ice your cake and decorate it as you see fit! The icing will already be orange from the pumpkin puree, so there’s that. 🙂