Short and Sweet Recipe: Mini Strawberry Shortcake.

strawberry shortcake3

Last week, my fiance and I were invited to another couple’s place for a game night. Being that we never like to show up anywhere empty handed, I decided to make a little dessert to bring along with us. I wanted something relatively simple, relatively summery, and relatively small, since it was going to be a small gathering. After much contemplation, I settled on the queen of summer desserts herself: Strawberry Shortcake. I already had some really nice-looking strawberries that had I literally just purchased the day before, so it would appear that the stars had aligned just right. (Except for that one star that I’ll call “heavy cream” – I had to send my fiance out to get that at the last minute).

But otherwise, I had all the ingredients to make a tasty vanilla cake, whipped cream frosting, and fresh strawberry filling between layers and adornments for the top.

top that.

top that.

Again, since it was for small gathering, I decided to make it a 6″ cake, instead of the traditional 8″. Not only would it be a more appropriate amount of dessert, but it also looked so darn cute. Like the puppy version of a cake.

baby cake.

baby cake.

And even with making it smaller, there were leftovers. Not that I’m complaining.

Wanna make your own for that Labor Day gathering you were invited to this weekend? Here’s how!

Mini Strawberry Shortcake.

For the Cake:

What you’ll need:

1 cup water

1/4 cup + 2 tblsp canola oil

1 tblsp white vinegar

2 tsp vanilla extract

1 3/4 cups sifted flour

1 cup sugar

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp baking soda

(Plus 1 cup of chopped strawberries for filling and 5 additional whole strawberries for decorating)

What you’ll do:

Preheat the oven to 350. In a large bowl, combine the water, canola oil, vinegar, and vanilla. In a separate bowl, whisk together the sifted flour, sugar, salt, and baking soda. Add the dry ingredients to the wet, and mix until smooth. Grease two 6″ round pans, and evenly divide the batter between the two. Bake for approx. 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool completely on a wire rack.

For the Whipped Cream Frosting:

What you’ll need:

2 cups heavy cream

3 tblsp sugar

1 tsp vanilla

What you’ll do:

In a pre-chilled mixing bowl, whip the cream with the whisk attachment until it forms soft peaks. Add the sugar and vanilla, and continue whipping until stiff peaks form.

Frost the top of one of the layers of the cake with the whipped cream, and using a decorating bag fitted with the star tip, pipe a border around the edge, Fill the center with the chopped strawberries, and place the second layer on top. Cover both layers entirely with a smooth coating of the whipped cream. Using the same star tip, pipe a shell border around the base of the cake, and 8 rosettes around the top. Cut the 5 large strawberries in half, and place one half on top of each of the rosettes. Pipe a dollop of whipped cream onto on of the remaining two halves, and make a little strawberry and cream sandwich for the center.



Give Peach a Chance: An experiment in peach and lavender.

pretty in peach.

It’s been a busy July, and my time spent in the kitchen has been a tad…limited.  But all that’s in the past, and I finally found myself back in the kitchen the other night, knee-deep in a baking experiment I’d been wanting to try for some time now –  a Peach and Lavender Cake.

I started off with some really nice-looking peaches, peeled and chopped them up.

millions of peaches; peaches for me.

millions of peaches; peaches for me.

To ensure these peaches didn’t merely look good, I ate one. To be absolutely sure, I dipped some of the slices in a homemade lemon whipped cream. Yep, they were just fine (and by “fine” I mean sweet and delicious) and into the cake they went. I used my Best Vanilla Cake Ever Recipe  as a base, added lemon extract instead of vanilla, and added one large chopped and peeled peach. I baked it in a rogue bundt pan that had found its way into my collection of baking pans recently and needed breaking in. It wound up being the perfect shape and size for the cake.



Now here’s where it got tricky. I had this grand idea to make a lavender buttercream glaze to drizzle on top. After reading some info on lavender extract and it’s extreme potency, I decided that 1 stick of butter, 4 cups of confectioners sugar, 4 tablespoons of milk, and 1/4 tsp of lavender should do the trick. Almost. It was still über lavender-y, so I cut it with 1 tsp vanilla – but it was STILL too strong in my opinion. I added one more tsp of vanilla, and that did the trick. I drizzled the glaze on top, and made it all pretty and stuff.

pretty in peach.

pretty in peach.

Because the icing was a little out of the norm as far as icings go, I was afraid to unleash this creation upon the world. Sure, it looked lovely, but I was afraid that the lavender would not go over well with my normal crew of sweet eaters. So, I did what any smart baker would do – I made my boyfriend try it first. I knew he would tell me the truth – he’s not one to hold back with his opinions, particularly on food. I gave him a slice, then anxiously waited in the other room for his review (I was too afraid to even look at him while he tried it). He returned a few moments later, plate empty. One would think this was a good sign, but he did have to walk past the trashcan….

He liked it. He really liked it. The cake had passed the ultimate test and was now ready to meet its adoring fans with both beauty and taste. Life, was once again, peachy.

Eat, Write, Retreat Culinary Challenge: Fig and Rosemary Scones.


In less than one month, I’ll be attending the Eat, Write, Retreat! Conference which just so happens to be in my home city of Philadelphia this year! I’m so excited to be taking part in this wonderful opportunity to meet other bloggers, eat delicious dishes, and of course, write all about it!

As an attendee, I’m also taking part in the Amazing Apps Culinary Challenge the conference is running! We are all assigned a secret ingredient, and tasked with creating an appetizer based on said ingredient. Being a baker, I of course went with something, well, you know….baked.

My ingredient was California Figs. I love figs! But I haven’t really incorporated them into my baking that much in the past, so this was my chance! I couldn’t have been happier to create something using a new ingredient that I also happen to adore!

gettin' figgy with it.

gettin’ figgy with it.

As much as I loved eating figs, I had no idea of their nutritional benefits prior to this challenge! Figs are a great source of fiber, for starters. They’re also rich in antioxidants (even richer than red wine!), and they’re an all-natural energy source, which makes them perfect as a pre-workout snack (looks like I’ll be eating some figs before my next marathon!).

So without further adieu…’s my creation! Hope you enjoy baking them as much as I did. 🙂


Fig and Rosemary Scones


What you’ll need:

2 cups flour (sifted)

4 teaspoons baking power

1 teaspoon salt

½ cup shortening

¾ cup half and half

½ cup Dried California Black Mission Figs (chopped)

1 tbsp rosemary (finely chopped)

What you’ll do:

Preheat the oven to 350. In a large bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt. Cut in the shortening until the mixture has a fine crumb texture.

may i cut in?

may i cut in?

Mix in the chopped figs and rosemary.  Stir in the half and half with a fork so it makes a soft dough. Knead the dough with clean hands about 10 times – do not overknead – it will become too stiff!



Break off roughly shaped pieces (just larger than a golf ball) and place  them on a greased cookie sheet. The shape doesn’t matter – the rougher the better – it gives them a more rustic look! Bake for 12 – 15 minutes (or until the edges being to turn golden brown).  Makes 22 – 24 scones.

rustically delicious.

rustically delicious.

Fear and Baking in New Jersey.

At this very moment, I am hiding out in my house, with all the windows closed, obsessively checking the weather report. That’s because we are currently in the midst of a severe storm warning with a tornado watch. And this, my friends, is my biggest fear. Yes, I suffer from Lilapsophobia (sometimes considered Astraphobia) which is an irrational fear of tornadoes/hurricanes/severe storms (at least they have cool-sounding names). Since I arrived home a little over an hour ago, I’ve turned my stereo all the way up to block out the sound of the storms, texted/called about 10 friends in search of comforting words, and I can’t deny that the thought of sending a mass text to everyone in my contacts list had crossed my mind as well. My cat on the other hand, has been staring boldly out the window this entire time, not even flinching.

i find even just looking at this picture a bit terrifying.

I really can’t say for sure what’s the cause of this phobia – the only thing I can possibly think of is when I was 6 years old, the shed in our backyard blew right up into the air during some random storm. That shed was pretty flimsy though, so I’m not surprised when I think back, but I suppose at the time, this could have been somewhat traumatic. It’s not like anyone was in or near the shed though, so who knows.

So what does this have to do with baking? Absolutely nothing, other than the fact that I am a baker and I also suffer from this phobia. But on that note, I baked an apple cake the other night, which turned out to be most delicious (so I was told), and as there is still some left and I’m afraid to leave my house, I think I’ll have a glass of wine and eat the rest of it tonight in an attempt to remain calm.

an apple cake a day keeps the storms away.

It’s working. 🙂


Just Peachy.

Today I was talking with a friend about what to bake next and what flavor combinations might work well together. She said that she was shopping the night before, and saw one of those plug-in air fresheners that was lavender and peach scented, and that she immediately thought of me, and how I should bake lavender peach cupcakes. I agreed that this was an excellent idea.

I did not bake them yet – I’ll be doing that sometime in the next few days. However, this conversation reminded me of how much I love peaches, and don’t eat them nearly as often as I’d like to. So, I picked up a few at the farmer’s market near my office today, and realized what a lovely looking fruit a peach actually is. So, before I slice up my peaches and bake them, I wanted the world to bask in the beauty of the peach, fuzz and all.

Still Life With Peach on Red Laptop.

Kinda reminds me of a painting from one of the Dutch masters I studied in college. I also suddenly have the desire to move to the country…and eat a lot of peaches. Go figure.

Recipe Sunday: Lemon Coconut Cake.

So I was feeling really guilty that I haven’t posted any recipes in a while. So I decided earlier this week that I would post one today, but I hadn’t decided what and had no real direction. I did however, have this bag of Meyer Lemons which I had picked up because my cousin seemed to like them, and I trust her judgement. They were also cute and smaller than a regular lemon. I’ve used my cat for a size comparison:

note: this lemon was NOT used in the production of this cake.

Anyway, I decided I would put these little fellas to good use and make a lemon cake. As I started crafting the recipe, I thought that it would taste even better as a lemon coconut cake. So, that’s what I went with. Lemon cake, with lemon buttercream, covered in fresh coconut. And topped with a cherry. It makes a lovely light cake, perfect for a summer gathering on the veranda.

refreshingly sweet.

Lemon Coconut Cake.

What you’ll need:

6 oz eggs

2 1/4 oz half and half

2 1/2 oz high-ratio liquid shortening

1/4 oz lemon juice

5 oz sugar

4 oz cake flour

1/4 oz baking powder

1/4 oz salt

Zest of one small lemon (or half of a large one)

What you’ll do:

Preheat the oven to 350. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs, half and half, liquid shortening and lemon juice. In a separate bowl, whisk together the sugar, flour, baking powder and salt. Pour the dry ingredients on top of the wet, add the lemon zest,  and mix for 5 minutes on medium speed, with the paddle attachment. Scrape the bowl to make sure all the dry ingredients are incorporated, and mix on medium speed for 5 more minutes. Makes one 8” or 9″ round. Bake for about 25 minutes.

Lemon Buttercream.

What you’ll need:

8 oz butter (room temperature)

4 oz shortening

1 lb confectioner’s sugar

1/2 tsp bottled lemon juice

1 oz fresh lemon juice

Zest of one small lemon (or half of a large lemon)

What you’ll do:

In a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter, shortening, and sugar until light and fluffy, using the paddle attachment. Add the lemon juice and zest, mix until shiny. If you want a thinner consistency, just add more juice.

Assembling the cake:

Slice the 8″ or 9″ round into two layers.

and one becomes two.

Cover the top of one of the layers with buttercream, and sprinkle with fresh coconut.

halfway there.

Place the second layer on top, ice the rest of the cake, and cover the entire thing with coconut. Top with a cherry in the center.

oh cherry!

Life is Just a Bowl of Cherries.

Last night, I had dinner at my parents’ house. It was a delicious meat loaf, but that’s not what I’m here to discuss. No, my friends, tonight I’m paying homage to the fruit that’s always on top – cherries. I don’t know about you, but whenever I visit my parents, I go home with a random assortment of items, mostly edible, followed at a close second by cleaning products. I’m not sure why this is – I guess it will always be mom’s job to keep you well-fed and clean. Anyway, this time, one of the items in my grab bag of goodies was a large ziplock bag filled with cherries – really nice looking ones too. Now, I’m not normally a buyer of cherries, so when my mom offered them to me, I was hesitant at first, but then thought, “well if anything, I can make them into jam,” so into my bag they went.

Well, I got home tonight, and saw the bag of cherries in the fridge, and decided to eat one – and just as my mom had warned, it was not that sweet. But it looked so pretty…and then I knew what higher purpose these cherries were meant to fulfill in my life – a photo shoot, of course!

everything has a beautiful purpose.

It just goes to show you – what might not seem like anything special at first glance (or taste), can wind up being amazingly beautiful, if you look at it a little differently.

Everything in its place.

Recipe Sunday: Banana Walnut Butter Cake.

I had a banana on the kitchen table that was starting to over-ripen. I really didn’t want it to go to waste, and I also really wanted to bake something from scratch – I haven’t in over a week! I was thinking about bread, and as I was digging through the cabinet for the yeast, I found an open bag of walnuts. I’m also on the tired side as it was a very busy, yet productive and enjoyable weekend. So, over-ripe banana + open bag of walnuts + extra tired me = Banana Walnut Butter Cake: an easy recipe I created myself, on the fly. It’s quick to prepare and decadently delicious to dine on. It just takes a tad long to actually bake, due to the heaviness of the batter. But on a below freezing winter evening, there’s nothing wrong with a little extended oven action.

looks like bread, tastes like cake.

Banana Walnut Butter Cake.

What you’ll need:

1/2 cup butter (softened)

1 cup sugar

2 eggs

1 1/2 cups Flour

1 small banana (mashed – i mashed it between my hands – it was fun)

1/2 cup chopped walnuts

What you’ll do:

Preheat the oven to 350. In a mixing bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until fluffy. Add the eggs, and beat until well mixed. Add the flour and mix well. Add the mashed banana, mix well. Fold in the walnuts. Grease an 8 1/2″ x 4 1/2″ loaf pan, and fill with the batter. Bake for 30 – 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. The outside will be golden brown.

I then topped mine with a Brown Sugar Nutmeg spread, but instead of “spreading,” I piped. This was another recipe created on the fly.

Brown Sugar Nutmeg Spread.

What you’ll need:

1/4 cup butter (softened)

1/2 cup dark brown sugar

1 tsp nutmeg

What you’ll do:

In a mixing bowl, cream together the butter, brown sugar, and nutmeg until smooth.

gratuitous cake close up.

The perfect pearing.

There’s this farmer’s market down the street from my office that I get all my fruits and vegetables from (they also have a killer selection of dried fruits and nuts in the cutest little containers which I now have a gigantic collection of – they’re perfect for coloring icing in). Anyway, I go there at least once a week, usually twice, and the same man and woman are always working and they could probably recite exactly what I’m buying without even looking in my basket at this point.

Well, not this week. I had just made my usual path around the store: tomatoes, bananas, mushrooms, Polynesian fruit mix, grapes, pears…but wait! What is this I spy mixed in among the pears? I stopped dead in my produce-shopping tracks, as I scrutinized this new face among my old friends, and suddenly a big smile unwittingly spread across my face as I realized what I had discovered. It was the Small Indulgence of the fruit world: a mini pear.

little bump, big bump.

Not even half the size of a regular pear, these mini-pears were like my fruity dream come true! Not only can I make mini-desserts, but I can use mini-ingredients to make them! It’s the perfect pearing.

ideal for spooning.

I bought as many as I could shove into the bag. I was so excited, that I even made my friend look at them when I returned to work. Funny, but I don’t think he was quite as stoked.

Anyway, now I have to figure out what to use them for! I really want to try my hand at crêpes, and a friend gave me a really good recipe for them today (very similar to this one)….mini-pear crêpes? As the Magic 8-ball would say, “signs point to yes.”   

To be continued…..