Banana Pudding Cake

March 8, 2013

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I saw this banana poke cake on Pinterest and it looked delicious, so of course I pinned it and made it right away.

Um. Yeah that is not at all how it usually goes down with Pinterest stuff, but I really did want to try this so I was able to make it happen. It was ridiculously easy, in large part due to the fact that it uses all pre-packaged ingredients: boxed cake mix, pudding mix, Cool Whip, and Nilla wafers. I’m sure you could make a from-scratch version of this if you wanted to, but the point of this (for me) was to make a quick and easy dessert so the “easy” part really appealed to me. It took just minutes to put it all together. I spent more time washing the dishes afterwards.

Bill was excited about this cake and I assume he liked it since he ate a couple pieces. I also liked it. It’s kind of like a trifle, only neater.

But…I shared it with family and coworkers and at first it seemed that not very many other people even wanted to try it. Maybe it’s the bananas? Perhaps banana pudding isn’t that popular? But it turns out that my coworkers just weren’t paying attention! Once they discovered the cake, they ate it up.

This recipe can easily be changed up with other cake and pudding flavors. Maybe a chocolate one would be more universally crowd pleasing. But something about a light cake, Cool Whip, and a “fruit” pudding lets me trick myself into thinking that what I’m eating isn’t that bad for me 🙂

This is the first cake I’ve made “just because” in a long time. I need to bake more! I have plans for a St. Patrick’s Day cupcake in a week or so AND I actually took a cake order for the first week in April, so stay tuned for updates on those. I know this blog has been heavy on the baby stuff, light on cake lately 🙂

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PW’s Cinnamon Rolls

January 24, 2013
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I apologize for the horrible picture. I can never get good pics in my kitchen. I need to remember to turn off the lights and open the window for natural light.

Since I started following blogs, I have bookmarked, starred and pinned approximately 100 billion recipes to try. Creative appetizers, quick lunches, comforting casseroles, yummy desserts, etc etc. I have actually tried probably 1% of those. There’s never time, or something else is always more pressing than spending the day cooking/baking.

Luckily, my sister-in-law has been eager to try her hand at making Pioneer Woman’s famous cinnamon rolls and she suggested that we tackle this together. Of course this is one of the recipes that I have saved. I LOVE cinnamon rolls. But there’s yeast, and rising, and waiting, and hoping and a whole list of stuff like that that has kept me from making them until now.

We set aside a Saturday afternoon – she and my brother-in-law came over and the boys wrangled the wee one while we slaved away in the kitchen. Only there wasn’t much slaving. It was – dare I say – easy!!

We quartered the recipe (and followed my friends’ helpful notes from when she quartered the recipe herself) and proceeded to make 3 pie plates full of yummy cinnamon rolls. Yep, a QUARTER recipe made 3 dishes – the whole recipe would feed an army.

Now here’s the thing. We did follow all the directions and everything appeared to be working out, but our rolls were much smaller than we expected. My friend said she quartered the recipe and got 12 rolls, but we had about 24. I’m thinking that maybe we didn’t let the dough rise quite enough in the first step. And then in the last rise before the baking, they barely rose at all. So something in there didn’t go quite right. We did add a bit more flour before rolling out the dough because it was VERY sticky. Maybe that did something? I assume that if they had risen correctly, the rolls would have been bigger in the end. They still tasted amazing though, so we did something right!

As I said above, this was much easier than I expected. And it didn’t take as long as I thought either. I think it was about 3 hours, start to finish, and half that time was spent waiting for dough to rise (or not, as the case may be). I did place the pans on the stove top over a warm/hot oven to help the rising, but maybe it still wasn’t warm enough. I would like to give this another shot at some point!

The original recipe calls for a maple frosting, but I’m just not a huge fan of maple outside of the pancake/waffle realm so I decided to make another kind of icing. (If my Canadian sister-in-law was very disappointed, she didn’t let on!) I didn’t want to do the straight icing sugar and milk because that is often too sweet, so I tried the recipe in my friend’s post for a cream cheese icing. I thinned it a little with some milk and added a bit more sugar to up the sweetness and it was VERY delicious, though maybe a tiny bit rich for my taste. Maybe I could have thinned it a bit more. Put that on the list for next time 🙂


Welcome Sprout!

August 27, 2012

It seems like its been forever since I made a cake – the last one was Caelan’s birthday cake – so I was very excited to make a cake for a friend’s baby shower this weekend. I “met” Lindsey on my message board about 4 years ago and now she is expecting her first baby – a little girl nicknamed Sprout.

Lindsey is an excellent baker, cook, and hostess herself so I was slightly intimidated to make a cake for her. I ended up using a recipe from her own blog, Our Share of the Harvest, for a lemon cake that she raved about. I love lemon cake also and love an excuse to make one!

I was also going to use the recipe in her post to make a homemade raspberry filling. Unfortunately, I messed it up. No one wants raspberry filling with clumps of cornstarch in it! I didn’t have time for another attempt, so I just went with raspberry jam for the filling.

For the icing, I used my favorite vanilla buttercream (1 1/2 batches, but I think just 1 would have been enough). I assembled the cake and crumb-coated it with white icing and while that was setting in the fridge, I divided the rest of the icing and colored it. I used Violet and Red-Red for the purple color and different amounts of Lemon Yellow for the yellows.

I saw this icing technique on Pinterest and it was actually pretty easy. I spread the purple on the top first, smoothing it out and letting a little bit go over the edge. Then I put on a (messy) line of dark yellow around the bottom and then the light yellow went in the middle. I took my icing scraper (aka a large plastic putty knife from Home Depot) and scraped the sides of the cake while turning it. The icing colors blended perfectly. To be honest, I was kind of surprised at how well it worked! I kind of wish I had made the dark yellow section thicker or that I had been a bit messier in applying the icing so that the layers wouldn’t be so defined, but I can try that next time. I think this technique would look particularly good on a taller cake.

I topped the cake with some silver and pearl sprinkles. I thought it looked really sweet and feminine and I was temped to not write on it because I knew my handwriting would mess it up! I thought the cake called for writing in script, not print, and my script writing is just not very good. That would be why I’m not including pictures of the entire cake in this post, just the edges 🙂

I had to leave the shower before cake time so (as is often the case) I didn’t actually try this cake. I hope someone at the shower enjoyed it!!


Banana Mini Muffins

August 6, 2012

Caelan and I were invited to attend a play group hosted by a Bumpie friend of mine. It was a pool party so attendance was much higher than usual for the play groups. I’m not sure what the final head count was, but it was somewhere in the neighborhood of 20 adults and 20 kids (most of them <2 years old!). Epic.

Naturally, such a large turn out called for pot luck for the food items. I decided to make some banana mini muffins since I wanted something small and kid-friendly. I found this recipe on one of my favorite blogs, Annie’s Eats. I skipped the sugar/cinnamon topping because while I’m sure it would have been delicious, I was sort of trying to avoid 20 toddlers on a sugar high.

The recipe claimed to make 10 standard size muffins and I ended up getting 47 mini muffins (so nearly 4 dozen). For some reason I always think that 1 muffin = 2 mini muffins, but that’s not really true. It’s more like double that. The muffins were good, but I think they would have been even better with the crumb topping.

Of course I didn’t plan ahead and I bought the bananas I needed for this recipe the day before I was going to make the muffins. I did put them in a paper bag to try to speed the ripening process, but I knew they’d never make it in just one day. So I Googled around and found out that I could bake the bananas to get them to the right sweet, squishy consistency I’d need for baking. I popped 3 of them in the (toaster) oven at 300° for about 30-45 minutes. They were frighteningly black when I took them out but not burnt or anything and they were nice and squishy on the inside. It was a nice short cut!


Arbonne Cupcakes

June 14, 2012

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My neighbor sells Arbonne products and she is often hosting parties. She mentioned to me awhile back that she may be wanting cupcakes for an upcoming party and asked about a gluten-free option. When this party rolled around, she initally asked for about 4 dozen cupcakes – some gluten-free, some gluten-tastic.

But when it came down to it, she only needed 2 dozen cupcakes, and none gluten-free. So it ended up being a much more simple order than I expected.

I made 1 dozen chocolate cupcakes (1/2 of this recipe) and 1 dozen yellow cupcakes (1/2 of this recipe). I made 1 1/2 batches of vanilla buttercream icing and flavored half of it with almond extract for the yellow cupcakes and left half of it vanilla for the chocolate cupcakes.

The little toppers are similar to the ones I made for Caelan’s cupcakes, but with only 2 dozen to make, I got them done in no time!


Caelan’s Birthday Party: Cake and Cupcakes

June 8, 2012

Obviously, I was going to make the cake/cupcakes for Caelan’s party. Given how many cakes I’ve made for other people’s birthdays, baby showers, etc it would have just been weird if I didn’t make a cake for Caelan. Plus, my mom always made our birthday cakes growing up so it seemed like the right thing to do. And, of course, I wanted to 🙂

Although, my mom also made our Halloween costumes and I think I’m going to have to let that one go. But I digress…Back to cake 🙂

I decided to do a cupcake tower/display for the guests and a smash cake for Caelan. Here are my inspiration pictures – party supplies from the theme I chose.

I had a ridiculous amount of indecision regarding how many cupcakes to make, how many flavors, which recipe, etc. I was annoyed with myself by the end, but for our 36 guests, this is what I ended up with:

  • 1 6″ round yellow cake
  • 1 batch of vanilla buttercream frosting (divided: blue, brown, medium brown, light brown)
  • 4 dozen yellow cupcakes
  • 1 batch of vanilla buttercream frosting (orange) – 16 cupcakes
  • 1 batch of lemon buttercream frosting (yellow) – 16 cupcakes
  • 1 batch of lime buttercream frosting (green) – 16 cupcakes

I used this recipe for the cake and cupcakes. The frosting is all from the same recipe, I just switched out some of the vanilla extract for lemon extract or lime juice for the lemon and lime versions. I made and colored all of the frosting the weekend before which was definitely the way to go. Having that all ready to go when I was putting things together at the last minute was awesome. Frosting the 4 dozen cupcakes took all of about 30 minutes.

For the smash cake, I printed out the monkey from the napkin (pictured above) and traced his face onto some wax paper. Then I laid that on top of the iced cake and traced the outline into the icing. I used various star and round tips to fill in the monkey’s face with the 3 shades of brown icing. It’s kind of a lot of effort to go through for a cake that’s (hopefully) going to be smashed by a 1-year-old, but it really didn’t take that long to do, and it was cute 🙂

A few weeks in advance, I made the cupcake picks. Using the noise makers (pictured above) for inspiration, I designed some cupcake toppers using MS Word. I cut them all out using a giant hole punch and I also cut out cardstock circles in coordinating orange, yellow, and green. A couple evenings of watching TV and gluing paper to toothpicks, and they were ready to go!

For such a large amount of cake and cupcakes, it actually didn’t take me that long to put together. Honestly, the biggest challenge was clearing space in our fridge for 2 large cupcake boxes and a cake box! But it was a good excuse to clean out the fridge 🙂


Experimenting with Gluten-Free Baking

March 19, 2012

My neighbor mentioned to me that she would be hosting/attending a few events in the near future and she might want to order some cupcakes. Then she asked if I could make the cupcakes gluten-free (GF). Well…I’m sure I can, but I’ve never done any GF baking before and I honestly don’t know anything about it.

So I Googled around looking for recipes and trying to get a handle on the ingredients common in GF baking. Most regular cake recipes have the same basic ingredients: butter, sugar, eggs, flavoring, flour, leavener, salt, liquid (like milk or water). Luckily, all of those ingredients are already GF except for the flour (and some leaveners are not GF, but many are). I found in my search for recipes that many GF recipes replaced the normal white or cake flour with a GF flour mixture plus xanthan gum as a binder.

I chose a really simple recipe to experiment with – it simply called for a GF flour instead of a normal flour and did not call for xanthan gum. After a tip from a friend on Facebook, Caelan and I headed to the organic section of our grocery store in search of an all-purpose GF flour. I was utterly overwhelmed when I saw all the options. They had every different kind of flour you could imagine. Or, more accurately, they had every different kind of flour I had never heard of: rice flour, potato flour, tapioca flour, bean flour, quinoa flour, spelt flour, etc. But I didn’t actually see an all-purpose flour (even though such a thing does exist and I’ve now learned that it is usually a mix of some of the aforementioned flours). Not wanting to buy 5 different bags of flour (and I would seriously have no idea which ones to choose anyway), I grabbed a bag of brown rice flour and was on my way.

I mixed up a 1/4 batch (6 cupcakes) of this recipe for GF chocolate cupcakes. They looked like regular cupcakes. The batter was similar to regular cake batter. They appeared to bake like regular cupcakes (though for a little bit longer). And when they were all done and I iced them with a chocolate buttercream, they tasted pretty much like regular cupcakes. They were slightly drier and crumbier but if someone just gave me this cupcake to eat and didn’t tell me it was GF, I wouldn’t know. So I call it a success 🙂

Next time, I am going to experiment with a vanilla cupcake recipe. The ones I found in my Google search pretty much always called for xanthan gum. Though that was available in my grocery store, I really didn’t want to spend $12 on an 8oz bag that would last me 500 years. I think I may try to find a smaller quantity from my BFF (Amazon).