“We’ll go to the food court and get one of those funnel cakes you love.”. So says the wife trying to mollify her husband after refusing to purchase him a two thousand and four hundred-dollar designer suit. Pouting ensues, before, finally accepting his fate, the hubby replies “We’ll get a funnel cake – it’ll be the highlight of my week.”.
If you are familiar with dump cake, you’ll see the genius of this recipe immediately. My mom used to make dump cake when I was a kid. I’ll have to post that “recipe” sometime soon. It’s essentially canned fruit, topped with dry cake mix and smothered with butter. Not really a cake in the traditional sense, but delicious. I saw this pumpkin version and knew it would be ah-mazing. And it was. This is two delightful desserts combined into one. Pumpkin pie on the bottom and pecan pie on top. Custardy spiced goodness covered with crunchy buttery caramelized nut topping. I’m telling you, it’s far too easy for how gorgeous it turns out.
Do you remember counting down the days til your birthday? Yeah, it’s been a while since I’ve done that too. But every year I try to put myself back in that childhood mode when the countdown started the day after your last birthday. Turned 4 last week? You are TOTALLY almost 5. In my opinion, a kid’s birthday should be the most amazing day of their entire year. I get a little crazy at birthday time. My son’s big day just happens to be smack in between Thanksgiving and Christmas. A most inconvenient time to add a big birthday bash to our calendars. However, I recognize that this is not his fault, and so every year I attempt to make his day truly special in the midst of all the holiday bustle.
We had the mother of all rainbow birthdays this weekend for my sweet six-year-old Madison. My house looked like a unicorn threw up all over. It was epic fun. A hyperactivity inducing, spectrum spectacular. Brightly colored craziness. We had a blast. The pièce de résistance of the party was a stunning six layer rainbow cake. It was truly a sight to behold. It requires a bit of time, but is totally worth it for an awe inspired gasp from your guests when you cut it open.
Monkey bread is the devil. I cannot resist it. I especially enjoy a new spin on it, like adding some kind of new flavor to the delicious combo of cinnamon sugar and buttery goodness. I can more readily call it breakfast if it includes fruit which makes this blueberry filled bread perfect for supporting my delusion. So, breakfast it is. That’s when I served it to my family anyway. But, I also ate it for lunch and dessert so it’s really all-encompassing food. The oatmeal practically makes it a health food…so I figured it was ok to have it for more than one meal.
This week I had the tremendous privilege of making the topper for a wedding tower. The bride and groom wanted a giant cupcake, so that’s what they got. I tested out several buttercream recipes and absolutely loved this one. It tastes delicious and crusts up beautifully but is still soft enough to cut thru.
I can honestly tell you that this recipe was a present for me. From God. No joke. Let me explain. Some lovely people I know just got married. A few days before the wedding I agreed to help out by making a giant cupcake for them to cut into for the smash-cake-in-your-face moment at the wedding. The bride wanted a strawberry cake, but every single recipe I could find used strawberry flavored Jello in it. I’m sure the Jello cakes would have been fine, but the color just seemed too fakey pink given that the bottom of the cake wasn’t going to be frosted.
I searched for several hours and couldn’t find anything that looked good enough for me to use. Frustrated, I went to bed. The next morning in my Twitter feed was a post from America’s Test Kitchen that said “Yes, strawberry cake without Jello is possible with our Strawberry Dream Cake”. (pick my jaw up off the floor) Are you kidding me? I made the recipe that day as a test. It was very good, but a little denser than I wanted. I decided I could make life a lot easier on myself by bumping up the strawberry portion and using a white boxed cake mix as the base. The result was a light deliciously strawberry cake that took only a little more effort than a basic boxed mix. I’ve included both recipes for you. The resulting color is very pale pink and lovely. Since I was taking this to a wedding, you only get photos of the outside.
The cake mix variety I turned into cupcakes to taste test before the wedding and thought I’d share a very important tip with you. Do not frost cupcakes when they are still warm. Do. Not. Do. Not! It does not matter how good you are at frosting techniques, you will fail if the cupcakes are even a little bit still warm. Blame it on the delicious smell, I couldn’t wait. I wanted to try them! I used a new crusting buttercream frosting, added the pressed out strawberry solids from the cake instead of the water called for & adjusted with powdered sugar to get the right consistency. It tasted like strawberry ice cream. Delicious. You can just add the pressed strawberry solids to your favorite buttercream (or cream cheese) frosting. Pat them dry first though, moisture and frosting don’t go well together. Warm cupcakes and frosting don’t go together either. See?
Strawberry Dream Cake
a Bakerlady Original
1 box of white (or vanilla, french vanilla) cake mix
3 cups frozen whole strawberries
eggs & oil called for on back of boxed mix
1/2 cup of whole milk
1. Transfer strawberries to bowl, cover, and microwave until strawberries are soft and have released their juice, about 5 minutes. Place in fine-mesh strainer set over small saucepan. Firmly press fruit dry (juice should measure at least 1 cup); reserve strawberry solids. Bring juice to boil over medium-high heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until syrupy and reduced to 1/2 cup, 6 to 8 minutes. Whisk milk into juice until combined.
2. Prepare cake mix as directed on box. Substitute milk and strawberry mixture for water called for. The boxed mix I used called for 1 cup of water. So I used 1/2 cup strawberry puree and 1/2 cup of milk. Adjust these amounts based on your box mix directions. Bake according to box directions and size of pan you’re using.
3. Top with your favorite buttercream (or cream cheese) frosting – add the reserved strawberry solids after patting them dry for an extra burst of strawberry.
Strawberry Dream Cake
from America’s Test Kitchen
- 10 ounces frozen whole strawberries (2 cups)
- 3/4 cup whole milk, room temperature
- 6 large egg whites, room temperature
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 2 1/4 cups (9 ounces) cake flour
- 1 3/4 cups (12 1/4 ounces) granulated sugar
- 4 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 12 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 12 pieces and softened
1. For the cake: Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease two 9-inch round cake pans, line bottoms with parchment, grease parchment, and flour.
2. Transfer strawberries to bowl, cover, and microwave until strawberries are soft and have released their juice, about 5 minutes. Place in fine-mesh strainer set over small saucepan. Firmly press fruit dry (juice should measure at least 3/4 cup); reserve strawberry solids. Bring juice to boil over medium-high heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until syrupy and reduced to 1/4 cup, 6 to 8 minutes. Whisk milk into juice until combined.
3. Whisk strawberry milk, egg whites, and vanilla in bowl. Using stand mixer fitted with paddle, mix flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt on low speed until combined. Add butter, 1 piece at a time, and mix until only pea-size pieces remain, about 1 minute. Add half of milk mixture, increase speed to medium-high, and beat until light and fluffy, about 1 minute. Reduce speed to medium-low, add remaining milk mixture, and beat until incorporated, about 30 seconds. Give batter final stir by hand.
4. Scrape equal amounts of batter into prepared pans and bake until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes, rotating pans halfway through baking. Cool cakes in pans on wire rack for 10 minutes. Remove cakes from pans, discarding parchment, and cool completely, about 2 hours. (Cooled cakes can be wrapped with plastic wrap and stored at room temperature for up to 2 days.)
I’ve mentioned a few times that I’m taking a cake decorating class. I’m enjoying it tremendously and learning all sorts of fun things. Don’t judge my decorating skills too harshly, I’m still learning. I found this cake mix recipe years ago and it has never failed me. Perfect if you don’t want to make a boxed cake mix, or thought you had one in the cupboard but (horrors!) you’ve used your last one! This recipe gives you the perfectly light texture of a boxed mix with homemade ingredients and taste.
For my recent class, I filled a basic yellow cake with some strawberry mascarpone cream. It was absolutely delicious.
I just used one of the 8 inch rounds the recipe makes. I torted it (still learning the art of doing that evenly too!) and stuffed it with sweet creamy strawberry deliciousness. The other cake went in my freezer to use for another class.
I have tried all these cake mix varieties and they are simply delightful. Enjoy!
Scratch Cake Mixes
2 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups white sugar
1/2 cup shortening
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
For a Yellow Cake: Sift together flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar. Cut in shortening until fine crumbs are formed. Add eggs, milk, and vanilla. Beat at low speed for 1 minute, then high for 2 minutes, scraping the bowl frequently.
Pour batter into greased and floured 9×13 inch pan (or the cake pan of your choice). Bake in preheated 350 degree F oven (175 degrees C) for 25 to 30 minutes.
Variation for a White Cake: Prepare as for the basic cake except use 3 egg whites for the 2 whole eggs. Whites may be beaten separately and added for a lighter cake.
Variation for a Chocolate Cake: Add 1/4 cup cocoa powder to the basic cake mix prior to adding the milk.
Variation for a Spice Cake: Add 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves, and 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice to the basic cake mix.
Strawberry Mascarpone Cream
1 cup heavy whipping cream
3 tablespoons granulated white sugar
2/3 cup Mascarpone Cheese
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup strawberry jam
Place the heavy whipping cream, mascarpone, sugar, vanilla, and strawberry jam in a large bowl. Whip until soft peaks form.
I have no clue why it’s called a trifle. The word means something of little importance or value. This dessert isn’t anywhere in that neighborhood. It is gorgeous, fresh and delicious. My first experience with trifle was during a recent visit to Victoria during tea at Butchart Gardens. I devoured layers of soaked sponge-cake, fruit and custard all the while knowing the little dish of it wasn’t going to be enough. I’d have to recreate it at home.
Generally trifle is made with a sponge or pound cake, but for this slightly lightened version I used angel food cake. Since the light white cake has a delicate texture, I didn’t soak it in juice or liqour, choosing to simply brush a little Cointreau over each layer instead. You could use Triple-Sec or (for non-alcohol people) some orange juice.
I used a cookie cutter to make some angel food cake stars to make this a very patriotic dessert. It just seemed right with all those beautiful red and blue berries. It would be PERFECT for any 4th of July celebration.
The star of this show (ha-ha) is most certainly the homemade vanilla custard. Thick and creamy with the perfect sweetness. It is absolutely marvelous. You have to stir it constantly when making it, but it isn’t hard – or really all that time-consuming. Don’t be tempted by instant pudding in a box. Seriously. You have no idea how much more delicious homemade is. It shouldn’t be called the same food. Give it a whirl. You’ll be so glad you did! Look at it pushing thru all those beautiful berries. (happy sigh)
The topper for this berry delight is a delicious rich mascarpone cream. You’ll want to just eat it out of the bowl (confession on that in a sec). Whipped cream combined with creamy sweet mascarpone cheese and some sugar has the perfect sweet richness for this dessert.
Get ready for the confession. Here it comes. You are going to be so ashamed of me. I had the “butt” of the angel food cake and some of the mascarpone cream left over. And, I couldn’t help myself – I made a sandwich out of it. Slapped some berries in there. Mmmmm. Yeah. I have a problem with delicious food. I feel better now that I’ve gotten that off my chest. Thanks.
Bottom line. Make this. As soon as you can. Invite some people over, have a BBQ and let them all marvel at how gorgeous dessert is. They’ll be blown away when they realize it tastes even better than it looks!
Red, White and Blue Berry Trifle
One batch Vanilla Custard (recipe below)
1 package loaf angel food cake
1/2 cup Cointreau (or OJ)
3-4 cups mixed berries (blueberries, strawberries, raspberries)
1 batch Mascarpone Cream (recipe below)
1. Make the Vanilla Custard and allow to cool 15 minutes. Begin assembling the angel food cake and the preparing the berries as the custard cools.
2. Cut angel food cake into slices (or shapes) and layer 1/3 in the bottom of a trifle dish.
3. Brush with Cointreau until just moistened.
4. Layer 1/4 of the berries over the cake.
5. Top with 1/3 of the custard.
6. Repeat layers twice. Angel food cake, Cointreau, berries and custard.
7. Finish with a layer of berries done in a design (or just load them on there).
8. Whip Maxcarpone Cream and layer (or pipe using a Ziploc bag) on top of the berries.
9. Refrigerate until ready to eat. This keeps very well overnight.
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 cups milk (I used non-fat, but you can use anything up to 2%)
4 egg yolk, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons butter
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- In a large saucepan, combine the sugar, cornstarch and salt. Gradually stir in milk. Cook and stir over medium heat until thickened and bubbly. Reduce heat; cook and stir constantly 2 minutes longer. Remove from the heat.
- Stir a small amount of hot filling into egg yolks; return all to the pan, stirring constantly. Bring to a gentle boil; cook and stir 1-2 minutes longer. Remove from the heat. Gently stir in butter and vanilla.
- Cool for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Transfer to dessert dishes. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour.
from Joy of Baking
1 cup heavy whipping cream
3 tablespoons granulated white sugar
2/3 cup Mascarpone Cheese
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Place the heavy whipping cream, mascarpone, sugar, and vanilla extract in a large bowl. Whip until soft peaks form.