PUMPKIN WEEK: Pumpkin Spice Cake with Maple Frosting

*please excuse the pictures in this post.  I decided to make this cake at night after a few glasses of wine.  

Hello hello,

It’s time for another rendition of theme weeks and this week is brought to you by pumpkin!  (insert pumpkin foofaraw here)  Truth be told, it’s still 80 degrees in SoCal right now, so my mind is not registering “Pumpkin Week” quite yet.  However, in the spirit of team camaradarie, I decided to join the party with a pumpkin spice cake.

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I know you’re probably thinking, “Pumpkin spice cake?  Yawn.”  But let me tell you, this cake is a delicate balance of pumpkin, spices, and sweetness that you will want to add to your repertoire of “classic” recipes.

Now, in researching pumpkin spice cake, I found there were not many variations in recipes.  Some called for buttermilk or sour cream to moisten things up, but I felt like the pumpkin would create enough moisture on its own.  Other recipes went crazy on spices, but I wanted to let the pumpkin shine through.

This cake turned out perfect!  The cake was full of flavor and the sweetness of the maple frosting balanced with the spiciness of the cake.  I am definitely making this again for Thanksgiving.

For the cake, you will need:

  • 1.5 sticks softened butter
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 (15 oz.) can pumpkin
  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2.5 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. ginger
  • 1/8 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1/8 tsp. allspice
  • 1/8 tsp. cloves

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix the dry ingredients together in a bowl and set aside (flour, baking soda, salt, spices).

The finest of supermarket spices.

The finest of supermarket spices.

Using a mixer, beat together butter and sugars until combined.  Add eggs one at a time and vanilla.  Beat until creamy.

wet pumpkin ingredients

Then add the canned pumpkin until just combined.

Slowly add the dry ingredients to the pumpkin mixture until the dry ingredients are fully incorporated.

Pour batter into greased bundt pan (or use my pal, Comfortably Domestic’s handy baking pan conversion chart).  Bake for approximately 25-30 minutes (check with a toothpick).

pumpkin batter

For the frosting, you will need:

  • 1/2 stick butter
  • 1 (8 oz.) block cream cheese
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 4 Tbsp. maple syrup (I used the real maple syrup.  You might want to taste as you go if you are using the imitation stuff because it’s a little stronger.)
  • 3-4 cups powdered sugar

Wait until the cake has cooled completely.

Beat butter, cream cheese, vanilla, and syrup together until creamy.

Add powdered sugar one cup at a time until it is as sweet as you would like.  I think I stopped at 3.5 cups, but I was eye-balling it.  I should stop doing that when I’m developing a recipe, but whatever.

Spread the frosting over the entire cake until it’s as perfect or messy as you like.  Mine was rather messy, as you can see.

frosted cake

-Mads

Please check out the other wonderful recipes for Pumpkin Week!

Monday:

Kirsten @ Comfortably Domestic – Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls
Beka @ Kvetchin’ Kitchen – Pumpkin Streusel Bread

Tuesday:
Carrie @ Bakeaholic Mama – Pumpkin Pie Macarons
Jeanne @ Inside NanaBread’s Head – Hazelnut Pumpkin Waffles with Cinnamon Honey Butter

Wednesday:
Megan @ Country Cleaver – Mini No-Bake Bourbon Pumpkin Cheesecakes with Crumble Topping
Allison @ Decadent Philistines – Pumpkin Marshmallows & Pumpkin Spice Syrup
Shanna @ Pineapple & Coconut – Creamy Maple Bacon Pumpkin Risotto

Thursday:
Anne @ From My Sweet Heart – Pumpkin Doughnuts with Cream Cheese Icing & Candied Pepitas
Kat @ Tenaciously Yours – Marbled Pumpkin Gingersnap Tart

Friday:
Madeline @ Munching in the Mitten – Savory Pumpkin Tart
Lauren @ Climbing Grier Mountain – Pumpkin Mousse with Candied Squash
Kirsten @ Comfortably Domestic – Pumpkin Kiss Cookies

Saturday:
Beka @ Kvetchin’ Kitchen – Pumpkin Scones
Monica @ The Grommom – Pumpkin Ice Cream

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Bake Sale Day!

Hello team,

Today is…drumroll please…BAKE SALE DAY!!!!

bake-sale-for-beka-2013

Click image to open a new window for the bake sale!

As you have already heard, I’m raising money in a Bake Sale via the internet for Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America.  You can bop over to Megan’s blog to see all of the wonderful and delicious prizes from cookies to brownies to signed cookbooks by some of your favorite bloggers!

I made these perfect fudge brownies and a big ole box of them could be yours!

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It’s easy to win.  Megan explains it all on her site.  Go there now.  Start the bidding!

-Mads

CARAMEL WEEK: Caramel Banana Bread Pudding

Welcome to CARAMEL WEEK!!!  This week marks a momentous occasion when strong and courageous women bloggers stand up for what is good and holy in the world–caramel.

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I honestly could not be more excited for all of the delicious recipes from caramel week!  To think of all of the caramel taste testing that went on during recipe development is mind-boggling.  There was a lot of spoon-dipping and finger-licking in my kitchen alone!

It took me a surprisingly long time to decide on what to make, mainly because caramel anything is amazing.  A local restaurant serves an incredible bananas foster bread pudding, so I thought a riff on that might be fun to try.  Boy, am I glad I did!  This caramel banana bread pudding is The Taste.

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I always start my recipe development by scouring the internet and cookbooks for recipes similar to what I’m planning on making.  I usually check Foodgawker.com, FoodNetwork.com, America’s Test Kitchen, Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything, and whatever other books I have lying around.Ingredients

Once I’ve found a few favorites, I examine the ingredients in each, decide upon what I think would taste the best, and what my ratios should look like.  I really liked the idea of challah bread because it is thick and eggy, which fits perfectly with an eggy bread pudding.  I decided to use more brown sugar in my recipe because bananas and brown sugar are like bread and butter, like Sonny and Cher, like a shmoke and a pancake.  I also knew that I would need to replace some milk with heavy whipping cream because…well…heavy whipping cream makes everything better.  Obviously.

Challah

After I decide upon my ingredient list, I make up ratios needed to increase the flavor town (pinch of salt here, extra vanilla here, etc.).  Eventually my bread pudding recipe was ready to go and I was ready to start cooking!

Slice your challah into 1 inch cubes like this.

Slice your challah into 1 inch cubes like this.

I ran into a problem when I was pouring the milk and egg mixture over my challah; I didn’t have enough liquid to cover the bread!  Nothing to fear, I simply added a splash more cream and wrote down a new estimated amount on the recipe.

This is what your pudding should look like after soaking and smooshing for an hour in the fridge.

This is what your pudding should look like after soaking and smooshing for an hour in the fridge.

If my recipe is a winner, I post it on the blog.  If it’s terrible or mediocre, it’s back to the drawing board!  Recipe development sounds scary, but it’s really fun to get creative with your favorite ingredients and to try out new foods.

For the bread pudding you will need:

  • 1 loaf challah bread (the loaf I found at the store was huge, so just use what you need to fill a 9 x 13 pan) — cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 1 banana — mushed
  • 3.5 cups milk
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 5 eggs
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 3 Tbsp butter (melted and cooled slightly)
  • 1 Tbsp cinnamon
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla
  • 1 Tbsp rum
  • 1/2 tsp salt

For ingredients and directions for the salted caramel sauce, visit Comfortably Domestic’s blog.  Her sauce is wonderful.  It tastes almost like a Werther’s Original, but so much better!

Comfortably Domestic's Salted Caramel Sauce (This was a key ingredient for the bread pudding because the saltiness mixed with the sweetness and took the dish to the next level)

Comfortably Domestic’s Salted Caramel Sauce (This was a key ingredient for the bread pudding because the saltiness mixed with the sweetness and took the dish to the next level)

  1. Leave the challah out on a cookie sheet overnight to dry.  You can also dry the bread out in the oven at 325 for 10 minutes.
  2. Place the challah in a 9 x 13 pan.  Do not use a glass pan for this!  The pan will go straight from the fridge to the oven and we don’t want any broken glass pudding mixtures in the bottom of our oven.
  3. Mix all other ingredients in a large bowl until combined.
  4. Pour mixture over bread.
  5. Put the bread pudding in the fridge for 1 hour.  Squish the bread down into the milk every 20 minutes so that each cube of bread is soaking.  This allows the bread to absorb all of that nummy milk mixture and to ensure you aren’t inadvertently making croutons.
  6. Preheat oven to 375 degrees
  7. Bake for 45 minutes or until pudding is no longer jiggly.
  8. Serve and drizzle Kirsten’s salted caramel over the top.

Check out the other wonderful caramel treats throughout the week with this schedule of events:

Have you ever created your own unique recipe?  How do you develop recipes?

-Mads

Must-have items for 2013

Hello internet friends,

I’m currently in Belize on my honeymoon, which means I’m either:
A) Soaking up some rays (with my SPF 70 lathered) on a sandy beach
B) Eating delicious tamales, meat, beans, and rice
C) Sharing cocktails with Jonathan at sunset
D) Reenacting all of the date nights from Ben’s season of The Bachelor: Belize

Before I departed on my adventure, I did a bit of shopping and found some absolute gems I need to share with you.

First, and most importantly, is this Sugar Lip Treatment from Fresh (plum is my favorite shade so far).  I’m very particular about my lip products for several reasons.  Lip gloss is too gooey and doesn’t stay on for more than a minute.  Lipstick is often very dry and doesn’t have SPF.  Chapstick is my go-to product, but it doesn’t usually have color, leaving my lips pale and plain.

This product is the perfect blend of lipstick and chapstick with SPF that makes my lips feel fantastic!  It’s not glossy, but it slides on and stays for a long time.  They have a whole range of colors too!

Click image for original source. From fresh.com

Click image for original source. From sephora.com

This next one isn’t so much a product, as it is a TV series that you need to watch if you’re a 20-30 something female.  “Girls” is a funnier and more intelligent “Sex in the City” with more realistic characters.  I love it with all my heart.

Click image for original source. From wikipedia.com

Click image for original source. From wikipedia.com

I’ve never had a good pair of sunglasses.  Mostly because I have a tendency to step on, lose, and scratch every pair I’ve ever owned.  However, this year, some little birdie decided I needed to protect my eyes from the sun and got me these Maui Jim Palms for Christmas.

Getting a nice pair of polarized lenses will save your eyeballs, make you look professional, and teach you how to treat your sunglasses well.

Click image for original source. From mauijim.com

Click image for original source. From mauijim.com

I normally buy the $2 flip-flops from Old Navy that bust about 3 months into wearing them, but these Teva Olowaho sandals are a much better alternative.  They have enough cushioning to keep my heels comfortable and enough give in the straps so that they don’t rub and cause blisters.  I have them in black, but I plan on getting a few more colors for summer.

Click image for original source. From amazon.com

Click image for original source. From amazon.com

The final product I found that I cannot live without is the Olive Body Butter from The Body Shop.  This bad boy has a mild smell compared to their potent fruity flavors, but I can’t get enough of the subtle earthy smell.  Also, the body butter is not greasy, which is a major plus.  This is a must!

Click image for original source. From thebodyshop.com

Click image for original source. From thebodyshop.com

What products have you fallen in love with during this shopping season?  What do I need to have to prepare for spring?

-Mads

 

A review of Trader Joe’s unique finds

I buy groceries once a week from Trader Joe’s.  I always buy one novelty item to try.  Sometimes I am blown away, but I have also tasted some big flops.  Here’s my take on my most recent buys…

 

Crunchy Green Beans: Garbage.  A crowd pleaser for people who are kidding themselves.

Pacific Flounder stuffed with crab meat: Mushy texture, delicious flavor.  A great freezer meal for nights when you don’t give a hoot.

Roasted Plantain Chips: Taste like salty cardboard, but I can’t get enough.  Purchased weekly.

Pineapple Salsa: This seems counterintuitive, but you will put it on EVERYTHING.

Spicy Thai Style Pasta Salad: The peanut sauce gums up the inside of your mouth like a fresh coat of spackle.  It’ll go straight from the bowl to the trash can.

Organic Tomato and Roasted Red Pepper Soup: Please, sir, I want some more.  Do yourself a favor and buy some crusty bread to dunk into this deliciousness.

Ezekiel Bread: For when you’ve given up on life.

That’s all for now.

What do you love and hate from Trader Joe’s?

-Mads

Crackle Cookies

I recently took part in The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap:

Image courtesy of Loveandoliveoil.com

You are randomly paired up with three bloggers, and then you send them each 1 dozen homemade holiday cookies.

Fun, right?

I was paired up with:

Somewhere In Between

Lucky Zucca

Lex’s Life as a New Wife

I decided to go with an old family favorite to avoid kitchen disasters.  Unfortunately for me, the recipe was written down wrong, and I had to make some last-minute adjustments anyway.  Woops!

This recipe is a bit labor intensive, but I definitely want to try it again next year.  They are crunchy, soft, and oh-so-tasty when done right!

You will need:

1/2 cup canola oil

2 cups sugar

8 oz melted dark chocolate

4 eggs

2 tsp vanilla

2 tsp baking powder

Dash of salt

2 cups flour

1/2 cup each of white sugar and powdered sugar for rolling

Mix oil, sugar, and chocolate together.

Beat eggs separately.  Add to chocolate mixture with vanilla.

Combine dry ingredients in a separate bowl.  Slowly add to the chocolate mixture until combined.

Chill dough overnight.

Roll dough into small balls.  Roll in white sugar.  Roll in powdered sugar.

Bake at 350 degrees for 10-15 minutes.

 

*The original recipe called for only 4 ounces of chocolate.  This was SO not enough.  The cookies came out very bland.  It was too late to add melted chocolate, so I tossed a bunch of chocolate chips in at the last-minute.  If you want to go crazy, use the 8 ounces of chocolate AND the chocolate chips.*

This is a fun project, but I don’t think I’ll do it again next year 😦  I know myself, and I know that I am not on top of my shit enough to bake, cutely package, and ship out cookies in a timely manner.  Obviously, I was frantically whipping these together the morning before 2 big presentations and 2 papers were due.  Do. Not. Want.

What holiday cookies are you making this season?

Stay tuned, next week is #COOKIEWEEK!!!  (very similar to #PIEWEEK)

-Mads

p.s. If you are taking part of a cookie exchange or bake sale this year, register your cookies here.  Each cookie baked will raise 10 cents for kid’s cancer research.  Just say you are hosting the cookie exchange and shoot them an email telling them how many cookies were made.  Win win win!

 

 

MN State Fair On a Stick

I got back this evening from a whirlwind tour of Minneapolis.  There was a surprise engagement party, wedding dresses, and lots and lots of baby blankies (not for me).

I will share more on that later, but I really wanted to talk about what’s most important: State Fair Food.  More specifically, all of the fried goodies I ate off of a stick.

Jonathan and I partook on a gastroenterological tour of the MN State Fair with some family and friends while we were in town this past weekend.  Now, I usually get cheese curds, corn on the cob, and a corn dog.  I’m aware that this might not be the healthiest dinner, but it’s a pretty light in terms of fair food.

This year?  It was a no-holds-barred kind of event.

First on the roster was Ole and Lena’s hot dish on a stick:

This went something like meatball, tater tot, meatball, tater tot, deep-fried goodness, and slathered with gravy.

Jonathan was in heaven.

I still maintain that it was not as good as my homemade tater tot hotdish.

Next up was deep-fried apple pie:

This came with cinnamon ice cream and I literally screamed when I found out.  Embracing the small things…

The apple pie was sort of like McDonald’s apple pies on crack.  In other words, it was incredible.

Finally, we had to try the new fair food, deep-fried cookie dough on a stick:

Click photo for source.

I was skeptical of this one from the get-go, and I wasn’t mistaken.  I get that the cookie dough was supposed to be gooey, but so was the batter.  It was all too much.

Besides all of the eating, we did walk around quite a bit and saw a lot of animals.  My favorite (as usual) was the piglets at the Miracle of Birth Center:

And we happened to stumble across a live Tapes ‘n Tapes concert:

Best surprise ever?  Yes, I think so.

What’s your state/county fair like?  What’s your favorite deep-fried food?

-Mads