I’m all about that cake, ‘bout that cake, ‘bout that cake…..
My family came for a little day visit, and naturally it fell into evening. I love to have snacks around for the grabbing – the grandkids LOVE that! With this in mind, I shopped for the berries they adore. I bought pre-peeled/pre-sliced oranges from Whole Foods. I know, I know. I preach “do it yourself”, but they just looked so darn good. Sammy made the fruit platter and painstakingly laid out those slices, next to the pre-prepped watermelon (don’t judge…..) and a variety of berries that spelled out the word, “LOVE”. It was a gorgeous presentation. I packed up the extras, knowing I would have to use up that fruit or watch it wilt faster than a linen blouse on a hot July day!
Anyway….while at Whole Foods (and this is the entire reason I try to stay away from there), I saw the cutest individual cakes. One was in the shape of a decorated Easter egg. One was a blue bunny, and the third a yellow chick. Too cute. I bought all three for the grandkids. What I didn’t know was that Mallory, the oldest, had already prepared and decorated a bunny cake worthy of a five-star French Patisserie!
So, when the family visited, we skipped the Whole Foods cakes. But it didn’t stop there. I gave the cakes away…to a young mom with small kids. I didn’t want them to go to waste, and they found a good home. That night, after dinner, hubby came into the kitchen and asked where the cakes were. I told him what I did, and you’d think I shot an arrow into his heart. Who knew he had designs on a bunny cake! Guilt took over and right then and there, I decided to make him his very own grown-up cake.
I’m feeling springy these days, so lemon cake it was. But I upped my standard with the addition of the berries and oranges leftover from the grandkids’ fruit platter. I think my Grandmothers, who never let anything go to waste, would have been proud. I know my hubby is happy again! Because it’s all about those cakes, ‘bout those cakes…
With Sweetened Berries and Cream Cheese
Serves a crowd
30 minute cuisine plus baking
For berry filling:
1 pint mixed berries
1 orange, peeled and chopped
½ cup granulated sugar
For cream cheese filling:
8 oz cream cheese, room temperature
½ cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
For cake batter:
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup granulated sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1 ⅓ cups milk
½ cup butter, melted, 1 stick
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Zest of 1 medium lemon, about 1 tablespoon
Juice of 1 medium lemon, about 2 tablespoons
For lemon glaze:
2 cups confectioner’s sugar
Zest of 1 medium lemon, about 1 tablespoon
Juice of 1 medium lemon, about 2 tablespoons
Preheat the oven to 350°. Coat a Bundt pan with vegetable oil spray and dust with flour.
Place the berries in a deep pot with ½ cup granulated sugar and about ½ cup of water. Cook over low heat until the berries break down and look like a syrupy sauce, about 20 minutes. Use a potato masher to break down any stubborn berries. Remove from the heat and cool to room temperature.
Mix the cream cheese, powdered sugar, and 1 teaspoon vanilla on a small bowl with a wooden spoon until fluffy and smooth. Set this aside while you prepare the batter.
Whisk together the flour, 1 cup sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl.
Whisk together the eggs, milk, melted butter, 2 teaspoons vanilla, lemon zest and lemon juice in another bowl. Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients until just combined
Pour half of the batter into the prepared Bundt cake pan. Dollop half of the berry sauce over the batter. Do the same with half of the cream cheese. Use a knife to gently swirl the fillings into the batter. Spoon the remaining batter into the pan. Dollop the remaining filling over the top and gently swirl again.
Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 30 to 40 minutes. Remove the cake from the oven and allow to cool for 15 minutes. After the cake is cooled, gently run a knife around the edges and center of the pan to loosen the cake. Invert the cake onto a rack and cool completely.
Whisk together the confectioner’s sugar, lemon zest, and lemon juice in a medium bowl to create a smooth glaze. Place parchment or waxed paper under the rack with the cake. Drizzle the glaze over the cake.
Through Easter Sunday on April 21st, schools are closing and people (families with young kids as well as college students) are traveling for Spring Break. If you’re lucky enough to play host to your grandkids, nieces and nephews or just good friends, you’re going to need some breakfast ideas.
I say this because it’s hard to get in the car and bring home donuts, when your driveway is blocked by Aunt Edna’s SUV. You may have to lay out a buffet for those in the group with other plans – like a family member who didn’t get time off and is on their way to work. Here’s a full proof menu for everyone – especially the adults who need to be well nourished before they head to Disney, the park, or the beach.
My Maple Hazelnut scones from Canvas and Cuisine are yummy. You can make them ahead and bake them in 20 minutes, so they are warm out of the oven. The artichoke and fennel strata (same cookbook) is a perfect brunch dish, and it goes great with SUNDAY BEST candied bacon.
You can prep the bacon the day before. Dredge it in brown sugar. Put it on the oven rack and bake at 300 degrees for 30 minutes or more, depending on thickness of bacon. Make a lot!
Flatbread breakfast bar
Lay out some flour tortillas and bowls of scrambled eggs and/or chopped veggies, herbs, sour cream and guac for a flat bread breakfast bar.
I recommend Bloody Marys for the drinks! Use Charleston Bloody Mary mix and pickled okra for garnish. You can find both the drink mix and jars of okra at most grocery stores.
An Idea for Grandparents with Kids Underfoot
On an idle day, when there’s not much planned and the little ones seem restless, work on rock painting together. You can pick up a rock painting kit with as many as 7 stones inside for a pittance at places like Target or Hobby Lobby. Have the kids paint up a storm, and then leave behind one of their personalized rocks at each place you tour or visit during their vacay! When they return next year, you can always check to see if it’s still there!
Maple Frosted Hazelnut Scones
makes 12 scones
30 minute cuisine
½ cup old-fashioned oats
½ cup hazelnuts
2 ¾ cups pastry flour
1/3 cup natural cane sugar
2 tablespoons baking powder
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup unsalted butter, cut into pieces
¾ cups heavy cream
1 large egg
4 cups confectioners’ sugar
¼ cup milk
2 tablespoons butter, melted
2 tablespoons maple extract
1 tablespoon brewed coffee
Preheat the oven to 350°. Place the oats and hazelnuts into the bowl of a food processor. Pulse to finely chop. Add the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt into the bowl. Pulse to combine. Add 1 cup butter pieces to the bowl. Pulse to form coarse crumbs. Whisk together the milk and egg. With the machine running, pour the liquid through the feed tube. The dough will come together around the blade.
Turn the dough out onto a floured board. The dough will be sticky and that’s okay! You can add a bit more flour to make the dough easier to handle while you use your hands to form the dough into a rectangle about ¾-inch thick and about 8-inches by 9-inches. Use a knife to cut the dough into 6 rectangles. Cut each rectangle into 2 triangles. Use a spatula to transfer each triangle onto 1 large or 2 smaller parchment lined baking sheets. Bake until the scones puff up and just begin to turn golden, about 20 to 25 minutes. Cool scones on the baking sheet.
For the frosting, whisk together confectioners’ sugar, milk, melted butter and maple extract. You want the frosting to be thick but pourable. Drizzle the frosting on the scones. Store scones in an airtight container for up to 4 days.
Artichoke and Fennel Strata
serves 6 to 8
40 minute prep, at least 2 hours to chill, about an hour to bake
1 tablespoon olive oil
8 ounces mild Italian sausage (if you buy these in links, remove the casings)
1 small fennel bulb, tops trimmed, cored and chopped, about ¾ cup
1 (16-ounce) loaf brioche bread, cut into 1-inch cubes
2 ounces Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, grated, about ½ cup
4 to 5 green onions, thinly sliced, about ½ cup
1 tablespoon Dijon style mustard
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
1 teaspoon herbes de Provence
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon coarse black pepper
Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add the sausage and fennel. Cook until the sausage is browned and crumbly and the fennel is soft and fragrant, about 5 minutes. Remove the skillet from the heat. Place half of the bread cubes into a large baking dish that has been coated with vegetable oil spray. Cover the bread with sausage and fennel. Top with artichokes. Place the remaining bread cubes over the top.
Whisk together the eggs and milk in a large bowl. Stir in the cheeses, green onion, mustard, parsley and herbes de Provence. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Pour this custard over the bread cubes. Push down the top bread so that all the ingredients are completely submerged in the liquid. Cover the baking dish with plastic wrap and chill for at least 2 hours or as much as overnight; this will allow the bread to absorb all the liquid and the flavors to merge together.
When you are ready to serve, preheat the oven to 350°. Take the strata from the fridge and remove the plastic wrap. Cover the strata with aluminum foil. Bake until the strata begins to set around the edges, about 20 minutes. Remove the foil and continue baking until the strata is puffy and golden, about 20 to 30 minutes more. Let the strata rest for 10 minutes before serving.