Funfetti Cake Balls

In the world of baking blogs, cake balls are not news. They were hot off the baking presses back in 2008, when Bakerella started wow-ing the world with her creative cake pop creations. I don’t think Bakerella invented the idea of cake balls, but she sure made them famous. She has since created an impressive assortment of creative, beautiful cake pops, both on her blog and in cookbooks.

I’m not here today to show you a stunningly creative cake pop – that’s far beyond my personal artistic scope. Instead: I’m going to teach you to make the cake balls themselves.

DSC07925I first made cake balls in 2010 for a friend’s birthday. It was like paying the cake forward, because a good friend had recently made them for MY birthday. They were a hit, and I thought about them a lot… but never made them again. I even bought ingredients for them a couple years ago – and then failed to ever make the cake balls happen. When you have a recipe list that’s nearing 400 recipes, sometimes things just don’t happen, no matter how much you scheme. For my birthday this year, I decided to finally revisit these delicious bites.

These Funfetti Cake Balls aren’t fancy – but they’re easy to make, easy to serve, and a true crowd favorite. I use Funfetti because it is just so, well, fun, but you could swap in any other flavor of cake and frosting. This is the perfect time to use mixes and canned frostings, by the way. You could definitely make your own if you wanted to, but the pre-made stuff is a nice shortcut for a recipe like this. Especially since you’re going to smash your cake into smithereens* to make the balls. This recipe is super easy, but do make sure to set aside time since there are a few different phases: make the cake, make the balls, chill the balls, dip the balls.

*Fun fact: Wikipedia’s description of cake balls is “reconstituted cake crumbs.” Technically correct, but what a funny way to describe it!

Funfetti Cake Balls

Original recipe: Bakerella (a.k.a. the Queen of Cake Balls and Pops). I’ve rewritten things a bit and added commentary. 

Yield: 48 cake balls 

Suggested equipment: I used a mixer for my cake but you definitely don’t need to 

Total Time: 3 hours, including all the steps/wait times 

Cook Time: Depends on your base cake; my mix baked for 40 minutes 

Ingredients

  • 1 box cake mix (I like using Pilsbury’s Funfetti since it has sprinkles mixed into the batter). You’ll also need to gather whatever your cake mix requires to bake the cake. For mine, that meant water, oil and eggs.
  • 1 container ready-made frosting (I used Funfetti frosting, and love that it comes with sprinkles for decoration, though it wasn’t enough for all of my balls)
  • 48 oz chocolate candy coating (I used Candiquik)
  • Sprinkles to decorate the balls

Step by Step Directions

Bake your cake 

Obviously this step varies depending on which cake mix you buy! I like using a 9×13 pan since it’s the easiest to deal with, and you’re just going to crumble the cake, anyway. Make sure your cake is done by testing the center with a toothpick – it should come out batter-free. Once the cake is done, let it cool completely before proceeding. I actually baked my cake on a Saturday and finished up the balls on Sunday since it fit better into my schedule.

Make your cake balls 

  1. Crumble the cooled cake into a large bowl. Your pieces should be pretty small – check out the picture below to get a better sense of size
  2. Add frosting to the bowl until the crumbs are moist, but not totally wet. The wetter the cake crumbles, the harder it is to make the balls (I know, sort of counterintuitive). I used about 2/3 of the frosting can. You can throw the remaining frosting in the fridge after that because you won’t need it again
  3. Use a spoon to combine the frosting and cake crumbs together. I used a wooden spoon; the original recipe suggests using the back of a large metal spoon. You’ll want to mix until the frosting and cake bits are totally combined
  4. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper before you start making the balls
  5. Roll your cake mixture into cake balls about 1.5 inches big. They should be as round and smooth as you can make them – the prettier now, the prettier your final balls will be. I didn’t worry about making mine perfect since I knew the chocolate coating would hide some of the imperfections, but if you’re more aesthetically inclined, you should definitely invest time at this step
  6. Place your cake balls on the cookie sheets and let them sit for about 20 minutes.
  7. Then, cover the sheets with plastic wrap, and throw them into the fridge or freezer. If you choose fridge, they should chill for several hours. If you choose freezer, they should chill for about 15 minutes
  8. Once the balls are firm, you’re ready to dip! Be careful not to let the balls freeze entirely

Dip and decorate 

  1. Put your candy coating in a microwave safe bowl. Technically you can melt most coatings in the tray they come in – but it’s a lot easier to dip the balls if you put the coating in a bowl first since you have more depth to roll
  2. Take out a few balls at a time to dip, and leave the rest in the fridge so they stay firm
  3. Dip each ball in the chocolate, one by one. You can sort of just twist the ball around in the chocolate to get it covered. You’ll start to get the hang of the coating after a few tries. You should find the coating simple to use, so if you’re fighting the coating to stay put or it’s getting lumpy, use a bit of vegetable oil to thin it out. Mine started to clump up once I got through half my balls, so it did need thinning
  4. If you’re going to add sprinkles, do it immediately after dipping each individual ball. The coating dries super fast, so you’ll miss the opportunity to decorate if you wait to dip all the balls first before adding sprinkles, etc.

These went fast at my birthday, but there were a couple left the next day. They tasted just as good on Day 2 – just make sure to keep them in an airtight container. And remember, this is just the tip of the cake ball iceberg. For lots of fun decorative ideas, check out Bakerella’s slew of tutorials

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Rosemary-Infused Cake with Blackberry Preserves and Mascarpone Frosting

I should make cakes more often.

People often ask me what my favorite thing is to bake. And I used to say that I wasn’t even sure, that I try new recipes every time and love experimenting in the kitchen. But today, let’s put a stake in the ground: my favorite thing to bake is a layer cake.

Layer cakes rarely make it to the top of my baking list, though, because they’re hard to carry on a bus and often hard to serve. I’ve noticed partygoers are more likely to casually grab a cookie than a piece of cake. Even cake’s single-serving cousin, the Cupcake, is oft doomed at parties, since people don’t always want to hold a cupcake while balancing drinks and socializing. Cake balls work well- but that’s another post, for another day.

DSC07941Despite logistical difficulties, nothing beats a layer cake from the perspective of personal satisfaction. Cakes are actually pretty simple to bring together once you know the drill, and frosting recipes tend to be simple too. When that cake is assembled, it sure feels good. Plus, nothing beats the deliciousness of a fluffy, light slice of cake.

Birthdays are the time I’m most likely to indulge my love of layer cakes. And so it’s become a tradition that every year, I bake myself a birthday cake. I bring it to whatever birthday party I decide to have and share it with my friends. People always ask why I want to put so much effort into my own birthday- but it’s such a source of joy for me. Each year I “treat myself” to whichever cake I want the most from my “to bake” list. I throw caution to practicality, and even to ingredient cost- and just make what I want to make. A couple years ago I made Lemon Blueberry Cake, then last year it was this Cardamom Cake with Strawberry Filling.

DSCN3120

Interior shot (A very messy one!)

This year, I decided herb’s the word. I am a huge fan of herbs in baked goods, as you’ve likely noticed. And I’d been eying blogger Molly Yeh’s herb-filled cake creations for a while. So for the 2nd year in a row, I made a cake from My Name is Yeh. It was an excellent choice. This cake is fluffy, delicate, and delicious. The rosemary is just a faint hint, since it’s infused in the milk rather than baked into the batter in herb form. That delicate flavor is complemented by plump fruit in the blackberry preserves, and a creamy mascarpone frosting. My finished cake was nowhere near as beautiful as Molly’s original creation, but it sure tasted good. I was a bit apprehensive about bringing an herb cake to tons of people but hey- it was my birthday so I figured I got to do what I wanted! I was happy to hear that my friends really enjoyed this cake too… and kept going back to sneak more slices.

I can’t let another year go by before I bake another layer cake. So, I hereby declare that in 2016, I shall make more cakes, even if that means clutching onto a cake as I stand on an overcrowded bus, racing across town.

Rosemary-Infused Cake with Blackberry Preserves and Mascarpone Frosting

Original recipe:  My Name is Yeh. I’ve rewritten things a bit and added commentary. 

Yield: I used two 8-inch cake pans; Molly’s original cake uses three 6-inch pans. As a rule, you can split into as many pans as you like as long as those pans are evenly filled. And pay attention to bake time as you switch around the cake “volume” 

Suggested equipment: Mixer 

Total Time: ~1.5 hours assuming simple decoration 

Cook Time: ~20 minutes 

Ingredients

Cake 

  • 1 cup whole milk

  • 2 sprigs rosemary, washed and patted dry

  • 1 3/4 cups cake flour

  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt

  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder

  • 1/2 tsp baking soda

  • 4 tbsp unsalted butter, softened

  • 1 cup sugar

  • 2 large eggs

  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract

  • 1/3 cup plain yogurt

  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil

Frosting 

A note: I ran out of icing to frost the sides and was cool with that but if you want to ensure enough icing, you might want to double this!

  • 12 oz unsalted butter, softened

  • 8 oz mascarpone cheese, softened

  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

  • 2 1/2 cups powdered sugar

  • a pinch or two of kosher salt

Step by Step Directions

Infuse your rosemary into the milk 

  1. Take out your butter so it softens up in time for the cake batter
  2. Place your milk and rosemary in a small saucepan and bring it to a simmer over medium heat
  3. Stir the mixture often, making sure it doesn’t start to curdle or “set” on the top
  4. Once the mixture has simmered, turn off the heat and let the saucepan sit uncovered for 15 minutes. You don’t want to throw the hot milk into your batter for two reasons: 1, the temperature might throw off your batter texture. And 2, you want to let the rosemary fully infuse into the milk!

Make your cake 

  1. Preheat your oven to 350F
  2. Sift cake flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda in a bowl
  3. In a separate bowl or your mixer bowl, beat together the butter and sugar until fluffy
  4. Beat the eggs into your butter mixture, one at a time
  5. Add the vanilla, yogurt and oil to the butter mixture and mix together
  6. Add your dry ingredients to the wet ingredients. Beat until smooth (about 1-2 minutes of beating action)
  7. Measure out 2/3 of your infused milk, using a strainer if you see any stray bits of rosemary floating into your milk. Some milk may have evaporated during the infusion so if that happened, you can add more plain milk to your cup to make it up to a full 2/3 a cup. I actually had leftover infused milk rather than lacking milk
  8. Pour the milk into your bowl of batter
  9. Grease and flour your cake pans, or line them with parchment. I prefer parchment myself
  10. Pour the batter evenly between your cake pans and smooth the tops
  11. Bake your cakes for 18-24 minutes. Mine took 20 minutes on the dot. You should rotate the cakes halfway through so they bake evenly
  12. The cakes are done when a toothpick in the center comes out clean. Let the cakes cool for 5 minutes in the pan, then invert them onto a rack to cool completely
  13. While the cakes cool- take out your mascarpone and butter to make the frosting

Make your frosting and assemble

  1. Use your mixer to beat the butter, mascarpone and vanilla together
  2. Add sugar and a pinch of salt, then beat the frosting again until it is light and fluffy
  3. Taste and adjust as needed- I ended up adding a second pinch of salt to taste
  4. Assemble your cake! Put 1 layer on a plate, and spread a thick layer of frosting on top. Cover that with a layer of blackberry preserves. Then, set a 2nd layer on top of that. Keep going until you run out of layers
  5. I then frosted the top with mascarpone frosting, too. Molly frosted her sides but I actually ran out of icing and decided to go for a “semi naked” cake look to compensate for that
  6. Decorate the top with sprinkles if you wish- and why wouldn’t you wish?!

Store cake in the fridge to keep the mascarpone icing nice, but let it sit out for a little bit before serving so it isn’t totally firm when you serve. I noticed the rosemary flavors actually got stronger over time and sort of melded into the frosting from the cake on Day 2. I think I liked the cake better on Day 1 but it still got rave reviews at my office on Day 2!

 

Tahini Cupcakes with Chocolate Frosting

You know when a recipe catches your eye, and you just can’t stop wondering about it until you finally get to make it? This cupcake recipe has been on my mind ever since I saved it last year. It’s from one of my favorite blogs, My Name is Yeh. Blogger Molly Yeh posts compelling recipes accompanied by gorgeous photos and engaging writing. She posts many great, creative recipes but I am particularly fascinated by her cakes. I always want to make layer cakes and rarely do, largely because I simply don’t want to schlep a cake across town to share it with coworkers or friends. Cupcakes, on the other hand, are a conveniently portable treat. So when Molly posted a recipe for Tahini Cupcakes, I knew I had to make them.

Tahini Cupcakes may not be something you’ve seen before, but trust me, you’re going to want to try them. Tahini is made from sesame that’s ground into a peanut butter-like consistency. It adds a nutty flavor to both the cake batter and chocolate frosting in this recipe. If you don’t tell anyone what’s in the cupcake, they probably won’t be able to guess offhand. One of my friends figured it out because the taste reminded her of halva, a dense confection that’s often made with sesame paste. The rest of my tasters couldn’t pinpoint the star ingredient: they just noticed a nutty taste and a slightly different texture than other cupcakes. Regardless, they liked what they tasted and asked for more.

Cupcakes are one of my ultimate comfort foods- the combination of cake and frosting is so fulfilling in both texture and flavor. Yet, these cupcakes are comforting in a different way than most. It’s less about being a sugarbomb, more about culinary adventure. Tahini adds a depth to the treat that you just don’t usually get, and the sweetness is a bit more subdued than you’d find in a more classic flavor combination. The winning texture play of cake/frosting is still there, and the frosting is chocolatey enough that it can satisfy a chocolate craving.

My boyfriend declared this his favorite cupcake ever for both its texture and its taste, so I suppose I should make another batch soon. I also want to try out some of the other tahini recipes Molly has shared, like these tahini chocolate chip cookies she just posted this week. She also has a recipe for chocolate tahini cake with rosemary buttercream– clearly I’ll need to try that one, too.

Tahini Cupcakes with Chocolate Tahini Frosting 

Source: My Name is Yeh

Yield: 24 cupcakes

Suggested equipment: a mixer is helpful for the frosting

Total Time: ~1 hour

Cook Time: ~15 minutes 

I broke the original recipe into a few more detailed steps and wrote my own commentary below.

Ingredients

Cupcakes

  • 2 c sugar
  • 2 1/4 c flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 c liquid buttermilk OR dried buttermilk (you’ll have to follow the instructions for measurements on your specific brand’s packaging, see note below)
  • 1 tbs vanilla extract
  • 2 tbs flavorless oil, like canola or vegetable oil
  • 6 tbs pure tahini (see note below)  
  • 3/4 c water (if you’re using dried buttermilk, you will need to add additional water beyond this ¾ cups. Your buttermilk’s packaging should provide instructions for how much water to add)

 Frosting 

  • 1 c unsalted butter, softened
  • 3/4 c tahini
  • 3/4 c unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 c powdered sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • A pinch or two of salt
  • A pinch of cinnamon

Ingredient Notes 

  • Tahini:  Make sure you buy pure tahini. You might also find 20151219_170330tahini sauce, tahini dip, etc. You want to buy tahini that lists sesame as the sole ingredient. Trader Joe’s, for example, sells a tahini sauce that has garlic in it too- great for hummus, not so great for cupcakes. I got my tahini via Smart & Final from a brand called Roland. Specialty groceries may have it, and Whole Foods usually sells it. I’ve read it’s wise to aim for the freshest tahini you can find, as sometimes tahini gets rancid on-shelf. (If you accidentally buy tahini sauce, I implore you to bake the cupcakes anyway and let me know what happens- experiments can net surprisingly delicious results!)
  • Buttermilk: I tend to use dried buttermilk so I don’t have to buy new cartons of liquid buttermilk every time I need it. It’s cheaper and easier, though I’m sure some bakers would tell me the results aren’t as good. I haven’t had an issue with taste in the past, so I used dried buttermilk here too. If you sub in dried buttermilk for liquid buttermilk, follow the extra notes in both the ingredients and recipe. You’ll add the dried buttermilk when you’re mixing dry ingredients and then add extra water to the original recipe for the “liquid” aspect. Measurements can vary by brand so I left measurements out here- you’ll want to read your can’s instructions for help

Step by Step Directions

Make your cupcakes

  1. Preheat oven to 350. Line and grease your cupcake pan and set it aside (I only own 1 muffin tin so I did two rounds of baking vs. 2 pans at once)
  2. In a large bowl, combine all dry ingredients (including the dried buttermilk if you’re using it)
  3. In a medium bowl, combine eggs, buttermilk, vanilla, oil, and tahini (You may need to stir your tahini a bit before adding it in; it gets lumpy in the container but the separation is natural and you should stir it to a smoother consistency before adding it to your batter)
  4. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix to combine.
  5. Stir in the water (this is when I added my additional water for the buttermilk)
  6. Pour your batter into cupcake pans and throw them in the oven
  7. This is when I set out my butter so it’d soften in time to make the frosting!
  8. Cupcakes will take 15-18 minutes to bake. Mine were exactly 15 minutes but you should always check for doneness by sticking a toothpick into a cupcake’s center and checking if it comes out clean
  9. When the cupcakes are done, let them cool for a few minutes in the pans and then transfer to a wire rack to cool fully.

Make your frosting 

  1. Beat together the butter and tahini
  2. Beat in the cocoa powder
  3. Beat in the powdered sugar
  4. Add vanilla, salt, and cinnamon
  5. Taste and make adjustments as desired- I added a bit more salt
  6. Frost your cupcakes, and add sprinkles if you want. And really, why wouldn’t you?

I took a ton of pictures, and most of them came out even worse than usual. Sorry! 

 

 

Web-Hopping Vol. 7

How is it the weekend again?!  Every time I sit down to write a round-up, it boggles my mind it’s already been another week. Time sure does fly. Sadly I still didn’t manage to bake anything this week. I’m slowly getting my new kitchen settled in, though, and I feel optimistic I’ll be able to start baking again next week. So let’s say the recipe posts will start again after that, shall we?

‘Til then- let’s salivate over links!

cakeSunshine Cake: I had the most wonderful cake this week at a San Francisco bakery and can’t wait to go back and try other flavors. I got off a bus at the wrong stop, and was rewarded with the delicious scent of Moscow and Tbilisi Bakery. I was in the process of buying a meringue pastry when I noticed their gorgeous Sunshine Cake, a combination of orange cake and fresh cream, jellied fruits and dried fruits. I just couldn’t resist adding a piece of cake to my order. It has to be one of the best slices of cake I’ve ever tasted. Good cake is hard to find, my friends. Especially layer cake. I don’t find many bakeries that truly do a good job with all of the layer elements.

From the Culinary Concoctions by Peabody blog

Key Lime Pie Thumbprint Cookies: I’m not into pie itself, but I love these pie-inspired cookies. I have a few friends who specifically love lime desserts so this will be a good recipe to hold onto.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bars: This link floated by me on Pinterest and while it’s absolutely not new to me, I want to share it anyway. Best pumpkin chocolate chip cookie/bar recipe I’ve tried so far. I’ll probably blog about it soon… it’s going to be one of the first things I make once my kitchen is back up and running!

Carrot Cake with Nutella Frosting: Carrots and Nutella in the same recipe? I’m in!

Pumpkin Gingerbread Chocolate Chunk Muffins: I am a huge fan of gingerbread, and love how this muffin recipe takes that delicious flavor over to gorgeous muffins. Adding chocolate chips is never a bad idea, either.

Olive Oil Apple Honey Cake

When I mention olive oil, you’re probably more likely to think about cooking than baking. I am here today, dear friends, to change that. Olive oil is truly great in baked goods, as a substitute for other fats, for dairy, or just to add some extra texture and nuance flavor. I see it used most frequently as an ingredient in cakes, where it adds a simple richness and a bit more moisture to the batter. I’ve also used it in brownies, where it added a nice depth to the flavor. You can’t quite pinpoint the source of this flavor in the finished baked good- it doesn’t taste like olives, oil, or olive oil. So it’s one of those wonder ingredients that imparts great benefits without adding complexity. A Secret Weapon, if you will.

I recently felt inspired to make an apple-based recipe and turned to the Interwebs for ideas. I’ve made a slew of apple recipes in the past, from Salted Caramel Apple Crumb Bars to Roasted Apple Spice Cake. I wanted to make a cake this time too, but had an important ingredient restriction: I couldn’t use any dairy. This cake was destined for a potluck, you see, and some of the guests couldn’t eat dairy. So to Google I turned, and behold: I came upon this fabulous recipe for Olive Oil Apple Honey Cake.

In this recipe, olive oil takes the place of any other sort of fat or dairy product. It makes for a somewhat custardy cake texture, moist and flavorful. The honey brings a tad of sweetness both within the batter, and in the topping layer. And then the apples bake nicely to be little bits of tasty fruit within the cake. There’s a “topping” of eggs and honey that adds a nice crackle and a bit more sweetness to your first bites.

The source blogger who posted this laid out her apples into a most-beautiful bottom layer that looks like a flower. I’ll admit mine was much less artistic- but it still tasted great!

Olive Oil Apple Honey Cake

My finished cake

My finished cake

Source: A Pickled Plum 

Yield: One 8-inch cake

Suggested equipment: Nothing- you can hand-mix this

Total Time: ~1 hour 

Cook Time: ~45 minutes 

I broke the original recipe into a few more detailed steps and wrote my own commentary below but the ingredients/process come straight from A Pickled Plum. 

Ingredients

Batter 

  • 4 red apples, peeled, cored and thinly sliced (I used a mix of Honeycrisp and Gala)
  • 5 tbsp all-purpose flour, sifted
  • 5 tbsp granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 5 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 large eggs

Topping

  • 2 eggs
  • ⅔ cup (150ml) honey

Step by Step Directions

Prep your apples

  1. Peel and core your apples, then cut them into thin slices. This sort of stuff always takes me longer than I think it should, which is why it’s important to factor in the apple prep time when you’re planning your prep logistics. 

Bake your cake 

  1. Pre-heat your oven to 350Fº
  2. Grease and line a 8-inch cake pan with parchment paper, then grease it with non-stick spray
  3. Place the apple slices into the pan. Mine were placed rather haphazardly but you’re welcome to make it prettier!
  4. Put flour, sugar, baking powder, olive oil and 2 eggs into a bowl, then whisk until smooth
  5. Pour batter over the apples in the pan and bake for 20 minutes

Add your topping 

  1. After removing the pan from the oven, increase the temperature to 400Fº
  2. In a bowl, whisk 2 eggs and the honey
  3. Pour the honey mixture over the cake, then bake it for another 15-25 minutes until it is golden brown and a fork comes out clean when poked in the center. I had to bake mine for 25 minutes to get the top to brown evenly- I suggest you check on yours after about 15 minutes to see whether it needs more time or not 

My dinner hosts served my cake cold topped with non-dairy ice cream, which was the perfect complement to a simple but delicious cake.

Web-Hopping Vol. 2

Baking news is starting to look spicy- pumpkin spice-y, that is. I’m seeing lots of fall flavors on my jaunts around the web. I guess in some places, it’s starting to look a lot like fall. In San Francisco, though, we can’t figure out quite what season we’re in: 90 degrees and so hot one day, foggy and cold the next. Our seasons are always more psychological than physical, and our weather rarely maps with “standard” seasonal changes. I don’t think I’m quite ready to welcome fall yet. But once that changes, look out for recipes like pumpkin chocolate chip bars and butternut squash cupcakes and all other kinds of fall goodness.

Now… on to the links!

Photo from Confessions of a Cookbook Queen

Cornmeal Lime Cookies: This was referenced in a Kitchn thread and I just had to click on over to check it out. They require whole wheat flour which I never buy, but I think I’m going to have to change that.

Pumpkin Churro Layer Cake: This cake screams fall- and apparently, fall tastes delicious. It’s a pumpkin cake dipped in sugar and cinnamon to mimic churro toppings. This is high on my fall-time cake list!

Kefir goes seasonal: Technically, this link is PR from Lifeway Foods about their new seasonal kefir flavors. But this article got seasonality on my mind, and I think it’s a super interesting trend in packaged foods. Seasonality is “in” whether it’s on the menu at a stellar restaurant or in packaged goods we’ve been eating for years. Lifeway has figured this out and plans to release limited quantities of seasonal flavors to stir interest. Other packaged goods companies should do the same but it can be hard to figure out from a manufacturing and distribution perspective, so bravo Lifeway!

Picture from The Muffin Myth

Chocolate and Olive Oil Zucchini Cupcakes with Salted Honey Mascarpone: I love putting zucchini in baked goods. I’ve done cupcakes, breads, cookies, you name it!

Romanesco, Lemon and Cardamom Cookies: I can’t resist an intriguing recipe and this recipe sure delivers. I love trying out vegetables in baked goods, so I’ll need to get myself some romanesco (or cauliflower) and give these cookies a go.

Have a wonderful week, dear readers!

Strawberry Lemon Cake Bars with a Lemon Glaze

Summer brings to mind the outdoors: picnics, hikes, jumps in the pool. That is, if you live someplace where it gets warm during the summer. For those of us in San Francisco, summer can be the coldest time of year. There are flocks of confused tourists wondering how their vacation to California got so chilly. And the locals love to whine about it, too. People like to repeat a quote that’s wrongly attributed to Mark Twain, but funny nonetheless: “the coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco.”

The benefits of San Francisco far outweigh its unfortunate weather. But sometimes I need to add a little more summer to my world. And when you want to bring that summer feeling inside, eating seasonal food is the perfect conduit. For a recent “girl’s night” potluck,  I looked for recipes with strawberries. They’re in-season right now so they’re really juicy and fresh – plus you’re likely to find them on sale. I thought strawberries and lemons sounded nice together: the tang of the lemons, the juice of the berry. When I saw this “cake bar” recipe on Pinterest, I knew I’d found my winner.

This recipe was the perfect find. Light, refreshing, with just the right amount of tang. It’s a cakey texture but the bar format makes it much more versatile than a regular cake would be. The cake looks lovely drizzled with the lemon glaze, plated for each person you’re serving. But it also looks right at home being served from the pan, and I think it’d hold up well for a standing event as long as the glaze had some time to settle. My friends and I ate this after a delectable meal that included a cheese course, salad and delicious salmon. I was a little worried people would be too full for dessert. but my fears were unfounded. My friends probably don’t want me to tell you this, but we ate the entire thing, save 1 tiny little piece… and there were only 4 of us at dinner. Don’t judge us, though. Just make this cake and you’ll see that it’s so good, you’ll want to eat it all too.

From Edesia’s Notebook, because my photos came out terribly. Don’t you wish you could snag this piece of cake through your screen?

Strawberry Lemon Cake Bars with a Lemon Glaze 

Source: Edesia’s Notebook

Yield: 9 bars, though serving sizes always depend on how you cut so this could easily make more than 9 pieces if you wanted it to

Suggested equipment: No special machines or equipment needed

Total Time: ~1.5 hours, including cooling time

Cook Time: 35-50 minutes. Mine took longer to bake than the recipe suggested, but that usually happens with my oven  

Italics below are my own comments on the Edesia’s Notebook post. I broke the directions into a few more steps, too

Ingredients

  • 1 cup butter, room temperature
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 2-3 tbsp lemon juice (from about 2 lemons) (My lemons were pretty small so I ended up using 3 lemons overall for this recipe. I always suggest buying more lemons than you think you will need, just in case you don’t get enough juice or zest. And I always go by the measurements of juice/zest vs. the recipe’s approximation of how many lemons you need!)
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice and 2 tbsp lemon juice, divided (from about 1.5 lemons) (this means you will use it in two different steps so make sure to measure out just what you need at the appropriate time) 
  • 2¼ cups flour
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ¾ cup fresh strawberries, diced (I upped this to 1 full cup because I thought the berry ratio looked a bit sparse) 
  • 1 cup powdered sugar

Step by Step Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350° and coat an 8×8” glass baking dish with baking spray
  2. In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar together
  3. Add egg, lemon zest, and ¼ cup lemon juice. Stir until combined.
  4. In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, and salt.
  5. Add dry ingredients (the flour mixture) to wet ingredients (the lemon mixture) and stir until just combined.
  6. Gently fold in strawberries (be gentle so the berries don’t get too smushed)
  7. Press dough into the bottom of the pan.
  8. Bake for about 35-40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean
  9. Let the cake cool all the way before icing it

Make the glaze 

  1. Combine the powdered sugar and remaining 2 tbsp lemon juice
  2. Pour over cooled bars (I decided to keep my glazing on the light side,  but I brought the extra glaze to dinner and let people add more if they wanted to. They really, really wanted to.) 
Our half-eaten cake. It looked so pretty in person but my phone takes the worst photos!

Our half-eaten cake. It looked so pretty in person but my phone takes the worst photos!