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Archive for the ‘Bragging About My Cooking’ Category

These cupcakes (a variation on my great grandma’s secret recipe) are so insanely summery and delicious, I would eat them every day. And then I would be very fat and not fit in to my slinky wedding gown. So YOU should eat them every day.

Charming cupcake

Ingredients:
2 c all-purpose flour
1 1/2 c cake flour (makes them all nice and silky. You can even use all cake flour if you want)
2 c sugar
1 t salt
1 t baking soda
1 box (3.4 oz) instant vanilla pudding
1 c water
1 c lemon juice
1 c vegetable or canola oil
1/4 c milk
1 t white vinegar
1 t vanilla
2 tubs cream cheese icing
raspberries, blackberries, strawberries, bluberries, lingonberries, gooseberries, snozberries…really any berries

First things first, preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Combine all of the dry ingredients in a big bowl. A big bowl. I actually don’t have a bowl big enough, so I end up splattering my cookbook and counters with batter every time I make this recipe. I should probably just buy a bigger bowl…

The Dry Ingredients

Then, add the oil.
Adding the oil

Then the water.
Adding the water

Then the lemon juice.
Adding the lemon juice

Then the milk
Adding the milk

Then add the vinegar and vanilla. I forgot to take pictures of those steps, but I’m sure you can figure it out. You guys are smart like that.

Then, using an electric mixer (you can use a whisk, but I’m lazy and have no upper-body strength), beat the batter until it’s smooth. No lumps!
Batter!

Beat, beat, beat…
More batter!

So creamy…
Batter, batter, batter!

When it’s all mixed, make sure you eat a big spoonful of it before it goes in the oven. Really, cake batter is far superior to cake, in my opinion.

Once you’ve eaten your fill of cake batter, if there’s any left, pour it into cupcake-paper-lined cupcake tins. I like to spritz the inside of the paper liners with cooking spray first. This batter tends to stick to them. Maybe it feels like you need to work to consume the deliciousness. I don’t know.
Perfect little cups

Toss them in the oven for about 20 minutes, or until a fork stuck in the middle comes out clean. The tops of the cupcakes should be a little bit brownish around the edges.
Cupcakes!

Then, frost them with the cream cheese frosting and decorate them with your berries of choice.
Charming cupcake

I SUPPOSE you could use buttercream or whatever, but cream cheese is the best. Trust me.

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Sometimes my Lobsterface makes me very sad. A few weeks ago he told me that he’d never had pineapple upside-down cake and it made my heart weep.

He’s also never been to a livestock auction, but I plan to fix that this summer.

In the meantime I decided to do something about his pineapple-upside-down-cake-free life. So I threw a party. Well, I didn’t throw a party JUST to have an excuse to make cake (who NEEDS an excuse, amirite?). Lobsterface’s birthday was coming up, so I Facebooked a few friends, bought some festive decorations and got to work.

It’s really dense and the cake part isn’t super sweet (which I like) but the pineapples and the caramel topping are REALLY sweet (which Lobsterface likes), so it was a hit all around. I topped it all off with homemade whipped cream; that recipe is all the way at the bottom. Yay! A twofer!

Pineapple Upside-Down Cake (originally from Simply Recipes)
Cook time: 1 hour, 20 minutes
12-14 servings

1 cup of firmly packed dark brown sugar
1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature
1 can (20 oz) of pineapple slices
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
6 Tbsp cake flour
6 Tbsp of ground almonds (from about 2 oz of whole almonds)
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 3/4 cups of sugar
4 large eggs
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup sour cream

Topping:
Melt the brown sugar and 1/2 cup (1 stick) of the butter in a saucepan on medium heat, stirring constantly until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is bubbly. This should take several minutes. (After sugar melts, don’t stir.) Pour mixture into a 10 inch diameter nonstick cake pan (I also sprayed my nonstick pan with cooking spray) with 2 inch high sides. Arrange the pineapple slices in a single layer on top of the caramel mixture.

pineappleupsidedown1

Cake

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Whisk the flours, almonds, baking powder, and salt in a large mixing bowl. In a separate bowl, use an electric mixer to beat the sugar and 1 cup (2 sticks) of the butter together until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating after each addition. Beat in the vanilla. Add dry ingredients alternately with sour cream in 2 additions each, beating well after each addition.

I didn’t have any almonds, so I substituted a few extra tablespoons of vanilla extract in the wet ingredients. This approach would also work if you’re making the cake for someone who is allergic to nuts.

You could also put the juice from the can of pineapple rings into the batter (at the same time as the vanilla). I didn’t think to try it, but I bet it would be tasty.

pineappleupsidedown2

pineappleupsidedown3

Pour the thick, fluffy cake batter over the caramel and pineapple in the pan. But be gentle about it, the caramel will still be pretty runny at this point. Then you can either eat the batter left in the bowl yourself or feed it to your Lobsterface who is surfing the internets in the other room. I left plenty on the scraper and ate that myself, Lobsterface got the bowl.

pineappleupsidedown5

Bake the delicious cake until a tester inserted into the center comes out clean, about 1 hour to 1 hour 20 minutes. Then let it cool in the pan on a rack for 10 minutes before turning it out onto a platter.

pineappleupsidedown6

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Serve warm or at room temperature with whipped cream. Unless you don’t like whipped cream. But I don’t think people like that exist.

Whipped Cream

8 oz heavy or light whipping cream
confectioner’s sugar (to taste)
a pinch of salt

Start with cold whipped cream. It also helps if you chill the bowl you’re using, too. Pour the cream into a nice chilly bowl and whip it on high with an electric hand mixer.

I don’t know why, but I just don’t trust stand mixers. But then, I’m a control freak.

As you’re whipping, add in confectioner’s sugar, tablespoon by tablespoon until you reach your desired sweetness level. Toss in a pinch or two of salt, it adds depth to the flavor. Keep on whipping until the cream is nice and stiff. It’ll only take you about 5 minutes…maybe even less than that.

And that’s it! You’re all done! Put on some coffee and call all of your friends (well, 12-14 of your friends, anyway)!

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I am a fabulous cook.

I like to proclaim this fact to Lobsterface at random intervals throughout my life, and now I’m going to proclaim it to you as well. Aren’t you lucky? Actually you ARE lucky, because not only am I going to bellow about my culinary prowess, I’m going to share my recipes with you. Generally I start with a recipe from the Great Wide Intertubes or my mother’s baffling creatively organized recipe box or even, on rare occasions, a recipe book. About halfway through the directions I get bored and start throwing in things that I think might taste good. Sometimes this results in Lobsterface saying, “this is kind of weird…and what are these things that are now stuck to all of my back teeth?” But most of the time it turns out pretty ok.

It’s been winter in Upstate New York for an absolutely obscene amount of time. This weekend I was longing to feel the Tuscan breezes on my sun-kissed skin, to remember the smell of fresh basil and roasting tomatoes on the streets of Florence (I spent two weeks in Italy eight years ago, I’m fond of mentioning this in an effort to appear well-traveled and worldly). So I made bruschetta. Also, people were coming over and I was feeling fancy.

Tomato, Red Onion and Basil Bruschetta (originally from Epicurious)
2 c. diced tomatoes (if you used canned, don’t get the kind that are already seasoned)
1/2 red onion, chopped
3 T. olive oil, plus additional for brushing
3 T. chopped fresh basil (FRESH basil, none of that dried nonsense)
1 1/2 T. balsamic vinegar
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 loaf French bread (the long, skinny kind)

Topping:
Make the topping 2 hours before you plan to eat it. The flavors will blend and develop over time. After everything is mixed together, cover and let stand at room temperature, tossing occasionally.
Combine everything except the “additional” oil and bread in a medium-sized bowl. Mix it all up to make sure the olive oil and vinegar get all over everything. You can also add salt and pepper if you like that sort of thing (I do. Lots of pepper). Then let it sit and go watch an episode of The Vampire Diaries or two.

Toasty, delicious bread:
Preheat your broiler. Since Lobster’s kitchen is equipped with an electric skillet and a toaster oven, fired up old Toasty about 10 minutes before I put the bread to broil. Slice up the bread at a bit of a diagonal, so you get a bunch of 1/2 inch thick ovals. Brush them with olive oil and stick them under the broiler for a few minutes. In a real oven, this part should only take 2 or 3 minutes. They took about 6 minutes in the toaster oven. Either way, keep an eye on them so that they don’t burn.

The Finale:
When the bread is all warm and oily and toasty, take it out of the oven and top each slice with the tomato concoction. You could even top it all off with some grated Parmesan and more pepper. Then serve it to your guests and smile modestly at their ringing praises. Or join in the ringing praises. Whatever blows your dress up.

I had some left over, so I put it on slices of fresh mozzarella. I about died of happiness.

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil plus additional for brushing
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
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