Happy 5th Birthday to A Glass of Milk {blueberry summer cake}

When we weren’t looking (because we were celebrating the 4th of July) this blog went and turned 5!  5 years old!  If it was a child, it would be starting Kindergarten, and I’d be thrilled that someone else was going to keep it occupied for a big chunk of the day.

summer berries.

But here I am behind the keyboard, still plugging away.  Rather than make my blog a big, impressive cake, like I have in the past, I simply modified my favorite cake, using the berries Wooden Nickels had sitting on the counter for our family and a little bit of lime zest.  I love a little bit of lime zest.

my favorite cake.

Thus, strawberry summer cake (I made one of those, too) became blueberry summer cake, and was promptly gobbled up even faster than her red cousin.

blueberry swirls.

I could not get my photos of this cake in focus, so I’ll have to make another, stat.

blueberry summer cake.

To make blueberry summer cake, you will need:

  • 6 T butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 C flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 C sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 C milk (I’ve used 2% and whole and both work just fine)
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • zest of one lime (optional)
  • 1 lb. bluberries, washed and fully dried
  • powdered sugar (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease a 9 or 10 inch cake or Springform pan.

Whisk flour, baking powder and salt in small bowl.  Beat butter and sugar in bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.  Add egg and beat until incorporated.  Slowly add milk and vanilla.  Add flour mixture and mix just till combined.  Pour batter into prepared pan.  Arrange blueberries on top of batter in single layer.  Or don’t.  Dump all the blueberries on top of the batter, scatter them evenly across the cake.  Either way, give them a little nudge down with the palms of your hands.  Bake cake for 10 minutes.  Reduce heat to 325 degrees, and bake for 40-50 more.  Test for doneness wherever you think you won’t hit a blueberry.  You’ll probably burst one anyway, so just look to see whether goopy yellow stuff comes out with the gorgeous purpley sauce.

Let cool at least 20 minutes before removing from pan, top with powdered sugar, if desired, and serve in large wedges.

On Simple Baking [strawberry summer cake]

Dear readers, it’s summer break ’round these parts, and that means I’m not tied to my computer like I often am in the colder months.  I’ve been digging deep in the archives to find  some recipes worth sharing again.  These all aired in the blog’s earlier days, but I’m pretty sure the only people who were there to see them go live were CV(D), Wooden Nickels, and Cari Faye.  They are my tried and true staples, and they’ll run for a few weeks while I enjoy the good life.  I’ll check back in with you later this summer dear readers.

xoxo,

Jennie

There are OMG Cupcakes, and there are dark chocolate ganache tarts.  They are showstoppers, guaranteed to send your friends into a frenzy, wondering how you manage to do it all–have a career, a social life, and an impressive baking repertoire.  There are times and places for these types of baked goods.

But this is the kind of baked good I love.  This is a cake.  It doesn’t have icing.  It didn’t take hours.  It’s homely.  Yep, I’ll say it.  I’m a food blogger, and not everything I make is as lustrous as swirly-frostinged cupcakes, and chocolate-filled shells.  Some of it, and sometimes the best of it, is everyday fare.  The kind of food you’d prepare on a whim, with things that are never more than an arm’s length away.

Deb is the champion of this kind of dish, and strawberry summer cake is no exception.

To make one, you will need:

  • 6 T butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 C flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 C sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 C milk (I used whole)
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 lb. strawberries, hulled and halved

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease a 9 or 10 inch Springform pan.

Whisk flour, baking powder and salt in small bowl.  Beat butter and sugar in bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.  Add egg and beat until incorporated.  Slowly add milk and vanilla.  Add flour mixture and mix just till combined.  Pour batter into prepared pan.  Arrange strawberry halves, cut side down, on top of batter in single layer.  Bake cake for 10 minutes.  Reduce heat to 325 degrees, and bake for 40-50 more.  Test for doneness wherever you think you won’t hit a strawberry.

Let cool at least 20 minutes before removing from Springform, top with powdered sugar, if desired, and serve in large wedges.

*Original post here.

Calorie Fest 2k12 [cheesecake]

Dear readers, it’s summer break ’round these parts, and that means I’m not tied to my computer like I often am in the colder months.  I’ve been digging deep in the archives to find  some recipes worth sharing again.  These all aired in the blog’s earlier days, but I’m pretty sure the only people who were there to see them go live were CV(D), Wooden Nickels, and Cari Faye.  They are my tried and true staples, and they’ll run for a few weeks while I enjoy the good life.  I’ll check back in with you later this summer dear readers.

xoxo,

Jennie

Enough with the healthy stuff, dear readers.

I made a cheesecake.

And a good one, at that.

Yep, that’s a candle.

This cheesecake hails from December, when I made it for my husband’s/Grandma Glass of Milk’s/my aunt’s Triple Birthday Bash!  All three were born on 12/13.  Well, all three plus Taylor Swift.  But when you’re a food blogger, December is filled with holiday cookies, and January is packed with grains and greens.  When you’re a food blogger, cheesecakes made in the middle of December get relegated to the back of your iPhoto files, waiting for you to rediscover them late one chilly evening while sitting with a warm laptop on your, well, lap.

By now you’ve all given up your healthy eating resolutions, right?  We’re that far into the month, aren’t we?  Even if we’re not, let me tell you this is splurge-worthy.  Indulgent.  Luxurious.  It’s velvety smooth.  The lemon zest does that same thing to vanilla that coffee powder does to chocolate.  The cheesecake doesn’t taste like lemon, it just tastes more like vanilla.  Rich vanilla.

This is Ina’s cheesecake.  There are at least a dozen cookbooks in my library I could have turned to when my husband requested a cheesecake for his birthday, but I went with my girl, the Barefoot Contessa.  Or as Liz Lemon calls her, “That woman on the Food Network whose husband only comes home on the weekends.”  Ina is at her best when she’s making American classics (and yes, she really does turn up the volume), and this cheesecake is a shining example of such dishes.  Out of the three cakes available, this was the one that was first to go.  The one everybody had to have a piece of.

And yes, it had a giant crack in the middle, but whose cheesecake doesn’t?   When you top it with raspberry sauce (which wasn’t memorable, so maybe this sauce next time, okay?), you’ll never even know it was there.

You don’t need a reason to make a cheesecake.  Today is Sunday.  Tomorrow is Monday.  Do it.

To make cheesecake for 12, you will need:

Time.  Cheesecake is not a labor-intensive cake to make, but it takes a lot of time just hanging out in the oven.  Plan to make it the day before you need it.

For the crust:

  • 1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs (10 crackers)
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, melted

For the filling:

  • 2 1/2 pounds cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 5 whole extra-large eggs, at room temperature
  • 2 extra-large egg yolks, at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 1 tablespoon grated lemon zest (2 lemons)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

For the topping:

  • 1 cup red jelly (not jam), such as currant, raspberry, or strawberry
  • 3 half-pints fresh raspberries

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

To make the crust, combine the graham crackers, sugar, and melted butter until moistened. Pour into a 9-inch springform pan. With your hands, press the crumbs into the bottom of the pan and about 1-inch up the sides. Bake for 8 minutes. Cool to room temperature.

Raise the oven temperature to 450 degrees F.

To make the filling, cream the cream cheese and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Reduce the speed of the mixer to medium and add the eggs and egg yolks, 2 at a time, mixing well. Scrape down the bowl and beater, as necessary. With the mixer on low, add the sour cream, lemon zest, and vanilla. Mix thoroughly and pour into the cooled crust.

Bake for 15 minutes. Turn the oven temperature down to 225 degrees F and bake for another 1 hour and 15 minutes. Turn the oven off and open the door wide. The cake will not be completely set in the center. Allow the cake to sit in the oven with the door open for 30 minutes. Take the cake out of the oven and allow it to sit at room temperature for another 2 to 3 hours, until completely cooled. Wrap and refrigerate overnight.

Remove the cake from the springform pan by carefully running a hot knife around the outside of the cake. Leave the cake on the bottom of the springform pan for serving.

To make the topping, melt the jelly in a small pan over low heat. In a bowl, toss the raspberries and the warm jelly gently until well mixed. Arrange the berries on top of the cake. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

*Original post here.

How Do You Know? [sweet tea vodka lemonade cupcakes]

And no, we will not discuss CV(D)’s and my (second) favorite part of Enchanted, but I will gladly begin with a clip anyway.

We will, instead, discuss how I never have any idea how much I like my cupcakes.

sweet tea vodka lemonade cupcakes

I make them, and then I just don’t know.  I’ve made so many.

This is not complaining.  I love them and I’m happy to eat them.  In fact, I just sliced the top off a leftover one and had it for dessert.  I just think they all start to blend together over time.  I judge the success of my cupcakes based on my co-workers’ reactions, and should they be a reliable indication, these are over the top winners.

sweet tea vodka lemonade

I saw these sweet tea vodka lemonade cupcakes in the summer, and immediately penned an email to Ali telling her I found the cupcakes of her dreams.  You see, this little cocktail is what gets Ali through the summer.  She drinks it as soon as the sun starts to shine bright on her face, and she doesn’t stop till she’s packed up her open-toed shoes in favor of Uggs.  And then I forgot that I sent that email because whole months went by, and work started up again, and blah blah, we’re all too busy, blah blah, until BAM.  Ali reminded me her birthday was coming, and a certain sweet treat had been on the menu since the summer.

sweet tea vodka lemonade

To make 30 sweet tea vodka lemonade cupcakes, you will need:

For the cupcakes:

  • 3 C cake flour
  • 1 T baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 16 T (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 C sugar
  • 5 eggs, at room temperature
  • 3/4 C buttermilk, at room temperature
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 2 tsp. powdered iced tea drink mix (I cheated and used powdered lemonade mix)
  • 1/2 C sweet tea vodka, plus more for brushing tops

For the frosting:

  • 26 T (3 sticks, plus 2 T) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 4 C confectioners sugar
  • 2 tsp. powdered lemonade mix
  • 1 T vanilla extract
  • 1 T lemon juice

To make the cupcakes, preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line 30 muffin tins with paper liners.

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium-high speed until light yellow and creamy, about 2-3 minutes.

Slowly add the sugar to the butter, stopping to scrape the bowl down as necessary. Add eggs one at a time, and scrape down the sides after each addition.

In a liquid measuring cup, combine buttermilk, vanilla, iced tea powder, and vodka and stir until well combined. With the mixer on low speed, alternate adding the dry and wet ingredients, beginning and ending with the dry and mixing until just incorporated.

Divide the batter among the paper liners, filling each about 2/3 of the way full. Bake for 18-22 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean. Once baked, allow them to cool in the pans for 5 minutes and then use a fork to poke holes in the top of each cupcake. Brush some sweet tea vodka on the top of each cupcake, then transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.

To make the icing, beat butter in bowl of mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium-high speed until light yellow and creamy, about 2-3 minutes.  Slowly add sugar, a little big at a time, until incorporated.  You’ll need to scrape down the bowl, just like you did when you made the cupcakes.  Beat in lemonade mix, vanilla, and lemon juice, and frost cupcakes with a small spatula, or piping bag.

Sometimes [chocolate bundt cake with chocolate glaze]

Sometimes my husband goes to grad school and he take the computer with him.

Sometimes that happens on a weekend.

Gone are my chances to laze around, pinning recipes to try and catching up on blog reading.  Instead, I’m forced off of my butt and into work mode.  Laundry happens, cleaning happens, I mean, really the possibilities are endless.  I used to shudder when he took the computer, but now I like it.  It makes me do stuff.  Like realize what a time-sucker this stupid machine actually is.  Whoa, that was harsh.

Let’s eat some cake.

One computer-less morning, I dusted off the cookbooks on my shelf when I realized it was my half birthday.  Because if Pinterest has taught me anything, it’s that half birthdays require half cakes.  Also because I’m working on celebrating this year.  I went straight to Joy the Baker because she’s always a good time.  My gut instinct was to go with cream cheese pound cake, because holy heaven, it looked so dreamy.  But, keeping in mind this was a half birthday cake, I thought cutting a loaf cake in half wouldn’t be exciting at all.  So I upped my game and made her chocolate Bundt cake with chocolate glaze.  Half a Bundt cake certainly makes a point.

chocolate bundt cake with chocolate glaze

I brought this half to my in-laws on the blessed day and brought the other half to work the following day.

chocolte bundt cake with glaze 2

And that half tasted better.  (And yes, the glaze is lumpy because I used yogurt instead of sour cream.)  So to all you cake-bakers out there who can’t seem to get it together to make things ahead of time: 1.  I hear you.  2.  This is so much better when made a day ahead of time.

To make Chocolate Bundt Cake to feed an army, you will need:

For the cake:

  • 1 1/4 C hot prepared coffee
  • 1 C unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 1/2 C all purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 2 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 2 C granulated sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 1/4 C sour cream (I used full fat plain yogurt)
  • 1 C plus 2 T vegetable oil

For the glaze:

  • 3/4 C unsalted butter
  • 1 C (6 oz.) semisweet chocolate
  • 4 T hot prepared coffee
  • 1/3 C sour cream, at room temperature (I used the same yogurt and my glaze was both unimpactedly delicious and gloppy)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Butter and flour a Bundt pan.  Because of all the cracks and crevices in said pan, I find reciting a quick prayer is also effective.  Take out a large, medium, and small bowl.

In the large bowl, whisk together flour, salt, and baking soda.  Set aside.  In the medium bowl, whisk together sugar and eggs until thick and pale.  Add sour cream and oil, and carefully whisk until well incorporated.  In small bowl, whisk together coffee and cocoa powder until smooth.  Add egg mixture, all at once, to flour mixture.  Once no lumps remain, add coffee mixture and gently mix to incorporate.  The batter will be loose and smooth.

Pour batter into prepared pan and bake 45-60 minutes, until skewer inserted in cake comes out clean.  Remove from oven and allow to cool in pan 20 minutes, before removing.  Let cool completely on wire rack.

When cake is cool, make the glaze.  Place butter and chocolate in heat-proof bowl over 2 inches of simmering water.  Stir until chocolate and butter are melted.  Remove from heat, stir in 2 T coffee.  Add sour cream, stirring gently till incorporated.  At this point, use the 2 remaining T coffee if the glaze needs thinning.  Mine was plenty thin already.

Depending on the chocolate you use, this glaze is super dark, and could easily be sweetened (and thus thickened) using some confectioners sugar.  Joy does that here.

Why Christmas was Awesome

I know that for a lot of you, Christmas ends on the 26th, and you’d like nothing better than my not mentioning it again until December, 2014.

Christmas Tree

Indulge me for a second.

This Christmas was awesome and I fear that if I don’t take the time right now, fresh out of it, to record what made it so, it will be lost for the ages.

home for Christmas

It wasn’t the kind of awesome where everything was perfectly decorated or someone unwrapped a puppy.  It was the kind of awesome that you get from a nice, low-key day, where the gifts are thoughtful, and the dinner isn’t just good, it’s easy.

peppermint stacks

Two Christmases ago, my husband and I were in Chile, and last year, we went to Rome.  I loved our trips, but after two years away, I vowed that this was a year for Christmas in America.

chocolate peppermint log

We did our usual routine of Christmas Eve with my in-laws, and an early morning shoot up 95 to my hometown.

icebox buche de noel

We arrived, open presents, hung out for a little, and then, per tradition, Sous Chef Lauren arrived to start cooking dinner with me.

Christmas Dinner

But there really wasn’t much to do in that department.

penne with five cheeses

With the exception of our annual Christmas latkes (oh hey, early days of this blog), everything was either prepped in advance, or simple to throw together.

Star of David cupcakes

Well, it helped that I wasn’t responsible for the main dish.

So here is what we had.  And though we ate these foods on Christmas dinner, nothing here is Christmas specific.  This would all work brilliantly for a dinner party, or other situation where you find yourself in need of recipes for an indulgent meal.

candlelight

Thus, I bring you a simple Christmas dinner, 2013 style:

Appetizers:

Smitten Kitchen’s Latkes – These are the best, and Sous Chef Lauren’s and my traditional Christmas fare.
Advance Prep: Not really possible with these guys.  But this is the only part of the menu that requires hands on time right before serving.

Smitten Kitchen’s Garlic Butter Roasted Mushrooms – I emailed Sous Chef Lauren with the parts of the menu I had cobbled together so far, and asked her to fill in the holes.  She knew that mushrooms were an integral part of this meal.  We never got as far as slicing bread to soak up the juices.  We dug right into these as-is.
Advance Prep: Get everything ready in the morning and just pop in the oven 20 minutes before you need them.

Dinner:

Grilled Marinated Flank Steak – Because I never need an excuse to ask for it for dinner.  The honey gives the meat this hint of sweetness that drives me over the edge.  This steak is the best.
Advance Prep:  Marinade this baby the night before, and hand it off to a loved one to grill for you about 20 minutes before dinner.

The Barefoot Contessa’s Penne with Five Cheeses – We had some vegetarians round our Christmas table this year, and they needed something of sustenance.  I remembered that I made this for Christmas Eve many moons ago (the power of making notes in the margins of my cookbooks) and it was darn good.  Of course, I forgot the penne back in DC and so I scrambled to make this work with the pasta we had in the pantry.  Testudo pasta for the win.
Advance Prep: Make the dish, the night before or the morning of, and bake it off when you need it.  If you’re taking it straight out of the fridge, put it in the oven while it preheats, so it warms up gradually.  If you take it out of the fridge and let it come to room temperature first, then you can just stick it in once the oven is preheated.  If you think of neither of those options in time, no worries, it just might need longer to bake.

Green Beans with Almonds – There’s no link for this one, dear readers.  Saute up some Trader Joe’s frozen green beans in some onions.  At the end of cooking, add a couple splashes of red wine vinegar and some toasted almonds.
Advance Prep: Get everything ready in the morning, cover, leave it on the stove.  When it’s time for dinner, uncover, and reheat over a medium to high flame.  If you do prepare the green beans in advance, hold off on adding the almonds until right before serving.

The Barefoot Contessa’s Brussels Sprouts with Bacon – Per Wooden Nickels’ request, because she heard they were the best around.
Advance Prep:  Get everything ready that morning and throw in the oven when you’re ready.

Dessert:

Skinnytaste’s Cranberry Bliss Bars – Cutting a 9 x 13 pan’s worth of bars in little triangles leaves you with more bars than you know what to do with.  So despite gifting these to my morning Starbucks team, I had plenty left for our Christmas table.
Advance Prep:  Make these a couple days in advance, wrap well with foil or plastic wrap, refrigerate, and place on the table when the time is right.

Star of David Cupcakes with the leftover chocolate frosting from this cake – Santa brought me these in my stocking last year, and Christmas seemed as good a time as any to break them out.  The box did come with frosting mix, but I had whipped up my father-in law’s birthday cake/Christmas Eve dessert that same night, and my husband suggested I use the remnants of the bowl for these as well.
Advance Prep:  Make these a couple days in advance, wrap well with foil or plastic wrap, refrigerate, and place on the table when the time is right.

Joy the Baker’s Chocolate Peppermint Icebox Yule Log Cake – And then I found out that Grandma Glass of Milk made an icebox cake right before my parents’ wedding.  And all was well.  It’s worth noting that the peppermint whipped cream that goes into the making of this cake is absolutely heavenly, and you will still have a bit left after stacking everything together, so I’d suggest having hot chocolate at the ready.
Advance Prep:  Joy’s cake needs some time in the freezer before it’s served.  This one is a must-make in advance, at least 24 hours before serving.  Then it needs 20 minutes out of the freezer before you’re ready to slice into it.  The perfect pause between dinner and dessert.

Dorie

If you’ve never made anything by Dorie Greenspan before, dear readers, then allow me to take this opportunity to suggest that you waste no more time in doing so.  And if you want to start with the best cookie you’ve ever had, make World Peace Cookies.

We all know that my husband is N.I.S. (not into sweets).  Our marriage is a true waste of my God-given abilities and talents.  And once a year he has a birthday and I don’t know about your house, but in my house there shalt not be a birthday that passes without a celebratory cake.

birthday cake

This year, I handed him Dorie’s Baking: From My Home to Yours, and let him flip through the cakes until he found one that suited him.  Berry Surprise Cake.  This did not surprise me.

slice

Whilst making this cake for my one and only, amid a flurry of swear words at the number of components of the cake (there are 4) and the length of the directions (3 pages), I came across this direction, “The beautifully beaten eggs are fragile and must be treated like the divas they are.”

That, dear readers.

That is why you have to bake something by Dorie Greenspan.  It’s why you have to love her.  She is a wonder.  She understands the nature of baking like no one else in this world.

She talks you through each step of the recipe as if she was there with you.  And you know she’s made this cake more than once.  And you know the recipes in her book come from someone who understands what it’s like to be in the kitchen, cooking for someone you love.

Alas, I didn’t treat the eggs like the divas they were, and deflated them as I folded in the flour.  My cake didn’t rise nearly as much as it should have, so we had our slices of birthday cake, and chucked the rest.  But there will come a day when I tackle this cake again.  The recipe is too sweet not to.

Simplify

You don’t have to be on Pinterest for more than a minute to figure out that people are trying to simplify their lives.

blueberry loaf

Why any of us thinks Pinterest is going to help serve that purpose is beyond me, but there we all are, pinning without abandon.

blueberry loaf 2

Keep calm and carry on.  Just start.  Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good.

These words are all fine and good to pin, but completely worthless if pinning is as far as you get.  You have to live them.  You have to constantly make choices to keep things simple.  Which seems counterintuitive.

Yesterday, in an effort to keep things simple, I lived one of my favorite pins while I made blueberry cream cheese bread.

blueberry loaf 3

This bread has been on my mind for an embarrassingly long (think months) period of time, during which I have spent much of said time balking at the number of steps it requires.  And then I was having my friends over and I knew this was just the thing to make, and I knew that I still didn’t want to go through half of the steps it was going to take.  Wah.

So made it, but I didn’t make it more complicated than it had to be.  I didn’t beat the egg whites to soft peaks, which might have made for an airier loaf, nor did I make a glaze to further sweeten the cake.  And guess what?  This cake was amazing anyway.  My friends loved it.  You will too, because of the dreamy layer of cream cheese sandwiched smack in the middle.

To make a (slacker’s) blueberry cream cheese loaf, you will need:

For the cake:

  • 1/2 C (2 sticks) butter, softened
  • 3/4 C sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/2 C flour + 1 T
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/3 C milk
  • 1 pint blueberries, washed and dried

For the filling layer:

  • 8 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 C sugar
  • 1 T flour
  • 1 egg
  • zest of one orange

Mix all filling ingredients in a small bowl and set aside.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease and flour a loaf pan (anywhere between 8.5-10 inches long should do).

Cream butter and sugar till light and fluffy in bowl of a mixer fitted with paddle attachment, about 3 minutes.  Add salt, vanilla, and eggs, one at a time, and beat till combined.  Stop to scrape down the bowl of the mixer as necessary.

In small bowl, combine 1 1/2 C flour and baking powder.  Next you want to mix in the flour and milk, alternatively, starting and ending with flour.  So, 1/3 flour mixture, 1/2 the milk, 1/3 the flour, 1/2 the milk, and the last 1/3 flour.  I am dying to think of a more concise way to get that across.  Stop to scrape down the bowl whenever necessary and mix just till combined.

Mix blueberries and 1 T flour in the same bowl you just dumped the flour out of.  This seems like a step that the detail-challenged (read: me) would skip, but it’s a necessary one.  It really does keep the blueberries from sinking to the bottom of the loaf.  Fold blueberries into batter.

Place a bit less than half of the batter into the prepared pan and spread evenly.  Layer filling on top of that and spread.  Finish layering remaining batter, and bake 50 minutes.

If at all possible, serve warm.

Where I Work Best

Thinking back on my elementary school days is something I do, I would venture, more often than most.  And what I’m constantly amazed by in my work is the number of kids who are able to quite literally, drop everything and read in the midst of a busy classroom.  Chaotic would be going too far, but busy, yes.  Elementary classrooms have a level of activity about them no matter the grade, and no matter the teacher.  It’s a rare occurrence when everyone is engaged in the same event.

rhubarbI couldn’t do it.

When I was in fourth grade, we had SSR–sustained silent reading.  As a voracious reader, this should have been the time I loved apart from any other.  I could bring my own book from home, the one I read while walking through the house, and sit down, in silence, and enjoy it.

macerated rhubarbI couldn’t do it.

I felt like something was wrong with me, but I absolutely could not concentrate.  It was eerily quiet in that room, that room that wasn’t ever quiet, and I never got more than a paragraph under my belt before my mind had wandered somewhere it wasn’t supposed to.

rhubarb snacking cakeI’ve found that I get the most work done outside of my “normal” environment.

Take my house for example.

When I’m home, I find that all I can see (currently) are the sheets that need to be changed, the pile of hand-wash clothes I’ve been slacking on, the half gallon of paint in the bathroom that has yet to be slapped on the walls, and that Etsy gem I finally purchased that is anxiously awaiting a frame.  My mind is cluttered with to-dos in a way that prohibits any level of “work” from being done.

rhubarb servingBut when I’m in another environment, that’s gone and my mind is clear.  I can focus in a way I haven’t figured out how to do when I’m at home.

I also always work best with a snack close at hand.  Rhubarb season is fleeting and this year’s is almost up.  Luckily, I found a way to sneak some into Deb’s gorgeous cake.  It’s everything she does best in an everyday cake, which means it was made to be devoured with friends.

To make a 9×13 cake, you will need:

For the cake:

1 1/4 pound rhubarb, trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch lengths on the diagonal
1 1/3 C sugar, divided
1 T lemon juice
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 tsp. finely grated lemon zest
2 large eggs
1 1/3 C flour
1 tsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. ground ginger
1/3 C sour cream (I used plain yogurt)

For the crumb:

1 C flour
1/4 C brown sugar
1/8 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
4 T unsalted butter, melted
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9 x 13 baking pan with butter, then line with parchment paper to create a sling for the cake.  Deb didn’t say to, but I re-greased the top of the parchment for good measure.

Place the rhubarb in a bowl with 2/3 C sugar and lemon juice, mix, and let sit.

Beat butter, remaining sugar, and lemon zest in bowl of a mixer till light and fluffy.  Beat in eggs, one at a time, scraping down the bowl after each addition.

In a small bowl, mix flour, baking powder, salt, and ginger.  Add one third of this mixture to batter and mix till incorporated.  Then add half of the sour cream, another third of the flour, the remaining half of the sour cream, and the last of the flour, stopping after each addition to scrape the bowl.

Dollop batter into prepared pan and smooth out with a knife or offset spatula.  Spread rhubarb mixture over top in an even layer.

In a small bowl, mix flour, brown sugar, cinnamon and salt with a fork.  Stir in butter and mix till mixture is crumbly.  Spread over top of rhubarb layer.

Bake cake 50-60 minutes until tester comes out clean.

Baker’s note: Man, is this good warm, with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

On Beauty

Weekends are beautiful.

weekendMarket blooms are beautiful.

market bloomsAnd three layer cakes are beautiful.

three layer cakeNo matter how many crumbs get in the icing.

cakeLet’s hold these truths to be self-evident.

To make a three layer yellow cake with lemon curd and lemon frosting, which is a riff on Deb’s, you will need:

  • 1 C (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 C sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 3 C sifted self rising flour (make your own by removing two tsp. from each C, and replacing with 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder, and 1/2 tsp. salt)
  • 1 C milk (I used skim, but I’d go buttermilk if you have it)
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract

For the filling:

For the frosting:

  • 1 C (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 T lemon zest
  • 3 T lemon juice
  • 3 C powdered sugar

To make the cakes, preheat the oven to 350 degrees and grease and flour 3, 8-inch cake pans.

Cream butter in the bowl of an electric mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment, till light and fluffy.  Beat in sugar, until incorporated.  One at a time, add eggs, and mix till incorporated.  Beat in flour and milk in alternating increments, starting and ending with flour.

Divide cake batter among 3 pans, and bake 25-30 minutes, or till tester comes out clean.

*A note:  If you worry about lopsided layers, you can raise the prepared pans high above the counter, and drop them straight down, to release air bubbles and ensure a more even cake.  I don’t worry about lopsided layers.

Let cakes cool completely, and remove from pans.

Place one cake layer on cake stand, and spread thin layer of lemon curd on top.  Place the next layer on that, and spread another layer of lemon curd on top.  Place the final layer of cake on top.

To prepare the frosting, beat butter and lemon zest in bowl of an electric mixer, fitted with a paddle attachment.  Add powdered sugar slowly.  When the mixture looks like it won’t hold any more powdered sugar, add the lemon zest.  Add remaining sugar and beat till smooth.  If it looks like you don’t have enough frosting, increase the speed of the mixer, to whip more frosting.

Spread frosting over cake, and serve as soon as possible.