Sticky Toffee Pudding


I have never eaten this dessert before. Toffee Pudding just seemed "old school" to me, sort of like grape nut pudding, so when my friend Gordon was in town for a visit, we decided to visit a restaurant I had heard raves about. The restaurant was wonderful, but the desserts were unbelievable (they got me at homemade gelato) of course, I had to order the chocolate terrine. Gordon, god bless him, chose the Toffee Pudding with vanilla bean gelato. When his dish arrived, it looked NOTHING like what I had expected a Toffee Pudding to look like. My mind pictured a wet blob with chunks of dates poking out. Where I got this image, I don't know. Gordon took his first bite and responded with...."oh honey"..... I knew I had better take a bite before he got close to finishing or we would have ended up in a spoon fight. I was pleasantly surprised, it was hard to identify the dates in this warm, moist cake that was topped with hot caramel sauce and the vanilla bean gelato, just took it over the top and back. I was literally rolling my eyes and moaning. I'll admit we did that with everything we ate, but I immediately told my partner in crime that I had to find a recipe for this dessert.

I did a search and finally came up with something that looked close to what I thought would work well, so thank you dishinanddishes.  I tried tweaking it and experimented with a few changes, like brown sugar over white (overkill) and using the method of expresso and boiling water, but easier to use 3/4 cup of hot black coffee. I will add, that I did go to another restaurant and ordered this dessert again, but the pudding was more light and tender and in my humble opinion, totally wrong for the heavier caramel. This recipe was better.

Quick tip, since I made this dessert several times (yeah, it was that good). Spoon the flour into your measuring cup instead of scooping and sift your ingredients. There is a difference in the measurements when you scoop versus spooning. I also used an extra large cupcake baking tin because it's what I had on hand. It makes enough for 6 cakes. I purchased Ciao Bella's Tahitian Vanilla Gelato  to add to the Toffee Pudding, which I highly recommend if you can find it. I could dedicate a blog to this gelato. I sliced up some candied ginger for decoration/contrast and I was surprised at how perfect it was with the Toffee Pudding. Lots of taste sensations going on. I have already bought more ingredients to make this again for friends.

Sticky Toffee Pudding:
(printable recipe)

1/2 (8 OZ.) package Majool dates (chopped)
1/2 t. vanilla extract
3/4 cup of hot coffee
1/2 t. baking soda
6 Tbs butter, softened
2/3 c. sugar
2 eggs
3/4 c. flour
1 t. baking powder
pinch of salt

FOR THE SAUCE:
2 sticks butter
1 1/2 c. brown sugar
3/4 c. heavy cream


DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 350ยบ. In food processor, add dates and pulse until they are cut into smaller pieces. Add vanilla extract, hot coffee, and baking soda. Pulse until pasty with just small pieces of dates visible. I let the food processor go for awhile.
In a stand mixer  add butter and sugar and mix until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating after each. Turn mixer to lowest speed. Add sifted flour and baking powder and salt and just mix until incorporated. Add in wet date mixture and just blend. Do not over-mix. Pour into sprayed muffin tins and bake for 12- 15 minutes, until the middles are fairly firm. Remove from muffin tin and cool a bit.

SAUCE DIRECTIONS:

To make sauce, melt butter in a small saucepan over medium heat and stir in brown sugar until it gets foamy, about 3-4 minutes. Add heavy cream and stir. Pierce muffins with fork and pour warm sauce over muffins. Serve warm sauce over warm pudding muffins. Add slices of candied ginger and vanilla gelato or ice cream.


Rainbow Venetians



This cookie is impressive to look at, isn't it? Almond cake layered with apricot filling, then topped with bittersweet chocolate. The assembly takes some time, but the ingredients are simple and I think the outcome is worth it. They are delicious. In fact, they are so good, that I sent Sluggo (boyfriend) to his job site with the leftover scraps of cookie, not the perfectly shaped nuggets I kept for my cookie platter. The boys apparently loved them. Although I don't think it takes much to impress this bunch.

The recipe is from the Family Circle Encyclopedia of Cooking, which I absolutely love. It's my old school standby cookbook. I love this cookbook so much that when I mysteriously lost it.....I ended up purchasing another one. Coincidentally, I did see the same cookbook on my best friend Karen's bookshelf.  When I questioned her about "the coincidence" her voice got high and defensive and she claimed she had the book for YEARS.  I still suspect she "borrowed" the book, used it several times and then claimed it as her own. She's forgetful like that.

You might notice that the cookie has these small holes in them.  I attribute this to using almond paste in a tube instead of a can. I could not go into one more store the weekend I made these. The canned paste is much smoother to work with.

Rainbow Venetians:
(printable recipe)
1 can 8 oz. of almond paste (not Marzipan)
3 sticks butter (softened) 1 1/2 cups
1 cup sugar
4 eggs separated
1 tsp almond extract
2 cups sifted flour AP flour
1/4 tsp salt
10 drops green food coloring
8 drops red food coloring
1 jar (12 oz) apricot preserves
5 oz semi sweet chocolate

Preheat oven to 350. Grease three 13x9x2 baking pans lined with wax paper (greased)
Break up almond paste in large bowl with fork. Add butter, sugar, egg yolks and almond extract. Beat with electric mixer or stand mixer until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Beat in flour and salt.

Beat egg whites in medium-size bowl with electric mixer until stiff peaks form. Stir into almond mixture with wooden spoon, using a turning motion similar to folding.

Remove 1 1/2 cups batter: spread evenly into one of the prepared pans. Remove another 1 1/2 cups batter to a small bowl: tint with Green food coloring. Spread evenly into second prepared pan. Add red food coloring to remaining  1 1/2 cups batter and spread into third prepared pan.

Bake in preheated oven for 15 minutes or until edges are lightly golden. (note: cake layers will each be 1/4 inch thick.) Immediately remove cakes from pans onto large wire racks. Cool thoroughly.

Place green layer on one of of the jelly-roll pans turned upside down. Heat apricot preserves in small saucepan: strain. Spread half of the warm preserves over green layer to edges.
Place yellow layer on top. Spread with remaining preserves. Place pink layer, top side up, on yellow layer.
Cover with plastic wrap and weigh down with large wooden cutting board or heavy flat tray. Refrigerate overnight.

Melt chocolate in top of double boiler or microwave for 1 approximately 1 minute and stir until smooth.

Trim cake edges even. Cute cake crosswise into 1-inch strips. Frost top pink layer with chocolate. Smooth with butter knife. Turn strip over and frost bottom, lay on side until chocolate dries (hardens) Cut in 1 inch pieces. Repeat with all strips.

Makes about 6 dozen


Apple Clafouti




Clafouti is described as a French dessert with a flan-like batter. I disagree. I was reminded of custard and even a moist bread pudding, but flan....not really. That being said, this Clafouti was a perfect union between the slightly sweet batter, the tart apples and the cinnamon and sugar topping to made this a kick-ass dessert.

The original  recipe is from Sally Schmidt (original owner of French Laundry before Thomas Keller) The only tweaking I did, if you want to call it tweaking, was that I used really good ingredients and chose Calvados as my brandy. The idea from Michael Chiarello's Clafoutis recipe.

I did take this dessert to work. One co-worker, who could actually pronounce Clafouti and was familiar with the dessert, said that he'd like to kiss someone just so he could transfer the flavor to their mouth. The compliment was was flattering and in no way creepy.




Apple Clafouti
(printable recipe)

FOR THE BATTER:
3 eggs
1 cup light cream
8 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
1 tsp. Neilson-Massey Vanilla bean paste
2⁄3 cup all-purpose flour
1⁄2 cup sugar
1⁄2 tsp. kosher salt

FOR THE APPLES:
4 tbsp. unsalted butter
4 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and sliced
1⁄2 cup plus 2 tsp. sugar
3  tbsp Calvados
Ground cinnamon


To prepare batter:  Preheat oven to 400°. Put milk, eggs, 6 tbsp. of the butter, vanilla, flour, sugar, and salt into a blender, blend until smooth, and set aside.

Grease a 10" pie plate with remaining butter, then set in oven to heat.

For the apples:  Melt butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add apples, 1/2 cup of the sugar, and brandy and cook until apples are semi-soft,  about 5 minutes.

Remove pie plate from oven and immediately pour in half the batter. Arrange warm apple slices over batter, reserving juices, then pour remaining batter over apples. Sprinkle remaining sugar and a little cinnamon  together and sprinkle over batter. Bake until Clafouti is golden and set in the center, 25–30 minutes.

Drizzle with warmed reserved apple juices.

Best served at room temperature with whipped cream, powdered sugar or ice cream.



Still hot Clafoutis

























Apple Cake "Tatin"


This is not a great way to start a post, but in the interest of full disclosure, I made a mistake right from the gate that, I think, made the difference between a good cake and a great cake. I cooked the sugar longer then I should have. I do have a candy thermometer, but relied instead on eyesight. If your going to use this method, I suggest you stay by the stove instead of vacuuming. Strictly amateur move on my part.

Ideally, the syrup for the apples should have been a light amber shade, but I returned to a medium brown syrup. Not the color I was going for. I guess if I were to thoroughly beat myself up, I would say, I also, didn't pay too much attention to aesthetics. The cake was a quickie and was made to use up the extra apples I had. I actually used an extra apple, then the recipe asked for, because who is really going to cut up 1 and 1/4 apples??

You really can't go wrong by using any of  Ina Garten recipes, but like I mentioned, this cake would have been perfection had it not been for the slightly, burnt aftertaste and let's not talk about the pan...okay lets....I didn't have a pie plate, so I used a springform pan with aluminum covered bottom. I basically "McGyvered" the pan. All and all, this cake is a "keeper". It baked up slightly dense, but very moist. I felt there was a great balance between the sugar syrup and the cake, which was not sickeningly sweet. In the right hands and as my daughter would say, "made with love", this cake could makes an impressive presentation....*wink.




Ingredients:
(printable recipe)
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus extra for greasing the dish
1 1/4 Granny Smith apples, peeled and sliced into 12 pieces
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar, divided
2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
1/3 cup sour cream
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
Confectioners' sugar

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Generously butter a 9-inch glass pie dish and arrange the apples in the dish, cut side down.

Combine 1 cup of the granulated sugar and 1/3 cup water in a small saucepan and cook over high heat until it turns a warm amber color, about 360 degrees F on a candy thermometer. Swirl the pan but don't stir. Pour evenly over the apple slices.


Little darker then warm amber

Meanwhile, cream the 6 tablespoons of butter and the remaining 3/4 cup of granulated sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, until light and fluffy. Lower the speed and beat in the eggs 1 at a time. Add the sour cream, zest, and vanilla and mix until combined. Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt and, with the mixer on low speed, add it to the butter mixture. Mix only until combined.
Pour the cake batter evenly over the apple slices and bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool for 15 minutes, then invert the cake onto a flat plate. If an apple slice sticks, ease it out and replace it in the design on top of the cake. Serve warm or at room temperature, dusted with confectioners' sugar.



Buffalo Chicken Dip



Move over Vegetable, Artichoke and Parmesan and Mexican dip, your all history. The most popular low maintenance appetizer amongst my friends would easily be this Buffalo Chicken dip. I can promise you it will be the first thing to go regardless of what else you have on the table. Thanks to Karen, who introduced us to this tangy goodness at a BBQ a few months back. I can't count the number of times I have already made it. I knew it was a winner because after the first bite, we all went in for the kill. We literally attacked this dip. You would have thought it was a eating competition, except I am pretty sure they don't moan at eating competitions. We all did.... and apparently, it's not just a dip, but a condiment as well. My niece smeared it on her burger and Sluggo (the boyfriend) used it to jazz up my bland turkey taco's. If your not a fan of anything with this much kick (although I don't think its that spicy) you can lower the amount of hot sauce and use whatever cheese you like. You literally throw it all in a bowl and bake until bubbly.


Ingredients:
2 8 oz. pkg. cream cheese, softened
1 cup blue cheese dressing
1 cup Frank's RedHot Sauce
1 cup shredded combination pizza cheese (mozzarella or crumbled blue cheese)
2 cans (12.5 oz. each) chicken, drained

Heat oven to 350°F. Combine all ingredients and bake for 20 minutes or until mixture is bubbling and slightly burned around the edges. Serve with tortilla chips or vegetables.




Stir Fried Rice



The "Bob's" in my life declared this their favorite dish, both of them being self proclaimed "meat and potatoes" guys, I can see why. It's a humble dish without any heavy sauces or too much fuss and it's fresher then some of your standard Chinese take-out rice. Feel free to add shrimp, pork or bean sprouts, use chicken breast instead of chicken thighs or play with the sauces. I was not aware that Ah So sauce , the ingredient I used to marinate the chicken with, was more of a staple of the Northeast,  but I am sure you can find something comparable in any Asian market in your area.

The recipe here is on a larger scale because my boyfriend loves it. He'd eat this for breakfast lunch and dinner, so you can half the recipe depending on who your cooking for, but I can promise you, it always goes quickly. 

Ingredients:
1 lb chicken thighs (or chicken breast, shrimp or pork)
1/3 cup Ah So sauce
4 tbs oil
2 carrots (small dice)
1 1/2 cup diced onions
1 1/4 cup frozen peas (thawed)
4 large eggs
7 cups cooked rice
1/3 cup soy sauce
2 tbs oyster sauce
1 tsp grated ginger

Marinate chicken thighs in Ah So sauce for several hours or overnight. When ready to assemble the Stir Fried Rice, set oven to broil with rack on top half of oven. Broil chicken on one side for approximately 3 minutes. When the chicken has blistered a bit, turn and broil on the other side for about 5 minutes or until done. Set aside to cool and cut into small pieces.



Heat 2 tbs of oil in saute pan or wok on medium heat. Add carrots and onions and cook until soft, about 6 minutes. Lower heat if vegetables start to dry out. Remove onions and carrots when done and add beaten eggs to the pan. Let the eggs set before stirring, it's okay to brown. When done, remove eggs and add 2 tbs more oil and then add rice. Stir a few minutes and then add stir soy sauce, oyster sauce and ginger, add in onions, carrots and eggs. Stir, while scraping bottom of saute pan or wok. Add in peas and salt and pepper to taste. Serve hot!





Corncake with Blueberry Compote


This is my second blog post on this recipe. The first was lost by blogger and the story I am telling is that it was my best blog EVER.
I am sure other bloggers, particularly food bloggers can feel my pain because:

1. Losing your post.....sucks.
2. Taking horrible pictures with your old point and shoot after cooking something incredible....sucks.
3. Cooking something that sucks and is not blog worthy...sucks.

But....finding or creating a great recipe you can share with others is the rewarding part and worth the downside:-)

I love corn bread, so seeing this recipe from Fine Cooking caught my attention. For me, the results were like a favorite corn muffin recipe with a fluffier, lighter texture and very moist. I did make a shortcut. The recipe calls for a whole ear of corn, which required shucking, boiling, removing kernels, adding to the food processor and extracting the liquid from the solids...... which required a pan, knife, food processor, sieve and spatula, so I bought creamed corn.

I am sure a purist would mention the point in using "fresh, seasonal ingredients", but I saved steps, pans, utensils and dish washing liquid. I wasn't that lazy though, I did end up putting the sweet, creamed corn through a sieve to extract the liquid from the corn bits and I wish I left them in. I think they would have provided a nice contrast to the macerated blueberry compote recipe that I found on the The Seattle Times Food and Wine section. If your a fan of cornbread or muffins, you'll love this recipe.

For the cake:

6 oz. (12 Tbs.) unsalted butter, softened; more for the pan
4-1/2 oz. (1 cup) unbleached all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. table salt
2-1/4 oz. (1/2 cup) sifted stone-ground yellow cornmeal
1/2 cup sweet creamed corn
1/2 cup sour cream, at room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3 large eggs, at room temperature and lightly beaten

To make the cake:
Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 350°F. Spray or butter a 9x2-inch round cake pan or spring form pan. Fit a circle of parchment in the bottom of the pan and butter that as well.

Sift the flour, baking powder, salt into a medium bowl. Whisk in 1/2 cup of sifted cornmeal, set aside.

Strain cream corn through a fine sieve, pressing with a rubber spatula to extract the liquid part and discard remaining solids. If you prefer bits of corn in your cake, just mix 1/2 cup creamed corn with the 1/2 cup sour cream.
With a stand mixer or handheld, beat the butter and sugar on medium-high speed until fluffy, about 2 minutes. Stop and scrape the sides of the bowl. On low speed, slowly pour in the beaten eggs, mixing until incorporated and stopping midway to scrape down the sides. (The mixture will be loose and curdled-looking.)

On low speed, add one-third of the flour mixture and mix until just blended. Add one-third of the sour cream-corn mixture and mix until just blended. Alternate adding the remaining flour and sour cream mixtures in two additions each. Do not over mix.

Scrape the batter into the cake pan and spread it evenly with a spatula. Bake until the cake is golden brown and springs back when lightly pressed in the center, 30 to 35 minutes. Cover with aluminum foil and transfer to a rack to cool for 10 to 15 minutes. Run a knife around the edge of the pan and then gently invert the cake onto the rack, removing the pan. Remove the parchment, turn the cake right side up onto the rack, and let cool completely


For the compote:
2 cups blueberries
1/2 cup sugar
2 Tbs water
1 Tbs lemon
1 Tsp lemon rind
Combine the ingredients in a saucepan and cook over medium heat until the blueberry skins have popped and the mixture is slightly thickened, about 5 minutes or longer.  Let cool and refrigerate until ready to serve. (Bring to room temperature before serving.)





Whoopie Pie


Whoopie Pies are a dessert I might crave when I am either hungover or experiencing the end of the work day "crash and burn". Not at the top of my list of "go to" desserts, but....like with Ice Cream, when I crave it I have to have it immediately AND if your a person like my mother...who likes a bit of cake with her frosting, then your probably already a big fan.

I thought it would be fun to serve Whoopie Pies at one of my dinner parties as a sort of "retro" dessert. It can be made with relative ease and since I have not learned the art of keeping it simple, I used it as sort of a "side sweet" to a main dessert. I love to give options.

I did try several Whoopie Pie recipes which ended up either too dry or not chocolaty enough. I probably should have went straight to the blog world, but I wanted to "bang my head against a wall" a few times first. Why make it easy? At least I did know what I was looking for. I wanted to replicate the taste and texture of some of the Whoopies Pies I have experienced in bakeries or stores that sell Whoopie Pies from smaller retailers and since I had already made several attempts...(not kidding....over a Whoopie Pie)  I decided to just re-work the original recipe, which I found on What's Cooking in America. I didn't do anything inventive and definitely not original, but I changed the shortening to butter and flour to cake flour, adding more chocolate...ect.  What I came out with was a Whoopie Pie that closely resembled the texture and taste of a Devil Dog. The "cake"  part of the whoopie, was very light, delicate and mildly sweet which contrasted nicely with the marshmallow/sugar icing. I was very happy with the results. There are so many different flavor options now for Whoopie Pies (gave away Rachael Ray's Pumpkin Whoopies as stocking stuffers last year) that even if you don't like chocolate (whoever you are) or prefer Red Velvet, Chocolate Chip, Orange Almond or Chocolate Mint...the recipes are out there.....a google search away.

Ingredients:
(printable recipe)
1/2 cup butter (room temperature)
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 egg (room temperature)
2 cups cake flour
1/2 cup Ghiardelli unsweetened cocoa
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 tsp Nielsen-Massey Vanilla bean paste (or pure vanilla extract)
1 cup buttermilk (room temperature)

Filling:
2 sticks butter
1 1/2 cup Marshmallow Fluff
2-3 cups of confectioners sugar (depending on consistency)
2 tsp vanilla bean paste (or vanilla extract)

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease baking sheets.

In a large bowl, cream together butter, brown sugar, and egg. In another bowl, combine cocoa, cake flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

In a small bowl, stir the vanilla extract into the buttermilk. Add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture, alternating with the buttermilk and beat until smooth.

I used a small  ice cream scoop, evening off the top with a butter knife and deposited on a cookie sheet covered with parchment paper. Leave a 2 inch space between each uncooked cake. I have also tried baking with only cooking spray and had no problem.

Bake 15 minutes or until they are firm to the touch. Allow to cook completely.

Spread with Whoopie Pie filling on side that's flat and make a sandwich. Pressing sides together gently to distribute the frosting evenly. Once cool they can be wrapped individually with plastic wrap.
To make the Whoopie Pie Filling:
Cream butter with an electric hand mixer and add marshmallow, vanilla and 2 cups of confections sugar. Add more sugar depending on desired consistency.


Carrot Cake with Brown Butter


Carrot Cake made with browned butter....sounds good right? Actually, this cake is just referred to as Carrot Cake, but I think if your clever enough to tweak a recipe by using browned butter, then why not state that right in the title. Your letting everyone know, this is not any old Carrot Cake.....this is a Carrot Cake with Brown Butter.
As with most recipes, I am initially drawn in by the reputation of  the website, chef or blogger, then I check out the ingredients (as you guessed, browned butter got me this time) and then by the pictures. I don't care if the pictures are stylized, I want to be able to look at the food and know if it were in front of me, I would want to eat it. I want to see the messy, real life look of food. Perfect food with all it's imperfections. I want my mouth to water and that's when I get excited.
Barbra Austin guest posting for David Lebovitz (with whom I am an avid follower) did this for me....... and again the browned butter.

Two things I want to mention in my manic haste to gather all the ingredients and assuming I had most of them. I had to make some substitutions. I ran out of carrots, approximately one cup, which I replaced with one cup of shredded sweet potato. I can't tell you whether this added to the recipe, it definitely added further moistness and which by the way, was absolutely delicious or if the recipe could have been that much better without it. I simply improvised because I ran out of carrots. I also forgot golden raisins, so had to make due with those scrawny, shriveled, malnutritioned raisins in a box. I did try to plump them up with a warm water bath, but again,  highly recommend golden raisins (sultana's) as the original recipe requires.

I can't imagine a Carrot Cake tasting any better then this one. It is super moist, has a complex flavor that feels as if there were many more spices used and I think is a perfect Carrot Cake. Actually, one of the best I have ever tasted. Next time I would love to add toasted walnuts either in the batter or around the cake, but I think the principle of this cake was it's simplicity, relying on the taste of good ingredients and....the nuttiness of the brown butter!


Brown Butter Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Ingredients:
(printable recipe)

Makes one 9 inch double layer cake or one 8 inch layer (you will have about a cup of batter left over)

NOTE* ( I shredded my carrots and sweet potato with a food processor)

4 large eggs, at room temperature
¼ cup vegetable oil
¾ cup melted brown butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 tablespoon cinnamon
generous pinch each of nutmeg and cloves
1 teaspoon salt
3 cups loosely packed grated carrots
1 cup of loosely grated sweet potato
1/2 cup raisins, preferably golden raisins

For the frosting:
1 pound cream cheese, at room temperature
4 oz  unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 cups of powdered sugar, sifted (or more depending on the consistency you like)
a few drops of vanilla extract
1/4 cup of cream

Preheat the oven to 350°F

Butter and flour two 9-inch cake pans and line the bottoms with parchment paper or do as I did and just spray with baking spray.

To make the cake layers, sift together the flour, sugar, spices, baking soda, and salt. Set aside. With a handheld mixer or a stand mixer fitted with the paddle, beat the eggs until they are pale and frothy (they need not increase dramatically in volume). With the mixer running, drizzle in the oil and melted butter, then the vanilla.

Add the dry ingredients to the eggs and mix carefully until just combined. The paddle will accomplish this easily but if you only have a hand held mixer you may want to just do it by hand.

Using a food processor, I grated the carrots and sweet potato. Pulsing until I got a small, crumbly mixture. Fold shredded carrots along with the raisins into the batter, then divide the batter between the two pans. Bake 30-35 minutes, until the surface springs back when gently touched. Cover with aluminum foil and cool the cakes completely. Once cooled, run a knife around the edge of the cakes, turn over and tap to release, then frost.

To make the frosting, beat the cream cheese and butter together until smooth. Slowly add most of the powdered sugar and mix until light and silky, add the vanilla and cream and any additional powdered sugar until desired consistency.

Serving and Storage: This cake is best served at room temperature but will keep for a few days stored in the refrigerator.




Super Easy Donuts



In the words of my girlfriend Pam, these donuts are so freakin, easy. She found the recipe on the website Real Simple Recipes and I have to give her credit, not just for the donuts (which were so yummy) but for thinking that a semi-homemade dessert would be the route to take after making Tom Colicchio's Short Ribs, which require a two day preparation. I did receive confirmation that the short ribs are divine and well worth it.....so on to the semi-homemade, super freakin easy donuts.

My girlfriends and I all got on the bandwagon and decided these donuts sounded way too good and super freakin easy, not to make on a work/school/weeknight. I, personally was excited that I would be able to rush home from work with enough time to make these donuts AND take pictures of them with the natural lighting that was left. I swear, I felt like Rachel Wray, getting all the ingredients together and whipping ANYTHING up in 10 minutes from prep to finish is awesome. I will admit, that in my rush to make them, I took the cold biscuit dough straight from the refridgerator to the frying pan. The donuts looked great, particularly after dipping them in the satiny chocolate ganache, but after taking a bite, I realized they were a bit raw inside. I wish I could say that stopped me from finishing the donut. Anyway, second time was the charm.  I rested the dough for about 5 minutes before placing them in the hot oil and I ended up with perfect biscuit donuts.

The chocolate ganache sauce that Pam chose was a perfect for the donut, as was the cinnamon and sugar. I am sure you could get creative with nuts and sprinkles or fill them with your favorite jam using a frosting bag and tip. These donuts are best served warm or at room tempature and don't keep well, but most donuts don't. In my house, I didn't have anyone else there to eat my donuts but me and thank god I am a competitive eater. I don't actually compete with anyone else and my only reward so far is in the form of pounds, but a competitive eater all the same. I ate a whole batch myself!



Super Easy Donuts
(printable recipe)

Ingredients:
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1 8-count package large refrigerated biscuits (such as Pillsbury Grands)

Sugar Cinnamon coating:
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Chocolate Ganache dip:
(adapted from Allrecipes)
3/4 cup Giardelli Dark Chocolate chips
3 Tbs Butter
1 Tbs light corn syrup
1/4 tsp Vanilla Extract

Directions:
Heat ½ cup of the oil in a medium skillet over medium-low heat, place the biscuits on a cutting board. Using a 1-inch round cookie cutter or shot glass, cut a hole in the center of each biscuit, reserving the extra dough for "holes." Test the heat of the oil by dipping the edge of a doughnut in the pan. When the oil is hot enough, the edge will bubble. Place 4 of the doughnuts and holes in the skillet and cook until golden brown, 1 to 1½ minutes per side. Transfer to a wire rack or paper towel–lined plate to drain. Add the remaining oil to the skillet, reheat, and cook the remaining doughnuts and holes.

In a large bowl, combine the sugar and cinnamon. Gently toss the warm doughnuts in the mixture a few at a time. Serve warm or at room temperature.