Moist Banana Cake

cake-2Overripe bananas are like gold. I hardly ever have them because my family are big fans of bananas, so they don’t always have time to get too brown. Must have been the Halloween candy this past week, but the bananas stayed untouched (to my delight!) and I had five beautiful babies to work with.

I already had a loaf of banana bread in the freezer, so I wasn’t too keen on making that again. I thought about banana streusel coffee cake, but I realized I forgot to buy more butter, and you can’t make a good streusel or coffee cake without butter. Am I right?

I searched Pinterest for a few ideas, and meshed them together to make this luscious banana cake. Now, this will be my second blog post where I use a boxed cake mix. I like to think I am above using a box, but it turns out that I’m not. The thing for me is, if you doctor it up then no one will ever know you cheated just a little. I definitely think I did a good job here.

You’ll need basic ingredients: a yellow cake mix, flour, mashed bananas, eggs, milk (I used whole milk), butter, vanilla, and cinnamon. Mash about 3-4 bananas until you get 1 1/2 cups. It’s ok if you have a little extra – it adds to the moistness of the cake. Add all ingredients to the bowl of a stand mixer.

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Mix on low speed for about 30 seconds, then crank it up to medium for 1 1/2 – 2 minutes until it’s nice and smooth.

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Here’s where you can get creative. This can be made into many shapes: an 8- or 9-inch layer cake, a 9×13 cake, cupcakes, or what I did here – little beehives. Cute, right?

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My mom bought this pan for me on a summer road trip and I think it’s adorable. It makes six beehives. The recipe would make 10-12 beehives, but I didn’t want to wait so I also used a mini bundt pan and make 6 little cuties.

Put these guys in a preheated 350 degree oven and bake about 30-35 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean or with a few little crumbs.

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While the cakes are baking, make your glaze. I didn’t use measurements here, so I’m going to wing it – which is what you should do also. Put about 1-2 cups of powdered sugar in a bowl. Add about a teaspoon of milk, a few shakes of cinnamon, and a splash of vanilla. Stir with a spoon until smooth. If you find that it’s not loose enough, add a little more milk. Be careful, though, a little too much milk with make it too runny, and then you’ll have to add more powdered sugar. It can be a vicious cycle. I speak from experience.

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After the cakes come out of the oven, let them cool in the pan for about 10 minutes, then invert onto a wire rack. After they’ve cooled on the rack for about 5 minutes and are still a little warm, drizzle on the glaze. There’s no right or wrong to this. Take a spoonful of glaze and hold it over the cake, allowing the glaze to slowly drop onto the cake. You could put the glaze in a pastry bag or Ziploc bag, but I kinda like the messy random look. For the beehives, I put a blob of glaze on the top and coaxed it to run down the sides.

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Now, put a little cake on a plate, grab a cup of tea, and slowly savor the deliciousness of your creation. Or, just pick it up with your fingers and eat over the sink to avoid dropping crumbs onto the floor. Welcome to my world.

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Moist Banana Cake
Author: 
Recipe type: Dessert
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 12
 
A versatile, moist banana cake you can make in just minutes.
Ingredients
  • Cake
  • 1 box yellow cake mix
  • 5 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1½ cups mashed banana (3-4 medium bananas)
  • 3 eggs
  • ½ cup milk
  • ½ cup melted butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • Glaze
  • 1-2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon milk, add more if needed
  • A couple of shakes of cinnamon
  • A splash of vanilla
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Prepare pans by spraying with cooking spray. If using molded pans, you'll want to use cooking spray with flour or grease and flour them.
  3. Mash bananas.
  4. Add butter to microwaveable dish and heat on high approximately 1 minute until melted.
  5. Add all cake ingredients to the bowl of a stand mixer.
  6. Beat on low speed until moistened, about 30 seconds.
  7. Increase speed to medium and beat for 1½-2 minutes until smooth.
  8. Pour batter into prepared pans.
  9. Bake about 30-35 minutes (15-18 minutes for cupcakes), until a toothpick comes out clean or with a few crumbs.
  10. While cakes are baking, make glaze.
  11. Remove pans from the oven and let them cool on a wire rack for about 10 minutes.
  12. Invert pans onto wire rack, and let stand another 5 minutes.
  13. While still warm, drizzle glaze over the top.

 

Dreamy Hot Chocolate

cream-close-upMy dream: sitting on the couch under a blanket reading and listening to the rain, while drinking hot chocolate and nibbling on sweets.

My reality: 7 loads of laundry, a pile of dishes in the sink, and a floor that hasn’t been mopped in weeks. Ok, months.

On the rare occasion I do allow myself to take a time out (and the even rarer occasion that it rains), I love to indulge in hot chocolate. I’m not talking about tearing open a package of the boxed stuff, either. I’m talking about a rich, chocolatey concoction with the same properties as Calgon…it takes you away…

I mentioned this recipe in my blog about cinnamon rolls a couple of weeks ago, and now it’s time to share it. In my quest for awesome hot chocolate, I have tried several versions: the one where you melt chocolate chips with half and half (too rich, not sweet enough), the kind that requires powdered sugar, the kind on a stick that you make in a candy mold (cute, but not sweet enough), etc. They were all ok, but all of them left me wanting more; just not more of that kind.

I came across this recipe and it was so simple I had to give it a try. It was a winner! I ended up using it as Christmas gifts for my family, and devouring a jar of it myself. So, do yourself a favor. Make up a batch of this, and say adieu to Swiss Miss. You won’t regret it.

hot-choc-7Let’s get started.

All you need is three ingredients: granulated white sugar, cocoa powder, and salt. I personally like using dark cocoa powder. I’m a big fan of dark chocolate, so I substitute it in recipes whenever possible. You can absolutely use whatever cocoa powder you prefer.

Add all three ingredients to a bowl and whisk well until combined. Don’t be afraid of the amount of salt called for. It really is just perfect and helps balance out all the flavors. Oh, and you will you use almost an entire box of cocoa powder, so make sure you have enough before you start.

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Isn’t this the cutest vintage mixing bowl? It’s part of a set of three my mom gave me. She’s awesome.

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hot-choc-4To get it from the mixing bowl, I use a canning funnel. It minimizes mess and keeps all that delicious mix in check. Gently spoon the mix into the funnel until you reach the top of the jar.

This recipe makes quite a bit. I was able to completely fill one quart jar and a pint jar. You can choose how to distribute it in whatever containers you may have. Divide it into pint jars and give as gifts. Your friends will love you for it.

That’s it. Really. Simple, right?

hot-choc-3So when you’re ready to make your hot chocolate, here’s what you do.

Pour one cup of milk (whole milk makes the richest hot chocolate, but any milk works) into a mug and microwave for about 1 minute 30 seconds, until the milk is the temperature that you like. I prefer extra hot. I like to savor the cup, and if it cools too fast I lose some of that relaxation time. Yeah, I’ve really thought this through.

Add two tablespoons to the hot milk and stir until the hot chocolate mix is dissolved. You may want to use a little more or a little less, but this is the general guideline.

I like how dark and rich it looks. You know this is going to be good!

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This is perfectly delicious as is, or you can add any toppings you like – whipped cream, marshmallows, mini chocolate chips, etc. – and enjoy! Macarons make a great accompaniment, I think.

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Dreamy Hot Chocolate
Author: 
Recipe type: Hot Drinks
 
A decadent homemade hot chocolate mix.
Ingredients
  • 3½ cups granulated white sugar
  • 2¼ cups cocoa powder (I use dark cocoa powder)
  • 1 tablespoon salt
Instructions
  1. Add all ingredients to a mixing bowl.
  2. Whisk to combine.
  3. Pour into mason jars, or any container you prefer.
  4. To make hot chocolate, heat 1 cup of milk on the stove or in a mug in the microwave. Add 2 tablespoons hot chocolate mix and stir until mix is dissolved.
  5. Add any toppings you like, such as whipped cream, marshmallows, mini chocolate chips, candy cane pieces, etc.

 

Halloween Fun

skelegro-webpolyjuice-webI mentioned that I might throw in some seasonal décor and craft ideas on the blog, so here we go!

A couple of years ago I found an idea on Pinterest for making your own Halloween potion book decorations. However, the blog that posted it (and I can’t for the life of me remember where I saw it) didn’t provide the pages for printing. I searched elsewhere and couldn’t find anything I liked. I have a graphic design background, so I decided to take matters into my own hands.

I searched for royalty free images and wording for a couple of potions. I settled on Skele-Gro and Polyjuice. Any Harry Potter fans out there? After a couple of hours of agonizing over every detail, I had a finished product. And that’s what I’m sharing with you today.

potion bookHow to make your own Harry Potter Potions Book

  1. I have added PDFs of the potions pages to my Etsy shop. Two bucks will get you a copy of each page. Head on over and download them: Harry Potter Potions Book Pages. Use white paper for printing, as the weathered parchment background is part of the image that will print. Oh, and try to find printer paper that is the same or similar weight to your book pages.
  2. My family are big HP fans, so we had extra copies of the hard cover books in the house. If you don’t have an extra and don’t want to defile your beloved copy, check out a thrift store and you’ll probably find one at a great price. You need the hard cover, though, because these pages are made for those dimensions. If you have another book with pages that are 5×7 in x 9 in, you can absolutely go with that.
  3. After downloading and printing the images, trim the edges and be sure to be accurate. We don’t want white around the edges.
  4. Put glue on the part of the page that will go inside close to the spine. You can glue the whole thing to an existing page, but I just added mine in as stand alone pages.
  5. For an antique effect, take a pencil and curl up the bottom edges of the pages, and take a few of the original book pages as well. Then, take a sponge or sponge brush and furniture polish and color the outside edges of the book pages. You can go as dark or light as you like with this. I even splashed the pages with a little water, which made some awesome discolorations.
  6. Lastly, cut a piece of ribbon just a little longer than the book. Using hot glue, glue the top end of the ribbon into the top of the book spine. It’s ok if it doesn’t go in too far, because most people will be looking at the pages anyway.

And there you have it! Your own Harry Potter Potions Book for Halloween. Put it on your mantel and your friends will marvel at your creativity.

halloween mantel

My Favorite Cinnamon Rolls

imageI love cinnamon rolls, but not just any cinnamon rolls. I like them to be a little gooey, not dry. I like brown sugar in the middle instead of white sugar. That makes them more juicy. I need cream cheese frosting. Yes, need.

So, I needed to come up with a recipe that encompassed all those things. There are many good recipes out there, but this one is perfect for me. If you’re like me, you’ll absolutely love these. Oh, and you can make these in about an hour. Win!

Make these for your family on Saturday. They will worship at your feet.

I have a great hot chocolate recipe to go with these rolls. I’ll share that next week!

Now, I don’t have detailed pictures yet for this recipe. That just means I’ll have to make them again so I can document the process. I’m willing to do that for you.

Here are my notes about these rolls:

– They can be made overnight. Prepare the recipe up to the point of slicing and placing on a baking sheet, then put them in the fridge to raise overnight. If you make them this way, they will raise quite a bit and you may have huge rolls. I don’t think that’s such a bad thing.

– As I said, use brown sugar if you can. It helps created this nice juicy filling that complements the bread.

– Wait a few minutes after you take the rolls out of the oven before frosting them. If you frost them while they’re really hot, the frosting will melt and get lost. Put an initial layer of frosting, then wait till they cool some more before adding the final amount you like.

 

My Favorite Cinnamon Rolls
Author: 
Recipe type: Cinnamon Rolls
Cuisine: American
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 24
 
Soft, fluffy, moist cinnamon rolls. Ready in an hour or overnight - you decide.
Ingredients
  • Dough
  • 3½ cups warm water
  • ¾ cups sugar
  • ½ cup oil
  • 6 tablespoons yeast
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 3 eggs
  • 10½ cups flour
  • Filling
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 2½ cups packed light brown sugar
  • 5 tablespoons ground cinnamon
  • Frosting
  • ½ c. Butter
  • 6 oz cream cheese
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 4 c. Powdered sugar
Instructions
  1. Note: Recipe may be halved. If making 12, use 2 eggs, and approx. 6 cups of flour. Unless making overnight rolls, these should only take about an hour to make, start to finish.
  2. In a stand mixer, combine water, sugar, oil, and yeast and let sit for 15 minutes.
  3. Add salt, eggs and flour and knead with dough hook (or by hand) for 10 minutes. Dough should pull away from sides, but may stick to the bottom of the mixer bowl.
  4. Let dough rest for 10 minutes. Put about 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil on the counter or cutting board.
  5. Divide dough in half. Press one half out into a large rectangle. Spread with half of butter, half of brown sugar, and half of cinnamon. Roll up tight, but not too tight.
  6. Divide into 12 rolls and place on greased or parchment lined cookie sheet. Repeat with other half of dough.
  7. *For overnight rolls, cover with plastic wrap and put in refrigerator overnight. Take out of fridge about 1 hour before desired bake time. Rolls will rise in the fridge, and even more as they come to room temperature. Bake for 12-15 minutes at 400 degrees. Turn the pan once during baking. Immediately after removing from the oven, frost with a little of the frosting. It will melt into the rolls. After they have cooled slightly, frost again with desired amount.
  8. To bake immediately, let rise until desired size. Because of the amount of yeast, these rise quickly. Bake for 12-15 minutes at 400. Turn the pan once during baking.
  9. Frost with a little of the frosting. It will melt into the rolls. After they have cooled slightly, frost again with desired amount.
  10. To make frosting, place butter and cream cheese in stand mixer and beat for 1 minute until combined. Add vanilla and 3 cups of powdered sugar. Beat for 3 minutes. Check for your desired consistency, and add one more cup of powdered sugar if needed. (I used all 4 cups).

Lemon Curd Cupcakes with Whipped Cream Frosting

 

lemon curd cupcakesLemon.

Your mouth just puckered a little, right? Mine, too. I love all things lemon. Lemonade, lemon drops (cheers Bob Hope!), lemon cake, lemon tarts, lemon chicken, shrimp gumbo – oops, my mind drifted off a little…

When I was a little girl, my nickname was “lemon,” but my sweet grandma called me “limón.” I don’t know where the name came from, but it stuck for most of my childhood. Nobody calls me that anymore, but my love of all things lemon has not waned.

One of my favorite lemon things is lemon curd. It’s super silky and just the right combination of tart and sweet. It’s decadent and refreshing. It’s pretty much perfect.

I learned how to make lemon curd about a year ago and was hooked. It was easy and, in my opinion, much tastier than any store bought version. I made some recently for my delectable tartelettes an citron (lemon tarts), and found a great way to use the leftover curd.

I made white cupcakes filled with lemon curd and topped with a sweetened whipped cream. You could probably go with buttercream frosting or even cream cheese frosting, but I found the lightness of the whipped cream to be the perfect accompaniment.

A few notes about these cupcakes.

The cupcake was from a box (gasp!). I was short one egg, so I substituted 1/4 cup mayonnaise – yes, you heard me right – for the third egg. It made for a nice, fluffy, moist cupcake. (You could absolutely make your favorite scratch cupcake recipe, if you prefer.) The whipped cream was homemade. I usually use powdered sugar for whipped cream, but since this cream was to be used for frosting, I use granulated sugar, which makes it hold up better than powdered sugar. The lemon curd recipe makes quite a bit more than you need for these cupcakes. That’s ok, though, because you can use it for other things – lemon tarts, spread on toast, as a topping over pound cake, or eaten with a spoon (my favorite)!

And now, without further ado, here’s how you can make your own.

Lemon Curd Cupcakes with Whipped Cream Frosting
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 24
 
Ingredients
  • One boxed white cake mix - prepared with one change: substitute ¼ cup mayonnaise for 1 egg
  • Lemon curd
  • 7 large egg yolks
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup (7 ounces) sugar
  • ¼ cup grated fresh lemon zest (4 lemons)
  • ⅔ cup fresh lemon juice (4 lemons)
  • Pinch salt
  • 4 tablespoons (½ stick) unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
  • 3 tablespoons heavy cream, chilled
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
Instructions
  1. Prepare and bake cupcakes according to recipe on the box, with the optional change as noted above.
  2. For the lemon curd: Whisk the egg yolks and eggs together in a medium saucepan. Whisk in the sugar until combined, then whisk in the lemon zest, lemon juice, and salt. Add the butter and cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens slightly and registers 170 degrees on an instant-read thermometer, about 5 minutes. Immediately pour the mixture through a fine-mesh strainer into a bowl and stir in the cream.
  3. Whipped Cream Frosting: In a bowl of a stand mixer, combine heavy cream and sugar. Beat on high speed until stiff peaks form.
  4. Assembly: After the cupcakes have cooled completely, use a large decorator tip to punch a hole in the cupcake making sure you don't go all the way through to the bottom. Remove the cake from the tip and set it next to the cupcake. Pour in about a teaspoon of lemon curd, then replace the extracted cake. Frost with the prepared whipped cream.
  5. Keep cupcakes refrigerated for a nice cool treat.

 

Allow me to introduce myself.

imageI’m so ready to get this blog up and running! I’ve been using Facebook for all my cooking escapades, and it’s time to move to a dedicated spot.

Let me tell you a little bit about me. My name is Ramona. I am a stay-at-home mom. My husband and I have been married for almost 9 years and we have a blended family – his, mine, and ours – of 8 children. Yep, eight. We have three children in college, three teenagers, and two little guys. My youngest gets to stay home with me for another year before she flies the coop. I’m an 18-time (soon to be 19-time) marathoner. I love to travel and will be adding a 4th continent next year when I go to China.

I have always loved baking, and I quickly became the dessert maker for all our family events. My style has always been to have a variety of treats, so your guests can sample a little bit of everything. When I married my husband, I was able to take a break away from the daily grind (read: job) and focus my efforts at to home. Because I was no longer contributing to the bank account, it became my job to maximize our pantry for minimal impact on our budget. I soon found out that I could do more than I thought. I learned how to make bread, which felt like reaching the Holy Grail, and also improved my cooking skills. Life and necessity have been my classroom, and I think I’ve been a pretty good student.

in this blog, I want to share mostly sweet recipes and tutorials. I will also throw in the occasional holiday decoration, or even a savory dish or two. I welcome your comments, critiques and requests. I hope you’ll stick with me!

Eat sweet!

Sweets = Happiness

I guess if you disagree this blog post title, we should agree now to an amicable break up and just be friends. If you do agree, then let’s embrace the soulmates that we are and embark on this journey together!

I loved watching my mom in the kitchen. She was a natural. She grew up on a farm, and as the oldest girl with seven siblings, she had a significant amount of responsibility. She helped her mom cook for the family, as well as the farmhands. I don’t remember ever seeing her follow a recipe. She’d throw in a little of this, and a little of that, and it was always delicious. When I decided I wanted to learn to bake, I was frustrated because I couldn’t cook or bake like that. What I didn’t know then was that it was a learned skill, not something you just know. My mom supported my need for recipes, though, and guided me in the right direction.

One of the first things I learned how to make well was oatmeal cookies (yum) from a book series called “Make A Mix”. The idea is that you make up a large batch of mix, i.e., brownie mix, biscuit mix, etc., and keep it in the pantry to speed up your baking. Another method employed by the author was making cookie dough and rolling it into a log, then wrapping it in plastic wrap to be put in the freezer. Whenever you want cookie, voila!, they are ready to “slice and bake”, straight from the freezer. I gotta say, I wasn’t always a fan of this because it cut right through the ingredients. I mean, who wants half a chocolate chip? My solution was always to make up a batch, skip the log and freezer and bake them, then eat almost all of them myself. I can still remember the taste of the butter flavored shortening…

Now, I still bake oatmeal cookies, but I usually add chocolate chunks and coconut, thanks to my friend Emily (whose great aunt used to add chocolate chips) and my husband (whose cub scout leader used to add coconut). All of our cookie memories meshed together to make a really perfect treat.

Oh, and I use real butter these days. No walnuts, though. Eww. If we have made it this far together but you are a strong believer in walnuts, we can agree that it was fun while it lasted, and I’ll call you.

Here’s how I make my chewy and delicious Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Coconut Cookies.

First, we start with the good stuff: butter and two kinds of sugar. Beat together until creamy.

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Add vanilla and eggs. See that cute little hand? That’s my best baking assistant.

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In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. If you’re smart, you’ll make sure to put your pouring shield on your mixer. Mine unfortunately met its demise several months ago in a mixer-meets-floor accident while kneading pizza dough. Note to self: buy new pouring shield. It’ll save money on cleaning wipes.

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And these are my not-so-secret ingredients. I love using chocolate chunks in this recipe. They give it a nice burst of chocolate. You can use regular chips, if that’s what you have on hand.

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I use a cookie scoop to portion out my cookies; about 12 per tray. Can I put in a plug for silicone baking sheets? Super easy cleanup and I use way less parchment paper these days. (Sorry parchment paper manufacturers.)

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Bake at 350 degrees for about 11 minutes for that perfectly baked crispy outside and chewy inside. Definitely eat some warm, then have some after they have cooled. Then eat several more. Then go for a run.

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Eat Sweet!

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Coconut Cookies
Author: 
Recipe type: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4 dozen
 
A flavor-packed cookie with a lightly crispy outside and chewy inside. These will be a hit wherever you take them.
Ingredients
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) salted butter
  • 1 cup firmly packed brown sugar (I use light brown, but dark brown should work)
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2½ - 3 cups oats (quick or old fashioned)
  • 1 cup chocolate chunks
  • 1 cup sweetened shredded coconut
Instructions
  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Beat together butter and sugars until creamy.
  3. Add eggs and vanilla and beat well.
  4. Combine flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt.
  5. Add flour mixture to butter mixture. Beat until just combined. (Overmixing will make your cookies tough.)
  6. Use a 1½ inch cookie scoop to drop dough onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment or a silicone baking sheet.
  7. Bake 10-12 minutes until lightly brown around the edges.
  8. Cool slightly on cookie sheet and transfer to wire racks.