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Sunday, March 24, 2013

Blueberry Lemon Yogurt Cake

If you've been on Pinterest lately you may have seen a post for strawberry yogurt cake.  I came across it one day and thought it looked fantastic so I repinned it.  Of course, I didn't bother to go to the actual link right then - I hate when I do that - so I didn't realize the pin was no good and went nowhere.  Well when I went back to make it and realized this, I did a little searching and put together a couple of different recipes to make up this one.

I made two different varieties, blueberry and strawberry and added lemon to both.  I also decided to bake this as a loaf cake instead of a bundt cake like the inspiration.  This recipe will make one 8x4" loaf or 2 smaller loaf cakes.  You could also convert this to muffins if you prefer and get 12-15 muffins, make sure to adjust the baking time, I would suggest about 20 minutes.  If you want to do both flavors, bake it in smaller pans or double the recipe, that's what I did to yield this much cake.

A couple of key tips - don't skip the lemon syrup step.  This really makes the lemon flavor soak in and makes a great crust for the cake.  Also make sure to let the cake cool completely before adding the glaze or it will just melt right in.  You can use fresh or frozen fruit in this recipe.  I used fresh because it was on sale and looked good at the store.  If you want to use frozen, use frozen blueberries straight from the freezer.  If you are using strawberries, I like to put mine in a strainer over a large bowl and let the water drain out of them first so they don't make your cake too wet.

Blueberry (or Strawberry) Lemon Yogurt Cake
Recipe adapted from several sources

1 cup plain Greek yogurt
1 cup sugar
3 eggs
Zest of 1 lemon
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup canola or vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups blueberries or strawberries (roughly chopped)

1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 cup sugar

1 cup powdered sugar
Approximately 2 T lemon juice

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray loaf pan(s) with baking spray or butter and flour.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together yogurt, sugar, eggs, lemon zest, vanilla extract, and oil until well combined.  Stir in flour, baking powder, and salt until thoroughly incorporated.  Finally gently fold in blueberries or strawberries.  Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for approximately 50 minutes to one hour until top is golden brown and a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean.

Cool approximately 10 minutes in pan and then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.  Set wire rack over a rimmed baking sheet before adding syrup and glaze.  While the cake begins to cool, make the lemon syrup.  Combine sugar and lemon juice in a small saucepan over medium heat and stir continuously until dissolved, cook about 2-3 more minutes until it begins to thicken slightly.  Use a toothpick or skewer to poke holes in the top of the cake.  You don't want the cake to be right out of the oven at this point, but it should still be warm.  Using a pastry brush or large spoon, brush/ladle syrup over the cake.  Let the syrup soak in and then brush one more time.  Let the cake cool completely.

Prepare the glaze by adding the powdered sugar to a mixing bowl.  Whisk in a small amount of the lemon juice, add more lemon juice until the glaze reaches the consistency of a thick caramel sauce.  You want it pourable but not thin.  Pour/drizzle the glaze over the cake and let it harden for at least 15 minutes before slicing and serving.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Spiced Brown Sugar Shamrock Cookies

I hope you enjoyed your St. Patrick's Day!  Times have changed a bit for us from green beers to green cookies for daycare parties but when your two year old is super excited about "my cookies" these still make it a great day.  These shamrock cookies are Spiced Brown Sugar Cookies with a simple buttercream frosting.

Spiced Brown Sugar Cookies
Originally posted here
Yields approximately 2 dozen large cookies

3 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/8 tsp. allspice
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 large egg
1 1/2  tsp vanilla extract

Powdered sugar for rolling

Combine flour, baking powder, and spices in a large bowl and whisk to combine.  In a mixing bowl, cream sugar, brown sugar and butter on medium speed until light and fluffy, about three minutes.  Add egg and vanilla and beat until well incorporated.  Slowly add flour mixture, mixing on low speed.  The dough will be very stiff.  Lay out a large sheet of plastic wrap and turn dough out on to plastic.  Form into a disk and wrap tightly.  Chill approximately one hour.  

Remove dough from refrigerator and let stand five to ten minutes at room temperature.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line baking sheets with parchment paper or Silpats.  Generously sprinkle powdered sugar over work area and rolling pin.  Roll dough to about 1/4" - 1/2" thick and cut into desired shapes.  Transfer to prepared pans and bake about 9-12 minutes.  Cookies shouldn't really brown but will firm up.  Remove from the oven, let stand about one minute on the baking sheet and then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.  When completely cool, frost as desired.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Aubrey's Elmo Birthday Party

My daughter Aubrey turned two in February.  I still can't believe I have a two year old.  She's grown up so much and changed so fast in these past few months.  Her vocabulary has exploded and she's becoming a little parrot.

Although it took her a while to start saying a lot of the words she knew, one that she's had down for a long long time is "Elmo".  The red furry monster is definitely a favorite for her.  Although Sesame Street is now vying for the top TV request with "the Mouse" I think it's safe to say Elmo will be a favorite for a while.  When it came time to think about a theme for Aubrey's second birthday, there was no question that Elmo and friends would be perfect.

I started with an invitation that my sister, Nikki of Doodle Dog Advertising designed for me.  From there Pinterest and Party City helped me out with a few ideas.  My friend Sarah of Sarah's Shirts made Aubrey's adorable Elmo shirt.  I just love how it turned out and it's one of her favorites in her closet.

Elmo invitations from Doodle Dog Advertising

Aubrey was in awe when she came downstairs the morning of the party to see that Elmo was everywhere.  We had hung a great big mural of Sesame Street characters on the wall and Aubrey loved them.  I made Elmo and Cookie Monster cookies that she loved, all we heard was "cookie pleeeeease mama."  I haven't worked with fondant in a long time and need to practice a bit more, I ran out of time towards the end on the cake but I think it turned out pretty cute although I would have done a few things differently next time.  The fruit and vegetable trays were one of my favorite ideas I found on Pinterest, they turned out so cute!  We made thank you bags for the kiddos... I just picked up some small red paper bags and filled them with some Sesame Street bubbles, a character medal, some Elmo tattoos, a Memory game, and some candy.  I printed out thank you labels on the Sesame Street sign and folded them over the tops of the bags to close them.

Elmo and Cookie Monster Cookies
Sugar cookie recipes can be found here - I used royal icing to decorate these in layers.  I drew the eyeballs on with an edible marker.  Although they take a bit of time, I love decorating cookies with royal icing.

Sesame Street Cake

I baked this cake, it's one of my favorites as it's a very traditional yellow cake recipe.  I think it's perfect for a kid's party, nothing fancy but it's delicious and it stays so moist.  I brush the layers with a simple syrup before frosting to lock in moisture and use vanilla bean paste instead of extract to add even more flavor.  I filled it with a simple vanilla buttercream and used the same to crumb coat and frost the outside before covering it with fondant.  The fondant is homemade marshmallow fondant, see this post for the recipe and tips.  While it's a little more work, it tastes so much better than the storebought kind.

Oscar and Elmo vegetable and fruit platters
 Oscar is made crispy kale chips, black olives for a mouth, carrots for a nose, and sliced portabello mushrooms for eyebrows.  Some garlic hummus in small plastic cups make up his eyes.  Elmo's face is made up of sliced strawberries.  Sliced purple grapes make his wide mouth and peeled orange slices are his nose.  His eyes are cups filled with marshmallow cream cheese fruit dip.

Opening presents - she had so much fun with it this year!

Pin the Nose on Elmo - stickers are lots of fun for Aubrey and her best buddy Hannah

Aubrey and Madeleine loved the huge "scene setter" I picked up from Party City.  It's actually about 5' by 5' or something huge so it was fun for the girls to see the great big characters in their living room.  Definitely worth the $6 price tag at Party City - I can't believe how nice this was for the cheap price tag.

We had so much fun celebrating with so many friends and family members.  Thank you so much to all of you who came to celebrate my baby girl turning two!

Happy birthday Aubrey!  I can't believe how much you have grown and changed over the past two years.  You continue to amaze me every day with how much goes through your curious little mind.  You are constantly learning and sharing new things.  While these past two years have flown by, it also seems like you've been a part of my life forever.  I love you little girl!

Monday, March 4, 2013

Cinnamon Roll Pancakes

I've only recently started to really appreciate breakfast, I think mostly because it's more fun when your two year old requests "pan-caks" every weekend.  While she gets her share of the Bisquick variety, every once in a while I decide to make some that are a little fancier than the standard.  Making pancakes from scratch really isn't any harder than the box mix, but I'll admit these have a few more steps.  But they are certainly fun for special occasions.  And they are definitely delicious.  I would go so far as to say they might be a tie for the best pancakes I've ever had.

A couple of tips you should read before you begin:
  • Make the cinnamon swirl mixture and the frosting before you start cooking, it will go fast once you put the batter on the griddle.  Plus, letting the mixture sit for a few minutes while you make the batter allows it to thicken slightly which will make it easier to work with.
  • Keep your pan on medium-low to medium, they might take an extra minute to cook but you don't want them to burn.
  • Make the cinnamon swirl mixture a bit on the thick side, like thick maple syrup.  A squeeze bottle works perfectly for this, but you can use a ziploc if you don't have one.
  • Wait until you see bubbles all around the edges of pancakes, then add the swirl.
  • When you swirl the cinnamon mixture, don't get too close to the edge or it will bubble out of the pancake.
  • Don't skip the glaze, it really delivers the cinnamon roll flavor.
  • Extra pancakes are perfect to pop in the freezer - put them in a freezer ziploc and then just pop in the toaster to reheat.

Cinnamon Roll Pancakes
Recipe slightly adapted from RecipeGirl

Cinnamon Swirl:
6 T unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1 tsp cinnamon

Cream Cheese Glaze:
4 T unsalted butter, room temperature
3 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
3/4 - 1 cup powdered sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 T milk

2 cups all purpose flour
4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
2 cups milk (I've used either skim or 2% without issues)
2 large eggs
2 T canola oil

Start by mixing the melted butter, brown sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl and whisk until smooth.  Transfer to a squeeze bottle or ziploc baggie and set aside to thicken.

Next make the glaze, beat together softened butter and cream cheese until smooth.  Add 3/4 cup powdered sugar, vanilla extract and milk and beat until light and creamy.  Add additional powdered sugar if the mixture is too thin.  Set aside until ready to serve.

Heat a large nonstick griddle over medium-low to medium heat. Add a little butter or oil to the pan and pour out approximately 1/4 - 1/3 cup pancake mix, giving them plenty of room to spread a bit so it's easier to flip.  Once bubbles begin to form around the tops of the pancakes, add a thick swirl of the cinnamon mixture.  Once the bubbles begin to pop, quickly flip each pancake.  Cook until golden brown.  It should take about 2-3 minutes per side to cook.  Stack and top with cream cheese glaze and serve.  This recipe should yield approximately 16 4-inch pancakes.  

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