weeknight gourmet

Category : Cake

Holiday Menu: Honey-Mustard Pork Roast with Bacon, Baby Arugula Salad & Cauliflower Gratin

The day after Christmas is my father-in-law’s birthday.  Tim’s immediately family came up to the Berkshires on the 26th to celebrate.  We had the delicious and festive menu below.  The pork I have made before and it was even better than I remember!  The bacon and the honey mustard coating gives amazing flavor to the meat.  This is the first time I made the Barefoot Contessa’s Cauliflower Gratin and it was a huge hit!  Who wouldn’t love cauliflower with a nice cream sauce and lots of Gruyere. I had some leftover Brussels Sprouts & Butternut Squash.  The dish reheated nicely.

We finished the birthday meal with a delectable Red Velvet Cake.  So moist!  And the cream cheese frosting was amazing!

Honey-Mustard Pork Roast with Baby Arugula Salad


Cauliflower Gratin


Brussels Sprouts & Butternut Squash with Bacon Vinaigrette (leftovers from Xmas)


The Best Red Velvet Cake

Holiday Menu: The Best Red Velvet Cake

I wish I had a photo of this cake but it was too hectic getting the meal on the table and entertaining guests.  But trust me, it was amazing looking and tasting!

I turned to my favorite source of the cake recipes — the Cake Mix Doctor.  She starts with a basic cake mix and adds all sorts of goodness to come up with some delectable cakes!

The red velvet cake required a number of ingredients beyond the cake mix but was super easy to make.  I do not have three cake pans so I just made a two layer cake and allowed the cake to cook for a bit longer since there was more batter in the pan.

The cream cheese frosting was delicious as well.  Make sure to allow the butter and cream cheese to come to room temperature and to sift the confectioner’s sugar.

There is no doubt I will be making this cake again!

The Best Red Velvet Cake
The Cake Mix Doctor

  • Solid vegetable oil shortening, for greasing the pans
  • Flour, for dusting the pans
  • 1 (18.5-ounce) package plain butter recipe golden cake mix
  • 2 ½ tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 1/3 cups buttermilk
  • 1 (1-ounce) bottle red food coloring
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter, melted
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 tablespoon distilled white vinegar
Place rack in the center of the oven and preheat oven to 350 F. Lightly grease 3 9-inch round cake pans with shortening, then dust with flour. Shake out excess flour and set the pans aside.
Place the cake mix, cocoa powder, buttermilk, food coloring, melted butter, eggs, vanilla, baking soda and vinegar in a large mixing bowl and beat with an electric mixer on low speed until ingredients are incorporated, 1 minute. Stop machine and scrape down side of bowl with rubber spatula. Increase the mixer speed to medium and beat for 2 minutes longer, scraping the side of the bowl again if needed. The batter should look well-blended. Divide batter evenly among 3 prepared pans, about 1 ½ cups batter per pan, smoothing the tops with rubber spatula. Place pans in the oven. If your oven is not large enough to hold 3 pans on center rack, place 2 on that rack and one in the center of the rack above.
Bake cake layers until they just start to pull away from the sides of the pans and the tops spring back when lightly pressed with a finger, 17 to 21 minutes. The layer on the higher rack may bake faster so test it for doneness first.
Transfer cake pans to wire racks and cool for 5 minutes. Run a dinner knife around the edge of each layer and give the pans a good shake to loosen cakes. Invert each layer onto a wire rack, then invert it again onto another rack so the cakes are right side up. Let the layers cool completely. Make frosting.
To assemble the cake, transfer one cake layer, right side up, to a serving platter. Spread the top with some of the frosting. Place a second cake layer, right side up, on top of the first and frost the top. Repeat this process with the third layer. Frost the side of the cake with a thin coat just to set the crumbs. Use the remaining frosting to go back over this and liberally frost the side, working with smooth, clean strokes. To make slicing easier, place uncovered cake in the refrigerator until frosting sets, 20 minutes.
Cream Cheese Frosting:
Place 1 (8-ounce) package reduced-fat cream cheese and 1 stick (8 tablespoons) of room-temperature butter in a large mixing bowl and beat with an electric mixer on high speed until light and fluffy, 1 to 2 minutes. Stop machine and scrape down side of bowl with rubber spatula. Add 1 teaspoon vanilla extract and 4 cups sifted powdered sugar; beat on medium speed until well combined. Increase the mixer speed to high and beat the frosting for 1 minute longer.

Easter Dessert: Lemon Upside-Down Cake

This is the perfect spring dessert!  The cake is so fluffy and moist — thanks to the milk and whipped egg whites.  And, it is filled with wonderful sweetness from the brown sugar and some tartness from the lemon.

Not many suggestions to improve this recipe!  I did have to cook the cake for a full 10 minutes longer than the recipe called for but I made no other changes.  And, I used regular lemons because the store didn’t have Meyer lemons.  Meyer lemons would be a bit sweeter.

When you are whipping the egg whites, make sure to use a clean stainless steel bowl.  Any grease in the bowl can impact forming the stiff peaks.  Also, use room temperature egg whites.  Cream of tartar, as called for in the recipe, provides some acidity and ensures that the egg whites bind together.

You can use the cake recipe as a base and substitute your favorite fruit.  Next time I might try pineapple!  Judging from how many slices Tim had, I think he’d be excited to try another flavor!

Lemon Upside-Down Cake
Food & Wine

  • 1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 2 thin-skinned lemons, sliced paper-thin crosswise, seeds discarded
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs, separated
  • 3/4 cup whole milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • Sweetened whipped cream, for serving

Preheat the oven to 350°. Set a 9-inch nonstick cake pan over moderate heat. Add 4 tablespoons of the butter and when it is melted, stir in the brown sugar until dissolved, about 1 minute. Remove from the heat. Arrange the lemon slices in the melted brown sugar.

In a medium bowl, whisk the flour with the baking powder and salt. In a large bowl, with an electric mixer, beat the remaining 8 tablespoons of butter with the granulated sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the vanilla and the egg yolks, one at a time. At low speed, beat in the dry ingredients in 3 batches, alternating with the milk.

In a stainless steel bowl, beat the egg whites with the cream of tartar at high speed until firm peaks form. Fold one-third of the beaten whites into the batter, then fold in the rest. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Let cool in the pan for 15 minutes, then invert it onto a plate. Serve warm or at room temperature with whipped cream.

Celebrating Tim's birthday with Holy Cow Cake!

Yesterday was Tim’s birthday!

To celebrate, I made a cake that I brought into the office. This was no ordinary cake — it was Holy Cow Cake (as coined by the Cake Mix Doctor). This is not the cake to bake if you are looking for something elegant or pretty. It’s an ooey gooey messy cake. But it feeds a crowd and is packed with all sorts of sweet goodness!

Here is an overview of the cake:

1) Bake a basic devil’s food cake from a mix.

2) Poke holes in the warm cake after it comes out of the oven. A drinking straw will do the trick.

3) Pour a caramel sauce – sweetened condensed milk combination over the cake.

4) Sprinkle 2 crushed Butterfingers candy bars over caramel combo.

5) Make frosting with Cool Whip and Cream Cheese. Spread over cake.

6) Sprinkle 2 more crushed Butterfingers over the cake and refrigerate.

Make sure to buy the right size Cool Whip container. That was my only issue. I had to add some confectioners sugar to the frosting to make a bit sweeter.

Everyone seemed to really enjoy the Holy Cow Cake! There is some leftover and I intend to have another piece as a Friday afternoon treat!

Holy Cow Cake
The Cake Mix Doctor


Vegetable oil spray for misting the pan
1 package (18.25 ounces) plain devil’s food cake mix
1 1/3 cups water
1/2 cup vegetable oil, such as canola, corn, safflower, soybean, or sunflower
3 large eggs


1 jar (8 ounces) caramel topping
1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
4 Butterfinger candy bars (2.1 ounces each), crushed
1 container (12 ounces) frozen whipped topping, thawed
1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, at room temperature

1. Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly mist a 13- by 9-inch baking pan with vegetable oil spray. Set the pan aside.

2. Place the cake mix, water, oil, and eggs in a large mixing bowl. Blend with an electric mixer on low speed for 1 minute. Stop the machine and scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Increase the mixer speed to medium and beat 2 minutes more, scraping the sides down again if needed. The batter should look thick and well blended. Pour the batter into the prepared pan, smoothing out the top with the rubber spatula. Place the pan in the oven.

3. Bake the cake until it springs back when lightly pressed with your finger and just starts to pull away from the sides of the pan, 35 to 38 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and place it on a wire rack. Immediately poke holes in the top of the cake with a drinking straw or chopstick.

4. Prepare the topping. Place the caramel topping and sweetened condensed milk in a small bowl and stir to combine. Spoon this mixture over the warm cake so that it can seep down into the holes. Measure out half of the crushed candy bars and sprinkle the pieces over the cake.

5. Place the whipped topping and cream cheese in a large mixing bowl and blend with an electric mixer on low speed until smooth and combined, 1 minute. Spread the mixture over the top of the candy. Sprinkle the remaining candy pieces on top.

6. Place the pan, uncovered, in the refrigerator to chill the cake for about 20 minutes before cutting it into squares and serving.

Store this cake, covered in waxed paper, in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

Kitchen Cabinet Coffee Cake

I decided we deserved a nice breakfast treat on this snowy weekend.  Coffee cake came to mind, but all the recipes I looked at would have required me to go to the store to pick up an ingredient or two.  I really didn’t want to get out my pajamas quite yet so I pulled together this recipe based on a quick perusal of 10 or so different coffee cake recipes and the ingredients I had on hand.

Many of the recipes I looked at called for blueberries.  We didn’t have any fresh or frozen blueberries in the house but did have some very nice blueberry jam.  I decided I would swirl the jam through the batter for a nice marbled effect and blueberry taste.

I also didn’t have whole milk but learned a good substitute.  Pour 1.5 tablespoons of heavy cream into a 1 cup measuring cup and fill the remainder with skim milk.

The cake was amazing!  Great light texture, with nice blueberry taste from the jam, and a delicious crumb topping.  This will be a great go-to recipe when we entertain in the Berkshires.

Tim jokingly asked who the other 11 people coming over for breakfast were, but I have a feeling the cake won’t last long!

Kitchen Cabinet Coffee Cake

•    2 1/3 cups all purpose flour
•    3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
•    1/2 cup walnuts chopped
•    1/2 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
•    1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
•    2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
•    1/2 teaspoon salt
•    1 cup sugar
•    2 large eggs
•    1 cup whole milk
•    1/2 cup blueberry jam (at room temperature)

Combine 1/3 cup flour, 1/4 cup butter (cut into pieces), walnuts, brown sugar and cinnamon in medium bowl. Mix until moist and crumbly. Set topping aside.

Preheat oven to 357°F. Butter and flour 13x9x2-inch baking pan.

Sift remaining 2 cups flour, baking powder and salt into small bowl.

Using electric mixer, beat remaining 1/2 cup butter in large bowl until fluffy. Gradually add 1 cup sugar, beating until well blended. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating to blend after each addition. Mix dry ingredients into batter alternately with milk in 3 additions each.

Transfer cake batter to prepared baking pan. Swirl the blueberry jam into the batter using a knife.  Sprinkle topping evenly over batter.

Bake cake until tester inserted into center comes out clean and topping is golden brown, about 40 minutes. Cool cake slightly. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Super Bowl Cake 2010: Bourbon Praline Cake

I first wrote about, and resumed, my family’s Super Bowl cake tradition last year.  This year I decided to bake a cake inspired by New Orleans since I was rooting for the Saints.

A few notes on this delicious cake…

Definitely follow the instructions to use parchment paper on the bottom of the pan AND the sides.  I only used parchment on the bottom and the cake did not smoothly come out of the springform pan.  In fact, the cake really wasn’t very pretty but Tim didn’t mind since it was so tasty.  I also had to substitute buttermilk since my grocery store was all out.  You can use equal parts milk and plain yogurt or add some lemon juice to milk as a substitute.  I used the yogurt – milk combo.

Overall the cake was moist and wonderfully sweet from the pralines.  I served it with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.  Delicious!

Bourbon Praline Cake
Food Network Magazine

For the Praline Layer:

  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for greasing
  • 1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 1/4 cups pecans, toasted

For the Cake:

  • 1 1/2 cups cake flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine salt
  • 1/3 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons bourbon
  • 1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup pecans, toasted and chopped
  • Vanilla ice cream, for serving

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a 9-inch springform pan, then line the bottom and sides with parchment paper and butter the paper. Wrap the outside of the pan with foil.

Make the praline layer: Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in the brown sugar, corn syrup, kosher salt and vanilla. Spread in the prepared pan and scatter the pecans on top; set aside.

Make the cake: Whisk the flour, baking soda, nutmeg and fine salt in a large bowl. Whisk the buttermilk and bourbon in another bowl.

Beat the butter and granulated sugar with a mixer on medium-high speed until fluffy, 10 minutes. With the mixer on low, beat in the eggs, one at a time. Add the flour mixture in three parts, alternating with the buttermilk mixture, starting and ending with flour. Fold in the pecans.

Pour the batter into the pan and bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 1 hour. Cool on a rack, 30 minutes. Remove the springform ring, invert the cake onto a plate and remove the paper. Serve with ice cream.

Holiday Season Dinner Party Menu!

We had 3 couples over for dinner last night.  Our dear friends Jason and Maria are expecting their second child on New Year’s Eve so we thought it would be fun to have them over — before things get even busier for them — to see some friends.  We had a fun evening and everyone seemed to enjoy the food.

I tried to put a festive holiday menu together since it’s that time of year and many of you might be trying to figure out some menus for the season.

Cheese Platter: Brie with Cranberries and Apricots, Goat Cheese, Mozzarella with Sun-dried Tomatoes

Antipasti Platter: Parmesan, Salami, Olives, and a Feta and Olive Spread

Cocktail Hot Dogs in Mustard Sauce

Toasts with Goat Cheese, Pesto, and Roasted Red Peppers


Honey-Mustard Pork Roast with Bacon

Roasted Cauliflower with Pasta and Lemon Zest

Celery Salad with Walnuts, Dates, and Pecorino


Cranberry Upside-Down Cake

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Holiday Desserts: Cranberry Upside-Down Cake

I made this cake for Thanksgiving last year and really enjoyed it so I decided to make for last night.

The cake is incredibly moist — probably because of the milk in the batter — and the cranberry, cinnamon, allspice mixture provides a wonderful holiday flavor!  Plus I think the cake is very pretty.

Cranberry Upside-Down Cake
Everyday Food

  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon allspice
  • 1 3/4 cups cranberries
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees with rack in center. Rub the bottom and sides of an 8-inch round cake pan with 2 tablespoons butter. In a small bowl, whisk together 1/2 cup sugar with the cinnamon and allspice. Sprinkle mixture evenly over bottom of pan; arrange cranberries in a single layer on top.

With an electric mixer, cream remaining 6 tablespoons butter and 1/2 cup sugar until light and fluffy. Add egg and vanilla; beat until well combined. In another bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. With mixer on low speed, add flour mixture to butter mixture in three batches, alternating with the milk, until well combined.

Spoon batter over cranberries in pan, and smooth top. Place pan on a baking sheet; bake cake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 30 to 35 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack for 20 minutes. Run a knife around edge of cake; invert onto a rimmed platter.

Spooktacular Halloween Cupcakes

In honor of Halloween and as a pre-NYC marathon dessert for my sister-in-law Julina, I decided to bake some cupcakes.  I turned to the Cake Mix Doctor for a delicious and easy recipe.

This recipe “doctors” a devil’s food cake mix by adding a little cocoa and buttermilk.  The cake was super moist!  The icing was a simple buttercream and very tasty!  I added some yellow and red food coloring for a nice orange color.  I skipped the spiders in the recipe and just decorated with some red sugar.

The cupcakes were a hit!  I’ll definitely be making these again.


Many thanks to Judy & Irv for the adorable cupcake plates.  They were perfect!

Halloween Spider Cupcakes
Cake Mix Doctor

Makes 24 cupcakes (2 1/2 inches each)
Preparation time: 30 minutes
Spider chilling time: 30 to 40 minutes
Baking time: 16 to 20 minutes
Assembly time: 15 minutes

24 silver or foil liners for cupcake pans (2 1/2-inch size)

1 package (18.25 ounces) plain devil’s food cake mix
2 tablespoons Dutch process cocoa powder
1 1/3 cups buttermilk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Buttercream Frosting (recipe below)
6 drops yellow food coloring
2 drops red food coloring

24 Chocolate Spiders (recipe follows)
Tiny round decorating candies (optional)
Brown decorating gel (optional)

1. Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line 24 cupcake cups with silver paper liners. Set the pans aside.

2. Prepare the cupcake batter: Place the cake mix, cocoa powder, buttermilk, oil, eggs, and vanilla extract in a large mixing bowl. Blend with an electric mixer on low speed for 30 seconds. Stop the machine and scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Increase the mixer speed to medium and beat 2 minutes more, scraping down the sides again if needed. Spoon or scoop a heaping 1/4 cup batter into each lined cupcake cup, filling it two thirds of the way full. (You will get between 22 and 24 cupcakes; remove the empty liners, if any.) Place the pans in the oven.

3. Bake the cupcakes until they spring back when lightly pressed with your finger, 16 to 20 minutes. Remove the pans from the oven and place them on wire racks to cool for 5 minutes. Run a dinner knife around the edges of the cupcake liners, lift the cupcakes up from the bottoms of the cups using the end of the knife, and pick them out of the cups carefully with your fingertips. Place them on a wire rack to cool completely, 30 minutes.

4. Meanwhile, prepare the Buttercream Frosting. Place G cup of the frosting in a plastic sandwich bag and set aside. Add the yellow and red food coloring to the remaining frosting. Blend well so the frosting is evenly orange. Place a heaping tablespoon of frosting on each cupcake and swirl to spread it out with a short metal spatula or a spoon, taking care to cover the tops completely.

5. Garnish the cupcakes: Cut off a small piece from one of the bottom corners of the plastic bag holding the frosting. Pipe 2 eyes on each of the Chocolate Spiders. Place a small round decorating candy in the center of each eye, if desired. Place a spider on top of each cupcake. There will be 6 extra spiders for additional platter garnish or simply to enjoy. If you wish, pipe a web on the platter using brown decorating gel. The cupcakes are ready to serve.

Store these cupcakes, uncovered or in a cake saver, at room temperature for up to 2 days or in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. Or freeze the unfrosted and undecorated cupcakes in a cake saver for up to 6 months. Thaw the cupcakes overnight in the refrigerator before frosting, decorating, and serving.

You can make these spiders up to two days before you bake the cupcakes. The six extras make wonderful platter decorations or sweet treats by themselves.

1 1/4 cups chow mein noodles
2 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
1/3 cup milk
1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
1 cup crispy rice cereal

1. Line a baking sheet with waxed paper and set aside.

2. Measure out 1 cup chow mein noodles and break them into small pieces. Break the remaining noodles into 2-inch pieces. These will be the spiders’ legs. Set the noodles aside in separate groupings.

3. Combine the chocolate chips and milk in a medium-size saucepan over low heat, stirring frequently, until the chocolate has melted and the mixture is smooth, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the confectioners’ sugar, cereal, and the small chow mein noodle pieces until blended. Line a baking sheet with waxed paper. Drop the chocolate mixture by tablespoons in a slightly oblong shape (the body of the spider) onto the prepared baking sheet. You will have about 30 bodies, about 2 inches in size. Immediately insert the noodle legs into the spider bodies, 4 on one side and 4 on the opposite side. Space them evenly apart. Place the baking sheet in the refrigerator and chill the spiders until hardened, 30 to 40 minutes.

4. Once chilled, remove them from the waxed paper by pushing up from the underside of the waxed paper.

Store the spiders in a plastic storage container at room temperature for up to 2 days.

the Cupcake Doctor says . . .
Here’s something to remember when you’re making orange-colored frosting: Use drops of yellow
and red food coloring in a 3 to 1 ratio, adding for example, 6 drops yellow and 2 drops red.

the Cupcake Doctor says . . .
Once the frosting for the cupcakes is made, reserve a small amount of it to pipe on each spider for its eyes.

Makes 2 1/2 cups, enough to frost 24 cupcakes (2 1/2-inch size)
Preparation time: 5 minutes

8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter, at room temperature (see “the Cupcake Doctor says” below)
3 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
3 to 4 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1.Place the butter in a large mixing bowl. Blend with an electric mixer on low speed until fluffy, 30 seconds. Stop the machine and add the confectioners’ sugar, 3 tablespoons of the milk, and the vanilla.

2. Blend with the mixer on low speed until the sugar is incorporated, 1 minute. Increase the speed to medium and beat until light and fluffy, 1 minute more. Add up to 1 tablespoon more milk if the frosting seems too stiff.