Smarter Than Pancakes

Friday, January 29, 2010

The Famed Marble Cake

Filed under: Desserts,Red Velvet and White Marble Cake — shaye3 @ 10:18 pm

This was only my second attempt at marbling. I'm still no expert.

Ok, so I made this cake a few times over the holidays, and I’ve gotten a lot of requests for the recipe.  It’s only taken me a month, and I’m just now getting around to blogging it.  (Sorry, but I’ve already admitted to being a blog slacker.)

Not only am I a blog slacker, but this cake actually uses ::gasp:: CAKE MIXES!!  Yup, I said it.  I used mixes.  I swear I never use them normally, but I really liked the look of this cake, and I was too busy/lazy to figure out how to make it from scratch before I hosted Bunco.   Then, it was so good that I made it again for my sister-in-law from Seattle.  Eventually, I hope to figure out how to make it from scratch—but not until my birthday at the earliest.  (I’ve sworn off everything that packs this many calories until then.)

I obviously took the picture during the holidays, and the whole peppermint thing really screams Christmas.  I was thinking about it, though; and you could totally change the extract to almond or maybe even raspberry and change the taste completely.  The peppermint flavor is only in the frosting, so I really think that some almond extract and a few drops of red food coloring in the frosting would scream Valentine’s Day.

White part:
1  (18.25-ounce) package white cake mix

3  egg whites

1 1/3  cups  buttermilk

2  tablespoons  vegetable oil

Red part:
1  (9-ounce) package Jiffy yellow cake mix (or 1 ¾ c. of any other yellow cake mix)

1/2  cup  buttermilk

1  large egg

1 1/2  tablespoons  cocoa

1/2  teaspoon  baking soda

2  tablespoons  liquid red food coloring (That’s almost an entire bottle of McCormick’s Red.)

1  teaspoon  cider vinegar

Peppermint Cream Cheese Frosting:

1  (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened

1  cup  butter, softened

1  (2-pound) package powdered sugar

2  teaspoons  peppermint extract (Or vanilla, or almond, or raspberry, or whatever you want.)

(Just so you know, you’re going to need two bowls so you can make the two different colored batters before you marble them together.  I used my stand mixer to make the white part, because there’s a lot more of the white batter.  I used a small-ish mixing bowl and my hand mixer for the red part, and it worked beautifully.)

  1. Preheat your oven to 350°.
  2. Grease and flour three 9-inch, round cake pans.  (I used the baking spray that is especially for cakes—the kind with flour in it.)
  3. In your large mixing bowl; dump in the white cake mix, egg whites, buttermilk, and veggie oil.  Beat it for at least as long as the package says.  (Longer is even better.)
  4. While that’s whirring away in your stand mixer, take a smaller bowl and dump in the yellow cake mix, buttermilk, egg, cocoa, baking soda, red, and vinegar; then beat that for as long as the yellow cake mix package says.  (Again, longer is always better for cakes.)
  5. Spoon the batters into your three cake pans, alternating the red and white, then swirl them together a little with a knife or a toothpick.
  6. Put them in the oven, but make sure that each pan is at least a couple of inches away from the other pans or the side of the oven.
  7. (While the cakes are baking, wash your stand mixer bowl and beater so they’ll be ready to make the frosting.)
  8. Bake for 22 to 25 minutes, or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean.
  9. Cool in pans on wire racks for about 10 minutes; then remove from pans and cool on wire racks.
  10. While the cakes are cooling, make your frosting by beating the cream cheese and butter together until they’re creamy.  Add the extract; then lower the speed and add the powdered sugar.  (Trust me, if you don’t lower the speed, you’ll have a powdered sugar cloud that is not pretty.)
  11. When the cakes are cool, spread the frosting between layers and on top and sides of cake.  (Know that if your cake is lopsided, you do not have enough frosting to pile a bunch extra in the middle to level it out.  Don’t ask how I know.)
  12. If you made the frosting peppermint, you can garnish with crushed candy canes.  (It doesn’t really need garnish.)
  13. Serve within 2 hours, and keep leftovers refrigerated.

Trust me when I say this cake isn’t as hard as it looks,  is really impressive looking, and absolutely delicious.   Several of my Bunco friends mentioned how dense and moist it is.

If you happen to make it and sub in a different extract in the frosting, do me a favor and leave a comment letting me know how it turns out.   Thanks!


Monday, February 23, 2009

Homemade Ding-Dongs

Filed under: Desserts,homemade ding dongs — shaye3 @ 10:35 am
Tags: , ,

So we had my friend Laura’s family over a few weeks ago, and I know she likes to cook so I asked her to bring a few dishes.  For dessert, she brought a homemade version of Hostess Ding-Dongs.  They were irresistible!  I couldn’t keep myself from going back and eating more and more!  I think I consumed four or five by the time the night was over.  It was shameful!  (Not to mention the beginning of the end of my progress with Weight Watchers for a time.) 😉

I took a picture of them for you:

So shortly after we had them over, I had surgery.  All I wanted to eat when I got home was one of those stupid Ding-Dongs.  My beloved husband went out and bought me a box of Hostess Ding-Dongs, and let me tell you–they were pathetic in comparison!

So I found out how Laura made them, and immediately set out to make them for myself, everyone at the Super Bowl party we went to, and then again for Simon’s class Valentine party.

Here’s how it goes:


(Laura used normal cupcake pans and I used my fancy, new heart shaped Wilton cupcake pans that I found at Target.  The pictured cupcakes were the ones that went to Simon’s school for their Valentine party.)

Homemade Ding Dongs

For the Cake
(Laura told me to use the Hershey’s Chocolate Cake recipe from the back of the cocoa box, so I did.)

2 cups sugar

1-3/4 cups AP flour

3/4 cup cocoa

1-1/2 tsp baking powder

1-1/2 tsp baking soda

1 tsp salt

2 eggs

1 cup milk

1/2 cup vegetable oil

2 tsp vanilla extract

1 cup boiling water

  1. Heat oven to 350°F.
  2. Grease and flour two or three cupcake pans. (You can do it in shifts if you don’t have enough pans.)
    Stir together sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt in large bowl.
  3. Add eggs, milk, oil and vanilla; beat on medium speed of mixer 2 minutes.
  4. Stir in boiling water (batter will be thin). Pour batter into prepared pans. (Don’t fill the cups more than halfway. You don’t want them to crown.)
    Bake 20-25 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. (I started checking at 15.)
  5. Cool 10 minutes; remove from pans to towel lined rack. Cool completely. (Don’t leave them to cool too long—overnight is too long. The cake still needs to be a little soft so the filling doesn’t explode out the sides. Trust me on this one.)

While they’re cooling, make your filling.

For the Filling
Laura told me that she uses a 7-Minute Frosting, so I found a recipe. This one isn’t the best, but it worked just fine since it’s really more about the cake. If you have another version that’s better, PLEASE feel free to post it in comments and I’ll give it a try. My friend Jen has a recipe for marshmallow fluff that I’m wondering about, too…)

1 c granulated sugar

1/3 c water

1/4 tsp cream of tartar

1 dash salt

2 egg whites

1 tsp vanilla

  1. Combine all ingredients but vanilla in the top of a double boiler or a metal bowl above a pan with an inch or two of simmering water. (I’m told not to let the water come to a full boil, but I’m not sure why. I think mine might have at some point.)
  2. Using your hand mixer, beat it over the heat until definite peaks form.
  3. Remove from heat and continue beating until the frosting is cool to the touch.
  4. Beat in the vanilla. (Use real vanilla, you’d really be able to taste the fake stuff in this.)

When the cupcakes are cool, stick some frosting in a piping bag with a medium tip. (I used a medium star, but I don’t think it really matters.)

Stick the tip right into the middle of the top of the cupcake, and squeeze until the cupcake starts to puff up a little. (That’s a tricky process, too. You have to get enough in there, but if you put in too much the frosting can explode/squirt out the bottom, sides, or top. It took me a couple of tries to figure out how much to squeeze in before it starts to explode.)

After you’ve filled all of them, you can start working on the coating.

For the coating, Laura highly recommends Plymouth Pantry brand chocolate almond bark melted with shortening. At first I kept thinking that there has to be an alternative that would be more natural and have fewer chemicals, but there’s something about the exact combination of all of it that makes it perfect.  So if you want to use a ganache or melted chocolate with some shortening, I’m not going to try to stop you, but just know that the Plymouth Pantry Chocolate Bark and the shortening makes a softer chocolate that has a texture almost exactly like real Ding Dongs–without the waxy flavor that real Ding Dongs tend to have.

So to use the bark, you just break up the squares and put the whole package worth into a microwave safe bowl along with about two generous tbs. of Crisco. (I found that my one quart PC batter bowl works really well.) Melt it for 90 seconds on high, stir, then continue nuking and stirring until it’s melted.  (Don’t let it go too far or it’ll scorch.)

You then take the cupcakes, one at a time, and dip them in the chocolate.

Put them on waxed paper with the bottom of the cupcake up, and the part with the filling hole on the bottom.  (Laura actually has a fancy, Wilton candy dipper thingy to make the whole process much easier, but I just used two forks.  They were far from perfect looking, but I figure they can look rustic since they’re homemade.)

After that, they’re pretty much ready to eat.  The ones I made for the Super Bowl party still had the messy drips of chocolate around the bottoms, but I took a small knife and trimmed up the ones I sent to school for Valentine’s Day. (I have to say the chocolate drips around the bottom might be my favorite part, so I don’t know that I’d trim them in the future.)

I’m warning you now, line up friends to help you eat them or you won’t be able to resist their siren song!

Monday, January 12, 2009

Desperate Times Call for Desperate Measures

Filed under: Desserts,jelled pineapple rings,WW Points — shaye3 @ 9:10 am


This, my friends, is what happens when you know you won’t have many points left after dinner, but you’ve been craving sweets all day.

Gross, huh?  Yet surprisingly not that bad.

Take a tall can of pineapple rings in juice and drain the juice.  Then you dissolve a package of sugar free gelatin with once cup of boiling water, let it cool just a little, pour it back into the can with the pineapple, and throw the whole mess back into the fridge.

After it sets up, you just eject it from the can (warm water around the outside of the can helps), and then slice it between the pineapple slices.

Depending on how much you eat, a serving is just a point or two.  (Plus it has the cool can-line thing going on–like the canned cranberry sauce that people seem to insist on for Thanksgiving.)

Yum.  (Ok, not quite yum, but at least we enjoyed it.)

Monday, June 30, 2008

The Evolution of the S’more – Part I

Filed under: chocolate marshmallows,Desserts — shaye3 @ 12:08 am
Tags: , ,

Ok, so it all started innocently enough. It was a confluence of events that got the ball rolling. I had been reading about homemade marshmallows on one of the cooking sites that I frequent. The people were raving about how wonderful they are! I had decided to try them. (But we’ve been busy and I have an irrational fear of anything that requires a candy thermometer, so I hadn’t gotten around to it.)

Then, I was watching an episode of Good Eats, and lo and behold Alton made homemade marshmallows. (Of course I can do it if I’ve watched Alton do it! He’d never steer me wrong!)

Then, Renae from Renae du Jour posted about s’mores without chocolate bars. It seems they went camping, and to save space they took Fudge Stripe cookies to use rather than the traditional graham crackers and Hershey bars. I, of course, picked up some Fudge Stripe cookies on my next shopping trip and we tried them. (They were tasty, but I must be a purist because they were definitely not s’mores to me.)

Then, shortly after that, I was talking online to my friend Jane, who introduced me to yet another iteration of the s’more that sounded delicious–but that I’m not going to share just yet.

After all that, I started thinking about my whole anti-processed food bent and decided to find a recipe for homemade graham crackers. The evil plan forming in my head was to try my hand at making entirely homemade s’mores. (Ok, maybe not entirely homemade. I have no plans to learn how to conch my own chocolate–so I picked up a six-pack of Hershey bars. More on that later.)

Friday night the adventure started! I looked up Alton’s recipe for marshmallows, gathered my ingredients, and embarked on this journey!

First, a gratuitous picture of my lovely assistant Linus–and his lovely assistant Ducky…Linus and Ducky

With my trusty assistant at my feet, I gathered my ingredients…

(Please note that my light corn syrup is NOT the hfcs laden Karo brand. I found the hfcs-free Griffin’s brand at Big Lots and stocked up.) 😉

I combined equal parts powdered sugar and cornstarch to prep my pan for what I’d been told is the stickiest substance on earth.

After my pan was ready, I threw the gelatin in some water in the mixing bowl to bloom and then it was time to face my fears with the candy thermometer.

(Here is where I deviated slightly from Alton’s recipe. I had read a review somewhere about how homemade marshmallows are too soft to toast on a stick, so instead of the 240º that the recipe recommended, I took it up to 248º because that was the temperature that was recommended by another cookbook. This might have been where I left the tracks with this first attempt.)

After that, I poured the hot syrup into the bowl with the gelatin mixture, and started the 15 minutes of whisking. (Kids, don’t try this without your trusty stand mixer!)

I started it out on low until it got thick enough to not splash out and coat my entire kitchen, but after just a few minutes on high it actually started to look like marshmallow fluff! (Sorry about the blurry.)

After that I scraped it out into the prepared pan, and sprinkled more of the powdered sugar/cornstarch mixture on top so it could dry out over night.

They were seriously not kidding about that whole “stickiest substance on earth” thing. Here’s what my mixer bowl looked like after I had scraped out as much as I could. Fortunately, it cleans up easily with a little hot water.

The next morning, I used a pizza cutter and cut the slab-o-mallow into individual squares. We tasted them immediately; and Steve, Simon and I all agreed that they tasted exactly like bagged marshmallows that you can buy at the grocery store. I wasted all of that effort for grocery store marshmallow replicas. Arrrgh!

I was sure that the people on the recipe site weren’t raving about grocery store replicas, so I decided to try another recipe. Since I already have a whole batch of plain marshmallows, I decided to make a variation of a recipe that one of the recipe site people had posted–in chocolate this time. Oh. My. Gosh. The chocolate marshmallows were amazing! They’re lighter and fluffier, yet when you bite into them they’re almost creamy somehow. Half of the batch is gone, and I just cut them this morning! This amazing recipe is the one I decided to post for you–

Highly Addictive Chocolate Marshmallows
Serves 1 (Ok, it makes a whole gallon-sized zip-top bag of marshmallows, but you’ll eat them all.)

Pan Prep:

1/4 cup cornstarch

1/4 cup powdered sugar

1 Tbs cocoa powder


4 packages gelatin (1 oz. total)

1/4 cup cold water

1 tsp vanilla extract

2 tsp almond extract

1/2 cup boiling water

1/2 cup cocoa powder

Sugar Syrup:

3/4 cup water

3 cups sugar

1 1/4 cups light corn syrup

1/4 teaspoon salt

  1. Start out by combining the cornstarch, powdered sugar and cocoa powder. (This will become vital later when you’re trying to deal with the sticky marshmallow mixture.) After you’ve mixed it, oil or spray a 9×13 cake pan, and then using a small strainer sift the mixture over it to coat well. Dump the excess powder back into the bowl to use later, but be generous with the amounts of oil and dust in the pan or you’ll have a hard time getting your slab-o-mallow out of the pan later.
  2. Next, in your mixer’s bowl, dump the contents of the four packages of gelatin, the quarter cup of cold water, and the extracts. Stir it so that all of the gelatin will get wet. (I recently found out that gelatin won’t work if you don’t “bloom” it before you use it—which just means getting it wet with cold water before you add hot water.)
  3. Now you need to boil half a cup of water and mix in the half cup of cocoa powder. It will make kind of a thick chocolatey syrup kind of thing. (But don’t be fooled and taste it. Sugar free chocolate is not as good as it smells and looks.) Once it cools down, add it to the mixing bowl with the gelatin and the extracts.
  4. Now comes the scary part with the candy thermometer. (Actually, it wasn’t as bad as I thought. I don’t know why I had such a mental block about it because I didn’t have any problems at all!) In a small saucepan—preferably with a heavy bottom—combine the 3/4 cup water, granulated sugar, corn syrup, and salt. Stir it to combine, and then put it over medium high heat. First the sugar will melt, then it will start to boil. After it starts to boil, keep an eye on the thermometer and pull it off the heat when you get to 240°. (You don’t have to worry about brushing the sides of the pan with water or anything because there is enough corn syrup in there that crystals won’t be an issue. If you didn’t have the corn syrup, you’d have to worry about sugar crystals screwing everything up.)
  5. Using the whisk attachment, turn the mixer on low. While the mixer is running, pour the hot sugar syrup down the side of the bowl into the gelatin mixture. (Be sure to pour it onto the side of the bowl and let it run down. If it hits the whisk it could splash up and either give you an extremely painful burn or at least make a sticky mess.) Leave it on low for a minute so it can thicken up a little before turning it up to the very highest setting. (Again to keep it from getting all over your kitchen.) Once you have it on high, let it whip for about twelve minutes.
  6. After it’s whipped and fluffy like marshmallow cream, use an oiled rubber spatula to turn it out of the mixing bowl into your prepared 9×13 pan. After you’ve smoothed it out the best you can, use your little strainer to sift more of the powdered sugar mixture on top of the whole batch. Leave it uncovered for several hours—overnight if possible.
  7. The next morning, flip it out onto a cutting board and use a pizza cutter to cut it into squares. (As I cut, I just took the cut edges of each square and dipped them into the powdered sugar mixture to keep them from sticking together.)
  8. Store them in an airtight container. (I hear they’ll keep for up to a month, but they won’t last that long.)

Stay tuned for my next addition to the s’more saga when I try to make homemade graham crackers!!

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Chocolate Cupcakes with Fake Buttercream Frosting

Cupcakes AGAIN? Yes, I happen to like cupcakes! And these cupcakes remind me of the Hostess cakes of my youth–only better because they’re from scratch!

My father-in-law is up visiting us from Charleston, and he reminded me that we completely missed his birthday last month. Last night we all went over to my husband’s niece and her husband’s house for dinner, so I asked fil what kind of cupcakes he’d like to have for his birthday cake. He chose chocolate, so here you go!

Chocolate Cupcakes

Chocolate Cupcakes with Fake Buttercream Frosting
(makes 24 cupcakes with a little batter left over)

2 cups cake flour (I weighed and used 260 grams)

3/4 cup cocoa powder

2 cups sugar

2 t. baking soda

1/2 t. salt

1 cup buttermilk

1 cup butter, melted (2 sticks)

4 large eggs

1 t. vanilla

3/4 cup water

  1. Preheat oven to 350° and line your cupcake pans with papers. (Only preheat to 325° if you have dark pans. One of my pans is non-stick, and they always cook faster in that pan than in my shiny pan.)
  2. Sift all of the dry ingredients (flour through salt) into a large-ish mixing bowl.
  3. Put all of your liquid ingredients (buttermilk to water) in another bowl and combine well.
  4. Mix your liquid ingredients into your dry ingredients, and then continue to mix on medium for about three minutes.
  5. Fill your cupcake papers. (I used my new, handy-dandy ice cream scoop so mine would all be the same size.)
  6. Pop them into the oven, and bake for about 25 minutes or until a toothpick poked into the middle comes out clean. (Rotate the pans if your oven has hot spots and don’t overcook them or they’ll dry out.)
  7. When they’re done, take them out of the oven and cool them on racks. (The longer you leave them in the pans, the longer they’ll continue to cook and also possibly dry out.)

For the frosting:

1 cup butter (Since this recipe uses a whole pound of butter between the cake and the frosting, do yourself a favor and go out and get a new box of the freshest butter you can find. If your butter is freezer burnt or has absorbed odors from your fridge, you’ll really be able to taste it in this frosting.)

5 cups powdered sugar, sifted

1/4 tsp salt if you use salted butter–throw in a little more if you use unsalted butter

1 tsp vanilla

1 tsp lemon juice (NO fake stuff from the plastic container! Use fresh squeezed or you’ll be sorry.)

1 Tbs. milk or cream (I used half-and half.)

  1. Throw your butter into your stand mixer and beat until it’s creamy. (If you don’t have a stand mixer, let it come to room temperature before using a hand mixer.)
  2. Gradually add your powdered sugar (or you’ll wear it.)
  3. After you’ve added about half of the sugar, throw in the liquid ingredients, then add the rest of the powdered sugar and mix well.
  4. If it’s too thick, add a little more milk or cream. (Or half-and-half as it were.)
  5. Use this to frost your completely cooled cupcakes.

Stick them on a plate and take a picture for your blog. . .wait, that’s just me. 😉

The reason I call this “Fake Buttercream” is because REAL Buttercream is much more involved, and there are several versions that you can make. This one is tasty and much easier, so that’s the way I went.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Chocolate Chip Banana Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Frosting

Ok, so the past several days have been crazy around here. We enjoyed Memorial Day weekend, and yesterday was my son’s last day of school. We also have folks coming over this coming weekend, and over night guests coming the second week of June so I’ve been trying to whip this crack house into shape!

I realized that it’s been a while since I’ve posted anything new, so I figured I’d share some cupcakes that I baked over the weekend. The problem is that we inhaled them before I could snap a picture.

Here’s an artist’s rendition though.

Banana Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Frosting
13 ww points each
(Hey, cupcakes ain’t health food.)
Makes 24 cupcakes
Time to make 50 min (25 min prep)

1/2 cup butter, softened

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

1/2 cup sugar

3 ripe bananas, mashed

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 cups flour (As always, whole wheat pastry flour rules!)

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup buttermilk

1 cup mini-chocolate chips (The first time I used regular sized chips and they all stuck to the cupcake papers. The mini stay distributed better and fewer stick to the papers.)

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line 24 muffin cups with papers.
  2. Sift together flour, baking powder, soda and salt.
  3. Throw the butter and sugars in the mixer and beat until light and fluffy.
  4. Add the bananas, eggs (one at a time), and then the vanilla.
  5. Add the buttermilk and flour mixture alternately, and mix until just combined.
  6. Gently stir in chocolate chips.
  7. Divide batter evenly among muffin cups.
  8. Bake for 20 to 22 minutes or until tester comes out clean.
  9. Let cool in pan for 5 minutes, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely.

Please don’t over mix these, don’t over bake these, and if you want them obnoxiously moist you should add extra mashed banana.

Then make this for the top:

Peanut Butter Frosting

1/2 cup butter (Softened to room temperature unless you have a stand mixer.)

1/2 cup creamy peanut butter (I use the natural kind with no sweeteners. It might be too sweet if you use something like Jiff of Skippy.)

2 cups powdered sugar (sifted works best)

1/8 cup milk (Same as 2 Tbs.)

1 teaspoons vanilla

  1. Cream butter and peanut butter together.
  2. Add half the powdered sugar and mix in.
  3. Add the milk and vanilla and mix more.
  4. Add the rest of the powdered sugar and mix until it’s smooth.
  5. Frost those cooled cupcakes, and don’t be stingy with the frosting!

Whip these up and take them to your next potluck or pitch-in! Everyone will love you.

Blog at