Category Archives: Cakes & Cupcakes

Gingerbread Biscoff Coffee Cupcakes

Congrats to Kathlene and Ivy for winning two AWESOME personalized care packages in last week’s giveaway! I can’t wait to create an epic assortment of goodies for you both!

I really dislike chocolate cupcakes.

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Wait, say what?

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It’s funny how we all define the good things in life so differently. Back when kids used to bring boxes of assorted cupcakes to celebrate their birthday, I loved to ogle (okay, creepy) and watch each student make the all-important decision of which type of cupcake to take–chocolate with vanilla frosting? Continue reading

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Edible Books Festival 2014 (Part II)–Two Award-Winning Recipes

Last week I shared with you the enormously successful Edible Books Festival that our library hosts every year around the beginning of April.

Well, today I’m sharing two award-winning recipes: Soaked coconut poke cake, and Kahlua rum cake!

(Don’t forget: WG’s personalized care package giveaway ends tomorrow, 4/22–hurry and enter!)

Edible Book Festival 7

(Photograph: Shaking hands with Jonathan Gold, the LA Times restaurant critic, acclaimed Pulitzer Prize winner in criticism, and source of smart writing/eating-as-a-career validation to boot.)

Edible Book Festival 2014 Melting Snowmen Sculptures Coconut Poke Cake 13--041114 I am unapolegetically posting these photos of my Calvin & Hobbes-inspired entries–after spending basically 50 hours planning & executing my interactive cakes/cookies/displays, my hands were so unsteady that I could barely hold my DSLR straight!

Anyway, these four entries–my Doomed Snowman coconut poke cake, 2 sugar cookie jigsaw puzzles featuring Calvin & Hobbes, a large Kahlua rum bundt cake that could be spun on a cake turntable, and a tray of chocolate ‘dirt’ for finding treasure–ended up taking home the cake (hah!) with two awards: Best Tasting and Best Student Entry. Today I’m posting the two recipes that I think were most impressive in the taste category… Continue reading

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Cookie Butter Swirl Cinnamon Pound Cake

There are two types of vacationers in this world:

There are the people who ship themselves off to sunny tropical islands like Hawaii or the Caribbean and return as refreshed as a spring pixie…

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And then there’s me.

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My Air Walk sneakers dragged their dirty, sorry-faced soles across American soil once again at around 9 PM last night, when our plane finally landed after a grueling 11-hour stint from Asia.  If you happen to live in my part of the hemisphere and felt the  earth tremble beneath your slippers 18 hours ago, that was probably just my knees giving way beneath me as I staggered off board, luggage clunking mercilessly into the passengers behind me. Somehow, during my last 48 hours in Taiwan, I had devolved into that zombie girl everyone fears is lurking on their flight home–with a sore throat, throbbing head, and a fever to boot, I was a walking contagion apocalypse waiting to bite someone’s head off and hurl it at the next passing aircraft. Yum. Continue reading

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Buttery Moist Lemony Glazed Strawberry Swirl Pound Cake

These past few months, I have spent a lot (I mean, a lot–like, I-am-sorry-but-I-feel-preternaturally-compelled-to-word-vomit-to-you-guys a lot) of time talking about my upcoming examsSo today, let’s talk friends and the best pound cake you’ve never met instead.

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To begin with my friends: As the weeks wear on and THE date creeps closer, I have noticed an exponential amount of tiptoeing from my friends and family. In my book, there have only ever been four reasons you would have to tiptoe around someone: 

1. The Guilt: You are not supposed to be wherever you are at the moment you are tiptoeing–in which case, #shamingsession.

2. The Terror: You are afraid whomever it is around whom you are tiptoeing is going to explode at the any second. KABLOOIE!

3. The Sympathy: You are at someone’s bedside.

4. The Impending Stardom: You are practicing for your lead role in an upcoming show of “Swan Lake.” Ballerina feet, ladies!

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Now, I know it is not due to the fact that they are  practicing to become world-famous ballerinas, because a) they can’t ALL be leads in Swan Lake, and b) I have not seen so much as a frill of a tutu on any of their persons. Nor can the tiptoeing be attributed to a sympathy-induced bedside manner, because last I checked (granted, this was a few hours ago) I still have a pulse. And finally, I am almost certain that they cannot all be tiptoeing out of guilt, because I have not been lurking around any shady street corners or drug stores lately. Or at least none I’m going to fess up to here.

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So this leaves us with the inevitable truth: I am a ticking time bomb and my friends are afraid of the Big Kablooie. Right?

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Wrong! 

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^ It’s because of that.

My friend and I recently had the following conversation (and yes, I do actually converse like this when I’m really really really tired–and yes, you should all encourage my friend to become the next A.A. Milne):

Ala: I’ll be in and out
but I just thought I’d say hello :)
fellow human being whom I happen to like <3
Friend: i think they’ve actually invented a word for that
they’re called friends :)
That same day, a friend texted me about a spontaneous Disneyland trip that didn’t pan out but made us feel so spontaneous anyway; a second friend told me just how excited he was to get ‘us time’ in again after my exam; and a third friend paid me a surprise visit in the middle of the night with hot, fresh garlic bread to make sure I had some ‘real food,’ and we proceeded to caterwaul the rest of the night away to the Frozen soundtrack. <3

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I thought this post and these quotes would be the perfect place to publicly declare that my friends are Piglets to my Pooh. They are the strawberry to my lemon pound cake and, to be completely honest, you would probably be reading a lot more crazy stuff (Crazy? I love crazy!<–kinda like that) if they weren’t around to keep me grounded. So if you guys are reading this (and I know you are!), stop being sneaky this one time and leave a comment below before you go back to your tiptoeing so I can APPRECIATE YOU RIGHT HERE, RIGHT NOW <3

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It has taken eight months, a whole series of events, and unexpected happiness from various little corners of my life for the truth to hit me with the full force of the giant meteor that killed the dinosaurs. Bigger. Valentine’s Day comes once a year–an exam like this might come once in a lifetime–but friends really, honestly, and truly are forever. And even as I make out the faint rustle of the tiptoers all around me, taking care lest they disturb me from the latest writing frenzy that has possessed my flying hand, I can hear their silent cheers of ‘Rah! Rah!’ rising up in proud defiance of a world whose limits seem at every moment to close in on me, and find they cannot.

And this finally, finally brings me back to this pound cake I promised I would tell you about.

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I made loaves upon loaves of this pound cake to share with my friends and to show them how much I appreciate everything they do, from tiptoeing to caterwauling to cheering to reading my blog. They hands down loved it. This cheery lemon pound cake is everything the title/photos say and more: possibly the creamiest, butteriest, moistest pound cake I have ever made. Everything from the melt-in-your-mouth cream cheese in the batter to the fluffiness of the eggs and sugar, as well as the brightness of the lemon and the tanginess of the strawberry jam, make this the ultimate sweet treat to show someone you love them, whether it’s for Valentine’s Day or Friends Day (which is every day in my book!).

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Don’t forget to take a moment this week to appreciate your friends and all the people you love in your life!

Ala

Buttery, Moist Lemony Glazed Strawberry Swirl Pound Cake

Yield: Two 9×5-inch loaves, OR One 10-inch tube pan

Ingredients:

  • 1 (8 oz.) package cream cheese (reduced fat or regular), softened
  • 1 1/2 cups butter
  • 3 cups white sugar
  • 6 eggs, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest (optional but highly recommended)
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/3 cup strawberry (or raspberry) jam, warmed in the microwave

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Lightly grease two 9×5-inch loaf pans. (Note: You may also use one 10-inch tube pan, but you will need to carefully increase your baking time in Step 7.)
  2. In a large mixing bowl, cream together cream cheese and butter until very smooth.
  3. Beat in sugar until very fluffy and pale–I beat it vigorously for a good five minutes by hand to get that great creamy pound cake crumb!
  4. Mix in eggs, vanilla, lemon juice, and lemon zest.
  5. Carefully mix in flour until just incorporated.
  6. Pour one-fourth of your batter into one of the prepared 9×5-inch loaf pans. Pour 2/3 cup warmed strawberry preserves in an even layer over this batter, then top the preserves with another one-fourth of your pound cake batter. Repeat with second loaf pan.
  7. Bake in preheated oven for 40-50 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out mostly clean, possibly with little crumbs sticking to it. Small crumbs (not raw batter!) are great! They indicate that your cake is baked through but not overbaked. Always err on the side of a little underbakedness. At this point, remove your cake from the oven and allow it to cool on the stovetop for at least 30 minutes before removing it from the pan to cool completely.
  8. When your pound cake has cooled completely, top with lemon vanilla glaze (recipe below).

Lemon Vanilla Glaze

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1-2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1-2 teaspoons vanilla soy milk or regular milk or vanilla/plain substitute milks of any kind
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest, optional

Directions:

  1. Whisk all ingredients together in a bowl until smooth. Pour over cooled pound cake and allow to harden completely before cutting and serving. Enjoy!
© Wallflour Girl. All images and content are copyright protected. Please do not use without prior permission. If you would like to republish this recipe, please link back to this post.

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The Best Bananas Foster Toffee Coffee Crunch Cake

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One of the things I love most about blogging is licking the bowl afterwards having the chance to sit down and tell a story. Food blogging in particular trains us to write good content: it gives you brain fuel (i.e. cake), patience (actually waiting for your cake to cool completely before frosting it), creativity (transforming your 5th over-crumbly cake into gorgeous cake balls), and really good storytelling skills (explaining to your parents the philosophical implications of writing your baking blog when you really should be reading Children’s Literature: A Reader’s History from Aesop to Harry Potter).

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As I slipped into the final books for my Part I Exam children’s literature list, I’ve been thinking more and more about the relationship between text and pictures. A few of my most recent conference proposals deal with the tension nonsense illustrations evoke when read against nonsense language, as well as the stories that text and pictures tell–collaboratively or competitively–when viewed in conjunction. After all, who could forget the full-page spreads of the gigantic yellow-eyed horned monsters we meet alongside Max in Where the Wild Things Are, or that now-famous red-and-white striped hat when the Cat sallies into the rainy-day room?

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In a lovely recent comment that made my heart giggle and feet flutter, a reader wrote that my use of text on photographs was the best she had ever seen (!). I was obviously elated–not only because of the tiny ego boost this prompted, but because I truly believe that the interplay between text and images is a crucial one for storytelling–and I’m glad that it has caught somebody’s eye, both figuratively and literally. Sometimes it can be difficult to hear their murmurs over the incessant buzz of daily life and the roaring internet. In a new year and with new updates around every corner, I hope you continue to find the whispered tales these photo-stories tell worth listening to.

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Like the crosswords where food and writing meet, this bananas foster cake has carried me through a-many difficult days of studying and writing as the exam deadline rushes in like a vortex (exactly one month to go–when did this happen?!). In case you’re wondering how I managed to photograph a whole, intact cake with another slice on the side, I was actually requested to make this cake twice, back-to-back–it was that delicious! Even if you hate bananas as a rule (like I do), you’ll find this cake a refreshing delight: filled with bananas drowned in rum or Kahlua, crunchy toffee pieces, subtle smoky coffee frosting, and plenty of moist banana layers, this cake is a whole story in itself.

So I decided to write one for it. And I hope you’ll love it.

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Until the next story,

Ala

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The Best Bananas Foster Toffee Coffee Crunch CakeYield: 1 awesome 9-inch, 3-layer cakeFor the banana cake: (Slightly adapted from this recipe)
Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups bananas, mashed (I used 3 large bananas or 4 medium bananas)
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup butter or margarine, softened
  • 2 cups and 2 tablespoons white sugar
  • 3 large eggs, room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups buttermilk*

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Lightly grease 3 round 9-inch springform pans (I only have one so I baked the cake layers three separate times in the same pan) and set aside.
  2. In a small bowl, mix together bananas and lemon juice. Set aside.
  3. In a medium bowl, mix together flour, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
  4. In a large bowl, cream butter and white sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes of vigorous hand mixing.
  5. Beat in eggs one at a time, then stir in vanilla extract.
  6. In three alternating batches, stir in buttermilk mixture and dry ingredients mix until just combined.
  7. Add and stir in banana mixture.
  8. Spoon 1/3 of your banana cake mixture into each of the prepared springform pans.Coffee
  9. Bake in preheated oven for about 20-30 minutes (cooking times will vary according to your oven temperature). Your cake will be done when it is lightly brown around the edges and golden on top; a toothpick inserted in the center should come out clean.
  10. Allow your cake to cool completely before removing from springform pans and assembling.

Coffee Kahlua Frosting

Ingredients:

  • 1 (8 oz.) block of cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon Kahlua (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon instant ground coffee granules

Directions:

  1. In a large bowl, cream together cream cheese and butter until smooth.
  2. Gently mix in powdered sugar until incorporated.
  3. Add vanilla extract (use extra if you are omitting Kahlua).
  4. Pour Kahlua (if using) into a small bowl. Dissolve coffee granules in Kahlua. (If you are omitting Kahlua, you can dissolve the granules in vanilla extract). Stir Kahlua-coffee mixture into the frosting.

Bananas Foster: (adapted from this recipe)

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup butter or margarine
  • 2/3 cup dark brown sugar
  • 4 tablespoons rum or Kahlua
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 3 bananas, sliced into 1/3″ pieces

Directions:

  1. In a large pot over the stove, melt butter.
  2. Add brown sugar, rum or Kahlua, vanilla, and cinnamon.
  3. Bring mixture to a boil. When it begins to bubble, add in bananas and stir until thoroughly soaked.
  4. Allow bananas to steep in boiling mixture for 30 seconds, then turn off heat and allow the mixture to cool to room temperature. You may want to reheat the syrup immediately before serving with cake.

Assembly:

Ingredients:

  • 3 9-inch round layers of banana cake (recipe above)
  • 1 serving coffee Kahlua frosting (recipe above)
  • 1 serving bananas foster (recipe above)
  • 1/2 cup chopped saltine toffee cookies (I used homemade ones)or any  toffee pieces of your choice

Directions:

  1. Place a cooled 9-inch cake layer on a round cake tray. If the top of your cake is not even, use a serrated knife to gently cut across the top (parallel with the base) to create a smooth surface.
  2. Frost with a thin layer of coffee frosting.
  3. Top with second cake layer and frost.
  4. Top with third cake layer.
  5. Frost completely with remaining coffee frosting. You may reserve 1/2 cup frosting for piping if you wish.
  6. Top cake with banana pieces from the bananas foster recipe. Reserve the rest for serving with the cake.
  7. Sprinkle edges with toffee pieces.
  8. Cut into slices and serve!

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Italian Cream Layer Cake {and some THOUGHTS)

There are several reasons for the delay in this post–and I promise, I have been dying to share some of my latest recipe creations with you folks, because they are A+ crowd-approved. But this is going to be a fairly serious post. If you want to skip straight to the photos and recipe at the end because you’re not prepared for a Debbie Downer kind of post, I won’t be offended. Promise. (Plus, I have no way of actually knowing, so take your virtual anonymity and run with it.) And despite the lack of attention it’s going to get here, this Italian Creme cake is actually really, really amazing. Again, more about it in the recipe box below.
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We had two major losses in our lives last week–one member of our family, and one dear, dear friend passed away. So we have been understandably busy attending the memorials and services, not to mention grieving. They will be missed dearly.
As with any major loss–especially a first loss–I have spent a considerable amount of time thinking. About life, but also about a lot of things you wouldn’t think you’d think about when everything’s so crazy you just don’t have time to stop and…think.
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When I started this blog one year ago, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to accomplish. To a certain extent, this is still a question that hangs over my head every once in a while. I love creating great content, I love writing, I love making and sharing my food adventures, and I sure as heck love every single ounce of support I get from all of my friends, family, and–of course–you, readers. But this is also in many ways a self–and therefore selfish–blog, and it offers an outlet for my thoughts in a way that I don’t always get in the “real world,” talking to “real people” for whom I feel held accountable to explain myself. So with that rambling premise, I proceed on my (even more rambling) ramble. About thinking, mostly.
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This has been a very crazy year: I have been through so many changes in my personal life, my living situation, my relationships with others, and my priorities. Most recently, I have been studying for a crazy exam that I have thankfully pushed back to January (hopefully) and that I am still feeling guilty about not studying for at this very moment. I can’t tell you how INSANE it feels when every little moment of your life is filled with this constant, insatiable guilt about not working harder than you already are. Even if you are already doing the inhuman and trying to finish a bajillion and one books and remember them all and you are CONVINCED you are the ONE legitimate person in your program who suffers from Imposter Syndrome. Because there is no way anybody could be less prepared than I am to pass this test. And despite the super supportive “You’ll do great!”‘s and “Dude, you’re going to blow this exam out of the water”‘s (all of which I appreciate, don’t get me wrong), I still don’t believe it. I’m not even trying to be cautiously optimistic. I just can’t believe it at this point. This is my current thought process about my qualifying exams, in a nutshell. And I’m okay with that…sort of.
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So this brings me to thinking. Or not thinking. With the whirlwind that has taken my life by storm recently, I have left zero time to think. Not even close to zero. I mean, zero. This blog post might be the first time I’ve actually stopped to think about anything that has happened since last school year, and every damn time I try to stop and think, I feel as guilty as John Wilkes Booth. I don’t think it’s apathy. I think it’s numbness. Self-willed numbness. When I received news of both passings, I was shocked. I felt floored. Then I wondered whether I would be able to meet my self-imposed deadlines for reading that night, or whether I would be too busy being “distracted” with thinking to get anything done like a real non-failure would do. No, I didn’t think–nor do I currently think–this is reasonable. But it’s just how I feel. And believe it or not, I was able to pick up my book. Sure, I cried. I broke down and cried quite a bit, actually. But I read. And I still find myself counting down those days to the next deadline with a dread and anxiety that feels more real than the grief, which feels almost…unreal. Disembodied. Like somebody else is really feeling those emotions, but that it’s not going to hit me until all of this is over and done with. As I said, there has been no time for thinking, before right now. And there probably will not be much thinking after right now, because I can already feel the end of the night creeping in with pages still unread, knowledge still “unlearned.”
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To my awesome, amazing, dedicated friends who tell me to “take it easy” or “give yourself some you time”: I totally and completely appreciate this. I would not be still relatively sane without all of your support. But I think I’ve gotten to the point where what I really need is just this: “Yes, you’re in a study strait. We know you realize that this isn’t everything, and we know that you realize this will pass and come what may. But you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do. So go do it. We’re behind you.” I keep trying to tell myself that every single day, and every single day I come away a little less whole, a little less sure of myself, and a little more scared.
Still, I do make time, and I’m trying my darndest to take it in stride as I work my way through what seems to be superhuman swaths of work. It may seem self-punishing and it may seem unreasonable, but I don’t need to know that it will be OK–I just need now to happen, and I need to know that I have done it with all my heart. I will probably walk away from this post feeling like I just took away half an hour of valuable reading time, and that’s just a fact of things right now. It’s just something I need the people around me to know.
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My on consolation is that I can say the next statement sincerely: My most heartfelt love to the two amazing people in my life who are not lost, but simply a better part of everyone whom their lives touched. My deepest sympathies to the rest of their family and friends who, like us, are grieving. No matter what I am going through right now, and no matter what I say about not having time to stop and think–know that you are always, always in my thoughts. (Thanks for reading.)

Ala

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The Weekend re-Treat #38 FEATURES

Italian Cream Layer Cake
I haven’t gotten a chance to properly vouch for this cake in my post. MAKE. THIS. I am decidedly NOT a cake person–and neither are many of my friends, but I made this for a friend’s dinner and the family went over the moon about it. I left the other half of the cake at home–and it was gone before I knew it! A wonderfully nutty taste of coconut and almonds thrown into one of the richest, most indulgent cakes that you have never tried. Try this to wow your next dinner party guests!
 
Yield: 1 3-layer 9-inch cake
Slightly adapted from Bake at 350 
For the cake:
Ingredients:
  • 2 cups white sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter or margarine, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 5 eggs, separated, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup buttermilk, room temperature (you can make your own using 1 cup minus 1 tbsp of milk, and then adding 1 tbsp vinegar and letting it sit for 5 minutes. Voila–instant buttermilk!)
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup flaked coconut
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease three 9-inch springform baking pans if you have them. (I had only ONE springform pan and this worked out just fine–you will simply need to bake and cool in 3 different batches. If you do not have a springform pan, you may also use a regular 9-inch round baking pan, line it with parchment paper, and lightly grease the paper for easy removal of layers.)
  2. Cream together sugar, butter, and oil until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes. Add in egg YOLKS one at a time, beating well after each addition.
  3. Dissolve baking soda in buttermilk. Stir salt into 2 cups of flour.
  4. In three separate additions, alternate adding flour and buttermilk mixture to batter (make sure to begin and end with the flour).
  5. Fold in coconut flakes and vanilla extract.
  6. In a separate bowl, beat egg WHITES until they form stiff peaks. Note: The best way to beat egg whites is to use a completely dry copper or steel bowl; start your hand mixer on a low speed. After a minute or two, once your whites begin to foam, increase mixer speed to “beat” setting and continue beating until your whites pass the droopy peaks phase (the 2nd stage) and start to hold their shape in stiff peaks (the 3rd stage). Depending on the power of your mixer, this process can take anywhere from 10-15 minutes–be patient, and be sure to KEEP GOING so you can get those voluminous peaks!
  7. In three additions, fold egg whites gently into cake batter.
  8. Pour 1/3 of cake batter into each of the three prepared pans.
  9. Bake for 25 minutes (or until lightly golden) in preheated oven. Allow to cool in pan for at least 15 minutes before attempting to remove. Allow to cool completely before assembling.

For the cream cheese almond frosting:

  • 1 1/2 cups chopped almonds (you may also use pecans for a more traditional feel)
  • 1 (8 oz.) tub marscapone cheese (you may substitute cream cheese for a sweeter frosting), room temperature
  • 1 (8 oz.) block cream cheese, room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons butter or margarine, room temperature
  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup coconut flakes.

Directions:

  1. Place almonds or pecans in a thin layer on a cookie sheet. Bake in oven at 350 degrees for 10 minutes, stirring at the 5-minute mark to prevent burnt nuts. Remove from oven and set aside when nuts are nicely toasted.
  2. In a large bowl, cream together marscapone, cream cheese, and butter until smooth. Beat in 4 cups powdered sugar, salt, and vanilla; it will be easiest to add these ingredients one cup at a time.

To assemble cake:

  1. Place a cooled layer of cake on a round cake base. Spread approximately 1/3 cup of frosting on top; sprinkle with about 1/2 cup toasted almonds; then add another 1/3 cup of frosting on top of almonds. You may need more or less frosting, depending on how thinly you spread it.
  2. Top with second cooled cake layer. Repeat frosting from Step 1. Top with third cooled cake layer.
  3. Use remaining frosting to completely cover sides and top of cake. I reserved about 1/2 cup frosting to decorate the top of the cake by piping a shell border pattern around the edges, and a shell pattern and heart in the middle of the cake.
  4. Sprinkle remaining chopped nuts and coconut flakes around edges and top of cake.

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The Very BEST Tiramisu–America’s Test Kitchen

YOU. Yes, you sitting there with your finger hovering over the mouse ready to click away at a moment’s notice and sneak cyber-stealthily away before reading the rest of this post. YOU WILL WANT TO STAY FOR THIS.
(Besides, MY TIRAMISU SEES YOU. So still those finicky fingers and sit yo bum down while I tell you about a fail-proof tiramisu recipe you just have to make. I do NOT use the appellation “very best” lightly.)
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#filter #nofilter
If you have been following my blog in recent months (or even if you haven’t–here comes the spoiler), you’ll know that I have been going slightly cray-cray lately studying for my qualifying exams. Which are coming up very, very soon. As in January soon. And if you have ever been through a period in your life when you’ve gone cray-cray crawfish style, you’ll know that you just don’t have time, the emotional capacity, or the sanity for the big heart-sinker: FAILED DESSERTS.
So of course I was uber-excited when I came across this no-bake, utterly fail-proof tiramisu recipe from America’s Test Kitchen.
And made it.
And it was AMAZEBALLS.
BEST Tiramisu from America's Test Kitchen 16-101913
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I find that the deeper I trudge into the wilds of study hermitage territory, the less refined my language and blogging gets. OH WELL. #girlsjustwannahavefun
(On a sort of related note, I also find that I’m much more comfortable now with not just creating one “writing voice” when I blog, but using whatever writing comes most naturally to me when I scroll through my photos for the day. I love feeling like my photos and I have conversations before I sit down (or stand up, usually, at my bizarre makeshift stand-up desk) to type out my day’s work. Kind of like Gollum and his alter-ego. I’ll let you decide whether or not that’s worrisome. But the main takeaway here is that I hope you guys also feel that these photos and stories together tell more than just their component parts, which is something I’ve been working hard to make happen through my recent photoseries blog posts. (You can check out some of my cool photoseries posts here, here, and here.))
–Aw shucks, it’s almost like I’m getting attached to you guys or something, *sniff.* <3

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^ Seriously. What the photo said.
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But back to this tiramisu. I told you not to click away, and here is the big reason. This is not only the very best tiramisu I have ever eaten, or made, or served.
It has received the ultra-rare, more-elusive-than-Atlantis Mommy Stamp of Approval.
Which is basically like if a scientist walked up to you today and proved that dodo birds aren’t really extinct. IT’S REALLY MIND-BLOWING.
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(I love this picture. My dad walked up to me in the middle of my photoshoot–he has been so good about ignoring all of my weird baking/blogging habits–and started dangling my Stitch pillow pet in all sorts of poses over the tiramisu. I guess Stitch needs tiramisu lovin’, too <3 )
I made it for my mom’s birthday, and after taking a bite, she held onto her fork, turned around to face me, and said, “You can open a bakery now.”
This coming from the lady who is assured that all I do in the kitchen is spawn devil pups all day, Or something. I mean, what ELSE could I be doing in the kitchen that could make it “so so so messy,” right?
Just kidding. I love you, Mom!
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I have to vouch for this recipe 100% to the 50 bajillionth power. Everybody who ate it loved it–plus the recipe is make-ahead friendly, no-bake, and just so darn good. It’s slightly sweeter than most other tiramisu recipes I’ve tried, and I added a lot more Kahlua/coffee than the original recipe called for (there is no such thing as too much Kahlua here!)–I’ve noted the suggested changes in the recipe below–but otherwise this recipe is THE. VERY. BEST. If my strangely experimental cross-lit edited photos and less than witty taglines have not convinced you of this fact already. (Give a girl a break, will ya?)
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I got my forks. And I got my stretchy sweatpants on. Check, and check.
Now go do yourself a favor and go make this tiramisu. And then make sure you stop by the post office to pick up a box big enough to hold a cooler and this cake. I will even offer to pay for postage, if you get my drift. Heh.
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Happy Stretchy Sweatpants Tiramisu Day, every day!

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The Very BEST Tiramisu–America’s Test Kitchen
Yield: 9×13-inch baking dish
Original recipe below from America’s Test Kitchen. Alterations to the recipe or comments made by me are indicated in blue.
Ingredients:
  • 2-1/2 cups strong brewed coffee, room temperature
  • 1-1/2 Tablespoons instant espresso granules–I had instant coffee granules on hand and used about 4 tablespoons of that instead.
  • 9 tablespoons dark rum–I added about a tablespoon or two extra Kahlua in step 2.
  • 6 large egg yolks
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon table salt
  • 1-1/2 pounds mascarpone
  • 3/4 cup cold heavy cream
  • 14 ounces (42 to 60, depending on size) dried ladyfingers (savoiardi)–note: you will want to buy the hard variety of ladyfingers.
  • 3-1/2 Tablespoons cocoa, preferably Dutch-processed
  • 1/4 cup grated semisweet or bittersweet chocolate (optional)

Directions:

1. Stir coffee, espresso, and 5 tablespoons rum in a wide bowl or baking dish until espresso dissolves; set aside.

2. In bowl of standing mixer fitted with whisk attachment, beat yolks at low speed until just combined. Add sugar and salt and beat at medium-high speed until pale yellow, 1-1/2 to 2 minutes, scraping down bowl with rubber spatula once or twice. Add remaining 4 tablespoons rum and beat at medium speed until just combined, 20 to 30 seconds; scrape bowl. Add mascarpone and beat at medium speed until no lumps remain, 30 to 45 seconds, scraping down bowl once or twice. Transfer mixture to large bowl and set aside.

3. In now-empty mixer bowl (no need to clean bowl), beat cream at medium speed until frothy, 1 to 1-1/2 minutes. Increase speed to high and continue to beat until cream holds stiff peaks, 1 to 1-1/2 minutes longer. Using rubber spatula, fold one-third of whipped cream into mascarpone mixture to lighten, then gently fold in remaining whipped cream until no white streaks remain. Set mascarpone mixture aside.

4. Working one at a time, drop half of ladyfingers into coffee mixture, roll, remove and transfer to 13 by 9-inch glass or ceramic baking dish–I used one 9×9-inch springform baking pan (it makes for a great appearance) and one 4×6-inch casserole dish. (Do not submerge ladyfingers in coffee mixture; entire process should take no longer than 2 to 3 seconds for each cookie.) Arrange soaked cookies in single layer in baking dish, breaking or trimming ladyfingers as needed to fit neatly into dish.–Helpful tip: What the instructions mean hear is basically that you should lightly and quickly roll your ladyfingers in the coffee mixture; don’t dunk them in for a long period of time, or they will get soggy in your tiramisu.

5. Spread half of mascarpone mixture over ladyfingers; use rubber spatula to spread mixture to sides and into corners of dish and smooth surface. Place 2 tablespoons cocoa in fine-mesh strainer and dust cocoa over mascarpone.

6. Repeat dipping and arrangement of ladyfingers; spread remaining mascarpone mixture over ladyfingers and dust with remaining 1-1/2 tablespoons cocoa. Wipe edges of dish with dry paper towel. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate 6 to 24 hours. Sprinkle with grated chocolate, if using; cut into pieces and serve chilled.

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Monday Morning Mocha ‘n Chocolate Cheesecakes

  I have been productive lately. That means a lot of productibaking, which means wading through a really, really big pile of reading. Check.

I also have another photo-story for all of you. Did you see my last one for the very best chewy Biscoff blondies? I don’t have too much time these days to write, but I still want to share my stories with all of you.

I don’t drink coffee or mocha, but I love coffee-flavored anything. And since caffeine and productivity are the order of the day, these mocha ‘n chocolate cheesecakes were born–perfect for your Monday morning. Or Tuesday. Or every any day of the week, really.

I hope you all enjoy, pin, share, and love these quaint coffee banners!  These creamy mini cheesecake smell like you’re sitting in the middle of your favorite hipster cafe with a cuppa fresh brew–you won’t even know the difference.

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Which coffee saying describes you best?  (I’m definitely feeling the “productivity” one right now!)

OR What do you wake up to in the morning?

Ala

Don’t forget to pin/share/print/like! :)

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Monday Morning Mocha ‘n Chocolate Cheesecakes
Yield: 12 mini cheesecakes
Ingredients:
  • 1 (8 oz.) package cream cheese, softened
  • 1/3 cup white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon Kahlua (or other coffee-flavored liqueur, or espresso or strong brewed coffee)
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4 tablespoons instant coffee granules, divided and finely crushed
  • 1 egg, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 12-cup muffin tin with liners and set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, cream together cream cheese and white sugar until nice and fluffy, about 2 minutes.
  3. In a separate small bowl, combine Kahlua and vanilla. Mix in 2 tablespoons coffee granules and stir until dissolved.
  4. Add Kahlua mixture, egg, and remaining finely-crushed coffee granules to cream cheese mixture. Beat in until completely smooth.
  5. Divide cheesecake batter equally between 12 tins.
  6. In a microwave-safe bowl, heat chocolate chips at 20-second intervals, stirring rapidly between each interval until chocolate is melted and smooth. (Be careful not to overheat your chocolate–you will want to remove the bowl from microwave and stir when the chocolate is just beginning to turn melty.) Pour a dollop of chocolate into each filled cheesecake tin and swirl using a toothpick.
  7. Bake in preheated oven for 12-15 minutes, until just set. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely before transferring to fridge. Allow to chill in fridge for at least one hour–or you can let it sit overnight and wake up the next morning to a perfectly “brewed” Monday morn mocha cheesecake!

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Summer Lemon Blueberry Cupcakes with Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting

Am I the only one who not only does not want autumn to come, but would happily embrace summer (and all its fruity, sunshiney glory) the whole year round?

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If you’re following other food blogs, you’ve probably seen hints of pumpkin and warm cinnamon spices creeping slowly but steadily into recipes in recent weeks. I mean, I’m all about individual choice and stuff, but here, at least…

NO WAY. And more summer please.

Hence these prototypically summery lemon blueberry cupcakes during the last week of August. Because I’m a summer rebel and I’m trying going to convert y’all with these, too.

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I love summer berries and all of nature’s sweet fruit,and I firmly believe that they appear between the months of May and August (or even longer, if you’re lucky like me!) for a reason. Summer is the best seasons, so let’s not quibble.

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Don’t get me wrong–I love fall. But I am the kind of girl who either likes seasons and holidays when they’re supposed to come (i.e. no Christmas music in November, please), or writes a pumpkin dessert post in the middle of April because heck, nobody else is doing it. And if I want pumpkin in springy April, I’m going to make it. I’m sure I’m not the only person on the planet who has completely atemporal taste buds.

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But that whole summer-is-ending-and-hooray-for-fall-thing? Again, personal preference–but I’m not buying it.

So you get lemon. And blueberry. And REALLY GREAT MOIST CUPCAKES.

You will become a summer re-convert, I promise.

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Aside from the obvious perks, another reason why I love summer is because it allows me to do proper photoshoots in summer lighting

If you’ve seen my last few posts, you may have noticed less props and way, way less photo prep. As a result, I haven’t been able to submit a lot of my photos to Foodgawker and Tastespotter like I usually do, which makes me a little sad. This is because by the time I get home from work and finish my study quota for the day, the daylight has usually faded and the result is lots of crappy photos shot under our kind of anti-photo florescent kitchen lights.

So basically, sunlight rocksAlthough so would having a pair of literarily-inclined elves who could do my reading for me. That would also rock very much.

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After reading through nearly ten consecutive pumpkin posts on other blogs, I finally ran home from work on Friday and sat down to photograph these cupcakes. They look yummy, don’t they? Trust me, they taste even better.

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(On My Kitchen Table:  Assorted poems by Romantic authors such as Blake, Wordsworth, Coleridge, and–most recently–Lord Byron. Don Juan is longer than my mom’s rants, period. Somebody get me a cupcake and a massive paper shredder, please.)  

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So what do you think: is it time for summer, or fall?

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Love,

Ala

Will Cook For Smiles

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Summery Lemon Blueberry Cupcakes with Lemony Frosting
Ingredients:
  • 1/2 cup butter or margarine, room temperature
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons lemon zest (I used the zest from one HUGE lemon)
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 tablespoons (or more) lemon juice, depending on taste
  • 1/3 cup fresh blueberries

Directions:

    1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
    2. Cream together butter and sugar until light & fluffy, about 3 minutes with vigorous beating by hand.
    3. Beat in eggs and vanilla extract.
    4. Mix in flour, baking powder, and salt until just incorporated.
    5. Add lemon zest, milk, and lemon juice. Stir in slowly until well combined (note: make sure not to stir vigorously, though–doing so will toughen up the gluten and create a much tougher cupcake).

Fold in fresh blueberries.

  1. Line muffin tin with 12 cupcake liners and fill each liner 3/4 way with batter. Bake in preheated oven for 18-20 minutes, until toothpick comes out clean. Meanwhile, make lemon frosting (recipe below).
  2. Remove from oven and transfer to a wire rack to cool. Cool completely before frosting; top with blueberries. Then sit back, take a bite, and enjoy your gorgeous summer!

Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 1 (8 oz.) package cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1/4 cup butter or margarine, room temperature
  • 1 cup confectioner’s sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1-2 tablespoons lemon juice, as needed

Directions:

  1. In a medium bowl, beat together cream cheese and butter until fluffy. Mix in sugar (you may need more or less, as desired). Gradually add vanilla and lemon juice, stirring until you reach the desired consistency. You may not need all of the lemon juice. Frost your cupcakes and delight your summer guests!

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Fudgy Chocolate Tunnel Cake

This is not a cake for the weak.

This is a cake for the fudgiest, moistest, chocolate-iest, veganest (if you want it to be!), cake that you will ever make, or ever be requested to make again, ever.

That huge GLOB of fudge you see running throughout the base of cake there? Ah-MAY-zing.

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As I mentioned in my last post about possibly the best Oreo bar cookies in the world, I’m currently following a regimen of intense “productibaking.” I searched this term on the internet  expecting to see some slang dictionary entry for it and I’m the first person to coin it!  Apparently, I’m the first person to think about baking as a positive rewarding force (as opposed to the popular procrastibaking) and actually give a name to it.

So here I am. Productibaking.

Actually, not. The photos from this absolutely fudgy and delicious cake that you must make (are we LOOKING at the same pictures here??) are from last month for a potluck I hosted. Which I guess means that I haven’t been productive enough yet.

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Oops.

Well, in the meantime, enjoy the recipe! I’m keeping this post short so I can go off and procrast–I mean, be productive now.

:)

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This may be my FAVORITE CHOCOLATE CAKE RECIPE TO DATE–Make this!!

Ala

Fudgy Chocolate Tunnel Cake
Slightly adapted from Erica’s Sweet Tooth
Yield: 1 12-cup bundt cake pan
for the pan: 1 tbsp Dutch processed cocoa powder 1 tbsp unsalted butter, melted for the cake: 1/2 cup boiling water 1/4 cup semisweet or dark chocolate chips 2 cups all purpose flour 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder 2 cups confectioners’ sugar 1 tsp salt 5 large eggs, at room temperature 1 tbsp vanilla extract 1 cup granulated sugar 3/4 cup light brown sugar 20 tbsp (2-1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature (use lactose-free margarine to make this vegan!) for the ganache: 1 cup white sugar 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder 1/4 cup milk (substitute soy milk for vegan option!) 1/4 cup butter (use lactose-free margarine to make this vegan!) 1vanilla extract

directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a small bowl, combine the cocoa powder and melted butter, and use a brush to evenly coat the inside of a 12-cup bundt pan.
  2. Place chocolate chips in a medium bowl and pour boiling water over them; whisk together until smooth. In another medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, confectioners’ sugar, and salt. In a third small bowl, lightly beat together the eggs and vanilla.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, beat together the granulated sugar, brown sugar, and butter until very light and fluffy (this will take several minutes). Add the egg mixture and beat well. Add the chocolate mixture and mix until incorporated. Slowly add the dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Pour the batter into the pan and bake for about 45 minutes, or until the edges of the cake begin to pull away from the pan.
  4. Allow the cake to cool in the pan on a wire rack for at least an hour before inverting it onto a cake platter. Serve warm or cooled, as desired.
  5. For the glaze, combine all ingredients in a medium pot over medium heat. Stir constantly and bring to a boil for one full minute. Turn off heat and remove pot; beat icing for an additional 3 minutes, until it begins to cool and thicken. Allow icing to continue thickening until it reaches desired consistency, then pour over your fudge tunnel cake and enjoy!
 

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