More of my favorites...

Friday, June 29, 2012

Lemon mini cakes and Mocha brownies

I have been craving lemon all summer, and who can blame me? Lemon is your classic summer citrus, whether it's lemonade, a squeeze of fresh lemon in your afternoon iced tea,  blueberry lemon bread with a lemon glaze - you name it.

Last week for me it was lemon cookies with a lemon glaze. This week it's lemon cupcakes, drizzled with a lemon syrup, and topped with lemon buttercream frosting.

That's a lot of lemon for you.

Mark (my stepdad) and my mom hosted a summer business dinner for Mark's company last night. Of course I jumped at the chance to make desserts - a good excuse to blog. I'm at three days this week already (pretty stellar when you look at my blogging habits over the past year)! Because I knew that my mom would make a killer dinner with the help of Grill Master Mark, I opted to make bite-sized desserts - easy, passable, and hard to turn down. I wanted to continue my baking-with-lemon streak, and I had yet to make a lemon cake, so I decided on lemon "mini cakes" with lemon buttercream frosting and, for the chocolate lovers, mini chocolate brownies with whipped mocha frosting.

Lemon Mini Cakes with Lemon Buttercream Frosting, modified from the Barefoot Contessa

For the cake:
2 sticks butter, softened
2 C granulated sugar
4 large eggs, at room temp.
1/3 C cup lemon zest (3-6 lemons)
3 C flour
1/2 t baking powder
1/2 t baking soda
1 t kosher salt
1/4 fresh lemon juice
3/4 C buttermilk
1 t vanilla extract

For the syrup:
1/2 C granulated sugar
1/2 C fresh lemon juice

For the frosting:
1/3 C butter, softened
3 C powdered sugar
1 1/2 t fresh lemon juice
1 T lemon zest
2 T milk

Preheat the oven to 350. Thoroughly grease 2 mini muffin pans and set aside. To make the batter: With an electric mixer, beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, and the lemon zest, and beat until well-combined.

Combine your dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt) in a medium-sized bowl. Stir to combine thoroughly. In a separate bowl, whisk together your lemon juice, buttermilk, and vanilla. Add the dry and wet ingredients alternately to the sugar mixture, stirring in between additions and beginning and ending with the dry ingredients.

Once thoroughly combined, plop spoonfuls of batter into your mini muffin pan.  Bake about 17 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean. 

Allow to cool for 15 min., the remove from pan, loosening each cupcake by moving around the circumference with a knife. To make the syrup, heat 1/2 C fresh lemon juice and 1/2 C sugar in a small saucepan over medium-low heat until sugar is dissolved. Spoon syrup over baked cupcakes.

To make the frosting, combine all ingredients and beat until light and fluffy. If the frosting is too thick, add milk as needed. If it is too runny, add powdered sugar as needed. Frost mini cupcakes and garnish with a small sliver of lemon peel, as pictured.


The mocha brownies pictured above are always a tremendous hit. Make them for any occasion; they're always a crowd-pleaser. The brownies are chewy and chocolatey, but the frosting really makes the brownie. Light, whipped, chocolatey mocha goodness. it's probably the best frosting I've ever had. And it came from the Pioneer Woman, so you know it's gotta be good! Get the recipe here.

Happy Summer!


Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Good eats in the TC

It's been quite awhile since I've written about all of the fantastic food available in the Twin Cities, and I think now is the time to jot down a few good eats. I consider myself one who is very familiar with the restaurant scene in the Twin Cities, and I'm always eager to try the latest restaurants (they're popping up like mad these days). Yet it never ceases to amaze me that my list seems only to get longer as opposed to getting shorter.

Bar La Grassa
This is a MUST go. Hard to believe I hadn't been until last weekend. My beau Teddy was in town, so we went on his first night in the cities, per his mom's suggestion. The restaurant is sexy and sophisticated - great place for a hot date or a night on the town with girlfriends. And the food is incredible. We shared three small plates: soft eggs and lobster bruschetta, crab ravioli, and seared sea scallops with black rice and gremolata. Everyone I've talked to insists on the soft eggs and lobster bruschetta, and I would insist on it too. It was Teddy's favorite. The crab ravioli, made fresh in house, will melt in your mouth. My fave was the sea scallops. The scallops burst in your mouth with buttery flavor, and the unexpected combo with black rice is perfect.

Eli's Northeast
Teddy and I went to Eli's new location in Northeast (a rumored hotspot for TC chefs after a night on the job) for a late bite one Sunday evening. The dark mahogany booths and warm decor are incredibly inviting, and the jazzy music playing in the background "took me back" to the 1920's. The food was great, too. Teddy still talks about the jalapeno BLT he ordered. I had a turkey and brie sandwich, which was buttery and fresh and totally satisfying. A casual place to relax with a cocktail and some good American cuisine.

The Lowry
A sleek urban diner, I'd say, with darn good diner food specializing in burgers, whiskey, oysters, and eggs. The best cure for my Saturday morning hangover: a bacon cheeseburger with fried shallots and BBQ sauce at 10 a.m. This was the FIRST time I had indulged in a bacon cheeseburger, and my mouth still waters just thinking about it.

Tell me, what are your fave TC spots?!


Friday, June 22, 2012

Cherry Streusel Coffee Cake

Happy Summer!

We are officially one day in to Minnesota's best season.

It is a beautiful day to be blogging and sipping an Arnold Palmer in the sun. Today I'd like to share with you a delicious recipe: Cherry Streusel Coffee Cake, complete with home-picked sour cherries. My landlord has two large sour cherry trees in our backyard and is generous to let us pick the berries. Their tart flavor makes them perfect for baking, and they'd mix well with a variety of other flavors: blueberries, peaches, lemon - you name it.

It's a great recipe, too, in that the cake is light - perfect for a summer brunch on the patio. I was so thrilled to find the recipe that I cancelled all my plans for the evening to come home and make it!

Cherry Streusel Coffee Cake, modified from Seattle Times: Food & Wine

For the cake:
1 stick butter, softened
2 C all-purpose flour
1 t baking powder
1 t baking soda
1 C sugar
2 eggs
1 t vanilla extract
1 C sour crean
1 C fresh sour cherries (you can substitute with other berries or peaches as well)

For the streusel:
1/2 C + 1 T all-purpose flour
3 T light brown sugar
1/2 t ground cinnamon
4 T cold butter, cut into cubes

For the glaze:
1 C powdered sugar
2 T milk

Preheat the oven to 350, and spray a 9-inch tube pan with non-stick cooking spray.

Wash your cherries, and remove pits. Dab with paper towel to remove excess water.

Sift together flour, soda, and powder. Set aside.

Beat butter, sugar, vanilla, and eggs with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add your flour mixture to the batter in three parts, alternating adding the sour cream, but beginning and ending with the flour. Beat until combined.

Pour half the batter into your greased pan, spreading evenly. Create a layer of pitted cherries over the batter, but avoid letting the cherries touch the pan, as they will burn. Top the cherry layer with the rest of your batter, spreading evenly and covering the cherries completely.

Don't forget the streusel! To make streusel topping, combine all ingredients in a medium bowl. Mash together with your hands until it resembles the texture of wet sand. Cover your top layer of batter with the streusel, and place in the oven. Bake for 40-45 min, until toothpick comes out clean.

Allow cake to cool slightly, remove from pan, and allow to cool completely before topping the cake with glaze.

To make the milk glaze, combine milk and powdered sugar in a bowl and beat until creamy. Drizzle over streusel, and you have yourself a coffee cake masterpiece.



Sunday, April 15, 2012

Blueberry bread with lemon glaze

It's a shame.

I had some really great pictures for this post that I took with my new iPhone 4S, but they seem to be lost in cyberspace. Not sure where they went after I plugged my phone in to iTunes. All I know is they're not on my phone and not on my computer. Can any of you techies help a gal out?

This recipe is too good not to post, though, so I'll post anyway without pics. My sweetie, Teddy, lives in Chicago, so I like to bake him sweet treats when I see him. Last weekend we met halfway in the Wisconsin Dells, so I baked him some blueberry bread and added a little twist by adding lemon zest and topping with lemon glaze. A perfect summery mix of flavors.

Blueberry bread with lemon glaze

1 1/2 C packed brown sugar
1/2 C canola oil
1 egg
3/4 C skim milk
1/4 C half & half
1 T lemon juice
1 t vanilla extract
2 1/2 C all-purpose flour
1 t baking soda
1 t salt
1 1/2 C fresh blueberries
Zest from one lemon

For the glaze:

2 C powdered sugar
2 T whole milk
2 T melted butter
1 t lemon extract

Preheat the oven to 350 and spray two loaf pans with non-stick cooking spray.

First prepare your buttermilk.  In a liquid measuring cup or small bowl, combine skim milk, half & half, and lemon juice.  Stir and let stand for at least five minutes.

In a large bowl combine brown sugar, oil, and egg. 
Mix until well-combined and smooth.  Stir in your vanilla and buttermilk mixture.  Next, add your dry ingredients to the wet mixture - flour, baking soda, and salt.  Mix until well-combined and smooth.

Fold your blueberries and lemon zest in to the batter.

Pour half of the batter in to one of the loaf pans and the rest in to the other loaf pan. Bake for 50-55 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.

For the glaze, mix all ingredients until smooth.  Add milk as needed so that the glaze will drizzle evenly on to the bread.  Once the bread is completely cool, drizzle on a dollop of glaze.  Let glaze harden.

No pics, but I insist, it's very delicious!



Friday, April 13, 2012

Birthday Cake! (Yellow with Chocolate Frosting)

This blog post is long overdue. My stepmom's birthday was February 4, over two months ago now, and as a special birthday treat I went over to their house and prepared a good home-cooked meal.

What was on the menu?

  • Fennel-rubbed pork tenderloin (I've never worked with fennel before, and it was a tad intimidating, but it turned out DELICIOUS. Ever since I first had the fennel fries at Bulldog Northeast I've been completely obsessed)
  • Garlic mashed potatoes (skin on)
  • Steamed green beans with toasted almonds, butter, and lemon juice

And the VERY BEST BIRTHDAY CAKE! Yellow cake from scratch with chocolate buttercream frosting.

I've attempted to white/yellow cakes from scratch several times before without much satisfaction. They've never been bad, but they've never been keepers, either.

This recipe is a keeper, no doubt.

Very Best Birthday Cake, from Smitten Kitchen

4 C + 2 T cake flour
2 t baking powder
1-1/2 t baking soda
1 t table salt
2 sticks butter, softened
2 C sugar
2 t vanilla extract
4 eggs, at room temp.
2 C buttermilk

Preheat oven to 350, and spray 2 round pans - 9 inches in diameter - with non-stick cooking spray.

Sift together your dry ingredients: flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

Using an electric mixer, beat butter and sugar on medium speed until pale and fluffy, the beat in vanilla. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.

At low speed,  beat in buttermilk until just combined. It's okay if the batter looks a bit curdled.

Add your dry mixture in three additions, mixing after each addition until just combined.

Pour batter evenly in to both prepared pans. Holding the pans a few inches above the counter, drop each pan individually a few times in order to remove air bubbles that may be hangin' out in the batter.

Bake for 35-40 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.  Allow to cool in pans for a bit, then remove the cakes from the pans and allow to cool completely.  If your cake is even a little warm, the frosting will melt all over, and you'll have one BIG mess on your hands (and an ugly cake).

Chocolate Buttercream Frosting, from Nestle Toll House

3 C powdered sugar
2/3 C cocoa
1 stick butter
6 T milk
1 t vanilla

Beat 1 C powedered sugar, cocoa, butter, 2 T milk, and vanilla. Gradually beat in remaining milk and sugar until creamy.

To frost: 

Layer cakes are a bit tricky to frost, and it really does take some practice. Not that I should be the one to talk, because I'm far from a pro cake-froster.  Flip one of your cakes upside down on the plate on which you'd like to serve the cake. Start by frosting the flat surface facing up (which is the bottom of the cake). Put a big ol' dollop on the top and spread evenly with a knife.

Place your other cake upside down on top of the bottom cake. Put another big ol' dollop on the top and spread. Then, using hefty scoops of frosting, frost the sides.



Saturday, January 28, 2012

Cinnamon Sugar Breakfast Puffs

I'm back! After MONTHS. No good, I tell you. I recently joined Pinterest and have been posting all my sweet treats on my "Red Bike Bakery" board. Make sure to check it out!

I got this recipe from The Pioneer Woman Cooks. Every one of her recipes is guaranteed deliciousness, so these are bound to be good. They're baking in the oven as I write (and watch Julie and Julia). The best part of whipping up the batter is the spicy scent of nutmeg. Mmmm. Reminds me of eggnog.

Nothing like a sweet treat in the morning to go along with a much-needed latte.

French Breakfast Puffs, from The Pioneer Woman

For the puffs:
3 C all-purpose flour
3 t baking powder
1 t salt
1/2 t ground nutmeg
1 C sugar
2/3 C shortening
2 eggs
1 C milk

For the coating:
2 sticks butter
1-1/2 C sugar
3 t ground cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 350 and grease 12 muffin cups.

In a medium-sized bowl, stir the first four ingredients thoroughly and set aside.

In another large bowl, cream the shortening and sugar with an electric mixer. Add the eggs and beat again. In three separate additions, alternate adding the flour mixture and the milk, beating well after each addition.

Add a large dollop of batter to your muffin cups.

Bake 20-25 minutes until the muffins are a light golden brown.

Once cooled slightly, remove the muffins from the pan and set aside.

Now the best part: a butter and cinnamon sugar glaze. Yuuummmm.

Melt the butter in a bowl or glass pan.  In a separate bowl mix the cinnamon and sugar.

Dip your muffins first in to the melted butter, then the cinnamon sugar. Voila, you have an indulgent breakfast sweet.

And how do they taste? I think scrumptious is the word. Absolutely fantastic. Tastes like a cinnamon sugar cake donut with a hint of nutmeg.



Thursday, November 17, 2011

Enter to win!

Thanksgiving is just around the corner.  In fact, it is exactly six days, two hours, and 28 minutes away (at least it was when I was writing this).  Need that top-shelf pie pan to make that perfect pumpkin pie sure to impress the whole family?  With the holidays just around the corner maybe you're more interested in buying your mother, father, spouse, brother, sister, etc. that kitchen accessory that will end all kitchen accessories.  Or if you're me, you'd treat yourself to a little luxury.

Let's cut to the chase.  I am GIVING AWAY a $25 gift card to the Uptown's fabulous Kitchen Window as well as this fashionable, never-been-used apron (though I did buy it quite a few months ago).  I have far too many aprons.

Please excuse my less than quality photo!

How do you "enter to win"?

Become a follower OF my blog NOW, and your name is in!  It's that simple.