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.