Archive for the ‘Cakes’ Category

NOTE: I left a vital ingredient out on the previous version–must have sneezed at a vital point. Sorry about that!

We interrupt this blast to the past with . . . cake. Sorry, I’ve been sick lately and am still a bit scattered but didn’t want another sweltering day to go by without sharing this refreshing bit of goodness on a fork.

Backing up . . . on my recent weekend jaunt to East Texas (home of the chicken), our little group ate dinner here:

Unk's Shrimp Shack

I can't tell you how to get there, you'll just have to call them for directions.

It was a feast of fried fabulous: shrimp, onion strings, sweet potato fries (you can see we went for the diet plate). Stuffed to the gills, we were having a fine old time chatting with our delightful server, Jordan, about life, the universe, and the politics of catfish, when she recommended dessert.

“No, really, I can’t,” I said. And I meant it. But Paula thought she could squeeze in a little something, so she ordered Jordan’s recommendation, the Pineapple 7-Up Cake. It arrived and she took a bite. Her eyes grew wide as she exclaimed around a mouthful of goodness, “mwmfsglrbrfk!”

For those of you who don’t speak cake, this translates to “Wow! This is amazing!”

So I had to try it and she was right; it was definitely mwmfsglrbrfk. Listening to our rapturous moans with a knowing smile, young Jordan asked, “You want the recipe?” We responded with vigorous nods and a resounding “ynweofxz” which Jordan (clearly fluent in cake) immediately decoded as “Yes, please!”

Pineapple 7-Up Cake

Pineapple-y goodness.

About now you’re probably wondering why I called this “church lady cake” and here’s why: First it looks like something a sweet little old lady would bring to a church potluck—at least to any church potluck anywhere in the South. Second, the recipe was handwritten and short on details, much like other recipes I’ve received from the aforementioned church ladies.

It’s moist and fruity and tastes old-fashioned in the best possible way. It’s about as good as a non-chocolate dessert could be. If you store it in the fridge and cut yourself a cold slice to eat on a hot summer day . . . well, your tastebuds will thank you.

What follows is my slightly clarified version of the recipe received.

Pineapple 7-Up Cake

For the Cake . . .
1 Pineapple Cake Mix (I used Duncan Hines but any would do)
8 oz (1 cup) 7-Up*
¾ cup Oil
4 Eggs

Mix together and beat 2 minutes. Pour into 2 greased and flowered 9-inch cake pans. I recommend adding parchment paper to the pans first; it’s a sticky cake.) Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until done (mine took more like 40 minutes). Cool on a rack with a dish towel over the layers to retain moisture.

For the Icing . . .
1 stick Butter
1 ½ cups Sugar
2 Eggs
4-5 Tablespoons Flour (In the spirit of church ladies, I just eyeballed the flour)
1 can pineapple (whoops! I missed that first time around, sorry about that!)

Melt butter in the top of a double boiler,* add remaining ingredients and cook over medium/high heat until thick, stirring regularly to avoid burning. Let cool. Assemble cake and you’ll get something like this:

Pineapple 7-Up Cake, cut

An inside view

NOTE: the icing took significantly longer than I expected. Between stopping (surely it’s thick enough now) and starting (nope, it’ll slide right off the cake at that consistency) it probably took close to 45 minutes to get it right. If you stop too soon it really will slide right off the cake, so make sure it’s closer to the consistency of peanut butter than syrup.

*For my readers outside the US, 7-Up is a sweet, white, carbonated soft drink.

**If you don’t have a double boiler—I don’t—just put a couple inches of water in a large pot and balance a metal or glass bowl over it, making sure the bottom of the bowl does not touch the water. Do not use a plastic bowl or runny icing will be the least of your worries.

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Sally’s having a baby and she wanted a book shower…so naturally Team Cake (Kerri & me) decided to make a book cake. And since it’s a girl, we needed a little princess bling, so we added that, too.

We started with two squares of lemon pound cake, plus one cupcake and an ice cream cone. I forgot to take a picture of the filling, but it was raspberry jam with a little almond flavoring and a pinch of salt mixed in. (Don’t tell Kerri that I told you, the filling was her secret recipe.)

Once the cake was crumb-coated…

frosted cake

Not quite so naked cake

. . . we rolled out fondant for the cake.
fondant in progress

We used Duff's fondant, it's tasty & easy to work with

The green went around the top and one side, the white around the other three sides. I scored the white part for the pages, then Kerri mixed food coloring “paint” and added that nice aged look.
Kerri mixing paint

Artist at work

Meanwhile, I made white chocolate letters for the cover.
chocolate letters

It's not your eyes, they're backwards. The good side is the other one.

We were both too engrossed in covering the hat—the cupcake topped with the ice cream cone—in fondant to take any pictures. It was something of an ordeal and the finished product tended more towards the Hogwarts sorting hat than a princess chapeau, but we decided to go for a ‘faded elegance’ vibe, so what the heck.
trimming the hat

Mad millinery skills

We tucked cotton candy around the base of the hat—we wanted to use it for a veil, but it was too clumpy—added little pearly things, painted the whole thing with shimmer dust, added a lock and key (these are dangerous fairy tales) and called it a day. finished product
The next day the cotton candy had sort of melted, so I added another layer at the WoFfice. It also melted, but remember that faded elegance thing? It worked. cake at shower
And just so you know, this is what my kitchen looked like after 5 hours of cake decorating. Beauty has its price.
destroyed kitchen


But that’s OK, because it was a hit at the shower–and once we cut into it, that book was gone in no time flat. finished productAnd they lived happily ever after.

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My construction buddy Vikki’s daughter recently got married. In Manhattan. Since it was a small venue–and in New York City–they scheduled a reception down here for us Texas folk. This meant two things:

1. Vikki and I had to paint her pergola (the reception was at her house) and
2. They were going to need a cake.

The pergola was not such a problem. I painted the bottom part, Vikki bravely crawled up the ladder and painted the top. The cake . . . well, it wasn’t really a problem either.

While not Food Network worthy, I was pretty proud of it. Mind you, that might have had something to do with the vast quantities of Grand Marnier in the cake itself. The fumes in my kitchen . . . let’s just say it’s a good thing I didn’t have to bake and drive.

Aside from cake, the reception featured meat:

and more meat:


Brought via plane from NYC

and TWO kinds of cornbread.

Not to mention a very large dog. (Actually there were TWO very large dogs, but only one “posed.”


All the excitement was too much for him.

So, to sum up: Meat. Cornbread. Dogs. (Yep, it was a Texas ‘do.) A houseful of friends and family. And, of course, the happy couple.
happy couple
Congratulations, y’all!

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I love a day when I get a lot done and today was definitely in the win column. I started early this morning by baking a Fresh Apple Cake (recipe below) as Vikki was coming by to help paint the shed.

Fresh Apple Cake

Fresh Apple Cake

Then we tackled the shed. And this time–we won. No injuries, even! When I moved in, the shed was all sort of cream-colored. Now it looks like this:

Cute, isn't it?

We built those doors from scratch and they dang near killed us, but ha! They close now. I even managed to put my potting bench back together (we had to disassemble it to paint):
potting bench
And just for fun, I polyurethaned the boards so they’ll stick around a little longer.

Oh, and we disposed of the mouse carcass I discovered on our last shed adventure. It was previously located just left of the shed. Vikki operated the shovel, I held the bag. I’m trying to forget that my shovel is now covered in mouse DNA.

I also sanded and poly-ed the tabletop I have balanced (precariously at the moment) on the wine barrel on my patio.

And I took my first trip to the dump, or whatever they’re calling it these days. Apparently you have to check in at the gate or the bossy man will yell at you. Don’t ask me how I know. The old shed doors are now just a memory…one that will linger a while, since they left bits of rotting wood all over my car.

Oh yes, and I picked up the gazillion bulbs I’d ordered from the Collin County Master Gardeners. It’s possible I was a little ambitious, but I do love daffodils, don’t you?

I intended to measure my front yard, but the measuring tape dematerialized out of my hand, so that’s out. My poor yard; it has issues. No grass, just issues. Any ideas? Preferably inexpensive ideas? It’s too shady for grass these days and I hate dragging down the neighborhood with my icky yard.

Front yard

It used to have grass, really it did.

So now that I’ve cleaned the patio, made spaghetti sauce, and posted on my blog, I think I’ll cheer on the Rangers and try to get the paint off my hands before tomorrow’s trip to the opera. Meanwhile, here’s that recipe. It’s mostly fruit and nuts barely held together with rich cake. It was my father’s favorite cake:


1 cup sugar
1/4 cup shortening
1 egg, beaten
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup chopped nuts (pecans or walnuts recommended)
2 cups peeled, chopped apples
1/2 cup raisins or dates

Cream shortening and sugar together. Add beaten egg. Stir dry ingredients together (a whisk does this nicely) and add to sugar mixture. Add nuts and fruits. Stir. It will be dry and you will want to add more liquid–resist this temptation. Let it rest a couple of minutes and the juice from the apples will take care of everything. Spread in a 9×9 pan* and bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.

*Unless you’re like me and tossed all your 9×9 pans because they were grody and then forgot to buy more. Then you can put it in two bread pans and bake for about 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the cakey part comes out clean.

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Edible? You decide.

Fruitcake. What’s the story behind this much-maligned sweet? It’s a long one; the first recorded appearance of fruitcake dates from Roman times. Crusaders reportedly carried the long-lasting cake to snack on during their long march to the Holy Land (the MRE of its day?). In the early 18th century, fruitcake (then known as plum cake) was outlawed throughout continental Europe ― it was considered “sinfully rich”. That didn’t stop it from becoming a staple of the Victorian tea party, but Queen Victoria herself is said to have waited a year to eat a fruitcake she received for her birthday because she felt it showed restraint, moderation and good taste. (Seriously, who was she trying to impress?) The expression “nutty as a fruitcake” turned up in 1935.

If you’re a fruitcake fan, rejoice! It’s your season. If not…consider heading to Manitou Springs, Colorado on January 2 for the 11th Annual Great Fruitcake Toss. There you can toss (by hand), hurl (via the official Great Fruitcake Toss catapult) or launch (by any other means) your fruitcake in an attempt to win the distance award. Prizes are also given to the most beautiful, ugliest and most creative use of a fruitcake. Did you somehow manage to avoid fruitcake this season? Not to worry, local inns offer fruitcakes and coaching on tossing techniques. Contact the Manitou Springs Chamber of Commerce for contest rules and entry forms at (800) 642-2567 or (719) 685-5089.

If you’re not a fruitcake fan, how about an alternative? My family always made Orange Slice Cake instead (that’s candy orange slices, not real ones) at Christmas. The recipe came from my grandmother—which makes it a little tricky when I try to figure out how big her 35-cent bag of orange slices would be now. I’ve decided it’s 11 ounces, but feel free to estimate. It’s one of my favorite recipes. Consider it a little Christmas gift from me to you.


2 Cups Sugar
1 Cup Shortening
4 Eggs
1 tsp Baking Soda
½ Cup Buttermilk
3½ Cups Flour
Candy Orange Slices (11 oz bag), coarsely chopped
1 Cup Coconut
2-3 Cups Pecans (depending on how much you like pecans)

½ Cup Orange Juice
1 Cup Powdered Sugar
½ tsp Vanilla

Cream shortening and sugar together. Add eggs one at a time, beating well between each. Add a pinch of salt. Dissolve baking soda in buttermilk. Alternately add buttermilk mixture and flour to the mixture. Add orange slices, coconut and pecans. The batter will be stiff.

Bake in loaf or tube pan at 325 for about 1 hour and 20 minutes, then test with toothpick for doneness. Makes 2 bread pans or one large angel food pan.

TOPPING: Mix all ingredients and pour over hot cake.

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I’ve always been entertained by odd titles, especially those given to members of the Royal Court. (Any royal court, I’m not picky.) Like “Lady of the Bedchamber” (sounds risque, doesn’t it?) or “Gentleman of the Privy Council.” So as I was pondering the feats (and occasionally the feets) of the caketastic decorators at the OK Sugar Arts Show, I decided their title should most definitely be “Gentlemen of the Cake.”

Although, to be fair, this one didn’t actually contain any cake at all. It’s kind of a cruel joke…or maybe not so cruel, since we wouldn’t have gotten to eat it anyway.

Ignore the guys in white - it's the dark-shirted guys who are building the cake

Ignore the guys in white - it's the dark-shirted guys who are building the cake

A cake that isn’t really cake is called a “showpiece.” This one, created by “The Three Jays” (aka James Rosselle, Jason Ellis and Joshua John Russell), mimics one James built on Food Network Challenge. Except that one actually was mostly made out of cake. Whatever, he won, it was cool, and it was fun watching the guys create it over the course of 2 days.

This is James, grouting the chimney. The bricks are fondant.

This is James, grouting the chimney. The bricks are fondant.

James was the tallest of the 3 (a fact Jason bitterly ascribed to the height of James’ hair) so he did the high parts. Jason, meanwhile, made the coolest rotating Christmas tree. If I don’t get totally bogged down by rehearsals this December, I am SO making this thing!

Sorry about the fuzzy pic!

Sorry about the fuzzy pic!

About that tree: It’s green fondant wrapped around a tree-shaped styrofoam piece, mounted on the “board” of a fishing game (the battery-operated board rotates). Of course, he wasn’t going to leave it at that. Jason added dimension with rag-painted royal icing, added “flocking,” made teeny little candy canes, and gussied up the tree with a generous layer of edible green sparkles. This last act nearly got him flogged by the crowd. There were audible gasps from the audience; one outraged decorator in my vicinity muttered, “If you did that in my bakery you’d be fired!” while another moaned, “Do you KNOW how much that stuff costs?” Still, he went on flinging sparkles at the tree with reckless abandon, which made for quite the attractive–albeit expensive–piece.

It took quite a long time to build this thing. They weren’t hurrying, like in Challenge, but they worked pretty steadily the whole time, often even when they weren’t officially “on” as the show. By Sunday they had made good progress, as you can see below.

Fireplace now sporting a mantel, stockings, and that darling tree

Fireplace now sporting a mantel, stockings, and that darling tree

This is why I referenced “feets” earlier. There was really no other way to reach the top, but James spent much of his time looking over his shoulder for the “terrifying” Kerry Vincent, feared Food Network judge and organizer of the show. Kerry disapproves of standing on one’s work surface, as well she might.

Do not try this at home.

Do not try this at home.

Between watching for Kerry and wondering if Joshua’s pants were going to fall completely down (we were taking bets in the audience; they did not go all the way but we did get a clear view of his underwear), we whiled away the afternoon in a merry mood.

The almost finished product

The almost finished product

After Joshua spent some time carefully creating Santa’s body parts out of Rice Crispy Treats (the cellulite jokes were about what you’d expect), he and James tried to install the jolly old elf in his place at the top of the chimney.

Installing Santa

Installing Santa

However, Santa had apparently been hitting the milk & cookies a little too hard and, to put it bluntly, his butt was too big. So it had to go. Along with his head. But it came out cute anyway, didn’t it? Look, there’s even a fire in the fireplace!

How cute is that?

How cute is that?

But you know how it is when you get a bunch of boys together. The fire got a little out of hand:

Thankfully they didn't use the big fireworks...

Thankfully they didn't use the big fireworks...

While they were working on the cake, the audience got to compliment, question, and harass the cake gentlemen, which is how I learned the following tidbits about Food Network Challenge, which I will now share:

1. How do you get chosen to be on Challenge?

The Food Network has talent scouts, just like sports teams. Go figure.

2. How do you get to be in the audience?
You pretty much have to be immediate family of or sleeping with one of the cake decorators competing. There are very few seats available–like 4 per competitor.

3. Is it really just 8 hours or are there breaks?
The clock does not stop. If you have to go to the bathroom, you run. And hopefully, you remember to turn off your mike on the way there.

4. What happens to the cakes after Challenge is done?
Cakes that do not win and/or are not for a specified event: a forklift hauls them out back and chunks them in the dumpster. (I found this rather heartbreaking. I had happy little fantasies of the audience & crew tearing into the cakes and having a big ol’ post-Challenge party.)

5. Are you paid well to be on Challenge?
Only if you win! Otherwise, travel expenses, hotel & per diem are as good as it gets. You have to bring your own cake, fondant, etc., too.

6. The judges’ interviews and announcement of winners is done the following day.

7. Who do you most want to compete against?
Stevie! If you’ve seen her on Challenge, you’ll know why. Hers is the only cake I’ve seen that required the use of a fire extinguisher. Which, btw, got on everything that day–so Kerry did not get to eat her birthday cake, after all.

And that’s enough for one day, I think. Cake on!

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Until I figure out a good way to post most all my pics, here are a few more faves from the Oklahoma Sugar Arts Show.


Here’s a close-up of the amazing map painted on the cake above:

Detail from cake above

Detail from cake above

Lighthouses were a popular subject

Lighthouses were a popular subject

Must be a prevailing wind; note the list of this lighthouse

Must be a prevailing wind; note the list of this lighthouse

Notice the beautiful blue swirls. That's fondant marbling at its finest.

Notice the beautiful blue swirls. That's fondant marbling at its finest.

This one strikes me as more groom's cake than wedding cake

This one strikes me as more groom's cake than wedding cake

Speaking of groom’s cakes, I gather in other parts of the country (north of the Mason-Dixon line, say) they don’t have ’em. How sad for the wedding guests. When I find myself at a wedding reception, I generally skip wedding cake (it’s usually boring white cake) and go for the luscious chocolatey goodness of the groom’s cake. Which reminds me, doesn’t this one look delicious?

This one makes my mouth water

Where's my fork?

Oh my. More tomorrow!

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I’m visiting (for real, not virtually) the Oklahoma Sugar Arts show. I don’t even aspire to making cakes on this level…although I was able to look at some of them and find flaws, which gave me a warm squishy feeling inside.

The theme this year is “under the sea.” Some of the entries were obvious. . .

Just one of many

Just one of many lovely entries.

Some not so much (but still pretty!).
Not getting "sea" but isn't it pretty?

I spent a lot of the day watching three 28-year-old stars of cakedom, James Rosselle, Jason Ellis and Joshua John Russell. They’re making an enormous “extreme” Christmas piece.

SORRY about the guy's head in front!

SORRY about the guy's head in front!

It's TALL--he's on a chair

James Rossell grouting the chimney. It's TALL--he's on a chair

Plus there was a timed competition where 4 contestants had 1.5 hours to create a Halloween cake. This one was my fave, but she came in 3rd. My neighbor & I think it must have been a rules violation; she did a bunch of different techniques and it was darling. Look at that witch w/the broom going all the way through the cake!

My fave Halloween cake

My fave Halloween cake

Look how cute she is! And all edible.

Look how cute she is! And all edible.

This is the cake that one. It’s quite nice, too. They had to have 1/8% of the cake be visible Rice Crispies.

Halloween Horror Cake Competition winner

Halloween Horror Cake Competition winner

I’ve met a number of fun people, learned some inside skinny about Food Network Challenge, and seen a lot of great cake. And that’s just today. There’s another whole day tomorrow. Meanwhile, I’m pooped. Watching all those people work is exhausting. More pics to come!

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