Friday, February 27, 2015

Skating Fridays

Aiming High

I mentioned earlier this year that one of my goals for 2015 is to place in the top 4 at Sectionals. The top 4 ladies in my event will earn a spot in the Championship Gold event at Nationals in April. Well, Sectionals is fast approaching, and I have about 2 weeks to prepare for the big competition.

This year, there are 16 ladies vying for a top 4 placement. Ladies that place 5th and 6th will be the first and second alternates at Nationals. In the event that someone has to withdraw, an alternate will take her place.

I have been working on running my program on a daily basis and practicing my program in chunks. We altered my footwork slightly and revised one of my connecting elements near the end of the program. Since my spins did not count at my previous competition, we fixed it so they should receive their full value. I want to skate a clean program.

I also want to be able to prove to myself that I can do this.  I can't imagine how exhilarating it would be to represent my Section in my first attempt at the championship level. I would appreciate any words of wisdom, encouragement and high-fives you can spare!


Wednesday, February 25, 2015

{Giveaway} Bob's Red Mill flours

As a special thank you to all my loyal readers, I have 4 exciting giveaways this week for some fantastic products. Come see what I have in store!
This is the end of giveaway week on Eva Bakes!  Today I've partnered with my friends at Bob's Red Mill for a four-pack of their fantastic flour products. Some of my favorite items include their whole wheat flour, pastry flour and whole wheat pastry flour. I love the fact that Bob's Red Mill offers one of the largest lines of organic, whole grain foods in the country and that they are certified organic.

While I love to bake, I often try to alter recipes so that they are somewhat healthier than the original. Some recipes will remain full-fat (and full flavor), but I will often substitute butter for applesauce and sour cream for Greek yogurt. I often will swap out all-purpose flour for whole wheat flour, and nobody  has been able to taste the difference. Bob's Red Mill offers plenty of whole grain flours that you can use to make your own substitutions, so I hope you'll try their products.

And now onto the giveaway! One lucky winner will receive four of Bob's Red Mill flours. Simply enter by completing the Rafflecopter widget below. You can enter once a day for a full week (no blog commenting required). Please be patient, as sometimes the widget is slow to load. No entries will be accepted via any other method.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

A special thanks to Bob's Red Mill for providing the products for this giveaway. I did not receive any additional compensation or free products for this post. As always, all thoughts and opinions are 100% my own.


Tuesday, February 24, 2015

{Giveaway} See's Candies

As a special thank you to all my loyal readers, I have 4 exciting giveaways this week for some fantastic products. Come see what I have in store!

What a fun week! I hope you have been enjoying all the giveaways as much as I have. And remember, it's all thanks to you that I've gotten this far. So THANK YOU for reading my little blog.

Today's giveaway is from one of my favorite chocolate companies, See's Candies. I first learned about See's in college, when my suitemate's grandmother would send her a box of assorted chocolates or Bridge Mix every year for the holidays. We always fought for the last piece because each chocolate was amazing.

As the years passed, I would get excited when I was a See's kiosk or store when I traveled around the country. Much to my chagrin, we didn't get See's anywhere near me. So, I always made it a point to buy something whenever I did see a See's around the country. I've made purchases in airports, malls and standalone stores. My favorite See's product are the Mint Krispys. It's basically a chocolate-mint covered honeycomb. Check out the new packaging below:
I don't know if you have a See's around you, but if you don't, no worries. One winner will receive a $25 gift card to See's, and they will also throw in free shipping if you order your goodies online (the free shipping is for the winner only). You'll want to try out their peanut brittle (my dad's favorite), Assorted Lollypops (Addie's favorite) and boxed chocolates like my suitemate always got. Everything is delicious!

So what are you waiting for? Enter via the Rafflecopter widget below to win the gift card. You can enter once a day for a full week (no blog commenting required). Please be patient, as the widget can be slow to load.

Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway
A special thanks to See's for providing the products for this giveaway. I did not receive any additional compensation or free products for this post. As always, all thoughts and opinions are 100% my own. 

Monday, February 23, 2015

{Giveaway} OXO baking tools

As a special thank you to all my loyal readers, I have 4 exciting giveaways this week for some fantastic products. Come see what I have in store!

The week of giveaways continues!

Today I am partnering with my friends at OXO to provide you with an OXO prize pack. Here is what it contains:
I'm a huge fan of OXO products and can honestly say that I use my 6 piece measuring cup and 7 piece measuring spoon set every time I bake. The cups and spoons nestle into each other and are attached with a plastic hook so everything stays together for easy storage. They are easy to clean and are dishwasher safe too. My favorite thing about the measuring cup set is that each cup has a line marked for that particular size's halfway mark! So if I'm too lazy and don't want to measure 1 and 1/2 cups of flour using two cups, I can just use the 1 cup measurement and do it in one shot. Genius!

Here are my OXO POP canisters with flour, granulated sugar and brown sugar
In case you are curious, here are some of my other favorite OXO products that you need to get!
And now onto the giveaway! Simply enter by using the Rafflecopter widget below. You can enter once a day for a full week (no blog commenting required). Please be patient, as sometimes it is slow to load. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

A special thanks to OXO for providing the products for this giveaway. OXO sent me some complimentary items for me to use but did not provide any additional compensation. As always, all thoughts and opinions are 100% my own.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

{Giveaway} Gluten-free coconut chocolate cake and a King Arthur Flour giveaway

This gluten-free chocolate cake has a subtle hint of coconut throughout each bite. Even non-coconut lovers will enjoy these dense, chocolate-y loaf! I have almost an entire week of giveaways lined up, so keep coming back each day for your chance to win some great products!

One million page views! I can't believe it! I've been blogging for over 3 years and finally hit this tremendous milestone. Thank you for your support throughout the years and helping me become a better baker, writer and photographer. I couldn't have done it without you!

As part of this exciting milestone, I've partnered with King Arthur Flour to create this coconut chocolate cake. This gluten-free treat can be dressed up or down depending upon the occasion and could easily be made into cupcakes. Your non-gluten free friends will not miss the flour in this recipe!

King Arthur Flour makes some pretty amazing products, and you have to follow their blog if you don't already do so (the deep dish pizza recipe is my favorite). They even staff a baker's hotline in case you are baking something and need an expert's advice! I haven't had to call the line yet, but if and when I do get stuck, I know who to call (you can even email them or engage in web chat if you're not a phone type of person). They kindly sent me a bag of their newest product, their coconut flour, which I used in today's recipe.

I really, really, enjoyed this cake. I had expected the texture to be a bit grainy from the coconut flour, but it wasn't too noticeable at all. The cake was dense and held up really well, and the abundance of eggs kept it from drying out. This is a great cake that you can serve to your gluten-free friends (or non-gluten free friends... see if they can even tell the difference).

And now onto the giveaway! One lucky winner will receive a bag of King Arthur Flour's coconut flour, their popular dough whisk and a vanilla extract. Simply enter by completing the Rafflecopter widget below. You can enter once a day for a full week (no blog commenting required). Please be patient, as sometimes the widget is slow to load. No entries will be accepted via any other method.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Coconut chocolate cake
  • 1/2 cup coconut flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 6 Tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup Dutch-process cocoa powder (I used Hershey's Dark)
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 6 eggs
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Generously grease a standard 9"x5" loaf pan or an 8"x8" square baking pan. Set aside.

In a small bowl, whisk together the coconut flour and baking powder.

In a large, microwave-safe bowl, melt the butter. Stir in the cocoa and mix well to combine.

Add the sugar, salt, vanilla and eggs into the butter-cocoa mixture.  Mix well. Then fold in the coconut flour mixture and mix until just incorporated - do not overmix.

Transfer to your prepared baking pan and allow the batter to sit for 10 minutes.

Bake in your preheated oven for 35-45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean (if baking in the square pan, you will bake for 30-35 minutes).

Cool cake completely before serving. If desired, add powdered sugar or glaze on top.

Cake should be stored in an airtight container at room temperature or in the refrigerator and will keep for several days.

Disclaimer: King Arthur Flour provided me with a complimentary bag of coconut flour and is also providing the prizes for the giveaway. I did not receive any compensation for this post. As always, all opinions and thoughts are 100% my own.

Yield: One 9"x5" loaf or one 8"x8" pan  (about 12-16 slices)

Source: King Arthur Flour


Friday, February 20, 2015

Skating Fridays


I don't recall if I ever told you all that my 4-year old is taking skating lessons. She knows the days I go skate and often asks to come along with me. She finally asked me for lessons one day and I was more than happy to enroll her.

I requested to have her favorite skater, Miss K, teach my daughter. The skating director was happy to comply, and I was thrilled that both Miss K and my choreographer are co-teaching the class.

So far, Addie has learned all the basics in her Snowplow Sam 1 class: how to fall down and get up (off-ice and on-ice), how to march in place and on the ice, two-foot glides, dips (in place and while moving) and backwards wiggles. The class is actually pretty advanced for a bunch of 4-year olds and have learned many skills from the next level.

To my delight, Addie has expressed interest in continuing to take lessons so I have signed her up for the next session. I even got her a pair of used skates, which she loves. I personally think that her favorite part of class is to boss her friends around (two of her classmates from school are also enrolled in the same skating class with her).

The coaches at the rink are thrilled that my mini-me has been skating. Let's be clear: I have no expectations or goals for her - I just hope she enjoys the sport and continues to have fun.


Paul Hollywood's classic baguettes

Bread making couldn't be easier with this classic baguette recipe from Paul Hollywood. Even the most novice bread bakers (like me) will enjoy this crunchy, homemade loaf.

All my life, my parents have told me that my brother is smarter than me. I refused to believe it (I have classic older sibling, Type A syndrome), but deep down, I knew it was true. My brother is naturally smart and did not have to work hard in school. He is naturally gifted and has a sharp mind like my father and grandfather. I mean, the kid was taking apart and building computers in middle school.

I, on the other hand, had to work hard to earn my grades. I may have performed better in school, but it was because I spent hours upon hours studying. But this post isn't about me. Back to my brother.

The smartest thing my brother has ever done is to marry his current wife. I didn't know M very well when they first started dating, but I realized something that was odd about my brother. He was starting to learn how to cook. This was the ramen-eating, microwave meal sibling who was now talking about herb-infused butters and cooking food sous vide. Who was this kid, and what did he do to my brother?

Now my brother has become a foodie. He and his wife enjoy cooking for family and friends and consistently host Thanksgiving at their house. His wife makes everything from scratch, including bread. She impressed me one Thanksgiving when she served homemade baguettes at the table. I asked her for the recipe she used, and she graciously told me that it was a recipe from Paul Hollywood.

I had been procrastinating homemade bread recipes because they intimidated me. I was afraid of messing it up and being disappointed with the final outcome. But, M told me that Paul's recipe was very easy, so I believed her. I finally mustered up the courage and made it one day. And you know what? She was right. These baguettes were incredibly easy, even for a bread baking novice like me.

This month's What's Baking group theme is bread. I am proud of finally tackling this recipe and finding how how incredibly easy this was to make. I may still need a bit of encouragement to try more complicated recipes, but I am still very proud of myself for baking bread from scratch. Make sure you check out Hezzi-D's Books and Cooks to see what other breads my friends made this month.

Paul Hollywood's classic baguettes
  • 9 ounces (250 grams) all-purpose white flour, plus extra for dusting
  • ¼ ounce (5 grams) salt
  • ¼ ounce (5 grams) yeast
  • 1 fluid ounce (30ml) olive oil, plus extra for oiling
  • 6 fluid ounces (180ml) warm water

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment, place the the flour, salt, yeast and olive oil. Mix and slowly drizzle in the water until a smooth dough forms. You may need to add more flour if the dough is too sticky.

Transfer the dough to a well-oiled bowl and cover and allow to double, about 2 hours.

Knead the dough on a lightly floured surface and divide the dough in half.

Shape each half into a long skinny oval shape. Place the dough on a baguette tray or a large baking tray. Cover and allow to double in size.

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees F.

Add some warm water to a large roasting pan or dish and place it on the bottom rack in the oven (this will help form a crackly crust).

Using a sharp knife, make 3 diagonal cuts on the top of each baguette. Bake the baguettes for 30 minutes. Then decrease the temperature to 400 degrees F and bake for an additional 10 minutes.

The baguettes should be golden brown when done.  They are best eaten the day they are made but can be kept for another 1-2 days.

Yield: Two 8" baguettes

Source: My sister-in-law M, who directed me to Paul Hollywood's recipe, via BBC


Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Healthy deep dish pizza crust

Homemade deep dish pizza dough uses healthy Mazola® Corn Oil for a thick, chewy crust. Bring home the taste of Chicago with your own customizable pizza!

Disclaimer: This post is sponsored by Mazola. I was compensated for this post, but all thoughts and opinions are 100% by own.

About a year ago, my father had a minor heart attack. I don't know if I ever talked about it on the blog, but it was definitely a scary time for me. I had so many questions: How did this happen? Why did this happen? Will he be OK? Will my brother and I be at high risk in the future?  And the list goes on and on.

My friend's dad is a cardiologist and was able to ease my mind after I talked to him for half an hour on the phone. Even though he wasn't my dad's doctor, he was able to tell me that my dad's former smoking habit probably contributed to the heart attack. Although my dad quit smoking over 30 years ago, he did enough damage in his youth to partially block his arteries. And no, my brother and I were not at risk because this type of heart damage was not hereditary.

Since my dad's heart attack, my mom has been cooking healthier. His diet mainly consists of vegetables, and his meat and seafood intake has been reduced drastically. Of course, my brother and I like to sneak in little treats here and there so he isn't totally hungry at the end of the day.

What I've learned from my friends at Mazola is that Mazola Corn Oil is a heart healthier alternative to higher saturated fat oils and has more cholesterol blocking plant sterols than other cooking oils. A recent research study found that corn oil helps lower cholesterol more than extra virgin olive oil. If you'd like more information about the study, be sure to visit What's really cool is that corn oil has a high smoke point, making it a great all purpose cooking oil you can use for everything from sautéing and grilling, to stir frying and even baking! Mazola Corn Oil has a neutral flavor, so it brings out the flavors of the other ingredients.

Unlike many homemade pizza crust recipes, this one does not use butter. Instead, it uses Mazola® Corn Oil as a healthier alternative. I've made a few other deep dish pizza crust recipes before, and this one is top notch. My husband and daughter both devoured their pizzas in record time. And I'm thrilled that this pizza is something that my dad can enjoy too. I just need my mom to go play with Addie so he can have more than one slice.

Healthy deep dish pizza crust
  • 2 and 1/4 teaspoons Fleischmann’s® Yeast
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons granulated sugar
  • 1 and 1/8 cups warm water (110-115 degrees F)
  • 3 and 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, divided
  • 1/2 cup Mazola® Corn Oil
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons salt

In a measuring cup, dissolve the yeast, sugar and warm water. Allow the mixture to sit for 5-10 minutes or until it starts to foam.  

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the hook attachment, mix together 3 cups of the flour, Mazola corn oil and salt. Slowly stream in the yeast mixture and continue mixing on low to medium speed until the dough comes together. Add the remaining flour (if needed). The dough should be soft but not sticky.

Shape the dough into a ball and transfer to a large, well-oiled bowl. Cover with plastic wrap or a towel and allow it to double at room temperature. You can leave this on the counter for 6-10 hours if desired.

Punch the dough down and divide into two pieces. Place each half into a high-sided cake pan or in a cast iron pan. Allow it to rest for 15 minutes.

Press the dough up the sides of the pan and evenly along the bottom. 

To bake, preheat your oven to 425 degrees F. Add your favorite cheese to the bottom, then top with your favorite pizza sauce and toppings. Bake for about 25-30 minutes or until the crust becomes golden brown.

Pizza crust can be frozen (in a ball) before baking. Just thaw and allow it to rise before shaping into the pizza pan.

For more information about corn oil and for more recipes ideas, be sure to check out


Yield: Two 10" deep dish pizza crusts

Source: Barely adapted from


Sunday, February 15, 2015

Mardi Gras king cake

A traditional Mardi Gras king cake is so easy to make at home. A tender, soft cake is reminiscent of homemade cinnamon rolls and topped with sprinkles in green, gold and purple. Make this cake the hit of your next Mardis Gras celebration!

My husband's former manager used to throw an epic Mardi Gras day party. She had at least 50-100 people in attendance and even hired a caterer to assist with some of the food. They always had a large vat of gumbo and jambalaya that would get eaten very quickly.

Tucked away, almost out of sight, was a traditional king cake. I'm not sure if it was the fast flowing hurricanes (drinks) or other adult beverages, but the king cake would hardly get eaten. We always had to leave early because it was a 2 hour drive from our house, so maybe the guests did enjoy the cake after we had left for home.

I never stopped thinking about that king cake and how I wanted to try some. I've been meaning to create my own but never found the right kind of sprinkles to use. Lame excuse, I know. When a specialty grocery store opened up in our area this summer, I quickly snagged the gold, green and purple sprinkles on the shelf so I could finally make a king cake. Addie was curious about this cake since it required all these pretty sprinkles.

One day, while my husband was swimming, I told Addie that we could try to bake a king cake to surprise her daddy. I told her that she could help me add the sprinkles to the cake once it was done baking. She ran to get her step stool and patiently watched and helped as I made the dough. She was fully in charge of making the filling and was proud of her work after she was done mixing.

After the cake was baked, Addie went to town on the sprinkles. Miraculously, they didn't get all over the counter, and she did a really good job decorating. We each had a slice after dinner that night, and Addie inhaled her piece almost as quickly as she normally eats ice cream.

The king cake was soft, buttery, and very similar to a homemade cinnamon roll in texture. I added raisins to my king cake for a contrasting texture. We all enjoyed this festive cake and hope to host our own Mardi Gras party at some point in the future. Happy Mardi Gras to all!

Mardi Gras king cake
  • 1/2 cup milk of choice
  • 1/8 cup (2 Tablespoons) butter
  • 1 package (2 and 1/4 teaspoons) active dry yeast
  • 1/3 cup warm water (about 110 degrees F)
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 3/4 teaspoons salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 2 and 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more as needed
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 Tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • 1/4 cup (4 Tablespoons) melted butter
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/2 Tablespoon water
  • 1/2 Tablespoon milk of choice
In a measuring cup, heat the milk until it is very hot. Add the butter and allow it to melt. Set aside and let the mixture cool.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment (or in a large bowl if using a handheld mixer), sprinkle the yeast on the bottom of the bowl and add the warm water and 1 Tablespoon of the sugar. Allow it to sit for about 10 minutes or until it gets frothy.

Add in the cooled milk mixture and the egg and mix on medium speed. Then add the remaining sugar, salt and nutmeg. Slowly add the flour in, about a cup at a time, until the dough starts to come together. It should be soft and pliable but not too sticky. If needed, add more flour about 1/4 cup at a time.

Grease a large bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl. Cover and allow to double in size, about 1-2 hours. I took a shortcut and heated my dough in the microwave for 30 seconds. Then I covered and allowed it to rise - it cut the rise time in half.

While the dough is rising, make the filling. In a small bowl, combine the brown sugar, cinnamon, flour and raisins. Add the melted butter and combine until the mixture resembles wet crumbs.

Punch down the dough and roll to a large rectangle (about 10"x16"). Sprinkle the filling on top. Starting with the long end, roll the dough up like a jelly roll, making sure to make the roll very tight. Place the roll, seam side down, on a greased or lined baking pan. Bring the ends together to form a circle. Pinch the ends together well so they do not separate during baking.

Using kitchen shears, make cuts in the dough about 1/3 of the way through the dough at 1-inch intervals. Cover the dough and allow to rise another 45 minutes.

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F.

Bake the cake in the preheated oven for 30 minutes or until the top is golden brown. Remove the cake from the oven and allow it to cool slightly.

Prepare the frosting by mixing the powdered sugar, water and milk in a small bowl. While the cake is still warm, drizzle the frosting on top and immediately top with colored sprinkles if desired.

Cake is best served the day it is made but can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for 1-2 days. If stored in the refrigerator, it can be reheated in the microwave but the sprinkles may melt.

Yield: One 8" cake (about 8 servings)

Source: Slightly adapted from


Friday, February 13, 2015

Skating Fridays

Lightbulb moment

I had another lightbulb moment last week. Coach B has been telling me to stop jumping UP for my axel because my "snap" is delayed, so my rotation is too slow.

She's been telling me this for a long time, but it didn't finally click until last week. May I present... Axel 2.0!

Rather than focusing on jumping up, I am trying to just jump. No thinking, no forcing the rotation.

The free (left) leg is less "bicycle-y" so I am not spending too much time getting up into the jump. Coach said that this has improved 1000% and it is looking less like an "adult axel."



Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Jeni's darkest chocolate ice cream in the world

What better way to share this Valentine's Day than with a homemade batch of dark chocolate ice cream? This rich and creamy frozen treat will surely make you want another bowl!

With all these ice cream recipes I've been sharing, you'd think it was summertime, right? Not so, my friends. I'm just an ice cream fanatic and have been known to eat this cold treat in sub-zero temperatures. Just hand me a cozy fleece blanket and fuzzy slippers afterwards and I'm good.

I recently shared Jeni's salty caramel ice cream and backyard mint chocolate chip ice cream recipes with you. Here I am again with her recipe for "darkest chocolate ice cream in the world." If that name doesn't convince you about how wonderful this is, then you and I cannot be friends.

Similar to previous recipes I've shared, Jeni's ice cream base is smooth, rich and creamy. The chocolate sauce is velvety and has a deep chocolate flavor, thanks to the addition of the brewed coffee.

If you are looking for something to make this Valentine's Day, look no further. Eat a bowl of this ice cream and snuggle up together afterwards. Or, if you are looking for a warm dessert, try my chocolate molten lava cakes for two, which can be prepped and baked within 20 minutes.

Jeni's darkest chocolate ice cream in the world
Ice cream base
  • 2 cups milk, divided
  • 4 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons light corn syrup
  • 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 3 Tablespoons cream cheese, softened
Chocolate sauce
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 1/2 cup brewed coffee 
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 and 1/2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
First, mix 1/4 cup milk with the cornstarch in a small bowl to make a slurry. Set this aside. Reserve the remaining milk and keep it separate.

In a medium sized saucepan, whisk together remaining milk and the cream, sugar, syrup, and salt. Bring it to a boil over medium-high heat. Boil for 4 minutes and stir in slurry.

Return the mixture back to a boil and continue to stir and cook until slightly thickened, about 2 minutes.

Place cream cheese in a large bowl with a fine mesh sieve on top and pour in 1/4 cup hot milk mixture; whisk until smooth. Then whisk in remaining milk mixture and stir until smooth.

Then make the chocolate sauce: In a medium sized saucepan, bring the cocoa, coffee and sugar to a boil over medium-high to high heat. Boil for 30 seconds, then take the saucepan off the stove. Stir in the chopped chocolate.

Add the sauce into ice cream base and mix well.

At this point, you have two options. You can either set the ice cream over an ice bath (pour the contents into a large zip-top bag, seal it shut and place it over a large bowl with ice cubes), or put it in the refrigerator for several hours or overnight.

Once the mixture is completely cool, churn it in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's directions.

Pour the ice cream into a container and set it in the freezer until it has hardened (at least 4 hours).

Yield: About 1 quart



Sunday, February 8, 2015

Gooey lemon butter cake

Impress that special someone with a cheesecake-like gooey lemon butter cake. Chock full of lemon flavor, this dessert is sure to please!
Have you ever been to a restaurant and absolutely fell in love with a dish? The kind where you wanted to go home and immediately recreate it? Well, that happened to me not too long ago. You all know my love affair with desserts, right? I was attending a holiday party at a local restaurant and saw lemon butter cake on our selected menu. It didn't sound like anything too fancy, but I tried it anyway.

One bite and I was in dessert heaven. The cake had this light and crispy crust with an ooey gooey lemon filling. I could make out cream cheese and sweetened condensed milk but not the rest. It was garnished with a candied orange slice as well. Naturally, I talked to our waiter that night and asked him if the pastry chef would be willing to share the recipe with me. He laughed and said that he highly doubted it, but I was welcome to chat with him at the bar.

So I boldly marched myself over to the bar, introduced myself and asked if he would be willing to share his lemon butter cake recipe with me. He said that the cake had been a secret recipe for 25 years, and that he would be taking it to the grave with him. He mentioned that countless media outlets and publications have called to ask for the recipe, but he wasn't willing to share his secrets.

OK, so I completely struck out. But, I did some internet digging and found a recipe that was at least worth a try. This gooey lemon butter cake tasted a bit more like a cheesecake, but it was still quite tasty. The crust was crunchy and reminiscent of a graham cracker crust, and the filling was smooth and creamy like a New York cheesecake. I need to go back to the restaurant to see how close this is to the original version, but until I can figure out the chef's recipe, this one will suffice. For those of you who are still looking for a Valentine's Day dessert to serve this weekend, try this.

Gooey lemon butter cake
  • 1/2 stick butter, melted
  • 2 cups boxed yellow cake mix
  • 1/2 egg, whisked (2 tablespoons)
  • 1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese (light or Neufchatel is OK)
  • 1 stick butter, softened
  • (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • Zest from two large lemons
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.

Grease a 10" springform pan but flip the bottom part of the pan upside down so the cake can easily slide off.

In a large bowl, mix together the melted butter, boxed yellow cake mix and whisked egg. Once the dough becomes a smooth batter, transfer it to your prepared springform pan. Pat the dough on the bottom of the pan and halfway up the sides.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or in a large bowl if using a handheld mixer, cream together the cream cheese and butter on medium to medium high speed until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes.

Add the sweetened condensed milk and continue mixing. Turn the mixer down to low and add the powdered sugar a little bit at a time. Turn the mixer back on to medium speed and add the eggs, one at a time, until well mixed. Finally, add the lemon juice and zest until everything is fully incorporated.

Pour the batter into the prepared crust and bake in your preheated oven for 50 minutes. The top will be golden and puffy.

Remove the cake from the oven and allow to cool completely. Chill overnight in the refrigerator; the top will collapse a bit, but that is OK. Garnish with powdered sugar, candied citrus, lemon slices or berries before serving.

Cake should be keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator and will keep for several days.

Source: Adventures in Menu Making


Friday, February 6, 2015

Skating Fridays

Teaching an Old Dog New Tricks - the Split Jump

As a former coach once told me, I'm not a spring chicken anymore.  While I can fully understand and grasp new skating techniques or concepts, my body doesn't always want to cooperate. It shouldn't seem too difficult to do some of these elements, but in reality, it is.

Last September, I made it a goal to get my splits back. In my early competitive gymnastics days, splits were easy. I could pop into one without blinking. These days... not so much.

Since September, I have been stretching my splits just about every day. They have improved, but definitely not to where they used to be. The purpose of getting my splits back is to be able to do a split jump or a split falling leaf jump.

I have a split falling leaf in my freestyle program, but it looks horrendous. My legs are uneven, and I barely get off the ground. My split jump attempts last year were just as bad.

I reached out to a skating friend of mine, who happens to be the current Adult Gold WORLD Champion (she won the Gold Ladies international event in Germany last year) and got her advice on this elusive jump. She gave me some exercises to try and within a few days, my split jump improved immensely.

Here is a video of my split jump the week after getting the advice from the world champion.

And here is a photo still of a split jump from this week. What a difference!

I guess you can teach an old dog new tricks. Well, at least one trick. I hope to have this split jump fully stretched out this year, and maybe I will even start working on a Russian split jump.


Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Triple champagne pound cake

This decadent triple champagne cake is perfect for special occasions or for "wow"ing guests and friends. Serve with your favorite breakfast cocktail or after a dinner party!

I don't know about you, but I'm one of those people who only drinks champagne about once a year (on New Year's Eve). And since I'm not a big drinker, we usually have some left over. I didn't want to waste our bottle of bubbly and thought it would be fun to bake this triple champagne pound cake that I found from my Dorothy at Crazy for Crust.

The pound cake start off like a typical cake with all your normal ingredients - flour, sugar, and butter. Then you add in some champagne and things start to get exciting. Once the loaf comes out of the oven, you add on some reduce champagne syrup. And then you get to the best part - the champagne frosting. Oh my, the frosting.

I brought this loaf of triple champagne pound cake to my skating competition last month. I mean, what better way to celebrate our performances than with champagne, right? I am happy to say that the pound cake was a huge hit. My skating friends loved the cake and said that they could taste the champagne in the glaze and frosting.

Make this for your next special occasion or for "wow"ing your friends and family. Or do what I did and eat some for breakfast.

Triple champagne pound cake
Pound cake
  • 1 and 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 7 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 Tablespoon vanilla
  • 1/2 cup champagne (still bubbly)
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup champagne
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1-2 Tablespoons champagne
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Generously grease or spray a 9"x5" loaf pan and set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt.

In a medium sized bowl, mix together the melted butter and sugar. Whisk in the eggs, one at a time, until everything is well mixed. Add the vanilla and mix. Then add the champagne and mix.

Transfer the champagne mixture into the large bowl with the dry ingredients and stir until just mixed.

Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan and bake in your preheated oven for 33-38 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean (mine took closer to 42 minutes).

While the pound cake is baking, prepare the glaze. In a small saucepan, mix the sugar and champagne and allow it to boil over medium heat. Boil for one full minute and remove from heat and set aside.

Once the pound cake is done, remove it from the oven and allow it to cool. Brush the glaze on top with a pastry brush (or just drizzle it on like I did).

Allow the pound cake to cool completely while you prepare the frosting. In a small bowl, mix together the powdered sugar and champagne until it achieves a somewhat runny consistency. You can add more powdered sugar or champagne to suit your tastes/preferences or even add a splash of milk for a thicker and creamier frosting. Add the frosting to the top of the pound cake once it is completely cool.

Store the pound cake in an airtight container either at room temperature or in the refrigerator. It will keep for several days.

Yield: One 9"x5" loaf; about 10-12 servings

Source: Barely adapted from Crazy for Crust


Sunday, February 1, 2015

Overnight blueberry French toast

Having overnight guests and don't know what to serve? Or maybe you want a lazy weekend and don't feel like cooking or going out? Enter this overnight blueberry French toast. All you need to do is assemble it the day before, store it in your refrigerator and bake the next morning. Voila - breakfast/brunch is done!

I made this on a Saturday night when I didn't feel like cooking on Sunday morning. I wanted to spend more time with Addie on Sunday morning so we could play our Frozen board games and read our library books. All I had to do was pop this in the oven and we had time to do everything we wanted.

Both my husband and Addie really liked this French toast. The bread was creamy like a bread pudding, yet it still retained its thick and chewy texture. The bursts of blueberries were great surprises in every bite, and the cream cheese frosting made for an extra sweet brunch. I happened to have leftover cream cheese frosting, so I used that instead of regular cream cheese. If you have the time to make cream cheese frosting, I recommend doing that over the regular cubed cream cheese.


Hope you enjoy this as much as we did!

Overnight blueberry French toast
  • 12 thick slices day-old bread, cut into 1" cubes
  • 2 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, cubed (I used leftover maple cream cheese frosting and regular cream cheese frosting)
  • 1 cup blueberries, fresh or frozen (if frozen, do not thaw)
  • 12 eggs, beaten
  • 2 cups milk of choice
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
Generously grease a 9"x13" oven-safe baking pan. You don't want to use anything smaller because this recipe requires a large pan.

Place about half of the bread cubes on the bottom of the baking pan. Top with the cream cheese frosting or cream cheese cubes.

Sprinkle with the blueberries and then top with the remaining bread cubes.

In a large bowl, mix together the eggs, milk, vanilla, maple syrup and cinnamon. Pour this over the bread cubes and press the bread down so no dry spots remain. Cover and store in the refrigerator overnight.

About 30 minutes prior to baking, remove the pan from the refrigerator and allow it to slowly come up to room temperature.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.

Bake, covered, for 30 minutes in your preheated oven. Then take the cover off and bake another 25-30 minutes or until the tops are golden brown and the blueberries are bubbling.

Yield: One 9"x13" pan (about 10-12 servings)

Source: Slightly adapted from



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