Sunday, February 18, 2018

Bon Appetit Desserts: Pecan Praline Cake

First, I would like to say hello!

Second, I would like to say that this recipe consists of four parts.

Third, I made this for the annual all girl Super Bowl party that I attend.

Fourth, everyone (friends and co-workers) enjoyed this cake.

Away we go!


Pecan Praline Cake

This luscious southern-style cake features flavor reminiscent of Louisiana pralines (brown sugar-pecan confections). 12 servings.


2-1/2          cups cake flour

1-1/2          teaspoons baking powder

1/2             teaspoon salt

2                cups sugar

1                cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature

4                large eggs

2                teaspoons vanilla extract

1                cup whole milk

1-1/2          cups chopped pecans


3                tablespoons water

3                tablespoons sugar

1                tablespoon bourbon (I used rum, it's what I had on hand)

CAKE: Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 350ºF. Butter two 9-inch-diameter cake pans with 2-inch-high sides. Line pan with waxed paper (I used parchment); butter paper. Whisk flour, baking powder, and salt in medium bowl to blend. Using electric mixer, beat sugar and butter i large bowl until fluffy. Beat in eggs 1 at a time, then vanilla. Beat in dry ingredients in 3 additions alternately with milk in 2 additions. Stir in pecans. Divide batter between prepared pans.

Bake cakes until tester inserted into center comes out clean and cakes begin to pull away from pan sides, about 35 minutes. Cool cakes in pans on racks 10 minutes. Cut around pan sides to loosen caks. Turn cakes out onto racks; peel off waxed paper. Cool cakes completely.

DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 day ahead. Wrap in foil and store at room temperature.

SYRUP: Stir 3 tablespoons water and sugar in small saucepan over medium heat until sugar dissolves and mixture comes to a simmer. Remove from heat. Stir in bourbon. Cool.

Place 1 cake layer, flat side up, on platter. Brush some of syrup over. Spread 1 cup Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting over. Top with second layer, flat side up. Brush top and sides of cake with remaining syrup. Spread remaining frosting over top and sides of cake. Arrange Pecan Praline Topping all over top of cake, mounding slightly in center.

DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover with cake dome and refrigerate. Let stand at room temperature 1 hour before serving.

Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting
Using slightly softened, room-temperature butter ensures easier mixing and a smoother frosting. Makes about 3-1/4 cups

12          ounces cream cheese (Such as Philadelphia brand), room temperature

1/2         cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature

2            teaspoons vanilla extract

4            cups powdered sugar

Using electric mixer, beat cream cheese, butter, and vanilla in large bowl until smooth. Beat in sugar 1 cup at a time, scraping down bowl occasionally.

Pecan Praline Topping
These crunchy brown-sugar pecans are also delicious on their own. Makes about 1-1/2 cups

1          large egg white, room temperature

1          tablespoon water

1/2       cup (packed) golden brown sugar

1-1/2    cups pecan halves

Preheat oven to 300ºF. Butter rimmed baking sheet. Using fork, beat egg white and 1 tablespoon water in medium bowl until foamy. Add sugar and stir until sugar dissolves. Add pecan halves and toss to coat. Spread pecan mixture on prepared baking sheet (some egg white mixture will flow out onto baking sheet). Bake until nuts are deep brown and crisp, stirring occasionally, about 25 minutes. Remove from oven; stir to loosen nuts from baking sheet. Cool nuts completely on sheet.

DO AHEAD: Can be made 3 days ahead. Store in airtight container at room temperature.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

What I Read This Year

Since I have all of the time in the world now (no more school, forever!)... I decided that I would try to read 52 books this year. The most books I have read in one year is 36. This was a challenge that I did not think I could meet, at several points throughout the year.

I would go from reading 5 books in one weekend, to reading zero books in 5 weeks. It was a constant forcing myself to read, but also feeling a bit stressed about meeting my goal. At times, I began to feel like reading was a job, which I most definitely did not like, because I love reading! At some point in early October, I finally caught up to and surpassed the amount of books that I should have read at that time, according to the Goodreads Reading Challenge tracker.

So, what did I read? Did I complete the challenge?  See below!

1. You Learn by Living: Eleven Keys for a More Fulfilling Life by Eleanor Roosevelt

2. The Dreamer by E.J. Mellow

3. The Murder at the Vicarage by Agatha Christie

4. Modern Tea: A Fresh Look at an Ancient Beverage by Lisa Boalt Richardson

5. Neanderthal Seeks Human: A Smart Romance by Penny Reid

6. Modern Lovers by Emma Straub

7. A Curious Beginning by Deanna Raybourn

8. The Hooker and the Hermit by L.H. Cosway and Penny Reid

9. The Player and the Pixie by L.H. Cosway and Penny Reid

10. Against the Tide by Elizabeth Camden

11. The Mothers by Brit Bennett

12. Neanderthal Marries Human: A Smarter Romance by Penny Reid

13. Friends Without Benefits by Penny Reid

14. Rancher's Refuge by Linda Goodnight

15. Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton

16. Love Hacked by Penny Reid

17. Beauty and the Mustache by Penny Reid

18. Frommer's EasyGuide to Iceland

19. Jar City by Arnaldur Indridason

20. Independent People by Halldor Laxness

21. No One Can Pronounce My Name by Rakesh Satyal

22. Happily Ever Ninja by Penny Reid

23. Dating-ish by Penny Reid

24. The Animal Under the Fur by E.J. Mellow

25. Attraction: Elements of Chemistry by Penny Reid

26. Heat: Elements of Chemistry by Penny Reid

27. Capture: Elements of Chemistry by Penny Reid

28. Cinder by Marissa Meyer

29. The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan

30. The Selection by Kiera Cass

31. Lock and Key by Sarah Dessen

32. Someone Like You by Sarah Dessen

33. Sarah's Key by Tataina de Rosnay

34. Bear in Mind by Penny Reid

35. The Elite by Kiera Cass

36. The One by Kiera Cass

37. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

38. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

39. A Study in Scarlet by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

40. A Sheetcake Named Desire by Jacklyn Brady

41. Alex, Approximately by Jenn Bennett

42. Paper Princess by Erin Watt

43. Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon

44. Love and Gelato byJenna Evans Welch

45. The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith

46. Six of Hearts by L.H. Cosway

47. Dark Matter by Blake Crouch

48. Nobody Looks Good in Leather Pants by Penny Reid

49. Tapping the Billionaire by Max Monroe

50. Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell

51. Scarlet by Marissa Meyer

52. Yiddish Wisdom: Humor and Heart from the Old Country by Christopher Silas Neal

Though I own these books, I suggest your local library or borrowing from a friend... unless you want to have your very own library, like I do!

Monday, October 9, 2017

Bon Appetit Desserts: Chocolate Decadence

Decadent is an understatement. This cake is almost pure chocolate!

This cake comes together quite quickly. It is sure to impress your co-workers... or anyone for that matter.

Chocolate Decadence
Although the pan is buttered and floured to prevent sticking, the cake itself is flourless. The decadence comes from a generous dose of bittersweet chocolate and butter, accented with Grand Marnier, Cognac (or Brandy), and espresso powder. 12 servings

1          pound bittersweet or semisweet chocolate (do not exceed 61% cacao), chopped

10        tablespoons (1-1/4 sticks) unsalted butter

2          tablespoons Grand Marnier or other orange liqueur

1          tablespoon Cognac or brandy

1          tablespoon instant espresso powder or coffee powder

6          large eggs

3/4       cup sugar

            Lightly sweetened whipped cream

            Fresh raspberries

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Butter and flour 9-inch-diameter springform pan with 2-3/4-inch-high sides. Stir chocolate and butter in heavy large saucepan over low heat until melted and smooth. Remove from heat. Whisk in Grand Marnier, Cognac, and espresso powder. Cool to lukewarm.

Using electric mixer, beat eggs and sugar in large bowl until tripled in volume, about 5 minutes. Fold 1/4 of beaten egg mixture into chocolate mixture to lighten, then fold chocolate mixture into remaining egg mixture. Transfer batter to prepared pan.

Bake cake until tester inserted into center comes out with moist crumbs still attached, about 45 minutes. Cool cake in pan on rack (cake will sink as it cools). Run knife around pan sides to loosen cake. Release pan sides.

DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and let stand still at room temperature.

Cut cake into wedges. Serve with whipped cream and berries.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Thank You

Hello! I am doing a quick shout out to all of the countries that my readers come from. I don't know who you readers are, but I hope that you are enjoying the delicious recipes I'm posting and perhaps, even reading the books that I review, from time to time.

I don't need any recognition, I am happy knowing that you are eating well and reading well!

I started writing down the countries of my readers, a few years into this blog, so this is in no way and exhaustive list. It is extremely neat to see this list of countries represented!

In no particular order and certainly not alphabetical:

United States (You are my home.)
Ireland (I've visited you and loved everything I saw!)
United Kingdom (I've visited you, too. Also loved everything!)
Poland (I've visited you as well. What a great place for history! Love!)
Czech Republic (I lived here for a while and would live here again. One of my favorites!)
Mexico (As a bordering nation, I have visited you many a time! <3 )
Tunisia (My cousin is named after you!)
Saudi Arabia
Australia (A family member is married to an Australian man, so connection!)
Panama (I spent a few hot days in Panama and loved it there!)
South Africa
New Zealand
Hong Kong
South Korea
Sweden (I have Swedish ancestors... still needing to research this! Can't wait to visit!)
Brasil (I once stayed here for one month. I have fond memories of Sao Paulo!)
Domenican Republic

So many places on this list that would love to visit for the first time, and many I'd love to see again!

Happy baking my friends!

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Bon Appetit Desserts: Tarte au Sucre

Hello!  Here is a new Bon Appetit Desserts Cookbook recipe for you all.  About time!

I am just starting to get back in to the groove of things. I've got to tell you, living that grad school life for two years really took a lot out of me. I hope that I can get back into baking, for reals this time.

I got pink slipped at my school this year, but luckily, I was hired at a new school about two weeks after the school year ended. So, I'll have funds still coming in... baking supplies will still be able to be purchased. Hooray!

About this tarte au sucre. My friend Rachelle loved it. Loved. It. I however, am not a huge fan of eggs or custards. As in, I do not eat them. I did try the tarte, it has good flavor, but I could not get over the texture of the custard. So, if you love eggs and you love custards, this dessert is for you. If you do not, I'd say skip it.

Tarte au Sucre

Similar to a rustic coffee cake, this Belgian classic is a light and fluffy yeast-risen treat with a custardy brown sugar topping. Often served with fresh berries as dessert, the tart is also lovely for brunch or as an afternoon snack with coffee or tea. 10 to 12 servings.

1-1/2          cups unbleached all purpose flour

1/4             cup sugar

2                teaspoons active dry yeast

1                teaspoon finely grated lemon peel

1/2             teaspoon salt

6                Tablespoons (3/4 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

1/4             cup whole milk

3                large egg yolks

2                large eggs

2/3             cup heavy whipping cream

2/3             cup (packed) dark brown sugar, divided

Butter and flour 9-inch-diameter springform pan with 2-3/4-inch high sides. Mix flour, 1/4 cup sugar, yeast, lemon peel, and salt in processor. Add butter; using on/off turns, blend until mixture resembles coarse meal. (I do not have a food processor... I just mixed with my hands.) Add milk and egg yolks; using on/off turns, blend until soft dough forms. (I just used a wooden spoon.) Using wet fingertips, press dough over bottom and 1 inch up sides of prepared pan. Cover tightly with plastic and let rise in warm draft-free area until light and puffy (dough will not double in volume), about 2 hours.

Preheat oven to 400ºF. Whisk whole eggs and cream in small bowl to blend. Sprinkle 1/3 cup brown sugar over bottom of tart. Pour cream mixture over. Sprinkle with remaining 1/3 cup brown sugar. Bake until dough puffs and browns and filling browns in spots, about 25 minutes. Transfer to rack. Cut around pan sides to loosen tart. Release pan sides. Cool 30 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Bon Appetit Desserts: Year Three

Wow... well, as you can see, I did not get much Bon Appetit baking accomplished over the last year. In fact, I didn't even update a few of the recipes. So, I am going to get to that, right now! Who could have guessed that it would take three years to get through the first year of recipes that I had planned. Thirteen still to go!

1.  Plum-Blueberry Upside-Down Cake

2. Walnut-Orange Cake

3. Cinnamon-Sugar Plum Cake

4. Raspberry Cake with Marsala, Creme Fraiche, and Raspberries

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Earl Grey Cake and Chai Tea Cupcakes

This weekend I had family and friends over to celebrate the fact that I got my MA degree.

I made some tea flavored treats and they were both big hits!

Earl Grey tea is one of my all time favorites and this cake is good, but I have got to give 1st place to the chai tea cupcakes, they are so flavorful. I think I could eat one everyday!

My mom and I made the rosettes in my school's colors.

Earl Grey Cake + Honey Buttercream Frosting From : Hey Modest Marce

1          teaspoon stash brand loose leaf earl grey double bergamot tea
            (I used Earl Grey Strong from Teapigs)

1          cup whole milk

1          cup unsalted butter, softened

1-1/2   cup raw sugar (turbinado)

3          eggs

1          teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1/4       cup vegetable oil

2-1/2    cups all purpose flour

2          teaspoons baking powder

1          teaspoon salt

1          teaspoon stash loose leaf earl grey double bergamot tea, finely ground

For the buttercream frosting

1          pound unsalted butter, room temperature

1/3       cup raw honey

3          cups icing sugar, or to taste

1          teaspoon pure vanilla extract


1. Preheat oven to 325º F.

2. In a saucepan over low heat add the milk and loose leaf tea. Let simmer for five minutes to infuse tea into the milk. Do not let the mixture come to a boil. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature. Strain out tea.

3. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment cream cutter and sugar.

4. Add the eggs one at a time, followed by the vanilla extract and oil. Mix until light and fluffy.

5. In a separate bowl sift the flour, baking powder, salt and finely ground tea. Gradually add to stand mixer at low speed.

6. Once flour is JUST combined into the wet ingredients. add infused milk.

7. Evenly distribute batter amongst two greased 8-inch round cake pans.

8. Bake each layer for about 18-20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. (I had to bake my cakes for 40 minutes.)

9. Let cakes cool completely before frosting.

For the frosting

Add butter, honey, icing sugar (confectioner's/powdered sugar), and vanilla in the bowl of a stand mixer and whip until light and fluffy, about 8 to 10 minutes.

Frost as desired!


I made these graduation cap cake toppers, too.

Chai Tea Cupcakes From: Lady Behind the Curtain

For the cupcakes

1/2       cup butter, softened

1          large egg

2          large egg yolks

1/2       cup brewed vanilla chai tea (such as Bigelow brand) * two vanilla chai tea bags, see directions below

1-1/2    cups all purpose four

1-1/2    teaspoon baking powder

1/4        teaspoon salt

3/4        cup granulated sugar

1-1/2    teaspoons vanilla extract

For the Chai Butter Frosting

3/4       cup butter, softened

1/2       teaspoon cardamom

1/4       teaspoon ground cinnamon

pinch of ground ginger

pinch of ground cloves

seeds from 1 vanilla bean (I left this out and frosting was still delicious!)

4          cups confectioners' sugar

2          Tablespoons reserved brewed vanilla chai tea

Instructions for the Cupcakes

1. Allow butter, egg, and egg yolks to stand at room temperature for 30 minutes.

2. Line muffin cups with cupcake liners.

3. Preheat oven to 350º F.

4. Brew tea by adding 1 cup of hot water to a mug with 2 vanilla chai tea bags.

5. Set aside.

6. In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, and salt.

7. In a large mixing bowl beat butter on high until creamy.

8. Add sugar and beat until well combined and fluffy.

9. Add egg, egg yolks, and vanilla... beat until combined.

10. Alternate the 1/2 cup of brewed vanilla chai tea (reserving the rest for the frosting) and flour mixture, beating on low after each addition just until combined.

11. Fill cupcake liners to 3/4 full.

12. Smooth out batter in cups.

13. Bake 20 minute or until toothpick inserted in centers comes out clean.

14. Cool cupcakes in muffin cups on wire rack for 5 minutes.

15. Remove and cool completely on wire rack.

16. For Crunchy Chai Topping: **See recipe below

      Spoon chai sugar into bowl

      Melt butter in a small bowl

      Brush melted butter on tops of cooled cupcakes

      Dip the tops into the chai sugar

17. For the Chai Butter Frosting:

      Cream together the butter, cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, clover, and seeds from 1 vanilla bean.

      Add the sugar and cream until well combined.

      Add brewed vanilla chai tea 1 tablespoon at a time until the frosting reaches piping consistency.

      Pipe on cupcakes.

Crunchy Chai Tea Topping

1          cup sugar

2          teaspoons ground cardamom

1          teaspoon cinnamon

1/4       teaspoon ground ginger

1/4       teaspoon ground cloves

1/8       ground black pepper

1          vanilla bean split lengthwise and seeds scraped and reserved

Instructions for Chai Tea Topping

1. Large jar or bowl, combine the sugar, cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, pepper, vanilla bean         and seeds.

2. Cover and place in a cool dry place for at least a week or up to 6 months.

3. Discard vanilla bean.

4. Divide sugar mixture into small jars.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Review: Neanderthal Seeks Human

Neanderthal Seeks Human Neanderthal Seeks Human by Penny Reid
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

In December 2016 I had just learned about Penny Reid, at a book signing that my friend took me to. Now, I've read the first three books of her Winston brother series and Neanderthal Seeks Human! I love Penny. I'm so glad she is alive, that she is so funny, and that she has chosen to write books that are also so funny and make me laugh!

Neanderthal Seeks Human

Janie. What a nerd! I love her. Every bit of her. Except her being scared of the commitment with a good guy... only because I see this quality in myself. The feeling of being inadequate. Why would someone want to date ME? I'm just me, nothing special. It's scary. I understand her perfectly well.

This book is a wonderful example of how we are not perfect. We all have quirks and eccentricities that make us who we are. We also have things in our past, big or small that contribute to our personality and character.

AND we all have a family member that we'd quite like to forget! Am I right?!

I enjoyed this book from the beginning. I've got to be honest, Penny has a way of getting me to laugh out loud in all of her books. Neanderthal was no different.

When you get to this part, I hope you laughed as much as I did:

"am going"
"-to fuck-"
"-you up-"

This seems quite out of context, but trust me, it's funny!

Over all, I like that Janie and Quinn are two people who have stuff to work through and perhaps that is why I enjoy Penny's books so much. The people seem real. They seem like me or a friend. They go through things that real people go through.

Give this book a try. It's a good and fun read! Then promptly go and read all of Penny's other books!

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Friday, December 23, 2016

Christmas Bake, Breakout Star: Finnish Rye Cookie

Hello everyone!

Wow. We have come upon the end of 2016 and I for one and very grateful. It has been a long, hard, trying, tiring, sad, happy, great, successful year and I am beat. On Monday, I finished my MA program through Boston University, so I am now a MASTER of something! I've always wanted to be knowledgeable in something that I would be considered a master. Check.

It has been a while since I have had any type of time to do any type of thing that I enjoy, so I am kicking off my new found freedom with a recipe!

My mom's best friend passed away a few years ago, they were friends for some 49 years! Before she passed, she sent me a bunch of old magazines filled with glorious recipes and I am sharing one of those with you today. It is from 1993, I was in third grade then...

The magazine did a few pages of 'Old-World Cookies'. The selection I made is from Finland. Supposedly, Finnish settlers brought frosted ginger cookies (thank you!), Brown-Butter Cookies (thank you!), and Rye Cookies! It is the recipe for rye cookies that will be given unto you today. These cookies call for simple ingredients and they are a cinch to make!

Rye Cookies

1/2       cup butter, room temperature

1/3       cup sugar

1          cup rye flour

1/2       cup all-purpose flour

4          teaspoons cold water

Sugar (for sprinkling)

Beat butter and sugar in a large bowl tip smooth. Add rye flour and all-purpose flour; mix till well combined. Add water, tossing mixture with a fork tip dough is moistened. (The dough is pretty dry. I did not use the fork, I just beat the heck out of the dough with the paddle attachment on my mixer, until a dough was formed.)

Cover baking sheet with parchment paper or lightly grease a cookie sheet.

Roll dough on a lightly floured surface to 1/8-inch thickness. Cut into 2-1/2-inch rounds. With a fork, pierce each cutout all over. With a small cookie cutter, cut a hole in the center of each cookie. Sprinkle cookie with sugar. (I used whatever cookie cutter I wanted and you should too!)

Bake in a 350ºF oven for 8 to 10 minutes or till cooked are firm and begin to brown on the edges. Carefully transfer to a are rack. Makes 30.

That's it! If you make these, let me know how they turn out. I for one am very glad I came across this recipe, this Christmas! Side note: This is a cookie that can be enjoyed all year long. It does not have to be attached to Christmas!

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

A Book in Review: Claude & Camille: A Novel of Monet

Claude & Camille: A Novel of Monet Claude & Camille: A Novel of Monet by Stephanie Cowell
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I had such high hopes for this book. As an art teacher, I was curious how Monet would be presented. I know this is fictional, but I was left curious if any of the events really happened. There was a good use of some of the painters' work embedded in the book. However, these were the only good things in the book, to me.

Camille is a big whiny brat and the book evolves around her fits and Monet trying to please her. Monet was often selfish and did not think about his family... only his painting and his want to be famous. He also says merde so often that I don't ever need to hear it again in my life.

View all my reviews