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Posts tagged ‘Baking and Confections’

Secret Red Velvet Cupcakes


So what’s the secret?

Other than the fact that they’re really really good, really moist, and REALLY filling? The recipe is semi-homemade… and my 10 year old found the recipe in a free Kraft recipe booklet, while browsing through our hometown market! And it’s so easy to make, she can do it!



Ingredients –

2 oz. cream cheese, softened

1 1/2 cups sour cream

2 egg whites

1 pkg. red velvet cake mix (I love Duncan Hines… personal preference though!)

Heat oven to 350 degrees F.

Beat 2 oz. cream cheese, and sour cream in large bowl with mixer until blended.

(Mimi chose to do it by hand)

Add egg whites and cake mix; mix well.

Scoop into cupcake pans (I used the paper liners, but you can also spray the cupcake pan with cooking spray).

Bake 25 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Cool completely before frosting.

Frosting –

Cream 1 pkg. (3 oz.) cream cheese with 1/4 cup butter. Add 3 cups powdered sugar, 1 Tbs. milk and 1/2 tsp. vanilla.

Beat until smooth.

Frost – and don’t forget the sprinkles!


The Chestnut Cafe – Earlham

As many of you probably know, I live in a small town. A *real* small town. So when I was at the grocery store yesterday and picked up our local paper, imagine my surprise upon reading that a new cafe had opened up in Earlham (125 S Chestnut Ave.), and had totally flown below my radar!  I not only felt scooped, but pretty oblivious as well. So bright and early this morning, I ventured uptown to check it out. Janet at the grocery store let me know that the hours are 6:30 a.m. – 2:30 p.m., and that they served breakfast until 11:00, so I decided to do breakfast.

The outside of The Chestnut Cafe is much the same as other businesses in town. It is housed in a turn-of-the-century building with a brick facade and BIG windows. I stepped inside and was greeted first by a gorgeous interior. Authentic pressed tin ceiling, white plaster walls and black and white photographs of things small town people and farmers like. A lot. Old well pumps, a barbed wire fence and fencepost. Very classy. Like a piece of Court Avenue in Earlham!

The owner of The Chestnut Cafe, Michele Brant, greeted me warmly. I ordered from their breakfast pastry menu… a cinnamon roll and a diet Coke, please. I introduced myself and asked about doing a blogpost. Ms. Brant came over, sat down with me and chatted for a few minutes. I already love this place!

Michele and her mother Beverly Mills run the cafe, as well as taking orders for baked goods (*see below). Bev is known in the Des Moines area for her Bev’s Cakes. A trip to Bev’s website told me that she uses the freshest ingredients possible, and can make any occasion cake… wedding, birthday, anniversary, graduation, and any kind of “fun” cake you can imagine! (And they love Elvis!)

A few hours later in the day, I was feeling the need for a little something to eat, so I went back to the cafe for lunch. They have a create-your-own style sandwich menu, along with the soup of the day and several (non-fried) side dishes. My sandwich was very good, as was the camaraderie. I can see The Chestnut Cafe filling a social meeting-place need in Earlham. I ran into several people I knew during breakfast and also lunch. That makes me happy and kind of nostalgic, because the location of the cafe used to be the beauty salon… also a social meeting place (of sorts) back in the day. Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus!

*Baked goods available to order – Muffins, Cinnamon rolls, Scones, Cookies, Bars and Cupcakes

Blue Cheese Pear Crostini

Recently I was solicited by to create a unique recipe using Nature’s Pride bread. The nice people at Nature’s Pride even sent me a coupon for a free loaf of bread, just so I could create a tasty tidbit. If I happen to be one of six lucky entries selected, I will be one of Nature’s Pride bread ambassadors at the Foodbuzz Blogger Festival in San Francisco, CA!

I thought about ideas for a few weeks, and thought I had settled on mini quiches using bread as the crust. However, I couldn’t get past the thought that bread would make for a soggy quiche crust. Finally, I remembered a crostini I had several years ago at a now-defunct local delight called Younkers Tea Room. At least I think that’s where I had it! I put my own spin on the recipe, and here’s the result.

Ingredients –

4 oz. crumbled blue cheese (being a loyal Iowan, I used Maytag)
2 T. unsalted butter
2 T brandy (being a loyal German, I used Asbach Uralt)
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
5 slices Nature’s Pride 12-Grain bread, cut into thirds
1 medium ripe pear, cored and thinly sliced

Let blue cheese and butter come to room temperature. Mash with a fork until well combined.

Stir in brandy and chopped walnuts. Top each pear slice with 1 tablespoon blue cheese mixture.

Place bread slices on a baking sheet. Broil 5-6 inches from heat, about 2 minutes or until the cheese is melted and bubbly. Serve hot. Makes 8 to 12 servings.

Note – Don’t forget to put the walnuts on because somebody called you while you were in the middle of putting the toppings on the crostini. They were still good, but would be even better with the walnuts!

Schwarzwald Torte – Black Forest Cake

As we say goodbye to Oktoberfest, I feel compelled to share one of my mother’s most treasured recipes. Treasured by those of us who love to eat it, anyway! The good news for my readers is, it’s a semi-homemade recipe for Black Forest cake. With just a little patience, pretty much anybody can make this cake. There are fancier, more involved recipes out there… but this is my Mom’s. And she’s German. So those of you who know Germans know… You’d better put their recipes out there *their* way!

Start by baking one chocolate (or German chocolate) Duncan Hines cake mix in round pans, according to directions. Add 1 tsp. kirschwasser (german cherry brandy) to the mix before baking.

Let cake cool, then slice each cake layer horizontally. This will leave you with four thin layers of chocolate cake.

Ingredients for cake assembly:

1 large container Cool Whip (personally I think Cool Whip is sacrilege, but nobody seems to want to whip up their own whipped cream so I grudgingly concede)
1 tsp. kirschwasser
1 can cherry pie filling
1 can sweet dark cherries, drained

Mix the cherry pie filling, drained sweet dark cherries and kirschwasser. Between both split layers, spread some whipped cream, then some of the cherry filling. To assemble these two layers, spread a layer of whipped cream and stack the two layers that you’ve sandwiched with the cherry filling. Reserve some of the cherry filling for the top of the cake (see photo).

Finish frosting the cake with whipped cream, then top with remaining cherry filling. A WORD OF CAUTION: The whipped cream can be tricky… meaning, the layers can tend to slide without warning. I don’t know how many German swear words I’ve heard because the cake layers “slid.” If you are at all concerned about that, I would utilize a couple of cake dowels.

Note: You can use a tablespoon of kirschwasser but it will give your cake a strong flavor. I strongly recommend using 1 tsp. to begin with and increase the amount in your next cake if you feel you want more cherry brandy flavor.

Black Forest Cake

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