Recipes so good it oughta' be a sin!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Orange Clouds

One thing I love about Arizona is the sky. From the impossibly turquoise blue of afternoon to the vibrant colors of our sunsets which color the mountains red and orange there's just nothing quite like it. One of the most beautiful sunsets I ever saw was a few months after moving to the state. We were in Avra Valley just across the Tucson Mountains with friends. As the sun set over the distant mountains the sky became an incredible palette of oranges, reds, and purples. It was a stunning site and I was lucky enough to capture it with my camera.

I'm reminded of those beautiful skies by the name of this delightful cookie. I call them Orange Clouds not because of color precisely but because they have a delicious orange flavor imparted by orange zest and when frosted with a wonderfully thick vanilla frosting appear to be little clouds of sheer delight. Soft and cakey, the texture delights as the cookie almost melts in your mouth. I could eat these by the handfuls! If you enjoy nuts you can easily sprinkle them with some small pecan or walnut pieces. I wouldn't put nuts into the batter, though, because it would interfere with that wonderful light melt-in-your-mouth texture.

Give the Orange Clouds a try and enjoy a little bit of the desert sunset.

Recipe: Orange Clouds

Description: Light and tender cookies flavored with orange and iced with a fluffy vanilla icing.


  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 4 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 1 tbs. orange zest
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 3 tbs. unsalted butter, softened
  • 3 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract


  1. Preheat oven to 375° and line baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. In bowl of electric mixer with paddle attachment, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add cream cheese and orange zest and beat until combined. Add egg yolk and vanilla extract and beat until combined.
  3. In separate bowl combine flour, baking soda, and salt. Add flour mixture to cream cheese/butter mixture alternating with milk. Begin and end with flour mixture.
  4. Using a tablespoon cookie scoop drop onto baking sheets about 2 inches apart. Bake until edges just begin to brown, about 12-14 minutes.
  5. Remove cookies to wire rack to cool completely.
  6. For frosting combine all ingredients in clean mixer and beat on medium high speed until the mixture is light and creamy. Spread generously over cookies with a butter knife or icing spatula. Sprinkle with nuts if desired.
  7. Store cookies for up to 4 days in an airtight container to maintain soft texture.
Preparation time: 10 minute(s)
Cooking time: 14 minute(s)
Number of servings (yield): 3 dozen
Culinary tradition: USA (General)
Copyright © 2012.
Recipe by Sugar Pies.
Microformatting by hRecipe.

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Thursday, January 12, 2012

Cream Cheese Coffee Cake

Sometimes you need a little pick-me-up. The past couple weeks have certainly made me want a pick-me-up! First, Michael brought home a nasty cold (which I'm pretty sure was some strain of flu). He was sick for several days. In the midst of that Lady Snow developed some sort of intestinal bug and was really not feeling well either. She ended up with a trip to the vet's office and course of probiotics and antibiotics. The day we took her to the vet I got sick with whatever Michael had. Of course, mine was twice as bad and I ended up with a fever, sweats, and feeling like a truck had hit me.

What a way to bring in the new year! But, I finally feel halfway human again and got around to doing this Cream Cheese Coffee Cake I'd been planning since the week after Christmas. This recipe comes from Cook's Illustrated's America's Test Kitchen on PBS. It's also included in their compendium (The Cook's Illustrated Cookbook ) which I was pleased to find in a Kindle edition for just $9.99. That's much more affordable than the cover price!

This recipe really isn't that hard to pull off and I found it made a nice presentation when plated. I also think this would lend itself nicely to experimentation. The original uses lemon and vanilla for the dominant notes but I think you could switch to an all vanilla cake and use raspberry or strawberry to flavor the cream cheese filling and have a great variation. If you decide to play around with it, please drop back by and let us know what you did and how it worked out.

Recipe: Cream Cheese Coffee Cake

Description: A lucscious cake topped with almonds and lemon sugar and filled with a lemon cream cheese filling.


  • 1⁄4 cup sugar
  • 1 1⁄2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
  • 1⁄2 cup sliced almonds
  • 2 1⁄4 cups (11.25 ounces) all-purpose flour
  • 1 1⁄8 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 1⁄8 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 10 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened but still cool
  • 1 1⁄8 cups (7.75 ounces) plus 5 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon grated lemon zest plus 4 teaspoons juice
  • 4 large eggs
  • 5 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 1⁄4 cups sour cream
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, softened


  1. FOR THE TOPPING: Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350°. Spray 10-inch tube pan with vegetable oil spray. Stir sugar and lemon zest in small bowl until combined and sugar is moistened. Stir in almonds; set aside.
  2. FOR THE CAKE: Whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together in medium bowl; set aside. Using stand mixer fitted with paddle, beat butter, 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar, and lemon zest on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, and beat until combined. Add 4 teaspoons vanilla and mix to combine. Reduce speed to low and add flour mixture in 3 additions, alternating with 2 additions of sour cream, scraping down bowl as needed. Give batter final stir by hand.
  3. Reserve 11⁄4 cups batter and set aside. Spoon remaining batter into prepared pan and smooth top. Return now-empty bowl to mixer and beat cream cheese, remaining 5 tablespoons sugar, lemon juice, and remaining 1 teaspoon vanilla on medium speed until smooth and slightly lightened, about 1 minute. Add 1⁄4 cup reserved batter and mix until incorporated. Spoon cream cheese mixture evenly over batter, keeping filling about 1 inch from edges of pan; smooth top. Spread remaining 1 cup reserved batter over filling and smooth top. With butter knife or offset spatula, gently swirl filling into batter using figure-eight motion, being careful to not drag filling to bottom or edges of pan. Firmly tap pan on counter 2 or 3 times to dislodge any bubbles. Sprinkle sugar topping evenly over batter and gently press into batter to adhere.
  4. Bake until top is golden and just firm, and skewer inserted in cake comes out clean (skewer will be wet if inserted in cream cheese filling), 45 to 50 minutes. Remove pan from oven and firmly tap on counter 2 or 3 times (top of cake may sink slightly). Let cake cool in pan on wire rack for 1 hour. Gently invert cake onto rimmed baking sheet (cake will be topping side down); remove tube pan, place wire rack on top of cake, and invert cake sugar side up. Let cool to room temperature, about 11⁄2 hours, before serving.
Preparation time: 15 minute(s)
Cooking time: 50 minute(s)
Number of servings (yield): 12
Culinary tradition: USA (General)
Microformatting by hRecipe.

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