Recipes so good it oughta' be a sin!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Gooey Lemon Butter Cake

Somewhere between Lemon Bars and a Chess Pie, the
Gooey Lemon Butter Cake (based on a Paula Deen
recipe) is sure to thrill!
For many years Mama worked at Garner's Shoes in downtown Newberry, SC. Her co-worker there for all that time was a wonderful lady by the name of Mrs. Margaret Shealy. By the way, for my non-Southern readers that is pronounced, Mizz. Mama and Mrs. Shealy loved trading recipes and sharing homemade treats with each other. Many of Mama's recipes are actually written on old blank sales receipts from Garner's.

Mrs. Shealy was quite a card and she had a phrase she would use whenever she tasted something that was just incredibly delicious. She would take a bite and then say, "Hmmm... that's good enough to make you push biddies in the creek!"

Mrs. Margaret Shealy
To this day I have no idea what the actual meaning of that phrase might be. Biddies, of course, are small chickens but why something delicious would make you want to push them in the creek escapes me. Still, I can't taste something that is jaw droppingly good without thinking of Mrs. Shealy and  hearing her exclaim about pushing biddies in the creek. This snack cake fits the bill. It'll make you want to "push biddies in the creek!"

I'd heard about Paula Deen's "Gooey Butter Cake" for several years but had never bothered to give it a try. Honestly, most recipes that start out with a cake mix I pass by. That's not really fair on my part because one of Mama's most incredible cakes starts off with a box of white cake mix and flies off the handle after that! Still, I'd heard so much about this cake I decided to pick up a box of cake mix and give it a try.

Admittedly, it's not a lot to look at. It sinks down a bit in the middle and doesn't rise high like you expect from most cakes. But, oh boy, when you bite into a piece it more than makes up for the lackluster presentation! Talk about pushing biddies in the creek!

I decided to do a lemon version which starts off with a lemon cake mix and uses some lemon juice and lemon zest in the filling. It really makes your mouth water! You can think of this somewhere between a lemon bar and a snack cake. It even has sort of the texture of wonderful chess pies - super moist and bright.

Paula's original calls for a yellow cake mix with vanilla in the filling, so you can go either way. In fact, you can pretty much do all sorts of stuff with this by using chocolate, peanut butter, or other fruit flavors.

I have to admit, my original skepticism with this recipe upon taking it out of the oven proved wrong. This little baby will definitely make you want to push biddies in the creek! Mrs. Shealy would be proud.

Gooey Lemon Butter Cake (Paula Deen)

Recipe by Paula Deen
A luscious and moist cake that is halfway between lemon bars and a chess pie in a pan!
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 50 minutes
Total time: 1 hour
Yield: 15 pieces

  • 1 box lemon cake mix
  • 1 large egg
  • 8 tbs. unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 pkg. cream cheese, room temperature
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tbs. lemon juice
  • 1 tbs. lemon zest
  • 8 tbs. unsalted butter, melted
  • 16 oz. powdered sugar
Cooking Directions
  1. Preheat oven to 350° and grease a 9x13-inch baking pan and set aside.
  2. In large bowl combine the cake mix, egg, and melted butter and stir with large spoon until combined.
  3. Pour mixture into prepared cake pan and smooth evenly into corners and all sides.
For the filling:
  1. In bowl of electric mixer fitted with paddle attachment, beat cream cheese at medium speed until smooth.
  2. Add eggs, lemon juice, zest and melted butter and beat to combine.
  3. With mixer on low speed, add powdered sugar in 1/4 cup increments beating well after each addition.
  4. Pour filling over cake batter in prepared pan and smooth with a spatula.
  5. Place in oven and bake for 40-50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out with just a few crumbs adhering. Do NOT over bake! You want a luscious and moist cake!
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Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Chocolate Hazelnut Toffee

Nutella fans will love the combination of chocolate and
hazelnuts with buttery toffee!
I love toffee. One of my favorite treats is the wonderful English Toffee sold at See's candy stores in the west.

I fell in love with that particular confection way back in the early 1980's when I would visit my brother in San Diego. There was a See's store in the little mall near his house and I wandered in one day and bought some of their toffee. I was hooked for life! Finally, I'm back in the west where I can get to a See's store from time to time. In fact, there's one in the mall near my house!

Of course, nothing beats homemade treats and toffee is no different. It's surprisingly easy to make since toffee consists of sugar and butter caramelized to a crisp consistency and then spread out and allowed to cool. What could be easier?

OK, so candy making can be a little daunting and working with hot sugar is not without its dangers. A hot splash can be painful and leave quite a burn. That's why I always have a bowl of ice water handy when working with hot sugar. If the worst happens I have a quick emergency cooling location to minimize burns.

But, hey, those events are few and far between. This recipe is very easy and a great start if you aren't used to candy making. Give it a try and you'll be delighting in your own buttery and chocolate covered toffee in no time!

Chocolate Hazelnut Toffee

Nutella fans will love the combination of chocolate and hazelnuts with a buttery toffee base!

Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 15 minutes
Total time: 30 minutes

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 4 tbs. unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/4 tsp. vanilla
  • dash salt
  • 2 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup chopped hazelnuts, toasted
Cooking Directions
  1. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or non-stick aluminum foil.
  2. In a small heavy bottomed sauce pan combine sugar, water, and butter. Stir to combine. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat without stirring until sugar begins to caramelize or temperature reaches 325° on a candy thermometer.
  3. Working quickly, stir in the vanilla extract and salt. Be very careful as the vanilla has a tendency to cause a bit of sputtering in the sugar! Stir just to combine.
  4. Quickly pour the sugar mixture onto the prepared baking sheet and use a spatula to spread it to the desired thickness (thin is crisper, thick is chewier). Allow to cool for 5 minutes.
  5. Sprinkle chocolate chips evenly over the warm toffee and allow to sit for 5 more minutes then gently spread the chocolate evenly across the toffee with a spatula.
  6. Immediately sprinkle the hazelnuts over the chocolate and set aside the toffee to cool completely - at least 1 hour.
  7. When toffee is completely cool, break into pieces.
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Monday, August 20, 2012

Quick and Easy Coffee Cake

The flavors of vanilla, butter, cinnamon and brown sugar can't be beat
in this easy and quick coffee cake!
A couple months ago I finally picked up Janet Evanovich's series of Stephanie Plum books. I'd never read any of her work but was looking for something new since none of my favorite authors had anything new out at the moment. I'll admit - I was hooked. They're funny and quirky and a thoroughly enjoyable read. I've also found them to be an inspiration culinary wise.

OK, so maybe Stephanie's diet isn't the stuff of champions. How she manages to go through that many doughnuts and not be huge is beyond me. But, I was turned onto to TastyKakes and in particular Butterscotch Krimpets. I'd never heard of those but happened to see them in the grocery store one day and thought, "Why not?" They were surprisingly addictive. That probably has something to do with all the chemicals in them, but still they were good.

Another staple of Stephanie's diet is the coffee cake. Usually, this involves an Entenmann's cake from the store. But, sometimes she manages to snag one from a local bakery. With that in mind I decided to whip up a coffee cake this morning.

Usually, that involves dividing batters, making streusels, and dirtying a lot bowls. This one, however, is wonderfully simple. It's also delicious.

I loved the way the topping sank into the cake and created wonderful rivers of brown sugar and cinnamon throughout. The cake itself is suprisingly buttery since it contains no butter! This cake uses just a bit of oil (in my case grapeseed oil) instead of butter in the cake. The butter flavor comes from the topping which permeates the cake as it cooks.

Give this one a try. It only takes about a half hour from beginning to end and makes a wonderful morning treat with coffee or tea.

Quick and Easy Coffee Cake

A quick and easy coffee cake with brown sugar and cinnamon and a rich vanilla cake base.
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 25 minutes
Total time: 30 minutes
Yield: 12 pieces
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tbs. oil (grapeseed or canola works best)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 tbs. baking powder
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup melted butter
  • 1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts (optional)
Cooking Directions:
  1. Grease a 9x13-inch baking pan and set aside. Preheat oven to 350°.
  2. In bowl of electric mixer fitted with paddle attachment combine sugar, oil, vanilla and egg and beat until combined.
  3. Add flour, salt, and baking powder and mix briefly to combine.
  4. Add milk and mix on low speed until combined.
  5. Pour into prepared pan and spread evenly.
  6. Topping: Combine brown sugar, cinnamon, melted butter and nuts (if using) in a small bowl and mix well.
  7. Sprinkle topping over prepared batter.
  8. Place cake in oven and bake for 25-30 minutes or until cake is golden brown. Allow to cool in pan and then cut into squares.

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Thursday, August 16, 2012

Butterscotch Squares

I'm not sure if this should be called a blonde brownie or a bar cookie. It's a little bit of both. Regardless, it's delicious!

This is an old recipe I found in a cookbook on Mennonite food. It's super simple and straightforward but absolutely delectable. The original version of the recipe calls for plain melted butter. I decided to up the flavor profile a bit by using brown butter. Browning butter is one of those simple little things that can really bump up the flavor of a recipe.

To brown butter you just need a light colored small pan. You need a light color (not non-stick) because you must watch the color of the butter carefully lest you burn it. To brown the butter place it in the pan and turn the heat up to medium. Gently swirl the pan while watching the butter. You'll see it foam up as the butter fat separates and then you'll notice brown specks begin to appear in the bottom of the pan. Keep swirling until the butter becomes a golden brown color. Remove it quickly from the heat and pour into your mixing bowl with the sugar. Let it sit for about 5 or 10 minutes while you prepare the rest of the ingredients so it cools somewhat. You'll notice the wonderful nutty aroma of the butter as you work.

I love the butterscotch flavors in this recipe which are achieved with a minimum of ingredients. I opted to top mine with just a sprinkle of powdered sugar but you could also drizzle with a little butterscotch or caramel sauce and serve warm. This would make a great complement to butter pecan ice cream!

So, have a go at this old recipe for a great summertime treat!

Butterscotch Squares

Recipe by Buck Bannister
A great old recipe filled with butterscotch flavor!
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 25 minutes
Total time: 35 minutes
Yield: 9 squares

  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, browned (see text above)
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped walnuts (or pecans)
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
Cooking Directions:
  1. Pre-heat oven to 350° and line an 8x8-inch baking pan with an aluminum foil sling. Grease and set aside.
  2. Brown butter and add to sugar in bowl of electric mixer fitted with paddle attachment. Mix well. Allow to cool slightly (about 5 minutes). Add egg and mix until incorporated.
  3. Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt and add to butter/sugar mixture. Mix well.
  4. Add vanilla extract and walnuts and mix until a soft dough forms.
  5. Spread mixture into prepared pan being sure to smooth it evenly into all corners.
  6. Place in pre-heated oven and bake for 25 minutes.
  7. Remove from oven, allow to cool slightly and then lift out of pan using foil sling. Cut into squares while still warm.
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Saturday, August 11, 2012

Maple Crunch Cake

A maple frosting adds real pizazz to this cake along with the unexpected
crunch of pecans!
I love maple. With temperatures reaching well into triple digits here in the desert I am longing for cool Autumn days. Instead I'll have to settle for cranking up the A/C and doing a little Autumn themed baking. This cake certainly fits the bill with it's big hits of maple flavor. It's one of those cakes that sort of makes you shudder from all the mapley goodness and sweetness. I think of those little maple sugar candies you can find around Thanksgiving when I bite into this cake. The addition of the pecans provides some crunch to the cake as well.

I've tried cakes like this before using real maple syrup and found they just don't quite cut it. Somehow the maple flavor always gets muted and the syrup provides a number of challenges with the ingredient portions. I stumbled upon switching up good old "maple extract" (flavoring) instead of the syrup when I was perusing a clone recipe for Starbuck's Maple Oat Nut Scones. Let's just say that recipe didn't leave me wanting more, but the maple flavoring stuck in the back of my mind. So, with a little sleight of hand I adapted an old southern pound cake recipe (loosely based on a Paula Deen cake) for use as a maple cake. Then I added some pecans for a little crunch and texture treat and topped it all off with a wonderful maple frosting reminiscent of my favorite maple iced doughnuts.

Give it a try and get a jump on your Fall cooking.

Maple Crunch Cake

Recipe by Buck Bannister
A delicious maple flavored pound cake with the crunchy addition of pecans topped with a luscious maple frosting.
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 1 hour 25 minutes
Total time: 1 hour 35 minutes
Yield: 16 pieces

  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 6 large eggs
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour (plus extra for pecans)
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 2 tsp. maple flavoring
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup pecan pieces (sold as "cookie pieces")
Cooking Directions:
  1. Grease and flour a 10-inch Bundt pan and set aside.
  2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugars at medium speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.
  3. Add the eggs one at a time, beating after each addition.
  4. Sift together the flour, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon. Add to wet ingredients alternating with the heavy cream - beginning and ending with the flour mixture.
  5. Add maple flavoring and beat just until combined.
  6. In a small bowl dust the pecan chips with about 1-2 tbs. of flour (so they don't sink to the bottom of the cake when baking.) Add chips to the batter and mix briefly to distribute through the batter.
  7. Pour batter into prepared Bundt pan and set on middle rack of cold oven. Turn oven to 325° and bake for 1 hour 25 minutes without opening the oven. Cake is done when a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. If necessary bake up to an additional 15 minutes until done.
  8. Cool cake in pan on wire rack for 15 minutes then invert onto a cake plate. Frost with Maple Icing.

Maple Icing

  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/4 cup whole milk
  • 1 tsp. maple flavoring
  1. In bowl of electric mixer fitted with whisk attachment combine all ingredients and beat on high speed until smooth. Add more sugar or milk if necessary to create an icing that can be poured slowly over the cake and allowed to drizzle down the sides.

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