One Stop Away From Crazy Town

Besides kids and cakes, what else do you need?

Week 7.0: Love February 16, 2012

Filed under: Cake,Recipes — Jen @ 10:50 am
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Some of the things I love, in no particular order:

  • Spring
  • my Keurig (when it chooses to work)
  • my kids’ reactions when I tell them the cake I’m baking is for them
  • Samoas
  • my GPS (when it’s working)
  • Diet Dr. Pepper (and the husband that surprises me with it)
  • Penne with Shrimp and Tomato Cream Sauce
  • Comcast’s OnDemand
  • books
  • a clean kitchen sink (not that it happens a whole lot)
  • Toni Colette (I fondly remember the first time I saw Muriel’s Wedding.)
  • pinning and perusing ideas on Pinterest (with full understanding that I will never make 90% of what I pin)
  • musicals
  • Paul Oakenfold’s “Faster Kill Pussycat
  • the songs my youngest daughter “composes” (if you call her songs about me making her a pb&j as composing)
  • And don’t get me started on all things Gosling or Reynolds.


So with that said one of my favorites is #3 above. Well…anything having to do with my family really, but I spent part of the day Tuesday making my little valentines a red velvet valentine’s cake. I’ve been searching for a good red velvet recipe for quite some time, and I tried several that weren’t very good. Then I was reminded of Alton Brown. In the space of two days I found his recipe on Food Network, and my sister told me he had one I should try. Not sure why it takes me so long to go back to Alton, but I eventually get there. Mr. Brown, you are a food god.





I did need to make it dairy free for my youngest, so I subbed margarine for the butter and made almond milk “buttermilk” with vinegar since I was out of lemon juice. I also used regular buttercream instead of the typical cream cheese frosting – again, to keep it dairy free.


Keep in mind red velvet gets its color from red food dye. And not just a little bit of dye. I used an entire bottle of this:




That is 1 oz. of Wilton’s No Taste Red. I used the whole thing. Even with all of this I still ended up with a not-so-red red velvet cake.




Sorry for the horrible picture, but this gives you an idea of what I mean. I didn’t have regular cocoa powder. I used what I had (Hershey’s Dark), which could have affected the color. Food god I am not, so that’s just a theory.


Don’t like all the artificial color? One alternative is to hunt down the natural food colorings that are out there in the world. Probably fairly expensive, and I doubt you could get a vibrant color. There’s also a way to make the cake using beets, which I’ve tried. To put it simply: it’s a mess. And I would highly recommend you where gloves when handling the beets…go ahead and ask me how I know. Overall it’s a very time consuming process, so I don’t recommend it. But hey! If you have the time and the effort to spend then have at it.


Red Velvet Cake

adapted from Alton Brown’s recipe

  • 5-1/2 oz. flour
  • 4 oz. cake flour
  • 1/2 oz. natural cocoa
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 C. almond milk “buttermilk”, room temperature
  • 1 fluid ounce red liquid food coloring
  • 1 Tbs. white vinegar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 10-1/2 oz. dark brown sugar
  • 4 oz. margarine (we use Best Life buttery spread), room temperature
  • 2 whole eggs, room temperature
  • Buttercream, recipe follows
  1. Put 1 Tbs. vinegar to a measuring cup. Add enough milk alternative to equal 1 cup. Set aside.
  2. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Alton’s recipe calls for 2 9-inch cake pans. I used 8-inch. Spray whatever size pans you’d like with non-stick cooking spray and line with parchment paper.
  3. Whisk together the flours, cocoa, baking soda and salt together in a bowl and set aside. Whisk the buttermilk, food coloring, vinegar and vanilla together in a small bowl and set aside.
  4. Combine the margarine and brown sugar in a bowl of a stand mixer and cream together on medium speed until lightened in color, approximately 2 minutes. Stop the mixer and scrape down sides of bowl. Return the mixer to medium speed and slowly add the eggs, beating until they are fully incorporated.
  5. With the mixer on low, add the flour mixture in 3 installments, alternating with the buttermilk mixture. You want to begin and end with the flour mixture. Between each addition stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl. Mix on low speed until smooth, about 30 to 45 seconds.
  6. Divide the batter evenly between your 2 cake pans and bake until the cake springs back when pressed, approx. 30 to 35 minutes.
  7. Cool in pans on a rack for 10 minutes. Remove from pans and let cool completely before icing, at least one hour.


Standard Buttercream

adapted from Wilton

  • 1 C. shortening
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 8 tsp. milk alternative (you can also use water)
  • 1 lb. confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 Tbs. meringue powder
  • pinch of salt
  1. Cream together the shortening, vanilla and milk. Don’t be afraid to let the mixer run. You want this completely smooth and without any shortening lumps.
  2. Add your dry ingredients and mix on medium speed until everything has been incorporated. You’ll need to add more milk (or water) to get a spreadable consistency. Wilton recommends adding 1 tsp. water for each cup of icing. This recipe makes 2-1/2 C, so you’d need to add at least 2-1/2 tsp. water. Just add a little bit of liquid at a time until you’ve reached the consistency you’re comfortable with.





True red or not, it was delicious! My valentines and I gave it 2 thumbs up. Red heart And speaking of valentines here’s my youngest. She’s my reason for being on this dairy free adventure. Love this girl.






Week 3: Meh (or The Banana Cake that Wasn’t) January 23, 2012

Filed under: Cake,Recipes — Jen @ 3:02 am
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Smells can trigger feelings, emotions, a state of being even.  I had such high hopes when I pulled this week’s cake out of the oven. The smell of banana bread filled the house. Mmmmmm… was just like being at Nana’s; warmth and comfort and all things good.

Love & Olive Oil(photo from Love & Olive Oil)

I’ve had this cake on my “Someday” List since last summer when I was researching fillings for a banana cake. I never knew there were so many options to be paired with banana: chocolate, dark chocolate fudge, caramel buttercream, cream cheese, cheesecake, cinnamon. I think I’m going to need more than 52 weeks!

Fast forward to January 2012. A friend had a baby, and I offered to take supper to her and her family. #1 I get my baby fix and #2 I can knock out a 52/52 cake. Two birds, one stone. I asked around to see what flavor cake she likes. Lo and behold, she likes banana cake. She does?! Still one stone, but now there’s three birds I can knock out of the park. Never mind the mixing of metaphors. I’m on a roll. “Someday” is here. Banana cake, here I come!

This is supposed to make a 9-inch triple layer cake. (Not sure how thick these layers are supposed to be, but I made 2 8-inch layers and had just enough batter to also make 6 cupcakes. The cake I gave to my friend. The cupcakes were for us to enjoy.)

Banana Cake with Praline Filling and White Chocolate Ganache

As found on Love & Olive Oil, with a few adaptations by me. Original recipe is fromSky High: Irresistible Triple-Layer Cakes



  • 3 C. cake flour
  • 3½ tsp baking powder
  • 1½ tsp. cinnamon
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • ¾ C. milk
  • ½ C. ripe mashed banana
  • 8 oz. softened unsalted butter
  • 2 C. sugar
  • 7 egg whites (I used 1 C. 100% egg whites)

Praline Filling:

  • 1 C. sugared pecans
  • 1½ C. white chocolate ganache

Sugared Pecans:

Let me help you out here. I don’t have time to make my own sugared pecans. If you’d like to try, click above on the link to see the recipe. Otherwise do yourself a favor and go buy a 7 oz. package of glazed pecans. I bought mine at Aldi. You’re welcome.

White Chocolate Ganache:

  • 8 oz. white chocolate, chopped
  • 2½ C. heavy cream
  • 1½ tsp. vanilla


For the Cake: Preheat oven to 350°. Prep your cake pans with one of the most wonderful inventions ever Baker’s Joy or Wilton’s Bake Easy non-stick spray. Line your pan with parchment paper, as well.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt and set aside. I processed the milk and banana in my blender to make a smooth, light puree. Set aside.

In my large mixer bowl I creamed together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. On medium high speed, beat in egg whites 2-3 at a time until smooth. Scrape down the sides of the bowl between egg additions.

With the mixer on low speed add the dry ingredients and banana puree alternately in 2-3 additions, beating until just blended. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and beat on medium-high speed for 1 minute. Divide the batter among your prepped cake pans.

Bake for 20-25 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean when inserted into the center of each cake. (My cupcakes were done in 20 minutes. The cakes took 30.) Let the cake layers cool in the pan for 10 minutes and then turn out onto a wired rack and remove the parchment. Cool completely for about an hour.

For the Praline Filling: With a large knife chop the pecans and add to the white chocolate ganache. Stir to mix well.

For the White Chocolate Ganache: Put the white chocolate in a medium heat proof bowl. Bring ½ cup of the cream to boil in a small sauce pan. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate and let sit 1 minute. Whisk until smooth. Let the white chocolate cream stand until cooled to room temperature.

In a chilled bowl with chilled beaters, beat the remaining 2 C. heavy cream and vanilla until softly whipped. Stir in the white chocolate cream and beat until fairly stiff. This is very important: DO NOT OVERBEAT. This should only take a minute or two. You can tell when you’ve gone too far because your ganache is a curdled mess. Go ahead and ask me how I know.

To assemble the cake: put one layer, flat side up on a cake stand or serving plate. Cover the top evenly with praline filling, leaving ¼-inch margin around the edges. Place the second layer on top, again flat side up. Frost the sides and top with the white chocolate ganache. Garnish with sugared pecans.

Like I said, I had really high hopes for this cake. It smelled wonderful coming out of the oven. Sugared pecans, white chocolate ganache…what could possibly go wrong with this?! Well….as a whole it was really good. But once you start looking at the individual parts that’s where I started to lose interest. The cake itself was tasty, BUT it didn’t taste like banana. It was just a very subtle spice cake. The white chocolate ganache and praline filling – couldn’t really taste the white chocolate, just a nicely sweetened whipped frosting.

My husband assured me it was delicious, and it was but NOT if you’re looking for banana cake with white chocolate ganache.



Week 1: Voluptuous January 10, 2012

Filed under: Cake,Recipes — Jen @ 3:40 pm
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Well…the challenge got off to a slow start. I’ve pretty much been sick for the last three weeks, so finishing this cake has been quite the accomplishment. The last several days have been (try to) sleep, cough, drink some coffee, cough, throw in a load of laundry, cough, drink some coffee, cough annnnnd cough some more. In between all that the monsters needed attention, if you can believe that. I guess in Indiana it’s frowned upon when you don’t feed your kids. Go figure. So the cake came together in pieces. One day I baked the cakes, another day I made the buttercream, a third day I made the filling and then put it all together. Low and slow.

As I mentioned in my previous post I’ve wanted to combine peanut butter and chocolate for months now, and boy did I ever accomplish it with this cake. I initially found this idea on (gasp!) Pinterest, which led me to Flikr. How to describe this cake? When asked, my husband said voluptuous. I would borrow a much loved phrase from my son: Sweet mamma potato! Dark chocolate cake with a peanut butter ganache filling and iced with a peanut butter buttercream. Ultra rich and ultra decadent, this cake is definitely not for the faint of heart.

I used my tried and true chocolate cake recipe, which is originally from The Cake Mix Doctor, but I found posted on Cake Central. I used Pam’s filling recipe, and the peanut buttercream is one I found on My Cake School. I’m not including the buttercream recipe here since this is a paid site, but you shouldn’t have any problem finding one. As long as it has some variation of PB, butter, powdered sugar and vanilla then you’re good to go.

Dark Chocolate Cake

Adapted from Cake Central

  • 1 box Betty Crocker Dark Chocolate cake mix
  • 1 (3.9 oz) box instant chocolate pudding
  • 1 C. sour cream
  • ½ C. Hershey’s Special Dark chocolate syrup
  • ½ C. canola oil
  • 4 large eggs

Preheat oven to 325°. Prepare your cake pans. (For this cake I made 2 8-inch layers. Any more than this and you should probably double the recipe. This recipe can yield 1 10-inch cake, 1 9×13 or approximately 31 cupcakes.) Combine all ingredients and blend on low for about 30 seconds to 1 minute. Stop and scrape down the sides. Increase the mixer to medium and beat 1½ to 2 minutes. The batter will be thick and should be well combined. Pour batter into pans, place on middle oven rack and bake until the cake springs back when lightly touched. The original recipe says this should take 28 to 35 minutes, but for me it’s been consistently 40 minutes. Meh…different ovens and all that jazz.

Peanut Butter Fudge Filling

  • 8 oz. Nestle dark chocolate morsels (Pam’s recipe calls for semi-sweet chocolate, but I didn’t have any. The dark chocolate was OK, but if I were to make this again I would go with SS.)
  • 8 oz. heavy cream
  • ½ C. creamy peanut butter
  • ½ C. Reese’s peanut butter cups, roughly chopped

Put the chocolate in a medium bowl. In a small sauce pan heat the cream until it just begins to boil. Pour it over the chocolate and whisk until the chocolate melts. Whisk in the peanut butter until it’s well combined and smooth. This makes 2½ cups of filling. Set aside ¼ of the mixture (Don’t ask me how long it took to do the math, but that’s equal to 5/8 C.) Once the rest of the chocolate mixture is cooled completely gently stir in the chopped peanut butter cups.

To Assemble:

Place one cake layer on a cake stand or plate. I piped a PB buttercream dam, but I’m not entirely sure it was necessary. Fill in with the PB fudge filling. (The filling recipe made much more than was actually needed. I don’t think I even used half of what I had.) Place your second cake layer on top. Using the reserved filling (remember that 5/8 cup? Yup…that’s the one.) spread a thin layer on the outside of the cake, a sort of ganache crumb coat. Refrigerate until the ganache is set and firm to the touch. Once this has set, ice the cake with the PB buttercream of your choice and decorate with any extra peanut butter cups.

I would keep this refrigerated BUT you’ll need to let it set out before serving to give the ganache time to soften otherwise you’ll have a chocolate PB mess on your plate. This is VERY rich, so a small slice will do ya.

My word, I need a glass of milk just looking at it. Enjoy!


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