Cooking with Mamaw

Cooking with Mamaw

Some of my great holiday memories are going to my Mamaw's house Thanksgiving & Christmas mornings to help her with the holiday meal.  I once asked her to share her recipes for some of her "signature" dishes, but she didn't use recipes.  She added a little of this and a pinch of that.  So, I decided to bring paper and pen in the kitchen and write down what she was doing as she was cooking.  That is how I learned how to make this recipe that she called Applesauce Cake.

Now, this isn't a traditional cake.  It is more like a quick bread (think banana nut bread or zucchini bread). This cake is great with coffee.   I love the smell of the spices in this cake.

Applesauce Cake Recipe

Here is what you will need:

1 stick butter (room temp)
1 cup sugar
1 cup unsweetened apple sauce (natural apple sauce)
1 tsp. baking soda
2 1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
1/4 tsp. allspice
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup raisins
1 cup chopped pecans

My Mamaw made hers in a cast iron skillet but I use either a loaf pan or mini loaf pan. The mini loaves are great for give aways.  Be sure to grease and flour your pans.  I use a baking spray like Baker's Joy.

In one bowl, cream the sugar & butter.  Mix in the applesauce.  Don't freak out if it looks curdled.  This is how it looks at this stage when I make it:

In a separate bowl, add the flour, baking soda, salt and spices.  Mix the flour-spice combo with a whisk or fork.  Add the raisins and pecans to the flour mix.  Add the 2 mixtures together and stir to combine.  It will be a thick batter. A VERY thick batter:

Pour into a greased and floured bread pan (or mini loaf pan) and bake at 350 until toothpick comes out clean.  If you use a cast iron skillet or bread pan, it will take about 50-60 minutes to bake.  The mini loaf pan will take less time.


Holiday Treats

Holiday Treats

It's been quite a while since I have written anything for the baking blog :(   I started a new job in the summer and although I am grateful to have a job, this one is both a time and energy drainer.  But - I did have time to make some holiday treats this weekend.


Cookies - I took refrigerated sugar cookie dough and set it out so it would warm up a bit.  Then I rolled it out into a rectangle and sprinkled green and red sugar on it.  I attempted to roll it up jelly-roll style.  It was a little difficult to handle because it was so "melty".  Then, I wrapped it in plastic and placed it in the freezer to harden.  Once hard, I used a knife to slice and place on parchment-lined sheet pans.

On the left, the sliced cookie dough.  On the right, the baked cookies

They did not turn out as jelly-roll looking as I would have liked, but they're ok.

Christmas Mice

These are pretty easy to make.  You will need:

dark chocolate candy melts (or chocolate chips)
maraschino cherries with stems
Hershey's kisses
thinly sliced almonds
red icing (optional)

Take the cherries and place on paper towel to dry.  It will look much nicer and work better if the cherries have been drained well on a paper towel.

Melt the candy melts in microwave safe bowl.  Be very careful when melting chocolate or candy melts in the microwave as it is easy to over heat.  You should still see some solid in the bowl and as you stir, the chocolate will continue to melt.  I suggest you use a container deep enough for you to easily dip the cherries in.

Dip the cherries in the chocolate and sit on wax paper to dry.  Once they are dry enough to handle, use a little of the melted chocolate to glue the almonds to the end of the cherry that is opposite the stem.  The almonds are the mouse ears.  Then glue on a Hershey's kiss for the face.  If you like, you can add eyes with red icing.  I just used a toothpick to add eyes to these.

Tiger Butter

The last item on my holiday treat list was Tiger Butter.  This is s super easy chocolate-peanut butter treat that tastes sort-of like a Snickers.  You will need:

1-lb. white chocolate
12 oz. crunchy peanut butter
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Melt the white chocolate in a microwave safe bowl.  Do not overheat.  Add the peanut butter and place in microwave for about another minute.  Stir until smooth.  Spread this mixture out in a wax-paper lined 9x13 pan.  Then, melt the semi-sweet chocolate chips and pour on top of the peanut butter mixture.  Take a knife and swirl through.  Place in the refrigerator just until set.  Take it out before it gets too hard to score.  If you wait until it gets real hard, it will be very difficult to cut.  I then put it back in the refrigerator for a couple of hours.  Pull out by the wax paper and cut.   Here is a picture of what it looks like before I scored it.  The cherries are in the background waiting for their "faces and ears".

Try one of these easy treats this year. 


Different Types of Icing

Different Types of Icing

There are many, many types of cake icing.  In today's post, I will give a general overview of the 3 types that I primarily use.

American Buttercream

This type of frosting (a/k/a icing) contains a fat (all butter, all vegetable shortening, or a combination of both); powdered sugar and flavoring (vanilla extract, lemon extract, etc).  There are hundreds of recipes for American Buttercream.  I have tried dozens of recipe variations and for now, use one that uses a combination of butter, shortening and cream cheese for the fat component.  Personally, I like the little "tang" that cream cheese gives to American Buttercream.  If an all-white icing is required, I have a recipe I like for an all shortening icing that is bright white and tastes like soft ice cream.

Senatobia cakes
American Buttercream is easy to make, takes coloring easy and is a familiar taste and texture to most Americans.  Here is a cake that is iced in American Buttercream:

European Buttercream

As far as I know, there are 3 basic types of European Buttercreams:  French, Italian, and Swiss.  I have never used and probably never will use French Buttercream.  It is made with egg yolks and sounds very complicated.  Nuff said...

Italian Meringue Buttercream is made by heating a sugar and water solution to 245 degrees then slowing adding it to egg whites that have been whipped to a soft peak stage.  Then you add butter and flavorings.

Swiss Meringue Buttercream is very similar to the Italian version.  Instead, you heat the sugar and egg whites over a water bath to about 140 degrees.  Then you pour that into a mixer and whip until stiff peaks form.  Once you have your meringue, add softened butter and beat with beater blade on low until fluffy, add flavorings of choice.

I prefer the Swiss version.  I have heard that the taste of the Swiss and Italian are very close and the Italian seems a little dangerous for a clutz like me (pouring a hot sugar syrup into beaten eggs).

The Swiss Meringue Buttercream is light and fluffy.  It works great for piping swirls on cupcakes.  Here is a cake and cupcakes iced with Swiss Meringue Buttercream:


Fondant is more like a cake covering rather than a frosting.  It was not well known by most Americans until the popularity of cake decorating TV shows.  It is great for giving a smooth and elegant finish.  It is rolled out like a pie dough, then placed over the cake and smoothed.  Fondant is the cake covering of choice in England and Australia.  There are many commercial brands of fondant- some taste horrible and some pretty good.  I have also made my own, but prefer to buy it already made.  I am definitely not an expert in covering cakes in fondant.  I get a little anxious every time I give it a try.  It can be finicky and hard to deal with, especially with larger cakes.  Here are a couple of cakes I have managed to get covered with fondant without pulling all my hair out:

Senatobia wedding cake

When I first started decorating cakes, I only knew about the American Buttercream and only one recipe for that (the one used in the class).  There is a world of cake icings out there and I have enjoyed trying (and tasting) many of them.


Worth the Scratches

We've been picking blackberries for the past couple of weeks.  There is a large patch of the thorny canes along our fence with the neighboring cow pasture and they have been producing beautiful ripe blackberries for a few weeks now.

If you have ever picked blackberries, you know it requires some preparation in wearing appropriate clothes and making yourself as "chigger-proof" as possible.  I always end up snagging my clothes on the heavily thorned canes as well as getting my hands all scratched up.  Even though I stuffed my pants leg in my socks and sprayed myself with repellent, I managed to still get a fair number of chiggers.

Blackberries are probably my favorite berry.  It seems to me that their flavor is so much stronger than any other type of berry.

So...what to do with all those blackberries.  I used some of them to add to low-fat vanilla yogurt and some to add to pancake batter.  I think I will use some to add to my cereal muffins (made with Fiber One).  I saw someone on a cooking show the other day (I think Pioneer Woman), make blackberry butter.  She took softened butter, mixed blackberries into it and then froze it till needed for pancakes, toast, etc.

I did make a "cobbler" the other night.  I use that term loosely because it is not the traditional cobbler I grew up with - with pie crust like dough.  This is a very easy cobbler recipe I found in a Southern Living magazine.    

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Place 4 cups frozen blackberries in a lightly greased 8-inch square baking dish.
Stir together 1 large egg, 1 cup sugar and 1 cup all-purpose flour in a bowl until mixture resembles coarse meal.
Sprinkle over fruit.  Drizzle 6 Tbsp. melted butter over topping.  Bake 40-45 min. until lightly browned and bubbly.

*4 cups frozen mixed berries may be substituted
Fresh fruit can be used (decrease baking time 5-10 min)


Rainbow Cakes

Rainbow Cakes

I recently made a rainbow cake for a cute little girl's birthday and I took some pictures of the process along the way.  In case you haven't seen one of the thousands of rainbow cake tutorials already on the internet, here is mine.

Tie-Dye Rainbow Cake

This cake was a sheet cake done in the "tie-dye" style of rainbow with a half-round on top done in the "Martha Stewart" style of rainbow cake.  For the sheet cake, I first filled my pan with water up to the point I would usually fill with cake batter.  Then I poured that into a measuring cup to know exactly how much batter I would need.  Since I was using 6 colors (red, orange, yellow, green, blue & purple), I calculated how much batter of each color I would need.

Instead of dividing the batter into equal portions, I used more for the bottom 2 and less for the top 2 with the middle 2 being somewhere in between.  Reason for this is that the bottom layers will spread out more and become thinner as shown in the following pics:
              Just take your first color and pour into the middle of your pan. Let it spread a little then add your second color right on top of it.  Then continue with the rest.  The colors underneath will continue to spread as you pour each successive color on top.

That's it-then just bake as you normally would.

Layered Rainbow Cake

For the Martha Stewart layered style rainbow cake, I divided the colored batter into 6 equal portions.  I baked each layer separately in the round cake pan.  The layers will be skinny (short) because you are only using a fraction of the batter for each "layer" that you normally would use.  Here is what the layers look like once out of the oven and cooling on a sheet pan:  

Once they have cooled, stack with frosting between each layer.

The birthday girl's mom sent me a pic of the cake once it was cut, so here you can see what the sheet cake part looked like:

Give one of these rainbow techniques a try sometime when you want to create a bit more colorful cake.  Note:  I used Wilton's paste colors (not liquid food color).  You can find these now at most Walmarts. You can also get them at Michaels.


How to Bake a Taller Cake

How to Bake a Taller Cake

I first heard about a technique called cake collaring several years ago, but just couldn't envision what I was supposed to be doing.  I finally saw some pictures and I was like "oh...duh."  So, if you haven't heard of collaring a cake and want to know a way to get your cake layers to rise taller, this post is for you.

This is one of the things I do to get my cake layers to rise taller.  I was already lining my pans with parchment paper anyway, so this is just a little different way to do that.

The pictures I took for this tutorial are my 3-layer, 8" pans that are just 1-1/2 inches tall.  My other cake pans are 2" tall so I get taller layers with them.

Once you have your bottom parchment piece in, cut rectangular strips that are about 1/2 inch higher than your pan.  So, in this case my parchment collar was 2" in height (1/2 inch taller than my pan).

I use homemade "pan grease" to attach my parchment papers to my pan but you can also use shortening, butter,or baker's spray.  The pan grease is just equal amount of vegetable oil, all-purpose flour and vegetable shortening.  I usually make it in 1/4 cup amounts.

Spread the pan grease on the side of the parchment strips that will be attached to the pan.  Be sure and overlap your strips.  I find it is easier to work with shorter strips than try to put one or two long strips around.  This is what it will look like:

Here is what it looks like with the cake batter:
Those things sticking up in the middle are flower nails.  They are metal spikes with a flat top that are used to make roses and other flowers.  I have a few that I use as a heating core in the middle of my cakes for more even heat distribution.  If you do this, be sure and grease up the nail before you pour your batter in.

Here are the cakes just out of the oven:
The chocolate one rose over the height of the pan.  One observation I made was that the thickest batter (chocolate) rose the highest, while the thinnest (strawberry) rose the least.

Here they are leveled and then stacked.  I am happy with the height I got from these 1-1/2 inch pans using the parchment collars.

Finally, here is the finished cake:
Senatobia cake


These Are A Few Of My Favorite Things

"Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens..." 

Well, I like those things, but this post is about a few of my favorite Kitchen Gadgets.  One of the things my husband says when we go to the hardware store is, "You can't have too many tools."  And I wholeheartedly agree, but my tools are kitchen gadgets.

Some women like jewelry, some like purses, my thing is kitchen utensil and gadgets (and shoes, but that is for another time).  So, here are a few of my favorites:

My stand mixer

This is the workhorse of my kitchen.  I use it for making dough (bread, pizza) and all my icings.  When it finally konks out, I will have a period of mourning.

Digital scale

I really thought I did not need one of these, but it has quickly become one of my favorite things.  I originally got it to accurately measure sugar for making Swiss Meringue Buttercream, but I have found that I like the accuracy of weight measuring over volume measuring for other things, as well. 

Bench Scraper

I have had this tool for a number of years.  It is a great tool for smoothing out icing on the sides of cakes.  I also have a very big icing knife but I have never been that comfortable using it.  It just seems so bulky and uncontrollable.  The bench scraper is supposed to be used to divide dough and scrape it off the counter if it sticks, but a lot of cake decorators use it to smooth icing.

Tupperware Mix and Pour Bowl

Not really sure what this is called or if Tupperware even makes it anymore.  I have had this bowl since the early 80's (no kidding!).  You can see that I placed it too close to something very hot and the top melted a little, but it still works great.  I pull this thing out of the cabinet at least 4 times a week. 

Cupcake Spoon

Another gadget I have that I don't know the "official" name for, but it is perfect for measuring out batter for cupcakes.  I think it hold about 3 tablespoons and it works great for getting even amounts of batter into cupcake tins.

Pringles Can

Really?  A Pringles can is a kitchen gadget.  Well, it is for me.  It works great for holding my pastry bags so I can fill them with icing with less mess.  I learned this little trick from the instructor of the very first cake decorating class I ever took.

And finally, my Recipe Box

I keep this box on top of my microwave in my kitchen.  It holds index cards with my cake, frosting, and filling recipes.  I can easily find what recipe I need and pull the card out to place it where I am working in the kitchen. 

One of my UNfavorite things is these plastic measuring cups.  They came from a big box store and were cheap (real cheap).  Well, you get what you pay for.  I haven't had them for very long and have already broken the handles off of two of them.  Hmmm...sounds like a good excuse (er, reason) to go to the kitchen gadget store to get some good ones!


What Type of Flour Should I Use?

What Type of Flour Should I Use?

Ever wonder why there are so many different kinds of flour on the store shelves?  I used to get confused about what kind of flour I needed and didn't fully understand that one type of flour can't do it all.  Here's a picture of the different flours I have right now in my pantry.

Types of Flour

From left:  bread flour, whole wheat flour, White Lily (all purpose) flour, cake flour, and Pillsbury (all purpose flour).

Why on earth does one person need all these kinds of flour?  Well, I do a lot of baking.  For baking cakes, I like to use a mixture of Cake Flour and the White Lily Flour.  For bread, I use mixture of Bread Flour and Whole Wheat Flour.  The other all purpose flour is what I use to "flour the counter" to roll out biscuits and stuff like that.

honey wheat bread
  Fair warning - I am a fan of Alton Brown, so this will start to get a little scientific.  These flours react differently because of the varying protein content in them.  The higher the protein content, the more the gluten will develop.  If you want a bread that rises nice with a soft texture, use bread flour.  You can use all-purpose, but it will not give you the same results.  I like wheat bread so I mix in some whole wheat flour with the white bread flour.  I have used whole wheat by itself, which will give you a slightly coarser texture.

For cakes, I want a much finer texture (this is called the "crumb").  That's why I use a mixture of cake flour and White Lily flour.  OK...stay with me here.  White Lily is milled from a soft winter wheat (I believe from the south).  It has a protein content of somewhere between a cake flour and regular all-purpose.  It's supposed to be great for biscuits.  I'll have to try that out sometime.  If any of you use it for biscuits, let me know.  I cheat a little and use Bisquick for biscuits.

Then, there is self-rising, which is just regular all-purpose with leavening added in.  That is the one flour I don't have in my kitchen right now.

Hope this little explanation has helped demistify the types of flour you may find on your grocery shelves.