Monday, October 25, 2021

Biscoff Shortbread Bars

Biscoff Shortbread Bars - made September 30, 2021 from Homemade Italian Cooking
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup confectioners' sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 14.1-ounce jar cookie butter
  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Line a 9 x 9-inch baking pan with foil and lightly spray with nonstick cooking spray.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, on medium-high speed, cream together butter, granulated sugar and confectioners' sugar until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add vanilla extract and flour; mix on low speed until a soft dough forms. Do not overbeat.
  3. With your hands, press half of the dough into the prepared pan. Wrap the remaining dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate until needed. Bake the bottom crust for 12 minutes, until puffy and just starting to color. 
  4. Remove from oven and let cool for 15 minutes. Once cooled, spread the cookie butter evenly over the bottom crust. With your hands, crumble the remaining dough over the top of the entire cookie butter layer. Bake for 20-25 minutes until puffy, lightly golden and slightly firm to the touch.
  5. Let cool then chill in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours or overnight before removing from pan.
Since it's fall now and hopefully cooler temps are also prevailing in the Middle East where most of my care packages for deployed military service members end up going, I thought it was safe to send these (all butter) shortbread bars without worrying that the 2-3 week mailing time was going to spoil the butter since (presumably) they're not experiencing triple digit temps.
The bottom crust can be pushed into place with your fingers and that's what the first picture shows. I'm not a fan of fingerprints on baked goods, even if you literally won't be able to see it in the finished product so I used a small roller (pictured below) to make a more even crust. Yeah, probably a bit picky of me but that's how I - haha - roll.

I took one liberty with the original recipe and added broken pieces of Biscoff cookies over the cookie butter layer for a bit of added crunch and contrasting texture to the shortbread and cookie butter. Not to mention to amp up the Biscoff flavor because you can never have too much cookie butter, in whatever form.

The shortbread doesn't really spread much so you want to pinch off small pieces to spread them around the top layer. I couldn't completely cover the top but that's okay as it doesn't hurt the Biscoff cookies or the cookie butter to be slightly exposed.

I only ate a sliver for a taste test but these seemed like they turned out pretty well. Butter shortbread and cookie butter are always a good combination, amped up by the Biscoff cookies in the middle. You can omit them if you wish but I liked having them in the middle. 

Saturday, October 23, 2021

Snickerdoodle Cake

Snickerdoodle Cake - made September 28, 2021 from One Sweet Appetite 
3 cups flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 cup butter, softened
2 cups granulated sugar
5 eggs, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/4 cups buttermilk

8 tablespoons butter, melted
1 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
  1. Preheat your oven to 325 degrees. Spray a muffin tin or 2 mini bundt pans with cooking spray. Set aside.
  2. Shift together the flour, baking powder, salt, and nutmeg. Set aside.
  3. Whisk together 2 cups of sugar and butter until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, followed by the vanilla. Add the dry ingredients alternating with the buttermilk. Mix until fully incorporated. Divide between your prepared pan and cook for 20-30 minutes (baking time will vary depending on which pan you decide to use).
  4. Remove the cakes from the pan while they are hot. Brush with butter and roll in 1 cup of sugar mixed with 1 teaspoon of cinnamon.
I love bundtlette pans. They're a pain in both butt cheeks to clean so I don't tend to bake with them often but I still love the look, as long as you can get them out of the pan cavities intact.
I used two different ones from Nordic Ware, both made in the USA, which is why I like buying Nordic Ware products. They're always high quality and last forever.
The only thing I was fussed about with this recipe is you can see the holes in the design of the baked cakes. That wasn't from beating too much air in the cake batter (although I guess it could have been) but partly from the cooking spray and flour I liberally used in the bundtlette cavities to ensure the cakes would come out intact. Those pesky bubbles then show up in the finished cakes. But you can't not oil and flour the cake cavities or the cakes might not come out without breaking apart. A First World conundrum, indeed.

I'll live with the air holes though so (most of) the cakes can come out with the design they were intended to have.

The snickerdoodle name of the cake comes because after the cakes are baked, you brush them with melted butter then coat them in cinnamon sugar. Yum.
This is the kind of cake you want to serve immediately or very shortly after coating them while the cinnamon sugar hasn't absorbed into the moisture of the cake. For the most part, I liked this cake. I'm not a fan of nutmeg though and that flavor came through in the cake. Next time, I might just omit the nutmeg and substitute more cinnamon instead.

Friday, October 22, 2021

Cinnamon Roll Cake (sort of)

Cinnamon Roll Cake - made September 28, 2021 from Crunchy Creamy Sweet
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 cup buttermilk
1 large egg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup vegetable oil

1/4 cup butter, melted
1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

3 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 tablespoons milk
  1. Preheat oven to350 degrees F. Line a 9" round cake pan with parchment and lightly spray with nonstick cooking spray.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flour, salt, sugar, baking powder and baking soda.
  3. In another mixing bowl, whisk together egg, buttermilk, vanilla and oil.
  4. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix together until combined and smooth. Spread batter into prepared pan, smoothing top. Set aside.
  5. Make the filling: in a small mixing bowl, whisk together melted butter, sugar, cinnamon, flour and vanilla. Using a small spoon, drizzle half the filling over the batter in a circular motion to create circles, starting from the outside. 
  6. Bake the cake for 28-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean.
  7. Remove the cake from the oven and set on a wooden cutting board. Drizzle the remaining filling over the filling crevices that were created during baking. Let the cake cool while you make the glaze.
  8. Make the glaze: in a medium mixing bowl, whisk beat together cream cheese, milk and vanilla. Add powdered sugar until frosting reaches a thick yet drizzling consistency. 
  9. Using the back of a spoon or an offset spatula, spread the glaze over the warm cake in a circular motion. Cool to room temperature.
You'll have to click on the post title to go to the original recipe of this cake and see how it was supposed to come out looking like a giant cinnamon roll, baked in a round cake pan with the traditional cinnamon swirl. Mine doesn't look like that because I deliberately made it in a square baking pan. I was giving most of this away and knew it would be easier to portion into squares than to try and give out round pieces.
Although I didn't bother with trying to make a round cinnamon swirl either since I wasn't trying to make it look like a giant cinnamon roll, I think it's a clever idea. If you are going to make this as a round cake, you might want to try it as originally intended. 

This was a really good vanilla cinnamon cake. Light, fluffy, moist with the classic cinnamon flavor profile. I just made a simple vanilla glaze with powdered sugar, vanilla and milk and skipped the cream cheese. I'm sure that would've made it closer to a cinnamon roll look and flavor but since I'd already gone rogue with the square shape, I had no compunction in skipping the cream cheese, mostly because I didn't have any.
But regardless of my not following directions very well, this still turned out to be a really good cake.

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Texas Sheet Cake Brownies

Texas Sheet Cake Brownies - made September 27, 2021 from Averie Cooks 
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter 
6 ounces dark or bittersweet chocolate, chopped coarsely
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon brewed coffee, optional
1 teaspoon instant espresso powder, optional
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup unsalted butter
3 tablespoons milk
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 3/4 to 2 cups confectioners' sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup chopped walnuts or pecans, optional
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line an 8 x 8-inch pan with foil and lightly spray with nonstick cooking spray.
  2. In the top half of a double boiler set over hot water, melt butter and chocolate, whisking until completely melted and smooth. Add granulated sugar and stir to combine. Add eggs, vanilla, coffee and espresso (if using) and stir to combine.
  3. Add the flour and salt; stir until just combined. Pour batter into prepared pan and smooth top. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out with a few moist crumbs, not raw batter. Cool on a wire rack while making the frosting.
  4. Frosting: in a medium saucepan, combine butter, milk and cocoa powder, stirring until butter is melted and whisking until combined. Let come to a boil and let boil for 15 seconds before removing from heat.
  5. Add 1 3/4 cups confectioners sugar and vanilla, whisk until smooth and combined. Add additional 1/4 cup confectioners' sugar if you want a thicker frosting. Add nuts if desired. Spread frosting evenly over brownies, smoothing top with small metal spatula. Let cool completely before cutting and serving.
I had made the brownie version of Texas Sheet Cake before, originally called Essence of Chocolate Squares and it's one of my favorite brownie recipes on my blog. Which is saying something if you counted up all the brownies I've posted over the years.
So it's going to be high praise when I say this version of it from Averie Cooks is also delicious and probably going to be one of my go-to recipes whenever I want a frosted brownie.
The texture and flavor were on point. These aren't as rich as the Essence of Chocolate Squares as the frosting layer isn't as thick but it's still really amazing.

Monday, October 18, 2021

Bakery Review: Sweet Potato Pound Cake from Southern Girl Desserts

Southern Girl Desserts - placed order on September 29, 2021, received October 6, 2021
I first heard of Southern Girl Desserts when they competed on Cupcake Wars. Back in the days when I watched TV on a regular basis, that was my go-to show for entertainment. I believe they won, btw.
I had seen their product offerings on Gold Belly before but hadn't ordered anything. The dessert I was most interested in was their Giant Sweet Potato Pound Cake but it retailed for $89. Even though that price included free shipping and when you take into account the cost of shipping and packaging not to mention what full-size cakes in many retail bakeries cost, that doesn't make it an unreasonable price. still gave me pause. 
I mean, I like to support small business and all and this is a black-female-owned small business which I also want to support but almost $90 for a pound cake that I could likely make myself or at least something close was pause-worthy.
Then it went "on sale" on Gold Belly, for $69 with free shipping. On the website for Southern Girl Desserts, they also sell the same pound cake for $75 but that's if you're lucky enough to live nearby and can pick up from their store. Which I'm not. While $69 still seemed a bit steep, yup, you guessed it, I talked myself into it. Pause over.

As with everything I've bought from Gold Belly so far, everything comes so well packaged. It also arrived promptly when it was supposed to. I ordered it on September 29 and it arrived on October 6 in great condition, well wrapped and in cool storage packing.

The package also comes with these cards that give some background info on the owners and how to enjoy the cake.

This cake is not for the faint of heart or dainty. When they say "giant" they mean "giant". It's a huge bundt cake and the middle is filled with some sort of amazing sweet potato filling and glaze. 
But wait, there's more. It isn't just a sweet potato pound cake. There's a layer of sweet potato filling inside the cake as well that is as deliciously amazing as the cake part. 
You know, up-post, where I said I could probably make something similar to this? That was a lie. Even if I tried, I think I could only nail down the sweet potato pound cake part, at best. This is more than that, from the sweet potato layer inside the cake to the sweet potato filling in the center of the Bundt cake hole to the glaze. 

Another good thing about this cake is it freezes well. Since even I can't eat a giant anything unless I want to assume giant proportions myself, I sliced it up and put the individually wrapped slices in the freezer so I could enjoy a piece at a time at my leisure in the future and have more to share with others when the time comes.
This particular sale is over at Gold Belly but if you're a new customer, you can use my Referral Code to get $15 off your order (disclaimer: I get $15 off my next order as well). I have to admit, cheap as I am sometimes, I'd probably pay full price for this amazing cake next time. It's a serious option for Thanksgiving dessert if you want something beyond the traditional pie and to wow your guests around the dining table.