armadillas


Sparkle

Today is a special day. Not my special day, no, but it might as well be as excited as I’ve been, counting down the days and suffering from fits of enthusiasm. But it is not my special day. Today belongs to the boyfriend. It’s his birthday! I love birthdays. I love everything about birthdays. I love the cake. I love the ice cream. I love the special dinner. I love the presents. Oh how I love the presents. I don’t think there is anything more fun than planning out a gift, of searching for just the right fit and then wrapping it up to give away. Of course, this year has been a little tight for my post graduate self, but that’s okay. It just means I’m going to have to have some kitchen adventures! I can pour just as much love into a dish as I can into a gift. Probably even more love. And it’s all for love, right?

I’m thinking Alfredo. Rich, decadent, creamy Alfredo. With bacon. And peas. And lemon. Delicious! If I asked the boyfriend what his favorite meal was, I’m pretty sure he would give me some noncommittal answer. I can’t blame him really. Even I have the hardest time with that question. But from several observations, I think Alfredo might be at the top of his list. I’d bet money on it. Plus, it’s just a great celebration dish in general. It’s not like you can eat this Alfredo everyday. No ma’am. We are going big. That means real cream. Of the heavy variety. And let’s not forget about the real butter. Did I mention the cheese?

But that’s only half of it. We also need a special cake. Something homemade. I don’t even want to get into a discussion about those store bought concoctions. Bleh! I really wanted to make a German Chocolate cake. I was ready to take on the challenge. Then I discovered something called a sparkle cake. How could I pass on something with a name like that? Sparkle! Like the sparkling flames of birthday candles. Like the sparkling magic of celebrating your birthday. I just like the imagery that comes with a word like sparkle. So, my German chocolate recipe has been set aside for future use and we’re going to make a light, refreshing cake instead, which is probably more suited for a hot July day anyway

As much as I would love to fill this post with excruciating detail on how I prepared the cake, today I’d rather just show you the result and send you on over to the Pioneer Woman’s site. It was her recipe I used after all. But let me tell you a few things. I’ve never made an angel food cake before and I’m not sure I’m inclined to make one again. The batter was sticky and finicky and I didn’t even want to lick the bowl afterwards. But the cake was exactly what I was looking for and everyone enjoyed it.

Strawberry Sparkle Cake recipe courtesy Ree Drummond

The batter got really big. Whoa!

If you don’t have an angel food cake pan, a bundt pan will have to do. Ungreased.

I really thought it was going to overflow all over my oven

I tried the best I could to dig the cake out of the pan. I heard a rubber spatula works wonders

I resorted to a butter knife

The filling was my favorite part. Strawberry jello with whole strawberries!

Whipped cream smeared all over = heaven

The cake was a bugger success than I hoped. Woo hoo! But dinner…dinner was a great hit! In fact, it was such a great hit I’m going to give the Alfredo it’s own post. Stay tuned!

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Sanguistas

For the past couple days, a friend and I have been exchanging emails in search of the perfect chocolate frosting. She’s gone and made a birthday cake for one of her friends and the request was simple: chocolatechocolatechocolate! Of course, I’m not the biggest chocolate fan, but I understood her needs. We wanted a real recipe, something worth presenting for a birthday! Not one of those wimpy recipes claiming to be the best only to be the most flavorless thing you’ve ever tasted. No ma’am! My first thoughts were maybe something along the lines of a ganache, but considering the size of her cake, well, that would require a lot of frosting and a bit of money. So now there’s naught to do but choose a nice fudgy frosting. I’m sure it’ll work out fine and the chocolate lover will be most happy with the results, which will have consisted of international efforts!

All this talk of frosting has put me in the mood to bake a cake. I’ve never been much of a sweets person, but here lately I seem to be craving them all the time. Maybe craving is an exaggeration, but I usually get around to making something sweet once a week when once upon a time I made something maybe once a year (ahem my own birthday cake, which is quite divine!). I blame all the boys. In this house, we usually have some sort of weekend gathering, typically involving a bonfire surrounded by a lot of menfolk. One day, I decided to make them cookies. Then I made them brownies. Then I made- well, you get the picture. Anyway, I’ve created some sort of monster. They want sweets…and I want to make them! There’s just no controlling this new found urge. Sometimes it’s best just to give in.

Anyway, I went to a little dinner get together last night with my friends and I decided on a whim to provide dessert. For probably the past month I’ve been making a lot of chocolate things (huh?) and was itching for a change. That’s when I stumbled across a bag of pistachios in the cabinet.

Mmm pistachios! I am a recent lover of pistachios. A few years ago a friend’s grandmother made us watergate salad (oh yum!) and I was intrigued. A year later I tried some pistachio ice cream in Costa Rica and I was hooked. Finally, I had a little taste of the tiny green nut itself in a grocery store and I knew there was no going back. What a marvelous little fellow. Great snack! So addicting. Before you know it, the whole bag is gone…be warned!

I do, however, have a confession to make. I cheated. I did not make my cake from scratch. I bought a box and dumped the contents into a bowl then added a few extra tid bits. The cake was good, don’t get me wrong. It was gone by this morning. But in my opinion it was a little on the sweet side so next time I am most definitely doing it start to finish myself so I can make adjustments. But the recipe is a keeper so I thought I’d share as is. It’s a nice summer treat!

Ingredients:

The Cake

  • 1 yellow cake mix
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 tbs honey
  • 2 tsp orange extract
  • 1 package pistachio instant pudding
  • 1 cup water (or lemon-lime soda)

The Honey Frosting

  • 1 stick butter, softened
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tbs lime/lemon juice
  • 2 tbs honey
  • Pinch of salt
  • Splash of milk

Talk about easy! Take all your cake ingredients and put them in a bowl

Find your mixer and put it to work!

If you want, add some green food coloring (I didn’t have any)

Goodness gracious, this is going to take less then 5 minutes! Take a pan of your choosing and batter up (hehehe get it? Eh, maybe not). I chose to make a bundt cake, but I’d bet money these would make great cupcakes! Always a crowd pleaser

Gah! Go preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Once day you’ll remember to do this ahead of time. Hmph! Now for the frosting, which we are going to do ahead of time so as to let it set up a bit in the fridge. Cream together softened butter and honey. I may have been generous with my honey

Slowly mix in sugar and milk. Now, some people don’t like to find “odd” textures in their food. For the most part, I am not one of those people. That’s why I added both powdered and granulated sugar to my icing. But if you doubt me (and someone did just before they ate two slices), skip the granulated sugar and double the powdered sugar to two cups. No problema

Finally, mix in the rest of the ingredients. I love the tang that cream cheese brings to an icing. Since I didn’t have any cream cheese, I used citrus juice to create a similar flavor. It’s a nice, unexpected surprise. When your all done, put the icing in the fridge. Do you say icing or frosting? Is there actually a difference…

The cake is done. Let it sit for about 5 minutes before flipping it. If you remembered to grease your pan, this will be a cinch!

Ta-da! It’s like magic. What a beauty! Just admire that golden color

If you’re nervous your friends won’t like your new frosting experiment, serve it on the side. Ooh, how fancy!

To make it fancier, sprinkle chopped pistachios on top

To make it even more fancy, spread the nuts in shell around your cake like a professional! It’s all in the details. Guess they liked it

Hope you do, too! Next time, I”m going to try two packages of pistachio pudding. Just to see how it affects the flavor.

Tijuana