In case you didn’t know, my birthday was on Monday, and our anniversary was the day before that. Needless to say it’s been a food-filled week! With my brother having the same birthday as me, it’s always felt like Christmas in July, but now with an anniversary to add to the festivities, July is quickly becoming my favorite month of the year. Unfortunately, (or fortunately for him), brother John is spending the summer
fishing working in Alaska, so I might just have an excuse to make another celebratory birthday cake when he returns in August. I know some people would view it as work to make their own birthday cake, but I view it as an excuse to buy fancy ingredients and make something over-the-top without any regrets. It’s basically like my present to myself. I had a lot of fun sifting through recipes, but with so many combinations of cake and icing to chose from, it was really hard for me to decide on one. I ended up picking this cake because Sweetapolita named it “Campfire Delight” and since I love summer and the campfires that come with it, I couldn’t resist. After making this, I don’t think campfire delight is really a fitting name (after all it’s missing the essential graham cracker part of the s’more), however this cake is totally over the top delicious.
I was set on the fact that I wanted to make a 6-layer cake, only because I had never made one before and I wanted to try something new. Unfortunately I didn’t want to be taking pictures while visiting with friends, so I have no pictures to show you of the inside of this mile-high cake. You’ll just have to trust me: 6 layers really makes a nice presentation and is definitely worth the extra effort. How can you go wrong with an almost equal filling to cake ratio? Keeping that in mind, you can’t eat very much of this cake (at least at one time). But that makes it a perfect birthday cake to share with some friends!
Rich Chocolate Cake
- Recipe as indicated is for 3-9′ inch rounds
- 2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
- 1 cup + 2 T. good quality cocoa powder*
- 3 teaspoons baking soda
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 3 eggs
- 1 1/2 cups strong black coffee (hot or cold is fine)
- 1 1/2 cup buttermilk, room temperature
- 3/4 cup vegetable oil
- 1 1/2 T. pure vanilla extract
*I used Williams-Sonoma’s Dutch cocoa powder, but I think this is a better deal. A good quality cocoa powder really makes this cake.
1) Prepare 3 x 9″ pans by cutting out a circle of parchment to line the bottom, and butter and flour to coat the edges. Preheat oven to 350°.
2) Sift all dry ingredients together in the bowl of a stand mixer. With the paddle attachement, add the remaining ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix for 2 minutes on medium-low. (You may need a splatter guard on your mixer as batter will be liquidy).
3) Pour into prepared pans. To ensure even layers, I weighed the pans until I get the same amount in each.
4) Bake for 20 minutes, then rotate placement of pans in oven. Bake for an additional 15 minutes (35 minutes total) or until a toothpick comes out clean when placed in the center. Cool on wire racks for 20 minutes, then remove from pans and let cool completely. Wrap in plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator until you are ready to assemble.
5) To cut the cake layers to get a 6 layer cake, start with cold cake. Using a knife, score a line around the outside of the cake as to where you want to cut. With a serrated knife cut along the line, turning the cake as you go until all cuts reach the middle of the cake. Frost as desired.
Toasted Marshmallow Frosting
- Makes enough to fill 3 (of the 6) layers
- 24 large white marshmallows
- 1 cup powdered sugar
- 2 sticks (1 cup) butter at room temperature
- 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 large (13 oz) container marshmallow fluff (or cream)
Place the marshmallows in a pan with a silicone baking mat or parchment paper. Place on the bottom rack of the oven and broil until brown. Make sure to watch them continuously as they go from brown to burnt very quickly. In a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix butter and powdered sugar on low for about 1 minute. Add vanilla and mix on high for 3 minutes. Finally add marshmallow cream and powdered sugar and blend until just mixed through (about 1 minute). Spread evenly onto cooled layers.
Malted Chocolate Frosting
- Makes enough to fill 3 (of 6 layers) and to cover a 9″ cake
- 4 sticks (2 cups) butter at room temperature
- 4 cups powdered sugar
- 3 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 3/4 cup Ovaltine Chocolate malt mix (in the hot cocoa aisle)
- 8 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped and melted (I used Ghirardelli)
- 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream*
Clean out the bowl and paddle used for toasted marshmallow frosting, and beat the powdered sugar and butter on low for about 1 minute. Add vanilla and ovaltine malt powder and beat on low to combine. Add the melted chocolate and beat on medium speed until smooth. Add whipping cream and beat on med-high for another minute. Use right away.
*Do not try to substitute half and half or any other milk- You will end up with a runny frosting (speaking from previous experiences).
All 3 recipes slightly adapted from Sweetapolita.
Unfortunately, I can be a bit of a perfectionist. A lot of times I will plan on putting something on the blog and after making it decide that it is just not tasty enough to share. After all, I am putting my personal endorsement on all the items on here, and I don’t want to lose your trust. Other times I will make something that is delicious but so un-photogenic that I can’t seem to get a nice picture of it, and I don’t want get some kind of ugly photograph reputation. Well in an effort to worry less about the small stuff, I decided to post this recipe even though my camera was just not cooperating with me. It should tell you something that I thought it was special enough to share even without a perfect picture.
I would describe this as a comfort food dinner. It’s especially handy to have in the recipe repertoire because it uses ingredients that I can store in my pantry or usually have on hand. I thought it was just going to turn out like a bunch of flour tortillas layered with beans, but something magical happens in the baking process. The cheese melts and the tortillas soften, and the whole thing solidifies into a concoction that actually does seem like a pie. For some reason I didn’t think about the fact that there is a lot of food going into this “pie” and it is way more than John and I could even try to eat. This is a filling pie, so I’m definitely adding it to my list of good dinners to make for company.
Speaking of company (such a sly transition ), last weekend our family got together to celebrate my Grandparent’s 60th wedding anniversary. They have certainly started a wonderful family to be a part of! Here’s a picture from our weekend:
Happy Anniversary Grandma and Grandpa!
Bean and Tortilla Pie
Makes: 6-8 servings
- 4 9-inch flour tortillas
- 2 T. Olive Oil
- 1 large onion, diced
- 1 jalapeno, seeded and minced
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1/2 t. ground cumin
- 1/2 t. chili powder
- Pinch of Salt and Pepper
- 2 – 15 oz cans black beans, drained and rinsed
- 1 cup water (or you can use beer if you didn’t drink what was in your fridge)
- 1/4 cup salsa
- 1 – 15 oz can refried beans, warmed to spreading consistency
- 2 cups frozen corn (about 10 oz)
- 4 scallions, thinly slices plus more for garnish
- 2 1/2 cups mexican style shredded cheese
- Garnish: Scallions, tomatoes, sour cream, cilantro, black olives
1. Preheat oven to 400°.
2. In a large saucepan heat oil on medium-high heat. Add the onions, jalapenos, garlic, cumin, chili powder and salt and pepper. Cook until softened, about 6 minutes.
3. Add in the black beans, scallions, salsa and water, and stir until well mixed. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low to simmer. Continue to cook for about 10 minutes, stirring regularly, until most of the water has evaporated.
5. Lay a flour tortilla in the bottom of a 9-inch springfoam pan. Spread the tortilla with about 3 T. of refried beans. Then continue layering by spreading about 1 cup of bean mixture on top of the refried beans. Top the layer with 1/2 a cup of shredded cheese.
6. Repeat this layering with the 3 remaining tortillas. On the top layer, cover the beans generously with cheese.
7. Bake the “pie” for 20 minutes, or until the cheese is melted. Remove the sides from the springfoam pan, and top with garnishes of choice. Slice into wedges and serve warm.
Slightly Adapted from The Curvy Carrot
I honestly had no idea what to expect from this pizza. I had a hundred different directions I was thinking of going with it and I was worried that by trying to combine too many different flavors, I would end up with a disaster. I put this on the menu for last week, but I think my fear of failure along with some good rationalization about NEEDING to have summer fun caused me to go out to eat 5 days last week. (In my defense I think that’s a personal record, plus once everyone buckles down with school, it will be at least a little bit harder to hang out ). Finally, I decided that I couldn’t let avocados, tomato, cilantro and limes go to waste, so I concocted this specialty.
Well as you can probably guess based on the fact that I am putting it on the food blog – I really liked this pizza! It was unique, fresh, flavorful and used up the leftover shrimp I had in the freezer. (I have a bad habit of buying shrimp and only using half the bag.) I also used some of the pizza dough I had frozen, which made this pretty easy to put together. I almost skipped adding the chipotle, but I’m so glad I didn’t because I think it made the meal. If you are a bacon lover, I think that could also be a nice flavor complement, but I felt like it had enough ingredients without it. The only part that takes some time is chopping, so I would recommend doing it at the beginning so you can just go “chop crazy” all at once. P.S. chopping veggies is a pretty awesome way to wind down!
Shrimp, Avocado and Tomato Pizza
- 1 pizza dough ball
- 6 cloves garlic, minced
- 3 T. olive oil
- 1 cup shredded mozzarella and/or provolone cheese
- 2 scallions, chopped
- 2 large tomatos, chopped and drained
- 1 teaspoon adobo sauce or 1 t. finely chopped chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
- 10-20 medium sized shrimp, peeled and deveined
- 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
- 1 avocado, diced
- Juice of 1/2 a lime
2. In a medium sauté pan add 1 T. olive oil and bring to medium-high heat. Add remaining 2 cloves of garlic and stir until fragrant. Then add the shrimp to the pan and stir for a 1-2 minutes.
A Spice is Nice Original.
Usually I’m one of those people who remembers the 4th of July on the 3rd of July, but this year was different. Since we have some organized and adventurous friends, we had a camping trip planned about month in advance of the holiday weekend. This was a good lesson for me in the fact that “anticipation is half the fun”, because it really was exciting having something to look forward to. I even bought some red and blue marshmallow roasting sticks as well as color coordinating paper plates to take with us. And of course, I was excited to plan some of the menu. When I saw this smoked gouda pasta salad, I immediately bookmarked it as a must try, and I thought camping would be the perfect opportunity.
I’m very familiar with the Caprese type pasta salad, and while the tomatoes, basil and mozzarella are tasty, I often feel that they are not strong enough flavors to create an interesting pasta salad. I’ve made that type of salad many times, and usually end up picking out everything but the pasta. That’s what I think is so great about this recipe – the pasta itself has some great flavor. It’s also really easy to make and requires pretty basic ingredients. While you might not regularly buy chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, they add a lot of great flavor for a small cost. The thing that used to annoy me about them is that most recipes only call for 1-2 peppers and I would inevitably let the leftovers sit in the fridge until they looked so gross that I didn’t feel guilty throwing them away- but I have found the solution. Well, actually I should say that Sara over at Our Best Bites has found the solution: freeze the peppers in individual cubes of how much you might need. See her post here to see what I’m talking about. But seriously, don’t skip the chipotles- the adobo has very little spice but adds a smokey flavor that complements the gouda nicely. Then you can make this pasta salad and eat it out of individual ziplocs like we did on our picnic (classy I know). Or don’t do that, and eat it like a normal person, out of a bowl – I’m pretty sure it will taste good either way.
By the way, we went to Mackinac Island. You should totally make the trip if you live anywhere near Michigan, or even if you don’t. I did not remember such cool places existing in Michigan – it’s kind of making me change my view of the Midwest (at least until winter comes ).
Smoked Gouda Pasta Salad
Serves 10-12 as a side
- 1 lb (16 oz) Mostaccioli pasta
- 1/2 cup light Mayonnaise
- 1/3 cup Milk (I used part skim, part cream)
- 5 Tablespoons White Vinegar
- 1 T. Adobo Sauce From Chipotle Peppers
- Salt and Ground Black Pepper To Taste
- 2 pints Grape Tomatoes, Halved Lengthwise
- 1/2 pound Smoked Gouda Cheese, Cut Into Small Cubes
- 30 whole Basil Leaves, sliced thin (chiffonade)
1. Cook pasta according to pasta directions. Drain and rinse in cold water to prevent pasta from sticking.
2. In a large bowl, mix mayonnaise, milk, vinegar, salt, pepper, and adobo sauce.
3. Add the pasta, halved tomatoes, cubed gouda and basil to the sauce in the large bowl. Stir to incorporate, and add more salt and pepper to taste. Chill before serving (or keep on ice in your camping cooler).
Adapted from The Pioneer Woman
When John and I took a trip out to New Mexico over spring break, in addition to skiing, hiking and visiting with my in-laws, we got to try this great restaurant called Graham’s Grill. (Side Note: it’s pretty nice to have parents-in-law that both happen to live in vacation spots ). The restaurant combines the traditional flavors of the southwest but puts it’s own unique spin on them. The chef, Lesley B. Fay recently came out with a cookbook called Straight From the Heart, and my mother-in-law was nice enough to surprise me at the end of the meal with my very own copy. I have looked through the cookbook so many times trying to decide what to make but I finally decided that I couldn’t pass up a recipe combining 2 of America’s greatest inventions – S’mores and Nachos. (Another side note: I used to think nachos were from Mexico – then I went there in college and searched every restaurant menu for them only to find out that they don’t actually serve nachos in Mexico… definitely an American creation.)
The original recipe called for deep frying tortillas, but after my recent frying disaster, I chose to make them in the oven instead . It was actually a good reinforcement that never again do I need to fry anything, because the “chips” still came out crisp and delicious without having to mess with hot oil. In fact, I think cinnamon-sugar chips would be a pretty great snack on their own – so next time I will likely make a double batch. The recipe itself is pretty self-explanatory, but I’ll have to say Lesley must be some kind of genius for thinking up the idea of “S’more nachos” in the first place! If you really want to go crazy, you could try using ice cream as a dip for these nachos. I’m sure this would be fabulous – warm cinnamon chips against cool ice cream – but you might have to skip dinner all together if you want to try that. So if you don’t have the pleasure of a campfire this Fourth of July, make this instead….It’s definitely easier than building a fire .
For the chips:
- 6-8 small (6 inch) flour tortillas
- 3 T. melted butter
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 T. cinnamon
For the Topping:
- 1/2 cup chocolate chips
- 1/4 cup white chocolate chips
- 1 1/2 cups miniature marshmallows
- chocolate syrup for drizzling (optional)
Preheat oven to 350°. Mix cinnamon and sugar together in a dish. Using a pastry brush, spread melted butter onto both sides of the tortillas. Sprinkle 1 side of each tortilla with a covering of cinnamon-sugar mixture. Using a kitchen scissors (or knife), cut each tortilla into 8-10 triangles. Without overlapping, place triangles sugar side up on a large baking sheet and bake for 10-15 minutes or until the edges turn up.
Remove chips from oven and combine into a pile on a small baking sheet or oven-proof dish. Sprinkle with chocolate chips, white chocolate chips and marshmallows. Turn the oven on broil, and place the baking sheet on the middle rack (too close to the heat will catch your marshmallows on fire). Watch carefully until the marshmallows are browned, about 5 minutes. Remove from the oven, transfer to a serving dish and drizzle chocolate syrup over the chips. Serve warm.
And the Aftermath:
- Nachos Adapted from from Straight From the Heart by Lesley B. Fay.
- Cinnamon Chips adapted from Our Best Bites