Independence Day, Simply Vanilla Ice Cream, and More

Tomorrow is Independence Day, and at this point, I have no idea how we will celebrate it.  I’m not usually a big plan in advance kind of girl.  I’d much rather act on spontaneity.  Last minute barbeques, campfires, a trip to the lake, and road trips are so much for fun when they aren’t over-thought. 

Regardless of what we might decide to do on the 4th, I am sure of one thing, we will need to eat.    I’m thinking that this Bacon, Ranch, and Onion Dip will get the party started.  I’ve made this before, but it’s worth mentioning again, especially since I just made a bowl of it.

And then there are those fat slices of my Sinful Midnight Cake resting peacefully in the freezer; right next to a quart of this Simply Vanilla Ice Cream that I made.  So, I’ve got an appetizer and dessert covered.  Hey, it’s a start!

This ice cream requires no cooking or eggs.  And it’s delicious!  I found it in a booklet that came with my Crofton ice cream maker.

Simply Vanilla Ice Cream

2 c. heavy cream

1 c. whole milk (I use skim)

3/4 c. sugar

1 tsp. vanilla extract

In a large bowl, mix milk, cream, sugar and vanilla.  Stir until sugar has dissolved.  Follow the instructions that came with your ice cream maker.

Do you have plans made to celebrate Independence Day? Or are you like me, flying by the seat of your pants?

Happy Fourth of July!!!





Sinful Midnight Cake

Do you realize how many different chocolate cake recipes there are in this world?  Way too many, and settling on a recipe (in my opinion) is half the battle.

I settled on a cake that doesn’t have a single calorie in it.  No sir, I’m certain of that.  And if you believe me, I’ve got a bridge I’ll sell you.  Cash only please, and no refunds!

This recipe was adapted from Betty Crocker’s Cookbook – copyrighted in 1969.  I’m not sure how it got it’s name because it really isn’t as dark as midnight, but I suspect it might be hard to stay out of at midnight. In fairness to Betty Crocker, it should be noted that I didn’t have enough baking cocoa on hand when I made this recipe so I substituted some of the cocoa with melted semi-sweet chocolate chips.   It’s possible that if I had used the cocoa that the recipe originally called for then it might have produced a darker colored cake.

I’ve included one of my recently learned secrets on how to handle fresh baked layer cakes in this post.  Until recently, I struggled with uneven cake tops.  If you have this problem make sure you read this entire post.. 

Sinful Midnight Cake

2 eggs

1 2/3 c. sugar

1/4 c. olive oil

1/2 c. margarine, softened

1/4 c. cocoa

1/2 c. semi-sweet chocolate chips, melted

1 1/2 tsp. baking soda

1/4 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. salt

2 1/4 c. all-purpose flour

1 1/4 c. hot water

2 tsp. instant coffee

1 tsp. vanilla extract

Heat oven to 325 degrees.  Grease and line two 9” round layer pans with parchment paper.  Lightly grease parchment paper.

In a large mixing bowl, add eggs, sugar, margarine, oil, cocoa, and melted chocolate.  With electric mixer, mix for 1 minute on low speed.  Add remaining ingredients and mix for 2 minutes on high speed.  Pour into prepared pans.  Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in the center of each cake comes out clean.

Remove cakes from the oven.  Using a clean dishtowel, while the cakes are still warm and in their pans, press them flat.  This saves you from having uneven cake tops when it comes time to decorate them.  Place two large pieces of plastic wrap on a flat surface and flip the cakes out of their pans onto each piece of plastic wrap.  Lightly wrap each cake in the plastic wrap.  This traps the moisture in and will help make your cakes super moist.  Allow cakes to cool thoroughly. 

Unwrap each cake when your ready to frost and decorate them.  

I frosted this cake with a chocolate buttercream icing, but because this recipe calls for a lot of sugar and the cake was sweet, I think I’d opt for a chocolate whipped cream frosting the next time around. 

I am definitely more of a cake fan than an icing fan.  What about you?

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The curse of the marble cake


(Not) the cursed marble cake

Everyone has baking stories.  The good, the bad, and the ugly.  Undoubtably, if you bake, you’re going to experience wins and losses.  For me, when something turns out great I love to share the recipe, tastes of it, and hear feedback.  When it turns out bad, well frankly, I don’t like to talk about it.  I don’t want to be reminded of my in-competencies, the time I wasted making it, and most of all, the wasted ingredients.  But this story has to be told.  

It all sounded so easy.  There was a simple request  made for a marble cake.  No problem.  I’ve made a lot of cakes over the years and it couldn’t get any easier, it wasn’t like I was being asked to make a cake for TLC’s tv series Cake Boss. 

 I probably should have heeded the first sign of trouble when it presented itself.   It came when I  had a hard time finding a recipe that suited my tastes for a marble cake.  All of the marble cake recipes I found called for orange extract, or flavors that I don’t associate with a simple yellow/chocolate marble cake.  To make things easy on myself  I decided to make a yellow cake and marble it.  All went well until I was passing the cake pans into the oven and it dawned on me that I had left out the baking powder. 

Okay, a couple of curse words might have escaped me at that moment.   I was left with two choices,  throw the cake batter out and start over, or pour the batter back into the mixing bowl, add the baking powder, and serve a light-colored chocolate cake along with an explanation.  Needless to say I opted for the later choice. 

The second warning presented itself after I took the cakes out of the oven.  Baking powder dots speckled  the tops of very thin cakes.  What in the world? I was slightly worried the cake might taste bitter because the baking powder appeared on top but  I ignored that nagging feeling I had.  Never ignore nagging feelings… 

A persistent person by genetics, or nature, I  was convinced I could turn this disaster around.  My next plan of attack, mix up another batter of marble cake and use it as one large middle layer.  I could triumph – I was sure.  The cake would have a light chocolate layer on the top and bottom with a marble layer in the middle.  Brilliant! 

And yet, another warning…  By now you’re probably asking yourself what’s wrong with this girl…  As the middle layer of the cake was cooling I found a recipe for a soft chocolate frosting.  It tasted delicious but didn’t make nearly enough for two layers, let alone three.  Worse, it wasn’t a soft fluffy frosting like I had wanted, it was more like a ganache without cream.   As you can probably imagine I was a little more than frustrated.  Still trying to convince myself things would be okay I shifted the middle layer into position and as I did the top of the cake stuck to my fingers – a good time to taste I thought.   Disaster! !  The cake tasted like baking powder.  It was bitter just as I had suspected.  There was no way I could serve this, and without further thought I picked up all three layers and delivered them to their final resting place – the trash!   

Other than a batch or two of burnt cookies I’ve never had to resort to (the trash) before .  There was no question  I was cursed.    After all I had been through with this dreaded cake one important fact remained – I still had to have a cake for a planned celebration.  This time I resorted to what I knew.  I dug out a chocolate cake recipe I’ve made a half-dozen times and I found a great recipe for an irresistable cream cheese peanut butter icing.  I’m sure you will be relieved to hear (after all this) the chocolate cake  turned out heavenly, and was a huge success.  Now, here’s the kicker, while I was trying to write this post about the curse of the marble cake my laptop went down.  How strange is that!   


Here’s what I’m talking about

Devil’s Food Cake
1 3/4 c. cake flour
1 1/2 c. sugar
1 tsp. soda
3/4 tsp. salt
1/2 c. baking cocoa
1/2 c. shortening
1 c. sour milk/buttermilk
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
350 degree oven

Chocolate Fudge Frosting
1 lb confectionery sugar
1/2 c. baking cocoa
1/4 tsp. salt
1/3 c. boiling water
1/3 c. margarine/butter
1 tsp. vanilla

(These recipes came from the New Deluxe Sunbeam MixMaster Hand Mixer recipe & instruction book 1960)

The Devil’s Food Cake Adventure


I have been baking for years.  Not on a professional level, just for fun, and usually to satisfy a specific craving I’m having.   I am a huge fan of cookbooks and recipes.  I love them…  Old or new, they inspire me.  I turn each page, or flip through the recipe card holder with enthusiasm.  If the recipe happens to have a photo that’s even better. I wait for that one recipe to stand out and yell pick me,  pick me.  Eventually it happens.  The recipe appears, capturing my full and undivided attention.  Until…                 

Somewhere between finding that inspiring recipe, the one that stood out against all others,  double checking to see if I have all the ingredients, and getting out the mixing bowl and measuring cups, something happens to me.  It’s hard to explain but I lose all sense of reason. I get the urge to experiment, be a non-conformist, fall off the recipe trail so to speak,  show my individuality and follow my sense of adventure.                 

Is it just me??                 

The other day I was looking through some recipes that were given to me.  I was excited to try a new one out.  My mind was fixed on something chocolate after seeing an array of sinful chocolate desserts ( like the Tower of Chocolate) at a local restaurant.                  

After careful deliberation I picked a recipe for Devil’s Food Cake.  The recipe was fairly simple, perhaps too simple.  I decided to substitute all-purpose flour in place of the cake flour the recipe called for since I didn’t have any on hand.  I also decided to use canola oil in place of the shortening the recipe called for. When the batter appeared a little to light in color I also opted to add a tablespoon of brewed coffee for effect and personalization.  What harm could this do?              

The cake didn’t turn out bad (considering it’s already gone) but I think there is room for improvement.  The frosting was its saving grace.               

Feeling a bit disappointed in how the cake turned out I did a little research.  My research reminded me that baking is a science of sorts.  Measurements are important, as are specific ingredients, heat, or the lack there of.   This research led me to the conclusion that when I make this “Devil” again, I will use the recommended cake flour since it has a lighter consistency.  I will also use the shortening because it is also lighter and doesn’t weigh the flour down like oil can when beating the batter .  For the tablespoon of coffee, I don’t think that had any bearing one way or another so if I have some I will probably use it.              

I don’t believe that all recipes are accurate, or have been tested. I think many are one persons perception of what they believe is good food.  Many are created by someone just like me – falling off the recipe trail.  Recipes will always continue to inspire me and I’m sure I  will continue to  be adventurous when I’m baking but when I do I’ll keep this in the back of my mind.  Changing a recipe it is “like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re going to get.”