Sunday, October 23, 2011

Pumpkin Threefer

Apples and pumpkins. These are my two favorite fall ingredients.

In my doctoral program cohort, we take turns providing a snack for class each week. A couple weeks ago it was my turn, so I made some Pumpkin Cinnamon Chip Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting. I found some fall-colored sprinkles at Target, so I used those to add some color and flair.

I had come across a recipe for Pumpkin Snickerdoodles. I love regular snickerdoodles and figured you couldn't go wrong by adding a fall twist to them. They were delicious! My husband loved them and was not happy about my wanting to share them with the neighbors; he wanted to keep them all for himself. (Sorry, no pictures of these.)

Lastly, I had some leftover pumpkin from the snickerdoodles, so I used it for some Pumpkin Muffins with Streusel Topping - perfect for a cool Sunday morning breakfast. These have a healthy element to them in that they use some whole wheat flour and oatmeal, but the six tablespoons of butter probably offsets that, right? They made the house smell wonderful! I thought they were yummy warm out of the oven. They weren't too sweet, and you could definitely taste the pumpkin spices. Kate loved helping with the baking. As I measure each ingredient, she yells, "I want to dump it in!"

I have to get some writing done for school this morning, and then we may head to the orchard this afternoon to get some local apples and pumpkins. More fall baking to be done!

Monday, October 3, 2011

The Crazy Cat Lady

Early Saturday afternoon we arrived home from being in Delaware for my sister's wedding. My neighbor approached me to say that she'd seen a black and white cat wandering around who seemed to be lost and wanted to be sure that one of our cats hadn't gotten out. Just then, the lost cat appeared. He's a sweet little guy - meowed and rubbed against my legs and followed me up to my front porch. He would've invited himself in if I had let him. He seemed well cared for and had a collar, so I doubt he's a stray. Our neighborhood has a blog, so I emailed the moderator some information about the cat along with a picture with hopes that we could find the owner.

I have received several emails from people in the neighborhood, none of whom are the owner. One woman in particular, Joy, has emailed me multiple times. She gives new meaning to the notion of the crazy cat lady. I don't know if Joy has cats, but because she is so (overly) involved with this cat, I think she's nuts.

Her first email's subject line reads: "Pray found this dear cat's home." Her message reads: "Did u? Can you take him in?" I replied that I can't take him in, as we already have two cats and a dog. The she emailed me to ask me to take him to the vet and pay his vet bills. I didn't reply. Then she emailed me again to tell me exactly which vet she wants me to take him to and that I should pay the bill. (She reminds me that it's tax deductible. Doubtful.) Again, I didn't reply. She emails me again to tell me she can pay its vet bills and gives me her phone number; she asks me for my phone number. Again, I don't reply.

She then writes to ask me to pray for the cat: "Pleeeeeaaase pray that he's OK. Please, please, please pray." Umm, OK...I hope that everything works out for the cat, but I haven't (nor do I intend to) have a prayer vigil for this cat and/or his owner.

Then she writes again to tell me that I should find the cat, get him in a carrier, and she'll go with me to take him to the vet. Ummm, again, NO. I'd be more likely to find this crazy lady, put her in a carrier, and take her somewhere for care (like a mental hospital).

To sum up: seven emails from the crazy cat lady who wants me to take in a stray cat, or at the very least catch him in a carrier and then call her so we can take him to the vet of her choosing, where I will pay the bill, together. And during all of this cat-catching and vet-transporting, I should also be praying for the cat.

I'm totally an animal lover, but isn't this a bit extreme?

Friday, August 12, 2011

Working for the Money

My cupcakes' reputation has gotten around, and I just finished my first paid baking job! Our daycare provider's niece is having a baby shower this weekend and asked me to make two dozen cupcakes for the kids who will be attending. She's having a baby girl, so I got to use pink sprinkles and pink frosting. I made red velvet with cream cheese frosting and vanilla bean with vanilla bean buttercream. (Both of the recipes are from My Baking Addiction.) I had a couple extra of the vanilla bean cupcakes, so I dropped them off to several of my neighbors. While I was taking the dog out, my neighbor brought a cupcake to her son who was playing basketball in the backyard. I heard him say, "Wow - this is amazing!" YES!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Cafe Mocha Cupcakes

On the way to work on the Friday before we were to leave for vacation, my hubby got a flat tire. He had meetings scheduled all day and didn't know when he'd have a chance to get his tire replaced. His boss offered to take the car and get it fixed so my hubby could attend his meetings. As a thank you, I baked some Cafe Mocha Cupcakes from My Baking Addiction. The cake has good flavor, and I love, love, love the mocha buttercream. I garnished them with chocolate-covered coffee beans that I got from the bulk candy bins at Wegmans. I think they'd be tasty with a cup of coffee or a glass of milk.

Cafe Mocha Cupcakes

For the Cupcakes
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar
3/4 cups cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup buttermilk, shaken
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup freshly brewed hot coffee
1 ½ teaspoon instant espresso granules

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line muffin tins with paper liners or spray with nonstick cooking spray.
2. Sift the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and mix on low speed until combined.
3. In another bowl, combine the buttermilk, oil, eggs, and vanilla. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry. Add the 1 ½ teaspoons of espresso granules to the cup of hot coffee and stir to combine. With mixer still on low, add in the coffee/espresso mixture and stir just to combine, scraping the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula.
4. Using a large scoop (about 3 tablespoons), distribute the batter into the prepared muffin tins.
4. Bake for 18-22 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool in the pans for 15 minutes, then remove them onto a cooling rack and cool completely.

For the frosting
3 sticks unsalted butter, softened
pinch of fine grain sea salt
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 pounds confectioners’ sugar, sifted
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
1 tablespoon instant espresso granules dissolved in 1 tablespoon warm water
3-6 tablespoons heavy cream or milk

1. In a large bowl, sift together the confectioners’ sugar and cocoa powder; set aside.
2. In a large mixing bowl, cream butter until fluffy. Slowly add in confectioner’s sugar/cocoa powder mixture, and continue creaming until well blended.
2. Add salt, vanilla, 2 tablespoons heavy cream or milk and espresso/water. Blend on low speed until moistened. Add an additional 1 to 3 tablespoons of heavy cream or milk until you reach the desired consistency. Beat at high speed until frosting is smooth and fluffy.

Yield 24 cupcakes

Friday, July 29, 2011

Eggs for Dinner

I tend to blog about desserts, but today I have a dinner recipe. I made a Summer Squash, Bacon, and Mozzarella Quiche. YUM! It consists of simple and inexpensive ingredients. It did take awhile to make, but there is a lot of inactive time in the process. Most of the time was spent waiting for the dough for the crust to chill. It could definitely be made ahead of time, so it could work for company or a weeknight meal. This is a Cooking Light recipe, so it's probably healthier than the average quiche recipe. You can get the recipe here at Cooking Light's website.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Milk's Best Friend

I love just about anything with Oreo in it. Oreo milkshakes are one of my favorite treats. They're also good plain with a glass of milk. Today, it's Oreos and cake. I made a one bowl chocolate cake and an Oreo buttercream frosting. There was a bunch of frosting left over, but the cake recipe makes a rather small cake. I used two 8-inch round pans.

I broke up some Oreos to put between the two layers (on top of the frosting) and decorated the top with halved Oreos. Looking forward to enjoying some with a glass of milk after dinner!

It was a hit with the younger crowd!

One Bowl Chocolate Cake (from Lick the Bowl Good)

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 cups sugar
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup vegetable or canola oil
1 cup water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs, lightly beaten

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter two 8 or 9-inch pans. Line the bottoms with parchment or waxed paper, butter the paper.

Sift the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into a large mixing bowl. Use a wire whisk to blend the dry ingredients thoroughly.

Add the oil and 1/2 cup of the water to the dry ingredients. Add another 1/2 cup water, eggs and the vanilla; again whisk until smooth. Divide the batter between the two prepared pans.

Bake the cake layers for 18 to 20 minutes, or until a cake tester or toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Allow to cool for 10 minutes; then invert onto cooling rack. Remove the paper liners and let cool completely before frosting.

Makes 2- 8 or 9-inch layers or 1 9x13 cake.

Oreo Buttercream Frosting (from My Baking Addiction)

1 stick salted butter – room temperature
1 stick unsalted butter – room temperature
1 cup shortening
1 tablespoon Clear Vanilla extract
2 pounds confectioner’s sugar (powdered sugar, 10x)
4-6 tablespoons very cold milk
8 crushed Oreo cookies with the cream removed before crushing

Cream the butter and shortening in the bowl of an electric or stand mixer. Add the clear vanilla extract and combine well. Begin adding in the sugar and mixing thoroughly after each addition. After all of the sugar has been added and mixed thoroughly, begin adding the very cold milk… one tablespoon at a time, combining very well after each addition (mixer on medium-high to high speed) until you reach the desired consistency. Fold in the Oreo cookie crumbs. Frost cake as desired.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Cake Slice Bakers June Cake: Fresh Strawberry Cake with Chocolate Chips

I haven't baked a cake for Cake Slice Bakers since March. I had my wrist surgery April 1st, so I wasn't able to bake for a month or so. May was a hectic month. I finished teaching for the school year and started my doctoral program the same day! Most of the baking I've done in the past month has been purposeful - for my sister's baby shower, dinner at a friend's house, etc. It's nice to be baking something for leisure again.

I baked this cake with my daughter. She loves helping in the kitchen. The Easter Bunny brought her some of her own tools - a whisk and spatula. While she loves stirring and dumping things into the bowl, I think her favorite part of baking is licking the bowl and beaters.

My husband got me a Le Creuset stone baking pan for Christmas. This is the first time I've used it for baking. It's pretty enough to serve from it. I made one substitution in the recipe. The recipe calls for white chocolate chips. My husband and I are not fans of white chocolate, and I happened to have an open bag of milk chocolate chips that needed to be used up, so I used those in the cake. I figured it'd be like a chocolate-covered strawberry cake.

The cake came out a really nice golden color. It was moist and light and had a nice crunch on the edges. I am so glad that I used chocolate chips. I ate the first piece when it was still warm, and the chocolate chips were melty and delicious. I think it would be good with some vanilla or strawberry ice cream or whipped cream.

Fresh Strawberry Cake with White Chocolate Chips
Makes one 8 inch square cake
(Recipe from Cake Keeper Cakes by Lauren Chattman)

1 egg
1 egg yolk
½ cup sour cream
½ tsp grated lemon zest
2 tsp vanilla extract
1½ cups all purpose flour
1½ tsp baking powder
¾ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
6 tbsp (1/4 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
8 ounces strawberries, stemmed and sliced
1 cup white chocolate chips or chunks

Heat the oven to 350F. Grease an 8 inch square baking pan and dust it with flour, knocking out the excess.

Combine the egg, egg yolk, sour cream, lemon zest and vanilla in a large measuring jug and beat lightly. Combined 1¼ cups of flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl.

Combine the butter and sugar in a large mixing bowl and cream with an electric whisk on medium high speed until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides when necessary.

With the mixer on medium low speed, pour the egg mixture into the bowl in a slow stream, stopping the mixer once or twice to scrape down the bowl.

Turn the mixer to low speed and add the flour mixture, ½ cup at a time. After the last addition mix for 30 seconds on medium speed.

Combine the strawberries and remaining ¼ cup flour in a medium bowl and toss to coat. Fold the flour covered berries along with the chocolate chips into the batter using a spatula.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top with a spatula. Bake the cake until golden and a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean, 45-50 minutes. Let the cake cool ion the pan for about 5 minutes, invert it onto a wire rack and then turn it right side up to cool completely.

Cut into squares and serve.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Berry Good

I haven't done much baking since my surgery on April 1st, and the itch to make some cupcakes had really kicked in. I was inspired by a recipe from Annie's Eats, one of the blogs I follow, for Lemon Blueberry Cupcakes. I love the combination of blueberries and lemons. They marry so well and create a harmonious balance of sweet and tart. These cupcakes have a delicate white cake flavored with fresh lemon zest and juice. The cake is dotted with fresh blueberries, although I'm sure you could use frozen if fresh aren't available. The cream cheese frosting is also flavored with the lemon zest and juice. I will definitely make these cupcakes again - they're the perfect cupcake for warmer weather.

Sorry for the less-than-stellar picture - I took it on my camera phone.

Lemon Blueberry Cupcakes
(From Annie's Eats)

Yield: about 16 cupcakes
For the cupcakes:
¾ cup plus 2 tbsp. all-purpose flour, divided
¾ cup cake flour
1½ tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. salt
8 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
Zest of 1 lemon
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 tbsp. lemon juice
½ cup plus 2 tbsp. milk, at room temperature
1 cup fresh blueberries

For the frosting:
8 oz. cream cheese
5 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
1 tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
Zest of 1 large lemon

Additional fresh blueberries, for garnish

Preheat the oven to 350˚ F. Line cupcake pans with paper liners. In a medium bowl, combine the ¾ cup all-purpose flour, the cake flour, baking powder and salt; whisk together and set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the butter, sugar and lemon zest. Beat together on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes. Beat in the eggs one at a time, blending well after each addition. Beat in the vanilla and lemon juice. With the mixer on low speed, mix in half of the dry ingredients just until incorporated. Blend in the milk. Mix in the remaining dry ingredients, beating just until incorporated.

In a small bowl, toss the blueberries with the remaining 2 tablespoons of all-purpose flour. Using a spatula gently fold the berries into the cake batter. Divide the batter evenly between the prepared liners, filling each about ¾ full. Bake 20-22 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool in the pans 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

To make the frosting, combine the cream cheese and butter in the bowl of an electric mixer. Beat on medium-high speed until well combined and smooth, about 2-3 minutes. Mix in the lemon juice and lemon zest. Gradually beat in the confectioners’ sugar until totally incorporated, increase the speed and then beat until smooth. Frost cooled cupcakes as desired. (I used a large, unlabeled star tip to frost these cupcakes.) Garnish with fresh blueberries.

Source: cupcake adapted from Martha Stewart’s Cupcakes, frosting adapted from Confections of a Foodie Bride

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Catching Up

I haven't posted in over two months. I feel like I've been sick for most of that time. At the end of February I had a stomach flu. The first couple weeks of March, I had a bad cold and laryngitis. By the time I got over that, it was time for my wrist surgery. About a week after the surgery, I came down with a sinus infection. I then got pink eye and bronchitis. So, after all of this sick time, I'm finally on the mend and trying to get caught up with life, baking and blogging included. Here is what I need to cover:

#1: For Valentine's Day, I asked my husband for new canisters for my baking supplies. I got a bunch of Oxo containers with pop-top airtight lids. Love, love, love them! I also got a label maker and have been able to organize and label my baking cabinet. Since taking this picture, I actually moved all of my baking stuff to a larger cabinet and also got some clear, plastic shoe boxes to hold all of the extraneous baking stuff: sprinkles, candies, chocolate chips, nuts, piping bags and tips, etc. I just love how much easier baking is with a well-organized cabinet!

#2: March Cake Slice Bakers
The March cake for CSB was a chocolate pound cake. I thought this was one of the better cakes from the book Cake Keeper Cakes. The cake had a nice crust, was moist and had a great chocolate flavor without being too sweet.

#3: My mom came for dinner in March. I made Beef Bourguignon and homemade bread. For dessert, I made a chocolate sour cream bundt cake. It's a recipe I saw on one of my favorite blogs, Lick the Bowl Good. The cake was a bit of work - chocolate to chop, ganache to make - but it was well worth the effort. I took the leftovers into work, and my co-workers raved about it. This is definitely a rich cake, and I strongly recommend serving it a la mode or with a glass of milk.
#4: We're getting a puppy! After years of begging and persuading, I have finally gotten my husband to agree on getting a dog. After a lot of research, we decided on a bichpoo (Bichon Frise/Toy Poodle mix). They are very smart and great family dogs because they love people, kids, and other animals. They don't shed and only grow to about 12 pounds at the most. Our puppy, Dewey, was born on March 30th. We'll be able to get him at the end of May. Here's a picture of our little baby! You can't tell in this picture, but he has white on his paws, belly, chest, and chin.
#5: In February, I applied for the doctoral program in Adult Education at Penn State. I found out last week that I was accepted! I will be taking my first class this summer and will be in the full swing of the program in the fall. I'm really excited to have this opportunity, and I'm sure I'll be even more excited in four years when I get to walk across the stage as a doctor!
I think that about covers it...the last two months in a nutshell. With the school year winding down, I'm hoping to have a little more free time to do some baking and blogging.

Monday, February 14, 2011

C is for Cookie...and Cupcake

Kate will be two tomorrow! It's really hard to believe how fast the time has gone by. I showed her some pictures of cupcakes she could take to daycare for her birthday, and she shouted an enthusiastic "WOW!" to some chocolate chip cookie dough cupcakes. This is a semi-homemade type of recipe - it starts from a devil's food boxed cake mix, and the cookie dough/cookies are from a Pillsbury refrigerator roll. A little ball of cookie dough is placed in the center of each cupcake before baking. The only alteration I made to the original recipe is omitting the espresso. I figured since the cupcakes would be eaten by a group of toddlers, the extra caffeine wasn't needed. Plus, we love our daycare provider and didn't want to plague her with six hyper kids! Decorations include mini chocolate chips and a chocolate chip cookie wedged in the vanilla buttercream frosting. I think they turned out really cute, and Kate is thrilled with them! Check out My Baking Addiction for the recipe.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

All You Need is Love...and Cupcakes

Red Velvet is perhaps my favorite cake. I love it with vanilla cream cheese frosting. The red color of the cake makes it a perfect confection for Valentine's Day. And I found some cute Valentine's Day cupcake liners and sprinkles at Target, which I think make these cupcakes particularly cute. I used the large, round tip (one of my new tips from Bake it Pretty) to pipe the frosting. The recipe is from My Baking Addiction. I can't yet comment on taste because I am saving them to take to work tomorrow, but they look like they will be moist. Happy Valentine's Day!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

It's Just the Tip

I've been on a cupake kick the last few days. We enjoyed a low key weekend in, and I baked a couple batches of cupcakes - chocolate chocolate chip with chocolate cream cheese frosting and a plain chocolate cupcake with the same frosting.

The inspiration for my other batch of cupcakes, lemon ones with a lemon cream cheese frosting, came from a co-worker. Every Tuesday, I bring baked goodies into work. Last week, one of my co-workers was quite upset that he didn't get a piece of cake, as our other gluttonous colleagues had eaten it all. To make it up to him, I promised a special treat this week. This particular co-worker loves lemon desserts, so I searched for a lemon cupcake. Not only did the recipe turn out deliciously, but I learned about cupcake decorating tips from the blog where I got the recipe. I never knew how bakers piped such beautiful frosting on cupcakes; my standard tips didn't do the trick. But these huge cupcake tips are fantastic! I ordered them from Bake It Pretty on Friday afternoon, and they came in Monday's mail.

The cupcake itself was one of the best I've ever made. The cake is a white cake infused with lemon, achieved by massaging lemon zest into the sugar before adding the butter, and some lemon extract. The cake was light and fluffy with a nice crumb. The frosting was also delicious - a basic cream cheese frosting with lemon juice added. I was sure to add enough confectioners sugar to make the frosting stiff enough to pipe with my new tips. I had some yellow decorating sugar on hand, so I did a sprinkling of that for a classic, understated look. I think it's my best work yet, aesthetically speaking! Can't wait to use the tips for my daughter's birthday cupcakes!

Lemon Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting
makes 24 cupcakes

For the Cake
2 1/4 cups cake flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups buttermilk
4 large egg whites
1 1/2 cups sugar
lemon zest from two lemons
1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon pure lemon extract

Getting Ready: Center a rack in the oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare cupcake tins by using liners or spray with non-stick cooking spray

To Make The Cake: Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt.
Whisk together the milk and egg whites in a medium bowl.
Put the sugar and lemon zest in a mixer bowl or another large bowl and rub them together with your fingers until the sugar is moist and fragrant. Add the butter and, working with the paddle or whisk attachment, or with a hand mixer, beat at medium speed for a full 3 minutes, until the butter and sugar are very light. Beat in the extracts, then add one third of the flour mixture, still beating on medium speed. Beat in half of the milk-egg mixture, then beat in half of the remaining dry ingredients until incorporated. Add the rest of the milk and eggs, beating until the batter is homogeneous, then add the last of the dry ingredients. Finally, give the batter a good 2-minute beating to ensure that it is thoroughly mixed and well aerated. Place the batter into the cupcake tins.
Bake for 18-22 minutes, or until the cupcakes are well risen and springy to the touch – a thin knife inserted into the centers should come out clean.
Cool on wire rack.

For the Cream Cheese Frosting:
2 (8) ounce package cream cheese, softened
1 stick butter, softened
2 lbs. confectioners’ sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
juice of one lemon

Using a mixer, blend the butter and cream cheese together until well combined. Gradually add in the confectioners’ sugar until fully incorporated. Finally mix in vanilla and lemon juice.

January Cookbook Club: A Better Burger?

I love a good burger, which can be pretty hard to find. I was excited to see that the Cookbook Club selection for January was a burger, especially since we tend not to have burgers all that much in the colder months. (Can I express how much I can't wait for all of the snow on and around the grill to melt and warmer weather to arrive?) I was also excited to see that this recipe came from a James Beard cookbook: Beard on Food. The recipe was simple, perhaps a little too simple for my taste, but it was certainly juicy. I have become a fan of Bobby Flay burgers, which often have an elaborate list of spices, fun sauces, and interesting cheeses. But, for a simple burger, this one was good. I think I would have preferred it on the grill than in a pan - it seemed to get a bit greasy cooked in a cast iron skillet. I will certainly try this recipe again when grilling season gets here, and I'll probably add some fresh herbs to the mix.

2 pounds of top-quality chopped round or chuck
2 tablespoons of grated onion (use a fine grater so you get just the juice and finely grated onion)
1 tablespoon heavy cream
Black pepper
Olive oil
Buttered buns or English muffins

Spread out ground beef on a board and grate the onion into it. Mix in the cream and freshly ground black pepper. Form into patties (I like 6 to 8 ounce patties for an average setting).

Hamburger is best cooked in a heavy skillet with a combination of butter and oil, which prevents the butter from burning when you cook at high heat… gives a crustier, juicier hamburger than broiling. Cook your hamburger in a heavy skillet (use less fat for Teflon, but a little for flavor) over fairly high heat, giving it 4 to 5 minutes on each side, depending on how well done you like it.

Salt the creamy, oniony, peppery hamburger before serving it on a buttered bun or English muffin with sliced tomatoes and onions.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

A Twofer: New Year's Eve and January Cake Slice Bakers

It's hard to believe it's been nearly a month since I posted anything. Life has been hectic. I am applying to a doctoral program, so my life has been consumed with tasks related to that, including studying for and taking the Miller Analogies Test. What is the MAT? It's a stupid, stupid test that, in my opinion, has no predictive validity regarding my ability to succeed in graduate school. After all, I do have a master's degree, so doesn't that mean I am capable of succeeding in graduate classes? Just sayin'. Just to show you how dedicated I've been to my studying efforts, I'll share with you a picture of me studying. On my birthday. In the bed and breakfast where my husband took me for my birthday. I told him I couldn't go to dinner until I studied.

I've been able to do very little baking in the last month, but I did manage to bake a lovely cake on New Year's Eve. We were visiting my in-laws in Michigan, and I decided I wanted to make them dinner and dessert for New Year's Eve. For dinner, I made a roasted pork tenderloin that marinated overnight in an herb bath, mashed potatoes, and roasted asparagus. My father-in-law is quite a picky eater, and he really enjoyed the meal. Score! For dessert, I made a triple-layer devil's food cake with brown sugar buttercream frosting, a recipe from Lick the Bowl Good that I've been meaning to try for a long time. I loved the cake but think plain buttercream would have been just fine. I actually preferred the cake the next day after it had been refrigerated. My in-laws said it was the best cake they had ever had! My daughter, who is a HUGE cake fan, loved it and asked for more.

The January pick for the Cake Slice Bakers was a Graham Cracker Chocolate Chip Snacking Cake. This cake was supposed to be reminiscent of a s'more. While I love the idea of the cake, I have to say I was a bit disappointed. The cake turned out rather dry. I do have to give a disclaimer that I didn't eat the cake the same day I baked it, so that could be the reason for the dryness. But, the cake was on a covered cake plate, and usually when I leave cakes on this plate for several days, they retain their moisture. The picture that accompanies the recipe shows a layer of chocolate chips on the bottom of the cake, but mine were evenly dispersed in the cake. I did enjoy the frosting, which was buttercream-like, and think it would be good on a chocolate cake.

My co-workers have been disappointed that I haven't been bringing in weekly baked goods. I have also really missed baking over the last month. Now that the MAT is out of the way and my application nearly complete, I hope to get back to baking. Of course, while my co-workers support my entering a doctoral program, they are concerned that the academic demands will take time away from my baking. I'll try my best to maintain a balance. After all, baking helps me manage stress.