Oh my gosh, it’s going to be Easter in just a couple of weeks!! Yeah, I know…news flash! Clearly this holiday has sneaked up on me, so I got busy experimenting with some Easter dessert options.
My first is: Better for You Banana cake. Until now, I haven’t brought you a layer cake recipe and that’s because I’ve always had such bad luck with them – they’ve all been “leaners”. You know…the ones that no matter which way you turn them, are always tilted. Which is kind of embarrassing since I’m supposed to be a baker, and that includes making layer cakes that don’t look like they’re going to fall over.
So I stepped out of that comfort zone I’m so fond of and went about learning the “technicalities” of making a straight up, level, flat cake layer. And it wasn’t nearly as scary or daunting a task as I had thought it would be. Imagine that? Basically, you just need to wrap some wet strips of towel around the edge of the cake pan in whatever width the pan is, usually 2-3″, attaching them with large safety pins. The moisture from the wet towel strips help the cake to bake more evenly, preventing the dome that forms, which is the primary reason layer cakes lean. You can find more detailed information for the procedure on one of my favorite blogs: The Kitchn.
You really should give this Better for You Banana cake a try. It’s been lightened up from the original recipe; both the butter and sweetener has been reduced (as usual, I used real maple syrup for the sweetener). This banana cake is moist, flavorful, and downright irresistible. So why resist?
- 1 cup milk
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 3/4 cup butter, room temp
- 1 cup real maple syrup
- 3 eggs
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
- 3 cups flour
- 3 ripe bananas mashed, about 1½ cups
- 8 ounces (1 package) cream cheese, room temperature
- 1/2 cup butter, room temperature
- 3 tablespoons maple syrup
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1-2 tablespoons milk
- 1/3 cup sweetened flaked coconut, optional
- Spray three 8-inch round cake pans or two 9-inch round cake pans with Baker’s Joy (or similar) spray. Set aside.
- Whisk the milk and lemon juice together in a medium bowl. Set aside.
- Combine flour, salt, and baking soda in a medium bowl. Set aside.
- Using a hand mixer or a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment beat the butter and syrup in a large bowl until combined, adding in the syrup a little at a time until fully incorporated (The mixture will appear slightly “curdled”, but don’t worry, it’s just fine).
- Add in the eggs and vanilla and mix until smooth, scraping down the sides of the bowl.
- Add in the milk and flour mixture in alternating additions, beginning and ending with flour, mixing on low and scraping the sides of the bowl as needed.
- Finally, mix in the mashed bananas until just incorporated.
- Divide the batter evenly among the pans and bake for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Rotate the pans in the oven halfway through baking.
- Cool cakes in the pans for 15-20 minutes; then remove from the pans and place on a wire rack to cool completely.
- Using a hand mixer or a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment mix the butter and cream cheese together for 2 minutes until creamy. Mix in the maple syrup.
- Add in the vanilla and 1 tablespoon of milk.
- With the mixer on medium, blend until creamy, scraping the sides of the bowl as needed.
- Add remaining tablespoon of milk, if needed and mix until combined. Frost cake.
- Place the coconut in a nonstick skillet over medium-low heat, stirring gently but constantly. The coconut will start to turn light brown; watch carefully, because it burns quickly.
- Remove the pan from the heat and allow the coconut to cool completely. (I spread mine out on a paper plate so it wouldn’t continue to brown in the warm pan and would cool faster.)
- Sprinkle cake with the toasted coconut.
Preheat oven to 325°F
How many times have you tried a new recipe and upon taking that first bite, knew you had a “keeper”? Well, this Orange Poppy Seed Olive Oil Cake is one of those! I know I’ll make this cake again and again; moist and full of flavor, and so easy to pull together! I found some Cara Cara navel oranges at our town’s version of Whole Foods and was keen to try them in this cake; they’re a little larger and sweeter than the regular navel oranges you find in most grocery stores. The juicy flesh is a pretty deep orange color, which doesn’t affect it’s flavor at all, but sure makes for a lovely accent in the photos; and food lover/geeky photographer that I am, I pay attention to those things…. I would love to know if you try this recipe and what you think of it. Please feel free to send your comments.
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 3 tablespoons poppy seeds
- 3/4 cup whole milk
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 tablespoon finely grated orange zest
- 1/4 cup fresh orange juice (from Cara Cara navel oranges)
- 3/4 cup maple sugar
- 3 large eggs
- 1/2 cup maple syrup
- 3 tablespoons fresh orange juice
- 1/2 teaspoon orange extract
- Line a 9-inch round baking pan with parchment paper; spray with Baker’s Joy or similar. In a large bowl whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together; set aside.
- In another bowl, whisk together the oil, milk, melted butter, vanilla, and 1/4 cup of the orange juice; set aside.
- Mix the maple sugar and zest together until thoroughly combined. Mix the orange-sugar blend and eggs in a large bowl and using either a hand mixer or stand mixer with the paddle attachment; beat on medium-high, about 2-3 minutes.
- Reduce mixer speed and add the flour mixture and milk mixtures alternately, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Mix well after each addition.
- Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake until a cake tester or toothpick comes out clean; check at 45 minutes. Cool the cake in the pan for 25-30 minutes, then transfer to a wire cooling rack to cool completely.
- In a small saucepan, bring the maple syrup, 3 tablespoons orange juice, and orange extract to a low boil, simmering for 10-12 minutes. Remove from heat to cool and thicken. Drizzle over the cooled cake. Let cake set for about an hour before serving.
Cuteness aside, these Mini Pumpkin Cakes with Maple Cream Cheese Filling are the bomb! The maple cream cheese filling is the perfect complement to these pumpkin cakes. I was having a hard time not eating it straight out of the bowl by the spoonful! Pumpkin desserts are a given at this time of the year and I tend to go to my old standbys, pumpkin pie or pumpkin bread, but felt it was time to change it up a bit and boy! am I glad I did! You won’t be sorry if you give these Mini Pumpkin Cakes with Maple Cream Cheese Filling a try for your holiday gatherings – I promise they’ll be a big hit!
- 3 eggs
- 1 cup maple sugar
- 2/3 cup pure pumpkin puree
- 3/4 cup flour
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
- ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 6 ounces cream cheese softened
- 4 tablespoons butter softened
- 2/3 cup powdered maple sugar
- 1/2 tablespoon milk
- 3/4 cup powdered maple sugar
- 2 teaspoons milk
- 1 teaspoon maple extract
- Spray 15x10x1-inch jelly-roll pan with Baker’s Joy or similar and line with parchment paper, then spray paper and set aside.
- In a large bowl beat eggs and maple sugar with a mixer on medium high speed for 3 minutes. Add pumpkin and mix until blended.
- In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and salt.
- Add the dry ingredients to the pumpkin mixture on low speed just until combined.
- Pour cake batter into prepared jelly roll pan, smoothing with a spatula until it’s level.
- Bake for 11-14 minutes. Test for doneness with a cake tester or toothpick. Cake is done when the toothpick comes out without crumbs on it.
- Remove from the oven and let cool for 5 minutes. Invert the cake onto a cooling rack. Carefully peel away the parchment paper. Cool completely.
- Using a small 2-inch diameter cookie cutter (I used a pumpkin shape, but use whatever you like), cut out as many shapes as you can. Place half of the mini cakes on a serving plate.
- Beat cream cheese, powdered maple sugar and softened butter on low speed until smooth.
- Add milk and beat on high speed until fluffy, about 2 minutes.
- Spread 1-2 tablespoons cream cheese mixture over each mini cake on your serving plate, then top with remaining cakes.
- In a small bowl whisk powdered sugar, milk, and extract together until smooth. *Pipe icing on the top of the cakes.
- Refrigerate for an hour before serving.
Carrot cake is one of those classic, been-around-forever desserts that I’ve had more than my fair share of; I really don’t think I’ve ever had one I didn’t like. Oh, for sure there have been favorites, but in my experience, carrot cake is tuck-in-worthy in pretty much all of its variations. Having said that…I bring you my new favorite: Carrot Cake with Orange Glaze! This one is about as healthful a carrot cake as I think I’ve ever laid lips on. The requisite oil is coconut oil (sooo good for you!), there’s walnuts in there with essential fatty acids (need those EFAs!), and whole wheat flour to increase the fiber and lessen the effects of the sweeteners in the recipe. Speaking of which, as usual, only unrefined sweeteners were used here. Sometimes people hesitate to eat a dessert that’s called “healthful”; they think that means it won’t be nearly as yummy as the full-fat and full-sugar kind. Thankfully, that perception is changing because of all the easy-to-find, tasty, healthful desserts. Lucky you! This is one of those tasty ones!!
- 2/3 cup melted coconut oil
- 3/4 cup honey
- 1/4 cup maple syrup
- 1/3 cup Greek yogurt, plain (or fat-free sour cream)
- 2 large eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 cup white whole Wheat flour
- 1 cup white flour
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
- 3 cups shredded carrots
- 1 cup toasted walnuts, chopped
- 1 ½ tablespoons cornstarch
- Pinch of salt
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- 1/2 cup sugar-free orange juice
- 1/4 cup honey
- 1 tablespoon orange zest
- Toast walnuts for 5-6 minutes at 350ºF. Set aside to cool. In a medium mixing bowl whisk together flour, soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, ginger and walnuts. Set this aside also.
- In a large mixing bowl, blend together oil, honey, and syrup. Add yogurt, eggs, and vanilla, mixing until well combined, about 2 minutes. Add dry ingredients to wet mixture and beating on medium speed until completely combined. Stir in carrots. Pour batter into well greased and floured Bundt cake pan. (I use Baker’s Joy oil/flour spray on my Bundt pans and it works like a charm.)
- Bake for 40-45 minutes or until a cake tester inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean. Remove from oven and allow to cool about 30 minutes. Invert onto a serving plate and continue cooling.
- Combine cornstarch and salt in a small saucepan. Combine the juices and honey and slowly stir them into the cornstarch mixture until smooth. Add orange zest and cook over low heat until it thickens. Cool and drizzle over cake.
I thought something a bit more sophisticated was in order this Easter; I had in mind something fairly light and not too sweet, but still had that “cute” thing going on to make it festive for Easter, soooo when I discovered these sunny little Mini Lemon Bundt cakes (and how easy they are to make…), I was a very happy baker. Now, that’s not to say that I don’t love me some bunny-shaped coconut cake or jelly bean-topped cupcakes, because I certainly do, but sometimes you just want a less sweet, grown-up treat. For all of you lemon lovers out there – this one’s for you!
- 1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
- 2/3 cup maple sugar
- 3 large eggs
- 2 Tablespoons grated lemon zest, plus 1/4 cup lemon juice
- 1/4 teaspoon lemon extract
- 1/3 cup low-fat sour cream
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- powdered sugar, for dusting
- Spray a 12-cup mini bundt cake pan with flour-oil baking spray. (I use Baker’s Joy)
- In a medium bowl, mix together the dry ingredients: flour, baking soda and salt.
- In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar together with an electric mixer until light and fluffy, around 4 minutes. Add eggs and beat well. Add lemon zest, lemon extract and juice and mix well.
- Add 1/3 of the flour mixture along with half of the sour cream; blend to combine. Add last half of sour cream, the vanilla extract, and another ⅓ of the flour mixture (use a light hand to avoid over mixing). Add the remaining flour mixture and blend, just until the flour is mixed in.
- Fill each bundt cake cavity one-half full (2 tablespoons). Tap pan on the counter to help remove air bubbles.
- Bake 15-18 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the cakes comes out crumb-free and the cake edges are golden brown.
- Cool cakes on a wire cooling rack covered with parchment paper. Allow cakes to cool for 30 minutes before dusting powdered sugar on top. Store in a plastic container.
Ahhh, comfort food. It comes in many forms for me – macaroni and cheese, chicken pot pie, baked potato soup, and fresh bread; I could go on and on and on…. When it comes to comfort food in dessert form, however, it’s all about apples and cinnamon. And what could be more satisfying than this Apple Cinnamon Cake? (You’ll just have to take my word for it until you try it…). And this cake is so, so simple to make, which adds to it’s appeal. The original recipe from Pinch of Yum called for brown and cane sugars, but as usual I’ve subbed in maple syrup and maple sugar. If you prefer to use traditional sugars, head on over to Lindsey’s amazing site for her version. This satisfying, lightly sweet, cinnamon-y cake is especially yummy when served warm – with a dollop of whipped cream, of course.
- 3/4 cup maple syrup
- 1/3 cup oil
- 1 egg
- 1/2 cup light sour cream (you can substitute buttermilk)
- 1/4 cup milk
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 2 cups white flour
- 1/2 cup white whole wheat flour
- 1 1/2 cups chopped apples
- 1/2 cup maple sugar
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/4 cup chopped walnuts or pecans (optional)
- 1 tablespoon butter
- Mix the wet ingredients (maple syrup through the sour cream) in a medium bowl.
- Measure both flours and baking soda into a large mixing bowl, add the wet ingredients and chopped apples Stir until well blended.
- Pour batter into a 9×13 greased pan.
- Combine maple sugar, cinnamon, nuts (if using), and butter to make a topping; sprinkle it evenly over the batter.
- Bake for 45 minutes. Really good with a dollop of whipped cream.
I confess that I’m not much into making cakes. Shocking for a professed baker, I know! I suppose I should specify that it’s the multi-layered versions that regularly defeat me – there’s only so much filling and frosting you can use before it becomes obvious you’re trying to cover up a “leaner”. In a moment of frustration/desperation I’ve even considered shimming the legs on the table to compensate; but, yeah, that might be noticeable too… So…I opt for sheet cakes or my absolute favorite – the cupcake. The flavor options are nearly endless, there’s no anxiety about them falling over, and they’re not just a piece of the whole, but your very own, individual cake. And they’re cute, to boot! So much to love! These Blackberry Jam Cakes have a moist, but tender crumb and come with sweet, jammy goodness in the middle. My next batch will be filled with raspberry jam, I think, or blueberry, or hmm, maybe strawberry….
- 1 white cake mix (I used Betty Crocker)
- 3 eggs
- ⅓ cup butter, melted and cooled
- 1 ¼ cups milk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 ½ teaspoon orange zest
- 10 tablespoons blackberry fruit spread (I used Smuckers Simply Fruit)
- 1 ½ cups powdered sugar
- 3 tablespoons orange juice (squeeze juice from the orange you zested…)
- ¼ tsp. orange extract
- Spray Baker’s Joy into jumbo cupcake tins (*or use a homemade version of something similar- see note below). Set aside. (If you are using paper baking cups, you can skip this step.)
- Pour cake mix into a large bowl. Add eggs, melted butter, milk, vanilla, and orange zest. Using a stand or hand mixer, beat on low speed for 1 minute, then increase to medium speed for 2 minutes.
- Pour batter into each muffin tin until two-thirds full. Top each with 1 tablespoon of jam; cover with remaining batter.
- Bake about 25 minutes or when a testing toothpick comes out clean. After cooling in pan for 10 minutes, remove cakes and transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely.
- In a small bowl, whisk together powdered sugar, orange juice and orange extract to make glaze. Place rack over parchment paper (I didn’t do this and made quite the mess… Duh!); drizzle cakes with glaze.
These Cinnamon Pecan cupcakes are another of my mom’s “oldie-but-a-goody” recipes. Actually, the original recipe was for a bundt cake, but I adapted it into cupcakes. There’s something a bit indulgent about having your very own little cake, plus it takes half the time to bake as when its made as a cake; and trust me you will not want to wait any longer than necessary when the aroma of yummy cinnamon and toasty pecans starts to fill your home. Mmmm! These cupcakes are from scratch, which takes a tiny bit more effort than using a box cake, but the difference in texture and taste is totally worth the extra time and energy that goes into making these little gems. This could probably go without saying, but these are soooo good served warm from the oven. You really need to try them and see!
For the streusel topping:
- 2/3 cup brown sugar
- 1 cup pecans, finely chopped
- 2 ½ teaspoons cinnamon
For the cake:
- 1 cup butter
- 1 cup sugar
- 2 eggs
- 2 cups sour cream
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon vanilla
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ¼ teaspoon salt
Preheat oven to 350°
- Spray muffin tins with Baker’s Joy or use large aluminum muffin cups.
- In a small bowl, combine the 2/3 cup brown sugar, pecans and cinnamon; set aside.
- With a hand or stand mixer, cream the butter and sugar for about 3 minutes.
- Add the eggs, and mix well. Add the sour cream and vanilla, mixing until combined.
- Measure and whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together in a small bowl.
- Add the dry ingredients to the wet; fold together until thoroughly combined, but don’t over mix it. Its normal for the batter to be a little stiff.
- Fill each tin half-full with batter; sprinkle on 1 1/2 tablespoons of the streusel, then add enough batter to almost reach the rim of the tin (¼” below the rim).
- Sprinkle 1 tablespoon streusel on top of the batter in each tin.
- Bake for 25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool for about 5-10 minutes before removing from muffin tins. (Run a knife around the edge of each muffin to ease removal from the tins)
Yields: 10 Large Muffins
NOTE: I used Jumbo muffin pans – the kind with only 6 tins, but you could easily adjust the recipe to make these muffins in a standard 12-tin pan.
Not having a favorite sweet treat for St. Patrick’s Day to bring you, I searched about and surprise, surprise! there are so many yummy ones to choose from out there in the vast world of food blogs. It was a tough choice to make but I finally decided on this Guinness Chocolate Bundt cake that I adapted from Fine Cooking. And I’m sooo glad I did! You really don’t taste the beer at all; it mostly serves to enhance the flavor of the chocolate in the cake, which is moist and rich and irresistible. To gild the lily, I’ve topped the cake with an Irish whiskey chocolate ganache that I found on Brown Eyed Baker. Dessert with Guinness Stout and Irish whiskey in it – now that says Happy St. Paddy’s Day!!
For the cake:
- 1-1/4 cups Guinness or other stout beer
- 1/3 cup dark molasses
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 3/4 cup unsweetened natural cocoa powder (more to sprinkle in the pan)
- 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
- 1/2 tsp. baking soda
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1 1/4 cups unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
- ⅔ cup sour cream
- 1 1/2 cups packed light brown sugar
- 2 large eggs, at room temperature
- 6 ounces (¾ cup) semisweet chocolate, very finely chopped
For the ganache:
- ⅔ cup heavy cream
- 6 oz. semisweet chocolate
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 tablespoon Irish whiskey (optional)
Pre-heat oven to 350ºF.
- Butter (or use shortening) a 10- or 12-cup bundt pan, making sure you cover the entire pan, (crevices and center post too) and then lightly coat with sifted cocoa powder, tapping it around the sides of the pan and center post until well distributed. Tap out the excess cocoa.
- In a small saucepan over high heat, bring the beer and molasses to a simmer. Remove the pan from the heat while you prepare the cake batter.
- Add together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. With a stand or hand mixer, cream the butter in a large bowl on medium speed until smooth, about 1 minute. Add the brown sugar and beat on medium speed until light and fluffy, around 3 minutes. Scrape the sides of the bowl.
- Beat in the eggs one at a time, scraping the bowl after each addition. Mixing on low speed, alternate the flour and stout mixtures, beginning and ending with the flour. Stop the mixer to scrape the bowl and then beat at medium speed until the batter is smooth, about 30 seconds. Stir in the chopped chocolate.
- Spoon the batter into the prepared pan spreading it evenly so it’s fairly level on top. Tap the bottom of the pan gently on the counter a few times to release any air bubbles.
- On the center oven rack, bake until a wooden skewer inserted in the center comes out mostly crumb-free, 45-50 minutes. Set the cake on a cooling rack for 20 minutes. Invert the cake onto the rack and carefully remove the pan. Let the cake cool until just warm. Transfer to a serving plate or cake platter.
To Make the Whiskey Ganache Glaze:
- Heat the cream until simmering, remove from heat and add finely chopped chocolate. Let it sit for one minute. Stir until chocolate is melted and smooth.
- Add the butter and whiskey and stir until combined.
- When the ganache has cooled but is still warm, spoon over barely warm cake.
NOTE: This cake is from scratch, but I think you could easily make it with a chocolate cake mix with only a few changes to speed and simplify the process; I’m going to try it sometime soon and will let you know how it compares.
If I had to choose a favorite doughnut it would have to be the Boston Cream, a.k.a. the Bismarck; but for reasons having mostly to do with my waistline, I don’t indulge in them as often as I’d really like. Now I can dispense with at least some of the guilt that comes with consuming fried dough stuffed with cream and slathered with chocolate, by eating these lovely Boston Cream Cupcakes. No, they aren’t low-fat, they just have less fat than a doughnut. And are they ever good!! Moist vanilla cake made more so with a creamy custard filling, and just as it should be, they’re topped with luscious chocolate ganache. There’s some assembly required, but all the parts whip up so easily. Really, what could be easier than a cake mix? Give these a try – you’ll be glad you did!
- 1 box Vanilla Cake Mix (I used Duncan Hines French Vanilla)
- 1 box JELL-O Instant French Vanilla Pudding (3.4oz)
- 1 cup milk
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1/2 cup powdered sugar
- 2 cups semi-sweet chocolate
- 1/4 cup butter (1/2 stick)
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 1/2 cup water
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 2 tablespoons corn syrup
- Pinch salt
For the Cupcakes:
- Prepare cupcakes according to package directions. Cool on wire rack.
- When cool, cut cupcakes in half.
- Take the bottom half of each cupcake and scoop out a teaspoon or so of the cake. Be careful not to make a hole in the bottom of the cupcake.
For the Cream Filling:
- Prepare the pudding according to package directions. Set aside.
- In another mixing bowl, beat the 1 cup heavy cream and 1/2 cup powdered sugar with an electric mixer on high until soft peaks form (about 3 minutes). Gently fold in pudding. Refrigerate until ready to use.
For the Chocolate Glaze:
- Place the chocolate chips in a large bowl.
- In a medium saucepan, combine the butter, 1/2 cup cream, water, vanilla, corn syrup and salt. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Remove from heat.
- Pour the cream mixture over the chocolate and stir to combine and melt the chocolate.
- The glaze will thicken as it cools. Re-warm on low heat to thin.
Makes about 2 1/2 cups glaze.
- Put all of your cupcake bottoms on a serving platter. Spoon 3-4 tablespoons of the cream filling into each small cavity and over the tops, spreading it almost to the edge.
- Place cupcake caps on top of the cream-topped bottoms.
- Spoon chocolate glaze over the tops of the cupcakes.
Chocolate Glaze Recipe adapted from: The LA Times