Charcuterie Contest – and Garlic Olive Swirl Bread

 

Here’s the photo I entered in the CuttingBoard.com photo contest.

I have spent the last three days arranging and rearranging a variety of meats, cheeses, and accompaniments on a bamboo cutting board. I stepped out of my happy little baking world to dabble in the art of charcuterie when I was inspired by the Cutting Board and John Boos Photography Contest to try my hand at something other than taking photos of cookies and cakes.

What began as a fun project for a contest may have turned into a new obsession. Trust me, when you look at the cutting boards on Cutting Board’s website you’ll understand my sudden fascination with cold cuts and the many ways of displaying them.

Don’t worry, it’s not all about salami and cheese. I also created a super yummy bread to use in my photo—one that has swirls of garlic, olives, and cheese. The bread dough is made with pumpkin ale, and is chewy on the outside and soft on the inside. Killer!

You’ll find the recipe at the end of this post.

For my first effort, I used a light box and photographed a lovely collection of goodies. It was very attractive and (I think) appealing. But instructions for the contest said that they appreciated “originality and humor”, which my photo didn’t exactly express.

Haha, do you like the way I used camo duct tape to hold up the tablecloth in the background? Claaaaaaassy.

Well, shoot. I’d have to try again.

I pulled out the paper mache bears I made for a fair display this year and put them to work. I’m almost embarrassed to tell you how many photos I had to take to get one I liked. It took me two days and three separate setups and photo sessions. The lighting was off, the light outlet under the window showed, the bear’s ear was wonky, the salami was blurry. I like to use the natural light in my dining room when I can, or my lightbox when I can’t, but these bears had to be looking through the window.

The window with the screen removed, of course. And in case you should try this at home, here’s a tip: if the photographer gets involved with reviewing her photos and forgets to close that window, a whole lot of moths will see it as an invitation to visit. Gah!

This was a real learning experience. I’m used to taking photos of baked goods, and can usually get something I like in one session. But this? Wow. I am going to dig out that Canon Rebel T3 for Dummies book and figure out my camera if it kills me.

Throughout this ordeal, I was sending photos to my daughter, asking her which ones she liked. Begging for suggestions. After hearing me complain about overexposed cheese, blurry salami, and depth issues, she finally asked me if I used my F-stop.

“Um. No?”

It seems there are other options on my little Canon Rebel T3 than Auto Focus. Who knew? Well, actually, I knew. I’d read that Dummies book, and some of it actually made sense at the time, but at my age (don’t ask) retention is sometimes problematic. So I usually use Auto Focus or sometimes play with manual and A-Dep (for when I want everything in focus). This time I played around with the AV option too, to try to get the bear heads a little out of focus so the board of food would stand out.

To be completely honest, I don’t even know which photos were the result of which methods. There were literally hundreds of photos to go through when I was done.

I was through with the second session, thinking I had a couple of good shots when The Man mentioned that I should have put smoked salmon on the board, as a bear attractant. Why didn’t I think of that? We live up in the mountains, and a trip to the store usually just has to wait for my regular weekly jaunt to town, but under the circumstances, I made an exception and raced for smoked salmon and some Prosecco. (I felt that sparkling wine would be a good addition.)

So much for that. I waited until the sun went down so the light coming through the window wasn’t glaring. I set up the lights and camera. Again. Loaded up my cutting board with goodies. Again. Added the salmon and the wine. Took a ton of photos, put away the meat and cheese. Again. And then realized that:

  1. I’d piled too many things on the board. It looked cluttered. Note to self: less is more.
  2. I should have flaked a piece of the fish so it would look like fish. It looked like ham! (Trust me, it cost more than ham!)
  3. By the time I stopped fussing, it was almost dark, which turned everything muddy.

I briefly considered one more try the next morning, but just didn’t have it in me. The photo without the salmon and wine would have to do.

Behind the scenes

We’ll be eating a lot of salami, nibbling on a lot of cheese, and noshing on olives for the next week or so. Or maybe I should open a deli? But it was worth it; I learned a lot, and (with the exception of a few frustrating moments) enjoyed the experience thoroughly.

And hey, in case you were wondering, sparkling wine doesn’t last. Someone had to drink it immediately, right? But I shared it with my friend. 

Here’s that recipe for you. I used pumpkin ale, but any beer will do.

Garlic Olive Swirl Bread
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This soft bread with a chewy crust and delightful swirl of garlic, olives, and cheese will be the talk of your charcuterie board! Makes two small baguette-type loaves.
Ingredients
  • ¼ cup warm water
  • ½ teaspoon sugar
  • 1 package active-dry yeast
  • 1 bottle (12 oz.) beer. I used Pumpkin Ale
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3½ - 4 cups bread flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon butter, melted
  • 1 cup grated cheese - cheddar is great, or add in some strong cheese too (Asiago, Parmesan, Romano).
  • 1 cup chopped olives (A mixture of green, black, Kalamata)
  • 3 large cloves garlic, minced
Instructions
  1. In a small bowl, combine warm water, sugar, and yeast. Allow yeast to soften 5 minutes, or until bubbly.
  2. In a small pan, gently warm beer on low heat just until lukewarm.
  3. In a large bowl, combine yeast mixture, beer, and olive oil.
  4. Add 3½ cups bread flour and salt. Mix with dough hook for 3 minutes. If the dough is still very sticky, gradually add additional flour until just slightly tacky to the touch. Continue to knead by machine for another 3 minutes. (If kneading by hand, after stirring in the 3½ cups flour, drop dough onto well-floured surface and knead 8 minutes.)
  5. Place dough in greased bowl, turning to coat the dough. Cover and allow to rise until double, approximately 1 hour.
  6. Punch dough down and roll into a 9x18 rectangle. Brush lightly with melted butter. (You won't use it all. Save some for the top of the baked bread, for a softer crust.)
  7. Sprinkle the cheese, olives, and garlic on the dough and roll up from the long side. Pinch the seam and ends to seal. Cut the roll in the middle, creating two long loaves.
  8. Pinch the cut ends closed, and roll each loaf gently to achieve an even size.
  9. Place both loaves on prepared sheet and let rise for about 90 minutes, or until they feel puffy. (They won't double but should come close.) Slash the tops several times with a very sharp knife or razor blade.
  10. Place pan of water on lower rack of the oven. Heat oven to 450 F.
  11. BE VERY CAREFUL WHEN YOU OPEN THE OVEN. THE STEAM IS HOT!
  12. Bake approximately 25 minutes, or until bread is rich golden brown. Brush with butter for a softer crust. Cool on rack.

Soften yeast in warm water until bubbly

Gently heat the beer until lukewarm

Place dough in greased bowl. Turn to coat and let it rise.

Combine chopped olives, garlic, and cheese.

Dough is ready to go!

Roll dough into a rectangle, add filling, and roll it up

Cut roll in half and pinch the ends shut

Place loaves on baking sheet sprinkled with cornmeal

Slash and bake

Yes, I’ll be experimenting with more real food in the future. Possibly more healthy food, though I will never be able to stop baking. Nevah! Maybe I’ll have to change the blog to “The Rowdy Baker Reconsiders”, or maybe “The Reformed Rowdy Baker”. Once the Prosecco wears off I may laugh this idea off. We’ll see.

Lorinda

 

Maple Whiskey Coffee Cake

Maple whiskey, ground pecans, and a generous topping of crunchy streusel combine to give this fluffy coffee cake unbelievable flavor – a cozy treat for crisp fall mornings.

I adore coffee cake. Well, to be honest, I adore the sugary topping. Usually, the cake part itself is kind of uninspired – basically just a canvas for the delectable topping. But for this recipe, I added a layer of toasted ground pecans combined with streusel and maple whiskey which creates an oasis of flavor in the cake.

Grab a big cup of coffee and savor every bite!

Maple Whiskey Coffee Cake
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This fluffy coffee cake has a layer of maple whiskey and pecan, with a crunchy streusel topping and maple whiskey drizzle. Perfect for chilly fall mornings!
Ingredients
  • STREUSEL:
  • 1 cup plus 1 tablespoon white sugar, divided
  • 4 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • ¼ cup plus 1 tablespoon flour, divided
  • ¾ cup ground pecans (toasted first for best flavor)
  • pinch salt
  • ¼ cup maple flavored whiskey (or regular whiskey and ½ teaspoon maple flavoring)
  • CAKE:
  • 1 cup sugar
  • ½ cup butter, softened
  • 2 eggs
  • 2½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • GLAZE (optional):
  • 2 tablespoons maple-flavored whiskey
  • ½ teaspoon maple flavoring
  • ¾ cup powdered sugar
Instructions
  1. Make streusel. In a small bowl, combine 1 cup of the sugar (reserve 1 T), the melted butter, cinnamon, ¼ cup of the flour (reserve 1 T), ground pecans, and salt. Stir until combined. Remove 1 cup of this mixture and put it in another small bowl. Add the reserved sugar and flour and the whiskey. (This will be the filling.) Stir until combined. Set both bowls aside.
  2. Heat oven to 350 F. Spray a 9-inch springform pan with an oil/flour baking spray, or lightly grease and flour pan. (Alternatively, you can use a Bundt pan. Make sure to spray or grease/flour it well.)
  3. In a large bowl, beat sugar and butter until light.
  4. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well and scraping the sides of the bowl often.
  5. Combine dry ingredients and add alternately with the buttermilk, using half of each mixture at a time, beginning with the dry ingredients and ending with the buttermilk. Beat just until well combined.
  6. Spread half of this mixture into prepared pan, bringing it all the way to the edge of the pan.
  7. Spread all of the whiskey filling onto the batter and top with the remaining cake batter, spooning it carefully over the filling and spreading gently.
  8. Sprinkle all of the streusel over the batter and bake for approximately 45 minutes, or until a toothpick or wooden skewer comes out clean when inserted in the middle of the cake. (If using a Bundt pan, test after 40 minutes.)
  9. Cool on a rack for 15-20 minutes before unlatching outer ring of pan.
  10. Whisk together the glaze ingredients. Adjust liquid or powdered sugar to achieve a glaze that's easy to drizzle or pipe onto warm cake.

Hints:

  • Grind the toasted pecans in a coffee/spice grinder or food processor. Short bursts are best so it doesn’t turn into pecan butter. Small chunks are fine. If you don’t have a grinder/processor, simply chop the nuts finely.
  • Can’t find maple flavored whiskey? (I’m SO sorry.) Use regular whiskey and 1/2 teaspoon of maple flavoring, like Mapleine. If you love maple, add a little more flavoring.
  • Don’t want to use booze at all? (Eyebrows raised incredulously.) Substitute maple syrup and leave out the additional tablespoons of sugar and flour.
  • Do you have maple sugar? I love baking with that stuff! Use it in place of white sugar in the streusel for additional flavor.
  • You can also use a Bundt pan for this. You’ll just have to flip the cake over once it’s cooled to get the streusel on top.

Grind the pecans. (Toast them first for more flavor!)

Stir together the streusel ingredients

Add maple whiskey to half of the streusel mixture.

Spread half of the batter in the pan, then add all of the whiskey streusel filling.

Spread remaining batter over the filling and sprinkle streusel over the top.

Ready to bake!

Drizzle with maple whiskey icing if desired.

It really doesn’t take long to get this cake ready for the oven, and you can just imagine how good it smells, can’t you? Give it a try, and I’ll bet it will be a regular occurrence at your house. I mean, everyone likes whiskey for breakfast, right?

Lorinda

Bulletproof Coffee Cookies

Anyone who knows me knows that I am passionate about coffee. I roast my own so I can get it just the way I like it. I’ve always preferred my coffee black, but recently have fallen for the charms of Bulletproof Coffee, which is coffee blended with coconut oil (or MCT oil) and grass-fed unsalted butter (or ghee), and an occasional touch of honey.

I’m sure you can see where I’m going here. How could I not create a cookie inspired by this drink?

And, oh man, what a good idea that was. Some of the enthusiasm could be chalked up to the fact that The Man and I have been on a no-sugar-no-flour diet for almost three months, but when we succumbed to temptation and each tried one, we were very, very excited about them. Which led to one more, just to be sure they were as good as we thought.

They were.

These cookies are not too sweet, with a strong (but not overwhelming) coffee flavor. Let’s see: 3 tablespoons of espresso powder equal 9 cups of coffee, and the recipe makes 48 cookies. So if you ate 5 cookies (hey, they’re little!) you’d eat the equivalent of a cup of coffee, more or less. You’ll be getting your coffee buzz in a delightful way. Yee HAW!

Of course, I’d probably dunk mine in a cup of coffee.

Hey, boys and girls. Do you know what time it is? That’s right, it’s COFFEE TIME!

What surprised me about this recipe, besides the fact that it actually exceeded my expectations, is the texture. These little devils are very soft and fluffy inside (almost like cake) but are slightly crispy on the outside. And I threw in some dark chocolate chunks, too, which complements the coffee flavor. Perfection.

They’re also incredibly easy to make. No fussy stuff – just mix ’em and bake ’em. Here’s the recipe:

Bulletproof Coffee Cookies
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Makes 48 small cookies, or go for broke and make 24 large ones!
Ingredients
  • ½ cup refined coconut oil (Refined oil is almost flavorless.)
  • ½ cup grass-fed unsalted butter
  • ½ cup honey
  • 3 tablespoons espresso powder
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup coarsely ground oats (use a spice/coffee grinder or blender. Don't use steel cut oats!)
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup dark chocolate chips (or chopped chocolate)
Instructions
  1. Heat oven to 375 F. Cover baking sheets with parchment or use Silpat sheets.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the coconut oil, butter, honey, and espresso powder. Beat well.
  3. Add eggs and beat well. The mixture may look a little curdled; that's okay!
  4. Add ground oats, flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Beat just until combined.
  5. Stir in the chocolate chips.
  6. Use a cookie scoop to drop dough 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets - approximately 1 rounded tablespoon of dough for each cookie.
  7. Bake one sheet of cookies at a time for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and cool on a rack.
  8. Dough may be covered and kept in the refrigerator for several days.

What you’ll need. No grass-fed unsalted butter? Use regular, and cut the salt to 1/4 teaspoon.

Grind oats (quick or regular) in coffee/spice grinder or blender. Leave some chunks for texture.

Use a cookie scoop if you have one and drop on parchment or Silpat sheets. They shouldn’t spread much. If they do, chill the dough briefly.

Trust me on this: you MUST eat one (or more) warm. Mmmmmm.

If you don’t love coffee, you’ll obviously want to give these a pass. We can still be friends. Cheers!

Lorinda

Huckleberry Pastry Puffs

Do you want to create culinary magic? Fill homemade puff pastry rounds with wild huckleberries and prepare to be wowed. These flaky little four-bite pastries will melt in your mouth, and I’m telling you, there is nothing that compares to the flavor of huckleberries.

Of course, if you don’t have access to huckleberries, blueberries are a good option. I found frozen organic wild blueberries that are impossible to tell apart from huckleberries, so use whichever variety you can get your hands on.

Rough puff pastry is really very simple to make. (You could use store bought puff pastry, but it will be more crisp and brittle.) Once you get the hang of it, you’ll probably want to use it for lots of other treats, like danish, croissants, or strudel. Here are two of my favorite strudel recipes: Sour Cream Apple Strudel and Sausage Breakfast Strudel. The dough can hang out in the fridge for days (let it sit out on the counter for 30 minutes before using or it’ll be really hard to roll out) or can be frozen. It’s not much harder to make a double batch, and it’s wonderful to have some tucked away for later.

I made the dough and filling the night before and rolled, cut, filled, and baked the little puffs the next morning – in about an hour. You know what makes it go really, really fast? A potsticker press! You can find one for less than $5.00 on Amazon (search for “dumpling press”) or at an Asian market, and I know you’ll find many uses for it. It won’t languish in your kitchen drawer, I promise.

I’d go for the cheap plastic model. This one has lasted years.

Go easy on the filling!

Huckleberry Puffs
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Makes approximately 8 flaky pastries, each about the size of a puffy potsticker. I use a potsticker press in this recipe, but if you don't have one, fold the dough round over the filling and press together firmly with a fork.
Ingredients
  • HUCKLEBERRY FILLING:
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen berries
  • pinch salt
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 2½ teaspoons cornstarch if using fresh berries, OR...
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch if using frozen berries
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • ROUGH PUFF DOUGH:
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • ⅔ cups ice water
  • ASSEMBLY:
  • 1 egg white
  • Powdered sugar for dusting, or drizzle with a simple powdered sugar/water glaze
Instructions
  1. FILLING: In small pan, combine berries, sugar, and salt over medium heat, stirring continuously until mixture comes to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring often.
  2. Pour or spoon approximately 1 tablespoon of the hot berry juice into a small cup or bowl and add the lemon juice. Stir. Slowly add cornstarch, stirring until smooth. If necessary, add a bit more berry juice.
  3. Whisk the cornstarch mixture into the berries and turn heat back to medium. Stir until the mixture thickens, 1-2 minutes. Remove from heat and allow filling to cool. (To cool quickly, place pan in shallow bowl of ice water.) Once cool, refrigerate until needed.
  4. PASTRY DOUGH:
  5. Place flour on work surface, stir in the salt, and drop the butter onto the flour.
  6. With a bench scraper or metal spatula, chop the butter and flour together until combined. Don't overwork the mixture - you want to see chunks of butter larger than peas.
  7. Begin drizzling the water over the mixture with one hand, while flipping and tossing it with the other. Again, don't over do it! It should be a crumbly mess at this point.Use your metal utensil to form the dough into a rough rectangle about 5"x 8".
  8. Roll out dough to approximately 6"x10", using the metal scraper to form straight edges. Keeping the short edge facing you, Flip the bottom edge up to the middle (it will be crumbly...just do the best you can) and the the top edge down to the bottom. This will create three equal sized layers. Give the dough a turn to the left, lightly flouring the surface if necessary to keep it from sticking, and repeat. Repeat 3 more times. Wrap snugly in plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes. (It can be refrigerated for several days.)
  9. ASSEMBLY: If your dough has been refrigerated more than an hour, place it - still wrapped in plastic - on the counter to warm up for 20-30 minutes.
  10. Heat oven to 400 F. Cover two baking sheets with parchment.
  11. On lightly floured surface, follow the previous method and roll and fold it two more times. Add flour if necessary to keep the dough from sticking.
  12. Roll dough out into a rectangle that is approximately 14"x24". Using a round cutter that is the size of your potsticker press (about 4"), cut circles as close together as possible. As you work, stack the dough scraps on top of each other to keep the layers intact when you re-roll them.
  13. Whisk together the egg white and 1 teaspoon water.
  14. Lift one round at a time and place on the potsticker press. (Flour the potsticker press as needed.) With finger or pastry brush, spread a little egg white around the perimeter.
  15. Place 1 teaspoon filling in the center and fold the press over. Press firmly along the rounded edge for a good seal. (If you aren't using a press, fold the dough over the filling and press edges with fork.) Place on prepared baking sheet, keeping puffs at least ½" apart.
  16. You can roll the scraps one time. They won't be quite as flaky, but they're still very good! Cut remaining rounds and discard any scraps.
  17. Poke a fork in the center of each puff one time, brush lightly with egg white mixture, and bake for 18-20 minutes, or until golden brown.
  18. Use spatula to move puffs to a cooling rack. Dust with powdered sugar or drizzle with icing once the puffs are lukewarm.

 

Stir the berries and sugar together and bring to a boil.

Stir cornstarch mixture into the hot berries and cook until thickened.

Chop (don’t blend!) the cold butter into the flour.

Yup, it’s a little messy, but flip the flour with one hand while you drizzle water over it with the other. You can doooo it!

It’s going to look like this the first time you roll it. It’s okay. Really!

It’s a crumbly mess, but fold it into thirds. Just do your best!

See? It looks a lot better when you get to the third roll/fold.

Roll dough out thin and cut into 4-inch circles.

Re-roll your stack of scraps. Stacking them keeps the butter layers going in the right direction.

Add the filling. Not too much – about a teaspoon. Any more and it will really ooze out.

Poke each puff once with a fork and brush with egg white. Bake!

Drizzle or dust – either way is delicious.

Don’t let those bears get the upper hand here. Put on your hiking boots, strap a can of bear spray to your hip, and hit the woods for some wild mountain huckleberries. Those little gems are priceless indeed, and worth every single damn mosquito bite!

Lorinda

All-American Angel Food Cake

This may sound odd coming from a confirmed chocoholic, but if I could only have one type of cake for the rest of my life, it would be angel food. For the Fourth of July I made a red, white and blue angel food cake, giving this classic cake red and blue layers and topping it with strawberry whipped cream. Light, cool, and sweet—just perfect for a hot summer day.

I didn’t get to try it, however, because I’m on a super strict diet. But my wonderful group of taste-testers did, and they all were very enthused. Need a laugh? I take all of the goodies that I am not allowed to eat to my weekly Watching Our Weight group and divvy it up. Talk about sabotage. But the biggest loser each week wins the pot, so can you blame me? Bwa ha ha.

This cake isn’t as high and fluffy as a regular angel food cake because it requires some manhandling of the batter to get the colored layers. Usually the batter is very gently folded and then spooned carefully into a tube pan. For this cake I had to actually spread the batter, which deflates some of those precious air bubbles. But it was still light and tender.

See? Still plenty high. And in case you’re wondering, the colors really were that vibrant. I used a concentrated food color from Wilton, and whoooooeeeee!

For best results:

  • Line the bottom of the tube pan with parchment.
  • Stir the colored batters as little as possible. It’s okay if the colored batter is a little streaky.
  • Use concentrated or paste food coloring. It will take too much regular liquid color to get a nice red, and the liquid will destroy the air bubbles.
  • Bake for an hour without opening the door to peek (unless you have a wonky stove and can’t trust it).
  • I rarely use whipped topping in a tub, but it is more stable for this application. You can definitely use whipped cream, but the topping will be softer and won’t hold up as well in hot conditions.
  • Room temperature egg whites are used. I suggest you separate the eggs while they’re still cold and then leave the bowl of whites out for an hour to warm up (covered, of course). If you try to separate the eggs when they are room temperature, the yolks tend to break. Ask me how I know!

If you haven’t made an angel food cake from scratch before, don’t panic. It isn’t hard at all. Room temperature egg whites, well-sifted flour, and squeaky clean utensils are all you need to remember. Well, and to follow the recipe:

All-American Angel Food Cake
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Ingredients
  • CAKE:
  • 1 cup sifted cake flour
  • 1½ cups superfine sugar (important to use superfine)
  • 1⅓ cups egg whites (about 11 eggs), room temperature
  • 1¼ teaspoons cream of tartar
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla (or ½ teaspoon almond or lemon) extract
  • Concentrated red and blue food coloring, to achieve desired shade
  • Powdered sugar, sprinkles if desired
  • STRAWBERRY CREAM:
  • 1 tub whipped topping OR 3 cups of sweetened whipped cream
  • ½ cup chopped fresh strawberries (more to taste)
  • 2 tablespoons strawberry spreadable fruit - or jam.
  • small fresh strawberries for garnish
Instructions
  1. Heat the oven to 325 F.
  2. Prepare a tube pan by cutting a circle of parchment the size of the bottom of the pan and cutting a round hole in the middle so that it will fit over the tube. Do not grease or flour the parchment or the pan.
  3. In a small bowl, sift flour 3 times with ½ cup of the sugar.
  4. In a large bowl, beat the egg whites until foamy. Sprinkle the salt and cream of tartar over eggs and beat until they hold soft peaks.
  5. Add the rest of the sugar, ¼ cup at a time, beating after each addition. Stir in flavored extract.
  6. Add the flour and sugar mixture ½ cup at a time, folding gently after each addition.
  7. Remove 2 cups of batter, placing 1 cup of each into a separate small bowl. Add red food color to one bowl and blue to the other, and fold in gently. Only stir as much as necessary; it's okay if it's streaky.
  8. Drop ⅓ of the white batter into the bottom of the lined pan and use the back of a spoon or a small spatula to spread evenly. Again, don't overwork the batter!
  9. Add all of the red batter and spread gently to cover the white batter. Using a thin spatula or knife, run all the way around the circle halfway between the tube and the side of the pan. Only do this once.
  10. Add ⅓ of the white batter, level it out, and top with the blue, spreading carefully. This time when you run the knife through the batter, keep it shallow so you don't disturb the red layer.
  11. Cover with the remaining white batter, smooth gently, and bake 1 hour at 325. Top should be deep golden brown.
  12. Turn pan upside down on cooling rack and allow to cool completely. Slide a knife around the side of pan to release the cake. Dust with powdered sugar. Add a few sprinkles if you wish.
  13. STRAWBERRY TOPPING:
  14. In a small bowl, stir the chopped berries and spreadable fruit together. If you are using whipped topping, stir together with the berry mixture until well combined. If you are using fresh whipped cream, fold the berry mixture into the topping as gently as possible.
  15. Keep topping refrigerated until needed. Place a dollop on each slice of cake and top with a berry.

 

 

Gradually add flour mixture to eggs.

Fold food coloring into divided batter.

Gently spread one third of white batter on bottom of pan. Cover with all of red batter.

Run a spatula or knife through the batter, one time. Go all the way around the circle, halfway between the tube and the side of the pan.

Repeat with layer of white, then blue. Go shallow when you run the spatula around the center so you don’t disturb the red. Top with remaining white batter.

That’s it! Bake it, cool it, and top it if you wish, though I love my angel food cake plain, too. Dust the cake with powdered sugar (and maybe a few sprinkles) to make it purty, and cut it with a serrated blade.

Hooray for the red, white and blue!

Lorinda

 

Chocolate Shortbread Flowers

Oh boy, did I have fun sculpting shortbread for Mother’s Day. I’m getting this in just under the wire, but chances are you have everything you need to make these rich Chocolate Shortbread Flowers. I learned what works (and what definitely doesn’t) when it comes to designing cookie flowers, and have chosen my two favorite options for this post: roses and two-layer posies.

Roses                                         Posies

I used half butter and half shortening to give the blooms a little more stability. I know, I know . . . I don’t like shortening either. But sometimes you just have to make an exception. As long as you roll the dough out between pieces of parchment, you can re-roll to your heart’s content. (I used my handy tortilla press again, and it worked very well!)

Leave the flowers plain or decorate the heck out of them. The cookies don’t have much sugar, so you can dip the baked edges or bottoms in chocolate without being afraid of getting them too sweet. I’ll give you a few options for decorating, and then you’re on your own.

Whatever you do, make sure you have a glass of milk or cup of coffee with your cookies; they’re really rich!

Chocolate Shortbread Flowers
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Ingredients
  • ½ cup butter, softened
  • ½ cup shortening
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 3 tablespoons coffee or milk
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • ⅓ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup cornstarch
  • Chocolate chips (large preferred) for 2-layer cookies
  • Dark chocolate and sparkling sugar for decorating, if desired.
  • You will need a small heart cutter for roses (though you can make them with circles, too) or two flower cutters - one large, one smaller - for the 2-layer flowers.
Instructions
  1. In a large bowl, beat the butter, shortening, and powdered sugar together until creamy.
  2. Add egg yolk and coffee (or milk) and mix well.
  3. Add flour, cocoa powder, salt, and cornstarch. Beat well. Be patient - it may take a few minutes before the mixture comes together.
  4. Divide into two parts and chill for 1 hour.
  5. Heat oven to 350 F.
  6. Working with half of the dough at a time, roll out thin, about ⅛-inch. It's best to roll between lightly floured sheets of parchment. (Or use my trick and put small balls of dough between parchment and use a tortilla press.)
  7. TO MAKE ROSES: Cut 6-7 small hearts. Press both rounded sides between thumb and forefinger to thin them out a little. Roll one heart, beginning at a rounded corner and rolling towards the other, making the center. It will create a "stem". Don't worry about this, you'll be cutting it off when you're done. Add one heart at a time, wrapping around the center. Stagger the petals as you go, and gently roll them outwards. If the dough cracks, just pinch it like you would clay. Add as many hearts as you want. Cut out two leaves and press them against the sides of the rose. Using scissors, cut the stem part off so the rose will sit flat. Place on ungreased baking sheet.
  8. Bake 10-12 minutes. They should be firm, but don't let them get dark. Cool on a rack. Dip the bottom of the flowers in chocolate if you wish, and place on parchment until firm.
  9. TO MAKE TWO-LAYER FLOWERS: For each flower, cut out one large and one small flower. Use a wooden skewer, toothpick, or the back of a knife to gently score the petals. This will make them easier to shape. (Dip the edges of both in sparkling sugar now if you wish.) Lightly position the small flower on the large one. Place a large chocolate chip point side down in the center of the small flower and press firmly. This will make the top flower raise and cup slightly. Slide a thin spatula under flower and lay it over the cavity of a mini muffin pan. Don't press down - it will shape itself as it cooks. Once muffin pan is full, bake for 10-12 minutes. Cool for 5 minutes on a rack before lifting the flowers out carefully.
  10. Leave plain, or dip the bottom in chocolate. You can add filling to the center - chocolate ganache, icing, or a mini peanut butter cup.

We’ll start with the posies:

Gently press lines into each petal.

Press a large chocolate chip firmly on the top flower. It’ll magically raise up and take shape.

With a thin spatula, set flower carefully over the cavity of a mini muffin pan. Don’t press – it’ll settle in as it bakes.

Once cooled, I like to dip the bottom in melted chocolate and then set it on parchment until firm. (The fridge makes this go much faster.) You can leave it as is or fill the center with ganache or icing. You can also dip the edges in sparkling sugar before assembling the flower.

Now for the roses:

Cut out 6 or 7 small hearts. Press along the rounded tops to thin the edges. Roll first heart into a rose center.

Add a second heart. (Don’t worry about a long “stem” developing. You’re going to cut that off later.) Gently roll top edges of petals away from center.

Add petals until the rose is as big as you want. You can also cut a heart in half if you just need ONE more.

Use a leaf cutter or just cut leaves freehand. Press them into the sides of the flower.

Now – cut off all that extra “stem” at the bottom so the rose will sit nicely.

and . . . bake!

I covered the bottom of my roses with melted dark chocolate, finding it was easier to paint the chocolate on with a brush than to dip the cookies. I love the texture contrast – that snap of chocolate before your teeth hit cookie. Mmmm.

For fun, I put some of the melted chocolate into a small pastry bag and accented the petals on some of the flowers, outlining each one. It was surprisingly quick and easy, and fancy-dancy.

Well, there you have it. Not nearly as complicated as you expected, right? What are you waiting for? Go, go, go!

Lorinda

Wait . . . I’M the Aging Parent?

A Mother’s Day challenge was thrown out by Tamara of The Three Gerbers, asking us to list 10 ways our parenting has changed as our children grow older. I’m (gulp) a shit-ton of years older than she is, so my changes are probably more dramatic, but I’ll play along and give all of those young whippersnappers something to look forward to.

Here are some of my observations:

  1. All three of my “children” can (and do) teach me new tricks in the kitchen, but they still appreciate my familiar comfort foods. They used to get underfoot and drive me nuts, but now I love cooking with them when I have the opportunity. One thing hasn’t changed: I still get stuck with the dishes.
  2. I hate to admit this, but I’d much rather let them drive; they have so much more confidence than I. And yes, my kids’ hands shoots out in front of ME now when there’s a sudden stop.
  3. I can still embarrass my daughter, only now it’s on social media for everyone to see. The boys have stronger survival instincts and steer clear of Facebook and Twitter.
  4. I message my daughter for fashion advice. “Can I wear boots with jeans that are snug around the calf?” “What? I can’t wear socks with flats?” She knows this stuff, and I’m hopeless.
  5. Surprisingly, they really haven’t changed much. Their personality traits have just strengthened, if anything. From oldest to youngest: artistic/independent/affectionate, creative/sensitive/capable, stubborn/erudite/irreverent. And all of them are very witty. The boys are like a comedy team. Their sister can hold her own, but I haven’t seen all three together for years. I’d be an appreciative audience for that show!
  6. When they were younger, I felt that they were at least obligated to listen to my advice. Now I’m more hesitant about butting in. They may not believe it, but I really do hold back, because once I left home, my mom didn’t give me advice unless I asked for it – and the older I get, the more I appreciate how hard that must have been. (Just for the record, I’d give anything to sit on the couch with her and have her dish it out with abandon.) I’m afraid I can’t claim the self-control my mother had.
  7. I’m the one getting reprimanded for having a potty mouth.
  8. As they get truly settled (if there is such a thing) I find I’m worrying less. Finances, health, safety, it all swims around in my head, but I’m confident they will find their own answers. They, however, are probably beginning to worry more and more about the same issues—with ME. Wait . . . I’m becoming one of the aging parents everyone is worried about?
  9. The older I get the more temptation there is to just sit in my (beloved) recliner and let the kids come to us. Now I understand why my parents did that as they aged. But until I am unable to travel, it’s important to go see them, too – especially now that there are grandchildren involved. Out of my comfort zone? Oh well. We’re heading to California to see the two oldest kids soon, and I can’t wait. Our youngest lives nearby, and he prefers to come here because then he can mooch a meal. Works for me!
  10. I’m in contact with my daughter a lot – thanks to social media. (I really don’t like to talk on the phone for some reason.) The boys? Not as much. But basically, they are all independent and busy. I guess I’d worry about them if they had to call Mama every day. I know I’m loved, and I’m truly glad they are so self-reliant. Still, I think that mother hen instinct is always there, wanting to gather them all close and keep them safe.

See what everyone else has to say:

Smoked Almond Crackers

I’ve been on a bit of a binge lately, and have probably eaten my weight in hickory smoked almonds in the last month or two. My obsession shows no sign of stopping. This is actually good news for you, because it inspired me to use part of my stash to create very tasty crackers that pair beautifully with salmon dip. And Chardonnay.

I hate to appear wishy-washy by giving you a lot of options and alternatives, but some people will click out of a recipe if it says something scary like “roll the dough”. I get it – rolling dough can be messy and time consuming. I’m going to give you an alternative to that. Personally, I love rolling out dough. It may be the only exercise I have in a day!

First, the basic method:

To make flat crackers, the dough is rolled out and then cut into any shapes that float your boat. But you can also flip a mini-muffin pan over and drape circles of dough over the . . . bottom of the pan to create crunchy little cups.These are genius, because they hold more dip.

Whether you make flat crackers or cups, you’ll need to get the dough very thin – no more than 1/8-inch thick. Thinner is even better. Don’t worry, it’s easy dough to work with. The simplest way to make the flat crackers is by rolling the dough directly onto a baking sheet. You don’t need to separate the crackers – just cut them with a pastry (or pizza) cutter and bake.Or you can use cookie cutters for cute shapes, cutting them directly on the pan or by rolling your dough on a floured surface (removing the scraps for re-rolling).

From left to right – thick to thin. The thick cups were 1/8-inch, the ones on the right were probably 1/16-inch.

Once the crackers or cups are baked and the oven’s turned off, any crackers that aren’t completely hard (which would be those on the thicker side of the scale) get returned to the warm oven to dry out for 30-40 minutes. This ensures a crispy, crunchy, sturdy cracker that will store well.

For you rollingpinphobes, I had an idea that worked very well. Do you have a tortilla press? Love mine, and it wasn’t very expensive at all. Just plop a ball of dough between pieces of parchment and press down gently. Don’t press all the way or you’ll end up with a VERY thin piece of dough that will tear easily. I can cut three 2 1/2-inch circles  at a time this way, and the thickness is consistent. 

When I first tried making these, I assumed that the salt content of the almonds and the cheese would be enough, so I didn’t add any salt. But crackers need to be salty in my opinion, and they just didn’t quite cut it, so I added a small amount of salt to the second batch and found them to be perfect. If you’re a real salt lover, sprinkle a little on the top of the crackers before baking.

No, I don’t get a kickback for this. I just love this stuff and want to share!

I used this Sweet Onion Sugar on one batch because I crave the whole sweet/salty/savory experience, and it was a big hit. My bottle was a gift from a friend, purchased from an amazing store in Montana called The Copper Moose . . . one of those places that could make a foodie run rampant, scooping up things they never even knew existed. Danger, danger, danger.

This recipe will yield approximately 4 dozen dip cups or 2-inch square crackers.

Smoked Almond Crackers
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Author:
Makes 48
Ingredients
  • 1 cup hickory smoked almonds
  • 1 cup grated extra-sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ⅛ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • ¼ cup oil
  • ⅓ cup buttermilk
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
Instructions
  1. Heat oven to 425 F.
  2. For flat crackers you will need a large, flat baking sheet. For cracker cups, you will need a mini-muffin pan. If your muffin pan isn't non-stick, you will also need small paper liners.
  3. Chop the almonds very fine. To save time, you can us a blender or food processor, using short pulses to avoid turning it into paste.
  4. In a large bowl, combine almonds, cheese, flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, garlic powder, and brown sugar. Mix well.
  5. Add oil, buttermilk, and Worcestershire sauce. Use a heavy spoon or your hand to thoroughly combine. You should be able to form the mixture into a ball with your hands.
  6. FOR FLAT CRACKERS: Roll directly onto ungreased baking sheet. Lightly flour rolling pin and the top of the dough and roll very thin, no more than ⅛-inch. Use a pastry (or pizza) cutter to cut into squares or diamonds. You don't need to separate them. Alternatively, you can use cookie cutters. Lift the scraps between the shapes and save for re-rolling. Sprinkle with salt if desired and bake 7 minutes, or until crackers are rich golden brown. Remove from oven and place baking sheet on rack to cool. Repeat with remaining dough. Once all crackers are baked, check to see if crackers are dry and crunchy. If not, turn oven off and open the door for 30 seconds. Return crackers to warm oven for 30-40 minutes to dry out.
  7. FOR CRACKER CUPS: Turn mini-muffin pan upside down. Lightly grease non-stick pans, or cover each metal cup with a paper liner if your pan isn't non-stick. Roll out dough on floured surface, or press balls of dough between pieces of parchment in a tortilla press. Dough should be no thicker than ⅛-inch. Thinner is better! Cut circles that are 2½ inches and drape the dough circles over each cup, shaping gently. If any holes or tears appear, patch them with a pinch of dough. Bake 7 minutes, or until rich golden brown. Move pan to cooling rack and allow cups to cool for at least 5 minutes before lifting each one carefully from the pan. Remove paper liners if you're using them. Once all the cups are baked check to see if cups are dry and crunchy. If not, turn off oven and open door for 30 seconds. Place cups on a baking sheet and return to warm oven for 30-40 minutes to dry out.

Chop the almonds (no big pieces!) or use a blender or food processor.

For flat crackers, roll the dough right on the baking sheet. Cut with pastry or pizza cutter or cookie cutters.

For dip cups, loosely shape dough on the upside-down mini-muffin pan and bake.

There – I posted something that wasn’t sweet for a change. Now on to Mother’s day creations, and I’m pretty sure I’ll be pulling out all the stops.

Lorinda

 

 

 

Deviled Cookies

If you’ve been following my blog, you might remember the Deviled Cakes I made a few years ago. They’re still one of my very favorite creations, but unfortunately the egg shaped baking pan is impossible to find now. So I decided to try the same idea with easy shortbread cookie dough.

Finding plastic eggs that open horizontally wasn’t that easy either, but they’re out there!

It wasn’t quite as I envisioned. I had hoped the shortbread dough would be strong enough to hold its shape in the oven with a hole in the middle for jam or ganache.

It wasn’t.

However, I filled that hole with a solid chocolate egg and baked it flat-side down, and—voilà! The chocolate egg supported the cookie dough and added a fun surprise center. Sweet!

A little white chocolate was spread smoothly on the cookie and topped with yolk-colored buttercream and red sugar sprinkles.

I’m getting this post in just under the wire, with two days until Easter. It was sort of an impromptu decision, which translates into: “I didn’t feel like cleaning house today”. This was much more important, right? If you don’t have time to make them this Easter, they’d be cute for a spring tea or luncheon, too.

Deviled Cookies
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Author:
Makes 24
Ingredients
  • COOKIES:
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 teaspoon milk
  • 2 cups flour
  • ¼ teaspoon salt (if using unsalted butter, increase to ½ teaspoon)
  • ½ cup cornstarch
  • 24 small solid chocolate eggs
  • BUTTERCREAM ICING:
  • ½ cup butter, softened
  • 3½ cups powdered sugar
  • ¼ cup heavy cream
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla
  • food coloring
  • *****
  • You will also need:
  • Plastic eggs that open horizontally
  • White chocolate candy melts - about 1 cup
  • Red sugar
Instructions
  1. COOKIES:
  2. In a large bowl, combine butter and powdered sugar. Beat until light and fluffy.
  3. Add egg yolk and milk, and blend well. (If using a stand mixer, you may want to switch to the dough hook at this point.)
  4. Add the flour, salt, and cornstarch and mix until it turns into a smooth, stiff dough. At first it will seem very crumbly, but it should come together. If it doesn't, add a little milk, a few drops at a time.
  5. Chill dough for 1 hour.
  6. Heat oven to 350 F. Cover baking sheet with silpat or parchment.
  7. Lightly grease or spray the inside of one egg half and dip in flour. (The grease will help the flour stick.)
  8. Press chilled dough firmly into egg, level with the top.
  9. Press one unwrapped chocolate egg into widest half of the egg as deep as possible. Using your hand or a knife, level the dough in the egg. It's okay if a little chocolate is showing.
  10. Squeeze the sides and ends gently to release the egg flat side down onto prepared baking sheet. Repeat, placing eggs at least 1 inch apart.
  11. Bake 14-15 minutes, or until the flat side is beginning to turn light golden brown. Allow to cool on the baking sheet on a rack. (If you need to use the pan for the remaining eggs, slide silpat or parchment onto the rack.)
  12. Once eggs are cool, melt white chocolate in the microwave at 15 second increments, stirring often, or in a small pan on lowest heat. Use a knife or offset spatula to spread melted chocolate smoothly on each egg. Run your finger around the top edge for a clean look.
  13. Make buttercream: Beat soft butter until creamy. Slowly add powdered sugar (and a little of the cream if it's too thick to mix), beating well. Add vanilla and remaining cream and beat well until fluffy. Add food coloring. I used mostly yellow, with just a tiny amount of green and orange to achieve an egg yolk color.
  14. Pipe buttercream onto each cookie and sprinkle with red sugar.

Solid chocolate egg ready to be pressed firmly into the dough.

Lay flat to bake. (I used a Silpat, but parchment works too.)

Baked. I flipped them over so you can see their underbellies.

Spread melted white chocolate on the flat side.

Sigh. I didn’t get a photo of piping the buttercream. You’ve got this, right?


Happy Easter, everyone.

Lorinda

Honey Bee Spice Cake

This pretty spring confection is a five layer honey spice cake filled with whipped buttercream icing and topped with a layer of marshmallow honey fondant. A cute little beehive is made from leftover cake pieces (removed because I just had to make the cake a hexagon to go with the honeycomb theme) and placed on the top amid icing flowers and leaves and a jellybean honey bee or two.

You’re looking at a lot of time, labor, and ingredients. The butter! Omygosh, the powdered sugar! If this has you shaking your head, don’t stop reading. I’ll give you time-saving options.

The picture doesn’t do it justice; this is a huge cake. I used 10-inch square pans, which hold roughly twice what a standard 9-inch round pan holds. Even after cutting my cake into a hexagon shape, it weighed a ton. Trust me, it’s a thing of beauty, but be prepared to make a lot of icing! (And by this I mean . . . buy extra butter and powdered sugar. Depending on how generous you are, or how many flowers you want to make, you may need another batch.)

Right off the bat I’m going to go into my usual disclaimer: I’m a little bit nutty when it comes to playing with my food. I’m also retired and have a whole lot of free time. If you don’t want to go all the way with this project, here are some ideas for cutting corners:

  • In the first place, don’t cut corners! I made a hexagon to resemble honeycomb. You can stick to a round or square cake.
  • Cut the recipe in half and use three 9-inch round pans. (If you only have two pans, use approximately 2 1/2 cups of batter in each of your available pans and bake the cakes. (They won’t take as long to bake, so start checking at 30 minutes.) When they’re done, re-use one of the cake pans with the remaining batter. It will be fine waiting there on the counter for its turn. Don’t try to divide them – just level the tops and go with three thicker layers.
  • If you choose not to go with a hexagon shape, you won’t have leftover cake for the beehive. Use a big round pastry tip and pipe a buttercream beehive in the middle. Or just decorate with flowers and bees.
  • Easier yet? Make cupcakes. The fondant can still be rolled out and pressed with bubble wrap for the design, then cut into squares and draped over the cupcakes. An icing beehive on each would look really cute.
  • Speaking of fondant, you could save time by buying it (in the cake decorating aisle of large stores), but it sure won’t taste as good. Lots of people just peel it off anyhow, so it’s up to you.
  • Flowers are a lot of fun to create, but they can also be very time consuming. You can buy pre-made decorator flowers, use edible fresh flowers, or even buy wafer paper edible flowers online. (Just type “edible wafer flowers” into your search engine.) See what wafer paper pansies look like here on my Brownies for a Crowd post.
  • Don’t forget that you can spread this out a bit, too. Make the cakes ahead. Wrap them well and freeze them, or let them chill in the fridge for a day or two. If you’re making flowers, do that ahead of time, piping them onto pieces of waxed paper and freezing them. The bees can be made way ahead. They don’t need any special treatment – just put them up high where they aren’t a temptation to little ones, so they don’t “fly away”.

 

TO MAKE BEES,  use jelly beans – a yellow one for the body and thin slices of either yellow or white for the wings. I used a Wilton edible ink marker for the eyes and stripes, but found that some jellybeans really resisted the color. A little dark chocolate and a very small piping tip might be easier for you. I stuck a pin in the poor bee’s bum for easy handling, and then when he was finished, pulled out the pin and put a tiny strip of black licorice in the hole for a stinger. I melted a little white chocolate in a small dish to use as glue and attached two thin slices to the sides for wings. You will need to hold them in place for a few seconds to let the white chocolate dry.

My little bee factory

The following recipe is for the LARGE spice cake. It’s easy to cut in half if you prefer to go that route. Yes, yes, I know – the recipe goes on and on and on. That’s because it is for the fondant, the cake, and the icing!

Honey Bee Spice Cake
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Author:
This will make a huge cake, using three 10-inch square cake pans. You can also divide the recipe in half and use three 9-inch round pans instead. Make the fondant the day before and leave (covered) on the counter until ready to use.
Ingredients
  • FONDANT (for best results, make the day before):
  • 14 ounces marshmallow creme (also called "fluff")
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • yellow and orange food coloring, and a small amount of cocoa powder to achieve honey color
  • 2 pounds powdered sugar
  • CAKE:
  • 1 cup cooking oil (peanut, canola, anything light colored)
  • 1 cup butter, room temperature
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup honey
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • Juice and zest of one large lemon (about 3 tablespoons juice)
  • 12 eggs, separated
  • 3 cups cake flour
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • ½ teaspoon allspice
  • ½ teaspoon ginger
  • ½ teaspoon ground cloves
  • ½ teaspoon cardamom (optional)
  • 1½ cup buttermilk
  • 1 cup milk
  • WHIPPED BUTTERCREAM ICING:
  • 1 pound (4 sticks) butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup shortening
  • 3 pounds powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla (clear vanilla for a lighter color)
  • 1 teaspoon banana flavoring (optional - substitute lemon or extra vanilla if preferred)
  • ⅔ cup heavy cream
  • assorted food coloring
  • Small bubble wrap
  • Decorations: flowers, bees (you can find these pre-made in some cake decorating departments, or make them from jelly beans), leaves, sprinkles
Instructions
  1. FONDANT: In a large bowl, combine the marshmallow cream, honey, and vanilla extract. Add food coloring one drop at a time, and a little cocoa powder, until it is the color of honey. Stir in as much of the powdered sugar as you can.
  2. Lightly coat your work surface with shortening and sprinkle generously with powdered sugar. Using greased hands, knead the remaining powdered sugar into the fondant. This may take 10-15 minutes. When finished, the fondant should be fairly stiff and should not stick to your hands. (If it's still sticky, use a little more powdered sugar.) Cover with a bowl on the counter or place in a plastic storage bag. Leave out on the counter until ready to use.
  3. CAKE: Heat oven to 350 F. Grease and flour (or use an oil/flour spray like Baker's Joy) 3 10-inch square cake pans. (If you don't have 3 pans, bake the cakes in shifts.) Place parchment in the bottom of each pan.
  4. In a large bowl combine oil, butter, sugar, and honey. Beat for 2 minutes.
  5. Add vanilla, lemon juice, and lemon zest and beat until combined.
  6. Add egg yolks, one at a time, beating well between each addition. Scrape the sides of the bowl frequently.
  7. In a large bowl or pan, sift together the flours, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and spices.
  8. In a small bowl or measuring cup, combine the buttermilk and milk.
  9. Beginning with the dry ingredients and ending with the liquid, add ⅓ of each at a time, mixing each time just until incorporated. So . . . ⅓ of the flour mixture, mix. ⅓ of the liquid, mix, repeat until all is combined.
  10. In a large bowl, beat egg whites until stiff peaks begin to form. Fold gently into the cake batter.
  11. I filled two of the pans a little over half full - about 7 cups of batter in each - (these will each be divided into two layers once cooled) and filled the third pan less than half full - about 4 cups of batter. The third cake will be thinner, and won't be divided - just use it as the top layer.
  12. Bake for approximately 40 minutes (a little less for the thinner cake), or until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted in the middle of the cake. Ovens vary - if you see that the cake is browning and pulling slightly away from the sides of the pan, give it the toothpick check!
  13. Allow the cakes to cool in the pan on a rack for 10 minutes, then carefully turn them out.
  14. For easiest handling, I really recommend you chill the cakes thoroughly before cutting layers or trimming.
  15. I made a cardboard template of a hexagon and used it to cut the cake before layering it. Save the trimmings in a covered bowl for later if you plan on making a beehive for the top.
  16. Divide each of the two larger cakes into two equal layers. Leave the thin cake as is. A little dome won't hurt with this cake, because the fondant will be draping over it, but you can level it if you'd like.
  17. ICING: In a large bowl, beat the butter well. Add the shortening and beat until thoroughly combined. Beat in the vanilla and banana flavoring. Add powdered sugar slowly. If mixture gets too thick to beat, drizzle in a little of the cream. Scrape sides often, and beat until completely combined.
  18. Slowly add cream, beating at high speed until icing is thick but spreadable. If it is too thick, add a little more cream. If it is too thin, add a little more powdered sugar.
  19. Spread icing between each layer, being careful to bring the icing all the way out to the edge. (Piping a "dam" around the edge is very helpful.)
  20. Cover the entire cake with a very thin coating of icing. This is a crumb coat, which will trap the crumbs and keep the cake looking nicer when you ice it.
  21. Chill for at least one hour, or pop the cake in the freezer for 20-30 minutes.
  22. Spread icing over entire cake. Don't worry too much about making it perfect. If you're using the fondant top, you'll only see the bottom part of the cake. Save about ¼ cup of icing if you are making a beehive for the top.
  23. DECORATE:
  24. Roll the fondant out on a greased surface generously sprinkled with powdered sugar. Roll just a little less than ¼ inch thick. Cut a rough circle at least 1 inch bigger all around than the top of the cake. Press entire circle with lightly floured bubble wrap to achieve a honeycomb effect. You can do this with a rolling pin, but I find that I have better control when pressing with my hand.
  25. Using both hands, lift the fondant up and quickly drape over cake. Fondant will stretch! Don't press onto sides of cake - let it hang. Use a pair of scissors to trim around the bottom of the fondant in a slightly uneven design or scallop, leaving the bottom inch or two of the cake showing.
  26. To make the beehive, combine cake scraps with just enough icing to make it hold together when you squeeze it. Form a beehive and drape with a thin piece of fondant. Use fingers to press smoothly. Press a little cocoa in the beehive entrance to give it some depth. Set on cake.
  27. Decorate with icing flowers, leaves, honey bees.

Mmmm. Marshmallow creme!

Grease those hands and knead it! Use as much powdered sugar as it will hold.

Fondant. Yes, it’s messy to make, but pretty tasty! Cover and let it rest.

Cool for 10 minutes, then turn out onto rack to cool completely.

Divide the two larger cakes as evenly as possible. Level the third (thinner) cake and use whole.

Layer with icing.

It’s crumb coated. Now chill!

Roll it out, almost 1/4-inch thick so it will show the bubble marks.

Press the bubble wrap firmly on fondant.

Ice the cake. Make it pretty around the bottom, but don’t worry too much about the top. It’ll be covered with fondant.

Lay the fondant over the cake. Use a scissors to trim it up so the bottom of the cake shows. I piped decorations around the bottom first. Don’t do this! It made it harder to shape the fondant.

Roughly shape the beehive out of cake scraps mixed with a little icing.

Lay fondant over hive and press gently to shape. Use thumb and a little cocoa powder in the bee entrance to give it some depth.

Decorate with icing leaves and flowers, or anything else that suits your fancy.

That’s it. Piece of cake, right? Hahaha, I know. I’m ducking right now.

Lorinda