A Week in Cooking

Last week, I did a lot of baking.  On Monday, I made a pepperoni roll using this pizza dough recipe from In Jennie’s Kitchen (which has been tragically, yet beautifully poignant, in the last few months).

Just so you know, I skipped the food processor part, because I only have mini-prep.  I don’t think it made a difference.

Pepperoni roll is an easy, delicious dinner.  Make the dough in the morning and let it work it’s magic all day.  About a half hour or so, before dinner, roll the dough into a rectangular shape, lay down row after row of pepperoni and then cover the pepperoni with a generous amount of mozzarella cheese, followed by a sprinkle of oregano and a healthy dose of Parmesan.  This is how we like it, but you could add different seasonings, or even sauce, depending on your tastes.

Starting at one end, roll the dough as tightly as you can.  The tighter you roll, the prettier it will look.  Mine never looks that pretty, but that doesn’t affect the taste, so don’t sweat it if your roll looks like a deformed log.  Once rolled, pinch or fold the edges over so that the cheese does not ooze out the ends, and then bake on a cookie sheet at 350 degrees for 20-30 minutes.It’s just as good the second day.

As you know, I also made a peanut butter chocolate cake that day, that I discovered on Smitten Kitchen, before I knew what Smitten Kitchen, or a even a blog was.  I just googled peanut butter chocolate cake and it appeared.  I have made this cake several times and it has never disappointed.  Here is my, not as pretty, but equally delicious, cake. I should have added more cream to the chocolate topping to thin it out a bit more.I also added chopped Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups to the top, just to up the yum factor (and give something for Second Son to surreptitiously pick at).

I froze the remainder of the cake on Tuesday.

On Wednesday, I was on to cupcakes.  If you know me, then you know that I would rather have something made from scratch than from a box or package.  I feel no different about cupcakes.  I don’t see the need for added food coloring, flavorings or preservatives. However, there was also another reason I began baking from scratch, food allergies.

There was a time, when I would have happily opened up a box of cake mix, added some eggs and oil and called it a day, but things changed.  In the infancy of first son’s food allergy, I mistrusted almost all packaging.  I didn’t see how one cake mix produced by a company could contain nuts and yet, another, produced by the same company, contained nothing.  That’s when I started baking from scratch.  I’ve since learned to trust manufacturers more, but once you go scratch, it’s really hard to go back.

All that being said, besides a delicious, but labor intensive recipe from the Barefoot Contessa, up until last week, I had had a hard time finding a vanilla cake recipe that I thought was worthy.  Then, on a google search, I found the recipe for Magnolia Bakery’s vanilla cupcakes.  Absolutely delicious!  I also used their vanilla icing recipe, which is a variation of a homemade icing that I’ve been making for years.  I added some pink sprinkles, and voila, fourteen happy preschoolers and two happy teachers (and brothers who enjoyed the leftovers)!I froze the remaining cupcakes on Friday.

On Saturday, I was on to Little Lady’s cake.Yes, I am proud to say that I made this cake. After doing a little googling on princess cakes and watching a Betty Crocker sponsored video, I was feeling confident that I could make this.

Then, I made the cakes.

I used the vanilla cupcake recipe above, but instead of cupcakes, I poured the batter into two nine inch round pans.  For the top layer, I used the recipe for chocolate cake found on the Hershey’s Cocoa container, which is my go to chocolate cake recipe.  I baked the chocolate cake in a greased and lightly floured round glass bowl, but I only used 3/4 of the batter.  I used the remainder of the batter to make cupcakes (no sense wasting).

This is where things started to get messy.

I can be impatient, which is not a good quality in a baker.  Some things, like cakes cooling, just need time.  I am always reminded of this the hard way.  When I went to remove the cakes from the pan, both the bowl cake and one of the layers of the vanilla cake, came apart.  If you’ve ever spent time making more than one cake, or any recipe for that matter, and have taken the time and energy to not only make the recipe but wash the bowls you need (because who has an endless supplies of pots and pans), not to mention the money spent on ingredients, than you know the complete frustration you feel when something doesn’t turn out exactly as you planned.

At four o’clock on Saturday, I had two broken cake layers and one intact vanilla layer that dipped precariously in the middle. I had  serious doubts about the cake, and couldn’t decide whether I should go forward, or run to the store and cake two box cakes and start over.  Yes, I know what I said about box cakes, but with less than twenty-four hours to party time, I was desperate, and desperate times call for desperate measures.

I decided to move forward.

I made a full batch of icing, using two sticks of butter and it still looked like this. I seriously questioned my decision.  Frustrated, I put the cake in the refrigerator, something I probably should have done before I even tried to ice it (which by the way, was suggested in the video), and took a break.

Once the kids were in bed, I went back to work, this time undistracted.  I made another batch of icing, with two more sticks of butter, and tinted it pink.  Time, patience, and the refrigerator worked.  I loved that cake and so did Little Lady.I did not use a full doll, like the woman in the Betty Crocker video, instead, I went to Joanne’s Fabrics and bought the half doll cake topper and decorated her bodice using icing.  I was a little disappointed I couldn’t find a doll topper with brown hair, to match little lady, but it was much easier to use a blonde doll than buy a Barbie and wrap her in plastic.  I also put the doll’s hair up, using one of Little Lady’s hair ties, and jazzed it up with the hair pin little lady wore for my brother’s wedding.

This is by far, the most elaborate cake I have ever made.  It was labor intensive, but nothing that the average baker couldn’t tackle.  I was really happy with the end result, not only with the appearance, but with the taste.  I don’t know if it was the two pounds of butter that went into it, but it was delicious.

Yesterday, I sliced it and put it in the freezer.  There’s no shortage of cake in this house.



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