Sally’s Baking Addiction, May Challenge: The Roll Cake!


I have not made a roll cake since culinary school, and I really need more practice with them! Every roll cake I have ever made had some sort of crack in it, and this one was no exception. I am not sure why it cracks, I roll it warm right out of the oven, just like every recipe states but, inevitably it happens! So, when Sally’s monthly baking challenge came out this month I decided I would use it as an opportunity to work on two culinary issues that I struggle with constantly. One, fixing the cracking problem and two, practicing making buttercream roses to hide the crack!

I decided to divide this project into different phases and spread out the work over a couple days. I wanted the cake to be ready early on Mother’s Day, so working backwards meant that Friday was buttercream rose day. I used Sally’s Vanilla buttercream recipe from last months challenge because I knew it would pipe easily and tastes amazing!



This was the consistency I was going for, thick enough to hold shape but still able to flow through the #104 tip

I used clear vanilla to keep some frosting white and colored other portions red, pink and green for some leaves. I did try to stripe some white icing for two toned roses but had technical difficulties with that piping bag (meaning it blew up all over me!)



I stored the green icing in the fridge for later and set about piping roses. I watched a few youtube videos to refresh my memory but ultimately I had to dive in and just start trying. My goal was to pipe as many as I had icing for knowing full well that only a few would be useable! It might take 100 bad ones to get 3 or 4, such is my skill in this area!


I tried to get a variety of sizes and I really had no idea how many I would need to cover the cake. So they all went into the fridge to firm up and I would have to see what I would have to work with after the cake was baked.


Saturday was sponge cake time! My goal was to mix, bake and roll the cake which would then sit in the fridge until the following morning. I set about mixing the batter as per Sally’s instructions.

I sifted the dry ingredients together and set the them aside. The important part in making a sponge cake is to separate the eggs and beat the egg whites into stiff peaks, this will provide much of the leavening agent to the cake.


The rest of the ingredients make up the base of the batter. The egg yolks, butter, additional sugar, vanilla and buttermilk are combined, then the beaten egg whites are folded in carefully. The dry ingredients are then folded into the final mixture. The batter is put into a 10 X 15 jelly roll pan that has been greased and lined with parchment paper. Bake the cake at 350°F for about 15 minutes. The critical part is next! Use a cup or so of powdered sugar and dust a clean, thin tea towel.


When the cake is done it is immediately inverted onto the sugared towel.


Peel off the parchment and roll the towel and cake into a tight spiral.


The cake needs to cool in this form so that you can fill it later and re roll it. If you allow the cake to cool first, then attempt to roll it, you will have beautiful cake crumbs- I guess you could make cake pops!



The cake went into the fridge to sit overnight

Since we had a long drive planned on Sunday morning, I also wanted to prepare the filling on Saturday.  Sally’s recipe calls for a strawberry cream cheese filling but my mother-in-law and daughter do not eat any cheese! So I opted for Sally’s Strawberry Buttercream instead. I am so glad I did! This was the star flavor of the cake. If you like strawberry this is your new go to recipe! Unlike most strawberry flavored icings it does not have jello or pudding mixes for flavor. Sally uses freeze dried strawberries and grinds them into a powder to flavor her buttercream-yum! I found some at Trader Joes but I am told there are other outlets that carry dried strawberries.

With the strawberry filling made and sitting next to the cake and roses in the fridge, all I had to do Sunday morning was fill and decorate the cake.

The cake and icing need a couple hours to come to room temperature. I unrolled the cake, and spread on the filling.


Rolled it back up and put it seem side down on my serving tray. Everything was looking pretty good, until…


The big crack! Every time, at least my record remains intact!


So I pulled out my roses and started covering the cake. I had to use some warm water on the bottom of the flowers to get them to stick to the powdered sugar cake and then I used the green icing and a leaf tip to fill in the holes.















IMG_1613It wasn’t perfect, but it was delicious! My husband who dislikes frosting in general loved the strawberry filling. I was not sure the roses would make it the hour and half drive in the car to my in laws home, but to my delight not one fell off!

This was a tough challenge for me but I am glad I gave it a go and look forward to Sally’s next task in June.

What does an Irishman take to a Cinco de Mayo party?


A pear, apple and cranberry crisp of course!  Well, maybe that is not so obvious to everyone, but my good friend did recognize my limitations with respect to the Cinco de Mayo party she organized last week. When I asked her what I could contribute to the dinner menu she immediately gave my an assignment that she knew I could handle. Since she was already making a tres leches cake, I was tasked with making a fruit based dessert. Thankfully she did not ask me to make enchiladas!

Originally I wanted to make a strawberry rhubarb crisp but the fruit was not quite ready here as spring has made had a painfully slow start in our area. The grocery store looked more prepared for autumn than any other season. So, I went with a no fail recipe from Ina Garten, her pear, apple and cranberry crisp is one I have made many times and it always comes out delicious, and it is fast and easy!

The “hardest” part is peeling, coring and dicing the bosc pears and honey crisp apples (2 lb. each). The diced fruit is then mixed with the juice and zest of both a lemon and an orange. I used a blood orange as that was what I had on hand.


I added a full cup of cranberries, more than the recipe calls for but we like them, 1/2 cup of vanilla sugar and 1/4 flour.


Next came the cinnamon and freshly ground nutmeg. This is all mixed well in a large bowl and then put into a lightly greased 9 X 12 baking pan.




Up to this point you could argue that this is not too unhealthy of a dessert, however that is about to change. This fruit mixture is good, but it’s the crumble topping that is the real star of the show!

For the crumble combine the 1 1/2 cups flour, 3/4 cup vanilla sugar, 3/4 cup brown sugar, 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt and 1 cup old fashioned oats. Then add the diced, cold butter (2 sticks, 1/2 lb)


Cut the cold butter into the dry components. Much like making a scone dough or pie crust, the goal is to have small pieces of butter throughout the mixture.


Cover the fruit, entirely, with the crumble topping.



Bake at 350ºF for 50 minutes to an hour. Make sure the crust is nice and brown and the fruit is bubbling.


I transported the crisp in the pan and we served it at my friends house for a nice ending to a great meal.








This is best served warm, but I will confess to eating it cold and having no problem! I have substituted different fruit combinations such as peaches and blueberries, plums and cherries and, of course, strawberries and rhubarb. They are all delicious using this same formula. Thanks to Ina for another awesome recipe and to my friend for opening her home to us!


Cinnamon Apple Babka


As you well know by now, I do love to bake bread! I have been wanting to try a babka for some time and finally got around to developing this one. This is a bread that is slightly sweet and you can amp it up with more filling but we like a little less fruit and more of that bread flavor! I had a lot of apples after a recent Costco trip so I have been working them into every dish possible! This recipe can easily make two loaves, and I have included those options in the recipe located at the bottom of this post. Today, however, I decided to make a large, braided loaf and have also included that option, should you feel the need to have an enormous sweet bread centerpiece for your table!

This enriched dough begins with the making of a sponge, which is just water, yeast and sugar that has time to allow for the yeast to activate. Start by combining the yeast, brown sugar and temperature controlled water and let is sit for 30 minutes.


After blooming the surface will have small bubbles and there will be a yeasty aroma

Next add the flour, oil, salt, egg yolks and eggs to the sponge.


Knead the dough until a smooth, but slightly sticky ball forms and place in a lightly greased, large bowl. Cover and allow to rise in a warm place for 2 hours.


While the dough is rising, prepare the cinnamon and apple filling. Whisk together the cinnamon, sugar and flour in a small bowl and set aside. The most important part of preparing the apples is to extract as much moisture as possible so that your dough will not be soggy. I did this by peeling, coring and grating the apples then placing them in a double lined paper towel and squeezing the water from the apples. There is a surprising amount of water that will drain out. I did this in small batches and cheesecloth would work well, but I didn’t have any on hand, so paper towels it had to be! Place the dried apple pieces into a bowl and immediately add the lemon zest and lemon juice, tossing to coat. Then add in the cinnamon sugar mixture. Set aside until the dough is ready.


Now comes the tricky part of shaping and filling the bread. I will refer you to this excellent tutorial from King Arthur Flour on how to shape babkas. This site has all the options that I mention in the recipe with step by step instructions and pictures. At this point you need to decide if you want two loaves or one braided loaf. In either case you begin the same way, divide the risen dough into two equal portions.


Roll one portion out to about 9″ X 18″ and spread half the cinnamon apple filling over the rectangle, leaving a 1/2 inch border around the perimeter. Start with the long side and roll into a log shape, much like you would if you were making cinnamon rolls. Pinch the bottom seam and the ends shut to contain the fillings. Repeat with the second portion of dough.



At this point you may opt to make two loaves using the classic twist, or the sliced braid methods discussed on the King Arthur site and my recipe write up, I will discuss the process for making the single, braided loaf.

Begin by slicing the log lengthwise to form 4 “ropes”.


Working with the filling side up, make a plus sign with the intersection at the middle of each rope. Then repeat with the other two strips to form a second plus sign that interlocks with the first one.


Working clockwise, fold every other strip over the neighboring end, then repeat with the ends that extend but go in the opposite direction (counterclockwise) this time. Here is the  King Arthur photos for reference (they use their chocolate babka).





You will have some ends left over, just tuck them under the loaf. Place the loaf onto a parchment paper lined baking sheet. Cover and allow to proof for another 45 minutes.


Preheat the oven to 350°F and bake for 30 minutes or until golden brown and baked thorough the center.

While the bread cools mix the glaze by combining the powdered sugar, cinnamon extract, vanilla seeds and slowly adding enough milk or water to create a drizzling consistency. When the bead has cooled completely, drizzle with the glaze.





I know that there are a lot of steps for this but it is so worth it! If you are not up for the braid, then try the simple loaf shapes highlighted on the King Arthur site and let me know what you think! Happy baking!

cinnamon apple babka recipe


I miss food: Dreaming about my last meal!


I am having a colonoscopy today, in about four hours. It is not my first and won’t be my last, as I have rotten personal genetics in this respect.  If you have had the pleasure then you are fully aware that fasting the day prior to the procedure is required. One thing I learned yesterday, while feasting on popsicles and jello, is that my Instagram and Facebook are all full of images about food! I always knew my feeds were culinarily loaded, maybe more so than others in my non-blog world, but I really thought there would be other photos. Sure, there was the occasional sponsored messages and pics of people skiing-still snow in our mountains. But, 97% (yes, I did an actual calculation) was food related! Where were the runners, climbers and gardeners in my life when I really needed them! As I sit here this morning, drinking the last assignment from my doctor and watching Good Morning Football to prepare for the NFL draft, I find myself dreaming of all the food I can have after 2pm today. My thoughts keep drifting back to the Ham and Lentil soup I made for my “last supper” on Monday night.

This is a pretty straight forward soup that gets better each day as it sits in the fridge. I followed the recipe close to the original, except I rarely measure anything when making soup.


I also rarely use celery in my soups as I just don’t love it! I will substitute with leeks or fennel, depending upon the overall flavor profile. For this soup I chose leeks. I also added more potatoes, carrots and peas than the ratios stated in the original recipe. I routinely use plain greek yogurt for thickening my soups as I prefer that to high fat sour cream, which this recipe already specified, so that worked well too. I did add some white wine to deglaze and subtracted that amount out of the total recommended liquid volume, but that is just me and not necessary-the recipe would be delicious just as written!

In my opinion, all soups and stews need a good salty roll or bread for dipping. And, by now you have probably guessed that I love to make my own bread. But this was a bit of a last minute decision the other day and I did not have any bread proofing on the counter for this meal. So, I  went to a handy and tasty short cut I use all the time. I use frozen dinner rolls from throllse store, my preference is Rhodes dinner rolls. I take the amount I want, place them into a baking dish, cover and pop them into the oven on proof (this is 100°F). They are fully proofed in about 3 hours, then go into a 350°F for 20 minutes. I brush them with melted butter, while they are still warm and sprinkle with fleur-de-sel and thyme. I just use any herb that complements the soup, sometimes rosemary or sage are a better choice. My family loves them, and will specifically requests these rolls, there are never any leftovers and I get to have that fresh bread taste in less time.



So this is where I am at now-dreaming about rolls and soup. The reality is I will get a banana right after the procedure and slowly be able to work my digestive tract up to normal over the course of the day. I will run and climb later this week (can’t wait to get my life back!)

Next up for culinary: I am thinking about cinnamon apple babka!


Sally’s Baking Addiction, April Challenge


When Sally first posted her April challenge, I immediately knew I wanted to incorporate her idea into an Easter dessert. Usually the holidays are celebrated at my in-laws but this year my husband and I hosted Easter dinner. Our extended family is not real big on desserts in general but they tolerate my incessant need to bake, which I appreciate!

Sally usually presents her followers with a recipe that highlights a specific technique, but this time she focused on the technique itself, while providing a killer frosting formula to go with it! She posted a video on her blog, Sally’sbakingaddiction, that demonstrated the technique of piping simple roses. Her unique twist was to make them two toned and to use a star tip, which makes is much easier than the flowers we made in culinary school. If you have ever used a flower nail and a petal tip, then you know how tough that can be to master. Although, I am tempted to go back and try again now that I have Sally’s amazing vanilla frosting recipe (same link as above).

First I had to choose the cake flavor I wanted to make for our Easter table spread. I wanted something different and appropriate for spring. I searched for a strawberry cake recipe and was quite discouraged. They all seemed to rely on strawberry flavored jello and boxed mixes with artificial flavoring, as well as a lot of food coloring. I finally found “made from scratch strawberries and cream cake” from The Kitchen McCabe. It looked perfect for my needs. The recipe is enough for a four layer, 6 inch cake and 12 cupcakes. This would allow me the opportunity to try out Sally’s technique for roses on both the cupcakes and for decorating the top of the 6 inch cake. The cake on its own is moist and delicious! I had a lot going on during this time period and decided to break up this project over the course of a few days, so I have included my timeline here as well.

I followed this recipe exactly as written, no changes this time! The first step was to make the strawberry puree which I did by placing 2 pounds of strawberries into a food processor and mixing until smooth. I then strained out the seeds and ended up with 2 1/2 cups of puree.


Only 1 1/2 cups were needed for addition to the dry ingredients, so I saved the extra cup (more on that later!)


This cake batter smelled amazing!

I panned up two 6″ rounds and 12 paper lined cupcakes and baked as directed. As soon as all the cakes were cooled they were double wrapped in plastic and popped into the freezer. I wasn’t planning on frosting them just yet. The next day I removed the 2 cake layers, defrosted them, leveled the tops and split both to create four layers. I made Sally’s vanilla frosting and decided to add in some of the strawberry puree to the portion of frosting that would be between each layer.


Sorry about this picture! It was the only one I had to show the layering.

By adding in some of the puree I was able to boost the flavor. Also, the cake is not strawberry colored because I did not add food coloring to the batter. I knew I would be covering the cake with frosting and decided to omit the extra artificial additive. Of course, if you would rather your cake look like it is strawberry flavored, you could add some red or pink gel paste, but the flavor is still present without it. I then applied a crumb coat and put the cake to sleep in the fridge until decorating it the next day.


I placed the frosted cake onto a gold cake round that I had from another project. This would be the final decorating platform.

Finally, decorating day arrived. At the last minute I decided I wanted to make the cake look like a basket of flowers-actually, a basket of two toned roses! I took some of the vanilla frosting and tinted it red, hoping for a pink color. That did not happen and I had a batch of red frosting, so now I knew that my roses would be red and white! I put that aside and began again and got a lovely shade of pink, yeah! I used a basket cake decorating tip, like this one basket weave tip

I worked my way around the cake.





I finished the top of the basket with dots from a round tip

Now it was time to pipe some the roses. I was nervous about jumping right to the top of the cake so I did some practice flowers on the cupcakes first. I lined the piping bag with some of the red frosting that I had made, just as Sally directed in her video. But I had some pink left over from the basket portion, so I lined part of the bag with pink as well and then filled the bag with the vanilla frosting (so, three toned roses instead of two). I set to work on the cupcakes. I did not have the exact tip that Sally recommended in her video so I chose an alternate closed star tip171

I was happy with how the frosting was flowing from the tip and how each color combination was different from one another. I then went to the cake top.



I could have stopped here and been really happy with the results, but flowers need leaves, and I could not help myself! I colored a little more icing and used both a small and large leaf tips to add a few details.




I placed a green dragee at the base of each leaf. Now I was happy!  My family loved the look and taste of this cake!


A big thank you to The Kitchen McCabe and Sally’s Baking Addiction for the inspiration and a great holiday dessert!

Hot Cross Buns, It must be Spring!

hot cross buns

I love this particular Hot Cross Bun recipe. It is a little more complex than others that I have seen, with a few extra steps, but it is hard to argue with the results! Like most other formulas out there, this one uses the straight dough method for the rolls themselves, and similar instructions for combining the batch of cross dough, but it is the spiced bun glaze that really sets this recipe apart from the pack.

This recipe is from a culinary cookbook, I have mentioned in the past that culinary texts are written differently than standard cookbooks or recipes in general. I have adapted this and made a few changes but the format will be by weight and volume for the most part.  One additional step done here is to condition the dried fruit. This step requires a 2 hour, minimum rest, so plan ahead! However, after that step the recipe moves along smoothly since it is a straight dough method, everything goes in together and combined quickly.

The flour, butter, sugar, yeast, milk powder, salt, vanilla paste, eggs and spices are combined first then the temperature controlled water is added. Once the dough has pulled together and is soft and pliable the dried fruits are added.


The dough is allowed to rise, covered on the bench until doubled in size (about 30 minutes)


It is then degassed and folded into thirds, allowed to rest again for 15 minutes. This lets the dough relax and is easier to portion and shape. The recipe calls for 3 1/2 oz portions to be rounded and panned 5 rows by 6 rows for a total of 30, rather large, buns!


yes, I do weigh them-this one was a little big and had to have a pinch removed!


The rolls are covered and allowed to proof until doubled which takes about an hour

While the rolls proofed I made the cross dough which is applied right before they go in the oven. The cross dough is pastry flour, butter and milk which is combined and mixed until smooth.


The cross dough was put into a disposable pastry bag that had been fitted with a plain tip.

This was piped onto the individual rolls to form the cross pattern.








The pan went into a 375°F preheated oven for 20 minutes, or until the desired color was achieved. This particular cross dough is not sweet. As I said before it is just flour, butter and milk. Many other recipes use cream cheese or other flavored icing and apply it at the end of the baking process. This recipe uses a lemon, ginger simple syrup to give the rolls flavor and shine.


This bun glaze is water, sugar, ground ginger, lemon juice, lemon zest and cream of tartar. It should be made ahead of time and chilled before applying to the hot rolls.

As soon as the rolls come out of the oven the glaze is generously applied.








They are shiny, sweet, sticky, fruity and delicious! The extra steps are worth it!




It is rainy and windy today, not really a surprise around here! It is the perfect day to spend time baking in the kitchen and I wanted to try a few more shaping techniques from the Craftsy class that I reviewed here. I used the same recipe and, once again the dough came together nicely, and was allowed to double in size.


The dough was portioned slightly differently as I wanted to make three different shapes.


The six smaller portions on the left were to be made into small, Dutch crunch rolls, the larger were earmarked for 4 telera rolls and 4 double knots

I was on my own today and did not have help to make a video like the last post, so I will try to describe the shaping process for each roll.


The six rolls at the top were made by flattening the dough portion and each corner folded into the center to form a loose ball. The ball was placed, seam side on the counter and rolled to form a denser ball, with tension, to form the tight surface. The four at the bottom of the pan were shaped the same way but then two deep indentations were made to form the telera pattern. It should look like this when baked:

telera roll


The four in the middle were rolled as was shown in the video I made previously, but the long log was then tied in the middle, like a single knot, then the ends were tucked in the hole in the middle. This is the double knot shape.

The six small rolls were supposed to have the Dutch crunch topping but, turns out I did not have the rice flour that I thought I had! So, they were egg washed and sprinkled with sanding sugar, the double knots were also egg washed, the telera were left with just the flour for a more rustic look. All were baked at 350°F for 20 minutes.


The indentations in the telera rolls proofed away! They look like potato rolls instead. I think the tender sweet dough was too soft to hold up to the shape of the telera roll. I may have to try again with a firmer dinner roll recipe.

The double knots and small round rolls held their shape better, all three were delicious!





In an attempt to believe spring is actually here, I made an Easter bread basket.




Up next, Hot cross buns for Easter Weekend!