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!


ON THE RISE: An online baking course from Craftsy

bread class

I enjoyed the food photography class that I took through Craftsy so much that I decided to check out a couple of their online baking technique offerings. I chose “on the rise: bun & roll techniques” because, even though I did take several bread classes in culinary school, I have found that each chef will have their own technique and style. No two chefs will teach the exact same processes of shaping a boule or baguette. I often struggled in those classes to find the right techniques for myself to be able to mass produce rolls or loaves that were consistent. I eventually found what worked for me but the answer rarely came from one person, picture or video. So, I continue to search for new ideas and hints that will help me create and learn. Chef Jeff Yankellow was an excellent teacher in this series and I was pleased with the variety of dough types, rolls and buns that were presented here. If you are new to bread baking, or intimidated a little by the process, I would highly recommend this course as the chef spends time explaining the purpose of each ingredient and how they will impart texture and/or flavor to the products. If you already know quite a bit about artisan bread making then you will still be able to pick up some ideas and handy tips.

The chef began by making a straight forward soft dinner roll recipe which provided an opportunity to practice mixing, kneading and shaping rolls. He moved onto a sweet roll dough that could be used to make braided rolls, monkey bread, sticky buns and cinnamon rolls. Recipes for whole wheat rolls, rustic hard rolls and sweet glazes were also covered. I had a tough time deciding where I wanted to begin but ultimately opted to make single strand braided rolls using the tender sweet dough recipe. I am glad I did!


I began by adding 2 cups of AP flour (withholding the final 1 cup for incorporation during the kneading process), 1/4 cup sugar, 2 T dry milk powder, 2 t instant yeast & 1 t salt into a large bowl.


Then the egg, butter and vanilla were incorporated. I chose to use vanilla bean paste instead of vanilla extract as I wanted a more concentrated flavor and I like the look of the specks of vanilla bean in the final rolls.


This came together quickly to form a shaggy dough that I then turned out onto the counter, using some of the reserved flour as needed. The goal was to achieve a smooth ball that was soft and pliable but not sticky. I did not use the full volume of reserve flour, as it was not required under the conditions that day.

The dough was covered and allowed to double in volume, which took one hour in my cold kitchen.

The dough was degassed and shaped in a long cylinder, then divided into twelve (even?) portions.


Each portion was rolled out into another cylinder form and braided. I did get the video working for the braiding process. Sorry it is not quite what I was hoping for but next time I will ask my daughter to get a better angle!



These rolls were allowed to proof for another 45 minutes and then egg washed. The rolls were baked at 350°F for 20 minutes.



Notice the vanilla specks!


These were delicious! Even the ones that did not look so pretty! My son suggested that I make “that butter” to serve with them. “That butter” is a cinnamon butter that I made with the pumpkin rolls, and he was right, the rolls were even better!


I hope you give this class a try, you won’t regret it! Next up, Dutch crunch rolls, Yum!



Recipe Review: Texas Sheet Cake Bites


Some things will never change. Just as I was putting the finishing touches on my Chocolate Peanut Butter Easter Eggs the other day, my son walked in and announced that I needed to supply desserts for his Junior Recital which was the following night. Information that would have been helpful weeks ago when he knew that a reception was to be held after his performance. You parents out there are probably thinking “typical teenage boy behavior”, and I would agree with you. However, this boy is actually a young man of 21 years of age, a professional musician and highly regarded rock climbing instructor in our local community. So why does he still have that “wait to the last minute and have mom fix everything” attitude?! I know why. Because I did fix it, it did work out for him and he played a beautiful concert. It’s my own fault, but it was wonderful to see him perform and I will know better next year when his Senior recital comes around!

About 40 people were expected to attend so I rushed over to my Pinterest boards and began searching for a recipe that would feed a crowd. I came up with two candidates. The first was a for frosting filled sugar cookie cups that would take about 20 minutes to assemble. That would take care of the  20 year old starving artists at a performing arts college demographic. For the rest of us I decided to make Texas Sheet Cake Bites, which are mini cupcakes with a fudge frosting, Yum! I had not made these before but had faith that anything chocolate and fudge covered would be delicious. The recipe began with pulling together the flour, sugar, soda and salt into a large bowl. IMG_0927

Then the butter, water and cocoa powder were combined in a saucepan and brought to a boil. One thing I should mention here is that I did deviate from the recipe slightly. It is against my religion to have chocolate without coffee in a recipe so I did add 1 teaspoon of espresso powder at this stage.



The mixture was removed from the heat and added to the dry mix.





Once the chocolate and flour mixture was combined it was time to fold in the buttermilk and eggs.


I did not want to deal with mini muffin wrappers so I greased and floured two mini cupcake pans and started baking.

The frosting came together faster than the batter. I brought the buttermilk, butter and cocoa to a boil in a saucepan, then whisked in the powdered sugar and vanilla off the heat. So fudgey and good! I like the consistency of this icing but I would recommend thinning with a bit of coffee if you wanted to create more of a glaze consistency.










They were gone by the end of the reception, but the store bought cookies that someone else provided were barely touched. I think that speaks to the quality of this recipe! If you need to feed a crowd and want something they will remember you can’t do wrong with this one! Enjoy!


Chocolate-Peanut Butter Easter Eggs


When I saw this recipe for homemade Reese’s Peanut butter eggs, I knew I had to try it. Our family, like most others, love these things, and I am a huge fan of The Recipe Critic. I find her recipes to be easy and great tasting. But I got to thinking about those decorated eggs I would get in my Easter basket as a kid.

Like this one from See’s Candies


My frugal grandmother would always buy these after Easter when they were half price and gave them to my sister and I a year later as our “special treat”. Unfortunately, my memory of them, after 12 long months in grandma’s closet, was that they were not delicious, pretty, but not yummy. I decided to try to make the decorated exterior with the delicious peanut butter chocolate egg combo that we all love.

The peanut butter mixture comes together fast, it is only 4 ingredients: creamy peanut butter, powdered sugar, melted butter and a little milk.  I rolled it out just like you would a sugar cookie dough. I did not have an egg shaped cutter so I traced around a large egg to make a pattern. I actually made two templates, one larger and one a little smaller. The 24 “eggs” were placed onto a cookie sheet and went into the refrigerator. The directions state to freeze for an hour before coating with chocolate but I was going rock climbing for a few hours so I opted for the fridge.

The chocolate mix was milk chocolate chips and shortening.



The chocolate coating was perfect, great consistency and easily covered the cold peanut butter eggs. I did have some extra chocolate that I did not want to waste so I stole my son’s Oreo cookies that he keeps hidden in his room -he thinks I don’t know about his junk food stash-and dipped a dozen in the chocolate.


These were delicious! And so were the eggs, they tasted exactly like the Reese’s version!

The next step was to make Antonia74’s Royal Icing Recipe, which I used before when I made Christmas Cookies. I only prepared a half recipe which was plenty for these two dozen eggs.

I colored a portion each green, pink, yellow, blue and left some the original white. I bagged up each color and used a variety of tips for lines, leaves, grass, and flowers. I had pastel candies for decorations. It has been a while since I used my tips so it was fun to get into the decorating!














You do not need to go this extra step to enjoy the recipe, these things are delicious without the decor! They are easy to make and store-really, everyone will love these!




Three layer Lasagna

We have a crazy schedule this next week. As a family, we are all over the place! Our son has a performance one night, my husband is working two nights, we are rock climbing a couple days and we have 17 miles on the half marathon training schedule this week! We need some easy, fast, quality fuel that any one of us can just throw into the oven or microwave whenever we find time for a meal. So, I made a recipe that always delivers! It’s one that I have been tinkering with for a few years. I finally have decided that it is exactly how I want it. This three layer lasagna will feed us for the week, and it will taste just as good next Friday as it does tonight on Sunday.

There are a couple components to make before the assembly but they are simple and quick. I started with the preparation of the noodles. I followed the package instructions and intentionally under cooked the pasta as it will continue the baking process after assembly of the lasagna.


I placed the par boiled noodles in a single layer on a baking sheet and coated them with olive oil to prevent sticking. Next I started on the tomato meat sauce.

I sautéed the onion and garlic first then added the sweet Italian sausage and cooked until the pink color was gone. Then the tomato products, seasoning, and herbs were added and the mixture simmered until thickened. The final component was the cheese mixture which included ricotta, goat cheese, pecorino and parmesan. There are a total of five cheeses in this recipe!



Then it was time to assemble the final product. I like to use a larger baking dish (10 in X 17 in) and place the noodles along the short side, 6 lasagna noodle fit for each layer.


The layers are as follows: 1/3 of the tomato meat sauce, 1/2 of the cheese mixture, 1/3 of the shredded mozzarella, and repeat.


The final layer has the last 1/3 of the tomato sauce, 1/3 mozzarella and big handfuls of more pecorino and parmesan cheese. Since all the components are already cooked the lasagna only needs to heat through and brown on top. I garnish with fresh herbs at the end.







I made a quick garlic bread to finish the meal and we were ready to eat!

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You can view the recipe by clicking on the link below, I hope you give it a try!


three layer lasagna