Mandy's Marvelous Meals

Recipes, tips, tricks, and my journey into cooking fabulous food!

Zucchini Bread


Well for those of you who have been keeping up with my blog, you probably know that the zucchini from my garden has been quite plentiful so far. Like I mentioned in a post a while back, I planned to make zucchini bread. Unfortunately I didn’t get around to it until this weekend. I made a couple of loaves and gave them out to my neighbors along with a zucchini. I had so many large zucchini I had to get them out of the garden because they were starting to kill the other plants!

I love this zucchini bread recipe, which I originally found on www.allrecipes.com. I’ve tried others but this one is my favorite. It is super moist with just the right amount of sweetness. I have to say zucchini bread is my favorite thing to make from zucchini…of course that’s only because it is a baked good…and I love baked goods! 😉  The recipe makes 2 loaves, so you’ll have some to share if you feel like it! It also freezes well. Also, I forgot to take pictures of the bread before I wrapped it up for the neighbors, but you get the point!

 

Zucchini Bread

3 cups flour

1 cup vegetable oil

3 eggs

2 cup sugar

2 cups uncooked zucchini, grated

2 tsp. vanilla extract

1 tbsp. ground cinnamon

1 tsp. baking soda

¼ tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. salt

  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Grease two loaf pans and set aside.
  2. Combine the oil, eggs and sugar in a mixing bowl.  Beat on medium until well combined. Stir in the vanilla extract and the zucchini.
  3. Combine all the dry ingredients in a bowl. Add this a little bit at a time to the wet ingredients, mixing on medium.
  4. Divide the batter in half and pour into two greased loaf pans.
  5. Bake in the preheated oven for 60-70 minutes or until baked through.

 

 

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Cake Pop….Failure?!?! I Think Not!


Not to toot my own horn…but I can bake! My baked goods are pretty awesome. There is only one problem….they rarely look “pretty”. I don’t know why but no matter how much I practice, or how careful and meticulous I am when I’m decorating…they just don’t turn out like the baked goods I see a lot of others make. To me taste is more important anyway, but when you are serving your food to people who are not your family the first thing they are looking at is the “prettiness”. I mean, if you have two trays of cupcakes and one looks beautiful and the other one looks like a 4 year old slapped some icing on top…which one do you think people are going to try?

So with that in mind, I am not sure why I thought making cake pops would be any different than the cakes, cupcakes, or the cookies I’ve made in the past….tasty but not pretty!

Each month at work we have a “staff training day” where we basically shut down so that we can focus strictly on meetings, staff development & training. As part of this, I like to treat my staff…whether it’s donuts, or bagels, pizza or my often requested “baked goods”.  I wanted to bring something different that I hadn’t brought in yet so I decided to give Cake Pops a try. I asked friends their opinions on making them and did a lot of research and read a lot of tutorials. I came to the conclusion that they did seem like a lot of work but really didn’t seem too difficult. How hard is it to screw up making a little ball of cake on a stick?

I saw this cute picture on pinterest which is how I totally envisioned my cake pops would turn out. Since the 4th of July was coming up I thought this would be a really nice presentation for my employees. Then I really became ambitious when I decided I wanted the cake in my cake pops to be multi-colored!

 

I was so pumped to make these awesome cake pops! I used my favorite white cake recipe and a basic buttercream and even making them “multi-colored” (red, white & blue for 4th of July) worked out nicely. I was moving along so well…thinking that I was right…a lot of work, maybe a little time consuming but overall not difficult. Adding the icing a little bit at a time to each color cake, they formed nicely into a “play-dough” consistency. I melted some chocolate and dipped the ends of the sticks in and then inserted the sticks into the cake balls. I put them in the freezer to just “firm up” and allow the chocolate on the stick to harden and become a binder for the cake to the stick.

They were looking pretty good….

All that was left was dipping them into the chocolate. From what I’d read and the advice I’d received I knew this part would probably be the “hard” part of the process, but since I wasn’t doing anything too fancy I figured it wouldn’t be so bad.

Until I started the first few and this is what I got…

Frustrated, I continued on. I took the advice of a friend to add shortening (I felt like this was good solid advice because this suggestion was also on the package directions.) to the chocolate to help thin it out, as can happen when it is over heated. Although this did seem to help a little bit and when I started dipping the pops again, it did not completely destroy the cake pops, they looked nothing like I wanted them to! The chocolate was still too thick (which I now have learned was probably because my shortening was too old and really didn’t do much to help out the chocolate. Since making these the other day I saved a few to be dipped later after I had a chance to purchase a new jar of shortening and it was much easier…still not pretty but easier!).

I was able to salvage about 30 pops that I was only partially embarrassed to serve my employees. Mostly everyone assured me they did not look that bad, but I’m pretty sure this was just because they were scared to tell the boss the truth. Only one of my employees (who is also a fairly good friend) was honest and said “wow, if you could decorate you could make so much money opening a bakery.” Thanks….I think!!!

So what was the ultimate outcome of this cake pop saga?

They tasted awesome!!!

They looked horrific!!!

It was basically just the usual…nothing fancy from this baker!

So even though they weren’t as pretty as I had planned, I am still sharing my recipe and the steps I went through to make them. Like I said these tasted great…and if you are better at decorating and working with chocolate than I am then you will definitely have success and will impress whoever you are making them for!

The final question is: ”Would I make them again?” The answer: “Maybe”.

To those of you brave enough to try them…may the decorating gods be with you!!! 😉

 

Cake Pops (Makes 50-60 1” cake pops)

1 white cake

1-2 cups buttercream icing

2 pkgs. (12 oz.) white chocolate melting candy

1-2 tsp. vegetable shortening

Lollipop sticks

Food coloring**, blue & red

Block of Styrofoam

(**Instead of using food coloring in the cake mix I used Wilton Icing Colors. This made a very rich color and I didn’t have to use very much at all.)

  1. Prepare the cake mix as directed. You can use a box mix, but I always prefer from scratch!
  2. Divide the cake mix evenly into three bowls. Add red food coloring (or Wilton Icing Colors) to one of the bowls and blue food coloring to another bowl, to desired color.
  3. Pour each bowl of cake mix into a separate pan or use a muffin pan. (Since you’ll be crumbling it up it doesn’t matter as long as it gets baked! :p) Bake as directed.
  4. Meanwhile prepare the icing (you can use store bought if you like) and set aside.
  5. Allow the cake to cool and once cool enough to handle crumble the cakes into three separate bowls (one for red, one for blue, one for white).
  6. Add about 2-3 tbsp. of icing into each bowl and mix with your hands. Continue to add icing a little bit at a time until the cake forms a large ball. You want the cake to be just moist like Play-dough.
  7. Next form the balls, take a little bit of each color cake and mold together into a round ball. Once all the balls have been formed place them in the refrigerator or freezer for about 10 minutes just to firm up.
  8. Melt a little bit of chocolate according to the directions on the package. This will be for the sticks. Dip the end of a lollipop stick in the melted chocolate and then insert it into the center of the cake pop about half way through. Be careful not to push the stick through to the other side.
  9. Return to refrigerator or freezer for another 10-15 minutes to allow chocolate to harden and cake balls to continue to firm up.
  10. Melt one bag of chocolate per the package directions. Add 1-2 tsp. of vegetable shortening if chocolate is too thick. Make sure to melt the chocolate in a deep dish or glass so that the cake pop can be completely covered by the chocolate. At this step, you can decorate the pops however you choose with different color chocolates and adding sprinkles, etc.
  11. Dip the cake pops in the melted chocolate and insert into a piece of styrofoam to dry.
  12. Cake Pops will be ready to eat immediately or can be frozen for a later time.

 

 

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Twix Ice Cream Cake


Twix Ice Cream Cake

Every year for Hubby’s birthday I get him an ice cream cake. Since I bake cakes all the time it is a  nice treat to have an ice cream cake. This year I decided to make my own ice cream cake for his birthday. I’ve made ice cream cakes before but never made them like the kind you get at the store or an ice cream shop with the crunchy middle. I always just used regular cake layered with ice cream.

My Very First Ice Cream Cake

Strawberry Vanilla Ice Cream Cake

I must have gotten bit by a creativity bug because suddenly I had this great idea to make this a Twix ice cream cake (since Hubby likes Twix candy bars).  So, I found this recipe on King Arthur Flour to make homemade Twix bars. I only made the shortbread layer for the crumbly inside of the ice cream cake and mixed it with some caramel. I had intended to make my own caramel, but due to time constraints just ended up buying a jar of Smucker’s Caramel Topping. If you decide to make this for an event make sure you do it the day before or at least 8-9 hours in advance so the cake can freeze up completely. Like I said, I was on a limited time frame so not only did I have to work twice as fast to get everything set, but we weren’t actually able to cut the cake right when I presented it, because it would have been completely destroyed (Which was not a big deal since we had reservations for an all you can eat meat buffet…better known as “Na’Brasa Brazilian Steak House“).

Despite being crunched for time, I actually remembered to grab the camera to take step-by-step photos! I only missed one or two pictures! Yay for me!

So without further ado, here is how I made this awesome birthday cake!

Prepare the shortbread layer.

Since I was ultimately going to end up crumbling this up, I didn’t bother putting it in the baking dish all nice and neat, as you can see. You can make the shortbread a few days in advance if you want. That way you won’t have to worry about even more time with cooling it down.

Whip the ice cream in a stand mixer.

For the cake you will need 1-1.5 Qt. vanilla ice cream and 1-1.5 Qt. chocolate ice cream. A trick that I’ve learned from experience is to soften your ice cream by letting it sit out for about 10 minutes and then putting it in your stand mixer to mix up. It is much easier to work with than letting it just soften on its own. The first layer is half of the vanilla, so only mix half in the mixer and return the rest to the freezer. A WORD OF CAUTION….I do not recommend mixing the ice cream in your mixer if you do not have a heavy duty mixer. Although I’ve only done this with my Kitchenaid, I know that my old $30 middle-of-the-road stand mixer would not have been able to handle mixing the ice cream!

Add the softened ice cream to the pan to make the first layer of the cake.

To make the cake, use a springform pan with the bottom removed and two 10″ round cardboard cake circles placed on the bottom (sold in craft stores or wherever cake supplies/decorations are sold). Glue or tape the two cardboard circles together. This cake will be very heavy when finished so one circle probably won’t hold it!

Prior to making the layers, place the Springform pan in the freezer for 20-30 minutes to make it cold. You will have to be very careful not to move the cardboard or the pan or the ice cream will get all over. If you want, you can use a little tape to keep the cardboard in place. Medical tape works best, as regular tape loses its stickiness after it gets cold.  It is very important to put the cake back in the freezer after each layer…do not skip this part of the recipe or your flavors will run together and you’ll have a big old mess (I won’t mention how I know this, but I’m sure you can figure it out). Put the pan back in the freezer for about 20 minutes. Basically what I did was put it back in…set a timer for 10 minutes, take out the next ice cream that I was going to use (in this case chocolate) and allowed it to soften up for 10 minutes…then whipped it in the mixer….took out the pan from the freezer and added the next layer, putting it back in the freezer for 20 more minutes.

Crush the shortbread.

After you’ve completed the first two layers (1/2 the vanilla and all the chocolate) and the pan is back in the freezer to harden, prepare the shortbread layer by putting it in a large ziploc bag and crushing with a rolling pin. Add the crumbles to a bowl and add the caramel sauce 1/4 cup at a time mixing well between each addition until the crumbles are just moist. You do not want to add too much caramel. The crumbles should not be sticky or too wet.

Add the shortbread/caramel crumble mixture to the pan.

Add the shortbread/caramel mixture to the pan spreading out evenly over the ice cream. I did not use all the crumbles (only about 3/4) but it is totally up to you how thick you want the layer to be. I basically stopped adding the crumbles when I could no longer see any ice cream. Return the pan to the freezer for another 20 minutes (after 10 minutes remove the remaining vanilla ice cream from the freezer to soften).

 You will need to crush or chop the mini Twix bars. I put them in a ziploc baggie and just pounded them with the rolling pin, however the caramel remained as one solid piece so I ended up having to cut it up with a knife. Next time, I’m thinking I’ll throw it in the food processor. Once you whip the remaining ice cream in the mixer, stir in the crushed Twix (forgot to photograph these last few steps!) Remove the pan from the freezer and add the final layer. Once completed, return to the freezer for a minimum of 4-5 hours or longer if you can. The longer you can freeze it the easier it will be to remove the pan and add the icing.

To remove, run a butter knife around the edge of the pan and then open the spring on the pan to release. Lift off carefully and you should have what’s pictured above!

The whipped cream frosting can be added either right before serving or after the cake has frozen completely. You can freeze the cake with the icing on it, but some people may not like it as much. I think it still tastes good so I just put it on right away. Finally finish the cake by drizzling caramel and chocolate over the top.

Twix Ice Cream Cake

Shortbread:

2 sticks salted butter

1 cup confectioner’s sugar

2 tsp. vanilla extract

2 cups all purpose flour

  1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Spray a 9 x 13″ pan lightly with cooking spray and set aside.
  2. In a medium-sized bowl, beat together the butter, sugar and vanilla. Add the flour. At first the mixture will seem dry, but will come together as you continue to beat at medium speed.
  3. Take the dough and press it evenly into the pan.
  4. Prick the crust all over with a fork to allow for more even baking.
  5. Bake the crust until it’s lightly golden brown on top and the edges are deeper golden brown, about 35-45 minutes.
  6. Remove from the oven and immediately run a knife around the edges to loosen the crust. Set it aside to cool completely.
  7. Once cooled, place in a large ziploc bag and crumble by gently hitting with a rolling pin or mallet. Keep aside until needed in recipe below.

Ice Cream Cake

1.5 quart vanilla ice cream

1.5 quart chocolate ice cream

1/4 – 1/2 cup of caramel ice cream topping (such as Smucker’s)

10 “fun sized” mini Twix Bars, chopped.

  1. Remove the bottom from a springform pan and attach two 10″ cardboard cake circles to the bottom with medical tape.  Place in the freezer for 20-30 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, soften vanilla ice cream by sitting out at room temperature for about 10 minutes. Place half the vanilla in a mixing bowl and using ONLY a Heavy Duty Mixer, mix the ice cream at medium speed until it is just a little bit harder than soft serve ice cream.
  3. Remove the prepared pan from the freezer and spread the ice cream in the bottom. Place back in the freezer for 20 minutes.
  4. Repeat Step #2 with the chocolate ice cream, however use the entire container for the second layer.
  5. Prepare the shortbread by crushing with a rolling pin. Place shortbread crumbles in a bowl and add caramel sauce 1/4 cup at a time, mixing well between each addition. You want the crumbles to be moist, but not sticky or wet.  Return to freezer for another 20 minutes.
  6. Chop the mini twix bars and set aside.
  7. Mix the remaining vanilla ice cream in a Heavy Duty Mixer to almost “soft serve” consistency. Stir in the Twix pieces and place this on top of the cake as the last layer.
  8. Return to freezer for at least 5 hours. More is better. Once cake is pretty much frozen solid, remove the pan by sliding a knife around the edges then opening the spring on the pan and pulling off gently.
  9. Top the cake with Whipped Cream Frosting (recipe follows) and decorate as desired.

Whipped Cream Frosting

 2 cups heavy whipping cream

1 tsp. vanilla

1/4 cup powdered sugar (or more to taste)

  1. Using the whisk attachment on your mixer, combine all ingredients and mix on medium speed for a few minutes until light and fluffy.
  2. Taste the whipped cream and add more sugar, if desired. (I added about 1/2 cup +2 tbsp. because I wanted a sweeter frosting).

 

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Slimmed Down Cakes!!


Well, as expected, this week’s weigh-in was not a pleasant one….gained 2 lbs. Although I am not surprised between feeling lousy (stupid allergies!) and eating badly (it had to be the all you can eat meat buffet I took Hubby to for his b-day or the ice cream cake I made him!) I’ve just had a rough week. I’m really hoping I can get my butt back in the saddle ASAP because summer is quickly approaching and I am nowhere near where I want to be. I just have zero motivation…even the things that normally motivate me are not…just feeling kind of blah.

So I’m wondering what those of you out there do when you feel this way? How do you keep up your motivation? I really could use some advice. It’s so disheartening when I was doing so well and I thought I was really changing for the better…here I am 2 lbs heavier…:(

Anyway, enough of that pity party nonsense. Let’s get to something more interesting…like CAKE!

So as I mentioned in Sunday’s post I wanted to share some “Slimmed Down” cake recipes. I do not actually have my own recipe that I’ve come up with but I can tell you what I’ve found to be the tastiest recipes from others. Hungry Girl offers this information for cake mix and I’ve tried the pumpkin, diet soda, and yogurt versions. I have to say that my favorite is the pumpkin. It is the truest to tasting like whatever flavor cake mix you are using and has a nice texture and remains moist. The yogurt is pretty good too and the diet soda version is just “ok.” It makes an unusual texture (but stays moist) and depending on what flavor combo you use (for example: vanilla cake mix with lemon lime soda) you can taste the flavor of the soda.

Cupcake Made from Yellow Cake Mix and Diet Lemon-Lime Soda

Then there’s microwave cakes…I’ve seen so many different ways to make microwave cakes either from scratch or with a cake mix & have tried most of them, that it’s hard to even keep track of which is better than which. However, I have to say my favorite at this point is a recipe I came across on the Taste of Home website Community Boards called 3-2-1 cake (If you do a google search for this you will find a gazillion bloggers have already blogged this so I’m not sure where the recipe originated). First and foremost it’s only 2 Weight Watchers Points Plus (most of the other individual microwave cakes are 3 or 4 WWPP) and second it is the easiest to make. Basically you combine a box of angel food cake with any flavor cake mix in a large Ziploc bag. Then when you want cake you simply measure 3 tbsp. of the angel food/cake mix mixture into a small microwaveable dish, then add 2 tbsp. of water stirring until all the lumps are gone and then microwave for 1 minute! Comes out perfect and tastes great!

Another one of my favorites is to make a pumpkin cake in the microwave using 2 tbsp. of yellow cake mix, 1 tbsp. of pumpkin, and ¼ tsp. pumpkin pie spice. This cake is great with a scoop of fat free vanilla ice cream or frozen yogurt. The individual cake is also only 2 WWPP.

Last month when I made Hubby his Cadbury Cupcakes, I made a slimmed down version using devil’s food cake mix and pumpkin. Below is the recipe to make 4 cupcakes and a slimmed down frosting (will make enough for the four cupcakes). You will need a food scale to weigh the ingredients of the cupcakes. This is the best way to figure out the appropriate amount for a small batch of cupcakes. If you want to make the Cadbury cupcakes like the ones pictured, just add one mini Cadbury Crème Egg to the batter. This will make the WWPP go up to 4.

 

Slimmed Down Devil’s Food Cupcakes (Adapted from Hungry Girl)

Makes 4 cupcakes (WWPP = 3)

3 oz. devil’s food cake mix

2.5 oz. canned pumpkin

  1. Combine cake mix and pumpkin in a bowl and mix until well combined. Mixture will be thick, but do not add water!
  2. Divide batter into a muffin tin.
  3. Bake in a 350 degree F preheated oven for about 12 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean.

Slimmed Down Vanilla Frosting(Makes enough for 4 cupcakes, approx. 1 tbsp per cupcake. WWPP = 1)

2 tbsp. fat free Cool Whip, thawed

1 tsp. Sugar Free Fat Free Instant Vanilla Pudding

1 tsp. fat free or skim milk

  1. Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix until well combined and smooth.
  2. Top each cupcake with approximately 1 tbsp. of frosting.
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The Best Yellow Cake Ever…Seriously!


You know what I hate? I hate when I come across a recipe that someone calls “The Best (insert food name here). In this instance, however, there is no other way to describe this cake. It is just that good!!

The flavor is perfect, the texture is perfect…what more can I say? The key to this recipe, however is that you must not substitute anything. I have learned this from experience…when I first started out cooking and baking I didn’t really understand the difference between butter and margarine so I would use them interchangably….the cake was still good but using butter is very important. (On a side note…I always use butter for everything now. I can’t even remember the last time I bought margarine…it has to be a good couple of years!) Another time I made this, I was out of cake flour so I did a quick search on how to substitute cake flour (2 tbsp. cornstarch and just under 1 cup of all purpose flour) and made it that way. Again, it was good, but nothing special and the texture was a little off as well.  Now I only make this with the exact ingredients the recipe calls for and it comes out great every single time.

Yellow Cake

1 cup butter

1 1/2 cups white sugar

8 egg yolks

3/4 cup milk

1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

2 cups cake flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour 2 – 9 inch round pans.
  2. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
  3. Using an electric mixer, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
  4. Beat in the egg yolks one at a time, then stir in the vanilla.
  5. Beat in the flour mixture alternately with the milk, mixing just until incorporated. Pour batter into prepared pans.
  6. Bake in the preheated oven for 25 to 30 minutes, or until tops spring back when lightly tapped.
  7. Cool 15 minutes before turning out onto cooling racks.
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