Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Best Dessert Secrets

Are you curious about my most requested desserts? Well, the most popular ones are my signature vanilla cake for events and red velvet cake balls for casual occasions. But, there is one other dessert that stands above the others, especially in the summer, and that is... banana cream pie!

What makes this refreshing treat so amazing? I'm going to share the love and spill some of my secrets!

Your average banana cream pie is layered in a standard pastry pie shell. The buttery, flaky crust can be good, but I think my Nilla Wafer crumb crust elevates the banana cream pie to a new level.

It's like taking the best parts of a southern banana pudding and transforming them into a masterpiece. Don't forget the added bonus that a crumb crust is so much easier to make than a pastry crust! You never have to worry that your ingredients won't be cold enough or that you've over mixed the dough. Just mix, press, and bake.

The vanilla custard filling of a banana cream pie is pretty simple. I promise there is no need to cheat with a boxed pudding mix. Use a recipe that incorporates real ingredients like milk, sugar, and egg yolks, and you're on your way to a good pie. For that extra special touch, I use real vanilla beans scraped right out of the pod instead of vanilla extract. Speaking of vanilla beans, I buy them in bulk online and have used them to make my own vanilla extract, too. You should give it a try.

And by all means, please make your own fresh whipped cream! It really is worth the extra effort to get that light, fluffy, not too sweet topping to finish off your pie.

If you still think you're not cut out for cooking, I can always make this delicious pie for you. :)

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Southwest Salad and Baked Poblano Rings

Since I knew I would have plenty more of the corn/black bean salsa from my buttermilk chicken recipe, I decided to plan that into another meal for the week. Last night, we had southwest salads, and I tried out a new baked poblano pepper ring recipe. This meal would be great for vegetarians, or you could add taco meat or chicken to the salad to bulk it up.

Southwest Salad

romaine lettuce, roughly chopped
iceberg lettuce, roughly chopped
green onions, chopped
tomatoes, diced
low fat cheddar, shredded
tortilla chips, crushed lightly

Just mix up your preferred amount of the ingredients. I drizzled my salad with a trio of taco sauce, low-fat three-cheese ranch dressing, and light lime vinaigrette dressing.

My apologies for the blurry photo; I took a quick one and didn't check it before the salads were already eaten. Plus, I didn't get a pic after the dressing was drizzled on, and it looked prettier then. But a blurry picture is better than none, right?

Baked Poblano Pepper Rings

I basically used this recipe for the pepper rings (except that recipe would make a huge amount - I only used 3 small peppers, and it was still far too many for the 2 of us). My crumbs were a mixture of jalapeno flavored kettle chips and a bit of the corn flake and panko crumb mix I had leftover from the buttermilk fried chicken. These were a huge mess to make, but they weren't bad. If I make them again, I will use the food processor on the crumbs instead of my ziplock/rolling pin method because finer crumbs would have made coating easier. I skipped it this time because the dishes were already piling up.  I was relieved that they didn't taste very spicy at all. We dipped our rings in salsa or queso cheese, but a lot of dipping sauces could be used.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Buttermilk Baked Crispy Chicken with Garlic Mashed Potatoes, Roasted Corn and Black Bean Salsa, and Lemon Butter

One of my favorite dishes at Bahama Breeze is the buttermilk fried chicken. I've only had it once, but it was amazing. It is not your typical fried chicken; there is so much going on in this dish. Since we hardly ever go to Bahama Breeze, I decided I really wanted to try to recreate this meal. It is a bit complicated and will give you a huge grocery list, but it's so worth it. See the bottom of this post for the inspiration photo and link to Bahama Breeze's menu. I think my version came out pretty close, even though it is baked instead of fried.

I didn't measure out everything when I was cooking, so this multi-part recipe is just to give you the basic guidelines. Please read through everything before you begin as there are so many steps, it is easy to miss something. Seriously, I completely forgot about the spinach, tomatoes, and cheese until the chicken was already cooked, but luckily that only took a couple minutes.

Hope you enjoy!

*** Basic Dinner Steps

Prepare beforehand:
  • Marinate the chicken the night before or morning of.
  • Prepare the salsa the night before or morning of.
Order of preparation for dinner:
  • Start the chicken.
  • Start the potatoes.
  • Make the lemon butter.
  • Sautee garlic for the potatoes and mash/season them.
  • Prepare the spinach/tomato/cheeses for the chicken.
  • When chicken is done, sandwich 2 pieces with the spinach/tomato/cheeses mixture.
  • Plate the mashed potatoes, top with sandwiched chicken, heat if needed.
  • Garnish with the salsa and lemon butter and eat.
Approximate recipes follow. Prepare yours according to taste, or for more exact recipes, see the inspiration recipes at the bottom of the post.

*** Recipes

Roasted Corn, Roasted Triple Pepper, and Black Bean Salsa
Note: This recipe makes a huge amount - more than enough for 4 chicken breasts and leftovers.

11 ounce can corn (or frozen or fresh)
15 ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained
2 jalapeno peppers, sliced in half vertically
1/2 small red bell pepper
1/2 small green bell pepper
1/4 small onion, diced
1 green onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 medium ripe tomato, diced
1-2 tbsp fresh lime juice
fresh cilantro, chopped (to taste)
dash oregano, salt, pepper, cumin

  • Spray a skillet lightly with oil and heat on medium-high.
  • Cook corn in the skillet until lightly roasted (brown/black spots on parts of the corn). This will work best with fresh but can work with canned.
  • Remove corn to a separate dish.
  • Add a bit more oil to the skillet.
  • Add the onions to the skillet and cook over medium a couple of minutes until translucent.
  • Add the garlic and cook another minute.
  • Add the onions and garlic to the corn and allow to cool while preparing the rest of the salsa.
  • Put the bell peppers and jalapeno halves on a foiled baking sheet and broil in toaster oven or oven until skins are mostly black.
  • Put peppers in a sealed ziplock to steam for 10 minutes, then peel off the skins. Chop the peppers and add to the corn mixture.
  • Add the tomato, green onion, lime juice, cilantro, and seasonings as desired to the salsa and chill for a few hours so the flavors can blend.
  • Pull out to warm up somewhat when you're preheating the oven for the chicken, unless you want to serve it cold or heat it up, either way works.

Buttermilk Marinated Crispy Baked Chicken

low-fat buttermilk
boneless skinless chicken breasts
Corn flakes
Panko Crumbs (optional)
Parmesan Cheese (optional)
seasonings (salt, pepper, cayenne, thyme, onion powder, garlic powder for example)
lemon juice

Directions beforehand:
  • Marinate the chicken overnight in just enough buttermilk to coat chicken (I used a ziplock bag).
  • Pound the chicken the next morning, then cut each breast in half (this could be done before initial marinating).
  • Add desired seasonings and sprinkle with lemon juice and massage into chicken.
  • Add chicken back to the buttermilk (I added a little more fresh buttermilk to the bag) to continue marinating.
When ready to cook:
  • Preheat oven to 400.
  • Get out a baking sheet and a wire baking rack that will fit inside the pan.
  • Spray the rack with oil (and foil the pan if you want to cut back on some of the mess).
  • Crush corn flakes (I put in a ziplock and use a rolling pin).
  • Mix corn flakes with some panko crumbs (I used about twice as many corn flake crumbs as panko) and throw in some more of your seasonings and parmesan cheese.
  • Put crumbs in a bowl for dipping.
  • Get out a second bowl for initial dipping and pour some of the buttermilk marinade in. Add a bit of egg white (probably optional) and some flour and mix well until you have a thin paste. It should be able to stick to the chicken somewhat but not be too thick. If you don't want to do this step, you can probably just put the lightly buttermilked chicken straight into the crumbs.
  • Dip the chicken in the buttermilk batter, then dip it in the corn flake coating. Arrange the chicken on the wire rack.
  • Bake the chicken until cooked through or 165 degrees. It took mine 30-35 minutes, but it will depend on the thickness of the chicken after you pound it.

Lemon Butter Sauce

1 whole clove garlic, peeled
1 green onion, bottom half, whole
1 tbsp white wine
1.5 tbsp fresh lemon juice
6 tbsp butter
1/2 tsp honey

  • Add the wine, lemon juice, garlic, and green onion to a small saucepan and heat over medium-high until liquid has reduced by about half.
  • Discard green onion and garlic.
  • Remove pan from heat and whisk in the butter until fully melted and blended.
  • Taste the sauce. If it is too sour, add a little honey or more butter to mellow it out.

Garlic Mashed Potatoes

Baking potatoes, peeled and diced
Butter to taste
Milk to taste
Minced Garlic
Salt and Pepper

  • Boil the potatoes until fork tender, about 15-20 minutes, then drain.
  • In a skillet, add a little butter and cook the garlic for a minute on medium (if making the salsa the same day, you can do this after you cook the corn/onions for the salsa and refrigerate until ready to make the potatoes).
  • Add the garlic and butter to the potatoes and mash.
  • Add milk to thin mashed potatoes to desired consistency.
  • Season with salt and pepper.

Garnish/Assembly for Chicken

Fresh Spinach, chopped
Chopped Tomato
Shredded cheese (I used monterrey jack and medium cheddar)
Salt and Pepper
Spray Butter (optional)

  • Wilt the spinach in a bowl, heated in the microwave for about 30 seconds. You will need a lot more than you'll think you'd need because it cooks down so much.
  • Add the tomatoes to the spinach.
  • Season with salt and pepper and spritz a little lite butter spray on it if desired.
  • When chicken is cooked, top one patty with some of the spinach/tomato mixture and add cheese, then add another patty on top.
  • You can heat this up if the cheese isn't melting. I used plates that are oven safe, and went ahead and put the mashed potatoes and the stuffed chicken on it (leaving off the salsa) and heated it until the cheese was melted.
  • Then add the corn/bean salsa to your plate and drizzle the lemon butter on.
  • Finally, serve this amazing dish and enjoy!

*** The Inspiration Restaurant Dish

*** The Inspiration Recipes

These are the recipes I used as guidelines for what to do. I am sure you could do well using these recipes as is, along with any garlic mashed potato recipe.

A combo of:

Friday, June 17, 2011

Healthier Spiced Pumpkin Bars with Cream Cheese Frosting and Toasted Pecans

It's been a while, but since I've created the CBC Cakes website to showcase my sweet treats, I haven't felt the need to post on here as much. All of the pictures of my creations can be found in the CBC Cakes and More Photo Gallery. Still, I will try to post a few recipes here when I have time.

These pumpkin bars are very much like cake, but not as sweet or quite as fluffy. I first got the idea from Sweet Pea's Kitchen - Pumpkin Bars with Cream Cheese Frosting, who adapted her recipe from Paula Dean's Pumpkin Bars.

I adjusted the recipe quite a bit more, in an attempt to cut down on some of the fat and calories. My recipe replaces most of the oil with no-sugar-added applesauce, replaces eggs with egg beaters, and uses lite cream cheese and less butter in the frosting. I also added more spices and some brown sugar because some reviews of Paula Dean's recipe said hers were too bland, and I definitely think the added spice was a good idea. I also topped the bars with toasted pecan bits, which I really think takes this up to the next level. The final touch was grinding some cinnamon on top (from Mccormick's cinnamon grinder). I bet baking some chocolate chips or nuts in the bars would be great too.

The first time, I cut this recipe in half and baked it in an 8x8 pan. That provided 12 good sized bars, plenty for every day purposes, but they were a little on the thick size. With the full recipe, I split it between one 8x8 and one 9x13 pan which I think produced a better thickness of bars, since you get more frosting to bar ratio, and they are a little easier to eat when they are thinner. The full recipe made 32 bars (12 for small pan and 20 for large pan).

Healthier Spiced Pumpkin Bars with Cream Cheese Frosting and Toasted Pecans


For the Pumpkin Bar:

2/3 cup egg beaters
1 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup vegetable oil
8 ounces no sugar added applesauce
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
15-ounce can pumpkin
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

For the Cream Cheese Frosting:

8-ounce package lite cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
2.5-3 cups confectioners’ sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Toppings (optional):
1/2 cup toasted chopped pecans (I toast these while the bars are baking for about 6 minutes)
ground cinnamon

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 13 by 9-inch (and an 8x8 baking pan for thinner bars).
  • In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the egg beaters, sugar, brown sugar, applesauce, oil, pumpkin, and vanilla and beat on medium speed until well blended.
  • In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice, salt, and baking soda.
  • Hand mix the dry ingredients into the pumpkin mixture until just combined. Do not overmix. Spread the batter into the prepared pans. Bake for 20-30 minutes or until toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean (check the 8x8 at 20 minutes and the 9x13 at 25 minutes). Transfer to a wire rack and allow to cool completely. I usually cut them after they've sat just a few minutes in the pan and then move them to a cookie sheet, as they cool faster this way.
  • In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the cream cheese and butter and beat on medium speed until smooth. Add the sugar, and mix at low speed until combined. Stir in the vanilla and mix again.
  • Spread the frosting (or pipe it on with a star shaped tip like the bars shown below) on cooled pumpkin bars. Top with toasted pecans and add ground cinnamon if desired.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Jeep 3D Cake

I decided to attempt making a Jeep birthday cake for my brother who is a big fan of Jeeps. After browsing a few photos of other cakes online,  I decided to just look at the actual Jeep pictures instead of modeling after an inspiration cake. It certainly wasn't perfect, but you get the idea, and I learn more every time I design a cake.

Inside of the cake - white cake with raspberry filling and white chocolate frosting.

For this cake I used 2 boxes of white cake mix to save time, but instead of following box directions, I mixed the following ingredients with each box of mix:
- 3 eggs
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 cup milk (I used 2%)
- 1/4 cup water
- about 1/3 package of white chocolate pudding mix
- 1/4 cup butter, softened
- 2 tbsp oil

I made one smaller rectangular pan (I think it is 7"x11") and 6 cupcakes with one box, and two 8"x8" cakes with the other box. I saved the cake scraps leftover from cutting the cakes to use for cake balls later.

For the filling, I used 1 container of fresh raspberries and added about 1/2 cup of water mixed with a couple of spoons of corn starch, a little more than 1/2 cup of sugar, and a dash of lemon juice, and cooked it down until the berries broke up and the sauce was thickened. Then I pushed it all through a strainer to remove the seeds. The filling ended up being exactly the right amount, and I only ended up with about a spoonful leftover.

The frosting was mostly based on Wilton's White Chocolate Buttercream recipe, which I modified slightly and cut down by 2/3, which was exactly the amount I needed for this cake.

Buttercream Frosting 

  • 6 ounces white baking chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 1/4 cup whipping cream
  • 1/3 cup solid vegetable shortening
  • 1/3 cup butter
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cups confectioners' sugar
Makes: Icing serves 2 cups.
Add the whipping cream to chopped white chocolate and microwave on 50% power until mostly melted. Stir until the chocolate is completely blended into the cream, and put it in fridge to chill while you mix other ingredients. Beat together the shortening and butter with the paddle of stand mixer.  Add the vanilla and powdered sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Slowly add the slightly cooled but still melted chocolate and cream mixture while beating until fully incorporated.

I softened 1/3 cup of Cool Whip in the microwave and folded it into the frosting to lighten it up, since my brother prefers whipped frosting.

Here's the cake after trimming and assembling.

The side view of the cake. I cut out the shapes for the tires, running boards, and bumpers from the larger cake. Then I figured out how much I needed to build the body. I cut down the 8x8 to fit on top of the larger sized cake, and I used some of the trimmings to make the hood taller.

The cake after frosting, squished in my fridge.

Beginnings of tires, which were cut down cupcakes, lightly frosted and covered with chocolate (dyed black) fondant.

The one major thing I missed was the side mirrors, oops! I remembered the gas cap and wipers, but did not realize the mirrors were missing until I delivered the cake. Next time, I will definitely add them.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Lemon Triple Berry Cake

This was a simple cake I made at the last minute for a friend's birthday. I asked another friend what flavors the birthday girl might like, and she said anything fruity, so I decided to go with berries and a light lemon flavor.

Cooking the berry sauce.

Straining out the berry seeds.

The finished cake, with triple berry decorations.

The recipe was very similar to this Lemon Raspberry Layer Cake except I used strawberries, raspberries, and blueberries for the sauce instead of just raspberries. If I make it again, I will leave out the strawberries from the sauce, as I didn't think they went very well with the other flavors in the cake.

I also used my standard buttercream frosting with a little lemon extract and lemon juice. At the last minute, I decided to do a light glaze over each layer, because I thought the cake looked a little dry, and it wasn't very lemony. The glaze probably made the whole cake a bit too sweet though. Oh well, I am learning!

Simple White Fondant Covered White Cake

This was the 6" trial cake I made before attempting the farm cake. It was my first time making marshmallow fondant and covering a cake with fondant. This little cake certainly wasn't perfect looking, but I am still amazed by how easy fondant is when you get the hang of it.

This cake used the same white cake recipe, frosting recipe, and fondant recipe as the farm cake.