Strawberry Cake

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There comes a time when you break down and listen to that voice in your head that is screaming for cake. That day, my friends was this past Monday. This weekend I made a trip to the farmer’s market and made off like a bandit on one of my finds. 8 containers of strawberries for $6. I almost ran to my car after I paid for the berries before Mr.Seller dude changed his mind. I flash froze more than half of them for smoothies and shakes, but the other berries sat in the fridge for a day or two taunting me every time I cracked the door. I kept dreaming of a cake with big chunks of fruit inside. It simply had to be done!

After perusing through my share of strawberry cakes that claimed to be from scratch but had gelatin (gasp!!) I found the winning one on one of my favorite blogs, smitten kitchen. It is a simple unassuming batter topped with a ton of berries, and sprinkled with sugar to help the strawberries turn into jam. It is simply perfect! The recipe called for a cup of sugar in the batter,  but I cut it down to 3/4 cup so the sweetness of the strawberries would be the star. I’m so glad it did. It was just the right amount of sweet for me.

I will give a firm warning though…. do not bake this cake, pull it out of the oven with just enough time to set it on the counter and snap one picture and assume it is safe to take more pictures when you return home in a couple of hours. Especially not if you have two daughters and a husband prowling around. I present exhibit A.

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This is what I found. The culprits were all in bed, with full tummies, I presume. The cake lasted less than 24 hours at my house, and we shall miss it dearly 🙂

Adapted very slightly from Smitten Kitchen.

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups  all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon table salt
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 large egg
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 pound (450 grams) strawberries, hulled and halved

-Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C). Butter a 10-inch pie pan or 9-inch deep-dish pie pan ( I used a 9-inch spring foam pan). Do not use a 9-inch regular pie dish because it will overflow.
-Whisk flour, baking powder and salt together in a small bowl. In a larger bowl, beat butter and 3/4 cup sugar until pale and fluffy with an electric mixer, about 3 minutes. Mix in egg, milk and vanilla until just combined. Add dry mixture gradually, mixing until just smooth.
-Pour into prepared pie plate. Arrange strawberries, cut side down, on top of batter, as closely as possible in a single layer. Sprinkle-remaining 2 tablespoons sugar over berries.

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-Bake cake for 10 minutes then reduce oven temperature to 325°F and bake cake until golden brown and a tester comes out free of wet batter, about 50 minutes to 60 minutes. (Gooey strawberries on the tester are a given.) Let cool in pan on a rack. Cut into wedges. Serve with lightly whipped cream. (I totally forgot to turn the temperature down, and baked mine at 350 Degrees F for 48 minutes).
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Cake can be stored at room temperature for up to 2 days, loosely covered, but clearly it didn’t survive that long at my house!
Devotion For The Day:
Two years ago, my family started planting potted plants. It is a fun project for my older daughter because she actually gets to see the plants change over time, and there’s the added bonus that when she’s off school for the summer, she gets paid to water the plants. We do flowers all year round in some pots, and herbs in some for the spring and summer. This year we were late in starting her off with her job, and we ended up with VERY dried out rose bushes. It was remarkable how quickly they went from blooming in the spring, to bone dry a few weeks later. I felt terrible, because I was sure they were gone for good. I was actually getting ready to pull them out and toss them, but my husband pruned them off and insisted that if we water them consistently for a few weeks, they will survive. I will be honest and say that I was extremely skeptical, but figured we might as well try.
Well, they are back! A week or so ago, green new leaves started breaking through, and we were so excited about it. Walking past them the other day, I had this thought that has stayed with me. I thought of all the times that I have been in such a dire situation that I thought all was lost, or when I have watched someone and thought that there is no way that they can get out of the jam that they are in. Except with God, nothing is impossible. He can breath life into a situation that looks totally dead, and bring life to it. I have seen too many lives changed to doubt any more.
Two verses come to mind. John 6:35 Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. The second is Matthew 19:26, Jesus looked at them and said, “with man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible”.
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Cream cheese frosting …..and a turtle cake!

A couple weeks ago, I had the pleasure of making this pull apart turtle cake for a sweet friend of our family who was turning 3. He got to take the cupcakes to school and share with his friends, and I got to play around with frosting.  It was a win- win situation for all involved:-) The frosting of choice when it comes to any cake at my house is almost always cream cheese frosting. To say we like it is an understatement. My husband for years had always said how much he hated frosting, until I baked him pumpkin spice cupcakes with cinnamon cream cheese frosting, and now he is the first one to ask where the mixing bowl is when I’m done frosting. I think what we like most about it is that it’s not achingly sweet like some frosting can be.

I made two batches of the frosting. One stayed as vanilla flavored (which I colored lime green) and the other got turned into chocolate frosting. As I mentioned above, I have also in the past added cinnamon, and it is insanely delicious on carrot cake, pumpkin cake or banana cake. Just add 2 teaspoons of cinnamon to the vanilla recipe, and you are in frosting heaven. It makes for a good base recipe that you can change up with different extract flavors. Make sure to use cream cheese and butter that has been sitting out of the fridge for a little while and has softened. It makes it much easier to cream together.

I took pictures to show the steps for making the pull apart cupcake cake. I’m totally fascinated by these, and they are perfect for so many reasons. They are easier to frost, easy to serve, and they look like you put waaaay more effort than they really require. I have made a pull-apart bridal shower cupcake cake before, and I’m eager to find more ideas for future cakes. My kids birthdays are in the fall, and I’m already trying to think up ideas. I got the steps for the turtle off the Betty Crocker site. I used M& M candy for the eyes, mini choc chips for the nostrils, a red Twizzler for the mouth, and a green one for the tail. The cupcakes were vanilla.

For best results, keep the cake refrigerated until you need it. The frosting gets soft from sitting out.

Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting:

1 (8 Ounce) Block Cream cheese, softened

1/2 stick (4 tbsp) butter, softened

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

3 cups confectioner’s sugar

Food coloring (optional) I used gel that was lime green.

1. Using a hand held mixer or a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, cream together the cream cheese and butter until it is well combined. Add in the vanilla.

2. Starting on low speed, add in a cup of confectioners sugar at a time. Increase the speed once the sugar has been somewhat incorporated, or else you will end up wearing half of it 🙂 I’ve been there! Mix until all the lumps are gone and the frosting is smooth.

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3. If adding food coloring, add a few drops at a time until you have the desired color.

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Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting.

Use the vanilla cream cheese frosting recipe above, but add 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder in with the confectioners sugar. If the frosting is a little stiffer than desired, add a spoonful of milk at a time until it is the right consistency. I added 2 tablespoons of milk to mine.

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Turtle Cake:

Here is the link for the step by step instructions from Betty Crocker.

You will need 12 cupcakes for one pull apart cake.

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Starting with 7 cupcakes, arrange them as shown above and frost them with the chocolate frosting.

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Frost 5 cupcakes green and attach them as shown to make the head, arms and feet. Next, outline the shell and fill in with crack like pattern.

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Add in the final decorative elements for the face. I used twizzlers for the mouth and tail, M&Ms for the eyes, and chocolate chips for the nostrils.

Devotion For The Day:
It truly amazes me how a certain scent or smell will stop you right in your tracks. The smell of freshly cut grass, the smell of the ocean, the hunger pang inducing aroma coming from the bakery across the street. We all have experienced it in one way or another. The smell of warm cinnamon is enough to lighten my mood. With that visual in mind, I was captivated by a verse I read recently. 2nd Corinthians 2:15 says: For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. I read this at least a week ago, but I cannot get that image out of my mind. It has made my prayer each morning that I would be a sweet fragrance in the way that I carry myself out, knowing that I have the opportunity to be the aroma of Christ that day.

Citrus Curd

The last few weeks have been a blur! I have tried to come up with a really good excuse for not blogging in almost a month, but I cannot come up with a single good reason. I’m glad to be back on track though. I have been trying to figure out which recipe has been most memorable to me in the last few weeks, and it has to be citrus curd. This may also be because I tried at least 3 different versions of it. I had a pull apart cupcake cake to make for a bridal shower (I will post a picture soon. It was shaped like a wedding dress, and so much fun to make), as well as an orange italian cream cake to make in the last few weeks, and I used citrus curd as the filling for both. Citrus curd was my filling of choice partly because I’ve had tons of oranges and lemons around my house lately, and partly because I LOVE lemon curd, and have enjoyed adding oranges to make my curd. If you have never tried lemon curd or citrus curd before, please change this ASAP. It is like liquid gold. It goes great as a topping for toast, filling for cake, filling for pies or my favorite way… dip spoon, lick, enjoy! The cool thing is that there are a ton of different ways to make it, yet after trying 3 different ways, microwave, stove top and over a double boiler, I found little to no difference. What this means for me is that I am definitely going to be using the microwave method from now on. It comes together really quick, and tastes just as good as if you slaved over the stove top.

Try this today! You can thank me later 🙂

Adapted from Allrecipes
Makes 2 Cups
Ingredients:
1 cup white sugar
3 eggs
1 cup fresh squeezed orange, lime and lemon juice (all 3 combined make 1 cup)
zest of 1 orange, 1 lime and 2 lemons
1/2 cup butter, melted (1 stick)

Note: First zest the fruit, before squeezing out the juice. It is much easier this way.

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In a microwave safe dish, whisk together sugar and eggs until smooth. Add in the juice, zest and butter. Microwave in 1 minute intervals, stirring after each minute. The curd is done when the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a metal spoon. (This varies by microwave, but mine took 4 minutes).
Remove from microwave and pass through a sieve to remove any little bits of egg, and zest. The curd will get a little thicker as it cools. Pour into small sterile jars and store refrigerated for up to 3 weeks.

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Here’s a picture of the pull apart cake that I made for the shower. I used lemon cupcakes, cored out some of the center and filled with this citrus curd. It was much easier than I had anticipated that it would be, since the other alternative was to make a large sheet cake and frost it. My frosting skills are no bueno!
The cake idea was from a friend of mine who saw it on this site, via pinterest.
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Devotion for the day:

Today I’m reading from Romans 12.
Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God-this is your spiritual act of worship. 2. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is-his good , pleasing and perfect will.

Romans 12:1-2 are verses that have come to mean so much to me in the last few months as I am seeking to grow deeper in my walk with God. The biggest obstacle for me has always been pre-conceived ideas about who God really is. I think along the way, I just picked up beliefs without really testing them against the word of God. This led me more towards religion than true relationship. I guess that’s why as I read Romans 12:2 about  renewing of my mind, I know that it’s exactly what I need. To have a fresh understanding of my Daddy based on truth, and not what the world says God is. To be able to know Him so well that I can test what comes my way against His good, pleasing and perfect will for my life.

Chocolate covered Strawberries

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I have thought about this post for a few days now, and talked myself into, and then out of posting this recipe. After all… it’s a week after Valentine’s Day! Who wants to read about chocolate covered strawberries now? After much back and forth, I decided I had to post it, for a number of reasons. First, who said we can only have these delightful treasures on Valentine’s day. Secondly, how easy and inexpensive they are (it cost me $14 for the chocolate and a big pack of strawberries). That reason alone is good enough to make me post this. You see, I was at some store the other day, and casually walked by the chocolate covered strawberries, thinking how pretty they were, and how they needed to come home with me. This was before I looked at the price tag, and almost burst into a sprint in the opposite direction. $12 for 4 strawberries????? Seriously????? There was no way I could justify it. The third reason is that it’s a kid friendly recipe. It’s really hard to mess this up, so it’s perfect for little hands. My daughter had fun with this one.

My daughters woke up to a Valentine’s card and chocolate from their Daddy last Thursday, and my oldest wanted to do something special to thank Daddy. Since I am terrible with artsy stuff, a craft was WAY out of the question. The only option I really had was to cook something. I wanted to make something pretty that would not take us all afternoon, but could greatly involve her in the process. This was the perfect thing. She also wanted to share some treats with our sweet neighbors who have become her adopted grandparents. This way, we were able to kill two birds with one stone. Making these was a ton of fun for both of us. I could be a bit more relaxed since there weren’t a bunch of steps for her to follow (I am terrible when it comes to relinquishing control of my kitchen. I’m trying to learn….), and she had fun licking the chocolate bowl when we were done.

As far as the recipe goes, I will give you my instructions that are microwave directions. I had every intention of using a double boiler on the stovetop to melt my chocolate, until I realized my bowl would not fit on the saucepan that I had. The microwave was my last option, but proved to be so easy, I will do it this way every time from here on. I used semi-sweet chocolate and white chocolate, but any chocolate would do. Feel free to substitute milk or dark chocolate. I also think it would be fun to play around with different toppings next time, like shredded coconut or nuts. Just dip the strawberries in chocolate, then roll in the toppings before the chocolate dries. Have fun, and make them your own.

One more thing. I had big blocks of Styrofoam from an appliance we had just purchased, so I used that to hold the toothpicks until the chocolate dried. If you don’t have some handy, just line a pan with some parchment paper, or wax paper and lay them on it. They will be a little flat on one side when they dry, but just as good. You could also do this without the toothpicks, and just hold the strawberries by the stem. I just like the less messy method with the toothpick.

We had a pretty big packet of strawberries, so we were able to get a little over 30 covered berries. If you want to make less than that, be sure to adjust your chocolate accordingly. These make excellent packaged gifts.

Ingredients.

32 strawberries

12 ounces semi-sweet chocolate

1 tablespoon vegetable oil (optional)

6 ounces white chocolate

1. Stick a toothpick on the stem end of the strawberries. Make sure the strawberries are totally dry, or the chocolate will not adhere to them.

2.Put your semi-sweet chocolate in a microwave safe dish. Set the microwave to half power, and heat for a minute at a time, stirring after each time. You want the chocolate just melted (too much and it will seize up on you, and become un-usable). Mine took just over 2 minutes. Once it is melted, if you choose to, add in a tablespoon of vegetable oil (this makes it more glossy, and helps with the texture).

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3. Working quickly, hold the toothpick and dip into the chocolate about 3/4 way up the strawberry. Dip the berries, and then  twist them a little to get the excess chocolate off. Place on the styrofoam block, or parchment lined tray.

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4. Put the white chocolate in a Ziploc bag. Melt in the microwave 30 seconds at a time until just barely melted. Mine took 1 1/2 minutes. Cut a very small hole on one end and squeeze to decorate over the dark chocolate. The smaller the hole, the better. (You could also melt the chocolate in a bowl and use a fork to drizzle the white chocolate).

5. Set aside to dry. It takes about 30 minutes.

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Devotion For The Day:

It’s still February, the month of love! I think of all the cards and flowers, chocolate and other gifts that go out every February as we take the time to celebrate our loved ones. I have been reminded a lot in the last few days though, about the ultimate love. God’s love. The kind of love that chases after me with reckless abandon. The kind of love that I don’t have to earn,  and that never diminishes. Today I want to share one of my favorite verses, because it really helps me grasp how deep and unconditional God’s  love for us is.

Romans 5:8. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.