Sunday, September 21, 2014

Tuxedo Cake

Day 85

Copyright, Doug Kapustin Photography, 2014
Tuxedo cake, anyone? What a lovely dessert to make for a birthday or special event! I think I’m going to make this one again when our book club meets. 

The recipe is quick and easy, with shortcuts galore. Enjoy!

Tuxedo Cake
1 pkg. (2-layer size) devil's food cake mix
1 pkg. (3.9 oz.)  Chocolate Instant Pudding
¼ cup milk
1½ pkg. (8 oz. each) Cream Cheese, softened
½ cup butter, softened
1½ tsp. vanilla
6 cups powdered sugar
3 oz. Semi-Sweet Chocolate, divided
½ of 8-oz. tub Whipped Topping (Do not thaw.)

Heat oven to 350. 

Prepare cake batter and bake as directed on package for 2 (9-inch) round cake layers, blending dry pudding mix and milk into batter before pouring into prepared pans. (Batter will be thick.) Cool cakes 10 min.; remove from pans to wire racks. Cool completely.

Meanwhile, beat cream cheese, butter and vanilla in large bowl with mixer until blended. Gradually beat in sugar. 

Cut each cake layer horizontally in half. Stack on plate, spreading ¾ cup cream cheese frosting between each layer. Spread remaining frosting onto top and side of cake.

Microwave whipped topping and remaining semi-sweet chocolate in microwaveable bowl on HIGH 1- ½ min., stirring after 1 min.; stir until chocolate is completely melted and mixture is well blended. Cool 5 min. Pour over cake, letting excess drip down side. Garnish with chocolate curls if desired. Keep refrigerated.

Recipe from Kraft, at

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Sweet Potato Pound Cake

Day 84 

This week’s recipe is from my good friend and trusted cooking mentor, Deborah. She posted it for friends recently on Facebook, and she shared that she had great success with it. Her pictures and description made my mouth water, so I couldn’t resist giving it a try. Whenever Deborah posts a recipe and tries it, I know it will be one that I can use and trust.
Copyright, Doug Kapustin Photography, 2014

Originally, the recipe is from, where you can also find many other delicious dishes if you’re so inclined. This pound cake is dense, moist, and filled with the perfect blend of fall flavors. It’s a real must-try for this time of year!

I made my favorite caramel glaze to pour atop the cake, and you can decide if that’s something you want to add. The glaze recipe is below, in case you’re interested. Both Deborah and I agree that having a glaze really does enhance the cake’s flavor. 

Thanks, Deborah, for your friendship, your culinary expertise, and for your commendable Christian parenting to two of the best students I’ve ever had the pleasure of teaching! 

Sweet Potato Pound Cake 

3 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
¼ tsp nutmeg
¼ tsp mace (optional)
¼ tsp cinnamon 
1 cup unsalted butter (softened) 
2½ cups sweet potato (cooked mashed)
4 eggs
1½ tsp vanilla
1½ cups granulated sugar
¼ cup light brown sugar (packed)
1 cup of Chopped Pecans

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and dust with flour a Bundt pan.

Mix flour, baking powder, baking soda, nutmeg, mace, and cinnamon in a medium sized bowl.
In a large bowl, beat at high speed with electric mixer, the unsalted butter, granulated sugar and brown sugar until light and fluffy.

At low speed, add sweet potato and eggs one at a time until well mixed.

Beat flour mixture into the sweet potato mixture. Add vanilla and mix.

Pour batter into Bundt Pan. Add Pecans evenly on top of mix. 

Bake for approximately 45–55 minutes.  Cool in rack, pecan side up. Glaze if desired (see below).  Serve warm or cold and can be frozen.

Caramel Drizzle/Glaze:
1 – 14 oz can sweetened condensed milk
1 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons butter
½ teaspoon vanilla extract

In a medium saucepan, combine condensed milk and brown sugar; bring to a boil over medium-high heat, whisking frequently. Reduce heat, and SIMMER for 8 minutes, whisking frequently. Remove from heat; whisk in butter and vanilla. Let cool for 5 minutes before using. NOTE: Make sure you drizzle the caramel while it’s still HOT. *

*When cooled, the caramel does somewhat harden.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Chocolate Mocha Gooey Butter Cake

Day 83

Think brownies, but then think bigger. Today’s dessert is the easiest I’ve tried in a long time, but it’s so smooth, rich, and delicious that it’s very deceiving when  served. You know how, sometimes, a dessert just tastes complicated? This is too delicious to be so quick and painless, you think. You’ll get that very same feeling with this dessert, but it will prove to be just as easy as promised. 

I served it with store bought vanilla ice cream, which was a nice touch. Talenti and Haagan Daaz make excellent vanilla bean ice creams with minimal ingredients. If I had the energy and had planned ahead a bit better, I like to think
Copyright 2014, Doug Kapustin Photography
I would have made homemade coffee ice cream as the topper. The best coffee ice cream I’ve ever had is a recipe from Ree Drummond that I’ve only found in her book The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Food from my Frontier. Look for it at your local bookstore; it’s worth the shopping trip. 

When I first tasted this chocolate dessert, my well-exercised culinary imagination conjured up a thick-crusted, upside-down chocolate chess pie, if such a thing existed. The texture and flavors are similar, to be sure. As thoughts go, each bite brought to mind some fond memories of my grandmother’s chocolate chess pie—a dessert I’d request frequently when I visited my grandparents’ house. This was my mother’s mother, who really was quite a good cook, but perhaps not quite as good as her husband, my grandfather. Between the two of them, they could lay a spread on the table that could have served as the quintessential cross-section of the American South at dinnertime. Country fried steak or pork chops, fried chicken, chicken livers, biscuits, cornbread, slow cooked beans and greens, and a sideboard of pies and cakes of every variety. It’s hard to imagine that all of these could be served for the same dinner, but they were, at least on special occasions. My grandparents, Nanny and Pawpaw, I called them, were old-fashioned, country Southern cooks. I remember Pawpaw telling me that he began making biscuits at four years old, when his mother gave him a stool on which to stand so he could reach the block for rolling out biscuit dough. I desperately wish I had paid better attention to their cooking styles as a child, but I was concerned with other things, of course. 

At any rate, holiday or Sunday meals at Nanny and PawPaw’s were delightfully bloating and story-worthy affairs. There were days afterward of endless recounting, trying to remember how certain conversations or strange and awkward episodes began. We were always privy to some major burst of someone’s anger, as well as a moment or two of shocking or hilarious misplaced showmanship. Looking back, I’d love to have another opportunity to experience a family meal there because, no matter what, there was no other place any of us would rather have been. 

I suppose the reason I’m reminiscing about these meals and reunions today is that our family lost a very special person last week. My uncle—my mother’s brother Robert—died at home, with his loving wife and one of his sons by his side, following an extended battle with Fronto Temporal Degeneration (FTD). This is a form of dementia, although distinct and faster in its decline than all other types, from what I’ve learned.  Most assuredly, FTD is a terrible, quickly debilitating disease that robs a person of independence, both in mind and in body. It is a disease that, as it progressed, must have been very horrific to watch and even harder to nurse.  God bless his wife and bedside nurse, Judy, for selflessly and lovingly caring for him through this surely trying and often hellacious experience. 

I know I can speak for our entire family when I say that we would give anything to rewind the years together to enjoy a delicious and surely eventful meal around Nanny and Pawpaw’s table, set upon the stage of their 18th century historic home. Uncle Robert would have been the center of the room—the veritable star of the show, so to speak—using his light-hearted, fun-loving, and gentle-spirited demeanor to entertain every single attendee. 

Robert, we miss you. I’m sorry we didn’t spend more time together when you were here with us, and I’m praying today that you are feasting at the Lord’s table with all of your pets, friends, and loved ones who passed before you. You were a treasure. 

Chocolate Mocha Gooey Butter Cake*

1 egg, lightly beaten
½ cup butter, melted and cooled
1 -2-layer-size pkg. chocolate cake mix
1 -8 -ounce package cream cheese, softened
2 eggs
1 -16-ounce package powdered sugar
½ cup butter, melted and cooled
¼ cup chocolate fudge topping
2 tablespoons very strong brewed coffee or espresso**
1 teaspoon vanilla
Powdered sugar (optional)

In a medium bowl, stir together 1 egg and ½  cup melted butter. Stir in dry cake mix until combined (You may need to work the mixture together by hand, as it will be thick). Press evenly into the bottom of a greased 13x9x2-inch baking pan. Bake in a 350 degrees oven for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a large mixing bowl, beat cream cheese with an electric mixer until fluffy. Add 2 eggs, one at a time, beating on low speed after each addition just until combined. Gradually add 16 ounces powdered sugar, 1 cup at a time, beating on low speed until smooth. Slowly add ½ cup melted butter, the chocolate topping, coffee and vanilla, continuing to beat on low speed until just combined. Pour batter over baked cake crust.

Bake for 35 minutes*** more (center will not appear to be set). Cool completely in pan on a wire rack before cutting into bars. If you like, sprinkle with additional powdered sugar. Cut into bars.

* The recipe was pulled from an older magazine I found; I had torn it out months ago and couldn’t remember the magazine name, but I researched it and found it at this link, also:

**I used 2 tbs. instant coffee powder mixed with two tablespoons water to make the strong coffee for the recipe. 

***The second time I tried this recipe, I baked it about 30 minutes instead of 35 to have a softer dessert, and I liked it better. You might want to try it the original way first, then bake for less time the second time to compare. 

Monday, September 1, 2014

Cowgirl Quiche from The Pioneer Woman

Day 82

Today’s recipe is perfect for a relatively quick meal that suits almost any occasion, from rustic to elegant, family dinners to dinner parties.  Using leeks instead of onions elevates the flavor just enough, and prosciutto that has been broiled until crisp adds a country ham flavor that is delectable. With quiche, the possibilities abound. 

I generally serve this quiche with lightly steamed green beans and cold tomatoes, tossed in a traditional French vinaigrette. If interested in this side, try the vinaigrette recipe as well; it is simple and will probably make it to your regular recipe rotations!

Copyright 2014, Doug Kapustin Photography 

I can’t say enough wonderful things about Ree Drummond, The Pioneer Woman. Her recipes, her blog, her Basset Hounds (!), and her homeschooling country life speaks to the unfulfilled desires of my own life. If you’ve never visited her website or blog, give it a try. Every single recipe she shares is worth trying, and I’ve tried so many of them that I could be her sous-chef. (Ree, if you ever accidentally happen upon my blog, I’m cheap labor!) 

So anyway, go adopt a Basset Hound. Or any dog that needs a home, really.  And give it treats and hugs. Then, make and enjoy this quiche. 

French Vinaigrette recipe: 

For one salad recipe, in the bottom of salad bowl, mince 2 cloves of garlic and mash with salt and pepper according to taste preference. Add the juice of one large lemon and 1 heaping teaspoon of Dijon mustard. Stir with a fork until an emulsion is made.
Photo by Maggie Kapustin
Add 1/8 - 1/4 cup (based on your taste preference, so start with 1/8) really good extra virgin olive oil and mix again. Mix salad or greens in the same bowl, tossing until all is thoroughly coated. 

Note: Red wine vinegar can be used in place of lemon juice if you prefer. 

Cowgirl Quiche

16 oz. white mushrooms,* cleaned and cut into quarters
2 medium leeks, washed thoroughly and chopped
2 tbsp. butter
8 eggs
1½  cups heavy cream
2 cups Swiss cheese, grated
salt and pepper to taste
8 slices prosciutto* (thin slices-rough chop) or good ham
9" pie crust or crust for a deep dish pie

Variations: I have used baby Portobello mushrooms instead of white and cooked, chopped bacon instead of prosciutto. When using prosciutto, I have also broiled it first until crisp, just to change its texture. 

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Finely chop the cleaned leeks and soak in a cold water bath. Drain. Saute them over medium heat in butter for 8-10 minutes, or until they begin to brown slightly and caramelize. Add mushrooms. 

In a bowl, whisk the eggs and cream together, stir in the cooled mushrooms, leeks, cheese, prosciutto, salt and pepper

Pour into a pie shell, cover loosely with foil and bake for 45 minutes at 400. Remove the foil and continue baking for an additional 10 minutes.

Remove from the oven and allow it to sit 10 minutes before cutting.

(Recipe borrowed from book, The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Food from my Frontier)