Peanut Butter-Strawberry Snack Cake

IMG_3232It all started with a rainy day. Instead of waking up to clear skies and warm beams of sunshine, which is what the middle of July should look like, I woke up to 100% cloud cover, pouring rain, and a desperate need for the extra blanket that I had recently shoved into my closet because it had been sitting uselessly at the foot of my bed for two monthsI shouldn’t complain too much, since so far we’ve had a b-e-a-uuutiful summer in this normally-gray corner of the northwest (knock on wood!) but now that I’ve gotten a taste of sunshine I crave it all the time! Sunshine allll the days. No rainy ones allowed. (I should probably consider moving.)

IMG_3213

Aside from making me sad and cold (and in all honesty, giving our parched island a nice dose of moisture), all of that dreary rain put me in a baking mood. I had no inclination to venture outside and the kitchen was calling. We had a big container of strawberries in the fridge that I knew were approaching the end of their days, so I decided to bake them into something while they were still fresh. The only question was, what to make? Cake came to mind….not a giant frosted fancy layer cake, but a simple one-pan snack cake. I love to call cakes baked in square pans “snack cakes” because then of course they’re justified to be eaten as snacks. Or breakfasts, for that matter…

I thought about making a strawberry-lemon cake, but seeing as we didn’t have any lemons I couldn’t figure out a way to make that happen. My next idea was a vanilla bean cake with fresh strawberries, but I had just used some of my precious vanilla beans in a batch of blueberry muffins and figured I should branch out a little. Then my eyes fell upon the jar of peanut butter in our fridge and an idea was born….peanut butter cake filled with diced strawberries! Just like pb&j, but with real fruit instead of jelly. Because fresh summer fruit always trumps jelly in my mind, just sayin.IMG_3218

I found a recipe for a peanut butter-jelly coffee cake that I morphed into my Peanut Butter-Strawberry Snack Cake. Essentially it’s a soft, rich peanut butter cake studded with juicy pieces of strawberries and topped off with a drizzle of melted peanut butter. It can be served at room temperature or chilled, and tastes a lot like the classic pb&j that we all know and love. You can adapt this to your heart’s content, maybe using raspberries instead of strawberries, adding chopped peanuts to the cake, making a full-on peanut butter frosting, or going the true pb&j route and swirling some warmed-up jam into the cake batter.

This cake definitely brightened up my rainy day! The combination of peanut butter and strawberries may sound a bit odd, but they taste amazing together. My Peanut Butter-Strawberry Snack Cake is a great little twist on the classic peanut-butter-and-jelly, and it will leave you wanting more!

IMG_3221

Peanut Butter-Strawberry Snack Cake

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 cup creamy peanut butter

2 tablespoons butter, at room temperature

1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed

1 large egg

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 cup buttermilk*

1 cup diced strawberries

3 tablespoons creamy peanut butter, for drizzling (optional)

*You can make your own buttermilk by pouring 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice or vinegar into a measuring cup and adding enough milk to equal 1/2 cup. Let it sit for 5-10 minutes to curdle, then proceed with recipe.

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease an 8″x8″ pan and set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. Set aside.

In a larger bowl, use an electric mixer to combine the peanut butter, butter, and brown sugar until smooth. Add in the egg and vanilla, mixing until well-combined. Stir in the flour mixture and buttermilk in alternating increments, beginning and ending with the flour. Stir just until no flour streaks remain, being careful not to over-mix. Gently fold in the strawberries.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake for 30-32 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean. While the cake is cooling, melt the additional 3 tablespoons of peanut butter (I used my microwave and it took about 30 seconds, stirring after every 10). Using a spoon, drizzle the melted peanut butter over the warm cake.

Let the cake cool completely, then slice and enjoy!

(Recipe adapted from Two Peas and Their Pod)

Advertisements

Chocolate Chip Gingerbread

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Lights are being put up, Christmas music is appearing on the radio, and the calendar is quickly approaching December. My family and I chopped down our Christmas tree over Thanksgiving break and I’ve started making my Christmas list. My car also smells amaaaazing because I sold three wreaths as part of our senior-class fundraiser and they hung out in my car for a couple days. Fresh pine is about a million times better than any car freshener!

I know it’s only November 25, but I just couldn’t wait to get started on Christmas-y things!  Thanksgiving is over so Christmas is fair game, right? Right.

Start off your holiday baking with this Chocolate Chip Gingerbread! I made it last year and immediately bookmarked the recipe to make again. The addition of chocolate to warm, spicy gingerbread is a match made in heaven, and the tiny pockets of melted chocolate chips are to die for. And the recipe makes two loaves, which means you can give one to a friend! That way you can spread some holiday cheer…and also keep yourself from single-handedly devouring two loaves of warm delicious chocolate gingerbread. Which could definitely happen. It’s a win-win!

Chocolate Chip Gingerbread 

Makes 2 loaves

2 1/2 cups + 2 Tbs all-purpose flour, divided

1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

1 1/2 tsp ground ginger

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp ground allspice

1/4 tsp ground nutmeg

1/4 tsp ground cloves

1/4 tsp ground black pepper

3/4 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 1/4 cups granulated sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

2 large eggs

1 cup molasses

1 cup very hot water

1 12-oz package miniature chocolate chips

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour two 9″x5″ loaf pans.

Toss chocolate chips with 2 Tbs flour in a small bowl. Set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk together 2 1/2 cups flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, salt, and spices.

Using an electric mixer, in a large bowl, beat together the butter, sugar, and vanilla until light and fluffy. Add in the eggs one at a time, scraping down the bowl as needed. In a small bowl or 4-cup measuring cup, whisk together the molasses and hot water. Alternately add in 1/3 of the molasses mixture, 1/3 of the flour mixture, another 1/3 of the molasses mixture, another 1/3 of the flour mixture, the remaining molasses mixture, and the remaining flour mixture, beating after each addition. Fold in chocolate chips.

Divide batter between the two loaf pans and bake for 55-60 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Tops should be set and firm but not dry. Let bread cool in the pan for 20 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely. Serve with whipped cream for a special treat.

(Recipe from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe)

Blueberry-Lemon Buttermilk Bundt Cake

The third week of August is, without fail, a crazy week.  Summer job schedules are full-force, our county fair takes place, summer schoolwork is uncovered from the depths of procrastination, spending time with my horse is squeezed in whenever possible, and my birthday falls on the 15th.  No matter how much I try to plan ahead and get things done in July, that end-of-the-summer rush inevitably arrives right around now.  This year was no exception!

Luckily, although I took a raincheck on entering baked-goods in the fair this year, I still had time to bake myself a birthday cake.  I’m all about prioritizing when times get busy…should I wash my car, which is currently covered in a quarter-inch thick coating of dust, or sit outside in the sun?  Get started on my English homework, or go for a run in the forest?  Change my sheets, or watch an episode of Desperate Housewives?  Responsibly, I picked the latter of all these tough decisions.  Yep, I definitely have my priorities straight!  So when it came to baking a birthday cake or giving my bathroom a much-needed cleaning, there was really no question.  As for what I decided, this post should clue you in…..

After much debate, I finally settled on making this Blueberry-Lemon Buttermilk Bundt Cake.  I usually go for a more traditional, 2-tier, buttercream-frosted birthday cake, but there was something about the combination of plump blueberries, fresh lemon zest, and tangy buttermilk that I couldn’t resist.  And I’m so glad I didn’t!  I couldn’t be happier with my decision.  The result was an incredibly moist, lemony Bundt cake studded with sweet, juicy blueberries and topped with a tart-sweet lemon and buttermilk icing.  It was the perfect end to a wonderful birthday…my eighteenth!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blueberry-Lemon Buttermilk Bundt Cake

Cake:

2 1/2 cups + 2 Tbs all-purpose flour, divided

2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

1 3/4 cups granulated sugar

Zest of 1 lemon

1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature

3 eggs, at room temperature

1 tsp vanilla extract

3/4 cup buttermilk

3 cups fresh or unthawed frozen blueberries

Lemon-Buttermilk Icing:

2 cups powdered sugar

1 Tbs buttermilk

1-2 Tbs fresh lemon juice

1 Tbs unsalted butter, very soft

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.  Grease and flour a 10-cup Bundt pan.  Set aside.

In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together 2 1/2 cups of flour, the baking powder, and the salt.  Set aside.

Place the sugar and lemon zest into a large bowl.  Using your fingers, rub the lemon zest into the sugar until evenly combined.  Add in the butter and, using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat until light and fluffy.

Add in the eggs one at a time, beating on low speed after each addition.  Add in the vanilla and mix until combined.

Still on low speed, add in 1/3 of the flour mixture and mix just until flour is incorporated. Add in half the buttermilk, then another third of the flour, the other half of the buttermilk, and the last third of the flour, beating after each addition.

In another bowl, toss the blueberries with the 2 tablespoons of flour.  Using a rubber spatula, gently fold the blueberries into the batter.  Spread the batter evenly into the Bundt pan, smoothing the top.

Bake for 55-60 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.  Let the cake cool in its pan on a wire rack for 30 minutes before removing from pan to cool completely.

When cake is completely cool, whisk together the powdered sugar, buttermilk, lemon juice, and butter until smooth.  For a thinner glaze, mix in additional buttermilk or lemon juice 1 teaspoon at a time or until it reaches your desired consistency.  Spoon the icing over the cake using a knife or offset spatula, spreading it downward every now and then.

Store the cake at room temperature, loosely covered in plastic wrap, for up to 4 days.

(Recipe adapted from Brown Eyed Baker, originally from Smitten Kitchen)

Blueberry Coconut Cake with Lemon Sauce

Growing up in Colorado, I was able to experience 4 “true” seasons.  In the fall, I would rake up giant piles of red, orange, yellow, and brown leaves and jump into the middle, scattering the leaves and ruining all my hard work.  But it was totally worth it.  In the winter my brother and I would sled down the snowy hill next to our house, heedlessly focusing on nothing but the thrill of flying down the slope atop our blue plastic sled.  Once we nearly gave our mother a heart attack when we couldn’t stop and slid into the road, right in front of a car, and down into our neighbor’s snow-covered vegetable garden.  Pretty sure we scarred my mom–and the driver–for life.  Not to mention the vegetable garden.  Spring, though it often came late, brought sweet-smelling flowers and the occasional bee sting.  I could always tell that spring was coming when the crabapple tree in our side yard turned a brilliant scarlet, full of new blossoms.  Summers were dry and brutally hot, with the exception of evening thunderstorms that shook the house and lit up the dark-clouded sky.  I used to love standing in the front doorway, watching the rain come down in sheets and counting the seconds between the lightning and thunder.  Then I moved to the Pacific Northwest.

Now almost nine years a Washingtonian, I can identify about 10 different types of rain, leap  out of bed like a little kid whenever it snows during winter nights (the number of which I can count on one hand), and have learned to say goodbye to the sun from about October to May.  Don’t get me wrong, there are definite advantages to living in a mild climate, but I’m still a Colorado girl at heart.  However, no matter how much I miss skiing down the Rocky Mountains and inner tubing through the Colorado River,  I can’t help but feel lucky when I hear about the sweltering summer that most of the US has been having this year.  Some of my Colorado friends were on call to evacuate their houses as relentless forest fires swept through the state, and I know that many other states have reached record highs.  Here on my little island, we reached a toasty 66 degrees today, and according to my thermometer the highest temperature we’ve had all summer is a whopping 74 degrees. Jealous yet?

So even though it doesn’t really feel like summer here, and I actually turned the heat on in my car this morning (it was 54 degrees out, okay!), I’m still trying to make it feel like it’s July and not March.  Take this Blueberry Coconut Cake with Lemon Sauce, for example.  Blueberries, coconut, and lemon all scream SUMMER, and this sheet cake is perfect to bring to a group event like a backyard BBQ or a picnic at the beach.  It’s just like a moist, fluffy blueberry muffin in cake form, topped with a layer of toasted coconut and drizzled with lemon sauce.  My dad couldn’t stop raving about how good that “blueberry coconut thing” was, and the lemon sauce was to die for.  It’s good enough to eat by the spoonful!  Not that I know from experience, or anything.  This cake is fast, very easy, feeds a crowd, and best of all, tastes like a little piece of summer.  Maybe if I close my eyes while eating a slice for dessert, I can forget that it’s 55 degrees outside, has been 80% cloud cover all day, and my hopes of maintaining a tan this year are about zero.  The fact that it just started to rain is not helping.  I might need two slices… 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blueberry Coconut Cake with Lemon Sauce

Cake:

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup white sugar

1 Tbs baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

2 large eggs

1 cup milk (low fat is fine)

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1 1/2 cups fresh or unthawed frozen blueberries

2 Tbs flour

1 cup sweetened flaked coconut

Lemon Sauce:

1/2 cup white sugar

1 Tbs + 1 1/2 tsp cornstarch

1 tsp lemon zest

1 cup water

1 Tbs butter

2 Tbs fresh lemon juice

Directions:

Lightly grease a 9×13-inch baking pan.  If using glass pan, preheat oven to 325 degrees F.  If using aluminum pan, preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a large bowl, combine 2 cups flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.  In a smaller bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, and vegetable oil.  Make a well in the dry ingredients and fold in the wet ingredients using a rubber spatula.

Toss blueberries with the 2 tablespoons of flour and gently fold into the batter.  Spread the batter into prepared pan and sprinkle with flaked coconut.  Bake for 20-25 minutes if using an aluminum pan, 35-40 minutes if using glass, or until inserted toothpick comes out clean.  Cool the cake in the pan on a wire rack.

For the sauce, in a small saucepan, combine the sugar, cornstarch, and lemon zest.  Slowly whisk in the water until smooth.  Bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat, whisking often, and cook, whisking constantly, for 2 minutes at a full boil or until mixture has thickened.  Remove the pan from the heat and immediately stir in butter and lemon juice.  Keep the sauce warm or at room temperature.

When ready to serve, cut the cooled cake into slices and drizzle each piece with the lemon sauce.

(Recipe from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe)