Happiness Project#79: Lemon Ice Cream Cake!

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Adult friendships are, well, difficult. To put it lightly. I’ve been incredibly lucky to have three very close adult friends in the last 20 years, two of which live out of state from me. And because of my naturally reclusive nature, made even more so since becoming bi-polar, with an anxiety disorder, it’s not easy for me to become attached to a new adult friend. Again, because of my reclusive nature. So when I have allowed myself to become very close to another female friend, I tend to give my all to that person. In every way that I’m physically & emotionally able to.

For over a year & a half, I became very close to a female friend living within my area. To where I truly loved this friend of mine, and would do virtually anything for her. A relationship that I believed was mutual. Until nearly 3 months ago, when I was slammed with a mountain load of physical & emotional stress, and felt myself spiraling down within my darkness. And felt like I could barely help myself, more or less anyone else. A situation which became depressively worse when this very close friend of mine all of sudden (out of nowhere), disappeared from my life, in every way. With no explanation or warning as to why. Which broke my heart, and left me feeling lost and confused.

Just recently, after initiating contact with my friend, and learning that our expectations within a friendship were, and had always been vastly different from one another’s, I realized that I could not hold on to a relationship that showed no possibility of a continuing friendship. So though it broke my heart all over again, I said goodbye to my friend of a year & half. Someone who I loved and cherished dearly. Because I knew that it was best for the both of us.

Through the entire waiting period in between when my friend disappeared, and then finally acknowledging that it was time to say goodbye, I realized something incredibly significant in regards to what I need and want within a true, real friendship. Or in this case, what was not acceptable to me, within (any) relationship. Which is this, no matter how harsh this may sound to those who don’t know or understand me: please do not ever just disappear, with no explanation, from the lives of those who love you. It’s one thing for a teenager to do such (because many teenagers may not understand the importance of honesty and communication within a long term relationship). But as a responsible, loving adult? Unacceptable to me. Because my heart is not disposable. When I name a person as a close friend, I don’t let go. I am fierce in the ways that I love and support those who love me back. Until it seems there’s nothing left to hold on to. Which is unfortunately how this friendship ended.

And though I still hold a great deal of love for this friend, I am honest enough within myself (& strong enough within my life experiences), to understand that not every person that I chose to love, will stay with me for the rest of my life. Because sometimes friends, as well as lovers, are only meant to walk with you for a season or two. Both a sad yet somehow beautiful experience. One that I will treasure for the rest of my life.

So in light of this sad occasion, I did what I always do to bring a little bit of sunshine back into my heart. I created a new recipe, with my favorite dessert flavor: lemon, combined with the comfort of ice cream, and the joy of cake. My Lemon Ice Cream Cake! Created with the many friends & loved ones of mine in mind. This is for you.

For the Lemon Cake:

3-1/2 cups cake flour

pinch of kosher salt

4 sticks unsalted butter, softened at room temperature

2 cups granulated sugar

1-1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

9 large eggs

Firstly, preheat your oven to 325 degrees. Butter two 9 inch loaf pans. Sift the flour with the salt into a large bowl. Set aside.

On a stand mixer, cream together the butter and sugar, on high speed, until combined and fluffy. Scrape down the the bottom and both sides of the bowl. Add in the lemon juice.

In a separate bowl, lightly beat together the 9 eggs. Now add the beaten eggs into the mixing bowl in 3 additions, at low speed, until throughly combined. Now add in the flour mixture, in 3 additions, until the complete batter is just incorporated. The cake batter will be thick and fragrant.

Divide and pour the cake batter into each of the two loaf pans. Pop the two pans into the oven and let bake for 55-60 minutes, until the edges of the cake are slightly brown.

Let the two cakes cool on a wire rack, at room temperature for a least 30 minutes before gently extracting them from each pan.

Now on to the fun and messy part!

With a large serrated knife, cut each loaf in half, so that there are two flat pieces of each cake. Layer each loaf pan with a large piece of saran wrap, so that there are two flaps of saran wrap hanging over the sides of each pan (like wings). Place the first layer of the cut cake on the bottom of each pan.

Grab your favorite vanilla ice cream out of the freezer, and scoop out two to three large globs of ice cream onto the two bottom cake layers. With a knife, smooth out the ice cream until it becomes a uniform flat layer.

Now, add on the top piece of the lemon cake, gently pressing the top cake into the layer of ice cream. Scoop out another two to large globs of ice cream, and (again) spread out the ice cream onto the top piece of the lemon cake. AND sprinkle with semi-sweet chocolate chips. Or layer with fresh cut berries, such as sliced strawberries and blueberries! Once you’re happy with adding on your favorite toppings, take the side hangings of the saran wrap and tightly wrap up each ice cream cake.

Deposit each of the two lemon cakes into the freezer for at least 1 hour before serving!

*Please note: when serving up each ice cream cake, use a large serrated knife, that has been dipped beforehand in hot water, to cut up each piece of cake.

Just know that these lovely little cakes will melt fast! Though perhaps not as quickly as they are consumed!

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Happiness Project#56: Lemon Berry Pancakes!

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Dear Breakfast, I heart you! With all of your fruits and granolas and yogurts. But your Lemon Pancakes? You slay me. Slay. Me.

If you know anything at all about my sweet tooth, then you must know of my endless, obsessive love for lemons. And strawberries. Chocolate, too, but that’s a far different story. So this new Lemon Pancake recipe is long, long overdue. Says nearly all of my family. Who happen to LOVE lemony desserts just as fanatically as I do. If not more so. Truth.

Anyhow, to make a long story short, because of my Daughter, and being a “up-at-7am-everyday-now” Mama, breakfast, with my mandatory cup of Mocha coffee, is now an everyday special kind of event. Which I (surprisingly) actually enjoy. I know. Go figure. And while my Toddler will snack on just about anything I make, my menopause diet demands otherwise. So pancakes, especially THESE pancakes, are an every-once-in-a-while treat for me. Though to be completely honest, I DO try to rationalize away any of those self-splurging doubts by helping myself to a ginormous topping of strawberries and blueberries. Because fruit IS healthy, after all. Right? Right.

And just so you know, once you treat yourself to these lemony fluffy yum-yums, you will never go back to a regular buttermilk pancake ever again. Trust me.

3/4 cup whole milk

1 teaspoon distilled white vinegar

3 drops of lemon juice

1 large egg

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

pinch of kosher salt

1 tablespoon lemon zest, approximately 1 whole lemon

To begin, zest the whole lemon. Collect the lemon zest and set aside.

In bowl #1, combine the milk, vinegar and lemon juice. Let stand for 5 minutes before whisking in the egg, melted butter and vanilla extract. Set aside.

In bowl #2, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and lemon zest. Slowly pour in the milk mixture (bowl #1) into the flour mixture (bowl #2) and stir until fully combined and lump free.

On your stove, heat up a medium sized frying pan over medium high heat, and lightly coat the pan with a baking spray or unsalted butter. Using a 1/4 sized measuring cup, pour the lemon pancake batter into the frying pan and let cook for 2-3 minutes on one side before flipping it over to cook itself on the other side. Between each pancake, remember to apply a light coat of butter to the frying pan before adding in each 1/4 cup of batter. Unless you actually like blackened pancakes *wink*

Yeah, these pancakes truly are THAT easy! And just WAIT until you taste them! With or without a large topping of syrup and fruit. Though, strawberries, my friends. Strawberries.

Happy Mornings to you and yours, my friends!

Happiness Project #35: Pink Lemonade Birthday Cupcakes!

Image“One year ago, on March 8th, at 10:36am, a Miracle changed my life in the best of ways. And at long last, this Warrior heart of mine became whole. Everything I had ever believed to be good and true and beautiful in this world, came in the form of ten little fingers, ten little toes, two rosy cheeks and one button nose. She, who was, and is still this Angel of mine. And every day since then, the brightness of her smile lifts me up, the music of her laughter brings me joy and the warmth of her embrace enwraps my heart in wonder. In ways I could never imagine before, this beautiful, mischievous brown eyed Sweet Pea, gave to me the most precious gift a mortal could ever be blessed with. The gift of Motherhood. The gift of Meaning. The gift of Love. And with every beat of my heart and every fiber of my being, I give thanks for the Miracle of my Baby Girl. She, who is my everything. She, who is my world. Always & Forever.”

Two days ago, my Baby Girl officially became a walking, babbling, contagiously charming Toddler! A Toddler! Something I’m still having a difficult time wrapping my head around! Don’t mind me while I get a little teary eyed at this. Considering that my Sweet Pea is not only my only child but also the light of my life, I was determined to give her the best & yummiest of all 1st birthdays! Which meant showering her with the one thing that I do best; baking. A LOT of baking. Incorporating all of my favorite flavors: chocolate, lemon and vanilla. So after brainstorming a rather exhaustive dessert menu, incorporating HER favorite thing as well, meaning bath-time, I decided that in combination with lemon duck sugar cookies, rainbow cake truffles and chocolate covered strawberries, I wanted to create a special cupcake just for her. A cupcake that represented everything that I love most about my baby girl’s loving, tenacious and incredibly mischievous personality. A cupcake that everyone would love. So what cupcake is it, you ask? A Pink Lemonade Cupcake with Lemon Buttercream Frosting! The perfect blend of sweetness and beauty. The perfect blend of happiness and love. In a baked treat, that is. 

After scouring the internet for recipe suggestions and then botching an entire batch (after following what I had sadly mistaken to be a a good recipe) , I realized that the only way to create perfection was to strip it all down to the basics and do what I had learned most important in Pastry School. Which meant doing it the French way. Which, in my opinion, is truly the best way. So here it is, my friends. My Baby Girl’s Pink Lemonade Birthday Cupcake! From my heart to yours…

*Break out that dusty kitchen scale and set it to measuring it’s weight by grams! You will need it for this one!

180 grams egg whites

320 grams whole milk

1/2 cup pink lemonade powder

400 grams cake flour, sifted (NOT all-purpose flour!)

400 grams granulated sugar

6 teaspoons baking powder

1 tablespoon kosher salt

226 grams unsalted butter, softened at room temperature

Preheat your oven to 350F. Line two cupcake pans with paper liners.

In a small bowl, combine the eggs whites, milk and pink lemonade powder. Mix. Set aside.

In a large bowl, on a stand mixer, combine the cake flour, sugar, baking powder & salt and mix with the paddle attachment for 1 to 2 minutes at low speed to blend. Add in the softened butter and 1/3 of the egg white/milk/lemonade mixture. Mix at low speed until the batter gathers together into a moist paste. Beat at medium speed for 1-1/2 minutes to develop structure. *Use a stopwatch or timer for accuracy* Scrap down the sides and bottom of the bowl. This will guarantee a smoother finished batter.

Beat in the rest of the egg white/milk/lemonade mixture in 3 batches, beating for exactly 20 seconds after each addition. *Use a stopwatch or timer for accuracy* Do not over mix or the batter will deflate and your cupcakes will not rise correctly.

Using a spoon or small cookie scoop, divide the batter evenly between both cupcake pans. Bake for 18-20 minutes, inserting a toothpick, if need be, to check for proper dryness. Do not fret that the top of your cupcakes are not pushed up in the center like a dome. The use of cake flour creates a flat baked surface because of it’s particular density. Cool the cupcakes throughly on a wire rack before frosting.

Ready for some yummy Lemon Frosting? You should be! Here’s what you’ll need:

1 cup unsalted butter, softened at room temperature

4 cups powdered sugar, sifted

pinch of kosher salt

1 tablespoon lemon extract

3-4 tablespoons heavy whipping cream

In a large bowl, on a stand mixture, cream the butter for 3 to 4 minutes at medium speed. Drop the mixer speed down to it’s lowest setting and add slowly add in 4 cups of powdered sugar. Once the sugar has been completely incorporated with the butter, beat in the salt, lemon extract and 3 to 4 tablespoons of cream. Whip on high for 3 to 4 minutes until the frosting reaches your preferred texture. If you’re planning on piping on the frosting and the consistency is too soft, cover and chill in the fridge for a few minutes.

Frost, frost, frost away (and maybe add some pink sprinkles on top for a little extra sparkle!)

These adorable duckling cupcake toppers were created by the brilliant T-Cakes Franklin! You can find her on Facebook under T-Cakes Franklin.

So from this Stealthy Kitchen Mama to you & yours, may every day be filled with a little bit of sweetness and a whole lot of love. Birthdays or not.

Happiness Project Recipe #24: Lemon Cream Sugar Cookies!

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Since Lemon just happens to be my 2nd favorite dessert flavor, I knew that I just HAD to create a new Lemon recipe for my family’s 2012 Christmas gathering! Particularly since my Mom was the very person who first turned me on to this lovely, citrus filled delight many a year ago. So casting aside my usual chocolate drenched ambitions, I finally tried my hand at a new sugar cookie recipe. One in which I joyfully incorporated my all time favorite indulgence: frosting! Although the 1st trial run with a classic buttercream frosting turned out quite well, the superior frosting snob that I am simply could not settle for anything less than absolute perfection. Hence this now pleasantly altered buttercream recipe, featuring cream cheese as it’s star flavor! The result? Sugar cookie perfection.  At least I think so.

Cookies:

1/2 cup salted butter, softened at room temperature

1/2 cup butter flavored crisco

1 cup granulated sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 egg

2 tablespoons lemon zest (approximately 2 lemons)

2-1/2 cup all purpose flour

pinch of kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 tablespoon whole milk

1 tablespoon lemon juice

Frosting:

1/4 cup salted butter, softened at room temperature

8 oz cream cheese, softened at room temperature

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 cups confections sugar, sifted

pinch of kosher salt

2 tablespoons lemon juice

Preheat the oven to 350F.

In a large mixing bowl on a stand mixer, cream the butter, crisco and sugar until light and fluffy (2-3 minutes on medium speed). Mix in the vanilla, egg and lemon zest. In another bowl, sift together the flour, salt and baking soda. Add the dry ingredients into the wet mixture until just incorporated. Stir in the milk & lemon juice until well combined.

With a small cookie scoop, roll your dough into 1 to 1-1/2 inch balls, placing them on a Silpat lined or lightly sprayed cookie sheet. Using either your fingers-tips or a spatula, gently press each dough ball flat. Bake for 10-12 minutes until the edges begin to brown ever so slightly. Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack.

Onward to the frosting! In a large mixing bowl, on a stand mixer, beat the butter and cream cheese together until smooth and glossy. Slowly beat in the vanilla extract. Add in the confections sugar and salt until well combined. Last but not least, stir in up to 2 tablespoons of the lemon juice.

And now to what you’ve all been waiting for: frosting these heavenly bite sized cookies! As with anything involving frosting and cookies, decorating can be as messy or as pretty as you so chose it to be. Using either a spoon, a butter knife or even a pastry bag fitted with a large round decorating tip, frost, frost, frost away! And don’t forget to add in your favorite colored sprinkles! Sprinkles make everything better =)

Happiness Project Recipe #11: Saturday Morning Lemon-Poppy Seed Muffins!

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Considering how up & down I’ve been with the pain this week, I was damn near frothing at the mouth this morning for something super moist & fluffy. Something that didn’t involve any chocolate for once. I know, I know, who AM I, right?? *wink* So this super moist & fluffy “something” ended up incorporating my 2nd all time favorite dessert flavor: lemon. Luscious, luscious lemon! Whenever I think of weekends, the idea of muffins always seem to come to mind, so with this being said, I decided to tinker with a recipe I’ve never done before: Lemon-Poppy Seed! Though I will forever be a cupcake girl, the muffin is the 2nd closest thing to it, so why (oh, why) have I never made any before?! Fortunately, my Williams-Sonoma Baking Book saved the day (or morning, to be precise). A little bit of soft butter spread also created that extra burst of flavor to a rather good Saturday baking adventure as well. For all of my lemon loving friends (I know who you are!), here’s the recipe..

½ cup unsalted butter, at room temperature

2/3 cup granulated sugar

2 large eggs, separated (into egg yolks & egg whites)

1 1/3 cups all purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon baking soda

2 tablespoons poppy seeds

Zest of 2 grated lemons

¼ teaspoon kosher salt

½ cup low fat buttermilk

2 ½ tablespoons lemon juice

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Preheat your oven to 350F. Butter 10 standard size muffin cups or line 12 cupcake tins with paper liners.

Gather up your ingredients & necessary baking equipment. You’ll need 3 separate medium size mixing bowls for this recipe.

In your 1st mixing bowl, on a stand mixer, cream together the butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy. While this is creaming together, separate your 2 eggs. I use two small bowls to keep the egg yolks separate from the egg whites. Add the yellow egg yolks, one at a time, beating well after each addition until well blended.

In your 2nd mixing bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, grated lemon zest & salt. Quick tip: After you gather your ingredients, zest your 2 lemons with a stainless steel grating zester (which you can find at any local Bed, Bath & Beyond, Williams Sonoma or Sur La Table store) BEFORE you begin the process of mixing together your ingredients. Preparation is key to creating a quicker, easier & cleaner (yes, cleaner!) baking experience. Now, using the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture to the butter mixture (bowl #1) in 2 additions, alternating with the buttermilk, then the lemon juice and then the vanilla. Beat until just smooth (for approximately 1-2 minutes).

For the next step, if you don’t have 2 separate stand mixers (I certainly don’t but wish I did), pour the entire mixture into another medium sized bowl & set aside. At this point, you’ll need to thoroughly wash & dry the bowl that you’ve just emptied (bowl #1).

Once clean & completely dry, use this bowl again in your stand mixture, using a balloon whisk to beat your egg whites just until they form a soft white peak (beat on high for 2-3 minutes.) Do NOT over beat your egg whites! Keep in mind that they need to be a soft peak consistency not a stiff one so keep a close eye on them while in the process of whisking. Using a large silicone spatula, gently (no elbow grease required!) fold the egg whites into the batter until just blended.

Spoon your batter into each muffin cup or cupcake tin, filling them three-fourths full. Bake until golden brown and springy to the touch (20-24 minutes for standard size muffins, 18-20 minutes for standard size cupcakes.)

Cool on a wire rack for 5 to10 minutes before serving. And don’t forget to add some of your favorite butter spread to them as well! A properly dressed muffin is always the perfect muffin, I say!

There you have it! Quick & easy! So if you too have a napping husband & therefore a little extra time on your hands, prepare yourself (and your kitchen) for the sudden appearance (and resulting disappearance) of these soft, tangy, lemon filled creations! Huzzah for Saturdays!

*Recipe adapted from “The Williams-Sonoma Baking Book”

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