Sunday, December 19, 2010

Italian Cream Cake

Italian cream cake! It has been a favorite of mine for years and years, but I haven't made it in a while. It's great for Christmas because it's all white. You could garnish it with sugared cranberries to make it look more festive.

It's a three-layer coconut cake with cream cheese/coconut/pecan frosting - not sure where the Italian part comes in, but it's absolutely delicious! I've adapted the technique of the original recipe quite a bit to make it lighter and fluffier. Note that the layers will be fairly thin.

Italian Cream Cake

1 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup shortening
2 cups white sugar
5 eggs, yolks and whites separated
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup flaked coconut
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups flour


8 ounces cream cheese
1/2 cup butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 cups confectioners' sugar
2 tablespoons cream or milk
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1 cup sweetened flaked coconut

1.Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease three 9-inch round cake pans; put a parchment round in the bottom; and grease again. In a small bowl, dissolve the baking soda in the buttermilk; set aside.
2.In a large bowl, cream together 1/2 cup butter, shortening and white sugar until light and fluffy. Mix in the yolks and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Mix flour with salt and alternate adding it to batter with buttermilk mixture. Add coconut and stir until just combined. Beat egg whites until stiff peaks form and stir gently into batter. Pour batter into the prepared pans.
3.Bake in the preheated oven for 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Allow to cool.
4.To Make Frosting: In a medium bowl, combine cream cheese, 1/2 cup butter, 1 teaspoon vanilla and confectioners' sugar. Beat until light and fluffy. Mix in a small amount of cream to attain the desired consistency. Stir in chopped nuts and remaining flaked coconut. Spread between layers and on top and sides of cooled cake.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Dinner for Forty

The other night I got to do something I've never done before - cater a party! I made dinner/dessert for the 40 wonderful women who teach at Ben's preschool. I was worried about everything coming out at the same time, but it all worked out fine. I really enjoyed dreaming up my dinner plan and seeing it all come together. Here is the menu I served with links to all the recipes.

Christmas Dinner

Glazed Pork Tenderloin (the rub and glaze from the Island Pork Tenderloin recipe)

Rolls and Butter

Chocolate Peanut Butter Crunch Cake (served in individual clear plastic cups)

Friday, December 17, 2010

Crunchy Romaine Toss

I wanted a delicious salad that wasn't too sweet, and I didn't want to make Greek or Caesar salad. I found this one on and changed it quite a bit.

It's definitely crowd-pleasing and kid-pleasing. Part of the draw is the crunch, so add the topping shortly before serving.

Crunchy Romaine Toss

1 small head Romaine lettuce, washed and chopped into bite-size pieces
1 cup broccoli florets, cut into fairly small pieces
4 green onions, sliced
1 package ramen noodles, seasoning packet discarded
1/4 cup sliced almonds or chopped pecans
1-2 T. butter
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1/4 cup sugar
2 t. soy sauce
salt and pepper to taste

Crush ramen noodles. Melt butter in a pan over medium-low heat. Add almonds and noodles and stir around, toasting until golden brown. Remove from pan and set aside.

Put oil, vinegar, sugar, and soy sauce in a blender or jar with a tight-fitting lid and process or shake until combined. Taste and add salt and pepper as needed. If you aren't using the dressing right away, you'll need to shake it again.

Half an hour or so before serving, toss the broccoli with some dressing. When ready to serve, put lettuce into a bowl and add broccoli and green onion if using and half of noodle/almond mixture. Drizzle some dressing and toss. Top with remaining noodle mixture and serve.

Note: you'll probably have leftover dressing.

Mexican Chocolate Cookies

I've had a few requests for this recipe and want to get it on the blog. These cookies are wonderful because they are chewy inside/crunchy outside with layers of flavor, from chocolate to honey to cinnamon to toasted pecans. And the secret ingredient is chipotle powder - just enough to add a little heat. They are great for Christmas - all warm and sparkly. You can store the dough in the refrigerator for several days and bake as needed.

Mexican Chocolate Cookies (from

2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup natural unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3 tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp chipotle powder
¼ tsp nutmeg
1 cup unsalted butter, softened (2 sticks)
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup honey
3 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1 12-oz. pkg semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 cups pecans, roughly chopped and toasted

Cinnamon sugar for coating:
½ cup granulated sugar
1 tsp cinnamon

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Mix flour, cocoa, baking soda, salt and spices together in a medium bowl.

In a separate large bowl, cream butter with sugars, honey and vanilla extract. Add eggs, one at a time. Slowly incorporate dry mixture into batter. Stir in pecans and chocolate chips.

Chill batter in refrigerator for at least 15 minutes and up to overnight.. Roll into tablespoon-sized balls (1 ½ inches, +/-) and coat with cinnamon sugar coating, then place on cookie sheets that are greased or lined with parchment. Bake for approximately 10 minutes or until outer surface begins to crack. Place unused raw batter back in refrigerator between batches. Cool cookies on a wire rack before storing in an airtight container. Yields approximately 3 dozen cookies.