Caramel Cake

Again with the no picture.  Nothing more to say.

I have to borrow a stainless steel pan from my sister Jo-Ellen to make the caramel for this cake. It’s not as deep as I would like so, for safety reasons, I make a “lid” of aluminum foil (heavy if you have it) to fit the pan, loosely crimping around the edge to try to let it hold on while the steam and popping caramel try to blow it off the pan. Then make a hole the size of  a walnut in the top and thru this hole I slowly pour the water in to stop the browning of the sugar. It only spits and steams for 30 seconds or so. Then carefully remove foil and stir. This makes enough caramel syrup for 2 cakes with enough left over for using a Tbsp. of it in coffee once in awhile. Make the syrup first–it’ an ingredient in both cake and frosting.

Caramel Cake
from Shuna Fish Lydon
10 Tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature
1 1/4 Cups granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 Cup Caramel Syrup (see recipe below)
2 each eggs, at room temperature
splash vanilla extract
2 Cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup milk, at room temperature
Preheat oven to 350F
Butter one tall (2 – 2.5 inch deep) 9-inch cake pan.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream butter until smooth. Add sugar and salt & cream until light and fluffy.
Slowly pour room temperature caramel syrup into bowl. Scrape down bowl and increase speed. Add eggs/vanilla extract a little at a time, mixing well after each addition. Scrape down bowl again, beat mixture until light and uniform.
Sift flour and baking powder.
Turn mixer to lowest speed, and add one third of the dry ingredients. When incorporated, add half of the milk, a little at a time. Add another third of the dry ingredients, then the other half of the milk and finish with the dry ingredients. {This is called the dry, wet, dry, wet, dry method in cake making. It is often employed when there is a high proportion of liquid in the batter.}
Take off mixer and by hand, use a spatula to do a few last folds, making sure batter is uniform. Turn batter into prepared cake pan.
Place cake pan on cookie sheet or 1/2 sheet pan. Set first timer for 30 minutes, rotate pan and set timer for another 15-20 minutes. Your own oven will set the pace. Bake until sides pull away from the pan and skewer inserted in middle comes out clean. Cool cake completely before icing it.
Cake will keep for three days outside of the refrigerator.
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup water
1 cup water (for “stopping” the caramelization process)
In a small stainless steel saucepan, with tall sides, mix water and sugar until mixture feels like wet sand. Brush down any stray sugar crystals with wet pastry brush. Turn on heat to highest flame. Cook until smoking slightly: dark amber.
When color is achieved, very carefully pour in one cup of water. Caramel will jump and sputter about! It is very dangerous, so have long sleeves on and be prepared to step back.
Whisk over medium heat until it has reduced slightly and feels sticky between two fingers. {Obviously wait for it to cool on a spoon before touching it.}
Note: For safety reasons, have ready a bowl of ice water to plunge your hands into if any caramel should land on your skin.
12 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 pound confectioner’s sugar, sifted( I use less of this-too much and you loose the browned butter taste)
4-6 tablespoons heavy cream
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2-4 tablespoons caramel syrup
Kosher or sea salt to taste
Cook butter until brown and nutty. Pour through a fine meshed sieve into a heatproof bowl, set aside to cool.
Pour cooled brown butter into mixer bowl.
In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle or whisk attachment, add confectioner’s sugar a little at a time. When mixture looks too chunky to take any more, add a bit of cream and or caramel syrup. Repeat until mixture looks smooth and all confectioner’s sugar has been incorporated. Add salt to taste.

Hollywood Squares

I have no picture of these–just imagine a peanut butter bar topped with a chocolate layer. Story has it that cafeteria workers sometimes made these to give/sell to the students. I had no such cafeteria worker at my school, sad to say. People love these and they are so easy–other than melting the chocolate and butter for the topping-No cooking involved!

Hollywood Squares
2 cups peanut butter (1 jar-by the time you take out the Tbsps. needed for topping, it’s just right)
2-1/2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 cup graham cracker crumbs
1/2 cup butter, melted
4 squares semi-sweet baking chocolate(I used 1/2 sack of chips)
2 tbsp. peanut butter
Combine all ingredients except topping ingredients.
Mix well and press into a buttered 9-inch pan.
Melt the topping ingredients together (the microwave works well for this) and spread over the top of the peanut butter mixture.
Chill until topping is firm…doesn’t take long.
Cut into squares. Store, covered, at room temp.

2009_11070003This is a condiment from paninikathy’s blog, Panini Happy. So good. Very easy and I can see I’ll be making this a staple in our house-Terri smears it on lots of things. OK, me too. Too much light in photo, but you get the idea.

3 large onions, sweet or white

2-3 heads of roasted garlic (I use 3)

2 Tbsp. sugar

2 Tbsp. brown sugar

4 Tbsp. Balsamic vinegar

Squeeze out the cloves of roasted garlic onto a dish to have at the ready. You can mash them or keep whole, whatever floats your boat.

Thinly slice the onions and put in a large frying pan with a little oil over medium heat. Toss well to coat, then cover and cook 15 minutes til translucent, stirring every once in awhile. Remove cover, add both sugars, stir well, replace cover and cook about 30 minutes. Don’t forget to stir occasionally or burning may happen. The onions should be golden by now. Add 1/4 cup of water and cook and stir another 20-30 minutes until they are a dark brown. Uncover, add vinegar, the roasted garlic and another 1/4 cup of water. Keep the lid off and just cook and stir until the liquid has mostly cooked off. Cool and store in fridge.

Squash Casserole


This is the casserole, just about to be put in the oven. It’s on top of the new fire engine red filing cabinet I got from Ikea. I would have liked to include a picture of the finished product, but hungry sisters descended upon it and it was torn asunder. Margarets friend JJ was over for the dinner and said he had never eaten squash in his life (17 yrs. old)!!!! And he said he really liked it…so come on–give it a try. It’s very corny and buttery and cheesy. I make a half batch, like you see here, since I’m only cooking for 2 most days. It re-heats very well.

Squash Casserole

1 box of Jiffy Cornbread mix –prepared–I make it into muffins

4 1/2 cups chopped zucchini

4 1/2 cups chopped yellow squash

1 large onion

1 1/2 sticks of butter

8 ozs. grated cheddar cheese ( I use the same amount even when halving this recipe) (I’m bad)

3 cubes of chicken boullion

1 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. pepper

1/2 tsp. dried thyme-crumbled

1 tsp. garlic

Preheat oven to 350. Grease up a baking dish, 9×13 (or there abouts) if making the whole recipe.

Put all the squash in a deep saucepan and just cover with water. Bring to a boil. Turn it off, letting it set for a bit. Now is when I fry up the onion in the butter–on medium heat –don’t brown it -just cooked. Put in the bouillon cubes and they will melt into the butter, with a little help. Now’s here is the part I usually forget. When you drain the squash, put a measuring cup in the sink because you want to reserve 1 cup of the squash liquid. If you forget like me, just sub a cup of broth or water-whatever liquid you want. Dump the drained squash into a large mixing bowl. Crumble in the already made cornbread. Throw in the reserved cup of squash water and everything else. Don’t forget the onion.  Cover casserole dish in foil for 30 minutes, then uncover for 20 more. It’s a great side dish!!

Too many tomatoes!!

2009_08010004These are a row of  5 cherry tomato plants-well over 6 feet tall and churning out tomatoes like nobodys business. We are giving them away at work and stopping people on the street to offer them. Cucumbers are plentiful, too. We use them in salads, of course but also to make “Spa Mix” which is a concoction to mix with gin (or vodka) for an evening libation. It sounded weird when sister Terri told me about it and mixed up her first batch but we love it and so did Sebastian, visiting from DC. You know how a Mojito tastes very light and summery? This is along those lines.

Spa Mix

This is a half batch.

3 cucumbers, sliced thin

11 ozs. Agave sweetener-1 bottle

4-5 ozs. fresh lemon juice

10 juniper berries (+ or-)

10 cardamon pods (+ or-)

1T. coriander seeds

2 bay leaves

Put all in a glass jar and mix well. Cover and chill at least overnight. Strain. Put a few spoonfuls (to taste) into a tall glass, add gin and soda water. Stir. Add ice cubes. YUM!

cc 001Alright. Not a great picture. And these cupcakes are not “pretty” But the cake and frosting recipe is my new current favorite cake recipe. I made them into cupcakes because a friend of my daughter is going to have cupcakes for her wedding instead of a cake so I wanted to make sure the recipe translated into cupcakes well before passing the recipe on. They have no coconut in them, just coconut milk. And zest of limes. They are SO good. Terri ate one with some leftover lemon icing I had hanging out in the back of the fridge and she said it was great that way, too. Recipe courtesy of Doreen Howarth, San Antonio, TX. I tweeked it a bit. Also, try and use limes that have tight, shiney skins–the soft ones don’t give up much rind. I’ve used up to 6 soft ones before to get it limey enough…

Put the Lime in the Coconut Cake


1 cup butter

2 cups sugar

1 tsp. coconut extract (real is best but hard to find-artificial is fine)

4 eggs

zest of 2-3 limes-finely grated on microplane grater

2+1/2 cups flour

1/2 tsp. salt

1 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. baking powder

1 cup coconut milk (whole not lite, and shake can REALLY well)


1/2 cup butter

1/2 cup (4 ozs.) cream cheese

1/4 cup coconut milk

1 teaspoon vanilla or coconut extract

zest of 2-3 limes (taste and judge), finely grated

1 lb. +or – powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350. If making this into a cake, grease and flour 3- 8 or 9 inch pans. Otherwise, lay out 2 dozen cupcake holders- I use silicon.

In a large bowl, cream sugar and butter together til fluffy. Add zest and extract, then eggs, one at a time, beating well inbetween. Mix dry ingredients in a separate bowl and add alternatly with coconut milk in 3 installments, beginning and ending with dry. 1/3 dry, 1/2 milk, 1/3 dry, 1/2 milk, 1/3 dry. Mix just til combined, don’t overbeat. Cupcakes take about 20 minutes to bake and cakes more like 25.

I think you can figure out how the frosting goes together. Add zest and powdered sugar to taste. I like my frostings not too sweet so i never use the whole pound of powdered sugar but I use xtra zest. You judge. Like most cakes, they are even better the next day.

Also, the lady from Texas whose recipe this is used an additional 1/2 cup of shortening in the frosting  “to keep the frosting from sliding off the cake” in transport (she’s a caterer) in the HOT Texas summers. I eliminated that here for the cupcakes-this makes plenty of frosting for them but if you were filling in between 3 layers plus frosting a full cake, you might consider adding that back in.

scones 003

Justgrams got me all hungry for scones. When my daughter was young, her grandma would take her to Ferndale’s  annual tea party held at a local church and put on by the mother-in-law of the preacher there, who was from England. She would go around to the tables, making sure everyone knew the “proper” way to eat scones…with jam and softly whipped cream on top. The scones were crisp on the outside and soft inside. So when I started looking for scone recipes, I picked a British version. They did not disappoint. Not as good the next day, they had lost some of their crunchy exterior texture. But heaven 10 minutes out of the oven, I added some finely chopped dried apricots because my generous brother and sister-in-law send me a large sack of moist dried apricots for Christmas that I am still happy to be using up. Thanks, Jay and Maria.
scones 006The Queen’s Scones

1 + 3/4 cups flour

1 Tbsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. salt

1/4 cup sugar

1/4 cup finely diced up butter (either dice it or cut in with pastry cutter-but not TOO small-you should have small chunks the size of peas in there)

1/3 cup cream

1 egg

Mix the dry. Beat egg into the cream. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Grease a cookie sheet. Pour wet into dry and combine-don’t over beat. Use a couple more Tbsp. of cream if necessary to hold dough together. Ball it up and knead lightly 3-4 times. Pat into a round, 1 inch thick or slightly more. Transfer to cookie sheet and cut into 8 wedges, separating slightly. Bake about 12 minutes-don’t over brown. Let cool about 10 minutes before diving in. You can add currents, raisins, chopped dates or chopped dried apricots like I did. About a handful.