Southern Living’s Easy Berry Ice Cream Cake

Ice Cream Cake

Perfect for Summer!

For whatever reason, I don’t usually make the recipe featured on the front cover of a magazine. I’m not sure why, I guess I just usually find even more interesting recipes buried inside the magazine. That was not the case with Southern Living’s July issue. Right on the front cover was a blurb advertising “Berry Ice Cream Cake.” It immediately got my attention. (The pasta salads pictured on the cover were also delicious – I’ve made one of those recipes and still have to try the others.)

I made the Berry Ice Cream Cake (officially called Red, White, and Blue Ice Cream Cake) for, what else, the Fourth of July. It was so yummy! It was really easy too.

I did make a few modifications. Even though frozen pound cake would be easy, I had the time to make my own. I halved the Joy of Cooking recipe, and even then had plenty of pound cake left over. Hooray for extra cake! I also made the raspberry sauce in advance – it was an easy thing to get out of the way. You can see from the picture that we didn’t skimp on adding the raspberry sauce.

I debated skipping the raspberry preserves step. Adding raspberry preserves to raspberry sorbet seemed to be just too much, but in the end I’m glad I did it. In the carton the raspberry sorbet is more of a pale pink color, and the raspberry preserves really gave it a richer red.

As with any ice cream cake, it needs to be eaten quickly! Luckily it was, and there were hardly any leftovers!


Classic Chocolate Cupcakes with Vanilla Buttercream

“Dessert Party!” read the Evite, in big purple letters.  What could get my attention faster than that?!  Classic Cupcake

I immediately began planning what to bring.  Since the party was to celebrate a friend’s birthday, cupcakes seemed like a logical choice.

I considered going crazy with a fancy cupcake flavor, but I didn’t know a lot of the party guests, so I wasn’t sure if they’d be into coconut, mocha, Oreo, or other fun flavors.  You also never know about food allergies. I decided to “play it safe” with a classic flavor, and I’m glad I did!

I used Williams-Sonoma’s All-Natural Chocolate Cupcake Mix, which I bought on a whim when it was on sale.  I followed the directions to warm the ingredients to room temperature and was rewarded with 12 beautiful, glossy cupcakes (and enough batter left over to make 8 mini ones for myself!) Note: the mini ones baked at 350 for about 12 minutes.

The cake was not too sweet, which was perfect since I planned to top the cupcakes with a sweet frosting.  Actually, I liked eating the mini cupcakes without any frosting, but you can’t bring naked cupcakes to a party!

I made a simple vanilla buttercream frosting (secret: use a generous amount of bourbon vanilla extract) and used my new disposable pastry bags to top the cupcakes.  They were easy and quite popular at the party, despite all the other temptations there.  I definitely have to make them again!

Goodbye Twinkies!

With today’s announcement by Hostess Brands that they are closing their plants and the absence of a new buyer, millions of Americans will have to stay goodbye to Twinkies, Ho Hos, Wonder Bread, and other Hostess and Drake’s treats – staples of childhood lunchboxes for decades.

Fortunately, the Internet is full of make-your-own recipes, which are quite likely better than the originals, as

they’ll avoid the chemical preservative taste.  Of course, homemade Twinkies wouldn’t have the shelf life of the store-bought ones, but make some yourself and see if they stick around long enough to worry about shelf life anyway!

I don’t think that the end of Hostess means the end of the snack cake, though.  Entenmann’s is still around (thank goodness for their crumb-topped donuts!)  Other brands will step forward to fill the lunchbox void with similar snacks.  Plus, isn’t a cupcake really just an upscale snack cake?

Here’s a roundup of recipes for homemade Hostess products:

Twinkies (notice the difference between recipes in the filling ingredients – these will taste different from one another.  You could have a Twinkie recipe taste test party!)

Hostess Twinkie Recipe by Top Secret Recipes

Homemade Twinkies by Leite’s Culinaria

Homemade Twinkies by The New York Times

Homemade Twinkies by Simple Math Bakery (they also have a recipe for Pumpkin Twinkies!)


Homemade HoHos by Gale Gand of Food Network

Homemade HoHos by How to Baker

Sno Balls

Homemade Sno Balls by Serious Eats

Homemade Sno Ball Cupcakes by Baking Bites

Ding Dongs

Homemade Ding Dongs by A Cozy Kitchen

Homemade Ding Dongs by Baker

A Sweet for a Sergeant

The finished cake

I recently made this cake for the husband of a dear friend who is about to deploy.  The cake is based on the Air Force roundel symbol.


  • Cake (two 9” rounds, one 13×9 – your choice of flavor)
  • Filling (I used this raspberry filling recipe – it’s seedless!)
  • Buttercream frosting
  • Blueberries
  • Raspberries (to coordinate with the filling)
  • Marshmallows

Since I was transporting the cake on a three-hour drive, I used marshmallows rather than white chocolate chips or white M&Ms.  Any of them would be delicious.

I definitely recommend using the optional raspberry liqueur in the filling recipe.  The filling was so good I ate the leftover with a spoon!

I tried Giada’s white frosting recipe.  It was tasty, but a little bit runny – I had to add about ¾ cup more sugar than the recipe calls for.  I also had to make 3 batches for a cake this large.

On the whole, I was pleased with how the cake came out, despite the summer heat and travel challenges.  I would recommend using this design rather than the more common USAF logo with wings – it’s much easier.


Cupcake ATM Coming to Georgetown

Though it might already be old news to some, I just had to mention that cupcake shop Sprinkles is bringing its famous Cupcake ATM to Georgetown.  The Washington Post reports that it is expected to open sometime in August.

Sprinkles Cupcakery, Georgetown

I am curious how many cupcakes will sell through the ATM per day.  Georgetown is the perfect location – between college students, shoppers, tourists, and the post-bar crowd.   I can’t think of a better place in Washington to put 24 hour cupcake access. But will it sell 1,000 cupcakes a day like the Beverly Hills location?  Will it impact those long lines outside Georgetown Cupcake?  Time will tell.Meanwhile, I’ll file “Cupcake ATM” under the list of things I wish I had thought of first!

All-Natural Elmo Cake

A dear friend recently asked me to make a cake for her daughter’s two-year-old birthday party.  Who is the most popular monster around when you are two?  Elmo!

I figured Elmo would be a good choice, because not only is he universally popular among the two-year-old crowd, but he is relatively simple.  An odd-shaped head, round eyes, orange nose, and open mouth are his defining facial characteristics.

I knew right away that I wanted to stay away from red frosting dyes and make an “all-natural” Elmo.  I was surprised to find very little advice online about how to accomplish this.

Here’s how I did it:

Not confident in my ability to create Elmo’s head shape just by carving a sheet cake, I bought the Wilton Elmo-shaped cake pan.  It is sold at Michael’s and AC Moore.  Be sure to use a coupon, since it retails for about $12.

I baked a yellow cake in the pan, using a lot of flour baking release spray.  Once it was cool, I frosted it with a simple white icing recipe.  I did need to double the recipe to fully cover Elmo.

I spoke with bakery staff at Whole Foods and Doron Petersan of Sticky Fingers Bakery, (thank you!) who both advised me that there is no such thing as an all-natural red dye that would get anything close to the color of Elmo.  While I might be able to make a pale pink, I would need another alternative for realistic Elmo fur.

Strawberries are the perfect red shade and they provide a bit of texture too.  Be sure to cut them in the different shapes.  You’ll need small pieces when you get around the eye and nose area.

For the nose, I used a hollowed-out half of a navel orange.  For the black pupils of Elmo’s eyes, I used upside-down dark chocolate Hershey Kisses.

The black mouth presented more of a challenge.  I used black licorice, which I trimmed into a mouth shape.  I recommend using kitchen shears for the trimming.  You may also want to leave the licorice out on the counter the night before so some of the tangy smell goes away.

The cake was a big hit!  My only disappointment was that the strawberries leaked juice and by the time the cake was served, there was a small puddle of strawberry juice around it.  I’ve baked with strawberries and raspberries since, and I continue to have this problem, even though I am drying the berries thoroughly.  I’ll have to continue to experiment with this.

Also, be aware that your Elmo cake won’t fit in a standard 13×9 cake carrier.  Oops!  Lesson learned.

Now for next year’s challenge: Who’s the most popular character when you are 3?!

My First Taste of Hummingbird Cake

I recently had the need to make a dessert that is specifically Southern.  I’ve always wanted to try Hummingbird Cake.  Initally published in Southern Living in February 1978, it is the magazine’s most-requested recipe.   There’s no consensus online about how the cake got its name, but it is likely something to do with hummingbirds liking sweet nectar.  Or maybe the woman who submitted the recipe, Mrs. L.H. Wiggins of Greensboro, North Carolina, just really liked hummingbirds.

Last year Southern Living published a Hummingbird Bundt Cake recipe, which is a bit less time-consuming than the layered version.  It can also be frozen ahead of time and just glazed when ready to serve.  Cooking Light has Hummingbird Mini Bundt Cakes, but I didn’t have a mini bundt pan handy.  The recipes for the full bundt cake and the mini bundts vary greatly, so I don’t think you can just pour the regular bundt batter in the mini bundt pan or vice versa.

Anyway, I made the regular-sized Bundt cake.  It is currently in the freezer, but a little taste revealed a complex banana bread flavor.  I think the banana overpowers the pineapple a bit, but the cake is really moist.  The pecan top looks pretty, and I’m sure the cake will look even nicer once it is glazed. Yum!

Exploring the World of French Pastry

If you’re like me, you’ve always considered French pastries too hard to make yourself.  Admire them in the windows of patisseries across Paris or at your local bakery, but don’t attempt the flaky crusts, creamy chocolate, or perfect crème flavor in your own kitchen.

This recipe, Gateau Basque, has changed that for me.  It’s a simple, tasty, do-it-yourself pastry from the  Basque region of France.  [Read more…]

Mix-ing It Up

I am not a fan of cake mixes.  If you are a fairly regular baker, you no doubt have the few dry ingredients needed on hand and can whip up a cake batter just as fast as Betty Crocker.  When I do use a mix and bring the cake somewhere, I never admit use of the mix.  After all, my mother raised me right.

However, every once in a while, a cake/muffin mix comes along that is so good and so simple, I just have to use it.  It becomes a staple on my pantry shelf next to the flour and sugar.

[Read more…]