Amy’s Lemon Icebox Cake

Image of a slice of Amy’s Lemon Ice Box Cake with grated lemon zest and chopped pistashiosWhat’s in the (Ice) Box?
If you are looking for an easy Summer dessert that requires no heat and very little effort, look no further that the icebox cake. Its name may bring to mind Leave it To Beaver-type visions of the 1950s. But, in fact, its origins are even older than that. Icebox cakes are the original no-bake dessert!

When refrigeration arrived in the home during the 1920s, ice box cakes became very popular. Usually, they were made by layering cookies or graham crackers between layers of cream and fruit. Then they were then left to set in the ice box until ready to serve. Companies like Nabisco “conveniently” helped the rise in popularity by printing icebox cake recipes on the boxes of their Famous Chocolate Wafers and Nilla Wafers.

One of the best things about icebox cakes is that they are infinitely customizable (as long as you have cookies of some sort and cream). What you add to that is completely up to you. The most popular versions tend to go with chocolatey combinations like Oreo cookies and cream. Graham crackers can be used to make a s’mores version. And the banana cream version with Nilla Wafers is soooo good.

Personally, I am a fan of Amy’s Lemon Icebox Cake. And, for that, I go with Nilla Wafers, although you could also use shortbread cookies to class it up a bit…whatever floats your boat.

On a hot day, the fresh taste of lemon can be just the thing to satisfy your sweet tooth without being too sweet. Just remember to plan for the time it takes to set. I like to use mascarpone because it’s lighter than a traditional cream cheese but you could use either.

Amy’s Lemon Icebox Cake
Yields 10 servings Read more…

Red Velvet Cupcakes

Photo of three Red Velvet Cupcakes with sprinklesGrand Old Flag
I think it’s fair to say that most people will be celebrating the Fourth of July next Monday. How they are celebrating is a totally different question. Some will have backyard BBQs with family and friends. Some will watch parades and wait for the fireworks in the evening. Others will look forward to some downtime in the pool and a day of doing nothing. If they happen to catch a few fireworks in the sky, so much the better.

Not sure which camp I fall into. All of them sound good. But, I can’t deny the appeal of the latter. The last couple of weeks have been a bit crazy. As of this moment, there are no set-in-stone plans. We may go to our local parade if only to absorb a little small town Americana. Or not. There might be a BBQ with friends. There may also just be my husband and me sharing a rack of ribs al fresco. What I do know for certain is that there will be a flag cake. It might be small. It might be big. But, there will be a flag cake.

In my family, it’s not Fourth of July without a flag cake. The type of cake varies from year-to-year. But, the frosting on the top is always cream cheese. And, there are always berries—raspberries and/or blueberries.

Because plans are sort of up in the air this year, I might go with red velvet cupcakes instead of a sheet cake and arrange them to look like a flag. The recipe is the same, but the cooking time changes a bit. This way if it just ends up being the two of us, I can make a smaller batch and finish them with a couple of blueberries on top so the red, white, and blue is covered.

Red Velvet Cupcakes Recipe
Adapted from The Pioneer Woman
Yields about 24 cupcakes Read more…

Blueberry Cornmeal Streusel Cake

Image of piece of Blueberry Cornmeal Streusel CakeBerry Corn-ucopia
I like cake. I like dessert in general, but I can definitely assert that I like cake. That being said, I have noticed that my cake tastes have changed in recent years. It used to be that if I went out to eat and a dessert menu was placed in front of me, my eyes would immediately be drawn to whatever was the most decadent, usually chocolate, option.

Not the case anymore. Nowadays if I am out on the town and it is time for dessert, nine times out of ten I will choose the fruity option over the chocolate. Unless it involves coffee or any mention of mocha…that’s a game-changer.

I have also noticed that I prefer less sweet offerings which is probably why a “Death By Chocolate” cake, while potentially fantastic and perfect in the right moment, is skipped over for something with lemon or berries. I find that I only eat what I call the birthday-style cakes for birthdays. (I know…birthday cake for a birthday?? I’m such a rebel.) I don’t make three-layer chocolate devil’s food cakes for a random Sunday night dinner. I will, however, make something like this apricot cake, which was amazing with the apricots from my brother-in-law’s tree.

Fruity cakes are great because it’s easier to justify eating them at all times of the day and not just for dessert. A slice of my Lemon Pound Cake Bliss with some coffee or tea in the afternoon can be just what you need to get you through the rest of your day. During the summer months, making a cake with any of the wide variety of fresh berries in the market can easily fill in as breakfast. I mean a muffin is just a smaller version of a cake, am I right?

A number of my favorite eat-all-day cakes include the use of corn or corn meal. I really like the flavor combination as well as the texture that corn can add to a cake. This is a great one for snacking but I also like cakes where the berries are baked in and not just spooned on top.

One of my favorite flavor combinations is blueberries and cornmeal. My recipe for Blueberry Cornmeal Streusel Cake is an excellent example. The streusel on top suggests that this cake would work well for breakfast…or brunch…or lunch…or tea…or a midnight snack!

Blueberry Cornmeal Streusel Cake Recipe
Adapted from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook by Deb Perelman
Yields 16 small squares Read more…

Amy’s Carrot Cake

Amy’s Carrot Cake PhotoThe Dos and Don’ts of Carrot Cake
I’m making a carrot cake this weekend for Easter. While it may not be the most innovative choice for an Easter dessert, it is a family tradition. So…

The hardest thing about making a carrot cake for my extended family is that there are a number of rules one needs to follow in order to make it edible for everyone. First off, it better not have any raisins. To the younger members of our family raisins—in any way shape or form—are a horror that cannot be suffered no matter the recipe. I have no idea what event occurred in their early childhoods to foment such a visceral reaction to this particular dried fruit. But, to them, raisins are the very definition of eeew.

To be fair, I have my own issues. For example, you will never see pineapple in my carrot cake. I love pineapple and will happily devour a perfectly ripe one in a single sitting. But, there is something about adding it to a carrot cake that just doesn’t work for me. Also, I will always use pecans instead of walnuts. Doesn’t matter what I am making. Pecans are better than walnuts. There. I said it.

Lastly, I gotta add some coconut. True, it may not be traditional but the added flavor makes it non-negotiable.

When all is said and done, after everyone’s rules have been followed, you are left with a truly classic Eastern celebration dessert, Amy’s Carrot Cake. Let’s be honest though, while the cake does actually matter, its most important purpose, really, is to serve as the vehicle for cream cheese frosting consumption.

Amy’s Carrot Cake
Adapted from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking: From My Home to Yours

Read more…