Raspberry Cornmeal Cake

I know what you’re thinking. This cake looks a lot like this one I made a few months ago. And it is quite similar, but the cornmeal changes the flavor a bit. It’s more like sweetened cornbread than fluffy buttermilk cake.  And when we sliced into this, well, it was blissful. Especially with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top. It’s not required (you could dust some powdered sugar on top instead), but warm cake with ice cream is almost always a good idea.


Raspberry Cornmeal Cake

Recipe courtesy Martha Stewart

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled)
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar, and 1/4 cup for sprinkling
1/2 cup low-fat buttermilk
2 large eggs
7 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, plus 1 tablespoon for skillet
2 containers fresh raspberries (5.6 ounces each)


1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, cornmeal, baking powder, salt, and 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar. In another bowl, whisk together buttermilk, eggs, and melted butter; pour over flour mixture, whisking to combine.

2. In a 10-inch skillet (preferably cast-iron), heat remaining tablespoon butter in the oven until melted and skillet is hot, about 5 minutes. Remove from oven; swirl to coat bottom of pan. Pour batter into skillet; scatter blackberries on top, and sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup sugar.

3. Bake, with a baking sheet on rack below (to catch any drips), until top is evenly browned, 45 to 50 minutes. Let cool slightly, about 30 minutes. Run a knife around the edge to loosen; cut into 8 wedges. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Raspberry Buttermilk Cake

Making this cake was a bit of an impulse. But don’t you love when you realize you have everything you need for a perfect dessert? Well, minus one, but raspberries were all I needed to make this easy cake, so I added the lone ingredient to my grocery list and left for the store.


The batter comes together in minutes, and although my cake didn’t rise as much as I expected, it didn’t take away from the flavor or experience of the crunchy, sugary crunch. This recipe would also be great for small, individual cakes if you have the pans and want to show off a bit.


Raspberry Buttermilk Cake

I like to dust powdered sugar on things, but this cake has a nice sugary crust and needs nothing else to dress it up.

Recipe courtesy Gourmet

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 stick unsalted butter, softened
2/3 cup plus 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar, divided
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 large egg
1/2 cup well-shaken buttermilk
1 cup fresh raspberries (about 5 ounces)


Preheat oven to 400°F with rack in middle. Butter and flour a 9-inch round cake pan.

Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

Beat butter and 2/3 cup sugar with an electric mixer at medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 2 minutes, then beat in vanilla. Add egg and beat well.

At low speed, mix in flour mixture in 3 batches, alternating with buttermilk, beginning and ending with flour, and mixing until just combined. Spoon batter into cake pan, smoothing top. Scatter raspberries evenly over top and sprinkle with remaining 1 1/2 Tbsp sugar.

Bake until cake is golden and a wooden pick inserted into center comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes. Cool in pan 10 minutes, then turn out onto a rack and cool to warm, 10 to 15 minutes more. Invert onto a plate.

Strawberry Birthday Cake + CAF's 1-Year Anniversary

I just celebrated another birthday, and it also happens to be the one-year anniversary of my blog! Celebrations were in order, and this cake was a great way to kick off the holiday weekend.



Every year for my birthday my mom would ask what kind of cake I wanted, and my answer was always the same: strawberry cake with strawberry icing.  So on May 23rd she opened the box of Duncan Hines and spread the baked cake with canned frosting. It was everything I could have wanted. That is, until I caught on to the obsession of this whole bake-from-scratch thing.



I love strawberries, and count the seed-studded fruit as one of my favorite indulgences.  They can be covered in chocolate, dusted with sugar, or poured over angel food cake.  When my in-laws found out I loved strawberries, I spent several years driving back to Santa Barbara with a trunk load of strawberry-flavored treats. Strawberry cereal, strawberry pop tarts, strawberry candy. If they were shopping and something strawberry caught their eye, it was mine. They’ve since caught on that it’s really the fresh berries I’m after, and still stock chocolate sauce and plastic containers full of them when we visit (so sweet!).



So, was this cake everything I hoped it would be? Absolutely. Although some experiments might be in order during the next few years (cupcakes, strawberry icing, strawberries between the layers, etc.), this recipe as is, was exactly what I wanted.

Strawberry Birthday Cake or Pink Lady Cake or Strawberry Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Recipe courtesy Smitten Kitchen, via Sky High

This cake makes quite a bit of batter, so you have several options for how you’d like to proceed. I happen to have two, 8-inch cake pans and was feeling lazy (on the Friday afternoon of a three-day weekend), so I opted for two very thick cake rounds instead of three. I later cut them in half to create four layers.

Cooking times may vary depending on how much batter you place into each pan. For two pans, I spread 5-6 heaping ladle’s of batter into each. What began as 30 minutes turned into something like 45-50, so just check on them and adjust your baking times accordingly.

I added three small drops of red food coloring to the batter. For the frosting, I planned on keeping the color white, but then threw caution to the wind and started adding food coloring. I lost count around drop eight, but just add them one by one until you get the desired color. I might add more next time for a more neon pink, or less to keep it elegant, so just follow your heart.

For the cake
4 1/2 cups cake flour
3 cups sugar
5 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
3 sticks (12 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups pureed frozen strawberries*
8 egg whites
2/3 cup milk
1 to 2 drops red food dye, if using (to make the pink color pop more)
4 to 6 large strawberries, thinly sliced (These are optional, but I think adding them between each layer really drives the strawberry flavor home.)

For the cream cheese frosting
3 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks; 6 ounces) unsalted butter, softened
3 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Make the cake
1. Preheat the oven to 350»F. Butter three 9-inch round or 8-inch square cake pans. Line with parchment or waxed paper and butter the paper.

2. Put the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large mixer bowl. With the electric mixer on low speed, blend for 30 seconds. Add the butter and strawberry puree and mix to blend the ingredients. Raise the speed to medium and beat until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes; the batter will resemble strawberry ice cream at this point.

3. In another large bowl, whisk together the egg whites, milk and red food dye, if using, to blend. Add the whites to the batter in two or three additions, scraping down the sides of the bowl well and mixing only to incorporate after each addition. Divide the batter among the three prepared pans.

4. Bake the cakes for 30 to 34 minutes, or until a cake tester or wooden toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Allow the layers to cool in the pans for 10 to 15 minutes. Invert and turn out onto wire racks and peel off the paper liners. Let stand until completely cooled before assembling the cake, at least an hour.

Make the cream cheese frosting
5. In a medium bowl, cream together the cream cheese and butter until creamy. Mix in the vanilla, then gradually stir in the confectioners’ sugar. Store in the refrigerator after use.

Frost and assemble the cake
6. Place one cake layer on a cake board or platter. Tucking scraps of waxed paper under the edges of the cake will protect the board or plate from any mess created while frosting the cake. (I forgot, as can be clearly seen above.) Spread about 2/3 cup frosting over the layer, spreading it to the edge and lay strawberry slices on top. Repeat with the second layer. Add the top layer and frost the top and sides of cake with remaining frosting, reserving a small amount if you wish to tint it and pipe a decoration on the cake. If not, you can decorate the cake top with thinly-sliced strawberries. Remove the waxed strips to reveal and neat, clean cake board.

Blood Orange Olive Oil Cake

Blood oranges are at the farmer’s market nowadays, and I always walk by the sample table, pick up a blood orange chunk with a toothpick, then walk away with a smile on my face. They just taste so…good. Plus their deep red, almost purple color is just beautiful.



Today, I bought a few and pulled out a recipe I had been saving. The first night we ate these as dessert, but I wrapped up individual slices for grab-and-go breakfasts the rest of the week.


Blood Orange Olive Oil Cake
Recipe by Melissa Clark, New York Times

Butter for greasing pan
3 blood oranges
1 cup sugar
Buttermilk or plain yogurt
3 large eggs
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
Honey-blood orange compote, for serving, optional (see note)
Whipped cream, for serving, optional.

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan. Grate zest from 2 oranges and place in a bowl with sugar. Using your fingers, rub ingredients together until orange zest is evenly distributed in sugar.

2. Supreme an orange: Cut off bottom and top so fruit is exposed and orange can stand upright on a cutting board. Cut away peel and pith, following curve of fruit with your knife. Cut orange segments out of their connective membranes and let them fall into a bowl. Repeat with another orange. Break up segments with your fingers to about 1/4-inch pieces.

3. Halve remaining orange and squeeze juice into a measuring cup. You will have about 1/4 cup or so. Add buttermilk or yogurt to juice until you have 2/3 cup liquid altogether. Pour mixture into bowl with sugar and whisk well. Whisk in eggs.

4. In another bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Gently whisk dry ingredients into wet ones. Switch to a spatula and fold in oil a little at a time. Fold in pieces of orange segments. Scrape batter into pan and smooth top.

5. Bake cake for about 55 minutes, or until it is golden and a knife inserted into center comes out clean. Cool on a rack for 5 minutes, then unmold and cool to room temperature right-side up. Serve with whipped cream and honey-blood orange compote, if desired.

Yield: 8 to 10 servings.
Note: To make a honey-blood orange compote, supreme 3 more blood oranges according to directions in Step 2. Drizzle in 1 to 2 teaspoons honey. Let sit for 5 minutes, then stir gently.

Anniversary Cake Part 3: The Big Reveal + Recipes

Oh, have you been looking for the recipes I promised back in Part 1? Well, here they are! This cake, for a surprise party with fifteen guests, was absolutely delicious and a complete thrill to pull off. I actually surprised myself so much I considered becoming a professional baker during a two-minute moment of weakness when all the guests were fawning over how professional it looked. But now that all the gushing is out of the way, it’s back to reality. Leaving my job to open a cute little bakery certainly won't be happening, but there will always be room among all of life's responsibilities to create special treats for birthdays, anniversaries, or just because.
The main difference I noticed with this cake versus the test cake was that most of the lemon curd had soaked into the layers by the time we cut it. This didn't impact the flavor, you just couldn't see it, so it looked like raspberries completely dominated the filling. (Something I noticed, but no one else cared about.) Fondant also takes a little finesse to cut through. The first slice (above), was a bit mangled when it hit the plate, but again, a minor detail. Tip: Dip your knife into hot water before each slice to ensure a more even cut.

So, here are the recipes:

Vanilla Buttermilk Cake with Lemon Curd and Fresh Raspberries, Iced with Swiss Buttercream

{printable recipe}



Recipe via Smitten Kitchen, via Sky High: Irresistible Triple-Layer Cakes
Makes one three-layer 9-inch round cake

*I made a three-layer 8-inch cake

3 3/4 cups cake flour
2 1/2 cups sugar
1 tablespoon plus 2 3/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 sticks (10 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/4 cups plus 1/3 cup buttermilk
5 whole eggs
2 egg yolks
2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract


Recipe via Smitten Kitchen

For a 9-inch cake (plus filling, or some to spare)
1 cup sugar
4 large egg whites
26 tablespoons butter, softened (3 sticks plus 2 tablespoons or 1 1/2 cups + 2 tablespoons, if you buy butter in the large Costco quantities)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Lemon Curd

From: Sky High: Irresistible Triple Layer Cakes

3 whole eggs
2 egg yolks
½ cup sugar
½ cup + 1 tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 4 lemons)
Grated zest of 3 lemons
4 tbsp. unsalted butter, room temperature


1 to 2 cups frozen raspberries, thawed and drained




1. Preheat the oven to 325°F. Butter three 9-inch round cake pans. Line the bottom of each pan with a round of parchment or waxed paper and butter the paper.
2. Combine the cake flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large mixer bowl. With the mixer on low speed, blend for 30 seconds. Add the butter and 1 1/4 cup of the buttermilk. Mix on low speed briefly to blend; then raise the speed to medium and beat until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes.
3. In a smaller bowl, whisk together the whole eggs, egg yolks, vanilla, and the remaining 1/3 cup buttermilk until well blended. Pour one-third of the egg mixture into the cake batter at a time, folding it in completely after each addition. There will be 9 cups of batter; our 3 cups batter into each pan.
4. Bake for 26 to 28 minutes, or until a cake tester or wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. (Note: In my oven, the cakes took 30-33 minutes, so be sure to check them)
5. Turn the layers out onto wire racks by placing a rack on top of a pan, inverting it, and lifting off the pan. Peel off the paper liners and let cool completely. When the layers have cooled, place a cardboard cake board on top of a layer, invert again, and lift off the rack. To make the layers easier to handle, wrap them on their boards completely in plastic, so they don’t dry out, and refrigerate them.


1. Whisk egg whites and sugar together in a big metal bowl over a pot of simmering water. Whisk occasionally until you can’t feel the sugar granules when you rub the mixture between your fingers.
2. Transfer mixture into the mixer and whip until it turns white and about doubles in size. (Here’s a tip: when you transfer to the mixer, make sure you wipe the condensation off the bottom of the bowl so that no water gets into the egg whites. This can keep them from whipping up properly.)
3.  Add the vanilla.
4.  Finally, add the butter a stick at a time and whip, whip, whip. (This can take 10-15 minutes.)


Lemon Curd

1. Whisk together whole eggs, yolks, sugar, lemon juice and lemon zest in a medium bowl.
2. Transfer mixture to a small saucepan. Gently heat the mixture, whisking until it thickens enough to coat a spoon; do not boil.
3. Pour the mixture through a wire mesh strainer into a heatproof dish. Stir in the butter and cover the curd with plastic wrap, pressing it to the surface to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate until needed.



Since I made the cake a day ahead, I flash-froze the layers (see notes on Part 2), then brushed on a simple syrup before adding the filling to ensure the cake would still be moist the next day. To assemble, place one cake layer on a cake board or stand. (Don't forget the parchment paper!) For my test cake, I didn’t use a buttercream buffer. In fact, I hadn’t even read about this tip yet. But when it came to the big event, I piped a small layer of buttercream along the edge of the cake layer to keep curd from spilling out of the sides. Pour 1/2 of the lemon curd onto the first layer and gently spread it out. Squeeze extra juice from berries and dot them on the lemon curd. Place second layer on top, gently pressing down, and repeat until the third layer is placed. Next, apply a crumb layer and let the cake chill for another 30 minutes in the fridge.  Finally, frost, decorate, and enjoy!

Anniversary Cake Part 2: Frosting, Freezers and Fondant


Now that you know the story, here is a collection of tips I learned from attempting this project, as well as a big THANK YOU to all the resources I used to pull this off.

Use the freezer. Most blogs and cake sites I read recommended freezing the layers (for up to a week, wrapped in plastic), but a minimum of 30 minutes to an hour. The latter is the “flash freezing” technique, which I found to be the best trick for making frosting a breeze.  Allow your cakes to cool, then place them on a parchment lined baking sheet and slide it in the freezer. When you pull them out to begin frosting, you’ll notice a big difference.

Swiss Buttercream. It’s true about the Swiss Buttercream—it will come together (yes, even if it separates). Just turn on your mixer and leave it alone. Leave the kitchen all together and when you return, it will have survived the curdled soup phase and look beautifully creamy. I panicked the first time (and even the second time) when I saw it lumpy in the bowl of my mixer, but magically, it will reach the consistency you need.


The all-important crumb coat. This is a thin coat of frosting that will cover any crumbs and ensure a smooth surface for adding the top layer of frosting. Put your cake back in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to let crumb coat chill and harden before spreading on the final layer of frosting. It's truly the key to making your cake look like it came from a professional bakery.


Fondant. Fondant can be made at home, but I wasn’t about to add another thing to my to-do list this late in the game. With no shame, I bought boxes of the stuff at Gloria’s Cake Supply (fondant can also be found online). To roll fondant, first measure the amount you will need. Add the width of the cake plus the height of the two sides (in my case, 8+4+4 = 16. Wilton’s recommends adding another 2 inches, so my total was 18 inches).

Since my counter tops are tiled and not perfectly smooth, I cleared off my kitchen table, dusted it with powdered sugar, and spent the next ten minutes getting an upper body workout. Continue to roll and measure until the fondant is about ¼ inches thick and the width you need. Use your rolling pin to pick it up and gently drape it over the cake. Start by smoothing the top of the cake, then work your way down the sides, gently removing air bubbles as you go.

Ideally, fondant should be placed on a chilled frosting layer (I accidentally bypassed this step, considering later that it might have been useful. Thankfully, nothing was ruined). After the crumb coat, frost your cake, and if you’re planning to use fondant, stick it in the fridge again for 30 minutes before applying the fondant.



A brief plug for You Tube. Watching videos of cake decorating/frosting was especially useful for a first time wedding cake baker. Learn how to swivel your icing spatula or flatten fondant, and you’ll have an edge when you attempt these techniques yourself.

Smitten Kitchen. Deb made a wedding cake last year and her detailed posts gave me confidence to attempt one of my own. The Swiss buttercream and vanilla buttermilk cake recipes are adapted from her site.

Baking Supplies. If you live in a major city, there is likely a restaurant or baking supply store in your area (so Google!). LA folks: Head to Gloria’s Cake & Candy Supply in Culver City for all your baking essentials. For online shopping, Wilton’s, Gloria’s, and Amazon all have a large selection of products.

Here are a few more tools that will make this whole process easier:

Cake boards. Cake boards come in a range of materials from basic cardboard to gold and silver-coated boards that will give your cake a professional look and feel. Boards are generally inexpensive (under $1 for the cardboard variety, and depending on the decorative version you choose, anywhere from $2 to $10).

Cake boxes. Essential if you’re transporting your cake anywhere. If you aren’t making a tiered cake to be assembled on site, you can make the cake, frost and decorate, and slide it (on your trusty cake board) into the cake box.

Icing spatulas. A regular butter knife just won’t cut it for frosting cakes. Again, relatively inexpensive ($8-$30 depending on brand), it’s worthwhile to invest in icing spatulas if cakes or cupcakes will be in your foreseeable future.


Parchment paper. Lining your baking pans with parchment paper (you can cut them out yourself or buy pre-cut liners), will ensure your cake will turn out with ease. Also, an invaluable tip: Before frosting your cake, slide pieces of parchment or wax paper under the cake to protect it from falling icing. When you’re finished, gently pull them out to reveal a clean line between the cake and your board.


Looking for recipes? Find them here.

{Printable Recipe}


Anniversary Cake Part 1: Testing Recipes



For the past two weeks, I’ve secretly been making cake. Vanilla Buttermilk Cake with Lemon Curd and Fresh Raspberries, Iced with Swiss Buttercream to be exact. My parents celebrated their 30th anniversary today and I, with the help of one of my mom’s best friends, planned a surprise dinner for them at the Mission Inn last Sunday. And now that the party’s over, I can finally share my baking experiences, and everything I learned along the way.


The event took on many manifestations (including a blind wine tasting for 50 of their closest friends where I planned to make all the food) before we settled on an intimate dinner (at a restaurant, who would make the food for us) with just the immediate family. So, with no invitations to mail or appetizer menu’s to brainstorm, I thought of cake. Wedding cake, in particular, is one of my dad’s favorite guilty pleasures. At my own wedding, we made sure he had a special box to take home extra slices. Having never attempted a true wedding-style layer cake (thankfully, this time there were no dowels or tiers involved), I had to do some practicing.



There were a lot of firsts with this cake. First triple layer cake. First batch of Swiss Buttercream. First attempt at frosting a cake with my icing spatulas. I started by reading lots of recipes, watching videos, and generally getting a feel for the skills required to pull this off. Overall, nothing was a complete disaster. The biggest mistake I made was removing the layers  too quickly from their pan after baking. One layer broke in half with steam still rising from the center. The lesson? Let your cakes cool before transferring them anywhere. But with no one to impress just yet, the pressure was off. Plus, after smushing the layers back together, the break was undetectable.


The cake was moist, and its light flavor took the edge off the tart lemon curd and raspberries. I couldn’t have been happier. After my husband and I devoured our slice, I packed the rest up for him to take to work. The cake was finished before 9 am, and his colleagues prepared some thoughtful critiques after explaining it was a practice cake. The most common note was preferring more flavor in the buttercream. Personally, I thought the flavors were spot on, but I upped the vanilla by a ½ teaspoon in the final cake.

Next, tackling fondant…




La Bête Noire

Translation: The Black Beast. Based on the name alone, I knew this decadent chocolate cake would be an ideal finish to our Valentine’s Day dinner (see post below). Flourless chocolate cake is one of my all time favorite desserts. The texture is dense, closer to fudge, and you will only need a few bites to feel satisfied.

La Bête Noire

Bon Appétit |  September 2006

by Jason Aronen


1 cup water
3/4 cup sugar
9 tablespoons (1 stick plus 1 tablespoon) unsalted butter, diced
18 ounces bittersweet (not unsweetened) or semisweet chocolate, chopped
6 large eggs


1 cup heavy whipping cream
8 ounces bittersweet (not unsweetened) or semisweet chocolate, chopped


For cake:
Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter 10-inch-diameter springform pan. Line bottom of pan with parchment round; butter parchment. Wrap 3 layers of heavy-duty foil around outside of pan, bringing foil to top of rim. Combine 1 cup water and sugar in small saucepan. Bring to boil over medium heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Simmer 5 minutes. Remove from heat.

Melt butter in large saucepan over low heat. Add chocolate and whisk until smooth. Whisk sugar syrup into chocolate; cool slightly. Add eggs to chocolate mixture and whisk until well blended. Pour batter into prepared pan. Place cake pan in large roasting pan. Add enough hot water to roasting pan to come halfway up sides of cake pan.

Bake cake until center no longer moves when pan is gently shaken, about 50 minutes. Remove from water bath; transfer to rack. Cool completely in pan.

For ganache:
Bring whipping cream to simmer in small saucepan over medium heat. Remove from heat. Add chocolate and whisk until smooth. Pour over top of cake still in pan. Gently shake pan to distribute ganache evenly over top of cake. Refrigerate cake in pan until ganache is set, about 2 hours. DO AHEAD: Can be made 2 days ahead. Cover and keep refrigerated.

Run knife around pan sides to loosen cake; release sides. Cut cake into wedges and serve with whipped cream, if desired.

Rustic Canyon’s Cranberry Orange Ricotta Cake

Since relocating to Los Angeles in September, I haven’t spent many evenings dining out. Aside from the two weeks of forced exile to eateries because of a broken fridge, my recent dinner at Rustic Canyon Wine Bar and Seasonal Kitchen in Santa Monica was our first real night out in a few months. It was a night where reservations were made after several restaurants were carefully considered before settling on Rustic Canyon, and I was genuinely looking forward to it.

Rustic Canyon appealed to me because of its emphasis on local, seasonal ingredients (they shop at the Santa Monica Farmer’s Market) and, based on their website and online reviews, what seemed to be a commitment to simple, quality food. 

Bouchon, my favorite restaurant in Santa Barbara, follows a similar method of using Farmer’s Market fare. Once we arrived for dinner at Bouchon at 5:30 and ordered a scallop appetizer – one of the last the kitchen had available that night. When they run out of the good stuff, it’s gone.

So, it’s safe to say my expectations were high. While I love to cook at home, I’m usually overcome with giddiness at the thought of a night out at a really, really good restaurant. It’s my chance to order food I don’t normally make at home, try wines I don’t usually buy. I should also mention that I crossed out Wine Resolution #17: Try a wine you think you don't like. Blame it on Sideways, but Merlot sales went downhill when that movie became popular. I drank Merlot only when it was offered at tastings, but tonight I took the advice of our server and paired a Napa Merlot with my scallops. I'm happy to say I was not at all disappointed.


Side note: I don’t tend to take pictures in restaurants. While part of me is dying to capture the moment, another, more pronounced part says no, don’t interrupt the moment with a flash that causes other diner’s to look your way, or incessant plate spinning for just the right angle. I can’t do it. But check out the link above. Their food is as clean and inviting as their website.



We started with artichoke ravioli, which was good, but not overly exciting. Then my scallops arrived, perfectly browned on both sides with a celery root puree and red wine reduction. The next fifteen minutes were blissful as I savored every bite. You might be wondering where the cake comes in. I stumbled upon the recipe in the LA Times during my Google-research phase and was thrilled to see that it was on the menu the night we went. (We also ordered the donuts with dark chocolate sauce – an absolute must if you visit.)

The restaurant version was as I expected – moist and the perfect combination of sweetness and tartness. It was especially nice when paired with a small bite of cool vanilla bean ice cream. When I made it at home, the friends I had over noted its versatility – perfect for breakfast, brunch an afternoon snack, and a great alternative to Pumpkin Pie for Thanksgiving. It seems this cake can be eaten at any time of day, and for any occasion, making it a great recipe to keep in your files when you need something just right.

Rustic Canyon’s Cranberry Orange Ricotta Cake

Total time: 1 hour, 40 minutes

Servings: 18

Adapted from pastry chef Zoe Nathan of Rustic Canyon

2 cups flour
1 cup cornmeal
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3 eggs
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 1/2 tablespoons vanilla
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons (1 3/4 sticks) butter
1 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons sugar, divided
2 1/4 teaspoons salt
Zest of 1 orange
2 cups ricotta cheese
2 1/2 cups cranberries, divided

1. Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Grease a 9-inch round by 3-inch tall cake pan and line the bottom with parchment paper.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder and baking soda. In a separate medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, maple syrup, oil and vanilla. Set aside.
3. In the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, or in a large bowl with a hand mixer, cream together the butter, 1 1/2 cups sugar, salt and zest. Mix just until thoroughly combined; do not overmix.
4. With the mixer running, slowly incorporate the egg mixture into the butter just until combined.
5. With the mixer on low speed, add one-half of the flour mixture to the batter and quickly mix for 5 seconds. Turn off the mixer and add the rest of the flour, the ricotta and one-half of the cranberries. Mix the remaining ingredients into the batter over low speed just until combined, being careful not to overmix.
6. Gently pour the batter into the cake pan and smooth the top. Scatter the remaining cranberries over the top of the cake, and sprinkle with the remaining 2 tablespoons sugar.
7. Bake the cake until a toothpick inserted comes out clean, about 1 hour and 15 minutes. Place a loose piece of foil over the top of the cake if it starts to darken. Cool the cake on a wire rack before removing it from the pan.

Glazed Lime Cake

Martha Stewart’s Lime Meltaways were the first lime-themed sweets I made that truly captured my attention (alas, I made them before my blogging days so there are no photos to share, but Smitten Kitchen made them so you can see how enticing they really are). Now I can't get enough of these small green wonders.
I’m not in the habit of baking during the week. Baking requires time, energy, accurate measuring, and a certain amount of patience to be successful. When I get home from work and need to magically put ingredients together in under an hour, baking is the last thing on my mind. Now, give me a lazy Saturday or Sunday afternoon and there is always time to precisely follow directions and even enjoy a vanilla latte or a quick magazine read while my treats are baking away in the oven.
Enter Wednesday. It's the one day a week that my husband goes jogging after work, leaving me with plenty of time to bake. Thankfully, this cake is simple. Its ingredients come together in a stand mixer and head straight to the cake pan. During the 35 minutes it bakes you can easily prep ingredients for your main course and finish the glaze that will be drizzled on top. Aside from an extra round of dishes, it didn’t appear to be more work than usual, and ended our evening on a sweet note.

Glazed Lime Cake

Recipe courtesy Bon Appetit


3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter, room temperature
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar, divided
2 large eggs, room temperature
1/4 cup milk
1 1/3 cups self-rising flour
2 to 3 large limes
1/4 cup sugar


Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter and flour 8-inch square baking pan. Using electric mixer, cream butter and 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar in large bowl. Beat in eggs 1 at a time. Beat in milk, then flour. Transfer batter to prepared pan; smooth top. Bake cake until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 35 minutes.

Meanwhile, finely grate enough lime peel to measure 1 tablespoon. Halve limes; squeeze enough juice to measure 1/4 cup. Mix peel, juice, and 1/4 cup sugar in small bowl. Set lime syrup aside.

Using skewer, poke holes all over baked cake. Spoon half of lime syrup (about 3 tablespoons) over hot cake. Cool.

Whisk 1 cup powdered sugar into remaining lime syrup; drizzle over cake. Let stand 1 hour. Cut cake into squares.

Red Velvet Cupcakes


December has certainly been a month of sweets. I’m convinced it was because I had some time off (translation: more time to bake). That, combined with the recent discovery that my oven is actually half-way decent and won’t burn every cookie I attempt, adds up to a lot of desserts.



I’m sure many of you are aware that California’s cupcake craze has made consumers swoon in the last couple of years. Cupcakes popped up like pansies in bakeries across the state, making it easier than ever to try, and inevitably fall in love with, red velvet cake. I quickly googled recipes to store for the day that I would attempt them myself, and that occasion came last month for my husband’s birthday. I used Pinch My Salt’s post as a guide, and would have made the cake version, but wanted to (easily) transport the extras to his parent’s house for Thanksgiving. An already sliced cake just wouldn’t have made the prettiest presentation.



And let’s face it – Christmas is in two days, and red velvet cakes are adorably festive. All they’re missing are some green sprinkles.

Red Velvet Cake (a.k.a. Waldorf Astoria Cake)

Courtesy Pinch My Salt

2 1/2 cups sifted cake flour*
1 t. baking powder
1 t. salt
2 T. cocoa powder
2 oz. red food coloring
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs, at room temperature
1 t. vanilla
1 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
1 t. white vinegar
1 t. baking soda

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour two 9-inch round cake pans or three 8-inch round cake pans.
2. Into a medium bowl, sift together cake flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside.
3. In a small bowl, mix food coloring and cocoa powder to form a paste; set aside.
4. In a large bowl, using a hand mixer or stand mixer, beat butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, about three minutes.
5. Making sure to scrape down the bowl occasionally, beat in eggs, one at a time, then beat in vanilla and cocoa paste.
6. Add one third of the flour mixture, beat well, then beat in half of the buttermilk. Beat in another third of flour mixture, then second half of buttermilk.  Finally beat in the last third of the flour mixture, making sure to scrape down the bowl with a spatula.
7. Make sure you have cake pans buttered, floured, and nearby.  In a small bowl, mix vinegar and baking soda.  Yes, it will fizz!  Add it to the cake batter and stir well to combine.  Working quickly, divide batter evenly between the cake pans and place them in a preheated 350 degree oven.
7. Bake for 25-30 minutes. (For cupcakes, bake 18 min.) Check early, cake is done when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
8. Cool the cakes in their pans on a wire rack for 10 minutes. To remove the cakes from the pan, place a wire rack on top of the cake pan and invert, then gently lift the pan.  Allow cakes to cool completely before frosting.
9. Frost with cream cheese frosting (link below).
*If you can’t find cake flour, Nicole mentioned that the original recipe called for all-purpose flour and recommended using ¼ cup less, so 2 ¼ c. all-purpose flour instead of 2 ½ C. cake flour. I went this route and the results were great.

Cream Cheese Frosting Recipe