Summertime, and the livin’ is easy…Ella Fitzgerald


Today is the first day of summer, and here in Northern Nevada, we can feel it.  100 degrees in the shade and it will only get hotter as the days go by.

The heat doesn’t make me really want to bake, but I couldn’t fight the urge to welcome Summer with my Summer Squash/Chai Cupcakes.

A few years ago, we had a bumper crop of summer squash from our garden, and I was wracking my brain for new recipes to use it all.

Now most people have had chocolate zucchini cake and zucchini bread, but there aren’t a lot of bakery items made with summer squash.  But, this thin skinned, lightly flavored cruciferous vegetable lends itself to some very yummy desserts.

The first time I made Summer Squash cupcakes, I just adapted my basic cupcake recipe, and the result was good, but not great.  I knew it could be so much better.  So I went back to my recipes to see how to make it great.

I knew I needed to kick up the flavor a bit because the squash itself is such a not-imposing flavor.  I tried using cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice (both individually and together in different combinations).  Still not what I was wanting.

So I started thinking of exotic spices/flavors, and immediately hit upon Chai spice.  The amazing combination of cardamom, allspice, cinnamon, cloves, ginger and black pepper is the perfect compliment to the slightly sweet vegetable.

After more testing, I had a summer squash/chai cupcake that I liked, but didn’t love.  It was a good dense cake with a nice crumb, but just not the over the top moist cake that I was wanting.

So, I went through my other cake recipes and decided to see if my carrot cake recipe would adapt to this cake.  And guess what…it did.  Beautifully.  So with a couple of tweaks, I was able to create what has become one of my favorite cupcakes.

The thing that makes this cake recipe different from my others, is that I use oil instead of butter.  I am a “butter makes everything better” kind of girl, so having a recipe that doesn’t have butter is a rarity.  Also, this recipe is mixed in a single bowl, no mixer needed.


I leave the skin on the squash, it is not fibrous, so no need to peel.  Just cut off the ends and grate 454 grams and set aside.

Combine 440 grams sugar, 320 grams all-purpose flour, 10 grams baking soda, 5 grams salt,  15 grams chai spice mix in a large mixing bowl.  Add 4 beaten eggs, 240 ml vegetable oil and 240 grams of crushed pineapple.  Stir to combine.  Add shredded squash and mix until just combined.

Use a portion scoop to scoop into lined cupcake pans and bake @350 for 16-18 minutes until tester comes out clean.


Once the cupcakes are cool, ice them with your preference of frostings.  I prefer cream cheese icing, but if you prefer a simple buttercream, that works too.


The shredded squash blends well into the cake and makes this cupcake amazingly moist and the chai compliments the light flavor of the vegetable.

Enjoy and stay cool .




Every Bite a Memory


Northern Nevada is having a not-so-normal winter this year.  One storm after another, some dumping more snow than I’ve seen since I moved from Colorado, some bringing flooding rains.  Today’s storm is rain.  It has been raining all day, and I don’t handle the gloom so well.

Dreary days tend to make me turn inward, become somewhat maudlin.

But, there is also an definite plus side to rainy days–humidity.  And when you are a bread person (as in baking bread, not made of bread), humidity is wonderful.  So this was the perfect day to make cinnamon rolls.

If there is one “test” for a good bakery, in my opinion, it is the cinnamon roll.  It seems that everyone makes them, and generally it is a family recipe.

I can say, that the basis for my cinnamon rolls is rooted in family.  My Grandma Frances made the absolute best cinnamon rolls. EVER!!  And she did it with no apparent difficulty.  She would get out her big silver spoon, scoop a bunch of things into the mixer bowl, and a few hours later–cinnamon rolls.  Light and airy bread with just the perfect amount of cinnamon and sugar filling, generously covered with frosting.  In the town I grew up in, Frances’ cinnamon rolls were legendary.  And with good reason.

When I asked my girls what foods trigger strong memories for them, daughter #1 immediately said Great-Grandma Frances’ cinnamon rolls.  The smell of the dough raising is a very nostalgic memory for her and many of the other kids in our family.  And that strong scent memory links right back to Grandma’s little red car.

Yes you read that right, her car.  You see, well into her 70’s, Sister Frances (as she was known by many) spent her Wednesday’s cooking for a local church’s weekly dinner.  She would prep and cook, many times with no more help than one of her pre-teen granddaughters, serving family style meals such as fried chicken or pot roast with all the fixins, including dinner rolls and dessert, for as many as 50 people.

Now as anyone who make bread and rolls will know, it takes time.  You can’t just mix all the ingredients together and pop it into the oven.  There is the little matter of raising. Because bread making is a science, the little chemical reactions that are the magic of great bread take time. So early in the day, Grandma would get her dough mixed and thoroughly kneaded, put it into what was to my eyes, a giant stainless steel bowl and cover with Saran Wrap to get the first raise in. At this point it was the time for her to get any running around done, grab the last minute things needed to get the church dinner made.  It was also when she would drive her little red car across town and pick up whichever of the granddaughters was going to help her that week.  And of course, being an imminently practical woman, she took the roll dough with her, tucked the giant stainless steel bowl into the little hatch of her can and took off around town.


It was many, many years later that I realized the secret to her amazing rolls was the trip around town in the back of her car.  If you, like me, are old enough to remember laying in the back window of a car during a long trip, you will remember the warmth of the sun coming in through the window.  Even in winter, the little hatch got warm, so her dough would raise wonderfully.  Sometimes too wonderfully, which generally happened about 3:30 when she would make her way to my house to pick up daughter #1.

By that time the dough had been in the warm hatch of Grandma’s car for upwards of 2 hours and had taken on a life of it’s own, resembling not so much bread dough as a pasty form of the 50’s sci-fi horror movie “The Blob”.  Taking on an amorphous, pasty quality that had to be punched down into submission before carrying the whole thing into the church kitchen.


This entire process from the time the dough was placed in the car to arrival at the church is what is commonly known as the “first rise”.

It has long been my contention that this prolonged, and somewhat unorthodox, rise is what made Grandma’s rolls perfect.

We lost Grandma 6 years ago this June, and every batch of cinnamon rolls I make are, in many ways, my tribute to her.  She lives on in each tender, sweet crumb. Every bite a sweet memory of her.

Cinnamon Rolls

  • Servings: 9-12
  • Difficulty: moderate
  • Print

Light and sweet, just like Grandma made



  1. 720 grams all purpose flour
  2. 240 ml warm water, 110 degrees
  3. 114 grams butter, room temperature
  4. 100 gr granulated sugar
  5. 15 gr. instant yeast
  6. 15 gr. Kosher salt
  7. 15 gr. dry milk powder
  8. 2 large eggs
  9. 5 ml vanilla


  1. 110 gr. granulated sugar
  2. 100 gr. brown sugar
  3. 10 gr. cinnamon


  1. 240 gr. cream cheese, room temperature
  2. 114 gr . butter, room temperature
  3. 454 gr. confectioner’s sugar


Preheat Oven to 350 degrees. Spray 9 x 13 pan with nonstick cooking spray

  1. In bowl of stand mixer fitted with dough hook, bloom yeast in warm (110 degrees) water.
  2. Once yeast is bloomed, add sugar, milk powder, flour, eggs, salt and vanilla.
  3. Mix on low speed (1-2 on Kitchen Aid mixer) until dough comes together to form ball and pulls away from sides of bowl.
  4. Turn mixer up to 4 and knead about 3 minutes.
  5. Add room temperature butter in 4 additions while mixer is running. The butter will take a while to incorporate and the dough will look strange.  If needed stop mixer and scrape butter from sides of bowl and continue to knead.  After about 3-4 minutes the dough should come together into a smooth ball.
  6. Place in oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Set aside in warm place to rise to double in size.
  7. Punch down dough, recover with plastic wrap and let rise a second time to double the size.
  8. On floured surface, roll dough to 1/4 inch thickness.
  9. Spread softened butter all over rolled out dough.
  10. Generously sprinkle cinnamon/sugars mixture over buttered area
  11. Beginning in the middle of the edge nearest you, start rolling the dough into a log. Pull slightly to stretch the dough as you roll.
  12. Cut into ¾ inch portions and place into prepared pan.
  13. Cover with clean kitchen towel and let rise until double.
  14. Bake 15-20 minutes until tops are golden brown.
  15. While the rolls are baking, prepare the Icing
  16. Cream butter and cream cheese until smooth.
  17. Add in confectioner’s sugar and vanilla until smooth.
  18. When rolls are done, spread icing on while hot


This Week Ends on a Tired Note

I scroll past the cute, tired puppy and kitten memes every day and, most of the time, just think “how cute”. This week however, these adorable, exhausted little faces really resonated.  Everything’s been so hectic that I haven’t had time to even check in here.  or1d2j

Okay, that’s the last puppy or kitten meme for today.

Now on to business.  The reason I am so “doggone” tired and “weak as a kitten” is I’ve just been busy.  With Valentine’s Day, birthdays and weddings, the cookies, cupcakes and cakes are literally keeping me up at night.

But the end is in sight.  Today I just have to fill, stack, crumb coat and decorate a 2 tier wedding cake and a 1/2 sheet groom’s cake.  Piece of cake, right?  Let’s hope so.

But I do want to share with you the coconut pastry cream filling I am using for the groom’s cake today.

I know some people think pastry creams are difficult and time consuming, but, in all honesty, this recipe is almost idiot proof (I say almost, because if you follow a few simple rules, well one rule actually, it is simple—-PAY ATTENTION–It’s that simple)

As with all of my other recipes, quality ingredients are the key.  Pastry cream only has 6 simple ingredients that most of us have all the time anyway, so if you want to take your chocolate layer cake for dessert tonight to another level, fill the layers with this delicious pastry cream.

Just like making a pudding, pastry cream uses cornstarch and egg yolks to thicken; add in a  little sugar, vanilla and butter, and in less than 30 minutes, you’ve turned whole milk into a silky, slightly sweet treat.


Your sugar is going to be divided between your milk mixture and you egg yolks.  Unlike pudding recipes, you won’t cook you cornstarch with the milk.

Whisk you egg yolks and 105 grams sugar until creamy, then whisk in your cornstarch.

Cook milk and the other 120 grams of sugar on medium high heat until it boils.

Temper the yolk mixture with 1/2 of the boiling milk.  This is very important–if you don’t do this step, you will have scrambled eggs.

From there you pour the tempered egg mixture back into the pan and cook until it thickens.  Just remember to stir it constantly so you don’t have burnt pastry cream.

For this batch I add in 2 cups of flaked coconut and used it to fill a vanilla bean cake.

Like I said, super simple and I guarantee that you family will think you spent hours.

After 7 dozen Valentine’s Day sugar cookies, a birthday cake, a wedding cake and groom’s cake, I am definitely ready for some down time, but even ending the week on a tired note, I am excited for what the next one will bring.

Vanilla Pastry Cream

Printer friendly version here:  Pastry Cream


1000 ml whole milk

225 gr. sugar

75 gr. cornstarch

10 egg yolks

60 gr. butter

Seeds of 1 vanilla bean or 10 ml. vanilla extract


Whisk egg yolks and 105gr. sugar in bowl until pale.  Whisk in cornstarch.

Bring milk and 120gr. sugar to a boil in heavy bottomed saucepan.

Temper your egg mixture by pouring 1/2 the boiling milk into eggs while whisking.  Pour back into sauce pan and bring to boil, stirring constantly.

Pour into bowl, mix in butter and vanilla.  Cover top of pastry cream with cling wrap, pressing it down onto the top to keep skin from forming.

Place bowl in ice bath the cool, then refrigerate until ready to use.

It’s a Seuss Kind of Day


Oh the places I have been.  For a girl born in the Oklahoma  Panhandle and raised in Southwest Kansas, Reno Nevada is a whole different world; and the road I travelled to get here was (to quote The Beatles) long and winding.

The wonderful thing about the journey is that I have gotten to share every step of the way with my husband and girls.  From Kansas, to Texas, to Colorado, to Arizona and finally to Nevada, each stop has helped me grow and learn.

Now on to the Dr. Seuss cookies.  I’ve been making Dr. Seuss decorated sugar cookies for the last couple of years, usually for Dr. Seuss’ Birthday in March.  And I will be making them this March again.  But this week I got an order for Dr. Seuss cookies for a birthday.

Always up for some cookie decorating fun, I decided to throw the Dr. Seuss cookies in with all the Valentine’s Day hearts and flowers (that will be Tuesday’s post).


For these cookies, I used by basic sugar cookie recipe (recipe is below).  I love this recipe because it is light and so easy to work with.  No need to refrigerate before you roll it out and it is very easy to adapt flavors.  Some of my favorite are lavender, chai (great with a cinnamon royal icing) and chocolate.  These are good old vanilla bean with vanilla royal icing.

Once the cookies were baked and cooling, it was time to get the pictures together for decorating.  I generally will use a picture for reference and free-hand it, but I do have Kopycake projector that I rarely use, and figured this would be a great time to practice with it.   I chose 5 books to represent; The Cat in the Hat, Oh The Places You Will Go, Horton Hears a Who, The Lorax and Green Eggs and Ham.

Working with the Kopycake is still tricky for me, but the more I use it, the easier it becomes.  I am sure that after a while, I will love it as much as many other decorators do.

The royal icing recipe I use is from  If you haven’t already fallen in love with Miss Marion’s amazing work, trust me, you will.  This is the link to here royal icing recipe

Now I outline and flood my cookies with the same tip and consistency of icing.  I follow the 10 second rule, also from found here along with a great video.

I’ve put a couple of pictures of outlining and then filling.  Please excuse the run-over in the 3rd picture, I filled the first petal too full.

I started with the base coats on any cookie designs that have a solid background (Green Eggs and Ham cookies have a white base coat).  These I let dry AT LEAST 4 hours if not overnight. These are shown with the image superimposed onto the base coated cookies.


I will generally take a full 2 days to decorate cookies.  Much of this depends on the “layers” of detail, for example, the Cat in the Hat cookies can all be done at once, but the Lorax and Green Eggs and Ham had to dry between layers.

Thank you for letting me spend a little time with you.

Don’t cry because it’s over.

Smile because it happened.

Dr. Seuss

Basic Sugar Cookie Dough


  • 227 grams unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 175 grams confectioners sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 425 grams all purpose flour
  • 10 grams baking powder*
  • 5 grams kosher salt
  • 5 ml vanilla


  1. In bowl, sift flour, salt and baking powder
  2. In bowl of stand mixer, cream butter and sugar
  3. Add in eggs mix to combine
  4. Mix in dry ingredients and vanilla.  Don’t over mix.
  5. Roll to desired thickness, place on prepared sheet tray
  6. Bake at 325 9-11 minutes, just until edges begin to brown.

*if you don’t want your cookies to spread or puff, leave out baking powder.  Doing this will prevent the cookie from “morphing” shape while baking.

Super Easy Dip for Super Bowl Parties

Yuck Dip

Many, many moons ago, I lived in a tiny apartment with my 2 small girls, in a small Kansas town.  As happens when you have kids, you get to be friends with the other moms because…well, let’s face it, misery loves company; and who better to commiserate with a mom of 2 small kids than others in the same situation.  So, while listening for the tell tell sounds of mischief and refereeing squabbles between toddlers, us moms discussed every possible topic, more often than not it involved food.

One of these moms was Deb and she introduced me to “yuck” dip.  Yep, that’s what it is called; and very appropriately named because it looks, well, yucky.  But don’t let the name or appearance fool you, this dip is super yummy and almost too easy.

Now I don’t use many “pre-made” products when I bake.  My tag line is actually “No Boxes, No Mixes, No Tubs”.  But when something that is tasty and easy, I can get behind using jarred salsa.


That’s right, your eyes do not decide you.  This amazingly tasty dip is only 5 ingredients (most of which individually I won’t eat).

You will need:

1 jar of chunky salsa (if you prefer to make salsa from scratch, that is wonderful and you are my hero)

1 small can of chopped ripe olives

Lime juice (fresh or bottled doesn’t matter)

Garlic powder (I actually had to buy some because it is not something I will use in any other recipe)

And 5-6 scallions, chopped up.

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That’s it.  Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and stir.  You can adjust the heat with a hot salsa or even put chopped jalapeño if you want, but I am a real wimp when it comes to spice, so mild for me.

A bag if restaurant style corn chips and you are ready for the game (Go Pats).



Orange Fudge Cake


I am a New England Patriots Fan!!!  Not just a fan, but a FAN.  So it is fitting that my first official blog post is the recipe for the New England Patriots cake I made for our small Super Bowl party tomorrow.

But I digress…This is really about the cake; the dark chocolate fudge cake with just the essence of orange.  Chocolate and orange are such an amazing combination that I didn’t even know I enjoyed until number 1 daughter introduced me to those wonderful chocolate oranges that you smack on the counter.  One velvety chocolate orange section and I was hooked.

img_3184I started making a (pretty good) orange fudge cake shortly after.  People liked it, it was good.  It just wasn’t OMG good.  So I kept tweaking recipes and trying different things until I got it perfect.


This recipe is it…the perfectly dark chocolate cake with enough orange to compliment the chocolate, but not be overpowered by the dark chocolate.  This cake has a tender crumb that is sturdy enough to use in a tiered cake.

As with any recipe, quality ingredients are essential.  I know, I know that’s what everyone says about their recipes, “Mine is so much better because I only use the best ingredient” : )

Well, this is true.  This recipe, unlike many chocolate cake recipes, used melted butter instead of oil.  For many years, I was a firm believer that in order to get a moist chocolate cake, you had to use oil.  The biggest problem with oil based cakes, is that they are a bit fragile in my opinion.  I have had too many cakes crumble under the weight of a good buttercream, not to mention having to tell brides that chocolate cakes were a no go for fondant covered cakes.  That is not fun!!

The next tricky ingredient in this cake is the cocoa powder.  There is a lot of confusion over Dutch processed cocoa powder vs natural.  Here is a great post written by Sally’s Baking Addiction that explains it wonderfully.    Take a minute to read it, it is worth it.

In this recipe I use natural cocoa powder, Hershey’s to be precise.  I have also used Ghirardelli and to my taste, both are great.

So, through trial and (a lot of) error, I now have my go to chocolate cake base.


The next piece of advise I can give you is invest in a kitchen scale.  The old saying “Cooking is an art, Baking is a science” is 100% true.  To get perfect results you need to have precise amounts of ingredients; and scaling them is the most precise method.  BUY A SCALE, IT IS WORTH IT.

Okay, rant over.  (But seriously, get a scale.)  Back to our recipe.  Once you have scaled out your ingredients it’s time to get mixing.

Start with our eggs and melted butter in the bowl of your stand mixer.  Make sure your butter is not too hot, we don’t want scrambled eggs.  Using the whisk attachment, whip on medium (#5 on Kitchen Aid mixer) for about 3 minutes to aerate the mixture.

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Add in sugar and whisk another 3 minutes.  Next mix in buttermilk and dry ingredients.  Scrape down the sides on bottom of the mixer bowl and mix for another minute.  Slowly pour in the hot coffee and whisk to combine, scraping the bowl to fully incorporate.  Ignore the chocolate on the mixer head, I simply cannot work with cocoa powder without getting it everywhere.

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This recipe will make a 9″ 3 layer cake.  Now I absolutely detest torting cakes, I can never get them level, so I bake 3 separate layers.  Voila, 3 beautiful cake layers and I don’t have a pile of cake crumbles and horribly thin cake layers.


Give these babies 23-27 minutes in a 350 oven, cool on a wire rack, fill, frost and decorate any way you like.

For this cake, I used a vanilla bean buttercream.  But it is amazeballs with an orange scented Swiss Meringue buttercream.

I hope you enjoy this inKredible orange fudge cake.

inKredible Orange Fudge Cake

Makes a 9″ 3 layer cake


  • 382 grams pastry flour
  • 180 grams natural cocoa powder
  • 6 grams baking powder
  • 6 grams baking soda
  • 3 grams kosher salt
  • 225 grams unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 4 eggs and 1 egg yolk
  • 360 ml buttermilk, room temp
  • 10 ml vanilla bean paste
  • 675 grams granulated sugar
  • zest of 2 oranges
  • 360 ml brewed hot coffee


  1. Preheat oven to 350.  Line 3 nine inch cake pans with parchment circles and spray with baking spray.
  2. Sift together flour, cocoa powder, salt, baking soda and baking powder into a bowl, set aside.
  3. In bowl of stand mixer combine eggs and melted butter.  Using whisk attachment, whisk on medium speed (5 on kitchen aid) for 3 minutes.
  4. Add in sugar and zest, whisk for another 3 minutes.
  5. Mix in buttermilk and dry ingredients.   Mix to combine, scraping down sides of mixer bowl as needed.
  6. Slowly pour in hot coffee and mix to fully combine.  Scrape sides of bowl and mix until batter has a smooth consistency.
  7. Pour 760 grams of batter into each prepared pan.
  8. Bake 22-27 minutes until tester comes out clean.
  9. Remove to rack to cool.  After about 15 minutes, remove cakes from pan to cooling each.
  10. Once fully cool, fill and decorate.
  11. Enjoy