Easy Coffee Cake

Let me say this loud and clear... because I had to convince two friends of this fact before they would even take a bite of cake: there is any coffee in this recipe. So why is it called coffeecake when there's no coffee in it? Honestly, I never questioned the name. It could be inferred that it was traditionally served with (you guessed it) coffee! A little internet browsing reveals that the original versions of this cake were Danish, yeast-based, and actually did contain coffee. The American version has no yeast and  is easy to make - ideal for a quick coffee break.

Personally, I assumed it was a fact of life that the two simply went hand in hand. It was common to come home from high school and be hit by a wave of delicious smells and laughter upon opening the front door.  At the kitchen table, my mom and her Portuguese church buddies had just finished saying the rosary and were enjoying a spread of simple sweets, coffee, tea, and fruit. This almost always included Entenmann's coffeecake, hence the association forged in my mind.

Origin stories and childhood memories aside, coffeecake is a delight. It pairs beautifully with a cup of coffee because of the brown sugar and cinnamon, as demonstrated in the Magic Iced Coffee post. The crumble topping demands it be served with some form of beverage! If you don't care for cafe, make a cup of chai or a simple glass of milk. 

This recipe includes a lovely layer of streusel in the middle that, in my opinion, is iconic of coffeecake. It's hard a line to walk as I've seen similar recipes dodge this aspect of the cake and call it a "crumb cake" instead. A likely story ya lazy bastards. Kidding.

The only qualm I may have with this cake - and this is 100% personal - is level of fluff to the dough. The batter is supposed to sturdy and solid, that's why it's not stressful to bake. However, I have recently experienced the sour cream version of coffeecake - thank you Red Truck Bakery - and it's been a bit of a game changer. I'm going to have to experiment with recipes until I can form a true opinion on the difference.
Overall, this is a solid, homey version of coffeecake. It's easy to make, the ingredient list is short, and there are no frills. Heck, throw in some nuts to the streusel if you want to be risky. This would be magnificent for unexpected company and you don't have time to wait on cookies to chill in the fridge. 

The recipe for this easy coffeecake with streusel crumb topping can be found on Go Go Go Gourmet!

Healthier Banana Bread

Enjoy a slice of banana bread with a little less guilt. This banana bread from Cookie + Kate is engineered to be healthier thanks to the lack of granulated sugar. Instead, the sweetness comes from maple syrup - one of my favorite ingredients. There's no buttery richness but that's okay - you won't even notice because of the banana's natural creaminess. Use the oil of your choice (or fully embrace olive oil with this recipe). And as for the flour, this recipe incorporates whole wheat rather than all-purpose. The only minor addition that I made was this happy sprinkling of chia seeds on top of the loaf. I like the crunch that they add and they help fill you up!

It's easy to make and quick to bake. Well not really - it takes almost an hour. But it's delicious with tons of customization options to make it vegan, gluten-free, and/or dairy-free. It's incredibly versatile so make it your own! I personally love walnuts with bananas and threw in a couple handfuls.

So take those sad, brown bananas wasting away on the kitchen counter and mash them up into something delicious, filling, and perfect for breakfast!

The recipe for this Healthier Banana Bread can be found on Cookie + Kate!

Chocolate Dipped Almond Biscotti {Gluten Free}

Staring into our refrigerator, my eyes settled on a bag of almond meal flour.  That sad bag of barely used flour. I had purchased it for an almond cake that bombed. After that, the bag had slowly descended further and further into the recesses of the fridge. Poor almond meal flour. It wasn't your fault that the cake didn't work out. 

Letting things go bad in the fridge is a huge pet peeve of mine. Anytime I find something that's fallen by the wayside - hiding behind a bottle or pushed to the far back where it can only peek out - a small fire burns inside me. I hate to be wasteful. You may as well throw away some money - which in turn is throwing away the time you spent earning that money in the first place - and wasting the environments resources. Ahem. 
Long story short. I had to use the almond meal four!

As luck would have, I found this recipe for biscottis that is a combination of a whole cup of almond meal plus some gluten-free flour. Add some maple syrup for sweetness and little almond extract for fragrance. Sprinkle the topping of your choice - I used a little more almond but mini chocolate chips would be great too!

Since this is a gluten-free recipe, it calls for a teaspoon xanthan gum to serve as a binding agent. I bypassed this part because I rarely use the stuff and it aint cheap. With two eggs in the batter, it held its form. If it's too dry, sprinkle a few drops of water. As you can see, it worked out quite nicely!

Overall, these make great cookies! My husband exclaimed that these are the only biscottis he's ever truly enjoyed. But let's not get ahead of ourselves. Like I said, they're great COOKIES but they didn't pass my BISCOTTI test. A biscotti must be perfect for dipping in a cup of coffee. It needs to be able to suck in the liquid and briefly hold it. When I dipped these biscotti, they held their shape like a statue. Even after a minute in the cup, they failed to absorb any liquid. That's no surprise though - they are made of almonds after all- nature's sponge (kidding). If you're a biscotti purist like me, these won't hit the mark but they make a darn good cookie.

The recipe for these tasty Chocolate Dipped Almond Biscottis can be found on Fit Food Finds!

Almond Cake with Raspberry Filling and Swiss Buttercream

This year for my mother's birthday, we decided to marry the best of all world's by ordering dinner at one of her favorite restaurants and picking it up for a nice, stay-in evening. No big mess in the kitchen to clean up and more time to bake? Sounds like a win to me.

Since it was a meal for four, I didn't want to make a big confection with lots of leftovers. My favorite cakes are always the small ones! Especially a 6-inch round, it's just right! They're more fun to decorate and you can spend extra time on the details.

The flavor of this cake is almond but it's really white in disguise. Yes, white is a flavor. That means egg whites for a nice, airy texture and an open palette for customization. I've used white cakes for several specialized flavors like Blue Moon and Thai Iced Tea. Simply pick your favorite white cake recipe and use a bit of almond extract.

The filling is my favorite raspberry spread- nothing fancy but full of delicious flavor. You can find the Bonne Maman Raspberry Preserves at your standard grocery store. Use as much as you want, just make sure that you line the border of the cake with a sturdy frosting so it doesn't ooze out. I may have overdone it a touch this round.

And lastly of course was the swiss buttercream. As if I ever use anything other than the recipe from Smitten Kitchen! It's just too reliable to turn away. I added a few drops of almond extract just for fun but you can keep it vanilla. The color comes from the slightest bit of rose food dye as I don't like using artificial elements. You can imagine my devastation when I realized mint chocolate chip ice cream isn't naturally green!

At some some point, I would love to try this Almond Cream Frosting or experiment with this naturally tinted Hibiscus buttercream, but not this day. I needed a frosting that does well in the piping bag! My mother loves flowers, especially roses hence the decoration. This is one occasion where form trumps function. Just look at that adorable birthday girl's smile!

No fuss, no muss for a classy birthday for a classy lady!

As stated, the recipe for the Almond Cake can be found on Tastes of Lizzzy T's with basic raspberry preserves as the filling and Smitten's Swiss Buttercream.

Mickey Mouse Clubhouse Cupcakes and Cake

Before I start on this post, I would like to cheer from the top of my lungs about Portugal's win in the Eurocup 2016 this past weekend! We spent the entire game riveted to the screen, flinching here and there as we volleyed between excitement and terror with a nearby table of French fans at the  restaurant. I grew up with soccer blaring from the television and the love has only grown over the years. This win is a mind blower - especially since the team wasn't exactly burning things up in the matches leading up to the final and the star player was knocked out of the game by injury. What defense! Then that incredible goal in overtime that came out of nowhere! For├ža! 

All right back to the world of confections with this fun Mickey Mouse Clubhouse adventure. It was a basic lemon cake, covered in swiss butteream, and draped in fondant. Each character from the club (Mickey, Minnie, Donald Duck, Daisy Duck, Pluto, and Goofy) has their own cupcake with a simple topper.
This creation was made specially for my friend's son's first birthday party. I met the father back in elementary school and the wife later on through high school marching band (yes, the marching band). They started dating in high school and have been together ever since!  Even though we're not close, there' something about this couple that I just like. You look at them go - yes, they rock! You don't have to be besties to be giving.

Needless to say, when I saw the wife's inquiry online on where to find a Mickey Mouse Clubhouse themed birthday cake, I threw my hat into the ring. Consider it a happy birthday, feliz natal, and congratulations offering all wrapped into one! To my surprise, they took me up on my offer! Let the planning commence!
Then I heard the chilling word: fondant. I bleeping hate the taste of fondant and tend to peel it off. Yes yes yes... there are alternatives these days to the store bought, bland tasting stuff. You can make it yourself or use one that's marshmallow based but this was my first rodeo. It was too high risk to try making it myself for a special occasion - maybe next time when it's not a gift. Hello Wilton!

I am delighted to report that decorating the cake was surprisingly smooth sailing because I was not alone. The husband jumped right in (yay for marrying an artist) cutting shapes and coloring the frosting while our dear friend Brandon (a huge Disney fan) reviewed the overall look. The cake is covered in Decorator Preferred Fondant.
For the actual cupcake toppers, I discovered an amazing product: Shape-N-Amaze Edible Fondant. This made the creation of the toppers super easy as the fondant is stiff and holds shape. It does have limits so it's best for basic shapes. For example, I couldn't make the bows for Minnie and Daisy the standard way because when I folded the fondant, it cracked on the edges. The work-around was to shape a rectangle and then pinch in the middle. Additionally, rather than buy multiple batches in different colors, I used one white block and colored small portions with concentrated food dye.
The only thing that I regret about this cake is the actual cake. I made three... yes three... different lemon cakes. Crazy right? What I thought was a "sure thing" recipe turned out to be a dud. It was based on a box cake recipe that was doctored up. The reviews were sensational! Unfortunately, since its publication, the box cake ratio had changed.  Fine cake Gods! Shame on me for taking a short cut! Alas, two from-scratch recipes and I still was bitter about the cake. It just wasn't passing my test! I'm a huge lemon lover and it simply wasn't doing it for me. If I could go back, I would do a simple white cake with lots of lemon zest (with more budget, lemon curd would be essential). Know an awesome lemon cake recipe? Please share!
Overall, I would say this cake was a success and a feather in my cap as my first foray in the world of a fondant allover cake. Special thanks to my college confidant and fabulous cake maker Dr. Vashee for all her great insights on cake decorating!