Monthly Archives: May 2009

Gooey Butter Cake

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I’m beginning to feel badly for starting a cooking blog during the two craziest months of the year.  I was running a big dance event when I started this, then had finals, and now I’m studying cramming for the LSAT, the Law School Admissions Test, which I’m taking on June 8th.  I’ve been super lax in commenting on the other SMS’ers posts, and this week completely forgot to post the cherry pie!  I have a whole bunch of recipes I’ve made and taken pictures of in the last month, but haven’t gotten around to posting them, so I’m going to try to kick my butt and get them up.  In the meantime, I’m really sorry for being an absent commenter, and I will try harder to get posts up and comment on everyone’s pages, pinkie promise!

Anyway, I made this cake about a month and a half ago.  Mike’s on the school’s Formula SAE team, which builds racecars and takes them to competitions around the country.  In April he was in Virginia for a week with the team at their biggest competition of the year.  There were 21 total teams there from universities around the country, and U of I came in third!  When Mike got back, I made him a tray of butter cake, since it’s just about his favorite kind of cake there is.  I think it’s a local Springfield thing, because I’d never heard of it before we started dating.  In fact, the cookbook I have describes it, saying “Some people say Gooey Butter Cake was the result of an accident in a Springfield bakery.  Others say it was created in St. Louis.  Whatever the source, buttery, rich Gooey Butter Cakes are a Springfield tradition.”  It’s basically a very thin, buttery cake with a nice vanilla flavor, which is then topped with a sort of cream cheese icing, and then baked.  It is very rich and sweet, with a nice bit of “crunch” from the topping to contrast the gooeyness of the insides.

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Your ingredients.  You can make this using a boxed cake mix, or not.  I used the boxed cake mix for speed, and because I couldn’t find dry milk powder that day.

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I love this stuff.  It’s a cooking spray with flour mixed in, so you don’t have to grease and flour a pan separately.  It just cuts down on a lot of time.  There are a lot of companies that make it, and I don’t really notice a difference between brands.

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Mix all of your cake ingredents, or your cake mix, and press the dough (it will be very stiff, which is why I don’t consider it a batter) into your greased pan.

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Whip your cream cheese until it is creamy, then add your eggs and vanilla.  If you’re lucky, they’ll make a smiley face!

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Add your powdered sugar, and mix well.

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Pour the topping over the unbaked cake dough…

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and spread it out to the edges of the pan.

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Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes.  The topping will be browned and shiny from the baked sugar.  If your oven heats unevenly, turn the cake halfway through.  I didn’t, which is why one side of the cake is browned and the other isn’t.  Oops!

I don’t have a picture of the inside of the cake (it’s not nice to bring people cakes with a slice cut out), but the layers kind of meld together, although the top of the cake is usually more gooey than the bottom.  And goodness gracious, is this stuff good!

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This book is called “Honest to Goodness”, and is produced by the Junior League of Springfield, Illinois.  Mike’s mom gave it to me for Christmas a couple of years ago, and it’s full of wonderful recipes, everything from down-home classics to more upscale recipes.  It also has a lot of little tidbits about the Lincoln family, including excepts from letters they wrote and menus for various state dinners.  It’s really a wonderful book!  If you’d like to get a copy for yourself, you can order one following the directions here.

Gooey Butter Cake

Makes one 16×11 inch cake

3 c. cake flour

1 ¾ c. sugar

1/3 c. dry milk powder

2 ½ tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. salt

1 c. plus 2 Tbsp. butter, melted

2 eggs

1 ½ tsp. vanilla

Topping

8 ounces cream cheese, softened

2 eggs

1 tsp. vanilla

1 pound powdered sugar

Sift together cake flour, sugar, dry milk, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl.  Add melted butter, eggs, and vanilla.  Beat together to make a thick batter.  Spread into greased 16×11 inch jelly roll pan (I think my pan is 17×12 inches, but it works fine).

Prepare topping by beating cream cheese until creamy; add eggs and vanilla.  Blend in powdered sugar.  Spread topping on cake batter.  Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes, until top is golden brown.  Cool and cut into 2-inch squares.

An 18 1/4 ounce yellow cake mix, without pudding added, may be substituted for dry cake ingredients.  Reduce melted butter to 1/2 cup and omit vanilla.  Prepare cake batter by combining cake mix, melted butter, and eggs.  I made this with a cake mix with pudding added once (I wasn’t paying attention when I was shopping), and I think I actually liked that one better).

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Sweet Melissa Sundays: Guiness Gingerbread

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This week, Katie of Katiecakes chose our recipe, Guiness Gingerbread.  I thought it was a bit odd, gingerbread in May, when most of our recipes have been heavy on the fresh fruit, but then remembered that she’s from Newcastle, England, where the weather isn’t quite as spring-y as it is here.  Although Urbana could probably give England a run for its money in the rain department this past week!  You should definitely check out Katie’s site, she has some wonderful recipes and beautiful pictures!

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This week’s recipe was a lot of fun, and I really enjoyed it- and I’m not usually a gingerbread person!  I think it’s that whole “molasses” issue I’m working on overcoming.  That, and there are so many wonderful alternatives, especially at my Grandma’s at Christmas, that I’ve mostly avoided it.  I halved this recipe, anyway, and baked it in a 9×5 loaf pan for 30 minutes (I probably should have checked it at 25 minutes, the edges were very crisp).

This recipe was very spicy, which I enjoyed.  I left out the cocoa powder, because I left mine at my parent’s/home a while ago, and since I’m heading back this week, I didn’t see the use in buying another container.  I think the white pepper added a nice kick, which I hadn’t expected!  To be honest, I really didn’t taste the Guiness.

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I think I would make this recipe again, but would definitely wait until the winter.  I procrastinated big time with this one, and just baked it this afternoon, and it was so nice and sunny that it just seemed out of place.  It had a really nice, dense crumb, was a little bit moist, and pleasantly spicy.  I would also make this again because now I can- I just turned 21 about a week and a half ago, so it was exciting to be able to buy my own Guiness for this recipe, rather than asking someone else.  Mike has learned to accept that I sometimes ask for strange types of alcohol for cooking, but it’s still nice to not have to ask someone to go out of their way to find some odd liquor.  And if you don’t believe me, above is the bracelet I got at the bar on my birthday saying that I’m 21 (in Champaign, you can get into bars at 19, but they give you a bracelet once you turn 21 so they know you’re old enough to buy alcohol).  Oh, and the bracelet Mike gave me for Christmas a couple of years ago.

In any event, I’m still having a ton of fun with the Sweet Melissa Sundays group, and you should check out the blogroll to see what everyone else thought of this sweet, spicy bread.  Also, the membership is going to be capped at 50 people, so if you’ve been on the fence, drop over there and join the group ASAP!

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Tagalongs

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In my family, once Girl Scout cookie season rolls around things start to get a little bit tense.  Never mind that this year, I kid you not, we ordered two dozen boxes of cookies.  Yeah.  Twenty-four boxes.  My mom ordered one dozen from the little girl in kindergarten across the street, and then realized she couldn’t order more from the girl across the street than she did from her seven-year-old niece, and ordered another dozen.

Despite this fact, when I picked up the four boxes I requested one weekend, my brother almost mutinied when he realized I was taking the last two boxes of Tagalongs (aka peanut butter patties).  Never mind that we didn’t have the order from my cousin yet, so there were still another dozen boxes on their way.  His reaction is even more impressive when you realize how laid-back my brother usually is.  However, the other day Mike was over and tried to open my last box of Tagalongs, and, well, it could’ve gotten messy.  Once I hit that level of freakish cookie possessiveness, I knew I needed to give in and try the ones I’d seen on Baking Bites.  I actually made them over a three day span, since I was busy studying and didn’t really have that big of a chunk of time.  One day I made the cookies, then I stored them in a zipper bag overnight.  The next evening I filled them with peanut butter, put them in the fridge overnight, and the third afternoon enrobed them in chocolate.

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I creamed together the butter and sugar, then added the dry ingredients, and finished up with the milk and vanilla.  I thought this was a bit odd, but it worked out.  The dry ingredients were really crumbly, but after adding the liquids it was fine.

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I rolled the dough into one-tablespoon balls, then flattened them to about 1/4 of an inch.  And no, that’s not an engagement ring.

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Then baked them.  The recipe says 11-13 minutes, and I was definitely taking them out at about 11:30.

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I squirted the peanut butter on (three different times, actually, to get this much on there), and then chose to smooth them out with a hot knife to make the dipping easier.  I left one not-smoothed to see what would happen.

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I dropped them into my chocolate, which was on a double boiler, and covered them in chocolate.

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Then drained them on a fork over the chocolate before transferring them to a waxed-paper lined baking sheet.

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They took up way more space when they were covered in chocolate!

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And then… you know…

Oh, and the one I didn’t smooth out turned out pretty smooth because of the hot chocolate and me tapping the fork on the bowl to get the excess off.  I would still smooth them anyway, though, they looked better that way.

Tagalongs

from Baking Bites (my changes are in italics)

Cookies
1 cup butter, soft
1/2 cup sugar
2 cups all purpose flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp milk

Preheat oven to 350F.
In a large mixing bowl (I did everything by hand), cream together butter and sugar. Mix in flour, baking powder and salt at a low speed, followed by the vanilla and milk. The dough should come together into a soft ball.
Take a tablespoon full of dough and flatten it into a disc about 1/4-inch thick. Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet and repeat with remaining dough (I used an unlined, ungreased, non-stick sheet). Cookies will not spread too much, so you can squeeze them in more than you would for chocolate chip cookies. (Alternatively, you can use a 1.25 inch cookie cutter).
Bake cookies for 11-13 minutes, until bottoms and the edges are lightly browned and cookies are set.
Immediately after removing cookies from the oven, use your thumb or a small spoon to make a depression in the center of each cookie
Cool for a few minutes on the baking sheet then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Filling
1 1/2 cups creamy peanut butter (natural or regular)
3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar*
generous pinch salt
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
about 8-oz semisweet chocolate (plus 2 tsp. shortening)

In a small bowl, whisk together peanut butter, confectioners’ sugar, salt and vanilla. When the mixture has come together, heat it in the microwave (again in short intervals, stirring frequently), until it is very, very soft. Working carefully with the hot filling, transfer it to a pastry bag (or plastic bag with the tip cut off) and pipe a generous dome of the filling into each cookie’s “thumbprint”.
Chill cookies with filling for 20-30 minutes, or until the peanut butter is firm (I chilled them overnight, and they were fine).
Melt the chocolate in a small, heat-resistant bowl. This can be done in a microwave (with frequent stirring) or on a double boiler (what I did), but the bowl of melted chocolate should ultimately be placed above a pan of hot, but not boiling, water to keep it fluid while you work.
Dip chilled cookies into chocolate, let excess drip off, and place on a sheet of parchment paper to let the cookies set up (I used a fork to do all of this). The setting process can be accelerated by putting the cookies into the refrigerator once they have been coated.

Makes about 3-dozen

*You might need slightly less sugar if you’re using the conventional peanut butter, as it tends to be a bit sweeter. Taste the filling before using to make sure you like the sweet/savory balance.

End result:  These were really yummy.  Really, really yummy.  Mike said I could put the Girl Scouts out of business (don’t worry Natalie and Morgan, I think he was just being nice there).  I had a couple of issues with the recipe, though.  Next time I think I would make the cookies a bit smaller.  I used the recommended tablespoon in a rare OCD moment, but they seemed a bit big.  Also, I probably could have made half of the peanut butter filling recipe and been fine.  My roommate and I ended up eating the peanut butter for the next few days.  Finally, I ended up using twice the amount of chocolate (16 ounces total).  Also, for each four ounces of chocolate, I used about one teaspoon of solid shortening to make the cookies easier to dip, but that’s just what I do whenever I have to dip or enrobe something in chocolate or candy.

Ok, but despite the weird ratio issues, these were fantastic.  The select few guys in Mike’s fraternity who got to try them agreed.  I’ll definitely make them again.  I think next time I might make a double batch, because these aren’t going to last that long, and they took a long time to make.  Mike has also now encouraged me to make Thin Mints.  I have two recipes, so I’m not sure which I’ll try first.  Of course, he also seems to be all for me overthrowing the Girl Scouts- and as a former scout (seven years) and the niece of someone who used to work for the Girl Scout Council, I’m pretty sure I can’t do that.  That, and who can really resist an adorable eight-year-old in a Brownie uniform without her front teeth giving that sales pitch?  Definitely not me!

P.S. Yes, my kitchen needs to be cleaned and I need to do dishes.  Again, Finals Week.  But I just turned in my last project, so I’m free as a bird!!!  And… can do… dishes…  Shoot.

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Sweet Melissa Sundays: Lemon Icebox Cake

Hey everyone!  This week Jennifer from Keep Passing the Open Windows chose the Lemon Icebox Cake with Fresh Strawberry Sauce for our weekly bake.  Unfortunately, due to finals (and a serious lack of freezer space), I was not able to participate this week.  Check out the blogroll to see what everyone else thought of this cake, though.  It looks wonderful, from what I’ve seen so far, so I’ll definitely be making this sometime this summer!

Also, thank you so much to everyone who’s wished me good luck with my exams!  The hard parts (especially econ) are behind me, and I only have one exam and one project left, so I’ll be done by Tuesday evening!  I’ll try to post some of the things I’ve been working on over the last week at that point.

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Walking Tacos

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Sorry this is so dark, it's the only picture of quarter midgets I have where you can see the cars! Mike's youngest sister Sarah is in the white car on the far left.

My boyfriend, Mike, grew up driving racecars.  Ok, so technically they’re called quarter midgets, and as near as I can tell they’re glorified go-karts.  Not important.  See, the important part is that he grew up eating what he calls “racetrack food” just about every Saturday in the summers.  And for the past couple of weeks he’s been pestering me to make “walking tacos”.  All I knew about them was they involved meshing tacos and Fritos, and since I had bags of chips left over from a big dance event a couple of weeks ago, we had walking tacos in all their salty glory.

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Step one: Cook and crumble ground beef in a skillet until fully cooked.  Drain off excess fat if necessary and add taco seasoning and water.  I made half a pound of ground beef, so half a package of seasoning.  Alternatively, you can make your own seasoning.

I’ll stress this, though: if you can, use low sodium taco seasoning.  My local grocery store doesn’t usually stock it, so I stock up when I’m at other stores, but I was out this week and used full-salt seasoning.  I don’t really recommend it.

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Step two: Once the ground beef is fully cooked and the water has reduced down to a thick sauce, scoop some of the meat into your Fritos bag.  We had four-one ounce bags of Fritos, apparently you’re supposed to use the next size up, but beggars can’t be choosers.  For us, a half a pound of ground beef worked for the four bags (although the fourth bag had significantly less  meat in it), but how much you use will depend on how much meat you want in your walking taco.

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Step 3: Add whatever else you want.  Shredded cheese, lettuce, salsa, sour cream, whatever makes you happy.  Mike had cheese, salsa, and sour cream, I had cheese, lettuce, and a bit of salsa, but this part is completely up to you.

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Step 4: At this point, you apparently hold the bag shut at the top and shake.  The small bags made this difficult, and I ended up just stirring mine, but you get the same end result.  Which is, grab a fork and dig in!

My thoughts on this, I liked it.  It was fun.  It was WAY TOO FREAKING SALTY!!!  I would be willing to make it again, but I’d definitely use reduced sodium taco seasoning (which I just stocked up on, how convenient!).  Mike was really happy, though, and thought they were good.  This would be a really fun thing for getting kids into the kitchen.  An adult makes the taco meat, and then the kids make their own tacos and shake the bags up (or mix them, if you’re less daring).

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Sweet Melissa Sundays: Strawberry Shortcakes

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Wow, so I really managed to mess this one up!  Sorry this is late, I wrote the post earlier this week, but it’s finals week and I was up late finishing a presentation and paper for today, and completely forgot to actually put the post up.  Sorry guys!  And just a heads up, I won’t be doing this week’s recipe (thanks again, finals), but I’m really looking forward to seeing what everyone else makes, and I’m sad that I’ll miss it :’-(  Anyway, here’s the post…

This week, Wendy from Pink Stripes picked out Strawberry Shortcakes for all of us to bake.  You should definitely check out her site, she made FOUR variations on this!  FOUR!!!  Anyway, these shortcakes were delicious, let me tell you!  They have a little bit of lemon zest that I think puts them over the top.  They were pretty big, but other than that I loved them.  Plus, any excuse to eat strawberries is good in my books 🙂

I really didn’t take pictures, and I still had issues with baking yesterday.  I started off trying to half the recipe, because I really didn’t need six shortcakes, but then for some reason added the whole amount of butter, so I ended up making a full batch.  I’m pretty sure I overdid the lemon zest, because by the time I was adding in the ingredients to make a full batch I was completely frazzled (the recipe was perfectly clear, no worries, I’m just kind of scatterbrained lately).  The dough was a little bit dry for me, so I added an extra tablespoon or two of  cream, but that was the only change I needed to make to the recipe.  But still, by the time I was done and putting them together, I just wasn’t in the mood to deal with the camera (that, and a certain boyfriend was hungry and pestering me).  I’ll definitely be making these again, though, and might even go so far as to recommend that my mom add some lemon zest to her shortcakes next time!

Check out the blogroll to see what the other SMS’ers thought of this week’s recipe, and thanks Wendy, this was a wonderful choice!  Sorry for the short post and lack-of-blogging-updates, finals start this week and I’m in full-on work mode.  Hopefully I can get a tiny bit of baking done this week, if not I’ll try to post some of the stuff I didn’t get to this week.

Please pretend that last statement was logically constructed.  Thanks.

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