Thursday, December 27, 2012

Homemade Zebra Cakes

Oh yes, that's right. Homemade. Zebra. Cakes. Today is my Dad's birthday, and the originals are a long-time favorite of his. Pete always has a box of them stashed away at home and out at Lower Breaux Bridge. So, when it came time to ring in another year, I thought it would be perfect, and unexpected, to celebrate with my own little homemade recipe for these tasty little snacks.
And they were definitely a hit! They turned out even cuter and tastier than I had imagined. Everyone had their own little mini cake to enjoy . . . and there are a few left over to fight over for the next few days.
Although the process is a little bit intensive, it was a lot of fun to do with the family and totally worth the fuss.


Yellow Cake
  • 3 cups cake flour
  • 3 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 1/3 cups sugar
  • 6 large egg yolks
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 12 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup vegetable shortening
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 3 cups confectioners' sugar
White Chocolate Coating
  • 16 oz. white chocolate melting chips
  • 1/2 cup vegetable shortening
Dark Chocolate Drizzle
  • 4 oz. dark chocolate melting chips


Yellow Cake
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. In a medium bowl, sift the flour with the baking powder and salt.
  3. Using a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, beat the butter until soft and creamy, about 1-2 minutes. 
  4. Slowly add the sugar and beat until light and fluffy, about 3-5 minutes. 
  5. Add egg yolks, in two batches, beating well after each addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. 
  6. Add the vanilla extract and beat until combined.
  7. With the mixer on low speed, alternately add the flour mixture (in three additions), and milk (in two additions), beginning and ending with the flour. 
  8. Pour batter into a greased 15x10-inch jelly roll pan.
  9. Bake at 350 degrees F for 15-20 minutes.
  10. Place the cake on a wire rack to cool, in their pans, for about 10 minutes. Then remove the cake from the pan and place onto a greased rack to cool completely.
  11. Use a biscuit cutter or other round cutter to cut an even number of circles in the cake. Try to cut the circles close together to maximize the number of cakes. close together in the cake.
* Yellow Cake recipe is adapted from the Joy of Baking.

  1. While the cake is cooling, cream together butter and shortening until smooth.
  2. Slowly add the milk, sugar, and vanilla extract.
  3. Continue beating on medium speed until smooth and creamy.
  4. Place the flat side of one cake circle face down. Spread filling on the top
  5. Top with another cake circle, flat side up. Repeat with all the cakes.  
  6. Place the cakes on a baking sheet lined with wax paper and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
White Chocolate Coating
  1. In a large microwave-safe bowl, melt the white chocolate chips and shortening, stopping to mix every 30 seconds. 
  2. Once fully melted and combined, place a cake in the bowl and gently spoon the melted chocolate over the top. 
  3. Slide a fork under the cake and lift it out, pausing to let the excess drip off. 
  4. Place the cake back on waxed paper. Repeat with all the cakes, then let sit at room temperature until coating is set.

* White Chocolate Coating recipe is adapted from the Confessions of a Cookbook Queen blog.

Dark Chocolate Drizzle
  1. When the coated cakes have set, melt the dark chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl, stopping to mix every 30 seconds.
  2. Drizzle over the top of the cakes.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Christmas Crinkle Cookies

Every year, my office throws a holiday cookie exchange party in December. It's a great excuse to procrastinate on a cold, dreary Monday afternoon. 

People bring in a platter of their favorite baked goods and trade recipes for all sorts of festive confections. So as not to be rude, I like to sample as many as possible. You know, you don't want to offend any coworkers . . .

There are a few avid bakers are here, so it is always full of beautiful treats and tasty recipes.

My contribution this year: chocolate crinkle cookies with a little twist - a touch of hazelnut thanks to the addition of nutella. I like to go ahead and throw nutella into any recipe humanly possible. It's pretty much my crack in a jar. And it adds just the right amount of sweetness and nutty flavor to these snow covered cookies. They are delicious little bites of soft, chewy chocolate on the inside with crisp edges on the outside.


  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 5 1/3 oz. nutella (chocolate hazelnut) spread
  • 1/8 cup vegetable shortening
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup sifted confectioners' sugar

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. 
  2. Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium mixing bowl.
  3. Using a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, mix the nutella and shortening on medium speed until combined.
  4. Add sugar and mix until combined.
  5. Slowly beat in the egg and vanilla extract.
  6. Add flour and milk alternately and mix until just combined.
  7. Cover and chill several hours until firm.
  8. Shape the mixture into walnut-sized balls.
  9. Roll the cookie balls in confectioners' sugar until coated.
  10. Place on greased cookie sheet and bake at 375 degrees F until the cookies set and their surfaces crack, about 8-10 minutes.
          * This recipe is adapted from Nutella Crinkle Cookies.

The loot from this year's exchange.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Crispy Bacon and Blue Cheese

I didn't always love Brussels sprouts. They were, for me, an acquired taste. And a vegetable that I didn't know how to properly prepare for some time.

When done right, though, they are tender and delicate in flavor. They have numerous health benefits as well - high in protein, folic acid, iron, Vitamin C, and packed with potent anticancer properties.

Roasting Brussels sprouts caramelizes their natural sweetness. Crumbling on a bit of crispy bacon and creamy blue cheese adds texture and bite to this lovely side. But then again, it's hard to go wrong when you add cheese and bacon to any dish.

  • 2 pounds Brussels sprouts, cleaned and trimmed
  • 2-3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 cup cooked and crumbled bacon
  • 2 oz. mild blue cheese, crumbled
  • salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. In large baking dish, toss the Brussels sprouts with the olive oil, salt, and pepper.
  3. Roast in a 400 degree oven for about 20 minutes, until caramelized. Rotate the pan and toss the sprouts around a few times during the cooking process to evenly brown.
  4. Drizzle the tablespoon of balsamic vinegar over the roasted sprouts and toss well. 
  5. Return to the oven to bake for another 4-5 minutes.
  6. Place the roasted sprouts in a large bowl and toss in the crumbled bacon and blue cheese.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Chocolate-Ancho Chili Flourless Cake

Sometimes things are just better the second time around . . . In October, I attempted a dark chocolate torte with a kick of heat in honor of Nikki's birthday. It was certainly tasty, but I wanted to play with the texture of the cake and the combination of spices to see if I could improve upon the recipe. 

After a bit of searching, I found that ancho chili powder, with it's complex fruity sweetness, pairs beautifully with the chocolate and gives the dessert a more balanced flavor profile. Additionally, I found that a new method of preparation that ensures a very dense, moist confection. Overall, this recipe update is pretty awesome and sister-approved.
  • 8 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 6 eggs
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 tablespoons ancho chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Melt the chocolate and butter in a double boiler and over (but not touching) about 1 inch of simmering water. Stir constantly until fully incorporated. Remove from heat and set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, combine the sugar and eggs. Using a handheld mixer beat together until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. 
  4. While mixing, slowly add the cocoa powder, ancho chili powder, cinnamon, salt, and vanilla extract. 
  5. Slowly incorporate the melted chocolate mixture and blend until just combined.
  6. Pour batter into a greased and floured 9-inch round baking dish.
  7. Bake at 350 degrees F until the cake is set and a thin crust forms on the top, 45 to 50 minutes.
  8. Serve with fresh whipped cream.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Nanny Bird's Meatball Stew

Meatball stew is a hearty fall and winter favorite in South Louisiana. It's good, old fashioned Cajun comfort food and a staple on our family's holiday spreads. Serve with toothpicks as a casual appetizer, or over rice dressing as a meal. 

My grandmother's sister, Nanny Bird, perfected the recipe. And we haven't changed it one bit.

  • 1 lb. ground veal
  • 1 lb. ground pork
  • (can substitute ground sirloin if veal/pork not available)
  • 3/4 cup Italian breadcrumbs
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 medium onions, diced
  • 2 green bell peppers, diced
  • 1 stalk celery, diced
  • 5 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 3 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 tablespoons dark roux (store-bought or see Turbo Roux recipe)
  • water

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
  2. In a large bowl, mix together the ground meat, breadcrumbs, eggs, bell peppers, celery, garlic, salt, black pepper, cayenne pepper, and 2/3 of the diced onions. Set the remaining onion aside.
  3. Once thoroughly combined, form the mixture into 1-inch meatballs. Arrange meatballs on a sheet pan.
  4. Brown in the oven at 325 degrees F for 30 minutes. Rotate the balls once during baking.
  5. In a large dutch oven pot, heat 2 tablespoons of dark roux and the remaining onions over medium heat. Cook for 1-2 minutes.
  6. Place the meatballs in the pot and add just enough water to cover.
  7. Simmer on medium heat for 1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally.
  8. While cooking, season with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Wedding Cake Martini

Happy Wedding Day to my girl Megan! Today, my beautiful friend and her tall, dark and handsome man will tie the knot. Unfortunately, I cannot be there to celebrate with them. But I'm sending all of my love and very best wishes to the happy couple and their families on this wonderful day! 

I know it will be a lovely ceremony and one hell of a party. We'll be dancing the night away with you in spirit!

  • one part vanilla vodka
  • one part white crème de cacao
  • one part pineapple juice

  1. Chill martini glass.
  2. Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker half full of ice.
  3. Shake vigorously. Strain into martini glass.
  4. Serve immediately to the beaming bride. 
Congrats to Meg and Young Jedi! Wishing you all
of the happiness in the world!