Martha Stewart’s Yellow Buttermilk Cake

Light, tender, and flavorful, this yellow buttermilk cake recipe from Martha Stewart is the only one you’ll ever need.

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Ok, Reader, I know my blog posts have been more sporadic than usual for the last…month.  I’m hoping that will change soon, but for now please bear with me.  I’ve been stocking up things to share so I can hopefully get back into the groove of posting at least every Saturday.  (I’m pretending this is a Saturday post.  I just ran out of time yesterday/may have chosen to watch The Great British Bake Off in my free hours instead.)

I made this cake a few weeks ago and am so in love with the recipe.  I’ve been a cake-from-scratch convert for the past, oh, six years, but have never had much luck with yellow cakes until this recipe.  They always seemed a bit too dry, or too blah.  Even the ones from my favorite vintage Betty Crocker cookbook.

But this Yellow Buttermilk Cake, Reader, is a great cake.  Martha Stewart (or perhaps one of her minions) really hit the nail on the head with this one.  It’s so tender, but not enough that you can’t stack it in layers, it’s light, it’s flavorful, and it’s straightforward.  I know, the photos aren’t great, but I misjudged the time when putting the cake together and then BOOM it was dark out, and I had to bring the cake to a birthday celebration.  Oops.

If the pictures don’t look fantastic, please trust me when I say that this is the best yellow cake I have ever made, and is way up there on my list of best yellow cakes ever eaten.  You will not be able to eat a yellow cake from a box after this.

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Yellow Buttermilk Cake

makes 3 – 9″ round layers

very, very slightly adapted from Martha Stewart’s Cupcakes (first edition)

Ingredients

  • 3 cups cake flour
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 2 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 cup + 2 T butter (Martha says use unsalted, I used salted and thought it was fantastic)
  • 2 1/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 5 large eggs + 3 egg yolks
  • 2 cups buttermilk (if you don’t have buttermilk, mix a scant 2 cups milk with a big splash of vinegar)
  • 1 T vanilla extract

Instructions

Preheat oven to 350°F.  Grease and flour 3 – 9″ round cake pans.  I like the kind with a bottom that pops out.

Sift together flours, baking soda, baking powder, and salt, and set aside.  Prepare “buttermilk” by adding vinegar to regular milk, if necessary.

In a large bowl or the bowl of your stand mixer, cream butter and sugar until pale and fluffy.  Add whole eggs then egg yolks, one at a time, beating each until it is fully incorporated.  Add vanilla extract to milk.

Add flour mixture to the creamed butter sugar and eggs in three batches, alternating with milk mixture.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula as necessary.

Divide evenly into the three pans and bake for 30-35 minutes, rotating pans as necessary.  When done, the cakes should be golden brown and a cake tester or toothpick inserted into the center of the cake should come out clean.

Posted to Totally Talented Tuesday!

Brunch at the Pond House

Over the past few years I’ve acquired friends in various parts of the country (actually, the world) as tends to happen when you do things like go to college or go abroad.  The Internet makes it pretty easy to keep up with them, especially with videochatting and Facebook.  But it’s not quite the same as seeing them face-to-face.

Last week I met up with a friend/former roommate who lives several hours away for brunch.  We did a “meet in the middle” thing so neither of us had to drive all the way to see the other, which was perfect for brunch.  Halfway for us was approximately Hartford, Connecticut, so after some serious reviewing of Yelp’s brunch reviews, we decided to meet at the Pond House Cafe in West Hartford.

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The Pond House is in Elizabeth Park, which means there is no search for parking (as the park has ample parking spots), no street traffic, and a lovely green setting.  If you’ve ever watched Gilmore Girls, the neighborhood the park is in is reminiscent of Emily & Richard’s place.  The cafe’s prices, though, are quite reasonable.   And the menu is available online (a major bonus, in my book).

After happy greetings, my friend and I headed inside.  We didn’t have reservations (which the hostess sort of implied we should have made for Sunday morning brunch) but took us in to be seated right away anyway.  The restaurant was full but not packed.  Service was quick, and the food was hot and tasty.  The Yelpers were right!

The Pond House looks a little odd from the outside – I don’t think the building was initially supposed to be a restaurant.  Inside there are three seating areas (plus a mostly empty room that looked like an event space): a large, high-ceilinged room with mildly funky decor, a smaller room with classier decor, and a few outdoor tables.  We were in the first room.  Once we were seated, menus were delivered promptly (menus on tablets!) and once we ordered we didn’t have to wait too long for the food.

Now, the food.  I know, this is probably why you’re really here, Reader, and I’ve saved it til the end.  Both my friend and I decided to get that day’s brunch special, which was Italian Eggs Benedict.  Two poached eggs served over a scoop of white bean, tomato, and escarole stew which was on top of corn bread.  I am a huge eggs-for-breakfast fan (though I don’t do it often) and while I usually just go for an omelet, I was rather pleased that I was more adventurous at the Pond House.  The special came with your choice of a mimosa or Bloody Mary – I had the former – and was under $14.  The eggs were poached perfectly, the cornbread was just as I like it, and I could’ve had a bowl of the stew by itself.  Had I decided not to get the brunch special, there were plenty of other options that sounded enticing, from the Apple & Brie Omelet to the Breakfast Quesadilla.

All in all, I was very pleased with the cafe – the location, the food, and the service were all up to par.  Should I ever be in West Hartford again, I will be heading back!

Mocha Truffle Cookies

Delicious chocolate cookies with an intense coffee kick!

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Saturday already!  I’ve fallen into a bad habit of not writing my blog posts in advance, like I used to do, and instead writing them on the day I plan to post.  I like doing it the other way better, but somehow the week disappeared.

I’m not sure what I was doing.  Besides, like, trying to figure out my life.

And thinking about what I’ll be sharing with you next week.

So this will be a short post!  This is one of those recipes that I’ve had saved (okay, pinned) for ages but never got around to making because of that one silly ingredient I didn’t want to buy.  In this case that ingredient was instant coffee.  I know, I know, a small purchase, but I really wouldn’t have used it for anything else, except for the odd chocolate baked good, maybe.  I’m not a huge coffee drinker, instant or otherwise.  (Ha, as I’m writing this, I’m thinking about how fantastic an iced coffee would be.  I may not be a huge coffee drinker, but when it’s warm enough to go around without a sweater, I love a mid-afternoon iced coffee).

When paired with chocolate, though, I am much, much more open to the consumption of coffee.  The mocha flavor in these cookies really comes through–like a mocha from a good coffee shop, one that’s not too sweet.  These may not be the prettiest, but they definitely are quick, chocolatey, and chewy!  What more could you ask for in a cookie?

The Wordy Baker

Mocha Truffle Cookies

From Cooking a la Mel

Makes about 3 1/2 dozen cookies

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips (for melting)
  • 1 T instant coffee powder
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 T vanilla
  • 2 cups flour (I used half white whole wheat)
  • 1/3 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 cup chocolate chips (to stir in at the end)

Instructions

Preheat oven to 350°F.  Grease 2-3 cookies sheets, or line them with parchment paper instead.

In a medium saucepan over low heat, melt butter and chocolate chips.  When melted, remove from heat and stir in instant coffee.  Let cool for five minutes, then stir in the sugars, eggs, and vanilla.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt.  Add the chocolate-butter-sugar mixture to the flour mixture and stir until mostly combined, then add remaining 1 cup chocolate chips.  Stir to combine.  The mixture will be on the drier side.

Scoop dough in rounded tablespoons onto the prepared cookie sheets about 2 inches apart.  These do not spread much.

Bake for about 10 minutes.  Let cool briefly on the cookie sheet before removing to a wire rack to cool completely. 

Garlic Knots {Campfire Cooking}

You don’t just have to have hot dogs and baked beans on camping trips!  Next time you’re cooking over a fire, try these garlicky bread rolls to change things up!

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As mentioned, I spent this past week camping and visiting relatives.  My sister is a (relatively) recent vegetarian, which meant that the usual hot dogs were not an option.  The little stores in rural West Virginia really left us scratching our heads on the first night (thank you onions, potatoes, and aluminum foil), but when we remembered to hit a big grocery store before getting to the backwoods campsite on night #2, we had the ability to be really creative.  With all of Kroger as our oyster, we had so many options!  What do my mom, my sister, and I all like to cook with?  Garlic, and lots of it.

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Garlic knots, all ready to be packaged and set over the fire.

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Crimped and doubled aluminum foil packet of garlic knots, plus a few stray veggies to be grilled.

This version of garlic knots is perhaps a bit heartier and, yes, I’ll admit it, a bit sloppier than whatever you might make in your kitchen.  But it’s really quite easy and doesn’t involve too many steps or hard-to-transport ingredients.  It’s a great vegetarian addition when you’re cooking over an open fire, especially served with some grilled veggies and a possibly-breaking-the-campsite-rules bottle of white wine.

All you need to make these is refrigerator pizza crust (I used a tube of Pillsbury whole wheat), a few ounces flavored butter (mine was garlic and herb), a few cloves of garlic, aluminum foil, and (of course) a campfire preferably with a grate.  The results may not win any prizes for beauty, but they certainly win on flavor!

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Almost dinner time: garlic knots, the stubborn veggies that don’t want to cook, and hot water.

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All done! And only a little burned.

Campfire Garlic Knots

makes about 6 large knots

Ingredients

  • 1 – 14 (ish) oz tube of pizza dough
  • a few ounces flavored butter, such as garlic and herb flavor, softened
  • about 4 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped

Special Equipment

  • heavy-duty aluminum foil
  • a campfire with a grill grate

Instructions

Spread out a large rectangle of double layer of aluminum foil.  Butter a smaller rectangle on the foil–this is where you will place your garlic knots.  You should leave about 2 inches on all sides unbuttered, as these edges will be folded over.

On a clean surface, roll out your pizza dough.  Smear with about 2/3 of the remaining softened butter and all the chopped garlic.  Slice into approximately six slices.  Fold each slice in half, then tie with a knot and place on the buttered aluminum foil.  Spread a small amount of butter on top of the garlic knots.

Cover the garlic knots with another double-layer of aluminum foil and tightly crimp on all sides to make a foil packet.  Place on the grill grate over a hot campfire.  Flip halfway through cooking.  Cooking time will vary greatly depending on the heat of the fire, how close the grate is to the fire, etc.  Ours took about 10 minutes on each side.  Serve hot.

Banana Boats {Campfire Cooking}

A decadent camping dessert alternative!  The campfire classic combo of marshmallows and chocolate gets a little healthier with bananas!

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After being home for just under two weeks, I was ready to hit the road again.  Not really, but I had places to go and people to see, so I headed out on a road trip with my family.  After visiting relatives and debuting a special 65th anniversary surprise-inside cake, we dug out the camping equipment (and by that I mean the most basic of basic camping supplies) and turned west.

We go camping at least once a year, but not as often as we did when my mom was a Girl Scout Troop leader.  It was never something I begged to do when I was younger, but now I enjoy it quite a bit.  And outdoor cooking is one of the most fun parts of camping, in my opinion.  I’m not going to claim that I sleep better in the outdoors or anything, because I don’t, or that I go camping to become “one with nature,” because that’s not true either.  I go camping because it’s fun, it’s always an adventure, and because I love the smell of campfires.

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On our first night camping we had the traditional campfire dessert, ooey-gooey marshmallow-y chocolate-y s’mores.  Before our second night we hit the store to replenish our supplies, and picked up some bananas to make an old Girl Scout staple: Banana Boats.

If you like bananas, banana bread, or are just looking for some way to change up your camping routine and you’ve never had these before, you’ve really got to try this the next time your sitting around the campfire.  Banana and chocolate is such a winning combination, and you just have to have marshmallows when you’re camping.  And marshmallows and chocolate and a winner, too.

Ideally, you roast these over hot coals once the fire has died down a bit, but if you don’t have time to wait, you can set them towards the side of a fire.  You could probably bake these in a regular oven, too, if you’re dying for some campfire  food but can’t get away to the great outdoors.  If you do make these on an open campfire, be sure to take all necessary safety precautions to ensure a good time (i.e. hair tied back, no loose clothing, keep small kids away from open flames)!

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Campfire Banana Boats

Ingredients

  • 1 banana for every person
  • chocolate chips or a chocolate bar chopped up
  • mini marshmallows, or regular marshmallows if you’re willing to tear or chop the marshmallows

Special Equipment

  • heavy-duty aluminum foil
  • campfire

Instructions

Peel one section of a banana and slice a small “V” down the length of the banana, as pictured above.  Remove the banana V, and either eat or set aside.  Stuff the carved out section with chocolate and marshmallow pieces, then replace the banana slice if you haven’t eaten it as a snack, then fold the peel back over.  Wrap tightly in heavy-duty aluminum foil.  Place carefully in the coals of your campfire or near the edge of the fire (or even on the grate).  Turn occasionally, and cook until the banana reaches the desired tenderness.  Cook time will vary greatly depending on the temperature of your fire and where your banana is in relation to the heat.  It shouldn’t take more than 10 minutes.

Eat with a spoon before singing all the folk songs you can remember ’round the campfire.

Ma’s Cornbread

A simple but flavorful yellow cornbread, baked the traditional way in a cast iron skillet!

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There are some things that you don’t mess with.  Like the mint and chocolate flavor combo.  Or peanut butter and chocolate.  Or mom’s go-to cornbread recipe.

Baked in a cast iron skillet.

I’m a huge fan of cast iron.  Have I mentioned?  I grew up with a 10″ and a 6″ skillet in the kitchen, the former of which was used for basically all stovetop cooking.  And for baking cornbread.  When I finally moved to an apartment with a real kitchen senior year of college, I missed the cast iron.  I find it heats and distributes better than anything else.  You can put your cast iron skillets in the oven, too!  Can nonstick do that?  Nonstick is good for some things, like pancakes, but other than that…I don’t know.  Perhaps I’m stuck in my ways.  Anyway, I asked for a cast iron skillet for my birthday that year and ended up getting three.  All from my mom.  She said she didn’t know which size to get for me.  Since I’m currently back at home, we have five cast iron skillets.  So many cornbread possibilities.

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Okay, Reader, I guess I’ve done my little preach-y bit about cast iron (did I mention it can go in the oven as well as on the stove so you can use it for cornbread?).  Back to cornbread.  I’ve called this “Ma’s Cornbread” because it’s the recipe she always uses.  And now I always use it, too.  There are some things my family bakes with relatively frequency but never with the same recipe, like coffee cake and pumpkin bread.  But this one is an unquestioned staple in our house.

The bottom and sides are slightly crispy, the top is lightly browned, and the inside is golden.  Crumbly but not too crumbly.  Sweet but not too sweet.  What more could you ask for?

Ma’s Cornbread

From the back of the Indian Head Old Fashioned Stone Ground Yellow Corn Meal bag, ages ago (it’s still there)

Ingredients

  • 1 cup yellow corn meal
  • 1 cup all-purpose or white whole wheat flour
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup vegetable, canola, or melted coconut oil

Instructions

Preheat oven to 400°F.  Grease a medium (8 or 10″) cast iron skillet, and place it in the oven while it is preheating.

In a medium bowl, mix together the dry ingredients.  Make a well in the center of the mix.  In a small bowl, whisk together the wet ingredients.  Pour the wet into the dry, and mix quickly, just until incorporated.  Carefully remove the frying pan from the hot oven, and pour the batter into it.  Bake for about 25 minutes, until the cornbread begins to pull away from the edges of the pan and is a light golden brown.  Serve hot with butter and honey.  Eat the leftovers for breakfast.