Celebrity Chefs

I made these banana-riffic cupcakes for my nephew’s fifth birthday. They were almost as a big a hit as the remote control motorcycle.

Cupcake 1

Banana Cupcakes

I am a lazy blogger on a sunny Sunday afternoon, so I’ll just provide the links to the splendid banana cupcake recipe from Martha Stewart and the perfect buttercream recipe from Alice at Savory Sweet Life that made these sweetnesses possible. Thanks ladies!


This berry trifle rests on the very BEST lemon cake recipe I’ve come across — and of course it’s from Ina Garten.

Whip up this lemon cake (I’m feeling lazy tonight, so I’m not retyping it here). Instead of loaf pans, use a sheet cake pan. When the cake is cool, cut it into one inch squares.  In a pretty glass dessert dish, layer the cake with fresh berries and whipped cream (make your own — it’s worth it) and VOILA!

Lemon Trifle

This is the second cake I’ve tried from Julie Richardson’s Vintage Cakes, and it’s delicious!

Lemon Streamliner Cake



zest of two lemons
3/4 cup 2% milk (the recipe calls for whole milk, but 2% is what I had)
1/2 cup of sugar
4 egg yolks
1/2 tsp sea salt
2 tbs cornstarch
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice (3 large lemons)
1/2 cup of unsalted butter, cut into small cubes


1 1/4 cup cake flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp sea salt
3/4 cup (6 ounces) almond paste
10 tbs unsalted butter, at room temp
2/3 cup sugar
3 tbs canola oil
2 tsp vanilla
3 eggs, at room temp
2/3 cup buttermilk, at room temp

How I Made It:

Make the custard first.  If you’re smart, make it the night before you need the cake so it has plenty of time in the fridge to set.

Combine the milk, lemon zest, and 1/4 cup sugar in a saucepan over medium-low heat until it is just hot.  While it’s heating, whisk the egg yolks, remaining sugar, and salt together in a separate bowl. When that is all well combined, whisk in the cornstarch, then the lemon juice.  By now, the milk mixture should be hot.

Pour 1/3 of the hot milk mixture into the bowl of yolks et al.  Pour that back into the saucepan and whisk together.  Continue to cook over medium heat, whisking steadily, until it thickens and begins to bubble.  (The recipe says to do this over medium-low heat, but that just didn’t cut it so after about 6 minutes I upped the heat a bit to medium.)

Pour the mixture into a glass bowl and whisk the butter cubes in until thoroughly melted and combined.  (The recipe says to strain the custard through a  fine sieve, but since all the zest had collected on my whisk, I skipped that part with no worries.) Cover the custard with plastic wrap right on the surface (to prevent a skin from forming). Refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or overnight.

To make the cake, preheat the oven to 350 degrees and prepare a 9 inch springform pan.  Sift the dry ingredients together in a bowl.  In the Kitchen-Aid mixer, cream the butter and almond paste together with the canola oil and vanilla.  When it is light and fluffy, blend the eggs in one at a time.  Reduce the mixer speed to low, and add the flour and buttermilk in alternating batches (flour-buttermilk-flour-buttermilk-flour).  Stop the mixer before it’s all blended, and finish by hand with a rubber spatula.

This cake batter is THICK!  Spoon it into your springform pan and give it a good knock on the counter to release any air bubbles.  Place the cake pan on a  cookie sheet, in case of leaks, and bake in the center of the oven for 40-45 minutes.  It’s done when it is golden brown and a cake tester comes out clean but for a few crumbs.

Let the cake cool to room temperature.  Then, top the cake with the lemon custard.  There is way more custard than you need for the cake, so don’t try and put it all on top.  Spread it in a nice swirl on top not quite to the edges.  Put it in the refrigerator for at least half an hour to reset before serving.

How It Turned Out:

The cake is dense, moist, and super almondy. The custard is a smack in the face of lemon.  A great combination — and I’m looking forward to trying the almond cake with a strawberry topping.

Recipe appears on page 36 of Vintage Cakes, Julia Richardson (Ten Speed Press).

Vintage Cakes

For Christmas, my best friend gave me Vintage Cakes, a cookbook from Julie Richardson (owner of Baker & Spice bakery in Portland, Oregon).

It has all these wonderful cakes that I remember from picnics and church potlucks back home when I was a child. So of course, this weekend I set out to bake my way through it.  This honey almond confection was first on the list — a breakfast treat for a sweet couple of a skiers I know.



2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 cup plus 2 tbs unsalted butter
3/4 cup sugar (I substituted half that much Splenda sugar blend)
1/3 cup honey
2 tsp vanilla
2 eggs (room temperature)
1 egg yolk (room temperature)
3/4 cup buttermilk (room temperature)

1/2 cup honey (I used a Strawberry Blossom Honey)
1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup of sliced almonds, toasted

How I Made It:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Prepare a  9″x3″ non-stick springform pan by spraying it with Baker’s Secret or Pam with Flour.  (The cookbook says grease the pan with butter and line it with parchment, but this works fine.)

Sift the flour, baking powder, and salt together in a bowl and set it aside.  In the Kitchen-Aid mixer, cream the butter and sugar together.  Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the honey, then the vanilla.  Gradually increase the mixer speed to high and cream the mixture until fluffy (mine never got fluffy, so just use your  best judgment about when it’s ready).  Throughout this process, periodically stop the mixer and scrape the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula to make sure everything is combined.  While it continues to mix, add the eggs and egg yolk one at a time.

Reduce the mixer speed to low.  Add the flour in three parts, alternating with the buttermilk (flour-buttermilk-flour-buttermilk-flour).  As soon as it looks mostly combined, turn off the mixer and finish by hand with a rubber spatula.

The cake batter will be thick.  Spread it into the springform pan evenly.  Place the pan on a cookie sheet and bake in the center of the oven for 40 minutes (the recipe says 45-50 minutes, but mine was done at 40 minutes).  The cake tester will come out of them iddle clean but for a few moist crumbs.

About 10 minutes before the cake is done, make the glaze.  Combine the honey, sugar, and butter in a heavy-bottom saucepan over medium heat, whisking to combine and keep it from burning. It’s done when it’s a lovely golden brown. Try to time it so the glaze is done and just beginning to cool when the cake is ready to come out. I used a strawberry blossom honey, because I like strawberry and almond together.

When done, take the cake from the oven. Leave the cake in the pan.  With a skewer or slender wooden spoon handle, poke holes in the top of the cake.  Pour 1/2 half of the glaze on the cake, spreading it with a pastry brush to evenly soak the top.  Sprinkle the almonds on top and then pour the last of glaze over the cake.

Bake the cake another five minutes, then let it cool on a wire rack.  When it’s cool, you can gently transfer it to a cake plate.

How It Turned Out:

It looks gorgeous.

Honey Cake Up Close

I’ll have to wait for my friends’ review to tell you how it tasted.

Recipe appears on page 31 of Vintage Cakes, Julia Richardson (Ten Speed Press).

My best friend got the chance to visit the Magnolia Bakery in Chicago, and she brought me back one of their fabulous cookbooks. This recipe for fresh nectarine cobbler turned out beautifully, especially with vanilla ice cream on top.

Nectarine Cobbler from
The Complete Magnolia Bakery Cookbook


This started out from a recipe from the Beekman Boys. As usual, there were unexpected (maybe by now they are to be expected?) deviations from the recipe. (The original recipe is available here.)


1 14-16 pound organic free range turkey
1/4 cup  salt
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons chile powder
1 orange
1 lime
1 small yellow onion, halved
2 bay leaves
3 garlic cloves, unpeeled
3/4 cup good quality maple syrup
2 tablespoons molasses
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
2 cups Jim Beam Black double aged bourbon

How I Made It:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Rinse and pat dry the turkey, removing the bag of giblets and the neck.  Place these (sans bag) in the bottom of the roasting pan.  Place the turkey, breast side up, in the rack in the roasting pan.

Combine the salt, sugar, and chili powder. Rub the seasoning all over the turkey, making sure to evenly spice the entire bird.

Quarter the orange, lime, and onion. Stuff these into the turkey, then follow with the garlic cloves and the bay leaves.


In a heavy bottomed sauce pan, combine the molasses, maple syrup, Worcestershire sauce, brown sugar, and 1 cup of bourbon. Heat over medium heat and stir continuously until blended and smooth.  (This is where I left the Beekman Boys behind — my recipe calls for bourbon in the basting sauce as well as the pan.)

With a silicone brush, thoroughly cover the turkey with the maple bourbon sauce. Make sure to get a few tablespoons into the cavity as well.  You should use at least half of the sauce, but make sure you have enough reserved for basting as it roasts.

Pour 1 cup of bourbon into the bottom of the roasting pan (not over the bird). Cover the wing tips with foil and  tie the drumsticks with kitchen twine.  Finally, tent the entire turkey with non-stick foil.

Roast covered for 90 minutes. Uncover, baste well with maple bourbon sauce, and continue roasting for 30 minutes.

Using a meat thermometer in the thigh, check the temperature.  If the turkey has reached 150 degrees or so, baste again and return uncovered to the oven. (If it hasn’t, keep roasting covered and check every 15 minutes until it reaches 150 degrees).

Roast the turkey uncovered for another 30 minutes, basting as needed (I’m a frequent baster because I like a moist turkey).  After 30 minutes, check to ensure that the turkey has reached 165 degrees. If it has, remove from the oven.

Let rest covered for 15 minutes before carving.

How It Turned Out:

Wonderful! Moist, flavorful, and if you have folks who like the  turkey skin — this will be their favorite turkey ever.



About three weeks ago, my best friend and I decided to make boeuf bourguignon.  Yes, like many others, we were inspired by Meryl Streep as the superb Julia Child.  It took us about 5 hours to prepare and cook this luscious stew, but it was one of the most amazing things either of us have ever made.  Here’s our version, with pictures.


1/3 lb thick cut bacon (plain, not smoked or flavored)

3 lb rump roast cut into 2 inch cubes (we had the butcher do it)

1 tbs olive or vegetable oil

1 large onion halved and sliced

3 large carrots, peeled, cut in half lengthwise and sliced at a slight angle

1 tsp salt

freshly ground black pepper to taste

2 tbs flour

3 cups red wine (we used a La Veielle Ferme)

beef stock

1 small can tomato paste

2 garlic cloves, minced

1/2 tsp dried thyme

1 bay leaf, crumbled

1 tbs olive oil

1 tbs butter

 24 fresh pearl onions, peeled

 ½ cup beef stock

 salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste

 4 tbs butter

 2 tbs olive or vegetable oil

 1 lb medium-sized white mushrooms, quartered


How we made the stew:

Set an oven rack in the middle position. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.Bacon

Cool the bacon in a dutch oven over medium heat, stirring occasionally until it is lightly browned and most of the fat is rendered. With a slotted spoon, remove the bacon and transfer to a bowl large enough to hold the beef. Remove the pot from the heat.

Pat the beef dry with paper towel.


Add the olive or vegetable oil to the pot with the bacon fat and set over medium-high heat. When it is smoking hot, add the cubes of beef a few at a time. Brown on each side. Remove the cooked pieces of beef from the pot and set on top of the bacon as you go along.


Add the onion and carrots to the pot and cook until lightly browned. Remove the vegetables and place in a small colander over a paper towel to drain off any cooking fat.


Return the beef and bacon to the pot. Season with salt and pepper. Stir the flour into the pot. Set the pot, uncovered, in the oven.

Cook four minutes, and then give the beef a stir and roast four minutes more.

Return the pot to the stovetop. Lower the oven temperature to 300 degrees.

Slowly stir the wine into the beef. Add enough beef stock to cover the meat (about 1 1/2 cups). Return vegetables to the pot. Stir in the tomato paste, garlic, thyme and bay leaf. Bring to a simmer.


Cover and return the pot to the over, to cook for 3 hours or until the meat is so tender it can be easily pierced with a fork.

Remove the beef and vegetables once more. Skim any oil from the sauce in saucepan. Simmer the sauce until reduced to about to 2 1/2 cups; it should be thick enough to just very lightly coat a spoon. Taste the sauce for seasoning. Return the beef et al. to the pot and simmer for a few minutes on the stovetop.

How we made the onions and mushrooms:Melt 1 tbs butter with 1 tbs olive oil in a skillet over medium-low heat. When the two are bubbling, add the onions and saute about 10 minutes, rolling the onions around so they brown as evenly as possible.


Onions cooking

Pour in the beef stock, cover, lower the heat to its lowest setting, and very slowly cook the onions until tender (about 30 minutes). Remove from the heat and add to the stew before serving.

For the mushrooms, melt 2 tbs butter with 1 tbs olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. As soon as the butter’s foam starts to subside, add the mushrooms in small batches. As Julia says, “don’t crowd the mushrooms.” Cook for 4 to 5 minutes or until the mushrooms have browned lightly and are just tender.

We served the mushrooms on the side, along with homemade mashed potatoes.

The results:


DIVINE!!!  The perfect Sunday supper.  And the leftovers were even more splendid the next day.


Supper Table

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