Gingerbread Loaf Cake

When I first set out to make this cake, I knew it was going to be a total experiment. I’m sure there are still some adjustments to be made (like why did it fall in the middle?) but it actually turned out so good! It was fluffy and moist and full of Gingerbread/Christmassy flavor! And the frosting… oh my. Let’s all just take a moment and savor this cream cheese goodness that would be delicious on pretty much ANYTHING.
 

Last year, when I made gingerbread cookies, I gave a little history of the European origin of gingerbread, so I’m not going to get into all that again. Feel free to read up on last year’s post. And maybe make some cookies while you’re at it.

I like making this cake because it is a nice change of pace from the typical cookie you see a lot but you still get that familiar holiday flavor.

Gingerbread Loaf Cake

For the Cake:

1 ½ cups flour

½ teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

¾ teaspoon ground cloves

¾ teaspoon ground ginger (you can add more if you want more ginger flavor)

1 teaspoon salt

½ cup butter, softened

1 cup sugar

2 eggs

½ cup molasses

½ cup buttermilk

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

For the cream cheese icing:

1 8oz package of cream cheese, softened

2 cups powdered sugar

Zest of one orange

Juice of half an orange

½ cup dried cranberries, chopped

In a bowl, mix together your dry ingredients: flour, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, salt. Set aside.

 

In another bowl, whisk together the softened butter and sugar. Add the eggs and beat until combined. Then add the molasses, buttermilk, and vanilla and mix well.

A little bit at a time, add the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients and mix well.

Pour into a greased and floured loaf pan.

Bake at 350 for 40-45 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Let cool slightly and remove from the pan to cool more.

Meanwhile, for the icing: mix together the cream cheese and powdered sugar until combined. Then stir in the zest, juice, and cranberries.


When the cake is cooled, pour the icing on top. However much or little you want. 

 

Chop up a few extra dried cranberries and save a tiny amount of zest and sprinkle over the top of the frosting just for decoration. Let the icing set before cutting in and enjoying!

 

This is especially good with a cup of coffee!! (but then, what isn’t?)

 

Italian Love Cake 

I first saw this cake on Valerie Bertinelli’s cooking show on Food Network. It looked really good when she made it, so I saved the recipe to my Pinterest board and then, as with most Pinterest pins, promptly forgot all about it. 

When it came time to make a meal for my friends who just had their baby, I found myself going with an Italian theme (lasagna, Caesar salad, garlic bread). I wanted to make dessert too and randomly this cake popped into my head. 

Valerie called it “Sicilian Love Cake” on her show so I thought “Perfect. An Italian cake to go with the Italian dinner!” Well, when I Googled “Sicilian Love Cake” all I got was Valerie’s recipe. I did find a few others for “Italian Love Cake” so I assumed that she just tweaked the name a little because she’s Sicilian. I changed my Google search accordingly and as it turns out, there is no real reason why this cake is called Italian Love Cake. It just is. Maybe because of the ricotta and mascarpone? Italian cheeses = Italian cake? 

That reminds me of a funny-ish story. Growing up, my mom used to make these things called Tamale Buns. They were a recipe from her grandmother and they are delicious. They sound really weird and you will think I’m completely off my rocker, but I promise they are really good: It’s dinner rolls carved out into little vessels. The filling is a mix of tomato soup, corn kernels, diced green chiles, chopped hard-boiled egg, and cheese. This is all baked in the oven. I know, I know. Report me to the foodie police, it sounds bizarre, but I promise it’s good. Anyway, the point of me bringing it up is that apparently, my great grandmother, being the small-town Utah woman she was, called them Tamale buns because they had green chiles in them. Chiles = Mexican = Tamales. Insert eye roll here. That’s what I thought of when I read why this cake is called Italian Love cake. 

Italian cheese = Italian cake

Green chiles = Mexican meal 

All settled on how that works? Good. 

This cake is really simple and it looked really yummy. Since I was giving it to friends, I couldn’t have a piece myself, but I did lick the spatula when I made the frosting, and OMG!!!! You guys, it was heavenly. I think it may be my new go-to chocolate frosting for anything. Cookies, cakes, eating off the spoon. Anything.

Sicilian Love Cake by Valerie Bertinelli

As found on FoodNetwork.com 

CAKE:

1 box chocolate cake mix, plus the ingredients called for in the directions 

MASCARPONE-RICOTTA FILLING 

28 oz ricotta cheese

4 oz mascarpone

3 eggs

¾ cup sugar

1/8 teaspoon salt 

COCOA-MASCARPONE FROSTING 

10 oz mascarpone

1 cup whole milk (I used 2%)

1 box instant chocolate pudding mix (3.9 oz)

1 tablespoon sugar

Preheat the oven according the directions on the cake mix. Prep the cake batter according the directions on the box and pour into a greased 9×13 baking dish. Set aside. (Don’t bake it yet).

Make the filling: Combine the ricotta, mascarpone, eggs, sugar, and salt in a mixer and whisk until smooth. Gently pour the filling onto the top of the chocolate cake batter so the top is completely white. Maybe I didn’t do mine “gently” enough, but the top of my cake batter was not completely white. Not even close. The idea is when you bake the cake, the cheese filling settles to the bottom and make a layer. According to my friends who ate it, it worked, so I guess it was fine how I did it.

Bake the cake until a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean and the chocolate layer has risen to the top, about 50-60 minutes. Let the cake cool completely.

Make the frosting: Whisk together the mascarpone, milk, chocolate pudding mix, and sugar until smooth. Using an offset spatula, spread the frosting evenly over the cake and serve.

Again, I’m sorry I don’t have a final picture of the cake showing the layers, but I was told this one was delicious too! There is a nice photo on the Food Network site though!

And take my word for it… make a little extra frosting!

Minion Mania!

This past Wednesday, my first born turned 6. Six years old. It’s still so weird to say: I have a 6 year old.  I know it’s totally cliche and every says it, but it is so true that time just flies by so fast. It’s gone even faster since we had our second one 2-1/2 years ago.

I’m not going to lie: I’m having a bit of trouble letting him get older. I know it is inevitable, but he’s my baby. He’ll always be my baby. I love so much the little kid he’s becoming, but at the same time, I miss the little boy he used to be. But ah, such is life with children. They eventually grow up and you can only hope you’ve done a good enough job that they feel confident to spread their wings, but still know they can always come back to their roots.

Something I’ve always loved doing for my kids’ birthdays is making their yummy treats. For JJ’s 6th birthday, he decided on a Minions theme. I would personally like to thank whoever created the Minions because their design makes it very easy to create minions out of lots of different foods!

We started with cupcakes:

Get some Twinkies (probably the only time I will ever buy Twinkies. I’m not snobby about junk food, I’m just more of a Ding Dong girl, myself.)

Cut them in half.

Using black decorating icing and a basic round tip (can be found at any grocery or craft store) and candy eyes (also can be found at any grocery or craft store) make the little minion faces.
  

Make basic cupcakes using your favorite recipe or box mix. Frost with blue frosting and place the twinkie minions on top. Let them set in the icing. DONE!

Next, is the cake.

Make two 13×9 sheet cakes, again using your favorite recipe or box mix. Let the cakes cool and flip one layer upside on the serving tray. Spread a thin layer of frosting, then top with the second cake. See that little crack? Don’t worry about it, it will get covered up and you’ll never know it was there. Now you can cut around it a little bit to shape it how you want.

Next, using an off-set spatula, which I highly recommend getting because it really does make a huge difference when frosting cakes, apply the frosting where you want it to go: blue on the bottom for his pants, yellow on top for his body, with a large yellow circle in the middle for his eye. Seriously, this was all very easy to separate out because of the off-set spatula.

Finally, add the details. I just used the same black decorating icing I used on the Twinkies. and… DONE!

The last treat I made was candy coated Milanos. Get Milano cookies (whatever flavor you want. I know they can be expensive, but I got a 40 pack at Costco for $8.99, so totally a good deal!)

Get these colored candy melts at the store (grocery or craft), and melt them in a bowl over simmering water.  You can do this in the microwave too, but I like the double boiler method because it keeps the candy warm and melted for the whole process.

Dip the cookies in the candy.  For the bottom, I just dipped, for the yellow top, I used a spoon to help keep the colors in their right spots.
  

Finally, decorate the faces the same way you did the Twinkies above. And, again… DONE!
  

This may seem like a lot, but each treat was actually very easy. I did all three in one day, stopping for a workout with the hubby, lunch with the hubby, and stopping to pick up the kids from school.

Hopefully the kids enjoy them as much as I did making them!

Happy birthday, to my sweet, crazy, silly, wonderful son. You stole my heart 6 years ago and you can keep it. xoxo