Over the years I’ve planned birthday parties, weddings, family events and impromptu get togethers. This year I decided that it was high time that I planned an event just for me. Hey, call me selfish if you will. My 55th birthday was the perfect occasion. It was awesome!!! I couldn’t have pulled it off without the help of my hubby, Poppa Frank James Garth (that’s what Gabbi calls him) and Charisse. She’s probably still worn out from all the errands she ran for me and with me. Nobody likes to shop with me because I can never only go to one or two places.
Even though Samara had been here just three weeks before for Christmas, she came back. Garlon and Rupal came from Indiana and Mona, James and Malcom made the trek from Holland. Mona made her famous cheesy potatoes. There was so much to be done and she and the kids were right there with me. And if it’s a Garth event you know there was tons of food!! One of Charisse’s good friends, Denitra Harper donated dressing, pasta salad and macaroni and cheese, and it was fantabulous. My amazing spread was far from healthy, but I enjoyed every bite I overindulged in.
I got the idea to have a dessert buffet while recuperating from shoulder surgery. You have no idea how many websites I combed through pilfering ideas for my grand buffet. I think even Ms. Martha would have liked it. Trust me the pictures don’t tell half the story because you can’t taste all the goodies. My color scheme was Neopolitan and I wore it out. Everything from the invitations to the desserts was in those colors. Do you know how challenging it is to find candy in Neopolitan colors. I ended up with neopolitan candies (the coconut cubes), chocolate and strawberry malt balls, assorted chocolates that came in pink and gold wrappers and also nuggets with customized birthday wrappers. I have a friend with a Sam’s Club membership that bought mini cheesecakes for the table. OK, I’m drooling now, and by the way, a whole tray seemed to disappear when we packed up the leftovers…..hmmmmmmm.
On one of my perpetual trips to Michael’s I found a ribbon tied gift box cookie cutter. It was perfect for my Neopolitan flavored cookies. And oh my goodness those red velvet and chocolate cake truffles, yummy, yummy, yummy!
As luck would have it, Luck’s cake supply had edible images for the sides of my cake in my colors. Woo-hoo! They also had a picture of a really tall 6” cake. That got the old creative juices flowing and of course I had to have one. Mine was four layers of the moistest vanilla cake you’ve ever had. I didn’t have the nerve to try and stack that one, so it sat off to the side in all it’s glory. The other two tiers took center stage on the buffet. One chocolate and one strawberry, both wrapped in edible images. All this confectionary goodness and gooiness resulted in a couple-two-three-four-plus pounds gained but who cares!? You only turn 55 once. Will I say the same thing next year when I turn 56? Most likely and most likely I’ll have to outdo this year’s. I would be wise beyond my 55 years to start planning now.
Punchbowl cake. A better name might be, “A Bunch of Sweet Stuff Thrown Together in a Bowl”. I wonder how many people actually serve it in a punch bowl. It’s also kind of hard to mess up a punch bowl cake due to the fact that it is a bunch of sweet stuff thrown together. Our family’s version of punch bowl cake is called, “Chocolate Deborah”. Chocolate Deborah is very similar to a trifle and when my cholesterol level allows and I’ve lost the weight I gained on vacation I’ll make one and post a picture of it. I will tell you that it’s made with brownies as a base. Brownies as opposed to cake holds up much better and don’t get nearly as soggy as cake. Maybe I’m the only one that notices.
One of my clients asked me to make a traditional punch bowl cake for her grandson’s open house today; enough to feed 100 guests. And it was served in a punch bowl, a big one at that. I used strawberry cake and one of my faves, buttermilk pound cake for the base. Fresh strawberries and pineapple added another layer of sweetness., but not as much as the white chocolate pudding and whipped topping and cream cheese blend. I threw in enough powdered sugar to set your teeth on edge. About midway through the layering I laced the top with caramel and hot fudge topping.
When I got to the last layer a severe case of over-décor-itis struck. I pulled about a mini biscuit cutter and cut simple rounds from both cakes and placed them in the center. Then popped the last of the cream cheese/whipped topping mix in a bag and piped simple zig zags around the edge. A few strawberry and pineapple garnishes later I had to call it quits. The client sent me a text followed by the picture shown here and said it was “The Bomb!!”. She said one little girl said it made her want to jump out of her seat!! That’s the first time I’ve heard that reaction. Guess I’ll have to make old fashioned punch bowl cake more often.
I’m on a liqueur/alcohol kick with my cakes these days. Prior to this the only cake I’d ever made with alcohol was a rum cake. You know the one that starts with a boxed mix and then you add extra eggs, etc.? Christmas was the only time of year I’d make it, and I was pretty much the only one that would it eat it. You wouldn’t believe the new recipes I have for these cakes and you can bet that I’ll get around to trying them all.
My mission is to make cakes as “heart friendly” as possible while maintaining the richness and all of the taste, and still include alcohol. And there is no need to worry too much about the alcohol, most of it cooks away and all you’re left with is the flavor. So off to the liquor store I go. No need to buy big bottles of anything so I grabbed a bunch of the 50ml ones which hold about ¼ cup. First up, Irish Cream and Kahlua pound cake. I had such high hopes for this cake. In my excitement I neglected to take off about 15 minutes of baking time to allow for the dark pan and my sometimes too hot oven. I’ve really got to get that checked. It was definitely over baked. I didn’t use all the batter, so what was left I baked in my mini bundt pans, also dark but I reduced the baking time.
There wasn’t enough batter to fill all of them so I used a box of white cake mix I had in the cabinet and marbled it. I am so not into boxed mixes these days and I felt I did myself a disservice by using it. Oh well can’t cry over it now. What I really wanted was a chance to see what the Irish Cream/Kahlua mix was like when baked properly; and it was good. Not wanting to waste a whole cake I decided to soak the over baked cake in about 1 cup of vodka and let it cure, so to speak. That was four days ago, and my plan is to let it soak for at least a week to ten days. We’ll see and when it’s done I’ll post the recipe.
I made my first cream cheese pound cake last year and my youngest daughter fell in love with it. The original recipe calls for 1 ½ cups butter and 1 8oz pkg of cream cheese. Yes it tastes awesome, but my cholesterol said no-no. My first attempt at overhauling this recipe was a total disaster, I changed everything and it was too much. Here’s a better compromise. The kicker is my daughter doesn’t know that this version is healthier and chances are she won’t be reading this so she’ll never know. Ha!!!
Cream Cheese Oreo Pound Cake
½ cup butter
¾ cup Smart Balance Oil
8oz reduced fat cream cheese
1 ½ cup sugar
½ cup Splenda
1 TBS vanilla
1 tsp almond extract
¾ cups egg substitute
3 cups cake flour
9 Oreos crushed
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Prepare a 10” tube pan with non stick spray formulated for baking. Cream together the butter, oil, cream cheese, sugar and splenda on mediu speed of electric mixer for 5 minutes. Stir in the vanilla and almond extracts. Add the flour, eggs and egg substitute alternately, beginning and ending with flour. Fold in the crushed Oreos by hand and pour batter into prepared pan.
Bake in preheated oven for one hour and 15 minutes or until cake tests done. Dust with powdered sugar or make a glaze of 1 cup powdered sugar, 1 tsp vanilla and enough water to make it pourable.
As part of my quest for cakes low in cholesterol and high in flavor, I’ve thought of baking a cake a day for a month. That would be awesome! Problem is, nine times out of ten I’d be the only one eating them. And no matter how healthy they are that would be waaaay too much of a good thing. I’ve thought of taking a slice for myself and sending the rest to a shelter or have my daughter take it to work with her. Got more thinking to do on that one.
In the meantime I found this recipe in Prevention’s Sugar Solution cookbook.
The original recipe called for peanut butter, but I thought Nutella would be a great change of taste. And it is!!!
½ cups whole grain pastry flour
1 cup cake flour
2 tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
½ cup Nutella
½ cup butter
1 cup sugar
2 egg whites
1 TBS vanilla
½ cup mini chocolate chips
1 ½ cup low-fat buttermilk
½ cup powdered sugar
2 TBS Nutella
1 TBS unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp vanilla
1 – 1 ½ TBS water
Preheat oven to 350° . Prepare a 10” tube or Bundt pan with non stick spray formulated for baking. Sift together the cake flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In a medium bowl add the whole wheat pastry flour and the other dry ingredients and whisk well. I’ve tried sifting whole wheat pastry flour and it’s a tiring experience and some of grains are left behind. We want the grains that’s where the nutrition is.
In another bowl with an electric mixer beat the Nutella and butter for two minutes or until creamy. Medium speed works best. Then add the sugar, egg whites and vanilla and beat for another 4 minutes or until light and fluffy. Don’t skimp on the time, wash the dishes you’ve used to pass the time. Beat in the chocolate chips and low speed just till blended. Turn the speed to low and alternately add the flour and buttermilk, beginning and ending with the flour. Spoon batter into prepared pan.
Bake for about an hour or until the cake tests done. I say about, because everyone’s oven is different. After 50 minutes have passed take a peak without opening the door. If the cake is starting to pull away from the pan, it’s almost done. Cool in the pan on a rack for 10 minutes and then invert onto a serving plate for glazing.
In a small bowl mix all the glaze ingredients together and spoon or brush onto cake.
This cake really tastes good warm. As a matter of fact I think most pound cakes taste good warmed.
It’s a pretty safe bet that most everyone knows that white chocolate as we know it really isn’t a chocolate. Even the USDA has joined in the discussion, stating that white chocolate is a product made from cocoa butter, milk solids, sweeteners, and other ingredients. White chocolate has no solids from the chocolate liquor and sometimes contains vegetable fat or palm oil which makes for a poor tasting product. Another reason to always read the label. Vanilla bark and candy or summer coating as it is sometimes called is sold in most grocery stores. Candy coating is made primarily of vegetable fats, and cocoa with a small measure of cocoa butter. They set up quickly and are easy to handle. You can also find them in specialty shops that sell candy and cake decorating supplies. For this recipe best results are obtained with a white chocolate not a bark or summer coating. Nestle and Ghirardelli are good brands to try. I’m also proud to say that I’ve won several contests with this recipe.
White Chocolate Cake Mix Truffles
6-1ounce squares white chocolate
1 ½ cups almonds or pecans
1 ½ cup cake crumbs, processed in food processor (vanilla or white cake)
1/3 cup raspberry liqueur
Melt chocolate in microwave or in top of a double boiler. Grind nuts in a food processor. Stir into melted chocolate. Add the cake crumbs and liqueur, mixing well. Shape into 1-inch balls. Let sit in refrigerator for one hour or until firm. Roll in powdered sugar. Store, tightly covered, in the refrigerator for at least 1 week (if you can hold out that long) before serving, so flavors marry.
Note: I couldn’t help but taste one right away. They are fantastic as is. This is one that will get even better with time.