Red Meets Black!

In addition to sketching and doing a relatively impressionistic type paint, I love doing big abstracts. This one did not take much time, but just made me happy painting. I usually put on some great music and just enjoy the energy. Stacey Kent is my newest artist of choice. I was introduced to her music when staying a friend’s house. With all the fires going on in Washington, Oregon and California the idea struck me that the all the fury of the fires leaves behind the sadness of the blackened trees and lost homes.

This is fairly large at 48″ wide x 24″ tall.

Red Meets Black!

Back in the Studio at last

It has taken quite a while to sort through everything and organize it, but I am there and was able to paint this week. My friend, Reed and I went on a drive last week to Brinnon where we took a very short hike to find the Rocky Brook Falls. I will admit we drove more back and forth trying to find the falls, than we did hiking, but it was worth the trip.

This is the photo that I used for the painting. As you can see I took a little “artists license” with the painting.

I’m not sure if I will attempt to paint this, but it surely was breathtaking.

Back in the Studio at last

Love sketching

I was in Vacaville, California when the pandemic began and it was a time, when the big excitement of the day was going for a drive or sitting on the front porch having a glass of wine. I don’t sit still well, so got some pens and started sketching the neighborhood. My oil paints were still in Washington, so could not paint. (Won’t do that again). Here are some of the in house and neighborhood sketches done at that time.

I started with simple sketches around the house.

Beautiful roses in a vase. Probably should have added color. (Oh well)

Drew the house on the corner.

And the house across the street.

Then added color to the house on the corner across the street.

Another house right across the street

And added color

Drew a tree rose in the front garden

Drove back to Bainbridge where I drew my girlfriend’s flower pot. I moved to my little Port Ludlow Cottage and spent the next couple of months trying to organize and move in to the house.

My friend and I were out and about and stopped in Port Gamble in a newly opened wine bar for a glass and a charcuterie plate and I like the house so I took a photo on the way out and drew the house below. I had an extra frame, so I framed the house and dropped by as a gift to the owners.

Once in a while it is just fun to do a nice and unexpected gift!

Love sketching

Asian Pear Bundt Cake

I promised to post this a while back and quickly forgot as I had just sold my waterfront home, got a divorce and moved to my little cottage.

This recipe may be made with any variety of pear, or use apples. Sprinkle the cake with sifted confectioners’ sugar or use a simple Vanilla or Caramel Glaze.

Ingredients

  • For the Fruit Mixture:
  • 3 cups Asian Pears(diced)
  • 1 cup pecans (chopped)
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • For the Cake:
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup brown sugar (packed)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 3 large eggs

Instructions

  1. Grease and flour a 12-cup Bundt pan or spray generously with Baker’s Joy or other similar baking spray mixture with flour. Heat oven to 325 F.
  2. Combine diced pears, pecans, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, and 1/3 cup granulated sugar; toss. Cover and set aside.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, combine the flours, brown sugar, 1/2 cup granulated sugar, 2 teaspoons cinnamon, nutmeg, baking powder, salt, and soda; mix to blend thoroughly.
  4. With electric mixture on low, stir in oil, vanilla, and eggs until well blended. Stir in the fruit and nut mixture until blended.
  5. Spoon the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes or until a toothpick or cake tester inserted in center of the cake comes out clean.
  6. Cool in pan on rack for 15 minutes. Turn out onto rack to cool completely.
  7. Transfer to a serving plate and glaze with a vanilla or caramel glaze or just dust with powdered sugar.

Caramel Glaze

  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar (packed)
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
Instructions
  1. Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat
  2. Add the brown sugar to the butter and cook, stirring, for 1 minute
  3. Add salt and cream; bring to a boil over medium heat. Continue cooking, stirring, for 2 minutes.
  4. Cool for about 15 to 20 minutes and then drizzle over cake.

Vanilla Glaze

Ingredients

  • 2 cups confectioners’ sugar (sifted before measuring)
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter (softened)
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract (clear for whiter icing)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons milk
Instructions
  1. Combine the sifted confectioners’ sugar, softened butter, vanilla extract, salt, and 3 tablespoons milk in a mixing bowl.
  2. Stir until smooth and well blended.
  3. Adjust for desired consistency as needed, adding more milk for drizzling or more confectioners’ sugar for spreading.
  4. Use immediately to top a cake, cookies, and other treats.
Asian Pear Bundt Cake

Sicilian Sea Bass with Sweet & Sour Caponata

It was so good I ate mine and then said “Oh my, I forgot to take a photo of the completed meal!” Last weekend I bought eggplant at the local Farmer’s Market and didn’t want it to go to waste. I didn’t have any diced tomatoes, so used half a 28 ounce can of crushed tomatoes. I love Bianco Tomatoes as they are canned within four hours of being harvested, so super fresh tasting.

The recipe was from Food Network Magazine, and was super easy.

Ingredients

3 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 eggplant (about 1 pound), cut into 3/4-inch cubes

4 ribs celery, thinly sliced

1 small red onion, diced

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

1 14.5-ounce can no-salt-added diced tomatoes ( see note above)

3 tablespoons capers, drained and rinsed

1/4 cup plus 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar

4 teaspoons honey (I didn’t have any, so used a little sugar)

4 skinless hake or cod fillets (about 6 ounces each)

1 cup packed fresh parsley, large leaves torn

1/2 baguette, sliced and toasted

Directions

  1. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the eggplant and cook, stirring occasionally, until browned and almost tender, 6 to 8 minutes. Remove the eggplant to a large plate or bowl. Add 1 more tablespoon olive oil to the skillet. Add the celery and red onion and season with salt and pepper; cook until crisp-tender, 6 to 8 minutes. Add the tomatoes, capers, 1/4 cup vinegar, the honey and 3/4 cup water ( left out the water to have a thicker sauce). Stir in the eggplant, season with salt and pepper and cook until the vegetables are tender and the mixture thickens, 10 to 12 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Pat the fish dry, season with salt and pepper and add to the skillet. Cook, undisturbed, until golden brown on the bottom, 4 to 5 minutes. Flip the fish and cook until it is just opaque and flakes easily, 2 to 3 more minutes.
  3. Toss the parsley and remaining 2 teaspoons olive oil and 1 teaspoon vinegar in a small bowl; season with salt and pepper. Divide the caponata among shallow bowls and top each serving with a fish fillet. Top with the parsley and serve with the baguette slices. I left off the parsley and did not serve myself the baguette.
Sicilian Sea Bass with Sweet & Sour Caponata

Potato | Spinach Galette

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Since I had already made the pie crust and there was enough for two, I thought a savory galette might be good.  I am staying with a friend while waiting for my new home to close escrow next week, and we both love to cook.  I was looking online and found a recipe for potato galette.  We have been trying to order our food online with the COVET 19 and she sort of accidentally ordered way too many potatoes.  So instead of nine potatoes, she received nine pounds of potatoes.  How to creatively use more potatoes.

Use the other half of the pie crust recipe that I made yesterday:

Ingredients:

 

3 cups (375g) Plain Flour (unbleached and unfortified)
2 tbsp Sugar

1 tsp Salt

2 sticks (220g) of Butter
(small cold cubed)
1 beaten Egg mixed with
3/4 cup Milk (cold)

 

HOW TO PREPARE PASTRY:

  1. Mix flour, sugar & salt to evenly distribute the dry ingredients
  2. Add cold butter cubes with the flour mix and work with hands or pastry knives until it transforms into small pea-sized crumbs
    (Use cold utensils )
    3) Add egg and milk mixture till the mixture comes together
  3. Make a well with the flour crumbs mixture adding the egg and milk mixture in the well and lightly handling the mixture
    (do not knead)
  4. Incorporate all ingredients together to form a dryish dough
  5. Wrap it well with cling film & refrigerate for 1 hour
  6. Roll out the dough split it in half for two pie crust and roll it out bigger than the pie dish
  7. Fit the rolled out pie dough in the greased and floured pie dish making sure pie dough is press all around the crevices of the dish so it doesn’t sink in or collapse when cooking.
  8. Cut around the edge of the pie dish and refrigerate again for 20 before egg washing it and filling it with pie filling and cooking in the oven.
    Enjoy!

FILLING

2 potatoes ( I used Yukon) slice thinly with a Mandolin (1/8″ thick)

4 TB unsalted butter

1 Yellow onion ( I had half a red and a shallot) so used those

Bacon – you pick how much, but be cooked and cut up (Maybe 2 slices)

Spinach = (one big bunch) cooked down with garlic

1/2 cup Parmesan or Romano Shredded Cheese

Egg wash – one egg whisked with a little water

Kosher salt

2 tablespoons chopped chives

3 tablespoons white vinegar

Freshly ground black pepper

Flaky salt, for topping

 

HOW TO PUT IT TOGETHER

  1. Directions

    1. In a large skillet, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the onions and a pinch of salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until caramelized, about 25 minutes.
    2. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
    3. Heat 1 1/2 inches of oil in a large cast-iron skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Working in batches, fry the potatoes, flipping once, until just tender and beginning to brown around the edges, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove the potatoes to a baking sheet lined with paper towels to drain, then remove the paper towel. Sprinkle the potatoes with the chives, 2 tablespoons of the vinegar and salt and pepper to taste. Toss gently to combine.
    4. Roll your pie dough out into a 13-inch circle and place it on a baking sheet lined with parchment. Whisk the egg with a splash of water in a small bowl and brush it onto the dough, leaving a 2-inch perimeter. In the center of the dough, layer up the toppings in this order: half the onions, half the Parmesan cheese and then half of the potatoes, in a fanned even layer. Top with the remaining onions, remaining cheese, the other half of the potatoes and any additional chives or black pepper from the bottom of the pan. Brush the edges of the crust with egg and then fold them up around the potatoes. Brush the outside edges with egg and sprinkle with flaky salt.
    5. Bake until the pie crust edges are golden brown, about 25 minutes. Sprinkle the top of the galette with the remaining tablespoon of vinegar before serving.
Potato | Spinach Galette

Peach | Cherry Galette

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This is so fun and easy to make.  I decided to try a new pie crust recipe that I had watched on YouTube a couple of weeks ago.  Cooking Italian with Joe has an interestingly different approach to making what might be a quite good pie crust using egg and milk.

 

Ingredients:

 

 

3 cups (375g) Plain Flour (unbleached and unfortified)
2 tbsp Sugar

1 tsp Salt

2 sticks (220g) of Butter (small cold cubed)

1 beaten Egg mixed with

3/4 cup Milk (cold)

HOW TO MAKE:

  1. Mix flour, sugar & salt to evenly distribute the dry ingredients
  2. Place mixture into a food processor
  3. Add cold butter cubes with the flour mix and give it a few pulses until it transforms into small pea-sized crumbs ( I do it all by hand or with two bakers paddles)Screen Shot 2020-05-25 at 2.53.02 PM
  4. (Use cold utensils if not using a food processor to not melt butter)
  5. Add egg and milk mixture to the processor while pulsing a few more times until the mixture comes together or take the mixture out to the work surface
  6. Make a well with the flour crumbs mixture adding the egg and milk mixture in the well and lightly handling the mixture
    (do not knead)
  7. Incorporate all ingredients together to form a dryish dough
  8. Wrap it well with cling film & refrigerate for 1 hour
  9. Roll out the dough split it in half for two pie crust and roll it out bigger than the pie dish
  10. Fit the rolled out pie dough in the greased and floured pie dish making sure pie dough is press all around the crevices of the dish so it doesn’t sink in or collapse when cooking.
  11. Cut around the edge of the pie dish and refrigerate again for 20 before egg washing it and filling it with pie filling and cooking in the oven.
    Enjoy!

I always save a little of the pastry to make a couple leaves and a simple rose for decorations.

The filling is easy:

Filling:

  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour or tapioca flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 6 to 8 soft peaches, peeled, halved, pitted, and cut into 1/4 to 1/2-inch-thick wedges
    • I used frozen ones, just let them thaw and dried them well.  I had the cherries, so I added them in the mix for color.
  • I add cornstarch, as there is always a little too much liquid.  You can put a little on the pie crust before you add the fillings too!
  • I always add a little butter and sugar to the top, just because I can!

ENJOY!

Peach | Cherry Galette

10 Ways to Make Cheap Foods Taste Great

A budget-conscious shopper knows how to shop the bargains and still eat well. No, we’re not talking white pasta with a tablespoon of generic tomato sauce. An experienced shopper with an eye toward the bottom line can whip up impressive cost-conscious meals.

 

Here, 10 ways you can boost inexpensive ingredients from the grocery store and turn bland into something delicious and tastes a lot more expensive.

1. Begin with Garlic

Almost every dish you make should begin with garlic. This powerful aromatic lends a rich depth of flavor that cannot be easily replicated. Without it, the other ingredients might all fall away from one another, leaving you with a mix that’s probably edible but certainly not wonderful.

Saute fresh minced garlic in butter or oil to start virtually every savory dish, from pasta sauce to frittatas. Start cooking it early, and over low heat, for the best flavor. Fresh garlic turns sweeter and more mellow the longer it cooks. It’s strong and sharp, and it grows more aggressive as it sits exposed to oxygen. That’s why you shouldn’t chop or mince garlic until right before you plan to use it, and you don’t want to add the fresh stuff to a dish at the last second.  Be sure to take the green stem in the middle out before using, as it is often quite bitter.

2. Raid Your Spice Cabinet

Spices may not seem like a budget buy until you break it down to a per-use cost. One bottle of the most common spices fall between $2 and $5, but the typical bottle can sustain you through weeks of cooking, even if you use it daily.

Sure, saffron likely isn’t going to find its way into your cart, but cumin, coriander, fennel seeds, and others add incredible flavor in small amounts, often less than a teaspoon. I like Herbs de Provence sprinkled onto fish or root vegetables. Italian seasoning gives incredible body to canned tomato soup or a dipping sauce for bread. Even cinnamon can find new life in savory dishes, such as chili, vegetable hash, or glazed salmon.

If you want even more flavor from your spices, you can intensify the flavor of any spice you’re cooking by blooming it in fat. Add dried or ground spices to butter or oil, and stir for a minute or two before adding any liquids to the pan. If you’re starting a dish with garlic and onion, carrots, or other aromatics, add the spices to the fat in the pan when the vegetables are almost cooked. You’ll be amazed at how that extra time in the hot oil or butter can boost basic dried herbs and spices.

3. Grow Your Own Herbs

Fresh herbs add flavor to soups, slow-cooked meals, tagines, stews, salads, and more. Their short shelf life and high price tag often mean budget shoppers leave them on the shelf.

If you have a windowsill, sunlight, a small planter, and water, you have the ingredients to your very own indoor herb garden. Seeds are just pennies per packet, and they grow quickly. Start your herb garden today so you have basil, rosemary, chives, cilantro, or any of your favorite fresh flavors right at your hand.

Make sure you use them at the right time for the best flavor impact. Hardy herbs like rosemary, thyme, sage, and oregano need to be added early in the process. This guarantees the herbs can break down and release maximum flavor into the dish.

Delicate herbs like cilantro, chives, basil, and parsley need to be added at the last minute for a burst of brightness and flavor. If they’re added too early, they could cook down and become bitter.

4. Marinate Cheap Meats

If you’re tempted by the cheap cuts in the butcher’s cabinet and you should be because they’re incredibly flavorful, be sure to pick up the ingredients for a marinade while you’re shopping. Marinades add flavor to what are often dense cuts of meat such as chuck roast, pork shoulder, chuck eye steak, and chicken thighs, and they help break down the tougher pieces so they’re more tender when you slice into them.

Lighter, delicate foods like fish and vegetables don’t need a long marinade. They can even disintegrate if they’re left in too long. Any marinade with citrus may make chicken and fish look discolored, but they’re OK to use for a short period of time. The bigger cuts of beef and pork, however, can likely stand up to overnight or all-day marinade. 5. Make a Flavorful Sauce

The secret’s in the sauce. You can turn myriad cheap pantry staples like whole grains, pasta, rice, and beans into an incredible side dish or dinner with a show-stopping sauce.

Start with sauce-making components you have on hand. A pan sauce is made from the fond (the caramelized bits of goodness on the bottom of a pan after you’ve cooked meat). You simply deglaze the pan with a liquid like wine, beer, stock, or juice, and scrape loose the bits with a wooden spoon. As the sauce cooks down, you can add herbs and spices for more flavor, and let it thicken with a quick simmer. Pour that over your grains or beans, or add it into a stew or soup for more depth of flavor.

You can turn to jarred sauces for a flavor boost. While these sauces may sometimes be out of your budget, you can rationalize spending a bit more on them when everything else on the plate is so inexpensive. Look for jarred sauces like curry, pesto, Romesco sauce, and enchilada sauces. With inexpensive chicken or pork and a side of grains, a little sauce goes a long way for big flavor.  I personally find it cheaper and easy to make these sauces.

6. Utilize a High-impact Ingredient

In the “a little goes a long way” vein, you can look for ingredients that add major flavor in small quantities. You don’t need a lot, which means a jar, bottle, or wedge will last you through many meal-planning rounds. But if you keep them on hand and use them the right way, you can turn simple into astonishing. These foods include:

  • Bacon: A sprinkle of bacon on a potato soup adds a rich smokiness you can’t get from much else. The same can be said for prosciutto and pancetta.
  • Capers: Mince capers with onions or shallots and mix into a homemade vinaigrette.
  • Roasted red peppers: The incredibly smoky flavor of these jarred peppers can be whirred into a sauce, chopped for a chili stir-in, or blended into mayonnaise for a simple spread or dip.
  • Bold cheeses like blue, cheddar, or Parm: These cheeses may have as much impact on your nose as they do your wallet. That is to say, you can’t miss them. But their flavors are often so strong, especially compared to many pre-shredded and packaged cheeses, that you can really stretch your supply (and your dollar). For example, Parmesan cheese elevates humble strands of spaghetti to an ultraluxe pasta dish, and when you’ve grated as much cheese as you can from the wedge, toss the rind into your penny-pinching vegetable soup for even more flavor.
  • Flavored oil like chile oil or toasted sesame oil: Swirl these high-impact oils into soups, or use them to make a quick pesto sauce with leftover herbs.

7. Use Fat Wisely

The measure of good fat is how quickly it can boost a dish in small increments. Butter has a better flavor than margarine, but I would never use margarine for anything.  Cream is a better thickener than skim milk, full-fat cheese is tastier than sad, part-skim shredded stuff.

If you use these fats wisely, you’ll experience a wide range of flavor benefits, and because you only need a little bit, you can stretch your grocery dollar more. For example, a tablespoon of cream stirred into canned tomato soup adds depth and richness you won’t find straight out of the tin. On the other hand, it is so easy to make your own simple tomato soup that tastes better and has a lot less sodium. Toss gnocchi or grains with browned butter instead of plain melted butter for a rich, nutty flavor. You can even toast oats in butter before cooking in water for texture and flavor you won’t get with the instant.

8. Brown Meats First

Magic happens when raw meat hits a searing hot pan. The outside of the meat develops a crust, and the pan builds fond. Browning meat equals flavor, and it’s free.

Brown meats in a hot skillet even if you plan to finish them elsewhere. You can brown a chuck roast or pork shoulder before adding it to a slow cooker or Instant Pot. You can sear all sides before braising or roasting the meat in an oven, too. You can brown slices of a ham before adding it to beans for the long cooking process.

9. Use Stock in Place of Water

Take this trick from restaurants: Use stock or broth in almost any place you’d use water. That includes boiling pasta or grains, simmering beans, or thinning a soup. While vegetable, beef, and chicken stocks and broths tend to be fairly mild in terms of flavor, they’re much more flavorful and impart that flavor into foods better than plain water. Sure, water is cheaper, but a 32-ounce carton of stock is rarely more than $2 or $3. You won’t use a lot if you mix it with water, and you’ll reap major flavor benefits. I always save onions, tomato ends, celery, garlic ends and skin in the freezer along with cheese rinds to be able to make stock quickly and store lots of it in the freezer.

10. Warm Store-bought Bread and Pastries

Wouldn’t it be nice to live as Parisians and buy a baguette at the corner bakery every day, walking home, slicing into it, and find the joy a simple food brings? You can replicate a bit of the fresh-baked wonder by popping your loaf into a warm oven and reheating it for 5 to 10 minutes. The bread will be a little extra toasty, and you’ll get the straight-from the-oven satisfaction.

10 Ways to Make Cheap Foods Taste Great

 Champ de Noël

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Here is my version.  Not as perfectly neat, but it tastes amazing. IMG_2536.jpg

Have fun making this to impress family and friends with this modern twist on a classic bûche de Noël stolen from Fine Cooking Magazine.

This delightful looking cake was featured in the December edition of Fine Cooking, one of my favorite magazines.  I stole the photo from the article but will post mine tomorrow when it is decorated.

The layers are vertical rather than horizontal, making for a very dramatic reveal. It is an “all-day” project or one you can do over several days.

[Get a PRINTER-FRIENDLY VERSION HERE with all step-by-step photos.]

This version looks cool, but all the classic elements and flavor pairings are here, so it’s guaranteed to be delicious. The vanilla sponge cake has a delicate texture, yet it’s sturdy enough to “literally” stand on end. The layers are doused with a boozy soaking syrup before they’re coated with a smooth-as-silk, espresso-spiked white chocolate ganache filling and coated with a dreamy, creamy and eggless double-chocolate buttercream.

Like the traditional bûche, the garnishes for this cake can be rustic, whimsical, or elegant. I like to use the tines of a fork to create a barklike design in the buttercream around the side of the cake. Just before serving, I may top the cake with a cluster or two of small meringue mushrooms along with chocolate shavings for bark. You can add silver or white dragées for ice crystals, sugar-coated cranberries for a pop of color, a mint sprig or two for signs of spring, chopped pistachios for lichen, and a dusting of confectioners’ sugar for snow. Extra meringue mushrooms look great arranged around the base of the cake.

Vertical variation

While the garnishes make the cake look spectacular, what people really want to know is how I make those magical vertical layers.
All in all, it’s a straightforward process: You use what could be called a “wrapping” technique to assemble the cake. After baking the sponge cake in a large rimmed baking sheet, cut it into five strips. To train the shape of the innermost strip of cake and avoid cracking in the final product, I roll up one strip in paper towels while it’s still warm, just as you would when you’re making a jelly roll. I then roll the remaining strips up in a tight spiral together to train them. The ends of these strips are cut on an angle to create beveled edges; this step helps the strips to lie flat as the cake is assembled.

Start building the cake by brushing the innermost strip with soaking syrup then coating it with white chocolate espresso ganache. After this centerpiece is rolled and positioned on a plate, brush, fill, and wrap the remaining four beveled cake strips one at a time around it. The technique sounds complicated, but as you’ll see, it’s an easy-to-follow
process.

 Champ de Noël

Explosion Cake

 

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My granddaughter and I saw this in a magazine, not knowing how “famous” it was and decided to make one.   If you have a collection of sprinkles you might like to use, it is a great way to use them all, or at least most of them.   It is a really fun cake to make, with all the different colors and layers.  It looks like a regular cake (with lots of sprinkles) till you cut the first piece.

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It is a very simple recipe and easy to make, but you do need six six-inch cake pans.  I actually only had five but had a springform, the right size for the sixth.  The only thing I did notice is that the springform, which was dark took about 2-3 minutes longer to cook, so that is something to aware of if you are using different colored pans.  I may just buy a sixth six-inch pan today.

The basic recipe is a simple white cake and if you are not a “baker”, you could use a boxed white cake.  I baked the cakes two at a time, so I did not crowd the cakes.  Luckily I have two ovens, so it did not take long.

FROSTING

8 ounces unsalted butter, at room temperature

16 ounces cream cheese, cold

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

32 ounces powdered sugar

CAKE

2¼ cups all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon table salt

3/4 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature

1½ cups granulated white sugar

3 large eggs

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1⅓ cups milk

Food coloring

Nonstick cooking spray

 

Preparation

Cake:

1. Preheat your oven to 350°F and put the oven rack in the middle of the oven (if you are using a convection oven, set it to 325°F).

2. Combine the flour, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl and whisk until they are really mixed together. You have to mix all the dry ingredients together first so that there are no clumps in your batter, which will create white spots. Set aside.

3. In a separate bowl, use an electric mixer on medium speed to blend the butter and sugar together, until they become fluffy. Make sure to scrape the sides of the bowl with a spatula so it’s all mixed in from the sides.  Be sure all the butter is blended, so there are no lumps of butter.

4. Add the eggs, one at a time, to the butter-sugar mixture, with the mixer on medium speed.  Scrape the sides of the bowl.

5. Add the vanilla to the milk and set it aside.

6. Mix about 1/3 of your dry ingredients into the butter-sugar-egg mixture, then blend in half of the milk, always mixing on medium speed.

7. Mix in the second third of the dry ingredients, then the remaining milk mixture.

8. Stop the mixer for a few seconds and use a spatula to push down anything sticking to the sides of the bowl as you go, then mix in the last of the flour mixture. Make sure it’s all mixed in from the sides and everything is smooth. You don’t want any lumps, but don’t overmix it so stop the mixer as soon as the batter is smooth.

9. Divide the batter evenly into six portions. They don’t have to be exactly identical, but you want them to be close: You can use any small bowls that are all the same size: Just slowly pour the batter into each of the bowls a little at a time until they are all at the same height (it’s about 1 cup of batter per bowl).

10. Color the batter individually in rainbow colors: I used purple, turquoise, green, yellow, orange, and pink for our six-layer cakes. Start with a tiny drop of food coloring, stir it in completely, then add more until it is your desired color (the baked cake will come out pretty close to what you see the outside will be a little brown, but that gets covered with frosting).

11. Spray six 6-inch round baking pans with cooking spray, then pour the colored batter into the greased pans.

12. Bake the cakes two at a time for 8 minutes without opening the oven door. Then rotate each pan so the front faces the back. Bake for another 8 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean when you insert it into the middle of the cake (cakes are very sensitive. The less you open your oven, the better your cake will come out! I don’t know exactly why, but I know it).

13. Let the cakes cool in the pans for 5-10 minutes (when they’re warm, they’re really fragile, and that’s when they tend to break.) Then flip them over onto a baking sheet or cooling rack and let them cool completely before you frost them.

Frosting:

Use an electric mixer on medium speed to blend the butter until it is smooth. Add the cream cheese and blend it together until there are no lumps. Then add the vanilla. Stop the mixer and use a spatula to push down anything sticking to the sides of the bowl, making sure it’s all mixed in from the sides and everything is smooth.

Mix in the powdered sugar a little bit at a time on the lowest speed otherwise, it will fly everywhere! Use the spatula to push down anything sticking to the sides of the bowl, making sure it’s all mixed in from the sides and everything is smooth.

Be sure it is all perfectly blended or you may lumps when you go to frost the cake.  It is a fun project.  We used the cutouts in the middle to make what I called the “The Leaning Tower of Caka.”

Assembling:

This is the fun part:  Cut a circle using a 2 inch or so biscuit cutter on five of the six layers.  Put a little frosting on the plate, so the first layer will adhere.  I use commercial cake cardboard available at Walmart, Joanns or Michaels.  Add the first layer, then frost it with nothing in the middle.  Continue to the top layer.  I do a thin coat of frosting over the entire cake, then put in the refrigerator till it is hard.  That makes it easier to put on the final layer of frosting.  There are several YouTubes online that walk you through how to do it.

The outside is a little tricky.  I put the entire cake in a big bowl in my kitchen sink and handful by handful, from the bottom up, added the sprinkles.  It was amazingly easy this way and quick.  Add a little touch-up and you are done.  The fun part is cutting the first piece of this cake.

Be ready as it can make a mess!  I think I am still cleaning up sprinkles!   I put ours in a tray with higher edges, so it would not go all over the floor. We photographed and delivered it to our local Fire Department.

Explosion Cake