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Orange Vanilla Spice Cake

method is adapted from Cook’s Illustrated’s Yellow Layer Cake (March/April 2008)



2 ½ cups (10 ounces) cake flour
1 ¼ teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
¾ teaspoon table salt
¾ cup (6 ¼ ounces) dark brown sugar
1 cup (6 ounces) granulated sugar (split ¾ cup and ¼ cup)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
10 tablespoons unsalted butter (melted and cooled slightly)
1 cup buttermilk (room temperature)
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon orange extract
6 large egg yolks plus 3 large egg whites (room temperature)

You will also need:

Butter and flour for pans
Two 9-inch round cake pans or one 9x13 inch sheet cake pan
Stand Mixer with bowl and whisk attachment
4-cup liquid measuring cup
2 Extra medium sized bowls
Rubber spatula/spoonula


Heat oven to 350º F. Butter and flour cake pan(s).

Melt butter in the 4-cup liquid measuring cup (either on the stove top if it is metal or in the microwave if it is glass or plastic) and set aside to cool slightly.

In a medium sized bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, brown sugar, ¾ cup of granulated sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves.

To the melted & cooled butter, add buttermilk, oil, vanilla, orange extract and egg yolks. Whisk together.

In clean bowl of stand mixer, beat egg whites with whisk attachment at medium-high speed until foamy. With machine running, gradually add remaining ¼ cup sugar & continue to beat until stiff peaks just form. Transfer to an extra bowl and set aside.

Add flour mixture to the same stand mixer bowl (now empty of the egg whites) with whisk attachment. With mixer on low speed, gradually pour in butter mixture and mix until almost incorporated (about 15 seconds). Stop mixer and scrape down whisk and bowl. Return mixer to medium-low speed and beat until smooth and fully incorporated (10-15 seconds).

Using spatula/spoonula, stir 1/3 of the beaten egg whites into batter to lighten, then add remaining whites and gently fold into batter until no white streaks remain.

Pour batter in to pan(s) and lightly tap pan(s) on the counter a couple of times to dislodge any large air bubbles.

Bake at 350º F; 20-22 minutes for two 9-inch round pans or 32-35 minutes for one 9x13 sheet cake pan or until toothpick comes out clean.

Cool cake in pan on a wire rack for at least 10 minutes. Run a knife around the edge to loosen it. Turn cake out onto a wire rack then invert to another wire rack to cool completely.

Topped with Cinnamon Browned Butter Icing:


As a Pumpkin Cake Truffle:


Cinnamon Browned Butter Icing

adapted from Evil Shenanigan’s Brown Butter Frosting



4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups powdered (confectioner’s) sugar (sifted)
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 teaspoons milk (maybe less)
1 teaspoon (approximately) freshly grated cinnamon from cinnamon stick
Pinch of table salt

You will also need:

Small saucepan
Heat-proof (silicone) spoonula
Mixer with paddle attachment
Spice grater


Melt butter in small sauce pan and cook on medium heat, stirring constantly until nutty brown. The solids will actually separate out and brown into little specks like you see on my spoonula below.

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After butter is browned, add in the freshly grated cinnamon and stir in. Remove from heat and allow to “steep” for a while as the butter cools.

Now would be a good time to make your cake. May I suggest the my Orange Vanilla Spice Cake? It’s quite tasty. And Kelly’s Chocolate Spice Cake sounds absolutely delicious.

Into the bowl of a stand mixer, sift the powdered sugar. Add the vanilla and browned butter with cinnamon and slowly mix using the paddle attachment. Lastly, add the pinch of salt and enough milk to make the mixture smooth (you may not use the entire two teaspoons).

Do you see those flecks of cinnamon? It looks rustic that way, but it is so good.


Pictured atop an Orange Vanilla Spice Cake:


Mole Chicken and Rice

The more you cook, the more comfortable you become with flavors, combinations and techniques. The more comfortable you become, the more you are able to improvise and cook without any kind of a recipe. That’s what this dish was for me. It was a dish that I threw together based up on techniques and flavor combinations that I have picked up along the way over the last several years.


And you know what? It was really good.


1 tablespoon oil or butter
1 onion (chopped)
1 celery rib (chopped)
2 carrots (chopped)
4 cloves garlic (minced or pressed)
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon coriander
2 teaspoons Mexican oregano
Coarse kosher salt
Fresh ground pepper
1 can Ro*tel tomatoes & green chilies
1 cup mole sauce*
1 cup chicken broth
1 cup water
1 1/4 cup long grain brown rice

3-4 chicken breasts (bone in, skin removed)
3-4 tablespoons all purpose flour
Seasoning salt (like Tony Chacheres's Creole seasoning)
2 teaspoons coarse kosher salt
1 teaspoon fresh ground pepper

*If no mole sauce is available, you may substitute something else like some tomato paste and chili powder or omit completely.

You will also need:

Oven safe skillet with lid
Heavy skillet (like cast iron)


Sauté onion in oil or butter over medium-high heat in oven safe skillet to soften, then add celery and carrots and sauté a few minutes more. Add garlic and stir while cooking for just a few seconds. Next, add Mexican oregano, cumin and coriander and stir while cooking until fragrant (about 30 seconds). Salt and pepper the mixture. Next add Ro*Tel tomatoes, about 1/2 cup of mole sauce, chicken broth and water. Bring to a boil and add rice. Let the mixture boil on the stove top until chicken is ready to add.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Season flour with seasoning salt, kosher salt and ground pepper. Lightly coat chicken breasts in flour and pan fry to lightly brown in a separate skillet (cast iron). (I did this in some bacon fat and it was awesome!!!)

Once lightly browned on all sides, place chicken directly on top of the boiling rice/vegetable mixture. Cover with a lid and place in a 375 F oven. Bake for close to an hour until chicken is done (170 F) and rice is tender. Remove from the oven and use the remaining mole sauce over the top of each chicken breast and return to oven to heat for just a few minutes. (Or, you may try adding the mole on top of the chicken earlier. It was just a last minute thought for me.)

Note: Resist the urge to reach in and periodically stir the rice. From my understanding, constantly messing with brown rice will make it sticky and gross. Don’t do it. Just let it bake on it’s own and it’ll turn out great.



Apple Muffins

Makes 12-15 muffins


2 cups flour
¾ cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 stick butter, cool room temperature
1 cup buttermilk cool room temperature*
1 tsp vanilla
1 ½ - 2 cups coarsely chopped peeled Granny Smith apples
2 teaspoons cinnamon sugar**
1 tablespoon butter

* Milk may be substituted for buttermilk.
** I keep a mixture of cinnamon sugar around that is made of ½ cup sugar + 2 tablespoons ground cinnamon

You will also need:

Small bowl
sauté pan
Large bowl
Muffin pan
Baking liners (optional)


Sprinkle 2 teaspoons cinnamon sugar with coarsely chopped apples and toss to lightly coat. Melt 1 tablespoon butter in small sauté pan over medium high heat. Once the butter is fully melted and bubbling in the middle, add apples and allow them to cook just until they start to sizzle while stirring periodically. This will only take a few minutes (approximately 3 minutes). Once they have cooked down a little (released some of their juice) and look nice and sticky, remove from heat, return to the bowl you used to toss them in the cinnamon sugar and set aside to cool.

Preheat oven to 425 F.

Whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and cinnamon in a large bowl. Work room temperature butter into dry ingredients using fingers until it makes various sized “pebbles”. Form a well in the middle of the dry ingredients and add buttermilk and vanilla. Gently begin folding wet and dry ingredients together and gently fold in apple chunks at the same time. Do not over-mix as the dough should remain rather lumpy. Spoon into 12-15 muffin cups and bake at 425 F for 20-25 minutes. Allow to cool in the pan for at least 5-10 minutes or so before removing to a wire rack to continue cooling.

Peel your apples and use a corer/slicer to make segments. Cut the segments in half lengthwise both from the top and from the side, then slice into small chunks.

Sprinkle cinnamon sugar on the diced apple and toss to coat.

Cook the cinnamon sugar coated apple chunks in the melted butter for about 2-3 minutes until you begin to see these sticky webby strands.

While the apples cool, whisk the dry ingredients together, work the butter in with your fingers, make a well in the middle, pour in your wet ingredients and begin to gently fold it all together along with the apples.

I like to use liners for clean up purposes, but also because it seems to keep the muffin a little tighter and gives a prettier top, but that is totally a preference thing.

I also use an ice cream scoop thing to evenly distribute the muffin batter. But again, whatever works for you.

And here's the good part. A nice warm muffin that is doused in melting butter.

Breakfast comfort food doesn't get much better.


Greek Celebration Bread (Artos)

from The Bread Baker's Apprentice by Peter Reinhart (pg 112-114)

NOTE: You have to start this process a day ahead of time if you don't already have a pre-ferment made.

Also you may see my first Artos attempt for the Bread Baker's Apprentice challenge here.


1 cup (7 ounces) pre-ferment such as poolish or sourdough starter
3 1/2 cups (16 ounces) bread flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon orange extract
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 large eggs (slightly beaten)
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup olive oil
3/4 cup milk (lukewarm, 90-100 F)


1 cup dried fruit (combination of two including raisins, apricots, figs, cherries)
1/2 cup nuts (lightly toasted chopped walnuts or slivered almonds)


2 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon orange extract
sesame seeds

You will also need:

Stand mixer with paddle & dough hook attachments
Large bowl
Spray oil
Pastry brush


Take your poolish or other pre-ferment out of the refrigerator at least an hour ahead of time to let it get to roughly room temperature.

In bowl of stand mixer, put flour, salt, yeast, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice and cloves. Mix with paddle attachment for a few minutes until all ingredients are incorporated.

Add room temperature pre-ferment, orange extract, vanilla, eggs, honey, oil and milk. Continue mixing with paddle attachment until the dough becomes a rough ball then switch to the dough hook. Knead with the dough hook for about 10 minutes adding flour if necessary. The dough should clear the sides of the bowl and be soft and tacky, but not sticky. It should also pass the windowpane test.

If you are adding dried fruit and/or nuts, add them toward the end of your kneading time or turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead the fruit/nuts in by hand.

Spray or drizzle some oil in a bowl and transfer to dough to that bowl. Lightly coat it with oil, cover with plastic wrap, and ferment for about 1 1/2 hours (until it doubles in size).

After fermentation, remove the dough from the bowl and prepare to shape. You may simply shape into a boule, but I like to braid this bread. I am working on instructions for braiding but you can view a quick video here of some Greek women braiding bread to get an idea of what to do. You can also look back at my original Bread Baker's Apprentice challenge post here for instructions.

Three strand braid:

Five strand braid:

Spray with oil, cover loosely with plastic wrap and proof at room temperature for 60-90 minutes (dough should nearly double in size). Preheat the oven to 350 F during the last 15 minutes of proofing time.

Bake the loaf for 20 minutes, then rotate the pan 180 degrees and continue to bake for an additional 20-25 minutes. When done, it should register 190 F internally and make a hollow sound when thumped. You can brush the glaze on as soon as it comes of out the oven.

For the glaze, combine the water and sugar and bring to a boil in a sauce pan. Add the honey and extract, turn off the heat and stir together. Brush on the loaf straight out of the oven with a pastry brush then sprinkle sesame seeds on top.

Before glaze:

After glaze: