Category Archives: Cake

Eat Your Cake…and Coffee, Too

Today’s tropical recipe is like a coconut macchiato on a plate.  I started with a basic yogurt cake recipe and mixed in some coconut, fresh-ground Puerto Rican coffee beans, and a splash of coconut rum.  Topped with a yogurt-based glaze and toasted coconut, this simple cake will make an appearance on our Christmas dinner table.

Before we get to the recipe, a little coffee tour:

coffee farm


the view



We visited Hacienda Pomarrosa with Kara when she was here in September, and it was an informative and enjoyable morning in the beautiful mountains above Ponce. With our own farming background and recent experience living in the Rheinland, we really liked having an opportunity to visit with Kurt, the owner of Hacienda Pomarrosa (who is originally from Düsseldorf).  The location is a bit off the typical tourist track, but a visit to the farm is well worth the drive, and the hacienda also offers bed and breakfast stays for those who would like to spend the night in the peaceful Puerto Rican mountains.

And now, let’s get to baking!

Coconut and Coffee Yogurt Cake

  • ¾ cup plain yogurt, divided
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • ½ cup coconut oil
  • 2 tablespoons coconut rum (optional, you can omit and flavor with vanilla if you like)
  • 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoon finely ground coffee
  • 1½ cups coconut, divided (I used sweetened coconut)

Grease and flour a 9-inch square pan and preheat oven to 350 F.  Beat ½ cup of the yogurt together with the sugar, eggs, coconut oil, and coconut rum.  Stir together and add the dry ingredients, folding in just until well blended, then stir in ½ cup of the coconut.  Pour into the prepared baking dish and bake for about 35 minutes, or until it feels springy to the touch and a toothpick tester comes out clean.  At the same time, spread the remaining cup of coconut on a baking sheet and put it into the oven until it is a toasty golden color.

After the cake cools, spread it with this glaze: stir together the remaining ¼ cup plain yogurt, 1¾ to 2¼ powdered sugar (quantity depends on how thick the yogurt is), and ½ teaspoon vanilla.  Sprinkle with toasted coconut just before serving.

cake ingredients





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Banana chocolate rum bread

Of all the family stories, the one most fascinating* to me is that of my great-grandpa.  My mom can tell this story better than I, but it involves the Great Depression, hitching rides on trains from West Virginia out to the promise of the West, singing gospel songs on the radio along the way, and eventually, happenstance-ly, meeting the brother of the woman who would eventually become my great-grandma.  Maybe we can get Mom to tell the story in its entirety.

I was very young when those great-grandparents passed away, but I still have two solid memories of my great-grandpa:

1) Whenever my mom and I visited, he would have fresh, summer-ripe peaches for me to eat, but insisted that they be peeled by dropping them in a pot of boiling water to slip the skin off. This, of course, took time – time for the pot of water to boil, time to allow the peaches to cool before slurping them up, and time wasted (in my 3- or 4-year-old mind, at least) that could have been spent slurping up more peaches.

2) He made the best banana bread. Without doubt. No banana bread could ever rival his banana bread.  As such, I’ve long given up the dream of ever having delicious banana bread again. (I had very sophisticated tastes at 3 or 4 years old, believe you me.)

Sometimes, though, a memory wants to be more than just remembered – it wants to be recreated, tried again, honored, even.

So here we are. Luisa sums this recipe up quite perfectly:

“What sets it apart from other banana breads is the huge amount of brown sugar in the batter. It entirely replaces the usual white sugar and adds not only to the appealing dampness of the final product, but it also gives the banana bread a depth of caramel flavor and a warmth that I wasn’t expecting. It’s not overpowering – molasses doesn’t waft up from the crumb – but it’s more nuanced and delicious. Also, you don’t purée the bananas – you mash them with a fork, leaving little lumps and bumps in the batter that give each finished slice tenderness and cozy banana flavor.”

With a description like that, how could I not try to make banana bread that even my 3- or 4-year-old self would love?

…except when I started to mix the ingredients together, I came to a realization that, hopefully, a 3 or 4 year old wouldn’t come to: What goes quite, quite well with brown sugar, ripe bananas, vanilla, and chocolate? Rum – just a dash – a taste – a hint – of rum.

chocolate banana rum

The bread/cake comes from Nigel Slater, and it is absolutely a-ma-zing. Don’t wait 20-something years to make this banana bread, ok?

pre bake

Banana chocolate rum bread
adapted from The Wednesday Chef/Nigel Slater 

A note about measurements: In my “I just graduated from college! I need to have a decently stocked kitchen! I need a digital scale!” phase, I purchased a digital scale. I believe it was this one. It’s super convenient and accurate and has all those nifty weight options. What I’m saying is, I left the below measurements in grams. Sorry if that makes this recipe difficult to convert, but maybe this is life’s hint that it’s time for you start your “I found a delicious-sounding recipe! I need a digital scale!” phase.

  • 250 grams all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 125 grams softened butter
  • 235 grams muscovado or dark brown sugar or turbinado sugar
  • 4 to 5 ripe bananas
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon rum (I used Mt. Gay Eclipse Black rum)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 100 grams dark chocolate, chopped (mine happened to be of the salted-nutty variety, and it was splendid)

1. Preheat your oven to 350 F. Line a standard-sized loaf pan with parchment paper, or grease/butter a loaf pan if you recently ran out of parchment paper.

2. In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar together. Add the eggs and beat until combined and slightly fluffy.

3. Peel the bananas and mash them with a fork in a medium bowl.  You want the bananas to be a little lumpy and not completely pureed. Stir the vanilla extract and rum into the bananas.

4. Fold the chocolate and mashed banana mixture into the butter/sugar/egg bowl.  Gently mix the flour and baking powder into the banana batter.

5. Scrape the batter into the loaf pan and bake in the oven for 50 – 55 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through, until the bread is browned and a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean.

6. Remove the bread from the oven and let sit on a rack for 15 minutes, then gently plop the bread out of the pan and allow to cool completely on the rack.

Luisa says the bread will keep for a week or more – we’re on day three and it’s more than halfway gone, so I doubt we will have the chance to test its longevity. Also, this bread is quite good toasted, with a pad of butter. Or, nutella. Surprised?


In other news, I have about five (5!!!) other recipes I neeeeeed to tell you all about. Omg, you guys, they’re great.


*Ok there is actually another story about a different great (or maybe great great) grandpa who may or may not have been a dear, close friend of Pancho Villa and fled Mexico after that all went down, but that story is more family legend than fact. Maybe.

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Red Velvet

Guess what?!? I got a really cute new apron.

 I thought what better way to break it in, then by baking a red velvet cake. Every time I bake this cake, I end up with a nice red stain on my shirt, so this apron will be a very good thing.

My husband has never been a big fan of this cake, because he hates the idea of food coloring. I still haven’t been able to talk myself into making just a “velvet” cake. It just wouldn’t be as pretty!! I’m not quite sure how I got started on this recipe, and I have changed it a lot throughout the years. So, if it came from you, let me know and I will give you credit!

First of all, here is the recipe:

Red Velvet Cake

  • 3 ¼ cups flour
  • 1 ¼ teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 ¼ teaspoons salt
  • ½ cup cocoa powder
  • 1 ½ cups vegetable oil
  • 1 ¾ cups granulated sugar
  • ½ cup sour cream
  • 1 ¼ cups buttermilk
  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 bottle red food coloring, 1 fluid oz.
  • 1 ¼ teaspoons white vinegar (I love champagne vinegar)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla (I make my own, I will share that with you soon)

To start, combine all of the dry ingredients in a large bowl.

In the bowl for your mixer, add the oil and sugar. Mix on low until combined.  Add the sour cream and buttermilk, mix. Add the eggs, red food coloring, and vanilla.  Mix on medium until they are thoroughly combined.

Add the dry ingredients, a little bit at a time. Mix each addition until just combined.

Ta dah!!! See how pretty it looks?

Brownish gray cake would NOT be this pretty (ahem, hubby…I’m talking to you!)

Pour the batter into 3 prepared round cake pans. I always grease the pans with butter, and then dust them with flour. I have tried the sprays, and the cake just stick and I get really mad!

Bake in a preheated 325-degree oven. Keep in mind, I live at high altitude. If you do not, raise the oven temperature by 25 degrees.

After the cakes come out of the oven, let them cool for about 15 minutes on a wire cooling rack. After they are cool, them over on the cooling rack.

While the cakes are cooling, make the frosting!

 Cream Cheese Frosting
I always use my favorite cream cheese recipe.  It came from the pink Betty Crocker cookbook, and I have barely changed it.

  • 1 8-ounce package cream cheese, at room temperature
  • ½ cup butter (one stick), at room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 5 ½ cups powdered sugar

Combine the cream cheese and butter in a mixer bowl. Beat on medium speed for about 2 minutes, until it is fairly fluffy. Add the vanilla and mix until combined. Add 3 cups of the powdered sugar and mix until combined. Add the remaining 2 1/2 cups of powdered and mix. After it is completely combined, turn the mixer to medium to medium-high speed. Beat for 3-5 minutes until the frosting is light and fluffy. Check the consistency, and if needed you can add milk or cream to make it easy to spread.

After the cakes are completely cooled, feel free to frost them. I do like a pretty cake, so I always slice the extra little bit off the top of each layer. You don’t have to, but it looks so much prettier if you do!

Start layering the cake, and put a light layer of frosting between each layer.  Finally frost the top and sides of the cake.



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Another little cake

Yep, it’s true – we’ve had this little blog for a year now! I guess none of us ever said why we started this whole thing, so here’s my perspective: we’re all a little obsessed with food, particularly of the homemade variety.  When we lived in Washington state, we didn’t have a lot of money and – I’ve just realized recently – we had a lot of home-cooked meals out of necessity. While back in the day we made homemade frosting because it was just a bit cheaper than buying it from a store, I now love making homemade frosting because it just seems right. You know what I mean? Why should I buy something when I can make it myself and have it taste exactly how I want? That’s what I want you, all of you, to get out of this blog. You can do it – you are a person capable of reading a recipe, understanding directions, and changing them to fit your specific needs. You’ve gotten this far in life, right? What’s a little cooking compared to, say, learning to drive a car? Or learning high school algebra? Or learning to read a complicated book, or that maybe you shouldn’t drink a few beers on an empty stomach and then have a gin and tonic? Compared to those things, cooking is a piece of cake. (Hah.)

I became especially enamored with food blogs my last year of college – probably mostly out of the necessity to procrastinate – and even briefly considered working in a restaurant after graduating.  Oh yes, I had grand plans for that Russian degree. (…) When that didn’t pan out, I still spent hours every day looking through recipes, sending them to my mom and sister, and bragging to them about the delicious results. Eventually we decided “Hey, why not do this ourselves?” So here we are: a mom and two daughters, cooking up a storm, encouraging you to try cooking too, and growing closer in the process. Not a bad deal.

And so without further ado, here is my cake:

This is my kind of baking: a cake with flexible(ish) measurements, adaptable ingredients, and (so far) a very high success rate. No real stress, only one bowl to clean up, and you get to call it a “French Yogurt Cake,” or, if you’re really trying to be fancy, “Gâteau au Yaourt.”

I adapted my recipe from Molly Wizenberg of the blog Orangette. Her cake is adapted from a French recipe which uses a little 125 ml yogurt cup to measure all the ingredients. So handy, those French cooks are! Since I’m not a handy French woman, I do not currently possess a single serving French yogurt cup. But, take heart: those cups are a little over half a cup, so you can measure your ingredients accordingly. Does not having an exact measurement scare you? I challenge you to not be afraid. Just remember: you can do it. You’ve made it this far, haven’t you?

Yogurt cake with berries
Adapted from this Gâteau au Yaourt à la Fraise, or French-Style Yogurt Cake with Strawberries

  • 1/2 cup plain yogurt (I’ve also used fruit-on-the-bottom Greek yogurt – it was delicious)
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup finely ground walnuts (or whatever nut you have on hand – I like walnuts because they’re relatively inexpensive and don’t break my cheap-o “food processor” to grind)
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 canola oil (or other neutral oil)
  • zest of one lemon (optional)
  • about 1/2 cup fresh or frozen berries (I used blueberries)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease a cake pan, round or square, with butter or cooking spray.

Combine the yogurt, sugar, and eggs in a large bowl, stirring until well blended. Add the flour, ground walnuts, and baking powder, mixing just to combine. Add the oil, stirring to incorporate. Pour about 2/3 of the batter into the prepared pan, and distribute frozen berries evenly over the batter. If using, scatter the lemon zest on next. Pour the remaining batter over the berries, trying to cover them as well as possible.

Bake for 40-50 minutes, until the cake feels springy and a toothpick or cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. If you use frozen berries, the cake may take longer to bake. If you find it browns on the top too quickly, loosely place some foil over the cake to prevent the top from burning.

Cool cake on a rack for about 20 minutes, then turn it out of the pan to cool completely. Cut into squares or wedges, and serve at room temperature. It’s awfully nice on its own, but I’m thinking a little lemon glaze would be lovely, too. The cake will keep for a few days, covered, at room temperature.


P.S. I made the peach butter barbecue sauce, and it’s pretty decent, but not what I want it to be. I’ll show you what I did soon, but hopefully next year my recipe will be better. In the meantime, did you know that making your own mayonnaise is really easy? Here. Watch this video. Then go make mayo. Then close your eyes, try a bit of the mayonnaise, and imagine you are in Belgium.

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It’s Been a Year!

The girls asked, do I have a special cake to go along with their Red Velvet and Yogurt-Fruit-Nut cakes to celebrate the blog’s first birthday?  It so happens, I do!

I always look at the cover of Lust auf Genuss magazine at the grocery store checkstand to see what the monthly recipe theme is, and probably eleven months out of twelve I end up with a copy in my basket.   The September issue is full of apple and pear recipes, which brings me to Rotwein Birnen Kuchen, and of course, I had to try it.  I’ve been doing a lot of healthy cooking lately (more about that another time), and this cake has a couple of healthful things going for it: nuts and pears.  I guess we could also count red wine, and by the way, we went for a drive along the Deutsch Weinstrasse a couple of weeks ago and found a wonderful schwarzriesling (AKA Pinot Meunier), some of which made its way into this cake.  In fact, the hazelnuts and pears were also produced right here in the Pfalz.  I don’t quite know how to describe the cake – sort of sophisticated, but homey comfort food at the same time.   I hope you like it!

Red Wine Pear Cake
Adapted from Lust auf Genuss Magazine

  • 1 cup chopped hazelnuts*
  • 1 cup ground hazelnuts plus 2 tablespoons for the baking pan
  • 1 cup softened butter plus extra to grease the pan
  • 1 cup demerara sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons flour
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg**
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ cup red wine
  • 2 ripe pears, peeled, cored, and cut into small cubes


  • 1 ¾ – 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 3 tablespoons red wine

Heat oven to 350 F.  Butter a 10-inch spring-form tube pan and sprinkle with ground hazelnuts, tipping and shaking like you would to flour a greased pan.

Toast the chopped hazelnuts in a dry pan over medium heat, stirring frequently until the nuts start to turn golden.  Remove from the pan to cool, and toast the ground hazelnuts the same way. Note: if the hazelnuts still have skins, many of them will come off while they are toasting; you can either pick them out or leave them in as you prefer.

Cream the butter with the sugar; add the eggs and beat for several minutes.  Sift together the flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking powder, and baking soda and then stir the dry ingredients into the butter-sugar-egg mixture along with the ground hazelnuts.

Blend in the wine.  Sift a tablespoon or so of flour over the cubed pears on the cutting board and then gently fold the pears into the batter.  The sifting-flour-on-the-pears step is my addition to the directions – when I made the cake without doing that, the pears all sank to the bottom (which ended up being the top), and I think the flour would help the pear chunks stay suspended in the batter.  Pour the batter into the prepared tube pan and bake for about 40-50 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.  Allow the cake to cool in the pan for 15 minutes or so and then remove to a rack to cool completely.

After the cake is cooled, stir together the powdered sugar and 3 tablespoons red wine to make a glaze, adding powdered sugar as needed to get the right consistency.  Drizzle the mixture over the cake and allow the glaze to set before cutting the cake.

* Feel free to substitute walnuts or almonds if desired.

** The original recipe called for a generous dash of cloves, which I don’t like; I substituted nutmeg and it was good.


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