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Hummingbird Coffee Cake and Over-Cognition

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I am an over-cognitor. That doesn’t mean I’m intelligent, it means I can’t get out of my head and think too much about things that needn’t be thought about that much. I have difficulties reading some novels because I can’t finish the novel without writing it in my own way in my head. I will read a description, a quote, or even a wonderfully used vocab word and my mind will take off running at a hundred miles per hour in the exact opposite direction that the author was going.

I love bookstore sales where they have pile after pile of books, used and sometimes new, for a mere dollar or less. I get extremely carried away and buy any novel that looks like it might hold any hint of a well-written plot full of mystery and/or historical fiction (my two favorite genres), but more often than not, I end up with a book that I can’t finish reading, so instead I dissect it. I take out lines, ideas, words, and let my mind wander off with them.

Over-cognition, my friends, is not that great of a trait. It involves spontaneous creation of poetry, supposedly witty lines, situations, and stories in my mind at the most random times. Today at work in my research lab, I received a new sample from a patient to study and I spent my entire lunch break spinning up a (now that I look at it) rather boring medical mystery. That is what I do. I don’t know if that makes me insane, a mad writer, or simply someone who is constantly lost in the many thoughts in my head.

Maybe I’m meant to be a mad writer…like the 21st-century female version of Ernest Hemingway. But I honestly don’t think anything I have is worthy of publication. I only write down what I believe to be great. The rest I store away in my little noggin (yes I just used that word) for when I am sitting in an orthodontic office and the only things they have to read are brochures about gum disease and then I can lose myself in some story I created once in my head.

That being said, here’s a delicious recipe for a hummingbird bundt coffee cake that I made for Father’s Day last weekend. My Dad absolutely adored it and so did my family. The cake is so wonderfully moist and the glaze and coconut on top made it look so nice. Enjoy!

Hummingbird Coffee Cake (Adapted from Annie’s Eats)

Yield: about 16 servings
For the cake:

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
¾ tsp. salt
½ tsp. ground cinnamon
8 tbsp. (½ cup) unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for greasing the pan
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. coconut extract (optional)
1 cup low-fat plain greek yogurt
2 mashed bananas (about a scant 1 cup)
2/3 cup shredded coconut
1 cup finely chopped pineapple

For the glaze:
2 oz. cream cheese, softened
2 tbsp. milk
½ tsp. vanilla extract
¾ cup confectioners’ sugar, plus more as needed

To finish:
1/3 cup shredded coconut
1/3 cup coarsely chopped walnuts, macadamia nuts, or pecans

DIRECTIONS

  • Preheat the oven to 350˚ F.  Thoroughly grease a bundt pan with butter.  Coat the inside with flour, tapping out the excess.  In a small bowl, combine the flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon.  Whisk to blend; set aside.  In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the butter and sugar.  Beat on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes.  Mix in the eggs one at a time, blending well after each addition.  Blend in the vanilla and coconut extracts.  Beat in the yogurt until well incorporated.  With the mixer on low speed, beat in half of the dry ingredients, mixing just until incorporated.  Beat in the mashed bananas and then the remaining dry ingredients, again mixing just until incorporated.  With a silicone spatula, gently fold in the coconut and chopped pineapple.
  • Transfer the batter to the prepared bundt pan and smooth into an even layer.  Bake, rotating halfway through baking, until a toothpick inserted in the cake comes out clean, about 50-55 minutes.  Let cool 20-30 minutes in the pan placed on a wire rack.  Gently loosen the cake from the sides of the pan with a knife, and carefully turn out onto the cooling rack.  Allow to cool completely.
  • To make the glaze, whisk together all ingredients in a small bowl.  If the glaze is too thin, whisk in more confectioners’ sugar.  If the glaze is too thick, whisk in additional milk 1 teaspoon at a time.  Drizzle the glaze over the top of the cooled cake.  Sprinkle with shredded coconut and chopped nuts for garnish.  Let glaze set before slicing and serving.

Home from the Dorms, so here’s some Crumb-Topped Banana Toffee Cake

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It’s so hard to believe that it’s been an entire six months since I’ve blogged and six months since I moved into my room in McCarty Hall at college. I sit on the floor of my family room as I write, surrounded by boxes of hangers, books, and shampoo that I have yet to unpack, even after having moved back home for a week. Dorming has been…an adventure, to say the least. I was blessed with having the very considerate J– as my first roommate ever in our cozy room at the end of the hall.

Dorming was having to stand outside in the cold when a fire alarm went off because someone forgot to add water while making ramen on the stove. It was watching “Jersey Shore” in the lounge with my floormates while imitating Pauly D and Ronnie’s ridiculous dance moves. It was walking to the nearby 24-hour QFC at 3 am because one of my best friends C– and I decided we wanted food. It was studying (or trying to study) in the rooms downstairs with her until 5:37 am and capping it all off by dancing on tables because we were the only ones left. It was the cheers that echoed through the row of North Campus dorms when announcements of “School cancelled” were made back in January because of snow. It was the 24-hour Mexican fast food place by the name of Memo’s that we frequented (and the memories that were made there). It was blasting Britney Spears in our room and hearing “Oops…I Did It Again” echo from our neighbors’ room, and then having the R.A. come tell us to quiet down.

Besides calling it an adventure, I don’t quite know what other word to make synonymous to my dorm experience. Looking back though, it all ended in valuable friendships being made, experiences had, lessons learned, and two quarters gone.

I baked this cake with my future roommate and wonderful friend R–, while dancing in the kitchen and laughing helplessly (the way we usually do). And to think, 3 months from right now, I will be packing everything up in these boxes again and lugging it all back to McCarty for another year in the dorms. The thought of re-packing the many, many things I have unpacked is quite terrifying. Before any of that happens, though, there’s summer! This summer I’ll be taking a half-term history class about space (oooh!) and working at my research lab, before heading to Cancun with my family the end of July through early August. And then it’s work, and…September! The great thing about colleges on a quarter system is that we don’t start until the end of September, so I can savor my last bit of summer that month.

And, now that I’m home, expect to see a lot more blogging happening. Toodles!

Future roomies!

Crumb-Topped Banana Toffee Cake (Adapted from Culinary Concoctions by Peabody)

Crumb Topping:

1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup dark brown sugar
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp. salt
8 TBSP unsalted butter (1 stick), melted and still warm
1¾ cups cake flour

Whisk sugars, cinnamon, salt, and butter in medium bowl to combine.

Add flour and stir with spoon until mixture resembles thick, cohesive dough; set aside to cool to room temperature, 10 to 15 minutes.

Cake:

1 ½ cups cake flour
2/3 cup granulated sugar
½ tsp. baking soda
¼ tsp. salt
4 TBSP unsalted butter (1/2 stick), cut into 4 pieces, softened but still cool
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 bananas, super ripe
1/3 cup buttermilk
1 cup Heath toffee bits

Adjust oven rack to upper-middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees. Spray a 8-inch baking pan with baking spray and set aside.

In bowl of standing mixer fitted with paddle attachment, mix butter, flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt on low speed to combine.

With mixer on low speed, mix until batter resembles moist crumbs, with no visible butter chunks remaining, 1 to 2 minutes. Add banana and beat until fully incorporated.

Add egg, yolk, vanilla, and buttermilk; beat on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 1 minute, scraping once if necessary.

Fold in the chocolate chips.

Transfer batter to baking pan.

Spread batter into even layer. Break apart crumb topping into large pea-sized pieces and spread in even layer over batter, beginning with edges and then working toward center.

Bake until crumbs are golden and wooden skewer inserted into center of cake comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes. Cool on wire rack at least 30 minutes. Remove cake from pan.

Triple Lemon Yogurt Cake

I think I have a fatal attraction to pretty fonts. About 2 weeks ago, I was in the baking goods aisle of Matthew’s Thriftway and lo and behold, I saw a bottle of organic lemon extract in a pretty font. I bought it without looking at the price and only after I checked out and glanced at my receipt did I realize what a stupid buy that was.

And so I’ve been bathing in the guilt of buying an overpriced bottle of lemon extract. But the font! It reminds me of Papyrus, but not quite so scribbly and sharp. It has more curves (<–I know what you’re thinking).

Back in elementary school, I would always pick out my favorite valentine cards based on the fonts. The Spongebob Squarepants fonts always irritated me. And then the Batman fonts were painful to read. I think I always picked Hello Kitty and Strawberry Shortcake valentines as my favorites.

So I bought a bottle of lemon extract for no reason. The only way to solve that dilemma would be to find a reason. And that is why I baked this Triple Lemon Yogurt Cake.

It’s triple lemon! Zest, juice, and extract! What now!

Triple Lemon Yogurt Cake (Adapted from One Lovely Life)

Ingredients:

For the cake:
1 1/2c flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2tsp salt
1c whole-milk, plain yogurt
1c sugar
1/3c canola oil
3 eggs
zest from 2 small lemons
1/4tsp vanilla extract
1/4-1/2tsp lemon extract

For the lemon syrup:
1/3c sugar
1/3c fresh lemon juice (2-3 lemons)

For glaze:
2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
3/4 cup powdered sugar
1/4tsp vanilla extract

Directions:
Make the cake by sifting the flour, baking powder, and salt into a medium bowl. In a large bowl, combine yogurt, sugar, and canola oil. Add eggs one at a time stirring until well incorporated. Add lemon zest, vanilla, and 1/4tsp lemon extract. Taste (if you’re not nervous), and add more lemon extract if desired. Add the sifted dry ingredients to your wet/yogurt mixture all at once and stir to combine.

Pour into a well-sprayed loaf pan and bake at 350 degrees for 50 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.

During the last 5-10 minutes of baking, heat lemon syrup ingredients (1/3c sugar, 1/3c lemon juice) in a medium saucepan over medium heat until sugar is completely dissolved. Allow to cool slightly as you remove cake from the oven.

Remove cake from the oven and let stand on a cooling rack about 5 minutes. Turn out onto platter or serving plate and, while still warm, drizzle with lemon syrup. Allow cake to cool completely.

When cake is completely cool, make glaze by combining lemon juice, powdered sugar, and vanilla extract. If mixture is too thick to pour, you can thin it with a small splash of milk. Pour over cake and allow to set before serving.

There’s also another component of this cake that is “triple”. The cake, syrup, and glaze. Ooh. So there are double “triple lemon” aspects of the cake. Double triple…hmm

I might have written the above two sentences just so I could say “double triple”.

Speaking of which, I am, once again, forced to use twice as much shampoo as average people do to thoroughly cleanse my hair because it has grown into a thick bush again. I want to get a haircut (even though I just got one a few weeks ago).

I told my Mom on one of our lengthy phone conversations while I twiddled with my iPod earphone on the bus and she responded with, “Another haircut? Are you attempting baldness?”

But I actually sort of am. I have so much hair it’s not even funny.  No matter what country I get a haircut in (Taiwan, Canada, Japan, or America), the stylists always tell me “You have so much hair!”.

I wish I didn’t.

The other day at the retirement home where I volunteer, the ladies all ran their hands through my hair in envy. I run my hands through my hair in annoyance. It’s so thick I have to use 2 times as much shampoo regularly and 3 times as much to get that obnoxious chlorine smell out after I go swimming.

And what’s even worse is that I have a larger-than-average head. According to my mom, I used to look like a bobblehead when I was a baby. (I think she’s exaggerating. I mean…could I really look like a bobblehead?)

Anyways, more about the cake. It was my first time baking a cake with yogurt and it is incredibly remarkable in how different the texture is. Baking a cake with yogurt (and without butter) makes it fluffier and more sponge-like. If I find a recipe with yogurt and excessive egg beating, I think the cake will rise to the height of Mt. Everest (more exaggerating).

The syrup and glaze together give the cake a shiny suface and makes it look much nicer. This was also the first time I added syrup and glaze on top of a cake. Wow, a lot of “firsts”, “doubles”, and “triples” in this post.  Syrup and glaze are such easy alternatives to frosting. I am definitely adding syrup or glaze the next time I bake a basic cake that looks a bit plain.

And this cake is really lemon-y. Thus explaining the triple lemon. But it’s not sour. It’s sweet with that smell and slight tingling of lemon lurking in the background. It’s neat. Try it.

It's an isoceles triangle! Sort of. I have mad skills at making my slice of cake into bite-size geometric pieces.

Bake: Root Beer Cake (Happy Belated Birthday Jack and Kristian!)

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Dang, that was probably the longest title of any blog post I’ve ever written. I can think of at least twenty more ways to make it longer and more annoying, but I won’t bother with that until I’ve reached such a stage of boredom that creating long blog titles is a hobby.

Today, readers, I have a lesson to share to you. It is so true that friends should not let friends drive drunk. That is an undeniable rule of life. But perhaps the golden rule that you should let govern both your life and your social life is this: Friends don’t let friends live without chocolate (especially on their birthdays).

TV dictates that you should always carry around a pack of Dentyne because you never know when you just might need fresh breath. Well, Natalie dictates that you should always carry around a bar of chocolate or two because you never know whose birthday you just might be forgetting. Don’t believe me? Picture this.

You walk into school and your favorite corner/room to chill with your friends. You see girl-who-has-a-planner-the-size-of-Jupiter squeal “OMG! happy birthday ____!” You think to yourself  “Oh crap. I was going to make a card. I can’t make one right here because that would be lame beyond imagination.” Then, you remember those two chocolate bars you have ingeniously packed in your backpack because you remembered Natalie’s advice. And boom! You whip those out like a gallant friend and girl-who-has-a-planner-the-size-of-Jupiter’s remembering ______’s birthday isn’t quite so impressive. ______ gives you a big hug and calls you a true friend.

Clever, eh?

Well I didn’t do exactly that. I packed my chocolate in a very unique yet bizarre form….root beer cake.

The burly co-stars of the show (with chocolate as the leading role of course)

Root Beer Float Cake (Adapted from Honey & Jam)

2 cups root beer (don’t use diet)

1 cup dark unsweetened cocoa powder

1/2 cup unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch cubes

1 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup dark brown sugar

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

2 large eggs

Preheat even to 325 degrees F. Spray the inside of a 10-inch Bundt pan (or 2 round cake pans) with nonstick cooking spray, or butter generously and dust with flour, knocking out the excess.

In a small saucepan, heat the root beer, cocoa powder and butter over medium heat until butter is melted. Add sugars and whisk until dissolved. Remove from heat and let cool.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt.

In a small bowl whisk the eggs until just beaten.

You should have three different mixtures/bowls.

Then whisk into the cocoa mixture until combined. Gently fold the flour mixture into the cocoa mixture. The batter will be slightly lumpy. You can give it a quick whisk if you like, but don’t over beat the batter or it could cause the cake to be tough. Don’t worry, the batter is very loose.

Pour the batter into prepared pan and cook for 35-45 minutes (or 25-30 minutes for 2 cake pans), rotating the pan halfway through baking until a sharp knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely then loosen edges with a butter knife and turn out onto a cake plate.

Chocolate Root Beer Frosting

2 ounces 60% cocoa, melted

1 stick unsalted butter, softened

1 teaspoon salt (you may want to use less… maybe just 1/2 teaspoon)

1/2 cup root beer

2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

2  cups powdered sugar

In the bowl of a stand mixer, or using an electric hand mixer, beat softened butter and cocoa powder. Once combined add the melted chocolate, salt, powdered sugar and root beer. Beat together until smooth. Spread on top of cooled cake. Slice and serve with vanilla ice cream.

Ta-da! I sprinkled gold dust (Wilton cake decorating accessory) on top!

Friends never let friends go without chocolate on their birthdays. Even better friends give friends root beer and chocolate together. Root beer and chocolate…that is one heck of an awesome marriage of ingredients, don’t you think?

I think Jack likes the cake!

And, last but not least, I just want to put out a friendly reminder for those of you cake-eaters. When someone brings a cake in to share and cuts the cake into many slices, those slices are for you. When the person who brings the cake in decides to leave a slice in her cake caddy for someone else who will be here later, it is not for you. To the two boys who rudely decided to pry open my cake caddy and take the slice of cake that I was saving for someone, shame on you. You should learn better.

On that happy note, don’t forget the chocolate!

Bake: Red Velvet Cake Balls

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The worst part about little pieces of hard candy is how I’m always tempted to just bite down into it (and picture my teeth cracking) as opposed to holding it in my mouth and letting the taste stay there. The other day my sister gave me a box of mini-Cherryheads (the Lemonhead relative) and since each “head” was so small I simply just bit into it, as I would chewy taffy and licorice. It’s funny how everyone around you can hear you biting on hard candy when you do so. I know that is definitely not the right way to eat candy. I mean, just look at the Warhead guy! He is clearly holding the warhead in his mouth and letting the sourness drive him nuts (as he puckers up).

So yeah, that’s my most recent addition to my list of goals. Learning how to properly enjoy hard candy. I must let it rest in my mouth for a bit then, when it’s actually bite-able, I can consider leaving some teeth marks in it and hopefully won’t have the sound of my teeth clashing with a Gobstopper in French class again (you don’t want to know).

But the best thing to soothe a mouth like mine, that just wants to bite everything, is cake. More precisely, cake balls. What?! Yeah I know. It might sound weird but they are one heck of a delicious treat. And one heck of an easy treat to make for any baker. Here’s how to make my own version of cake balls:

Red Velvet Cake Balls (Adapted from The Pioneer Woman Cooks)

Ingredients:

1 box of Red Velvet Cake Mix

Optional:

Frosting, Melting Candies, or Icing to top it off.

Directions:

Just prepare the cake according to the directions on the package, and bake it in a 9 x 13-inch pan. Cover the cake with a dishtowel and allow to cool completely.

Once the cake has cooled, begin gently crumbling the cake. Place sections of the cake into a large bowl, 1/4 of the cake at a time. When you’re finished, you should have a bunch of very fine cake crumbs.

Some cake crumbs.

Use your bare hands to roll the cake up into balls. You will have to compress cake crumbs together to form something that looks like cookie dough and then roll it up into a ball, ONE HANDFUL AT A TIME.

The cake, cake crumbs, and cake balls!

This is important: pop ‘em in the freezer, uncovered, for at least an hour. The cake balls need to be very firm before coating them.

When the cake balls are nice and firm, go ahead and dip them/top them with whatever you want. I dipped my cake balls in frosting left over from my Strawberry Lemonade Cupcakes. I had about half of my frosting left over, so if you were to make frosting just for dipping I would halve my original recipe, so you would have:

Cake Ball Frosting (Adapted from my Strawberry Lemonade Cupcake Frosting)

1/8 cup butter, softened
4 oz. package cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup strawberry puree
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup confectioners’ sugar

In a large bowl, beat butter and cream cheese at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy. Beat in 1/4 cup of the strawberry puree and the vanilla extract. (Simply put 1/4 cup of strawberries into your blender and press “puree”) Gradually add confectioners’ sugar, beating until smooth.

Finally: I just dipped the frozen cake balls into the frosting one by one. You can spoon it all over your cake balls if would look .Whatever floats your boat.

(Note: The original recipe calls for melting chocolate, which you can dip the cake balls in. Here are the instructions for making cake balls dipped in melting chocolate:
1 bag Melting Chocolate (12 Ozs. Any Color Or Combination Of Colors
Prepare a double boiler and dump the melting chocolate pieces into the bowl of the double boiler. Stir occasionally until the chocolate is totally melted and smooth and set aside.
Insert a stick sideways into each ball (paying attention to the flat part on the bottom). Now, you can either roll the ball in the chocolate, or spoon it over the top—whatever’s easier for you.
Be sure to thoroughly coat the bottom of the ball where it meets the stick.
Lay them back down onto waxed or parchment paper, paying attention to the flat part (get it against the parchment again.) Now decorate and get creative as you want!)

Would you like some Barbara Streisand with those cake balls? (Yeah, that doesn’t make any sense whatsoever. It sounds like one of those corny pick-up lines that you don’t understand in those “WORST PICK-UP LINE EVER!!!” spam mail.) But, no, I’m not trying out a new pick-up line on you, I’m just offering you some palatable music with that palatable treat.

Bake: Zebra Cake

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Nothing is more fascinating than animal print. Today, in French class, we had to choose three animals we could be if we could be any animal (part of a psychological analysis, since we’re learning about expressions and personality right now). Well I chose a jaguar, a lion, and a kangaroo. Jaguars simply have amazing coats and lions have amazing mane. Kangaroos, well, they have amazing pouches. Yes, I am fascinated by these physical traits.

In the world of animals, lions are like Farrah Fawcett, you know? Gorgeous mane. Jaguars are like the rich girl who is always clad in luxurious clothes (and who drives a Jaguar ;)). And kangaroos are sort of like the quirky little girls who aren’t afraid to wear a giant pocket on their tummy. Zebras, well, zebras are like the shy, tragic things. The only reason I didn’t choose zebra as  one of my animals was because zebras are much too likely to get eaten. I simply can’t tolerate the thought of my intestines being eaten out. Zebras have beautiful stripes. They have majestic gallops too. It’s just that the lions and jaguars always get to them so they never get to be much in the animal world.

In honor of these tragic but beautiful animals, I baked a zebra cake. Okay, I’m lying. I didn’t bake a zebra cake because zebras are beautiful. I baked a zebra cake because it looked fun and challenging!

When I first saw this recipe, I was in awe. I thought back to all those Chinese bakeries and pastry shops in Taiwan and Los Angeles that sold swirled cakes and things like that. I had always wondered how people could make patterns in cakes. Well, the answer came in one of my favorite food blogs ever, Annie’s Eats.

Zebra Cake (Sightly Adapted from Annies’ Eats)

Ingredients:
4 large eggs
1 cup sugar
1 cup milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/8 tsp. almond extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tbsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. salt
2 ½ tbsp. cocoa powder

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350°.  Line a 9-inch round cake pan with a circle of parchment paper.  Lightly grease the bottom and sides of the pan.

In a large bowl, mix together the eggs and sugar until mixture is light and creamy and the sugar has been mostly dissolved.  Stir in milk, vegetable oil, vanilla and almond extracts.  In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.  Pour into wet ingredients and whisk to combine.  Measure out just over two cups of vanilla batter and put it back into the medium bowl.  Sift cocoa powder over the bowl and whisk until fully incorporated.

Put 3 tablespoons of vanilla batter into the center of the pan and let it spread slightly on its own.  Put 3 tablespoons of chocolate batter in the center of the vanilla.  It will push out the other and, as it sits for a moment, will also spread itself.  Alternating spoonfuls of the two batters, repeat the technique until all the batter has been used up.

Bake for 38-42 minutes, until the cake is light gold and a tester inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.

Let the cake cool in the pan for 10-15 minutes, then turn out the cake and remove the parchment paper.  Reinvert onto a wire rack and let cool completely.  Frost if desired.

I didn’t bother frosting the cake. It looked so nice already! With the rings of chocolate and vanilla emanating outwards like ripples. Who needs to frost it? It actually isn’t half as complicated as it looks. Well anyways, there is still some zebra cake remaining since I did manage to control my appetite. And, of course, I saved a virtual slice for you: