Category Archives: Recipes

Cinco de Mayo Takes the Cake

If you’re wondering what the above photo is all about, it’s the leftovers from a Kahlúa Bundt cake I made yesterday for a company potluck in honor of Cinco de Mayo. (I suppose it was technically Quatro de Mayo, but oh well.) As you can see, I clearly forgot to take a picture of the cake in all its glory before everyone tore into it, but I managed to salvage a small slice and some additional crumbs for Dr. J, who didn’t get to sample it before I brought it into the office. I hate to brag, but it was the bomb, and I’m pretty sure everyone wasn’t just saying it was delicious just so my feelings wouldn’t get hurt. So, as you can see, the picture above may not be the prettiest, but it’s proof that this cake can be easily decimated in no time flat. It’s moist, richly flavored with one of Mexico’s finest spirits, and had the perfect glaze that tied everything together.

It’s really nothing fancy–just boxed yellow cake mix, pudding and booze–but it’s definitely one of my favorite cakes to make, since it’s an easy-breezy party showstopper. Plus, people seem to get excited about the idea of alcohol in cakes. (Ooh, it’s so naughty, yet so socially acceptable!)

Here’s the recipe, which may also be called a Black Russian cake if you’re celebrating a Russian holiday. (Defender of the Fatherland Day, anyone?) Feel free to make it as boozy as you wish.

Boozy Cinco de Mayo Kahlúa Cake

1 18-oz. box yellow cake mix with pudding inside (I like Betty Crocker Super Moist)
1 small box instant chocolate pudding powder
4 eggs
1 c. vegetable oil
3/4 c. water
1/4 c. vodka
1/4 c.  Kahlúa or other coffee-flavored liqueur

1 c. sugar
1/2 c. butter (1 stick)
1/4 c. water
2 tbsp. vodka
2 tbsp.  Kahlúa or other coffee-flavored liqueur


1) Heat oven to 350 °F.

2) Use the paper wrapper from the stick of butter for the glaze to grease a 12-cup Bundt pan. Sprinkle the pan with a little flour to make it easier to pop the cake out of the pan once it’s done.

3) In a mixing bowl, combine the cake mix, pudding mix, eggs, oil, water, vodka and  Kahlúa, and beat everything for 10 minutes by hand or five minutes with an electric mixer.

4) Pour the mix into the Bundt pan, and bake for 50 to 55 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean.

5) While the cake is baking, make the glaze, Combine the sugar, butter and water in a small saucepan and bring the mixture to a boil and stir until the sugar dissolves. Remove the glaze from heat and cool it slightly before mixing in the vodka and Kahlúa.

5) Once the cake is finished baking, cool it in the pan for 5 minutes, invert on wire rack to cool, then poke holes in it using a chopstick. Pour the glaze slowly over the cake, making sure every bit of it is saturated.

6) Just before serving, sift a bit of confectioner’s sugar over the cake to make it pretty.

This cake would also be perfect for a Big Lebowski party. Just give the glaze a White Russian-inspired twist, substituting the 1/4 c. water with 1/4 c. whole milk.

¡Buen apetito!

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Hip to Be Square

Snap, crackle, pop

On the rare occasion that I do go to a coffee shop for some joe, I’m often tempted to pick up a crispy rice square to go along with it, but two things usually deter me. 1) The fact that shops usually charge as much as $2 per square, which seems way overpriced for something you could make at home for a fraction of that, and 2) the fact that they usually don’t taste very good after sitting in a pastry case for, hell, I don’t know, a half day?

This morning, I was jonesing for some crispy rice squares to go with my morning coffee. I thought about attempting fellow blogger Foodie on the 49th’s insanely delicious-looking bacon, peanut butter and chocolate Rice Krispy treats, but I didn’t have any bacon or chocolate on hand. So, I turned to my trusty copy of Flour: Spectacular Recipes from Boston’s Flour Bakery, for inspiration, and found a recipe for Brown-Butter Crispy Rice treats. Brown butter? Why hadn’t I thought of that before? Yes, please!

Brown butter, or beurre noisette, is that extraordinary ingredient that lends a certain je ne sais quoi to pastries and sauces. Rich and aromatic, this butter is definitely one to add to your cooking repertoire. I first discovered the wonder that is brown butter in this Epicurious recipe for Spoon Cookies, which are basically shortbread cookies, and was immediately smitten. It’s like magic–one moment, you have an ordinary stick of unsalted butter, and the next, you’ve struck culinary gold.

As the pan heats up over low heat, the butter separates and the milk solids sink to the bottom of the pan and turn a lovely hazelnut color. And the smell! Oh, the smell is to die for. It’s what I would imagine inhaling nutty toffee cocaine would be like, and I think it must put my pituitary gland’s endorphin production into overdrive because I am always in the BEST mood after making a batch of beurre noisette.

Anyway, I digress. On to the good stuff. I’ve adapted this recipe from the Flour recipe book, since I wanted to try a little something extra to go along with it. And yes, I could have just called them “Brown Butter Crispy Rice Squares,” but Frenchifying phrases seems to make everything sound/taste better.

Beurre Noisette Crispy Rice Squares

1 stick unsalted butter
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
1/2 tsp. vanilla powder
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
1 16-ounce bag of large marshmallows
9 cups crispy rice cereal

1) Butter a 9 inch by 13 inch baking pan and set aside.

2) Melt the butter in a large, heavy pot over low heat.

3) Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean pod** and mix in with the butter.

4) Keep a close eye on the butter. At first, the butter will foam up, and then the foam will disappear. A thicker layer of foam will come up and blanket the surface just as the butter solids start turning brown. You’ll smell a nutty, toffee-ish fragrance, which should signal that the butter is changing. This process takes about 6-8 minutes, depending on your stovetop burner.

5) Once the butter has browned, turn off the heat and take the pot off the burner. Immediately add the vanilla powder, kosher salt and marshmallows, and stir constantly until the marshmallows melt and you’re left with a smooth mixture flecked evenly with vanilla seeds.

6) Add the crispy rice cereal to the mix, and stir until everything is well blended.

7) Dump the contents of the pot into the prepared baking pan, and press the mixture into the pan.

8) Let cool for about an hour, cut into squares and go to town with a cup of coffee, tea or milk.

**Don’t throw away the vanilla pod! Those things are expensive. Try sticking it in an airtight glass jar and cover it with granulated sugar to make vanilla sugar, which lends a lovely flavor to other baked goods. After all, want not, waste not, right?

Stay hungry, my friends.


Filed under Food, kitchen adventures, Recipes

Easy Like Sunday Morning

Rise and shine!

Sunday morning breakfast has become something of a ritual ever since Dr. J and I got together. I usually whip up something easy, like pancakes and bacon or eggs, bacon and hash browns, and he makes the coffee, sets the table and grabs the morning paper. (Yes, we still get a physical newspaper, and no, we’re not 80-year-olds.) I also like to put on some music, perhaps a little Django Reinhardt (okay, fine, maybe we are kind of like 80-year-olds).

Over the years, I’ve tinkered with several pancake recipes, like banana caramel, lemon ricotta and chocolate chip, and sometimes mixed it up with Belgian waffles, challah French toast and Danish ebelskiver.

But I’ve finally settled on a recipe that I know will be my go-to in the kitchen, mainly because it doesn’t require running out and getting extra ingredients–you should have everything on hand already. Besides, grocery shopping in your PJs? Not cute.

Lazy Sunday Pancakes
(adapted from

3/4 c. milk
2 tbsp. white vinegar
1 c. unbleached all-purpose flour
2 tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 egg
2 tbsp. melted butter
1 c. fresh blueberries or other fresh fruit (optional)
1 tbsp. canola oil for pan
Silicone pastry brush

  1. Combine the milk and vinegar in a small bowl and let it sit and curdle for five minutes.
  2. Whisk flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large mixing bowl.
  3. Whisk egg and butter into soured milk.
  4. Pour the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients and whisk until smooth.
  5. Gently fold in blueberries or other fruit if you like.
  6. Heat a large skillet over low-medium heat, and brush lightly with oil.
  7. Pour 1/4 cupfuls of batter onto the skillet, and cook until bubbles appear on the surface. Using a spatula, flip and brown on the other side. Makes enough for two very hungry people or four semi-hungry folks.
A couple of tips: I like to keep the pancakes warm in the oven on a cookie sheet while I go through the whole cooking process. Also, if you have any left over (unlikely), just stash them in the fridge and pop them in the toaster tomorrow morning.

Here’s a little Django to go along with breakfast and ease you into the day. Happy Sunday!


Filed under Food, kitchen adventures, Recipes