Rhubarb Vanilla Bean Jelly

It’s a little late in the season to be sharing rhubarb recipes, but my patch is still producing, fighting for space next to the English peas and the garlic that keeps getting taller.

Besides, I’ve been talking about making this jelly for far too long, ever since a friend brought a case to exchange at my very first ever jam swap. It was a clear favourite of both Danny’s and mine, and we hoarded our jars for as long as possible.

You’d think that after six years I’d develop my own recipe for the rhubarb vanilla jelly, but here’s the honest truth: jelly scared me. Homemade jelly is a whole ‘nother ball of wax from making jam. Jelly either sets or it doesn’t (becoming syrup). It’s cloudy or it’s clear. It either works – or it doesn’t.

Today I’m sharing a homemade jelly recipe that most definitely worked for me. It’s not actually that scary after all.

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Coconut Cinnamon Tres Leches Cake with Mexican Vanilla Whipped Cream

A stout bottle of pure vanilla extract and a dozen, foot-long sticks of cinnamon were among the treasures I carted back to my kitchen from our recent adventures in Mexico. Yes, I also imported the requisite tequila, a pottery piece or two, and a selection of colorful table linens, but I was most excited about the aromatics.

I’ve been eager to pair the vanilla and the cinnamon together in an authentic, merit-worthy dessert – and that pot of rice pudding I scorched a while back doesn’t count. Although it hardly fits into the ‘whole foods’ recipe bracket that I usually aim for, today’s coconut tres leches cake was just what I was looking for and most deserving of my precious Mexican ingredients.

Coconut Cinnamon Tres Leches Cake with Mango on simplebites.net

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Everyone’s Friend:Yellow Butter Cupcakes with Dark Chocolate Frosting


(Thank you to those who wrote and sent their love over the past few days. I am working through some personal stuff right now, but please don’t mistake my tone in this post for flippancy–humour is simply my way of working through things.)

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Believe me when I say I really wanted to come back with a healthy, non-dessert recipe, but the truth is I’ve been living off of these cupcakes for days.

You know what else is the truth? After a few days away from keyboard, I start to miss blogging–and I especially start to miss all of you. That’s why I’m back already; I couldn’t stay away.


I got through the busy weekend pretty well, thanks to a lot, and I mean a lot, of Cadbury mini eggs. Well, it wasn’t all smooth sailing, there was that minor mishap on Easter Sunday morning when we were getting ready for church. In my ever-present battle against Noah’s dry skin, I grabbed what I though was his moisturizer and liberally-yes, even hastily-applied it all over his arms, torso and face…only to discover seconds later that it was my moisturizer with a hint of sunless tanner.
What ensued afterward was an encounter with a washcloth so thorough, it left us both more than a little hot under the collar.
That stuff streaks like nobody’s business.

OK, so it’s a little late to be bringing you Easter treats, but you must look past the mini eggs and focus on The Perfect Cupcake: Yellow Butter Cake with Dark Chocolate Frosting. This one is Martha Stewart all the way and there is simply no need to mess with it. She’s serious when she says it’s a crowd-pleaser; it’s a combination so classic and homey that no one can resist. I’ve certainly demonstrated that I can’t.


The duo also makes one heck of a layer cake. I’m giving directions for both cake and cupcakes. Both recipes are from The Martha Stewart Baking Handbook, one of my favorite baking cookbooks. (Psst! If you don’t own it yet, you can purchase it via the Amazon link on my sidebar. Yay!)

So there’s some pretty cool stuff coming up on Under the High Chair that you’ll just have to see to believe. Yep, more super cool giveaways, a pancake the tastes like pumpkin pie, and…An Announcement. Ohhh.

I’ll give you a hint: what do you get when you combine a Pregnancy, a Pen and a Publisher?
Find out soon and don’t bother to try and drag it out of me, my own mother doesn’t even know!

Yellow Butter Cake

Makes two 9-inch cake layers or 24 cupcakes

2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pans
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pans

1 1/2 cups cake flour (not self-rising)

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 3/4 cups sugar

4 large eggs

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

1 1/4 cups milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter two 9-by-2-inch round cake pans; line the bottoms with parchment paper. Butter parchment, and dust with flour, tapping out excess; set aside. FOR CUPCAKES: Line two standard 12-cup muffin pans with paper liners.

Into a medium bowl, sift together flours, baking powder, and salt; set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Beat in eggs, one at a time, then beat in vanilla. With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture in three parts, alternating with the milk and beginning and ending with the flour; beat until combined after each addition. Divide batter between the prepared pans, and smooth with an offset spatula.
For Cupcakes: divide the batter evenly among the prepared cups so that each is about two thirds full.

Bake, rotating the pans halfway through, until cakes are golden brown and a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean, 30 to 35 minutes. (20 min. for cupcakes) Transfer pans to a wire rack to cool 20 minutes. Invert cakes onto the rack; peel off the parchment. Reinvert cakes and let them cool completely, top sides up.
Frost with Dark Chocolate Frosting

Chocolate Frosting

Frosts one 9-inch layer cake or 24 cupcakes, generously.

24 ounces best-quality semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon Dutch-process cocoa powder

1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon boiling water

3 sticks (1 1/2 cups) unsalted butter, room temperature

1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar

Pinch of salt

Place chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over (but not touching) simmering water. Turn off heat; stir occasionally until chocolate has melted completely, about 15 minutes. Set bowl on countertop, and let chocolate cool to room temperature, 25 to 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, combine cocoa powder and boiling water in a small bowl; stir until cocoa is dissolved.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter, confectioners’ sugar, and salt on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes. Add melted chocolate; beat on low speed until combined, 1 to 2 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Beat in cocoa mixture.

To frost a layer cake: Using a serrated knife, trim tops of cakes to make level; brush off crumbs. Place four strips of parchment paper around perimeter of a serving plate or lazy Susan. Place the first layer on the cake plate, and spread top with 3/4 cup of frosting. Place the second layer on top, bottom side up, and spread top with 3/4 cup of frosting; repeat process with the third layer. Place the remaining layer on top of the third layer, bottom-side up; insert a dowel into the center of cakes if necessary. Spread entire cake with remaining frosting.

SHF: Very Vanilla Cupcakes and I get crafty again.


So the vanilla cupcakes aren’t the real reason you should be excited about this post. I’m about to give you a step-by-step tutorial on how to make your very own cupcake stand like the one pictured above!

I don’t know what’s gotten into me lately. I’ve been bitten by the craft bug or something. It all started with the party hats and various other projects from Noah’ s birthday party, then the hand embroidered aprons for the jam swap, and now this. (There’s also some felt Christmas stockings in the plans for the little ones, but let’s not hold our breath on those.)

What’s going on?? It’s like I turned thirty and boom, I woke up with a glue gun in one hand and a pair of knitting needles in the other. I would never consider myself to be a crafty person, yet I now have a (very large) box labeled “Arts & Crafts”in my closet full of ribbon, glue, and glitter. If you can help me understand this, ahem, creative phase of my life, I’d appreciate it.

Wait a sec, this isn’t menopause, IS IT? Because I was planning on combating that head on with an extra glass of wine or two, not pinking shears and rick-rack. This craft thing is too expensive to become a crutch. Any idea what a good pair of scissors costs these days?


Anyway, this cupcake stand came to be when I found myself in need of a way to display the 60 or so cupcakes I had made for my mother-in-law’s wedding shower last weekend. I love to use height in my food presentations and I’m sorry but those Wilton cupcake stands just don’t do a thing for me. I was convinced I could make my own and thanks to CakeJournal, I did!

Now, we’ll get to the cupcake stand in a minute, but first, the Vanilla Bean Cupcake:


I have to say, it was a pretty decent all-around indulgence. With a moist, buttermilk cake base (also laden with vanilla bean seeds) and the fluffiest of buttercreams, this darling is going to be a staple around here. To further emphasize the pure vanilla in these cupcakes, I topped them with a sugared shard of vanilla bean, and with that sparking touch, this cupcake is making it’s way over to Susan at The Well-Seasoned Cook for the November Sugar High Fridays Event!

Susan’s blog is new to me, but I loved her choice for this month: All That Glitters. Brilliant! (Of course the New Artsy-Crafty Aimee is secretly thrilled that the challenge has the word ‘glitter’ in it.) A big thank you to Susan for hosting this event and be sure to check out her blog on November 28 for the entire luminescent round-up! I can’t wait to see what other people have come up with and I’m sure their submissions will shine a lot brighter than my little twice-licked, once-dipped vanilla bean. Not exactly a light-bulb moment in my culinary career.
OK, OK, I’m joking, I didn’t lick the vanilla beans…. And all the ladies reading from the shower just gave a sigh of relief (Hi Barb!)
Recipes at the bottom, as usual.
Oh, and yes I am aware that I am only giving you the recipe for the Vanilla Bean Cupcakes, yet there are several other varieties pictured! Don’t pout on me now. The ring-topped cupcakes are none other than my recently posted Pumpkin Spice Cake with Maple Frosting, which, for the record, makes a phenomenal cupcake. As for the chocolate ones? We’ll you’ll just have to wait for them, but here is a little hint. Yeah, insane.


All right, time to get out the scissors and paper. What’s so great about this stand? Well for starters, you can customize it to any event you need by coordinating the paper and ribbon to match the event type. My MIL is having a winter wedding, hence the snowflake theme. Or you can adapt it to match your cupcakes, even better.
It’s also so darn easy to make, why not indulge your inner Martha? Trust me, if I can make this stand, you can too, provided you have the right materials. Here’s what you need to get started:


Three cake boards
: 8″, 12″ and 14″ (I purchased mine from Ares) These are the silver rounds you see in the photo above. Naturally you can use whatever sizes you want (8″, 10″, 12″ works well) but I wanted a large stand.
Heavy duty gift wrap paper
Glue and glue stick (not pictured)
Cake Dummies
: These are the two Styrofoam-looking rounds and are use for practicing wedding cakes. Also found at Ares. Note: Ideally I would have use one 2″x4″ dummy and one 2″x6″, but they only had 6″ so I went with two of those.
Ribbon: enough to wrap the dummies and trim the edge of the cake boards.
Scissors
Pencil

Straight pins
(should match your ribbon.)

Start by tracing the cake board rounds onto the wrapping paper that you will be covering them with. Lay them on the underside of the paper and trace with a pencil. Cut out the rounds.

Using your glue stick with a light hand, glue paper onto the cake boards. Working from the middle out, smooth with your hands to push out the air and remove bubbles. Allow to dry. If you wish, glue ribbon around the edge of the boards. I skipped this step as my silver cake boards already matched my silver paper–also I ran out of ribbon…Classic.

Wrap cake dummies with chosen ribbon. Start by securing one end with a straight pin. Wrap until entire dummy is covered and secure again with a pin. You can also glue the ribbon on, but this way makes for an easy removal of ribbon.

Assemble cupcake stand starting with the bottom layer. Place largest cake round on your workplace and glue ribbon-covered dummy directly onto the middle. Apply glue to the top of this dummy and place middle sized cake round on top, make sure it is centered, and press firmly to attach.
Glue second cake dummy in the center and glue the final and smallest cake round on top of it.
If this sounds like a lot of gluing, you’re right! I also used a ruler to make sure things were centered and balanced.
Stand should resemble the above photo. Now put something slightly heavy on top and allow to dry overnight. Your cupcake stand is now ready to party!
Shoot me an email with a photo if you decide to make you own. Have fun!

Note: if these directions made no sense to you whatsoever, here is the complete tutorial on Cake Journal. I tried my best…
Note 2: In the photo at the very top of the page, you’ll notice my stand has a extra tiny tier to it. Yes, I played around with some extra Styrofoam and rigged up a little topper for my cupcake stand featuring my Re-Ment mini cake stand that I recently won. I couldn’t resist showing it off!

Right, about those recipes….This is making for a VERY long post. My apologies.

Very Vanilla Cupcakes
(These were heavenly fresh from the oven and still pretty decent the second day; however, they didn’t freeze well and shriveled up into dry little morsels.)

8 Tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temp
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs, at room temp
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 vanilla bean
2 cups cake flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup buttermilk

1. Preheat the oven to 325. Sift together flour, baking powder and baking soda. Add the kosher salt after sifting and set aside. Measure out the buttermilk.

2. Cream the butter and the sugar using an electric mixer, until the mixture is pale and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, letting the eggs beat for 1 minute in between additions. Scrape down the bowl in between additions. Add vanilla and beat well. Slice vanilla bean lengthwise and with the tip of a knife, scrape out the seeds and add the to the butter mixture. Mix well.

3. Add the dry ingredients alternately with the wet ingredients. Start by adding one third of the flour mixture. Mix just to incorporate. Add half of the buttermilk. Add another one third of the flour mixture. Mix to incorporate. Add the last half of buttermilk, followed by the last third of flour.

4. Spoon into paper lined cupcake pans. Check the cupcakes after 12 minutes. Remove from oven and cool completely before frosting with Vanilla Bean Buttercream.

Makes 16 small or 12 large cupcakes.

Vanilla Bean Buttercream
Makes about 2 cups

2 large egg whites
1/2 cup + 2 tbsps sugar
3/4 cup unsalted butter at room temperature, cut into tablespoons
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 vanilla bean

In the bowl of an electric mixer set over the saucepan of simmering water, combine egg whites and sugar. Cook whisking constantly, until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture is warm to the touch. Attach the bowl to the mixer, fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat on high speed until it holds stiff peaks. Continue beating until the mixture is fluffy and cooled. Switch to the paddle attachment. With the mixer on medium-low speed, add the butter, several tablespoons at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla extract. Split the vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape out seeds with the tip of a knife. Add to buttercream and beat on low speed to eliminate air bubbles – about 2 minutes.

Using an offset spatula, generously frost cupcakes with buttercream.Serve immediately, or refrigerate up to 1 day.Remove from fridge and bring to room temperature before serving.

Blueberry and Vanilla Custard Tartelettes

Time has become a precious commodity around here. The days blur by in a pattern of feeding, changing and loving Baby Mateo, intermingled with Noah’s ‘big boy’ activities and family meals.
I am feeling better and back to my normal self and our little family has made a smooth transition from a family of three to a even four.
I have to thank everyone who has emailed and commented with encouraging words. You know who you are and you rock!

Being as busy as I am, I am experiencing what I have recently diagnosed as a baking withdrawal as I haven’t created anything in over a month now, hard as that is to believe!
It’s a new feeling for me; I don’t like it, but I don’t resent it, because as many of you have reminded me in your comments, I am cherishing this precious time with my newborn. I know only too well that soon he’ll be all grown up and I’ll have plenty of time to bake to my hearts content.


If you’re short on time, you’ll find these tartelettes (or one whole tart) are one of the quicker desserts you can whip up, especially if you have a nice little stash of tart dough on hand in the freezer, as I did (or better yet, some frozen tart shells!) A prettier sweet treat you will be hard pressed to find, and a completely satsifying combination of flaky crust, cool creamy pastry cream and fresh fruit topping. Don’t limit yourself to blueberries, use what ever fruit looks fresh and gorgeous or complements your meal.

I guess around the end of March I have a thing for custard and fruit because one year ago today I posted this colorful fresh fruit tart and that is where you will find the recipes for all the components of this dessert including my absolute favorite pastry cream recipe, made with vanilla bean and made extra rich by cold butter that is whisked in at the end, and a rich tart dough.

We’re starting to see some affordable berries in the markets now, so snap some up and pretend this dreary winter is over and spring is here!