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Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Valentine’s Pound Cake


I'm mildly obsessed with baking a surprise shape into a cake or cupcakes. I can envision something for almost every occasion - shamrocks for St. Patrick's Day, bunnies for Easter, stars for the 4th of July (or Rachel Berry), pumpkins for Halloween, and of course, hearts for Valentine's Day. I am only limited by my horrible 3-dimensional carving skills or my supply of mini cookie cutters. Cupcakes are easy because you can use the cookie cutters to create your cake inserts, but baking into a cake takes more... artistic talent.


A heart shape is relatively easy to carve free-hand, and since I chose pound cake as a medium, all I needed was one long piece of cake for carving. To make this cake, I first baked one pound cake with enough red food coloring to make it pink. I let it cool completely, and froze it to help make it stiffer for carving. Then I carved out the heart shape with a good knife. I prepared the batter for a second pound cake, and inserted the pink heart cake into the batter before putting it in the oven. Pound cake is supposed to rise a bit in the oven, so you might not be able to completely cover the pink heart cake with the batter for the second cake. Mine started out covered, but the batter melted down and evened out before starting to rise. In the end, some of the heart cake was poking out the top, but I almost preferred the look of that part of the cake, once sliced. I was very happy with the way it turned out, and it was a huge hit at the Valentine's Day Tea that I attended! IMG_0007cc

This is a cute way to celebrate Valentine's Day. A classic pound cake with a heart baked in the middle, served with strawberries and whipped cream is sure to be a hit!

Valentine's Pound Cake

Valentine's Pound Cake Source: Baking Illustrated
Yield: Serves 12
Preparation time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 70-80 minutes
Total time: 1 hour, 30 minutes


  • 16 tablespoons unsalted butter (2 sticks), softened but still cool
  • 1 1/3 cups sugar (9 1/3 ounces)
  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 3 large egg yolks, at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons water
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups plain cake flour (6 ounces) (note: Bridget recommends adding 1/2 teaspoon baking powder. I definitely would have done so if I'd see her post before making this.)


  1. Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 325 degrees F. Grease a 9 by 5-inch loaf pan ( 7.5 cup capacity). Fit a sheet of foil or parchment paper lengthwise in the bottom of the greased pan, pushing it into the corners and up the sides. Fit a second sheet crosswise in the pan in the same manner.
  2. Beat the butter in the bowl of a standing mixer at medium-high speed until smooth and shiny, about 15 seconds. With the machine still on, sprinkle the sugar in slowly, taking about 30 seconds. Beat the mixture until light, fluffy, and almost white, 4 to 5 minutes, stopping the mixer once or twice to scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula.
  3. Stir together the eggs, yolks, vanilla, and water in a 2-cup liquid measuring cup. With the mixer running at medium-high speed, add the egg mixture to the buter and sugar in a very slow, thin stream. Finally, beat in the salt.
  4. Place 1/2 cup flour in a sieve and sift it over the batter. Fold gently with a rubber spatula, scraping up from the bottom of the bowl, until the flour is incorporated. Repeat twice more, adding flour in 1/2-cup increments.
  5. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan, smoothing the top with a spatula or wooden spoon. Bake until a toothpick or thin skewer inserted into the crack running a long the top comes out clean, 70 to 80 minutes. (I found it did not take this long in my oven. 60 minutes was enough for mine, so check early!) Let the cake rest in the pan for 5 minutes, then invert onto a wire rack. Place a second wire rack on the cake bottom, then turn the cake top-side up. Cool to room temperature, remove and discard the foil, and serve. If not served immediately, wrap the cake in plastic, then in foil. Store the cake at room temperature.

    Friday, February 3, 2012



    Along with pico de gallo and fresh tomatillo salsa (which I hope to share someday!), this is another favorite recipe to come from my husband's family. It's so easy to throw together, and with avocados on sale for $1 each the past few weeks, we've been enjoying it every weekend. There are several schools of thought when it comes to what belongs in guacamole, but I definitely love the simplistic approach of this recipe from my husband's aunt, Ethel.

    Creamy avocados in harmony with lime and cilantro make this a perfect snack for your next party, or any day!



    Source: Tia Ethel
    Yield: About 2 cups
    Preparation time: 10 minutes


    • 4 avocados
    • 2 limes
    • 3/4 cup fresh cilantro
    • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder (optional)
    • pinch salt, to taste


    1. Add the flesh from the avocados to a large bowl or food processor. Set aside one or two of the pits; we'll add them back at the end to keep the guacamole from browning.
    2. Add juice of 2 limes, cilantro, garlic powder (if using), and a pinch of salt to the bowl.
    3. Blend with an immersion blender or process in the food processor, until well blended and no large pieces of avocado are visible.
    4. Check for taste; add more salt and blend again if needed. I like to taste the guacamole using the chips that it will be served with, since those are often salty on their own.
    5. Add reserved avocado pits and push them into the guacamole.  Serve immediately, or cover tightly with plastic wrap pressed against the guacamole and chill in the refrigerator until serving. (I prefer it slightly chilled, so I like to do this.)