Getting Through Life One Recipe at a Time

Tag: Cake

Lala’s Sweet Potato Cake

In high school, my brother’s girlfriend Lala was like the older sister I never had, never knew I wanted, but was so happy to find.

As we’ve grown our relationship has changed. Big sister/little sister. Peers. Best Friends. And sometimes something resembling employer/employee (I say that lovingly, of course). However, the one dynamic that hasn’t changed is the eater/feeder status.

I bake. Lala eats.

Years ago for her birthday, I brought her a huge Sweet Potato Cake from the bakery where I worked. Late into the evening, we sat at her kitchen table plunging our forks deep into this behemoth. We ate, we laughed and we ate some more. We munched so much that we had to crawl on all fours to her living room where we laid on the couch rubbing our bloated bellies.

I remember feeling warm and fuzzy in a way that only best friends and cake can accomplish.

Happy to be with Lala and share a slice (a couple of slices) of nicely spiced cake with velvety cream cheese frosting.

I hope you’ll make some for the Lala in your life too.

I know that you know that you need to measure out all your ingredients.

Cream together brown sugar and butter. Add eggs one at a time. Add vanilla.

Add mashed sweet potato and crushed pineapple with juice.

Stir in dry ingredients.

Place in a 9×13 inch cake pan that has been greased and lined with parchment.

Bake at 350°F for 30 – 35 minutes until lightly browned around the edges and a toothpick comes out clean. Let the cake cool completely.

While the cake cools, make the frosting. Cream butter and cream cheese. Add powdered sugar. Add vanilla. Blend with a hand mixer or stand mixer until smooth.

Spread cream cheese frosting over cooled cake.

Decorate with pecans.


Lala's Sweet Potato Cake

  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

1 1/2 cups of mashed sweet potatoes (about 2 large)*
2 cups of all purpose flour
1 teaspoon of baking soda
1 teaspoon of cream of tartar
1 rounded teaspoon of cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon of ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon of ground cloves
1 teaspoon of salt
1 stick of butter, at room temperature
1 cup of dark brown sugar, packed
1 teaspoon of vanilla
2 large eggs
1 (8oz) can of crushed pineapple

Cream Cheese Frosting:
1 stick of unsalted butter, room temperature
1 (8 oz) block of cream cheese, room temperature
4 cups of confectioner’s sugar, sifted
1 teaspoon of vanilla


Preheat your oven to 350°F and grease a 9×13 inch baking dish. Line the dish with parchment and grease the parchment.

Whisk the flour, baking soda, cream of tartar, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and salt together in a medium sized bowl. Set aside.

In a large bowl, beat the butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy.

Add the eggs one at a time.

Add the vanilla.

Add the mashed sweet potatoes* and pineapple with juice and beat with a hand mixer until combined.

Mix in the dry mixture until just combined.

Pour into the 9×13 inch baking dish.

Place in the preheated oven.

Bake for 35 – 40 minutes until browned around the edges and a toothpick comes out clean when inserted. Allow to cool completely before frosting.

While the cake is cooling, make the icing.

Frost the cake and decorate as you desire! I used pecans for natural flare!

Notes –

To make the sweet potatoes, wash and dry your potatoes, leaving the skin on. Prick them with a fork and microwave for 10 minutes, rotating them at the five minute mark. Scrape the meat out of the skins and mash it with a fork. Measure out 1 1/2 cups and allow to cool. You may have extra (eat it).

Keep Calm Coffee Cake

It’s probably obvious. You’ve read the stories.

I am not sure why I am this way and to be fair, I am not always this way. It comes and goes. I am inconsistent.

Sometimes bubbly. Cheeks threatening to burst with laughter. Life of my own party. Happy to be alive. Funny.

Other times, messy mind. Unfocused. Heavy heart. Worry. Thinking about how I am thinking about nothing. Prickly. I’m anxiety, Miss Nerves 2017, stressed out about being stressed out.

There is a dark cloud that shadows my footsteps as I shuffle to and from work with my head hung. A relentless nagging, “I’m not enough, I need to be more. I’m a 28 year old, half-assed blogger, part-time baker, full-time joke.”

Thankfully, when I get to the bakery, there is a great and adamant “shuuuush” in my head. Quiet now, you’ve got baking to do.

It’s the feeling of creaming butter before the sun is up. The scrape of a pastry cutter on stainless steel. That “floooosh” of hot air that hits my face as the oven door opens, finally preheated, for the first time that morning.

It’s the calm smack in the middle of the sub-cranial storm.

I have hardly two nickels to my name, an ever-changing employment status, serious lack of foresight regarding my future and literally no idea what I want out of life. But, it’s all okay for the moment. Why? I’ve got a crazy moist coffee cake bubbling in the oven and the bakery smells like cinnamon and sugar, home and warmth.

How can anything be that bad?

Maybe you’re stressed too. Maybe this one hits close to home… but probably not. Either way, take a moment for yourself. Indulge. Bake something special and share it or don’t! Cut a slice, kick up your feet, silence the negative nonsense in your head and remember all the good in the world. Be thankful – for new days, dessert, a friend’s smile, a hug from mom or dad, a seat on the metro, yourself and your place in this world.

Keep calm and coffee cake (and subscribe to my blog…..)

Measure out all ingredients: butter with sugar, drys with drys, you get it.

Cream together butter and sugar, then add eggs and vanilla. Mix until combined.

Add milk and mix until smooth.

Add dry ingredients and mix until completely incorporated.

The batter will be thick and fluffy. Set the batter aside while you make the crumb topping.

Whisk together, brown sugar, flour, and cinnamon. Add cold cubed butter.

With your hands, two knives, a fork, a pastry cutter or whatever, work the butter into the sugar mixture until it resembles a wet sandy substance.

To assemble, butter a 9×13 pan. Place a piece of parchment at the bottom of the pan then butter and flour the parchment-ed bottom and the sides of the pan.

Spread half of the batter in the bottom of the pan. Top with half of the brown sugar crumb. Top the crumb with the second half of batter, spreading evenly, and finally top the batter with the second half of the crumb.

Place in a 350° F oven and bake for an hour to an hour and 20 minutes until an inserted cake tester comes out clean.

Let cool before slicing, serving, following your dreams, forgetting your doubts and doing your best.

Plot Twist: I left the bakery, well not officially, but I’ve given my notice. It’s 2017 and I am tired of my dreary disposition. I have plans – for me, for this blog, for lunch and I (finally) intend to see them through. Hold me accountable, won’t you?

I should say this though. I will miss the wonderful people. I enjoyed working with them everyday and I wish them best of luck for everything always.

Okay – now the recipe.

Keep Calm Coffee Cake

  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

1 1/2 sticks of butter
1 1/2 cups of sugar
3 eggs
2 teaspoons of vanilla
1 1/4 cups of whole milk
2 1/2 cups of cake flour
2 tsp of baking powder
1/2 tsp of baking soda
1/2 tsp of salt

For topping:
4 cups of  brown sugar
1/2 cup of all purpose flour
1 1/2 tablespoons of cinnamon
2 sticks of butter, cold and cubed.

For Glaze:
1 cup of powdered sugar
2-3 tablespoons of milk


Preheat your oven to 350°F.

Butter the bottom of a 9×13 pan. Place a piece of parchment in the bottom of the pan. Next, butter and flour the bottom and sides of the pan.

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

In the bowl of a stand mixer or with a hand-mixer, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy.

Add in eggs and beat to combine.

Add in vanilla.

Add in milk and mix until smooth.

Add in the dry ingredients and mix until completely incorporated.

Set aside and make the topping.

In a large bowl, whisk together brown sugar, flour, and cinnamon.

Add the cold butter and using a pastry cutter work the butter into the sugar mix until it resembles damp sand.

To assemble the coffee cake, spread half of the batter in the prepared pan. Top with half of the crumb topping. Spread the rest of the batter on top of the brown sugar crumb and spread the second half of the crumb over top.

Place the coffee cake in the preheated oven and bake for an hour to an hour and 20 minutes.

Remove from oven and test doneness with a toothpick. If it comes out clean you are good to go.

Make the glaze by whisking the powdered sugar and milk together until a thick but spreadable glaze forms.

Let the coffee cake cool before slicing and glazing.


Aunt Petunia’s Pudding

Do I have time to list all the reasons I love Harry Potter? *checks with the guy off stage*

No? Okay they are saying no….

So let me be as brief as I can. I love Harry Potter for one zillion reasons, but as a cook, one of the things I appreciate most, is the importance and visual representations of food.

The Start of Term Feasts, the Train Trolley Snacks, Kreacher’s Onion Soup, Molly’s Snitch Cake, Pumpkin Pasties, Sugar Mice, Chocolate Frogs, SHERBET LEMON! Hermione’s rubbery mushrooms cooked in a can!

If you’ve read the books and watched the movies as frequently as I have (not likely) you’ll realize food is everywhere in these perfect stories. JK knew what she was doing.

Of all the dishes referenced in the books and imagined on screen the one I was most eager to recreate was Petunia’s Pudding from Chamber of Secrets.

In the movies, it’s this GORGEOUS but very “Petuniaesque” cake with big red cherries and delicate, sugared violets. She adorns it so carefully, so lovingly, just to have it smashed to oblivion. Well done Dobby.

So here’s my interpretation of Petunia’s Pudding and an ode to my longest, most important, and most satisfying, albeit fictional, relationship.

Long live Harry Potter. Long live cake!



Butter & sugar – together. Whisk all drys. Separate eggs. Wet and vanilla. – Got it?


Cream together butter and sugar until it is fluffy. Add the egg yolks and vanilla – mix.


Add 1/3 of the dry.


Add 1/2 the wet. Follow with the second 1/3 of dry, last 1/2 of wet and final 1/3 of dry.


Mix until just combined. Cake batter is the world’s most beautiful unfinished product.


In a separate bowl, whip egg whites until stiff peaks form.


Fold the egg whites into the batter.


This batter is enough for two, 9-inch pans or three, 6-inch pans. I do three, 6-inch with 9oz of batter in each. See, look! Up there!


Bake in a 325° F oven for 25-30 minutes. When the cake is ready it will pull away from the sides and be buttery, golden yellow. Kinda like “Sunshine, daisies, butter, mellow, turn this stupid fat rat yellow!” – Ron.


To decorate, make two recipes of my Basic Vanilla Buttercream. Leave one recipe totally white. Split the other in half. Dye one half green and the other pale purple.


Crumb-coat it in white! Let chill for 15 minutes.


Apply second coat of white frosting – then google a picture of Aunt Petunia’s Cake – cancel all your social engagements and spend your day decorating a cake to look just like it! (Just kidding – it’s super easy – almost like magic – WOOOOAH!)


While I didn’t have a house elf to help me smash this on someone’s head – I did share it with a devastatingly handsome man.  We split a piece in the warm glow of candlelight. His birthday, a little surprise, sugared lip kisses – now that’s magic.

Aunt Petunia's Pudding

  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

2 sticks of butter, at room temperature
2 cups of sugar
2 eggs, separated
1 tablespoon of vanilla extract
2 cups of cake flour
1 tablespoon of baking powder
1 teaspoon of salt
1 cup of buttermilk

2 recipes of vanilla buttercream


Preheat your oven to 325° F.

Butter and flour three, 6-inch cake pans.

In the bowl of an electric mixer or using a hand-mixer, cream together the butter and sugar. Add the egg yolks and vanilla. Mix to combine.

In another bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt.

Add the flour mixture in three additions, alternating with the buttermilk. Mix until just combined.

In yet another bowl, whip egg whites until stiff peaks form.

Fold the egg whites into the cake batter.

Portion the cake batter into the cake pans. If you are using 6-inch pans, place 9oz of batter in each.

Bake for 25-30 minutes in the preheated oven.

Let cakes cool in their pans and then turn onto a wire wrack to cool completely.

Make vanilla buttercream and decorate!



Dad Doughnuts

Maybe you’ve realized by now – yeah you – you reader you – I’m shouting out to you – hey!

Maybe you’ve read enough of my stories to realize I am a sucker for tradition, for routine, for familiar, for the old days.

The food that means the most to me isn’t dripping in caviar, blanketed in gold leaf, or even necessarily served on a plate. It’s about the people, the moments, the memories, the doughnuts.

When I was growing up, every night after dinner my dad would make my mom, brother and me a good cup of strong black tea with cream and sugar and he’d divide a chocolate glazed cake doughnut into fourths and set them on our tea saucers.

The chocolate glaze would melt slightly where it made contact with the warm tea cup. I would lick the melted chocolate off the sides when my parents weren’t looking. What!? I was chubby, I loved chocolate, deal with it. The rest of my family wasn’t so barbaric.

Such a simple pleasure, but such a profound memory. The four of us, probably watching Seinfeld, drinking tea, eating doughnuts, together. I think that was the best part of it, being together but the doughnut is a close second.

Now we are older. My brother is in Chicago getting his MBA. I was in New York doing New York things. My parents are retired and traveling.

We are more health conscious. Okay – they are more health conscious. My brother eats chicken breasts and has abs you could grate cheese on, mom plays tennis and looks 30 and dad watches his sugar and bikes cross counties. Me? Don’t worry. I am largely the same. Though, I must say, as a single woman in her twenties I feel pressure (self-inflicted, mind you) to look less like a prepubescent Swedish boy and more like Kylie Jenner.

I miss all of us being under one roof. I miss simpler times – the days of Lisa Frank, The Bill Clinton Administration, Stretch Armstrong. I miss being happy about being chubby. Limited Too. I miss licking the chocolate off the side of a tea cup, dammit. I long for the days when my most serious concern in life was, “Hey! Buddy’s piece looks bigger than mine!”

With all that is going on in the world, and there is a lot, I think we all just need a moment’s pause. A time with family and friends. The chance to click on an episode of Seinfeld and remember the not so distant past when the world wasn’t so painfully PC. “Not that there’s anything wrong with that.” To think blissfully of an age when presidential candidates weren’t reality TV knuckleheads and kids played outside. Perhaps we can all put the iPhones down for just a second (unless you are reading this blog on your iPhone) and interact with one another and reflect on a time when all a girl needed was her dad, a cuppa and a cake doughnut.

Wishful thinking…

Here’s my recipe:


Let’s make some doughnuts! Whoop! First whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.


In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream together butter and sugar until they are pale and fluffy.


Add the eggs one at a time. After the eggs, add the vanilla and mix until combined.


Add the flour in thirds alternating with the milk.


Add 1/2 the milk followed by the second 1/3 of flour, last 1/2 of of milk and final 1/3 of flour. FLOUR.MILK.FLOUR.MILK.FLOUR – ya heard?


Stir the batter until just combined, taking care not to over mix. Load the batter into a piping bag – no tip necessary.


Butter and flour your doughnut pan. (Hey – no doughnut pan? Make cupcakes!!!)


Pipe the batter into the pan, filling each mold 2/3 of the way up.


Bake for 8 – 10 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through the baking time. The doughnuts are ready when they spring back to the tough and pull away from the sides slightly.


Let cool in the pans for 10 minutes and then flip onto a wire wrack and cool completely.


To make the glaze, chop that chocolate.


Place the chocolate in a heat proof bowl over a pot of simmering water (double-boiler) or if you want to use the microwave, blitz it for 30 second intervals, stirring in-between until melted.


Dip each doughnut into the melted chocolate and then set on a sheet tray lined with parchment.


Oh now… well now… look at that chocolate!


Place the doughnuts in the fridge for…eeeeehhhhh…. 10 – 20 minutes until the chocolate sets.


Grab your dad, mom, brother, cat, friend, lover, whoever. Make a strong cup of tea and whip out the Seinfeld dvds. This is about to be the greatest night of your life.


What’s the deal with doughnuts? – I’ll tell ya Jerry. Delicious, chocolate, cake, tea. What’s not to like!?

Dad Doughnuts

  • Servings: 8 to 10 doughnuts
  • Difficulty: cake walk
  • Print

1 cup of cake flour (not self-rising)
1 teaspoon of baking powder
1/4 teaspoon of salt
1/2 stick of unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup of sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
3/8 cup of whole milk

7 ounces of dark chocolate


Preheat oven to 350° F.

Whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar on medium speed for 3 – 5 minutes until pale and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl between additions. Add the vanilla.

Add 1/3 of the flour and mix to combine. Follow with 1/2 of the milk, the second 1/3 of flour, final 1/2 of milk and final 1/3 of flour. Scrap down the sides of the bowl after each addition.

Place the batter into a pipping bag with no tip.

Butter and flour a doughnut pan.

Pipe the cake batter into the doughnut pan, filling the molds 2/3 the way.

Place pan in the oven and bake for 8 to 10 minutes, rotating halfway through the baking time. The doughnuts are done when they spring back to the touch and are golden around the edges.

Let the doughnuts cool in the pan for 10 minutes then turn out to a wire wrack to cool completely.

While the doughnuts are cooling, melt the chocolate in the microwave or over a double boiler in a heatproof bowl.

Submerge cooled doughnuts into melted chocolate and then transfer to a sheet tray lined with wax or parchment paper.

Once all the doughnuts are glazed, place them in the fridge and allow the chocolate to set for 10 to 2o minutes.

Doughnuts will stay fresh for up to a week in the fridge in an airtight container or tightly wrapped in plastic.

Ghost Cakes

What was I for Halloween? What I am every year – the perpetual child. I often feel like I am 26 going on 12 and this is even more apparent on Halloween.

While some 20-something ladies are dressing in lingerie and calling it a cat costume and drunk Jesus’s begin to wander the streets, I am at home, in my pajamas, watching Hocus Pocus and carrying on the Hill Family tradition of baking Ghost Cakes.

I love these cakes because they awaken such strong memories from my childhood. I grew up in the best neighborhood for Halloween. There were kids everywhere, the parents went all out on decorations, and if I remember correctly, there was only one house that handed out pencils instead of candy. My brother, his best friend Matt, my best friend Anna and I would roll out, candy sacks in hand and make the rounds.

We’d come home, feet sore, sacs fat and dump our candy out on the kitchen floor to make our trades. As we sat in a pile of candy, my mom would give us ghost cakes and warm cider. For a kid on the chubby side, eating cake while lying on a bed of sweets was basically heaven.

With Anna and Eric getting MBAs, Matt killin’ the web design game in the city and me just back from doing whatever I was doing in New York, sometimes those days in the old neighborhood seem like a million years ago. But when my mom pulls out the Ghost Cake pan, I’m immediately a kid again and happy to be home on Halloween.

Here’s my recipe:

Okay you ghouls – it’s fright night – get your ingredients out. (Full list below.)

Put your butter and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer and cream on medium speed for 4 – 5 minutes until light and fluffy… like a ghost.

Add your eggs one at a time, scraping the sides of the bowl after each addition.

Add the vanilla.

Whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Add 1/3 of the dry ingredients and mix until just incorporated.

Add 1/2 your milk and mix until just incorporated. Then add the second 1/3 of dry, mix, the remainder of milk, mix, and finally the last 1/3 of dry. Mix until just combined.

You don’t have these pans.. but if you did… fill them with 1/3 a cup of batter.

Bake 12 – 15 minutes until lightly browned around the edges.

Get an adult, decorate the little ghosties with vanilla buttercream, name them.


This one is Darren, he’s my favorite.

It’s Halloween! Eat cake, eat candy, dress up, watch movies! Celebrate the little traditions in your life. You know where I’ll be.

Ghost Cakes

  • Servings: 9-10 little guys
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print
2 cups of cake flour
2 teaspoons of baking powder
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1 stick of butter at room temperature
1 cup of sugar
3 large eggs
2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
3/4 cup of half and half or heavy cream
1 recipe of vanilla buttercream
Mini chocolate chips (FOR EYES! Do ghosts have eyes?)

Preheat your oven to 350° F.In the bowl of an electric mixer beat together the butter and sugar for 4 – 5 minutes until light and fluffy.

Add in the eggs one at a time, scraping the sides of the bowl after each addition.

Add the vanilla.

In a small bowl whisk together the cake flour, baking powder and salt. Add 1/3 of the mixture to the butter and sugar.

Next add 1/2 of the dairy, followed by the second 1/3 of dry, the final 1/2 of dairy and ending on the final 1/3 of dry ingredients, mixing after each addition.

Mix until just combine.

Pour into prepared baking pan.

Bake for 12 to 15 minutes until lightly browned around the edges.

Flip out of pan and cool completely before frosting with vanilla buttercream.


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