I Will Have My (Birthday) Cake and Eat It Too!

Today is my second favorite day of the year, a very close second behind Christmas. I am one of those obnoxious people who makes a huge deal out of their birthday. I guess because there are 4 birthdays in my family in one week (no that’s not a typo, there is one on the 21st, the 22nd, the 24th and the 28th) and my birthday has always fallen on Memorial Day weekend, it just kind of became one big weekend of combined celebration. While I can’t always celebrate with my family on my b-day, I still maintain the weekend approach. I apologize to everyone, I know that’s annoying. This year, I have a wonderful weekend planned, with theater, dinner out with my wonderful bf, brunch with friends and even a massage. But of course, no birthday is complete without a wonderful cake. While I really appreciated my bf’s offer to make the cake, I also wanted it to taste yummy, so I politely declined and insisted that I enjoyed the baking process as well as the eating (which isn’t a lie, I really do).

Here are some highlights of my day before I get to the main attraction. In addition to some wonderful presents, my parents sent me these gorgeous flowers. I also had delicious pancakes and bacon this morning. Probably my favorite breakfast ever.

This picture does a better job of showcasing the incredible lilies. Seriously, these things are gigantic and make the entire apartment smell beyond fantastic. Anyway, I will get to the point…This cake is definitely one of my favorites. It’s an amazing combination of sweet and tart. Even bf who doesn’t like lemon loves it, and I mean loves it. I am the first to admit it’s not the prettiest thing. It won’t be gracing any magazine covers or anything, but when it comes to taste, this little guy hits a home run.

Lemonade Layer Cake

from Cooking Light 


  • 1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
  • 6 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1 tablespoon grated lemon rind
  • 3 tablespoons thawed lemonade concentrate
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 large egg whites
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 1/4 cups fat-free buttermilk
  • Cooking spray


  • 2 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 2 teaspoons grated lemon rind
  • 2 teaspoons thawed lemonade concentrate
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 8 ounces 1/3-less-fat cream cheese
  • 3 1/2 cups powdered sugar

I started by putting the softened butter, lemonade concentrate, lemon peel, sugar and vanilla in a big bowl. Using my hand mixer (while day dreaming about a standing mixer), I combined these ingredients.

Then I added the two whole eggs and the additional two egg whites and mixed together again. A quick tip about separating eggs: you can buy a little do-hickey thing to do it for you, but I find that it doesn’t work very well. Nothing compares to the old tried and true method of pouring the egg into your palm, letting the whites run through your fingers, and GENTLY tossing the yolk back and forth between your hands until all of the whites have fallen into the bowl below.

Next, I put the dry ingredients (baking powder, baking soda, salt and flour) in a separate bowl and whisked together. The whisking is an important step in this cake for two reasons. 1) It makes sure the baking powder and soda are dispersed evenly and thus the cake rises evenly. 2) It brings air into the dry ingredients resulting in a fluffier, lighter cake.

Then, I added 1/3 of the dry mixture to the big bowl and mixed it together. After it was mixed in, I added 1/2 of the buttermilk and mixed again. I added another 1/3 of the flour, mixed, then the rest of the buttermilk, mixed, and finally the last 1/2 of the flour and mixed again. The resulting batter is on the left. It’s incredibly light and fluffy, which is exactly as it should be!

I poured half of the batter into each greased 9 inch pan. Another tip: after spraying the pan, gift it a sharp smack against the counter. This step will reduce the bubbles in the spray.

I baked both cakes at 350 for 20 minutes, or until you can insert a toothpick and remove it cleanly. Then, I let the cakes cool in the pan on wire racks for 10 minutes.

After ten minutes, I cut around the sides of the pan with a knife and laid a piece of parchment paper over the top of the pan. Then, I put the rack over the parchment paper (upside down) and flipped all three pieces together so that the pan is upside down on the parchment paper and the rack. With a few taps to the back of the pan with a knife or your palm, the cake should come right out. The parchment paper is helpful when you go to plate the cake. The top is always a little sticky because the cake is so light, so the parchment paper keeps the cake from sticking or sinking into the rack.

The frosting has to be in the fridge for an hour before you spread it on the cake, so I always start while the cakes are baking. First, I combine the cream cheese, lemon peel, vanilla and butter until it is smooth.

Then I added the powdered sugar slowly (about a cup at a time), mix and then add more. This way you don’t end up with powdered sugar all over the kitchen and your clothes. Once the frosting is done, cover the bowl and put it in the fridge for an hour.

After the frosting is cooled, place one of the cakes on whatever plate you want. (Keep in mind the cake should stay in the fridge when you are done serving so you want a plate or dish that will fit). Then cover the top of the first layer with frosting. I know it seems like there isn’t enough frosting, but I swear you’ll have extra, so don’t be stingy with this layer.

Then place the second cake on top.

Next, frost the sides of both and the top of the second layer.

Finally, cut in and enjoy!


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Chocolate Mug Cake

This past weekend I was going out of town and so I was avoiding going to the grocery store at all costs. I really didn’t want to go buy food, only for it to go bad. This logic is flawless, but my sweet tooth wasn’t having any of it. I had heard about mug cakes before and decided the time was right to give them a shot. I found this recipe by searching online. It was good, certainly an easy, last minute option. But I can’t help but thinking it could be better. Sure some fresh whipped cream or ice cream would have helped a lot, but I think if I had cooked it for about 30 seconds less, or even put a little less flour in the cakes, they’d be better. But in a pinch, this is a great option.

Chocolate Mug Cake

from Food.com

I started by whisking together the dry ingredients for one cake. One bummer about this cake is that you really need to make one cake at a time. Although, I really shouldn’t complain, it takes about 5 minutes max.

I then added the egg and mixed the ingredients together until it was nice and gooey, like this.

I then added the other liquid ingredients and mixed together until the batter was smooth. Then I poured it into a large mug and microved for 2-3 minutes.

I cooked mine for just under three minutes. I always err on the side of caution when it comes to cooking or baking. I never want to make anyone sick, so when I am cooking something for the first time, I’d rather it be dry than undercooked. I sprinkled a little powdered sugar on top of my cakes, but I think less cooking time and some ice cream would make this treat perfect!


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Pasta with chicken, artichokes, kalamata olives and tomato sauce

So after my big personal success last week, I was feeling confident about my ability to go with the flow in the kitchen. I was going out of town for the weekend, so before I left, I decided to use some of the ingredients I had sitting around the house. It was a gigantic, enormous success! If I do say so, I am very proud of myself! Not only was this dish amazing, but I made it up! You should definitely try it.

Pasta with lots of nummies

  • 1 box of pasta, around 14 ounces
  • 1 can of diced tomatoes, 14 ounces
  • about 12 ounces of tomato sauce
  • 1 box of frozen artichoke hearts
  • 1/2 cup of white wine
  • 15-20 kalamata olives, sliced in half
  • 1/2-1 onion, chopped
  • a few cloves of garlic, diced
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1.5-2 chicken breasts
I started by cooking the chopped chicken breast in olive oil until the pieces were browned and cooked through. I then removed the chicken to a plate and heated up the other tablespoon of olive oil in the pan.
I then added the onion and cooked for a minute or two before adding the artichoke hearts. I continued to cook the onion until it was just slightly browned. Oh, and about this time I started cooking the pasta.
I then added the garlic and cooked for about 30 seconds before adding the white wine. I then let the whole mix simmer for a few minutes in the wine.
I then added the tomatoes, sauce, olives, and chicken and let the whole thing simmer for another 5-10 minutes.
I then served the sauce over the pasta and boy was it delicious!!!


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On nights when I don’t cook, we have a few go-to take-out places. There is the obligatory pizza and Chinese take-out, but bf and I are also obsessed with Pho (pronounced like football without the “tball”. It’s actually sort of a mix of foo and “ooo” but it’s a sound that most English speakers can’t pronounce because they didn’t learn it from a young age. It is, under no circumstances, pronounced “faux”) Sorry for that rant, it’s a major pet peeve of mine. Pho is a Vietnamese soup with beef, noodles and a beef broth. We originally learned about it thanks to our wonderful friend Dan. We are actually fortunate enoughto have two great Vietnamese restaurants nearby, but I prefer the one with stronger broth. It’s super filling and a great meal for a cold night, a sick night or anything in between :). If you haven’t tried it, you definitely should! I did for the first time in June and I’ve never looked back!

The broth comes in a container like this.

Then you get a container of noodles, beef, and some veggies. I keep in the parsley and some of the green onions, but I take out the white onions because they are too crunchy for my taste. I like my soup without a whole lot of crunch.

You also get a bag of bean sprouts, basil and some sriracha and hoisin sauce mixed together. I leave out all of these things (yes I know you will be outraged Dan). The sriracha and hoisin mix is way to spicey for me. One drop and my mouth burns for hours. But I’m a total wuss and bf won’t have pho without it. The basil is totally a preference thing and the sprouts are too crunchy for me. Yeah, I’m weird, I know.

I start by putting the meat and noodles in a big bowl and then pouring the broth into the bowl over the top. Using the chopsticks, I break up the noodles and then I enjoy. There is no graceful or right way to eat Pho, you just have to figure out how it works best for you!

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Garbanzos (with sausage and red sauce)

One of my friends is going to be traveling abroad almost all summer (raise your hand if you are jealous…both of mine are up).

As a sweet see-you-later gift, she gave me a little book with her go-to recipes. Seeing as how I am constantly struggling to come up with new recipes, this present could not be more perfect. This recipe immediately jumped out at me as something I had to try for dinner. Not only is it quick and easy, it’s healthy and beyond delicious.


  • 1/2 of an onion (I used an entire small one because I didn’t want to waste any)
  • 1/2 of a green bell pepper
  • 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil
  • A few shakes of garlic powder (next time I might use garlic salt to add a tiny bit more flavor)
  • sausage, I used 5 small sweet Italian links
  • 2 cans of garbanzo beans
  • 1 can of tomato sauce (depending on how much sausage you use, anywhere from 8-14 ounces)
  • brown rice, or quinoa
Because my sausage wasn’t precooked like a lot of other great options, I started by removing the casings and cooking up the meat. I cook for a few minutes on one side, then flip over and cook for a few minutes on the other side. While the second side is cooking, I use my wooden spoon to start breaking up the sausages into bite size pieces. Then I repeat the whole thing until the meat is cooked through.
Once the sausage was cooked, I added the chopped onion, green pepper, the garlic powder and some olive oil. I then cooked the whole thing over medium heat until the onions were tender and translucent.
Next, I added the garbanzo beans (which I had rinsed in a strainer earlier) and the tomato sauce. I let the whole pan simmer for about 15 minutes.
While the garbanzo mix was simmering, I prepared the quinoa and the brussel sprouts. I used quinoa because I didn’t have rice and frankly it’s a little healthier than rice anyway. To make the sprouts, I boiled them for about 7 minutes, then drained them, sliced them in half or quarters and returned them to the pot. I added about 1 tablespoon of margarine and some minced garlic and cooked for another few minutes.
My final product! It was so delicious and healthy, I will be making it again very soon! Thanks so much to my friend Amanda for the recipe!

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My very own, made up risotto

This dish represents a big moment for me. It is the first dish that I have officially created all by myself. I’ve made lots of changes to many of the recipes I’ve posted, but the initial inspiration has always belonged to someone else. Essentially, bf and I were in the mood for risotto, I had chicken and broccoli and decided to man up (or woman up) and just make something new. The good news: it was good!!!! Not my best risotto, but tasty and a good culinary moment.

First,  started by chopping and steaming the broccoli for about five minutes.

Then, while the broccoli (1 head) was steaming, I chopped the chicken (about 1.5-2 breasts) and cooked it until it was browned and cooked through.

Then, I emptied the chicken onto a plate and added the chopped onion and garlic (about one small onion and a few cloves of garlic) and cooked in a tablespoon or two of olive until the onion is tender and translucent. I decided to cook the chicken in one pan and use the same pan because then when I added the veggies and later the liquid, I was able to keep the intense chicken flavor. Using my wooden spoon, I scraped the bottom, until the brown bits of heavenly deliciousness had come up into the food.

Next, I added the arborio rice (about a cup) and cooked for a minute before adding 1/2 cup of white wine. I also added about a tablespoon of dried thyme (or more). I cooked the rice until the wine was about absorbed. While I was preparing the chicken and the rice, I put 2 cups of chicken broth (because it’s all I had left) and a cup of water in a small pot. I brought the mix to a very gentle simmer. Once the wine was absorbed, I added the broth in 1/2 cup fulls and stirred until it was just about absorbed, then repeated.

When the rice was ready and the broth was all absorbed, I added the broccoli, chicken, and Parmesan cheese.

Finally, I served up two delicious bowls. I was quite pleased with myself for not blowing up the kitchen or destroying my taste buds. Yay!

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I do have a few new recipe to share with you, which I’m really excited about, but they will have to wait until tomorrow. I want to do the dish justice and tonight my creative juices simply aren’t flowing. More importantly, if I don’t discuss my repeats, I will forget that I made them!

At bf’s request, I made linguine with asparagus, peas, pancetta and a light cream sauce. To see the original post, go here.

Also, at bf’s request, I made bread pudding with chocolate. To see that recipe, go here. I added a little more chocolate this time and used chocolate chips rather than just chopped baking chocolate. It was (actually is, since we are still enjoying it) delicious!

Finally, I made Chicken Divan (but forgot to take a picture, oops!).

What are you favorite repeats?

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