Baking for Birthright Israel NEXT Shabbat

I hosted a picnic in Alta Plaza park in San Francisco via Birthright Israel NEXT Shabbat. It’s a great program that allows alumni to host Shabbat meals and get reimbursed based on the number of people that attend the event (up to 16 people). This was my second Shabbat meal this year. This time I got catered food from Beautifull and made cupcakes. The cupcakes I made were chocolate and vanilla marbled cake, with vanilla frosting as well as some topped with slivered almonds covered in cinnamon sugar.

I’ve got a feeling that SHABBAT’s gonna be a good night…

The title of this post inspired by this video…I am hosting a Shabbat Dinner tonight and it’s gonna be a good night. The dinner will be paid for by the Birthright Israel NEXT team. I am making vegetable matzo ball soup, roasted chicken, lasagna, some veggie sides, and of course, some awesome dessert including a pumpkin pie and chocolate cake. Recipes are either from Gourmet or Bon Appetit magazine or from other blogs or from my mother’s old recipes. (click on links for more information) This is the first dinner I am hosting, and hopefully not my last.

thanks to Rob, Zoe, Staci, Jason, Michele, Peter, and Aaron for making this night a special Shabbat to remember!

Homemade “Funfetti” Cake

For those of you who don’t know what Funfetti is:

Since I needed a good way to use up the sprinkles that were given to me after the  holiday cookie party my friend had about a week ago, I decided to make a Funfetti cake. I used a basic yellow cake/vanilla cake recipe and added the sprinkles typically found in the cake batter-the “crunchy” bigger ones…if you do know Funfetti cakes…you know what I’m talking about…if you don’t know…go to your local grocery store and pick up a box. Now, I would not normally say that Pillsbury makes good products, or that you should make cake from a box, but I see it as the Kraft Mac ‘n Cheese of cake. (Not that I would advise to buy/eat that either) but my point is that it is a cake that I grew up knowing from attending various birthday parties. It’s all about the nostalgia for this overly sugared cake.

Anyway, I made the frosting from scratch as well, and used blue (smaller, sugary) sprinkles to help “dye” it green because it is the holidays after all. Then I frosted and added the final layer of sprinkles. Like I said before, a sugary cake (typically made for kids). Continue reading

cinnamon buns

I am starting to work on using up my leftovers. This week I used some of the vanilla instant pudding mix for the dough for these cinnamon buns.

I can’t remember where I got the recipe from, but it makes a lot of really good dough. It is a super easy recipe, but it is a little bit sticky. But why make cinnamon buns if you don’t want to get a little bit sticky?

Continue reading

sugar cookies

Yesterday, I made sugar cookies for the last day of Hanukkah party I helped Benjie host. I made two different recipes, one was (I think) the recipe from the back of the Domino’s sugar bag, and is a regular sugar cookie recipe, which used only white granulated sugar. The other one I have saved from Gourmet magazine, and it is a brown sugar cookie recipe. The first one can be rolled and shaped and cut out and decorated. The other can be scooped, and is more like a chocolate chip cookie dough recipe without the chocolate chips. I decorated with sprinkles and blue icing. Many people like to use royal icing for decorating cookies, but with everything else going on for the party (we made latkes, too) I didn’t want to make royal icing. However, I will include the recipe just in case you want it for your sugar cookies. The royal icing is from A Field Guide To Cookies, which is written by another food blogger; her site is called Dessert First.

So, here are the recipes, in order they were mentioned:

1 tsp. baking soda

2 cups sifted flour

1/2 tsp. salt

2/3 cup butter

1 tsp. vanilla

3/4 cup sugar or 1- 1/2 cups sugar

1 egg

Heat oven to 375º. Sift together the dry ingredients; set aside. Cream together butter and vanilla. Add either 3/4 cup sugar or 1-1/2 cups for chewy cookies. Beat in the egg. Gradually stir in the dry ingredients. Chill thoroughly in the refrigerator. Lightly grease cookie sheet. Roll out and cut to desired shapes. You can add sprinkles right into the dough, and/or you can add sprinkles to the top of the cookies. The colder the dough, the easier it is to handle. Bake 10-12 minutes. Cool on rack. Makes 1-1/2 dozen large cookies.

(Almond) Brown sugar cookies (from Gourmet magazine)

1-1/2 cups flour

1/4 tsp. baking soda

1/4 tsp. salt

1 stick butter, softened

1 cup packed brown sugar

1 large egg

1 tsp. pure vanilla extract

(1/2 cup whole blanched almonds = 2-1/2 oz)

Whisk together dry ingredients. Beat butter and brown sugar in a large bowl. Add in egg and vanilla. Mix in flour mixture. (Stir in almonds) Roll into logs and chill or freeze dough or scoop onto baking sheets. If you rolled the dough into logs, you will slice the dough less than 1/8 inch thick. If you scooped them, use the back of a wet spoon or wet the palm of your hand, and press down. Bake cookies 12-15 minutes. Cool on racks. Makes 100 to 120 sliced cookies. I think I made about 12-18 3 inch scooped cookies.

Royal Icing

2 egg whites

1 Tbs. lemon juice

3 cups powdered sugar

food coloring

Whisk all ingredients except for the coloring in a clean bowl on high speed. They should be shiny and an opaque white. It should be a glue-like consistency. Divide into bowls and mix in the coloring as desired. Keep covered with a damp towel so it does not dry out.

So, those are the recipes for sugar cookies and royal icing for decorating. I really liked the brown sugar cookies, and I think that was everyone’s favorite as well.

Happy Holidays and Happy New Year! (though I am sure I’ll bake something else before New Year’s.)


Since I haven’t worked in a bakery, or have done any cake decorating since I graduated school, I decided it was time to practice my piping skills again. So, I made some cupcakes to give me a nice “canvas” for my decorating skills.

I only had a large pastry bag, so I was only able to use the star tip and the bigger size of the straight tip that I have, but still, some practice is better than none. I used a combination of the “shell” design and the “pearl” design for these cupcakes.

Next time, I will have another bag that I can use with my smaller tips, and I will practice making buttercream roses, and other flowers. I will also get some food coloring, so there will be no boring, really ugly, brownish chocolate frosting.

Also, now that I have a piping bag, I can make other desserts that require piping, such as eclairs, and macaroons. I also just bought some new cake and tart pans that I can’t wait to try!

yellow cake and chocolate: two ways

Since I now have a job (although a temporary one) I am on somewhat of a regular schedule, and I want to blog regularly, so I am going to bake either Mondays or Wednesdays (during the dinner and movie nights that Benjie and I have) or both, if I am feeling up to the challenge, and then blog about what I bake either Monday evening, (before trivia night!) or Thursday during the day. These next couple of weeks will be busy with High Holy Day celebrations (Rosh Hashanah-The Jewish New Year and Yom Kippor-the Day of Atonement), but I think I can still make it work. Today, I made “yellow cake” (known in the professional baking world as sponge cake or vanilla cake) and finished them off with chocolate in two different ways.

1. traditional cake: vanilla cake with chocolate frosting. I don’t have a cake wheel (again, something to add to the birthday wish list) so I didn’t cut the cake in half and fill it with frosting, but I did the Suzie-homemaker version, and just iced the top and sides of the cake. so, nothing that special to blog about.

2. non-traditional: cake balls. I used the crumbs of the second cake (or, rather, made cake crumbs with the second cake) and leftover frosting from the first cake to make the balls. Then I made chocolate powdered sugar with unsweetened baker’s chocolate and powdered sugar. I rolled the cake balls in this mix. a very rich, moist, way to eat cake.
not goin’ to lie, I did use a cake mix, and pre-made frosting, because I was feeling kinda lazy, and didn’t feel like going shopping for all of the ingredients for making cake from scratch. but, of course, all of this can be done from scratch, and will be just as tasty.  therefore, I feel like it is unnecessary to explain the first cake much further, because I just followed the directions on the box. However, I will share with you the steps I took to make the cake balls in a little more detail.
Cake Balls: 
1. Create cake crumbs from any kind of cake you want to make (I suggest a moist cake, such as sponge cake) this should be fairly easy, especially if you start with a warm cake. You can get all fancy and technical with a food processor, and make really nice cake crumbs, but I just used my hands.
2. I put the rest of the frosting in the bowl with the cake crumbs and mixed them together, again, by hand. (of course, you can use any frosting flavor that matches the flavor of the cake that is being used)
3. Roll the mixture into balls. (Again, you can get fancy and make all of your cake balls the same size by using a scoop.)

4. Make the chocolate powdered sugar. I used unsweetened baker’s chocolate, that I melted and added powdered sugar to it. (2 ounces of chocolate, and about 3/4 cups of sugar) To make things easier, I added the sugar 1/4 cup at a time. The result that I got, since, again, I just mixed by hand, (and when I say “by hand” I really mean with a spoon or spatula, or whatever is appropriate in the situation, rather than something electrical.) was a bowl of small chocolatey-sugary balls. (see picture)

5. Roll the cake balls in the chocolate powdered sugar.

6. Have your “non-traditional” cake. (and share it, too!-ah ha!-a reference to the blog title!)