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I Made A Lemon Layer Cake…There. Can I Hide Now?

A very happy happy much-needed Happy Sunday. Yes. We colored Easter eggs. Jealous?

Methinks it might be time to take another hiatus from the blog. I’m in serious need of a break from, well, everything. If I had it my way that break from everything would entail me burrowing into a hole made of downy blankets (a blanket fort, perhaps?) and only emerging upon hearing the words “you’re rich, you’re awesome, it’s a sunny 75 degrees outside and we’re going to a Glen Hansard show…with Glen Hansard.” I’m not even just saying any of this for dramatic effect. I’d very much like to go into hibernation mode for, oh, a couple of seasons or so. In fact, when my best friend asked me what I wanted to do after I told her about my dilemma, my answer was “hide.” When she asked me what else I wanted to do, I responded with “um…hide for a long time?” I believe that was the incorrect answer.

I’ve been under some serious stress lately. As I described to my best friend (poor girl basically got slammed with Shibow drama), I feel like I’m both totally stuck and going a mile a minute and the same exact time. Quarter life crisis returns! It must be an April thing.

Maybe you, dear readers, can help me. Allow me to post a series of questions that I hope at least one of you will be able to assist me in answering:

1. What am I meant to do with my life?

2. Where should I hide in case I no one comes up with the answer to #1?

3. Who the hell is Gotye?

4. Does anyone know anyone who’s really good at cutting curly hair? And I don’t mean kind of good or “here’s what Google says.” I mean, do you have curly hair and did you go to an awesome hairdresser and do you now look like a ringlet-covered goddess?

5. Seriously, can someone help me figure out what to DO with my life?

As I’ve said before, it’s not as if something big and bad has happened recently. I’m just Sad Shibow, and I’m not having fun. Oh, one more question:

6. WHAT IS FUN????

Yeah, so, I just need to snap out of it, I guess. And anyway, just because I’m sad doesn’t mean Easter doesn’t exist and doesn’t require some baked goods. For an Easter Sunday party at my cousin’s new [beautiful!] digs, I decided to whip up a lemon layer cake with lemon curd and blueberries. Now, as you can probably see if you’ve clicked on the link, this is a Martha Stewart recipe. I need to be honest: I’m not a huge fan of this lady. It’s not a Stamos-level hatred or anything. It’s more of a fear. A suspicion. And to be honest, after you see how this cake turned out, I think you’ll agree that my feelings toward her are justified.

Lemon Layer Cake That Does Not Have As Many Layers As You’d Expect It To

For the cake

1 1/4 cups of all purpose flour

1 tablespoon of baking powder

1/2 teaspoon of salt

1/2 cup plus two tablespoons of granulated sugar

1/2 cup of skim milk

1/3 cup of canola oil

1 1/2 teaspoons of vanilla extract

Zest of one lemon, plus one tablespoon of fresh lemon juice

4 egg whites

1 tablespoon of confectioner’s sugar, optional

For the lemon curd

4 egg yolks, lightly beaten

Zest of half a lemon, plus half a cup of fresh lemon juice (the juice of about two and a half lemons…boy do I hope you have a juicer. I do not.)

1 1/3 cups of granulated sugar

1/3 cup of cornstarch

Pinch of salt

1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

1 1/2 cups of fresh blueberries

Preheat your oven to 350ºF, and grease two 8″ round cake pans. In a medium-sized bowl, sift together flour, baking powder and salt and set aside. In a larger bowl, whisk together 1/4 cup of your sugar, milk, oil, vanilla, lemon zest and lemon juice.

Now, in a bowl large enough to fit your egg whites, whip the whites with a hand or stand mixer until foamy, then slowly start to add the rest of your sugar until stiff peaks appear.

Add half of your dry mixture to the milk mixture and stir in until smooth. Add in half of the egg white mixture, then keep alternating between adding the dry mixture and the egg whites until everything’s incorporated. Divide the batter between your pans and bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 18 minutes. Let the cakes cool in their pans for about 10 minutes, then invert them onto a clean surface to cool completely.

Pre-baked. Spoiler alert: these barely rose at all. 😦

In the meantime, make your lemon curd. Place egg yolks in a medium heatproof bowl, and set aside. In a medium saucepan, whisk together lemon zest, sugar, cornstarch and salt. Add in the lemon juice plus 1 1/2 cups of water, stir until sugar has dissolved, and crank the heat on your stove up to medium-high. Bring to a boil, and keep whisking. Cook for about two minutes, then reduce the heat to medium-low. Slowly pour about one-third of your lemon mixture into the bowl of egg yolks. Basically, you’re tempering your yolks so that you don’t end up with scrambled egg lemon curd. If that’s your thing though, go for it. Also, if that’s your thing…gross. Add this mixture back into your saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring all the while, for about 3 more minutes. Remove the mixture from heat, stir in your vanilla, and place in a heatproof bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and cool completely, for at least an hour and for as long as a day. When cooled, stir in your blueberries.

Just so you know, I am so damn happy I know how to make lemon curd now. It's delicious. I'm putting it on everything.

Now, to assemble this beast.  I’m getting a little bit of anxiety just typing this right now. In fact, I’ve been avoiding it for a while because my creation– at first– turned out to be a disappointment. First, the cakes were not nearly as thick as they should have been. They were pretty flat, and there was no way that I could think of to slice them in half to be even thinner. I pouted for a while before enlisting the help of my boyfriend who, bless him, pretty much has surgeon’s hands and likely would have been able to perfectly halve this thing in a sandstorm.

Oh, but dear readers, guess what else I discovered? Not only is the man good with cutting up the cake. It turns out he’s a master decorator as well.

Yes, I did leave this to him.

And, at the risk of embarrassing him, let me tell you that he got pretty into this. I could not stop repeatedly thanking him and saying “you made it pretty. It was ugly…and then you made it pretty.” Dude’s got talent.

Anyway, I should probably tell you how to do this and quit the fawning. Fawning’s lame. So, cut each cake horizontally in half, or, you know, find someone who can do this and still keep your cake intact. Spread a thick coating of curd over the bottom layer, then stack until you’re at the top. Smooth out any messy bits, and top with a dusting of confectioner’s sugar, or spread a bit more lemon curd on top and add a few blueberries. (This was the man’s brilliant idea.)

I don’t have a better picture of this cake than this, mostly because I walked away as it was being decorated because I was bummed at how flat it turned out. Everyone seemed to really love it at Easter, and we even took a piece home that very, very quickly disappeared. So even though it wasn’t as plump or easy to work with as I would have liked, and even though I’m convinced Ms. Stewart sabotaged me somehow, we ended up with a pretty lovely dessert. Seems like you got got, MS.

Desserts with Fruit Easy Baking Puddings

Are You Feeling Romantic? Are You Also Feeling Really Lazy? Do You Have Some Lemons? Well Then Can You Get Some?

I have been BEAT lately. I can’t even explain why. Well, maybe I can. It’s spring again, finally, which means that we can put our Happy Light away (yes we have one, yes it rules) and I can look forward to at least three months of swollen eyelids, multiple sneezes and PEONIES! God I love peonies. They almost make up for the two other crappy things that this season will bring me. Sigh.


So, even though I am almost completely and inexplicably wiped, mama needs her sugar. Literally, I may actually NEED sugar. In fact, I’ve been thinking of going on a week-long sugar strike just to see how dependent I am on it. I told my boyfriend my plan and he laughed at me. Then I laughed at myself and shoved a handful of chocolate into my mouth. It’s all very, very sad.

Oh, who am I kidding? No it’s not sad! It’s awesome! I love chocolate, and chocolate loves me. In fact, upon hearing that dark chocolate, my personal favorite, has been proven to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, I skipped around the apartment yelling “I’m never going to die! I’m NEVER going to die!” I know I am asking to be crushed by an air conditioner while strolling down 5th avenue or something by saying that. I just hope that AC’s smothered in chocolate.

So, while bumming around last Saturday and itching to bake something easy and sweet (duh), I came upon this recipe. Luckily, I like to laugh at suggested serving sizes, at least as they apply to desserts, so I made this particular easy peasy treat in two 6 ounce ramekins. I also made a few other changes to allow for the simplest, most lemony, tangy, fancy pantsy date night dessert.

Lemon Chiffon Pudding (let’s be real homies, this thing makes two servings)

3 1/2 tablespoons of all-purpose flour

1/3 cup of turbinado sugar

1/3 cup of brown sugar

2 tablespoons of softened butter

Juice of one and a half lemons, strained

2 beaten egg yolks

2/3 cup of skim milk

2 egg whites

Lemon zest and extra brown sugar for sprinkling on top, optional but I’m pretty much going to force you to do it if you ever make this in my presence

Blueberries for decorating if you’re a sap, and I’m a sap

Preheat the oven to 350ºF. In a large bowl, sift together the flour and sugars, then stir in the butter, lemon juice, egg yolks and milk until smooth. I’d recommend using a hand mixer on medium speed when incorporating the wet ingredients into the dry.

In a separate bowl, using your cleaned hand mixer, beat the egg whites on high speed until fluffy and light peaks start to form. This should only take a minute or two. Stir the whites into the rest of the mixture and fold until just combined.

Now, I know what you’re saying: Sad Shibow, why do I have to do all that extra business with the egg whites? I’m not trying to have bowls and bowls of dirtiness that I’m going to have to soap and wash later! Well, I say back to you: gosh you’re whiny. Shall I bust out my tiny violin for you? Also, the fluffing of the whites is what allows for the chiffon-iness of this dessert. There. You’re welcome.

Divide the mixture evenly between your two ramekins, then sprinkle the tops with a little lemon zest and some sugar. Fill a large baking dish with some hot water and set the ramekins in it. Send into the oven for 30 minutes, until the tops just start to get golden and the mixture barely jiggles when you shake the dish a little. Serve warm or cold. I’ve had it both ways. It’s awesome both ways.

Geez. Which cheeseball made those hearts? Ugh. So not adorable.

Somehow the blueberries these were topped with formed themselves into a heart. Isn’t that nuts how they just did that to themselves like that? Mushballs.

Now, the really wonderful thing about this particular pudding is that it separates while it bakes. The top layer becomes cake-y, and there’s a nice, thick, surprisingly tangy layer of lemon pudding below. These are well worth much more effort than they actually took.  Believe me when I say these will be in heavy rotation. Sugar strikes be damned!

Yep. I’m a lost cause.


Lemon Ricotta Muffins…Because I Never Use Ricotta

Every few weeks I convince myself that it’s time to put my big girl pants on and cook myself some actual meals. I make a pretty mean turkey burger, and have thrown some grade-A dinner parties, if I do say so myself…and I do. But I am a creature of habit, and unless I’m dining out, I am happy to eat the same five things every week, as long as one of those things involves peanut butter and another involves chocolate. So I’m not really sure why I bought a massive tub of ricotta cheese. I think I was intending to whip up a pasta dish of some variety, but I live alone and therefore cook for a party of one, and this particular eater is not a huge fan of the ricotta in the pasta. I’m pretty sure it was on sale and I am aspiring to be on Extreme Couponing. Man those ladies are clever.

So, the ricotta was due to meet its maker soon. Wait…that doesn’t really apply I guess, because the ricotta was going to expire and hit the trash can, not meet the cow from whence it came. Whatever…I just needed to use it because I hate wasting things. While browsing through some cookbooks on my shelf, I found a recipe for Lemon Ricotta Muffins in a copy of Good Housekeeping Great Baking: 600 Recipes for Cakes, Cookies, Breads, Pies and Pastries. 600! You will totally be seeing more recipes from this book. Anyway, I happened to have every ingredient needed at my disposal, and, if you’re a fan of ricotta (or cottage, which works as a nice sub), you probably do too.

I also tweaked this recipe just a bit, because I am stubborn/cool like that.

Here’s the original recipe, with my humble suggestions in parentheses. You’ll end up with a dozen delicious muffins.

2 cups of all-purpose flour

1/2 cup of granulated sugar (I used 1/4 cup of brown sugar and 1/4 cup of granulated white because the brown sugar has a richer taste to it), plus 2 tablespoons of brown or white sugar for sprinkling

2 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder

1 teaspoon of salt

1 cup of ricotta cheese (mine was part-skim)

1/3 cup of milk

6 tablespoons of melted butter (I melted it in the microwave in 15-second increments)

2 eggs (I used 1 whole egg and 1 egg white)

2 teaspoons freshly grated lemon zest

Preheat your oven to 400°F and grease your muffin tin. That is not a euphemism. Really, grease the tin.

In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, sugar and salt. In a separate bowl, mix together ricotta, milk, melted butter, eggs and lemon peel. Now, I know the recipe says to use two teaspoons of the zest, but as I have mentioned before, I am messy and have no idea how to measure this out properly without wasting zest. I went a little bit nuts and probably added more, which turned out to be a really great thing. I say zest at your leisure. My lemon ended up with a couple of bald spots.

Mid-zesting. It has a fade! I probably zested about half of this one.

Now, make a well in the middle of your dry mixture, and pour in your ricotta mix. It’s not going to be a pretty, perfect well, so don’t fret. Stir the mixtures together just until all of the flour has been moistened. You should end up with something that looks a little lumpy and smells very lemon-y. Yum.

My lovely lemon lumps. Inappropriate! Please don't flag this post.

Divide the mixture evenly among the cups of your muffin tin. Sprinkle your remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar (I used brown)  over the cups and bake for 20 to 22 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean and the muffins are golden brown. Remove them from the pan as soon as you’re able to without inflicting third-degree burns on yourself. I mean, these are good, but nothing’s worth a trip to the burn unit. Really though, these should be served warm. If you’re not going to eat them right away, microwave them before serving. Also, you can freeze them for your inevitable and eventual muffin craving.

Your (well, my, unless you feel like coming over) finished product.

In my humble opinion, these were outstanding, and pretty filling. To make them even more filling and up the fiber content, you could replace half of the all-purpose flour with whole-wheat flour. See, I care about your health! You’re welcome.