Category Archives: Cake

Hummingbird Cake for Alice’s 87th Birthday

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Today is my Sous-chef Dish-washing mom’s 87th birthday! I am thrilled  to dedicate this blog post to her. She was born in 1931 during the Great Depression and her mother and father lived in Omaha, Nebraska. Her father died when she was young and she and her sister, Mary, were taken to an orphanage shortly afterwards. She spent many years in the Nebraska Children’s Home orphanage being adopted when she was 9. Even though her 87 years have dealt her many ups and downs you would never know it by her daily attitude of smiles, love, and gratitude.

She raised three sons and one wonderful daughter! (Hey, I am writing this so it is my perspective!😜 ) However, there are many, many others who call her “mom.” It doesn’t matter where we go she becomes the resident mom! All of my friends know her name is Alice but everyone chooses mom.  The name fits perfectly and looks awesome on her!

Even though she has been a Christian throughout her life, in 2011 she began studying the Bible in-depth through Community Bible Study.   At 80-years-old she let the Word of God totally transform her.  In 2014 she was diagnosed with breast cancer and she persevered through 2 surgeries and radiation treatment with a strength and attitude that she credits coming from her faith in God.  Not once did she question her situation with a “why me?”  As a matter of fact, she was usually comforting and giving encouragement to others going through the same thing.

My brother Michael and his wife Kay drove from Lee’s Summit Missouri on Sunday to surprise her.   We had made an elaborate plan that included taking her to Pigeon Forge, Tennessee for her birthday week.  You know what they say about the best-laid plans of mice and men!  Last week an almost 87-year-old tooth abscessed and the process of getting that fixed has derailed travel this week.

But that didn’t stop us from celebrating her birthday Sunday evening before Michael and Kay left for East Tennessee without us!  My brother John and his wife Jeanne participated from afar as we gifted mom with some green stuff to go shopping!  It looks like Michael got the giggles watching mom blow out the candles!

As I am writing this blog post she received this lovely floral arrangement from dear friends, Catherine and Russ.  I couldn’t resist a quick photo!

Now … on to the cake! When the latest Southern Living magazine arrived I immediately knew I wanted a Hummingbird Cake for mom’s birthday.

First of all, she is enthralled with hummingbirds and much of our spring is spent waiting for them to arrive.  In the summer we watch them daily and in the fall we sadly say goodbye.

Mom has even had her great-grandkids on hummingbird watch!  All winter my hummingbird-watching mom wonders if they will be back in the spring!

Last fall my Chief Dessert Tester and I decided to cut out most sugar in our diets by cutting out desserts.  (I know!  Me? No sugar?)  So, I knew if I started baking a cake she would know something was up.  That is when I asked my neighbor and blogging partner, Abby Hughes to make the Southern Living Hummingbird Cake.  Abby is an accomplished chef, baker, and extremely good friend.  Quickly she said “sure!”

Abby made the cake and secretly brought it over the night before Michael and Kay arrived.  Whew!  Mom didn’t suspect a thing!

Since the Hummingbird Cake recipe originally ran in 1978, it has become the most requested recipe in Southern Living history.  Besides the usual suspects of flour, sugar, and eggs, this cake includes oil instead of butter, giving it an almost quick-bread like texture.  Undrained, crushed pineapple adds flavor and keeps the batter moist.  Chopped bananas are a surprise ingredient.  But the real southern flavor comes from the toasted, chopped pecans! Yum!  A cream cheese frosting is the perfect covering.  Abby added her own flair with edible glitter!  Beautiful and tasty!

The updated recipe is found here and includes a quick video that shows how easy it is to make this from-scratch cake!

1976 Paulsen Family Photo! Left to Right, Steve, Cathy, Dale, Mike, Alice, and John

With each passing year, we thank God for the life of our mother and father.  This year is no different when we remember our father and our brother Steve who have gone to Heaven before us.

This was our 2014 family reunion photo from Fort Robinson Nebraska.  We look forward to another reunion this summer.  We love you, mom!

Happy Birthday mom and many more!

Love and blessings,
~Catherine

 

Take the Cake

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Christmas is quickly approaching!  And you know what that means!?  Party time!  Christmas parties and potlucks are some of my favorite get-togethers of the whole year, but there’s always the question of what to bring.  No one wants to be the person whose dish doesn’t get eaten. So how do you know what will be popular?  My advice, bring a classic.  Stick to the normal crowd pleasers and then dress them up in their Christmas best!  I know time is always an issue, so here are some of my favorite simple treats for potlucks that I’ve found on Pinterest. Whether you’re hosting or just attending, these are guaranteed to get gone.

However, if you’re looking for something a little fancier, keep reading.

My mom’s birthday was right before Thanksgiving, and I made her a classic chocolate cake with whipped ganache.  I found the inspiration on, you guessed it, Pinterest, and was able to easily recreate it!  The design looks elaborate but is really very simple. It would make a stunning dessert for Christmas dinner.  Here is the Pinterest picture I found.So here’s what I did.  I’ll be willing to bet most of you already have a killer chocolate cake recipe, so I won’t bore you with mine, but I would recommend jazzing it up with espresso or your favorite liquor (I used Bailey’s Irish Cream).  I filled and iced the layers with a traditional whipped ganache (also flavored with Bailey’s), and then covered it with a soft ganache. After that, I simply piped rosettes and topped them with my favorite Lindor chocolate truffles.

The tricky part was the basket in the middle.  This cake would still be spectacular without it, but it does add a very dazzling showpiece. I had never made a basket like this before and was able to get it on the first try.  It really isn’t as complicated as It looks.  I know you can do it if you have time!

You make the baskets by drizzling melted almond bark (or tempered chocolate if you’re brave) over some air-filled water balloons (I happened to have those on hand because I’m a child) and set them up in some cups.  Put those babies in the freezer to chill, then just pop the balloons.  Tips! Make sure you POP the ballon instead of letting the air slowly seep out.  I did that at first and it made the chocolate break because it was too slow.  You just gotta rip it out like a band-aid.  Also, make more than one.  Even I, being the culinary genius that I am, make lots of mistakes. 😉 I think at least two of the four that I made broke.

After you finish decorating, cut the cake with a HOT knife to get those beautiful, picture-perfect slices.

Well, there it is!  I hope you can wow your friends with this fabulous cake! Merry Christmas!

Abby Hughes

Soft Ganache
 
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This ganache is very versatile. Great for icing cakes or making into truffles. This recipe will ice one 8-inch cake.
Author:
Cuisine: Dessert
Serves: 16 oz.
Ingredients
  • 8 oz. Chopped Dark Chocolate (or chips)
  • 8 oz. Heavy Cream
  • 1 tsp. Vanilla Flavoring
Instructions
  1. Heat heavy cream to simmer in a saucepan. Be careful not to scorch.
  2. Remove from heat and add chocolate.
  3. Let sit for 3-4 minutes before stirring.
  4. Add vanilla and stir until smooth.
  5. Pour over cake while warm. If making truffles, refrigerate till firm and roll into balls. Cover with chocolate or cocoa powder.

 
Whipped Ganache
 
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Use as an icing or filling.
Author:
Recipe type: icing
Cuisine: dessert
Serves: 24 oz.
Ingredients
  • 16 oz. Heavy Cream
  • 8 oz. Chopped Dark Chocolate or Chocolate Chips
  • Vanilla Flavoring
Instructions
  1. Put cream in a heavy saucepan. Heat to simmer. Be careful not to scorch.
  2. Remove from heat and add chocolate.
  3. Let sit for 3-4 minutes before stirring.
  4. Add vanilla and stir until smooth. Refrigerate until completely cooled.
  5. Whip till stiff peaks.
  6. Use to ice cakes or as a sweet filling.

Candy Corn Popcorn Cake

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It’s that time of year when all things turn orange, and I am not just saying that because I live in the very orange state of Tennessee!

Recently we had some little-people visitors and I wanted to give them a treat before they left for home.  I was thinking of something not-too-sugary but still fun to eat!  I remembered this fun Popcorn cake I made a couple of years ago at Christmas.

This was the perfect combination with lots of popcorn held together with melted marshmallows.  Adding a few drops of orange food coloring turned this into a perfect autumn treat!

Popcorn and Marshmallow Cake!

I tossed in a small handful of candy corn to make it a true fall celebration!

Slice Up This Popcorn Cake!

This recipe is a fun kids-in-the-kitchen kind of treat.  It is easy and definitely a hands-on recipe kids like to make!   Let your imagination run wild with the possibilities for this dessert.

Have fun!
~Catherine

Click here for a few more details when making this cake!

Candy Corn Popcorn Cake
 
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Have some fun with a popcorn cake! Delicious, creamy, and so good!
Author:
Recipe type: Dessert, Snack
Cuisine: American
Serves: 12
Ingredients
  • 1 Angel Food Cake Pan
  • 1 Air Popcorn Popper
  • 10 oz. bag of mini-marshmallows
  • 5 Tablespoons of margarine*
  • ¾ cup candy corn (or more to taste)
  • 3 drops orange good coloring
Instructions
  1. Pop enough corn to over-fill the angel food cake pan. The popcorn will smoosh down with the marshmallow so use plenty of corn.
  2. Spray cake pan with non-stick oil.
  3. Melt margarine in a large microwave-safe bowl. Add mini-marshmallows. Microwave for 1 minute and stir. Marshmallows should be melted when stirred. If not, microwave a few more seconds.
  4. Add popped corn to the margarine/marshmallow mixture. Stir well.
  5. Stir in candy corn.
  6. Hand-pack the popcorn mixture into the angel food cake pan, pressing slightly to form the cake.
  7. Let cake sit until it is cooled and well-formed. Do not remove from cake pan too soon or it will fall apart when unmolded. Let sit at least 1 hour.
  8. When set, unmold on a cake plate. Sprinkle with additional candy corn if desired.
  9. This cake cuts best with an electric knife.
Notes
Let your imagination run wild! Add hot tamales, crushed candy canes, M&M's are all colorful and tasty additions!

Rice Krispie cereal can be used in place of popcorn.

*Butter can be used instead of margarine, but it is slightly more greasy.

 

Award-Winning Pralines and Cream Banana Pudding

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If you enter the National Banana Pudding contest and win third place instead of first place … is it still “Award-Winning” banana pudding?

It all started a long time ago when I moved from Nebraska to Tennessee.  Whenever talking food I would often hear …  “oh! Banana Pudding!  Yum!”  Then I tasted it in a restaurant and truly said, “yuck.” My Banana-pudding-lovin‘ husband said, “that isn’t true banana pudding.  The banana pudding in my memory is creamy, delicious and topped mile high with oven-browned meringue!”

That is when my sister-in-law, Liz, gave me Southern Living’s Banana Pudding recipe.  She said, “this is the one he is talking about.”  I made it and the rest is history.  These pictures are some of the most shared pictures on Pinterest and the recipe still receives a lot of views on this blog.

Last August (2016) my Chief Banana Pudding-Lovin’ Husband read about the National Banana Pudding Festival held every year in Centerville, Tennessee.   He said, “Catherine, you should enter your banana pudding recipe in the National Banana Pudding Festival Cook-off!”

I said, “Sorry darling, it has to be an original recipe and mine is from Southern Living!”

Without even missing one little beat he said, “well, tweak it and make it an original!”  I had just taken an Apple Praline Cake out of the oven and I had pralines and caramel thoughts dancing in my head!

Apple Praline Cake – Fall’s Delight!

I started researching what it takes to enter the contest and again I was stopped by the “original, non-published” requirement for the banana pudding recipe that I could submit.  However, The Chief continued to encourage me to get creative.  I let my fingers do the walking through  and was pleasantly surprised not to find any recipes for pralines and cream banana pudding.  So, I had my title, now I just needed to create a recipe.

Over the next month, my sous-chef dish-washing mom and my Chief Banana Pudding Eater sampled several versions of what would become my original recipe.  Each time they would say “Yeah!  this is the best one.”  I quickly learned they were not an objective source for my recipe because they loved them all!

Finally, I settled on a recipe and the night before the deadline, I emailed off the application and my original recipe.  Three days later I received the surprise call — my recipe was chosen and I was one of 10 finalists chosen for the cook-off to be held in October.

As the information settled on my brain I got to thinking how I don’t even like to watch Food Network challenge cooking shows because it makes me too nervous and hypes me up!  Cook-off? In front of judges?  On a stage, in front of people?  What in the world was I thinking?

My husband was thrilled, my sous-chef dish-washing mom was “all-in” for a trip to Centerville, Tennessee and I was … well, sorta numb.  I received information that they were providing a hotel room for us the night before and that I would need to arrive at 7:30 a.m. at the Festival.  The cook-off would begin at 9 a.m. with 5 cooks on stage at one time.  We had ONE HOUR to make our pudding, layer it, top it and finish it.  Oh, yes, and by the way, we needed to make TWO batches, one for the judges and audience to taste and the other to auction off to the highest bidder.

Setting up my work space!

The informational documents I received said each contestant would have a gas stove and oven to use. Perfect, I could make my pudding faster as long as I stirred like a crazy woman!  No problem, I was feeling quite crazy. If there was any part of the recipe I couldn’t make in the one-hour time frame, I could do prep work at home.  For my recipe, I made the pecan pralines ahead of time and brought them with me.

The stage was in a large open-air building with a solid wall behind the stage, but was open on the sides.  Chairs were set up in the middle for the audience to sit.  My position on the stage was first in a lineup of 5.  That was good, I felt like the corner gave me some extra moving around space.  I set up all my ingredients and utensils.

The Festival sponsors provided all the bananas and Nilla wafers that we needed.  Then I turned around to heat up the oven.  OH, MY GOODNESS!  Shock set in – the “stove and oven” was a little apartment size that actually was heated with propane, not natural gas. I don’t know the technical part of heating with propane vs. natural gas but I do know that propane doesn’t heat as quickly or efficiently.  The day was a bit windy and when I turned on the stove the flames skirted off to the side a little bit.  The oven seemed to be heating up okay.

Display I set up to showcase my pudding for the judges.

Little did I know when I started that the pudding was going to be very difficult to cook.  My pan was larger than the burner on the stove.  Trouble.  One of the judges approached me and began chatting as my hour began.  Trouble.  The flames were blowing to the side instead of heating up the bottom of my pot.  Trouble.

Fast forward one hour.  Two puddings were done, layered with bananas, Nilla wafers, pecan pralines, topped with meringue and baked.  I was given table space to display them. I had designed my space to hopefully grab some attention.  The clock ticked, the bell rang.  It was over.

At home, the pudding took 10 to 12 minutes to cook on my induction stove.  The propane-fired miniature stove took 30 minutes of stir time to make my pudding.  In the end, I added some extra flour and sugar attempting to thicken the pudding quicker.  The pudding ended up grain and not as creamy as I would have liked.

At one point I held the electric mixer in one hand beating the meringue while layering the bananas, Nilla wafers and pudding with the other hand.  I had to of looked out of control and I certainly felt that way.

All-in-all it was a fun experience.  I didn’t know I was going to be given a hand-made pottery “pudding pot” as part of my 3rd place prize package.  That pudding pot made it all worth it!  I love it.

I don’t want to do it again.  However, I have tweaked my recipe a little bit since that time.  The recipe I am sharing with you is the “tweaked” version and we agree, it’s our favorite!

Pralines and Caramel Banana Pudding

If you’ve never made banana pudding, it is fun to do and guarantees rave reviews.  If you have made it, you may want to try this version because the caramel flavoring and pecan pralines send it over-the-top on the flavor scale.

Happy Cooking!
~ Catherine

P.S.  Another best part — my sweet banana-pudding-lovin’ husband washed up all my pots and pans at the Festival.  ❤️


Award-Winning Pralines and Caramel Banana Pudding
 
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No matter where you take this bowl of banana pudding, it will return empty! My original recipe won 3rd place at the National Banana Pudding Festival in 2016. In this version, I added caramel flavoring which only served to improve the over-all recipe.
Author:
Recipe type: Dessert
Cuisine: Southern
Serves: 12-16
Ingredients
Praline Pecans
  • 1 cup whole pecans
  • ¼ cup packed light brown sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons heavy cream
  • ½ tsp. caramel flavoring
Pudding
  • ⅔ cup white sugar
  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 (14 oz.) can of sweetened condensed milk
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 4 large eggs, separated
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 2 tsp. caramel flavoring
  • 1 (11 oz.) packaged of vanilla wafers
  • 4 bananas, sliced (dipped in lemon water or sprinkled with fruit fresh)
  • 1 teaspoon banana extract
  • ⅓ cup sugar
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. F.
  2. In a medium bowl combine whole pecans, brown sugar, cream, and caramel flavoring. Mix well coating the pecans evenly. Spread onto a baking sheet, sprayed lightly with cooking spray. Bake in the preheated oven for about 20 minutes or until the coating is dry and slightly crystallized, stirring at least once. Remove from oven to cool and break apart any pieces that are sticking together. Set aside.
To make pudding
  1. Combine ⅔ cup sugar, flour, and salt in a heavy saucepan. In a separate bowl whisk together condensed milk, whole milk, and egg yolks; stir into the dry ingredients. Cook over medium heat, whisking constantly until smooth and thickened. Use the largest whisk you have to stir while cooking the pudding. This usually takes 10 to 15 minutes, but really depends on your stove or heat source.
  2. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla extract and caramel flavoring. Cool the pudding at this point on the counter until just barely warm.
  3. Using a 2 to 3-quart baking dish, arrange ⅓ of the wafers in the bottom of the dish, laying each one flat. Layer 2 sliced bananas over the wafers. Pour ½ of the pudding mixture over the wafer and banana layer. Repeat with a second layer ending with pudding on top.
  4. Beat egg whites on high speed with an electric mixer until foamy. Add banana extract. Continue beating at high speed, adding ⅓ cup sugar just one tablespoon at a time. Continue to beat until egg whites are very stiff.
  5. Spread egg white mixture over the pudding, sealing it up against the edge of the bowl. Arrange remaining wafers around the outside of the dish. Dot around the edge with praline pecans.
  6. Bake at 375 degrees for 10 minutes or until golden brown.
  7. Drizzle with caramel ice cream topping if desired. Serve pudding warm at room temperature, or refrigerate and serve cold. Enjoy!
Notes
Note: This pudding will fit a 9” x 13” baking dish or a 2 or 3-quart dish.
Also – be sure and use sweetened condensed milk and NOT evaporated milk!