Strawberry Cake with Cream Cheese Buttercream Frosting

My husband's thirtieth birthday was yesterday.  He requested a very specific cake for the occasion, a strawberry cake with cream cheese frosting.  I'm pretty sure that Jeff wouldn't care if I made it with a box mix and frosting from a can, but I just couldn't live with myself if I did that.  Gross.
This baby is from scratch, and I'm really happy with the results.
The recipes I used are from two different sources.  The Kitchn and Martha Stewart's website. 

Strawberry Cake 

(adapted from thekitchn.com)

makes 2 8" round layers

1/2 cup shortening
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 eggs
2 1/4 cups flour
1 tsp salt
3 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/4 cups whole milk
1 strawberry Jell-O packet (3 oz)
1/2 10-oz package of strawberries, slightly thawed and pureed
Preheat the oven to 325°F. Grease two 8" round cake pans with butter or baking spray and dust with flour.  Make sure to tap out the excess.
Cream the shortening and the sugar together in the bowl of an electric stand mixer.  Add the remaining ingredients in order starting with the eggs.  Mix for 30 seconds at a low speed and then high for 3 minutes.  The batter will be the consistency of thick, melted strawberry ice cream. 
Pour into the cake pans and bake for 35-40 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.
Cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes, then flip each pan over onto the rack, tapping gently to remove the cakes. 
Let the cakes cool completely before frosting.

Cream Cheese 

Buttercream Frosting 

(adapted from MarthaStewart.com)

2 (8 oz) packages of cream cheese at room temp
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter at room temp
1 (2 lb) bag of confectioners' sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract (I prefer clear in this application)

Place cream cheese and butter in the bowl of your electric stand mixer.  Beat with the paddle attachment until creamy, about 30 seconds.
Add sugar in parts, using a spatula to scraped down the sides of the bowl as needed.
Add vanilla and mix at a medium speed until fluffy.  (I prefer to use my whisk attachment for this so I can add a bit of air for extra fluffiness)
(This recipe will most likely make more frosting than you'll, but it's better safe than sorry.  It's pretty tasty on graham crackers, I promise.)


The Unitasker


The "Unitasker," a word coined by the infamous Mr Alton Brown.  This word has become a part of my every day vocabulary... just don't look it up in the Websters Dictionary.  Tonight as I was making dinner I realized that even though Alton frowns upon many unitaskers, there are so many I couldn't live without.  So, in "Lauren" fashion, I thought I'd write up a little list of my favorites.

The Unitasking Loves of My Culinary Life

My Garlic Press:  
I'm sorry, but smashing your garlic with the side of your knife just seems violent.  That, and all the good garlicy juice stays on your "smashing" surface.  You shalt not waste garlicy juices is the 11th commandment.

My Tongs:  
Well, you could argue that this isn't really a unitasker, but it could be.  A good pair of tongs is vital in my kitchen.  I use it for the grill, to dress pasta, to toss salad... everything.

My Wine Key: 
'Nuff said.

My Mortar and Pestle:  
There is something so satisfying about crushing spices with a marble mortar and pestle.  Did you have a bad day at work?  Crush some star anise with this baby and everything will be better.  Promise.

My Splatter Screen:  
Save yourself some cleaning time and buy a splatter screen.  No joke.

My Pizza Stone:  
I usually leave my stone in the oven.. mostly because I forget it's in there....  But anyway, I'll never ever make a pizza without it, even a crappy frozen one.  It can be used for other things besides pizza, but who cares.

My Cherry Pitter:
Try to pit three pounds of fresh cherries without one.  I dare you.

My Zester:
It seriously changed my culinary life. Seriously.

Do you have a favorite unitasker?


DIY: Hummus


Woah!  I'm back?  Well, really I'm on vacation and blogging just seemed like the sort of thing you do on vacation.  Anyway.  This is my take on Hummus.  It's completely DIY and a little rough around the edges, but who cares when it tastes so good?  


I Bet Yah Didn't Know: The Fork

West Elm

I have to admit, I love useless knowledge.  For some reason, amazing someone with a "Did you know" line is super fun.  Whatevs, I'm a dork.  

Today I found an article originally posted on the Under the Tuscan Gun.  It's all about the fork, an object which is commonplace in our society and often taken for granted.  But, did you know it hasn't been around that long?   Read the article for yourself!

Happy Tuesday


Quick Bites: Bacon Wrapped Water Chestnuts


Every once in awhile something awesome happens.  In this case KU made it to the Final Four.  (And they said they couldn't do it.. tisk tisk).  So tonight DH and I are headed to a friends' new photo studio to watch the game on their big projector.  

Anyway, I thought I'd contribute to the party.  I made some bacon wrapped water chestnuts.  They're SO quick it's ridiculous.  


Food for Thought: Pink Slime

Source: google.com via Mc on Pinterest

You've all seen the photo before.  Pink goo coming out a spout like soft serve ice cream.  Everyone who sees this responds with shock and disgust, but I wonder, do these people actually do something about it? I'm not talking about protesting, just actively deciding what you're going to put into your body.   I am in no way a "food saint", my vice is diet pop of all sorts and I'm honestly ashamed of that.  Every once in awhile I come across articles and news reports that puts it all into perspective.  You only get one body and you should take care of it as best as you can.  Check out this news report below. 

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The big question to me is, do you want to risk your health to save a buck?  Food should not be soaked in ammonia before consumption.  Fillers should not be masqueraded as beef.  Eat the real stuff, or don't eat it at all.  You get what you pay for, and you are what you eat... stupidly simple phrases that really have some intense meaning.  

Follow this link to check out an interesting article: NPR


Sweet Saturday: Rhoda's Hot Fudge Sauce


First, excuse my sub-par photograph.  It's dark out, and I use a tiny point and shoot digital camera... not my first choice, but it's what I have.


It's Saturday, which is usually the day I spend cooking something random.  Today it was this hot fudge recipe.  I've made it before, especially during christmas when it becomes a great gift.  My excuse for  today is that my niece is coming over and just wanted to make it.  Yah know.  Good reasons.

This recipe is fantastic.  It isn't healthy for you, but it's fantastic.   It's silky, extremely sweet, and thick, exactly what I want on top of my frozen yogurt.  Come on!  I have to be somewhat healthy, right?

Anyway. Make this and enjoy it.  You'll never buy hot fudge out of a squeezy bottle again.

Rhoda's Peppermint Hot Fudge Sauce (The Kitchn.com)

Yields 4 cups

2 cups unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 cups brown sugar
1/4 teaspoons Kosher salt
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup unsalted butter, cut into pieces
2 teaspoons peppermint extract (substitute vanilla, if you don't want the mint flavor)

Directions: In a double boiler over medium heat stir in cocoa, sugars and salt. Add the cream and butter. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until the butter is melted and the sauce comes together and is smooth and glossy. Bring to a boil for 1 minute. Then, remove the bowl from the heat and let cool for 5 minutes. Stir in the peppermint extract. Store in the fridge and re-heat when ready to use. 

NOTE:  I do not use peppermint extract in mine.  I prefer the simple flavor of chocolate.  Therefore, I take the vanilla extract route.  Honestly, I think you could use any extract of your choice and it would be delicious.