Black & White Birthday Cake

My dad's 60th birthday just passed a few weeks ago! I can't believe how fast time flies. He turned 60 this year and I turned 30...ugh!!!! Anyways, we decided against throwing a party, b/c parties start and end before you know it. I wanted to give him something more memorable. So, my sister and I bought him a trip to Vegas! He'll be going with my mom later in the year. We still had a small celebration for his actual 60th. We went out to eat Turkish at Kazan's in Mclean, and came back to my place for some cake and a movie:) Neil spent a lot of time installing an awesome projector in our basement. Movie nights are the best down there, and it was so nice to be able to share it with my family. We don't have enough time together like that anymore :(

Here's a pic I took of them. From the left, Neil, bro in law, sis, bro, Mom, and Dad. Dad's cheesin' big time!

Back to the cake...I hadn't made a cake in such a long time, so this was the perfect opportunity, and I wanted to find the perfect birthday cake. I ran across this Black & White Cake on the Smitten Kitchen blog. I had so much fun making this, so I think another excuse to bake a cake is right around the corner!

The recipe calls butter cake having a dark chocolate cream filling alternated with white chocolate cream. I had to make some modifications. Half my family likes dark chocolate, and the other half only likes milk. So, I made the dark chocolate cream a little "milkier" than the recipe calls for. The cream is actually just a decadent chocolate pudding, and Neil was definitely eating it as such :) If you don't want to attempt the cake, please at least try the pudding part. We were licking it out of the bowl!! The cake turned out beautiful, and both creams were delicious. However, I wasn't that thrilled with the actual butter cake layers. It was a little dry for my taste. I'll be sticking to my normal, moister butter cake the next time I make this. Btw, I apologize for the lack of quality in the pictures. I'm a terrible photographer, and my camera is super old. The pictures just don't do the cake justice!

See Recipe!


Savory Holiday Tart

Last November, I had the most delicious savory winter tart at a Farmer's market in London on Portobello Road. It's that time of year again, and I wish I was in London right now. Not a possibility, so the next best thing is to try recreating that tart. I can't remember the exact ingredients of the tart I had in London, but I recall it having winter root vegetables and a delicious crust. Since I had Veteran's day off last week, I used the time to experiment with making this tart and a flaky crust from scratch. I was very proud of the end product, and it did take me back to that day in London. Neil was scared to try it at first when I told him that it had parsnips and turnips in it, but he ended up finishing almost half the tart! This recipe is definitely a keeper and a perfect addition to a holiday gathering. I'm trying to get my cousin go to make this recipe for our Thanksgiving this year. I would, but I've been tasked with desserts :)

See Savory Holiday Tart Recipe!
See Pate Brisee (flaky tart crust) Recipe!


Chipotle Mac & Cheese

Macaroni & cheese has always been a huge weakness of mine. I was reading the dcfoodies blog one day, and folks were posting their favorite mac & cheese recipes. Until now, I swore by my recipe consisting of a blend of brie, gruyere, fontina, and parmesan. But, I came across this one and had to try it…chipotle peppers, cheese, and pasta w/ garlic bread crumbs. I made this for Neil to take to one of his Vtech tailgates, and also for our beer can chicken night . It was devoured! Adjust the cheeses, spice level, and fat (cream vs. milk) to your own liking. I like a blend of pepper jack and sharp white cheddar. I also like to make the bread topping using panko bread crumbs versus regular. The difference in crunch factor is huge. Whatever you do, you can’t go wrong with this one.
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Pumpkin Cookies

It's that time of year, and I'm craving everything pumpkin. My pumpkin obsessions lasts through the winter holidays after which I’m totally pumpkin’d out…I’ll never learn the concept of “moderation”. Lately, I've been popping candy corn at work like it’s popcorn, and go home with the worst stomach ache…moderation! Anyways, since the pumpkin kick is strong for now, I planned to make pumpkin cookies last weekend. Well, to my shock, both Harris Teeter and Safeway were completely out of pumpkin puree. What’s up with that? Every year, grocery stores are completely “in your face” stocked w/ pumpkin cans. Has anyone had this issue? Well, I didn’t get my pumpkin cookie fix, so I went to William Sonoma and bought some pumpkin butter as a temporary fix. I’ll make their pumpkin bars with it. But, I’ll be baking these cookies as soon as I get my hands on some pumpkin. Luckily, I had some pictures of the cookies I made last year. These are delicious! They are very soft and almost scone like in texture, and guaranteed to satisfy the craving. Hopefully you have better luck with pumpkin!

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