White Texas Sheet Cake

As a kid, the 4th of July was one of my favorite holidays. We would caravan out to visit grandparents and extended family for a week or two of summer fun. The week was filled with playing with cousins, snacking on pretzels from my grandma’s kitchen, backyard BBQs with homemade ice cream and sleeping outside on the street the night before the big 4th of July parade to save our big family a place to watch along the parade route. Evenings were capped off with sparklers and a fireworks show…nostalgic Independence Day at its finest. 

We don’t have those exact same traditions with my little family now, but we do celebrate as best we can wherever we are. This year we are hoping to catch a fireworks show and spend the day with family. I’m also hoping it will include my favorite White Texas Sheet Cake for a festive dessert. This white version of a Texas Sheet Cake can be gussied up with blue and red fruit for a festive treat, or topped with toasted coconut for a delicious coconut version.

Simple and Delicious Sheet Cake

White Texas Sheet cake is the perfect cake to take to a large gathering or family party because it is baked on an 18 by 13 size half sheet pan (affiliate link to my favorite pan). It takes 5 minutes to mix the cake batter together, twenty minutes to bake and five minutes to decorate. The almond extract adds a delicious “wedding-cake-esque” flavor that is so delicious, especially paired with fresh raspberries. If you aren’t a fan of almond flavor, no worries…you can leave it out or substitute some vanilla extract. Easy peasy and oh so delicious. 

My kids especially love being able to decorate a giant sheet cake. I like to set out all the berries or other toppings and let them make whatever decoration they want. I love the combination of fresh raspberries and blueberries, but I’m sure any fresh berry would work. 

White Texas Sheet cake: Coconut Version

I’ve often made this sheet cake for baby showers or other events and top it with toasted coconut. Did you know you can toast your coconut in the microwave? Place 1 cup of sweetened, shredded coconut on a plate. Microwave in 15-30 second increments, stirring between sessions. The coconut will brown right up after a minute or two and you will have the perfect, simple toasted coconut. You could also use the oven to get your coconut nice and toasty if you don’t want to use a microwave. The recipe for the coconut version of this cake is in the recipe notes below.

Recipe Notes: For a coconut version, add 1 teaspoon of coconut extract to the batter and ½ teaspoon of coconut extract to the icing. Top cake with 1 cup of toasted coconut.

Happy Independence Day

However you celebrate Independence Day or whatever your traditions are, I hope this White Texas Sheet Cake will make it to your family’s table. Have a wonderful holiday weekend and don’t forget to tag me if you make it! I’d love to see what you create. Yum!

White Texas Sheet Cake

Yield: One, 18 by 13 sheet cake

Time: 10 minute mix, 20 minute bake

Ingredients:

Cake Batter

  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract 

Icing

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup milk 
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/2 tsp. almond extract
  • 3 cups powdered sugar

Topping

  • Blueberries, Raspberries, Strawberries, Toasted Coconut, Chopped pecans, etc…

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Spray a large half sheet pan (about 18 X 13 in size) with non-stick cooking spray.
  3. In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Stir together and set aside. In a separate, microwave safe bowl (or in a saucepan on the stove), melt the butter. Mix in the water, sour cream, eggs and almond extract. Stir until combined.
  4. Pour the liquid mixture into the flour mixture and stir until combined and the batter is lump-free. Pour the batter into the pan and bake for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, insert a toothpick in the center of the cake. If it comes out clean with no batter left on it, it is ready to go. If not, let it bake a little bit longer, checking frequently so as not to overbake the cake.
  5. While the cake bakes, make the icing. In a microwave safe bowl (or a saucepan on the stove), melt the butter. Add the milk, salt, almond extract and powdered sugar. Whisk together to form a smooth, liquid icing.
  6. As soon as the cake comes out of the oven, pour the icing on top of the cake and spread evenly to all the edges of the cake. 
  7. Top the cake with fruit, toasted coconut or pecans. We like making it into the shape of a flag for a 4th of July BBQ or to top with toasted coconut for a party. Check the recipe notes for a coconut version of this delicious cake. 
  8. Let the cake cool completely and serve. Enjoy!

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Please share this recipe if you enjoyed it! Post a photo and tag me @amybakesbread so I can see your bake 🙂

Birthday Memories & Whipped Strawberry Buttercream Frosting

The end of April thru the month of May is birthday month in our family (check out the Rainbow ABC Cake I made at the end of April). All the boys have birthdays within a month of each other, and today my twin boys have their 9th birthday. Usually I spend the night before their birthday making a fun, themed cake for them. This year, however, I passed the torch. I am done making crazy themed cakes for my twin boys and instead I am letting them have the option of making a cake with me or whatever other dessert they choose. 

Musings of a “Twin MOm”

Having and parenting twins has been a crazy journey since day one. It has tested me like nothing else could have (except more multiples) and has made my hyper-aware of encouraging their own individuality and recognizing that they are always best-friend buddies. I have always felt it was important to celebrate each of my boys on their birthday with their own birthday cakes and singing to each one individually (not one song together…might seem weird to some but to this twin mom it’s important). 

This year, one of my boys chose an ice cream cake for his birthday. This was as simple as ordering and pulling through a drive thru to pick it up. He went with me and we enjoyed some one-on-one time in the car. My other boy wanted to make an elaborate cake with me. He started with visions of dragons and Pokemon characters and settled on a giant Neapolitan birthday cake with layers of chocolate, vanilla and strawberry cake, strawberry icing in between the layers and covered in chocolate frosting with Oreos. He enjoyed piping green icing all over the top and was really proud of his first homemade birthday cake.

As a mom, I am loving the extra quality time I get with my kids by involving them in the birthday cake process, but I am also mourning a little bit of the creativity that I so enjoyed making their cakes for them. So I apologize in advance for this walk down memory lane, but I’ve enjoyed looking back on all the cakes I made for my twin boys over the years. Maybe they will inspire some fun cakes for you too.

Year ONE:

We survived the first year! I am so grateful for pictures to look back on this crazy, crazy time.

Year Two:

They were obsessed with Spot, the dog, so Spot cakes it was!

Year Three:

We had a jungle themed party for our animal-loving boys, so the cakes had to match!

Year Four:

This was one of the years we lived in Japan. I had to figure out where to buy things like powdered sugar (or make my own) and these cakes were definitely a labor of love for my dinosaur loving boys.

Year Five:

X marks the spot cake. Seriously one of my favorite cakes and birthday themes. The boys went on a big treasure hunt around the neighborhood and ended up back to their cakes where they cut them open to find the “treasure” inside.

Year Six:

These Lego cakes were so much fun to create. I bought molds to make the Lego figures out of candy melts.

Year Seven:

Candy cakes were so much fun for their 7th birthday. They were also pretty easy to make…circular cake and lots of candy!

Year Eight:

Probably my favorite cakes to date were the Harry Potter ones from last year. We spent the year reading Harry Potter together and when they requested Harry Potter cakes for a Harry Potter themed birthday, I couldn’t say no!

This year:

And that brings us to this year. A store bought ice cream cake and a homemade Neopolitan birthday cake: created, baked and frosted by my boy.

And because I don’t want to leave this post without a really delicious recipe, here’s a great one for some really delicious strawberry frosting. We put this as the filling sandwiched between the layers of the Neapolitan cake but you can frost it on cupcakes, graham crackers or sandwich it between cookies…yum! 

Whipped Strawberry Buttercream in between the layers of cake

What makes this strawberry buttercream unique is the fresh strawberries used to flavor it. You create a beautiful strawberry puree, then reduce it on the stove so the flavor is nicely concentrated. This puree is then used in the icing to give it a beautiful strawberry flavor. Right now is the perfect time to make strawberry buttercream with fresh strawberries in season.

Whipped Strawberry Buttercream Frosting

Yield: 1-2 cups of strawberry frosting

Time: 15 minute puree, 1-2 hour cool, 10 minute whip

Ingredients:

  • ½ lb fresh strawberries 
  • 1 stick (8 Tablespoons) butter, softened
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • Splash of cream or milk if needed

Directions:

Prepping strawberries for the blender
  1. Wash and cut the tops off of ½ pound of strawberries and put into a blender. Puree until a smooth liquid is formed. You should have about a ½ cup of puree.
  2. Pour the strawberry puree in a saucepan. Heat over medium low heat until puree is reduced by about half (you will end up with about ¼ cup reduced puree). This should take 10-15 minutes. Cool strawberry puree in the refrigerator or until it reaches room temperature.
  3. Once the strawberry puree has cooled, whip the butter until it is creamy. Add the powdered sugar and cream together. Mix in the ¼ cup strawberry puree and whip together. Add a teaspoon of vanilla. Whip together for about 3-5 minutes until light and fluffy. Add a splash of cream or milk if needed for a spreadable consistency.

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Candy Jar Cookies

Most recent candy is from Easter

Do you keep a candy jar in your kitchen? I fill small bottles for every season and holiday with colorful candies. For me it is a decoration and an experiment in self control. My kids look at it as rewards for those special times I’ll let them pick something “from my jar” and my husband just likes that I’ve actually bought some candy and not just a bunch of ingredients to make things. I actually think he’s the one who gets into the jars the most frequently, especially when I put the gummy candy in…those are his favorites.

How do I use the leftover candy?

We really don’t eat a lot of the candy throughout the season and when it is time to change my jars, I end up with a lot of leftover candy. Instead of throwing the candy away, we like to make our favorite Candy Jar Cookies with the leftovers. These cookies can be made using any candy but I think they are best with a chocolate, caramel or peanut butter type candy. Do you still have Easter candy lying around? What about Valentines or even Christmas or dare I say Halloween? Any candy will work. You could also substitute chocolate chips or any of your favorite “chips” that you have lying around. That is one of the big perks of these cookies–use what you have so you don’t have to make an extra trip to the store.

These cookies are chewy, soft on the inside and have crispy edges. The addition of oatmeal gives them a yummy texture and the base of the cookie is so good that you can customize these to be whatever flavor you like. They are also quick and easy to make. You can double the recipe easily if you have a lot of candy to use up or neighbor kids to feed. One of my other tips in making these is whatever candy you choose, give them a quick whirl in the blender or chop them up a bit so they are about the size of chocolate chips. This will help the candy be more uniform and you get a delicious bite in every cookie.

These Cookies are so simple to make

One of the best parts of these cookies, is how simple they are to make. My eight year old son made these for us the other day and they were delicious. They check all the boxes: using up food from my pantry–check! Quick and easy–check! Have your kids make them for you–check, check, check! I hope you will be enjoying one of these cookies ASAP, whether you make them or give the recipe to one of your kids to make as a homework assignment…you’ll want to check for quality control purposes of course 🙂

Candy Jar Cookies

Yield: About 1 1/2 – 2 dozen cookies

Time: 15 minute mix, 10 minute bake

Ingredients:

  • ½ cup butter (1 stick), softened
  • ½ cup light brown sugar, packed
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 egg
  • ½  teaspoon vanilla
  • ½  teaspoon baking soda
  • ½  teaspoon baking powder
  • ½  teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (about 5 oz) all purpose flour
  • 1 ¼ cups old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1 cup candy (chocolate, caramel, peanut butter candies work the best, you can also use chocolate chips or a combination of favorite “chips”)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit, regular bake or 325 degrees convection bake. If your oven has a convection setting, do yourself and your cookies a favor and use it (I’ll explain why below)!
  2. Using a stand mixer or a hand mixer, mix the butter until smooth and creamy. Add the brown sugar and granulated sugar into the butter and mix again until creamy.
  3. Add the eggs and mix again. Add the vanilla.
  4. In a separate bowl combine the flour, oats, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Add this dry mixture to the butter mixture and mix together. Alternatively, if you don’t want to dirty another bowl (I almost always do it this with a large family and lots of dishes to wash), add the baking soda, baking powder and salt to the wet mixture and then add the oats and flour. Mix to combine.
  5. Crush up your candy of choice until it’s about the size of chocolate chips. I throw the candy in my blender and give it a couple of pulses for the larger pieces of candy. If you are using chocolate chips, you don’t need to do this step. 
  6. Pour the candy into the cookie dough and mix to combine.
  7. Scoop the cookie dough into balls (about 2 Tablespoons per ball) and place a couple inches apart on a parchment-lined cookie sheet. 12 cookies should fit on a half sheet cookie sheet.
  8. Bake at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes. If you are using the convection setting, bake at 325 degrees for 7 ½ minutes. Let cookies cool on the pan about 5 minutes before cooling. 

Recipe Notes: If your oven has convection bake, do yourself a favor and use it when baking cookies. It will give you a crispier crust, chewier middle and better overall cookie. Typically when you bake using convection you will decrease the oven temperature by 25 degrees what most typical recipes recommend. You will also decrease the baking time a bit. However, be careful, because some ovens try to “help” you by subtracting the 25 degrees for you. For example, when I bake these cookies I have to type in 350 degrees to my convection setting and my oven will set it at 325 degrees convection. If I set my oven at 325 convection setting, my oven will set itself at 300 degrees. Double check your settings when you are first learning about convection baking.

Please share this recipe if you enjoyed it! Post a photo and tag me @amybakesbread so I can see your bake 🙂

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Rainbow Alphabet Birthday Cake

This is not a cake blog. I am not a cake baker, though I have learned a few things over the years. I make cakes for special occasions and specifically for my kids birthdays. I grew up with a mom who always made special homemade cake for our birthday. By special I mean, “cut-out” animals, Barbie dolls coming out of cake and lots of theming. This was our favorite part of our birthday; dreaming up what our cake would be and then the big surprise when it was revealed that day. I have carried on this tradition with my own kids. I enjoy thinking up a fun cake for them, usually with their input, and then surprising them on their special day. 

My little four-year-old has been dreaming up the cake he’s wanted for his birthday for months. All of these dreams don’t seem to have a common theme “A bird cake! A “house” cake! A “chair” cake!” Basically anything he sees can be turned into a cake in his mind. Knowing this I realized that I could make any cake I wanted and he would be a happy camper. I have always been intrigued with the rainbow cakes I’ve seen online and decided that this was the year to give it a go. My little guy also loves learning his letters and sounds right now, so I figured that we could combine those two things into a perfect four-year-old birthday cake.

This cake definitely takes some time. It is not a quick recipe. You will have a lot of dishes at the end. The awe and surprise of rainbow colors in the cake is worth the extra time and effort. A few tips before you get started: use GEL food coloring (affiliate link). The liquid food coloring does not give the bright, bright colors you are looking for in this cake.

This cake is delicious with and without food coloring. It is a really good homemade white cake. You could modify it a bit if you don’t want to add the food coloring and just want a yummy white cake…but you won’t get that “shock and awe” factor when you cut into it. You could also use a box mix for the cake recipe if you don’t want to try your hand at homemade. I’m guessing you would need 2-3 box mixes of white cake, about 1 1/2 cups of batter per layer in a 9 inch pan.

Another tip: the icing on this cake is sweet. My kids love it that way. If I was making this for an all-adult party I may choose a Swiss Buttercream that isn’t quite so sweet (you will still need about 6 cups worth). If you love sweet icing, this is the cake for you (or your kids). My little guy was in awe when he came down the stairs, ran to the table and just stared at this awesome birthday cake. He loved it and that made the whole process worth it. I hope you will love it too.

If you want to watch a short 3 minute video of how I made this cake, click here.

Yield: 1 large, 6 layer-rainbow cake with about 6 cups of icing

Time: 30 minute mix, 17-20 minute bake, 1 ½ hours make icing/decorate/assemble

Ingredients:

Cake 

  • 12 oz (1 ½ cups) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 21 oz (about 3 cups) white sugar
  • 9 large egg whites, room temperature
  • 21 oz (a scant 5 cups) all purpose flour 
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 15 oz (1 ¾ cups plus 2 Tablespoons) milk, room temperature
  • 3 oz (⅓ cup plus 2 Tablespoons) vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract, optional
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Gel food coloring: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple

Icing

  • 3 cups unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 12 cups powdered sugar
  • 6 Tablespoons heavy cream 
  • 3 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract optional

Directions:

  1. In a stand mixer using a paddle attachment, mix the butter until creamy and smooth. Add the sugar and whip on high until light and white in color (about 5 minutes).
  2. Crack the eggs and keep the egg whites together in a measuring cup. If your eggs are cold, you can briefly warm the egg whites in the microwave for a few seconds. Be careful doing this so you don’t end up with scrambled egg whites! Cold egg whites will mess up this batter, so make sure they are room temperature before using.
  3. In a separate bowl combine the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
  4. In a large measuring cup combine the milk, vegetable oil and extracts and set aside.
  5. To the butter mixture and with the mixer running, add the egg whites a little at a time and let them fully incorporate before adding the next.
  6. Add in ⅓ of the dry ingredients and combine. Then add in ½ of the milk mixture. Combine. Add another ⅓ of the dry ingredients, then the rest of the milk mixture and then the last of the dry ingredients. Mix until just combined.
  7. Preheat the oven to 335 degrees. 
  8. Get out six small bowls and scoop about 13.5 ounces (about 1 ½ cups) of batter into each bowl.  
  9. Add a different gel color to each bowl of batter and mix it up.
  10. Prepare 9 inch cake pans. Trace the bottom of the pan on parchment paper and cut out the parchment paper to fit in the bottom of the cake pan. Repeat for the remaining 5 layers. Grease the sides of the pan with butter and flour to prevent sticking. If you only have two pans you can bake the cakes two at a time. It will take a little more time, but it is doable. You can also use an 8 inch cake pan but will need to add a few more minutes to the bake time.
  11. Pour the batter into the cake pan and bake the cakes for 17-20 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean. If you’ve used a smaller-sized pan, let the cake bake a little bit longer.
  12. Let the cakes cool about 10 minutes before turning them out on a cooling rack. Once cakes are cooled they can be wrapped in foil and frozen until you are ready to frost the cake.

Assembly

  1. Using the whipping attachment on a stand mixer, whip the butter until it is creamy. Turn the mixer off and add 6 cups of the powdered sugar and heavy cream. Carefully turn the mixer back on (low speed) so the powdered sugar doesn’t fly up in your face. Whip together. Add the vanilla and almond (if using) extracts and whip some more. Gradually add in the rest of the powdered sugar a cup at a time and continue whipping until light, white, fluffy and everything is incorporated. The key to this buttercream is to whip it for longer than you think you should–at least 5-7 minutes. If the icing seems too thick, add a little more cream, a Tablespoon at a time.
  2. Take your cakes out of the freezer. Using a cake turntable (affiliate link) put a little bit of icing on the bottom of the turntable. Layer your cakes in the order of the rainbow with purple on the bottom, then blue, green, yellow, orange and red. In between each layer of cake add about ½ cup of icing and spread to the edges. Add about 1 ½ cups of icing on the top of the red layer of cake and slowly bring the icing down the sides of the cake using an offset spatula. Continue icing around the sides of the cake and smoothing them down. It is okay if you can see the layers through the icing right now. You actually want to see them a little bit. This is called the crumb coat. Once the entire cake is covered in icing and you have smoothed the sides down, put it in the fridge for the icing to harden for about 20-30 minutes.
  3. Pull your cake back out to work with. Using another 1 ½ cups of icing, cover the entire cake again, making sure to fill in any gaps where color could be seen. Smooth the icing using a bench scraper or other tool as you spin the cake around. Transfer the cake to the plate/cake board it will be served on. Decorate the cake as you wish. I decorated my cake with ABCs, and a simple dot border around the edges.
  4. Place the cake back in the fridge and pull out a few hours before serving to come to room temperature. I like to ice my cakes the night before I am serving them. If you have any fondant decorations, put them on after taking your cake out of the fridge so they don’t wilt. Enjoy!

Recipe Notes: I bought red fondant at the grocery store and formed the letters to my son’s name using small cake pop/caramel apple sticks. If you are planning to do this, create any fondant decorations a few days ahead of time so they will thoroughly dry out. Pop those decorations on the cake last-minute because you don’t want them sitting in the fridge, receiving moisture and making them bendable again.

The “Great Family Bake Off”

My family absolutely loves watching “The Great British Baking Show” together. It’s the one thing I can “bribe” my kids with as we fold laundry and I will do almost anything to get out of folding laundry for six people by myself. We enjoy watching the creative bakes, salivating over the treats, love learning about the British culture and seeing the lighthearted competition between competitors turned friends. After watching a few seasons together over the past few months my kids started talking about creating our own baking competition to mimic the show. 

Free printable at the end of this post

Bake Off Challenges

The “Great British Bake Off” as it is called in Great Britain, takes place over the course of many weekends. One episode covers a Saturday and Sunday of competition. Participants compete in three challenges:

  1. Signature Bake
  2. Technical Challenge 
  3. Show-Stopper Challenge

Because we have so much time on our hands right now with kids home from school, we have been looking for some creative ways to have fun, so I decided to acquiesce to the request and make our very own “Great Family Bake Off” competition. This would also make for a very fun birthday party, extended family reunion challenge or just something to do on a Saturday afternoon or summer weekday. In the spirit of fun and to give you something to make a long “Covid-19” day not so long…I give you everything you need to create your own “Great Family Bake Off!”

My four kids “competed.” I had to help my youngest through some of the challenges but I was surprised with the amount he could do. This would be perfect if he was paired up with a buddy…we just don’t have anyone extra around us right now with our “quarantine” situation

In creating this competition, I wanted to keep the three original challenges but tone some of them down a little to meet the abilities of my grade-school kids. I needed bakes that we could accomplish in a few hours and not a few days. After thinking it over, I came up with our version of “The Great Family Bake Off.”

Judging

You will need to find a moderator/judge(s) to be in charge of the event. This will preferably be a couple of adults. They will make sure to have all of the ingredients needed, prepare the secret technical challenge and judge the competition. You can print this printable for a rundown of the moderator/judge’s responsibilities.

The Bakes

Signature Bake: Finger Sandwiches

  • The signature bake is finger sandwiches. You need four identical finger sandwiches with tasty fillings. Judging will be based on presentation, taste and meeting the time requirement. You have 20 minutes for this challenge and the bread will be provided for you.
Finger Sandwiches

Technical Challenge: Personal Pan Brownies

  • In this challenge we take one basic recipe with the same ingredients and instructions and ask you to produce a perfect finished product. The moderator/judge will prepare the ingredients and kitchen tools beforehand. Then they will hand out the recipe (with no instructions or bake time!) and start the timer for 45 minutes. The brownies will be judged blind with no clues as to who made what.
Four entries for the technical bake

Show-Stopper Challenge: Cupcake Art

  • This is the final challenge to showcase your skill and talent. Judging will be on the professional appearance of your signature bakes. Judges will be looking for the most impressive and elaborate creations. The challenge is cupcake art. Use 4 cupcakes, icing and decorations. The cupcakes, icing and decorations will be provided for you. You have 30 minutes to perfect your show-stopper creations.
Such creative Cupcake Art

The challenges give enough hands-on creativity to be fun but don’t take hours to complete. Only one of the bakes requires an oven. You can change these up to fit your own family dynamic as you wish. Plan for a total time of 3-4 hours to complete this entire Great Family Bake Off! It will take some time but is so much fun and you will make awesome family memories. My kids are still talking about it!

So what are you waiting for? 

Download the moderator/judges guide here:

Download the planning worksheet (so the kids can plan their signature and show-stopper bakes ahead of time) here:

Download the technical challenge recipe here

Check out our family’s “Bake Off” on youtube here or watch below:

Ready, Set…BAKE!

Please share this post if you enjoyed it. If you plan to host your own “Great Family Bake Off” we’d love to see it! Tag me @amybakesbread on Instagram or share your video clip in the comments section.

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Easter Series: Hot Cross Buns

“One a penny, two a penny, Hot Cross buns!” is the rhyme that was sung on Good Friday in England where these buns were sold, which are thought to date back to the 12th century. I remember singing this nursery rhyme as a child and having no idea what the rhyme was talking about. Now that I’ve made and enjoyed some delicious buns, I’ve enjoyed sharing them with family and friends. I love the symbolism behind these Easter buns and the flavor. 

For those unfamiliar with this delicious Easter bun, it is a yeasted sweet bun studded with currants and iced with a cross that is piped across the top. When I first made Hot Cross buns, I was hesitant about using currants in the recipe. I’m not a huge fan of raisins in baked goods and I was afraid it would “ruin” the bun. But I decided to stay true to the recipe and used currants which are much smaller than a raisin. They were absolutely delicious. If you are able to buy currants, definitely include them in this recipe. It has become my new go-to dried fruit to put in baked goods because of the smaller size and flavor. If you have never tried them before, pick up some currants from your local grocery store and give them a try. 

These buns make a wonderful Easter gift or are perfect to eat on Easter morning or anytime on Easter weekend. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do. “Get them while they’re hot. Eat them by the ton. One a penny, two a penny, Hot Cross buns!”

Yield: 12 buns

Time: 15 minute mix, 2 hours rise, 15 minute bake

Ingredients:

Dough

  • 1 cup warm whole milk
  • 1 Tablespoon instant yeast
  • ¼ cup melted butter, cooled
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • 3- 3 ½ cups all purpose flour
  • ½ cup currants (or raisins)
  • 1 egg for egg wash (optional)

Icing

  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 3 Tablespoons cream or milk (more or less for consistency)
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla

Instructions:

  1. Warm the milk in the microwave. Stir the milk so the heat disperses. The milk should be warm to the touch (like baby’s bathwater). Add the milk to a stand mixer and add the yeast, cooled melted butter, egg, sugar, salt and cinnamon.
  2. Begin adding flour a cup at a time until a dough forms a ball and pulls away from the sides. Continue adding flour little by little until the dough is just a tiny bit sticky. Add the currants and continue kneading (for a total of about 5 minutes).
  3. Oil a bowl and put the dough mixture into the oiled bowl. Cover and let rise for an hour in a warm place.
  4. Place a piece of parchment paper on a baking sheet. Once the dough has risen, turn out on your counter and cut into 12 equal pieces. Roll each ball of dough into a bun shape and place on the baking sheet, four rows of three.
  5. Cover and let rise again in a warm place about 45 minutes.
  6. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. If you are using an egg wash, mix a lightly beaten egg with a teaspoon of water. Lightly brush the egg wash over the rolls. This will give the buns a shiny appearance. 
  7. Place the pan in the preheated oven and bake for about 15 minutes until rolls are baked through and golden on top.
  8. While the rolls are baking, mix together the icing and prepare a piping bag (or ziplock bag works well too). I like to put my bag into a cup with the edges of the bag hanging over the cup so it’s easier to scoop my icing into the bag. Scoop the icing into the corner of the bag and snip off a small corner of the bag where the icing is located.
  9. Once your rolls have baked, let them cool about 10 minutes before topping with the icing. Make a cross on the top of each bun. Serve warm or at room temperature. Enjoy!

Please share this recipe if you enjoyed it! Post a photo and tag me @amybakesbread so I can see your bake 🙂

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Irish Soda Bread

I am a “tradition” kind of mom. I don’t think it needs to take a lot of work or brain power to make holidays fun for our family. Just putting out a few decorative plates or making a unique recipe from ingredients I already have on hand is enough. It’s amazing how the little things can form into new family traditions! This Irish Soda Bread is a quick, easy way to bring a little fun to the month of March or to enjoy with a hearty soup year round.

Jump to Irish Soda Bread Recipe

St. Patrick’s Day Traditions

St. Patrick’s Day has always been a day of fun in our house. The weekend before my kids create “houses” for the leprechaun to visit when he comes to our house. I know some families make leprechaun traps which are also a fun idea. We use recycled boxes (thank you amazon prime), all the green construction paper from our craft closet and our imaginations. The night before St. Patrick’s Day they pull out their little houses and set them up around our house. The leprechaun “magically” pays a visit that night leaving little green footprints and a trail to follow which leads to a pot of gold (coins) at the end of the trail. 

St. Patrick’s Day Meal

Other ways we make this somewhat ordinary day special are by wearing green, checking out books from the library on leprechauns and Ireland and eating something green or Irish for dinner. This varies from year to year but we always try to make our dinner something special. I often make this Irish Soda Bread. Paired with a hearty stew, corned beef and cabbage or even some baked potatoes and roasted veggies this would make a great addition to your St. Patrick’s Day meal. By the middle of March, we are all looking for fun things to celebrate as we are coming out of the winter months.

History Behind Irish Soda Bread

Irish Soda Bread was adopted in the 1800s after the potato famine. It was inexpensive, with only a few ingredients and easy to make. Originally the bread contained nothing more than flour, buttermilk, baking soda and salt. Over the years, recipes have been changed to increase the flavor and taste but the leavening agent remains the same: baking soda. Some areas of Ireland would cut a cross in the top of the bread to ward off evil and protect their families. The texture and flavor of Irish Soda Bread reminds me of a giant biscuit with a hard crust. It is a crowd-pleaser, quick to make and fun to eat. I hope you’ll give it a try!

Irish Soda Bread

A giant loaf of biscuit-like bread, studded with currants and flavored with some orange zest. This is the perfect bread to celebrate St. Patrick's Day, serve with soup or enjoy as a snack.
Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 50 mins
Course Bread, Side Dish
Cuisine Irish
Servings 1 loaf

Ingredients
  

  • 1 3/4 cup buttermilk see recipe notes
  • 4 Tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 4 cups all purpose flour
  • 5 Tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 cup currants or raisins optional

Instructions
 

  • Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
  • In a small bowl whisk together the buttermilk and egg. Set aside.
  • Mix the flour, sugar, baking soda and salt together in a bowl and lightly mix together. Add the currants and orange zest if using and lightly coat with the flour mixture.
  • Grate the cold butter directly into the mixture or cut the butter into small chunks or use a pastry cutter until the butter is finely incorporated. There should be no big lumps of butter, just small pea-sized pieces.
  • Pour the buttermilk mixture into the flour mixture and stir to lightly incorporate. If the dough is a little sticky, add a little extra flour. Turn the dough out onto the counter and knead once or twice. This is a quick bread, so you don’t want to activate the gluten in the flour with a lot of kneading. Shape into a round circle.
  • Transfer the loaf to the baking pan and score a large X on the top. Bake for 20 minutes and then check the top of your bread. If it is browning quickly, cover the top with a sheet of aluminum foil to prevent burning. Bake until the bread is cooked through, about 45-50 minutes. 
  • Allow bread to cool 15 minutes and then serve warm. It can also be eaten at room temperature or toasted for a snack later. Enjoy!

Notes

Buttermilk: I always pick up buttermilk at the store to use in my baking. I think it is superior to most substitutions. With that said, the best substitutions I have found for one cup of buttermilk are:
  • a mixture of ½ cup plain yogurt (or sour cream) and ½ cup milk mixed together (per cup of buttermilk)
  • 1 Tablespoon vinegar replaces 1 Tablespoon whole milk in a cup, let it sit for 5 minutes before using
  • 1 Tablespoon lemon juice replaces 1 Tablespoon whole milk in a cup, let it sit for 5 minutes before using
Keyword biscuit,, Irish Soad Bread, St. Patrick’s Day

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Easter Series: Paska Ukrainian Easter Bread

When I was researching recipes to make for Easter, I stumbled on this Ukrainian Easter bread. We have wonderful friends from Ukraine who we love like family, so I really wanted to try making an Easter bread from their home country. Paska is a delicious sweet bread eaten on Easter. Ukraine adheres to the Orthodox calendar, which celebrates Easter a week after we celebrate in the United States. Paska is often brought to the church in the morning to be blessed by the priest, along with other foods during the Easter church service.

It is an enriched dough which is typical of Easter breads, many of which are consumed after a period of Lent where sweets and decadent foods are fasted from for a time. This Paska is a brioche-like dough studded with dried fruit and a delicious lemon icing on top. They are baked in special paper molds, but if you don’t have that you can use a tin from canned food (green bean tin, tomato tin, etc…). Paska can also be made in a larger mold, though you would have to adjust the baking time. And speaking of time, this recipe does take a LONG time. That is part of the fun of it, though. It has three “rise” periods and it takes so long because of all of the heavy ingredients in the dough (eggs, butter, sour cream). Despite the amount of time for rising, this is a VERY easy dough to make because I never had to knead it. I think it would be a perfect baking project to make with kids for that reason.

If you want to teach your kids a little about Easter in Ukraine and Russia, here are a few books that go along very well with this yummy recipe. Check them out from your library, watch them being read on YouTube or purchase them on Amazon. You can’t go wrong with Easter books that teach about a new culture.

Rechenka’s Eggs, Patricia Polacco
The Magic Babushka, Phyllis Limbacher Tildes

Or a coloring book of Ukrainian Easter Eggs: Pysanky Coloring Book

Regardless of whether you read a book about Ukrainian Easter, this recipe is a fun one to make with kids. When I texted the photo of the finished Paska to my friend, she was delighted to say it looked similar to their Easter bread! I wish I could have shared one with her with a cup of the delicious orange infused tea she makes. Making this delicious Easter bread would have only been better if we could have shared it together. Hopefully soon!

I hope you enjoy it as much as we did!

Yield: 12 mini paska

Time: 15 minute mix, 6 hours rise, 30 minute bake

Ingredients:

Dough

  • 1 cup warm whole milk
  • 3 eggs, lightly beaten
  • ½ Tablespoon instant yeast
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¼ cup sour cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4-5 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 cup currants, raisins or craisins
  • 12 mini panettone paper molds

Icing

  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon lemon juice
  • ½ Tablespoon cream

Instructions:

  1. Whisk together milk, eggs, yeast, sugar, melted butter (not hot!), salt, sour cream and vanilla. Add 2 cups of flour and whisk together. The batter will be thick but won’t form a dough yet. Cover the dough and let rise in a warm place for about 2 hours.
  2. Add 2-3 cups more of flour until the dough doesn’t stick to your hands. Stir in the currants, raisins or craisins (your choice). The dough will still feel a little sticky. This dough does not require kneading. Cover and let rise in a warm place about 2 more hours.
  3. Set up 12 panettone molds on a baking sheet. Divide the dough into 12 equal pieces and fill each mold. Try not to knead it or push it down too much. Let the dough rise another 2 hours until the molds are almost full.
  4. Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees and bake for about 30 minutes until the top is golden brown. Allow to cool to room temperature and then remove the wrapper if desired.

To make the icing: whisk together 2 cups of powdered sugar, 1 Tablespoon lemon juice and ½ Tablespoon cream. Add a little more cream if it’s too thick, or a little more powdered sugar if it’s too runny. Pour glaze over each Paska and top with sprinkles before the glaze sets.

I hope you enjoy this recipe! I will be posting a new Easter recipe every week leading up to Easter. You can see last week’s recipe here.

Please share this recipe if you enjoyed it! Post a photo and tag me @amybakesbread so I can see your bake 🙂

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Pi Day Party

As a teenager I remember geeking out in math class with my friends about the idea of “pi,” this never-ending number that is the ratio of the circumference of any circle to the diameter of that circle. It’s amazing how that number appears in so many math equations. When we found out that many people (mostly other math nerds like us) celebrated “pi” on its very own day, we knew had to join in the fun. The number “pi” is 3.14159… and so on forever so March 14th (3.14) turned out to be the day to celebrate. We proceeded to eat circular-shaped foods all.day.long. Yes, this is the kind of stuff that kids who take AP Calculus do and talk about for fun 🙂

The perfect berry “pi” pie.
Jump to “Fastest Two Minutes in Sports” Derby Day Pie” Recipe

Pi Day Party

I have been out of school for many years now and really haven’t used my knowledge of calculus all that much as a stay-at-home-mom. But my love of traditions, living life to the fullest and eating good food has kept “pi” day alive and well in our house. If you know me, I’m always up for some kind of celebration. I taught my kids early on about “pi” and they have been converted to the awesomeness of a “pi” party too. Instead of eating circular-shaped foods all day, we decided to make pie and share it with friends instead.

What we do: Invite over a bunch of friends on 3.14 (March 14th) and ask everyone to bring a favorite pie! Some years we’ve included dinner with “pizza-pie” or “chicken-pot-pie.” It’s really up to you. I’m all about keeping it simple so even though I may throw in a few appetizers, the focus is going to be on the pie. It’s the perfect time of year to be eating pie since we often haven’t thought about it for months since Thanksgiving and everyone is excited for a slice of something yummy.

Simple Gathering That’s Easy to Host

This is really one of the simplest gatherings you can have. Get your kids involved and make a pie together or pick one up from the grocery store. Don’t forget some plates, forks, napkins and cups from the dollar store and you are good to go. Even if you weren’t a math-lover in high school, pretty much everyone can enjoy a slice (or two) of pie.

And just to get your ideas going, here is one of my all-time favorite pie recipes from where I live in Kentucky. Derby Pie is a trademarked pie here in Kentucky and many places make and sell their own version during the spring around Derby time. We love this pie for pi day, Thanksgiving and we usually eat it again on Derby Day, or we enjoy making these Derby Day bars instead. I hope you try it and enjoy it warm or with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top. Yum!

Derby Day Pie

The "fastest two minutes in sports" pie filled with pecans, chocolate chips and a brown sugar base. It is a Kentucky favorite!
Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 50 mins
Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Servings 1 pie

Ingredients
  

  • 6 Tablespoons unsalted butter melted and cooled
  • 3 eggs lightly beaten
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups pecans chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • splash of Bourbon optional
  • 1 9 inch pie crust homemade or store bought

Instructions
 

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Roll out pie crust into a 9 inch pie dish and set aside.
  • In a medium-sized bowl, use a spoon to mix together the butter, eggs, vanilla extract and brown sugar together until thick and creamy.
  • Add the flour and salt. Mix together to combine. If using Bourbon, add a splash to the mixture.
  • Add chopped pecans and chocolate chips to the mixture and stir to combine. Pour into the pie crust.
  • Bake for about 50 minutes until done. It will be a little jiggly but no big wobbles. Allow to cool before slicing. Enjoy!
Keyword chocolate, Derby Day, pecan

Will you celebrate pi day? What is your favorite kind of pie?

Please share this recipe if you enjoyed it! Post a photo and tag me @amybakesbread so I can see your bake 🙂

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Kid Sized King Cake

Last year we took a trip down to the Gulf Coast, driving through Mobile, Alabama and vacationing for a week on Dauphin Island…a little piece of paradise we never knew existed. We added a day trip to New Orleans, Louisiana where we indulged in beignets at Cafe du Monde, danced to jazz music in the street and enjoyed sampling Cajun cooking. We even sampled a piece of their famous “King Cake” and learned about the history of Mardi Gras, something we knew very little about. 

Jump to Kid-Sized King Cake Recipe

Mardi Gras History

Mardi Gras means “Fat Tuesday” in French. It is traditionally a time of fun and feasting before Lent which begins on Ash Wednesday. Many people give up certain foods and other luxuries during Lent to prepare themselves for Easter. When French settlers moved to North America, they continued their traditions and the first American Mardi Gras was celebrated in Mobile, Alabama or New Orleans (depending on who you ask). Now, New Orleans holds the largest Mardi Gras celebration in North America. Many parades, people dressed up in costume, beads, jazz music and celebrating take place leading up to and on Fat Tuesday, exactly 47 days before Easter.

Introducing Kids to A New Culture

As a mom I’m always looking for fun ways to make connections to the real world with my kids. We don’t traditionally celebrate Ash Wednesday or Mardi Gras but I’m always up for an excuse to bake. After experiencing the fun vibes of New Orleans, I decided Mardi Gras King Cakes were on my bucket-list to “bake with my kids.” I picked up an informational book from our local library (thank you library holds), purchased a few ingredients and we made our own “kid-sized” King Cakes.

One of my mom tips: Pick up a book from the library about the history behind your bakes. It strengthens literacy skills and we all learn new things together.

What is a King Cake?

King Cakes are traditionally eaten during Mardi Gras season. They are baked into the shape of a crown and taste similar to a cinnamon roll, though other flavors are also popular. Gold, green and purple sugar sprinkles cover the creamy icing as a reminder of power, faith and justice. A little doll is traditionally hidden in the cake and the person who finds it (sinking their teeth into it) buys a king cake for the group the next time they get together.

1 Kid-sized King Cake will feed around 8 , this recipe makes 2 King Cakes

Adapting King Cakes for Kids

A traditional King Cake feeds around 18 people. I wanted each of my kids to get to make their own, so we made “mini” versions that make around 8 slices each. For our Kid-Sized King Cakes, I pulled some candy out of the pantry and let the kids choose what they wanted to hide in their cake. I thought an edible version would be better than the potential for a cracked tooth. We rolled up the candy inside the dough, baked it and then the kids had to guess where it was when we cut into the cake. The anticipation seeing if they guessed right and looking for the mystery candies was a hit. The consensus was the caramels held together pretty well. Chocolate was second-best and the gummy bears melted away. They were still fun to find the colors left behind. Moral of the story: use what you have on hand (leftover Valentine…or even Christmas candy works great).

The Process

This southern cake starts out with a sour cream mixture that is heated over the stove. The dough is mixed using a stand mixer or by hand and then left to rise for an hour. After rising, portion the dough into two king cakes (or one large one if you want to make a traditional king cake). Roll the dough out into two rectangles and fill with cinnamon sugar filling. This filling is not quite as heavy for King Cake as a traditional cinnamon roll recipe. If you like more filling, you can double the filling recipe. Choose a candy to hide and place it somewhere on your rectangle of dough. Then roll the dough up cinnamon-roll style and shape into a circle, bringing the two ends together. Let the king cake rise again before baking. Once the cake is baked, top with the icing and cover in colorful sprinkles (affiliate link).

These King Cakes are decadent, delicious and kids are in heaven with the amount of sprinkles they put on top. And while I would never recommend skipping this delicious dough, I won’t bat an eye if you pick up a refrigerated roll of dough from the grocery store and follow the rest of the recipe from there. Either way, get in the kitchen and have fun making a mess with all the sprinkles, living it up with your kid-sized King Cakes and “let the good times roll!”

Kid-Sized King Cake

The perfect way to celebrate Mardi Gras with these kid-sized king cakes. Whether you want to introduce your kids to a fun new tradition or enjoy a King Cake that's a little smaller portion-wise, these King Cakes are the perfect size for a small group and taste delicious too.
Prep Time 30 mins
Cook Time 22 mins
Rising Time: 2 hrs
Course Bread, Dessert
Cuisine American
Servings 2 small king cakes

Ingredients
  

King Cake Dough

  • 8 oz sour cream
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter cubed
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup warm water
  • 3/4 Tablespoon instant yeast
  • 1 large egg beaten
  • 3-3 1/2 cups bread flour see recipe note

King Cake Filling

  • 3 Tablespoons butter softened
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 small unwrapped candies to hide in the King Cakes

Glaze

  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla or any flavoring you like
  • purple, yellow, green sugar sprinkles for decorating

Instructions
 

  • In a saucepan on the stove over low heat, cook the sour cream, sugar, butter and salt until the butter is melted. Cool to room temperature.
  • Pour the mixture into a heavy duty stand mixer (Bosch, KitchenAid, etc…) and add the water and instant yeast. Mix in the egg and 1 cup of flour and beat until smooth. Gradually add in the remaining flour until a soft dough forms.
  • Knead with your mixer 5 minutes or by hand about 10 minutes. Be careful not to over-flour your dough.
  • Let the dough rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about an hour. 
  • Punch down the dough and divide it in half (this recipe makes two “smaller” King Cakes). 
  • Mix together your filling: butter, brown sugar and cinnamon and divide it in half (a portion for each cake).
  • Using one piece of dough at a time, roll the dough out to a rectangle about 16 inches long, or longer and 6-8 inches wide. Spread the filling over the dough trying to get an even coating over all the dough (this should remind you of making cinnamon rolls).
  • Place your candy on the cake at the edge nearest to you and where you begin to roll.
  • Roll up each rectangle like a jelly-roll and then form a circle by bringing the ends of the roll together and pinching the seams together as you
  • Repeat for the second king cake. You may want to put a small, circular, oven-proof dish in the center of the ring to help keep the circular shape in the middle when baking.
  • Cover and let rise for about 30 minutes until puffy.
  • Bake at 350 degrees for 20-22 minutes until golden and cooked through. 
  • While the cakes are cooling, mix up the glaze with a spoon or hand mixer. Add a little more cream if glaze is too thick.
  • Add glaze to piping (or ziplock) baggies, cut off the ends and let your kids decorate their cakes!
  • Top with purple, yellow and green sprinkles and have your child guess where their “baby” (or candy in this case) is located in their cake. Enjoy the deliciousness of a Mardi Gras King Cake!

Notes

Serving Size: This recipe makes two small king cakes, each feeding about 8 people. If you want to make one large king cake, use all of the dough and make one large king cake (feeding about 18 people).
Bread Flour: If you don’t have bread flour, you can substitute all purpose flour. If you have vital wheat gluten, add 2-3 teaspoons in with the all purpose flour for a bread flour substitution. 
King Cake Candy: Unwrap any of your favorite candy to hide in the King Cake. Caramel held up the best. Chocolate worked well. Gummy candy dissolved but was still fun. 
Recipe adapted from Southern Living
Keyword Kid Friendly, King Cake, Mardi Gras

Follow me on Instagram @amybakesbread, like Amy Bakes Bread on Facebook or follow me on Pinterest for more baking ideas.

Please share this recipe if you enjoyed it! Post a photo and tag me @amybakesbread so I can see your bake.