Devil’s Food Cake with Vanilla Frosting for my Brother’s High School Graduation

This past weekend my little brother graduated from high school, and I felt old.  But I also feel very proud and so happy for him to be going onto college (especially because he is coming to the same one I go to!!).  I asked him if I could make him anything for the special day, and he asked for devil’s food cake with vanilla frosting.  I found the cake recipe at The Cooking Photographer, and the icing recipe at Lisa is Hungry. The two recipes complemented one another very well, and my brother enjoyed the cake!

Ingredients for the cake:

  • 1/2 cup shortening
1 3/4 cups sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/3 cups cold water
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

Ingredients for the frosting:

  • 4 cups powdered sugar, sifted
  • 10 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 4 tablespoons whole milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract




  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Grease and flour two 9 inch, 8 inch, or a 13×9 inch pan.
  3. In a large mixing bowl beat shortening with an electric mixer on medium high to high speed for 30 seconds.
  4. Add sugar and vanilla; beat until well combined.
  5. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each.
  6. Add cocoa powder, salt and water and mix well.
  7. Mix in the baking soda then add flour beating on low speed until combined.
  8. Pour batter into the prepared pan(s).
  9. Bake for 33 to 40 minutes or until a wooden toothpick comes out clean.
  10. Cool layer cakes in pan for 10 minutes.
  11. Run a knife along the edges and remove cakes from pans.
  12. Cool thoroughly on wire racks.
  13. Make your frosting: Beat the powdered sugar and butter together in an electric mixer fit with a paddle attachment on medium low speed until the mixture comes together and is well mixed. Turn the mixer speed to low.
  14. Combine the milk and the vanilla extract and slowly stream it into the butter and sugar mixture.
  15. Once incorporated, turn the mixer to high and beat until the frosting is light and fluffy, at least 5 minutes. The longer the frosting is beaten, the fluffier and lighter it becomes.
  16. Give to your baby brother for his graduation.

Cinnamon Rolls with Cream Cheese Glaze

I don’t really like cinnamon rolls, but something about this recipe from Buttered Up looked and sounded really appealing.  I was a little intimidated having never baked with yeast, but the result was gooey and delicious, and much better than those store bought ones in those pressurized-can things.

Ingredients for the dough:

  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons rapid rise yeast (from 2 envelopes yeast)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • nonstick vegetable oil spray

Ingredients for the Filling:

  • 3/4 cup packed golden brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter (at room temperature)
  • 1/4 cup chopped almonds



Ingredients for the Glaze (I apologize, I never got a picture of them!!):

  • 4 ounces cream cheese (at room temperature)
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter (at room temperature)
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract


  1. Start by preparing your dough.  Combine milk and butter and melt until mixture is just warmed, about 30 to 45 seconds, then pour into bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.
  2. Add 1 cup of flour, sugar, yeast, egg, and salt.  Beat on low speed 3 minutes.
  3. Add 2 1/2 cups flower.  Beat on low until flour is absorbed and dough is sticky.  If dough is too sticky, add more flour by tablespoonfuls until dough begins to form a ball and pulls away from the sides of the bowl.
  4. Lightly oil a large bowl with nonstick spray, transfer the dough to the bowl, turning to coat.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, then a kitchen towel.
  5. Let dough rise in a warm, draft-free area until it has doubled in volume (about 2 hours).
  6. Next make your filling.  Mix the brown sugar, cinnamon, and almonds in a medium bowl.
  7. Punch down the dough.  Transfer it to a floured work surface, and roll out to a 15×11 inch rectangle.
  8. Spread the butter over the dough, leaving a 1/2 inch border.
  9. Sprinkle the cinnamon sugar evenly over the butter.
  10. Starting at one long side, roll the dough into a log, pinching gently to keep it rolled up.
  11. With the seam side down, cut dough with a thin sharp knife into about 18 equal slices, each about 1/2 to 3/4 inch wide.
  12. Spray two 9-inch square baking dishes with nonstick spray.
  13. Divide rolls between baking dishes; there will be almost no space between rolls.
  14. Cover baking dishes with plastic wrap, then kitchen towel.  Let dough rise in a warm draft-free area until almost doubled in volume, about 40-45 minutes.
  15. Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 375. Bake rolls until tops are golden, about 20 minutes.
  16. Remove from oven and invert immediately onto rack. Cool 10 minutes, then turn rolls right side up.
  17. Next make your glaze.  Combine cream cheese, powdered sugar, butter, and vanilla in the bowl of a mixer.  Beat until smooth, then spread glaze on rolls.
  18. Serve and devour!!!

Sid was sad to never get her grubby little paws on any of these, but she did manage to get a little butter on her nose!

Chicken Cacciatore Risotto

If you ever find yourself hosting a dinner party where you really want to impress your guests… MAKE THIS.  I took one bite and literally said out loud “this tastes like it’s from some gourmet bistro or something!”  I couldn’t believe that I had made it, it was so good, and so impressive with its complexly delicious flavors.  This recipe is adapted from Elly Says Opa! who I thank for sharing it with the world.


  • 1 large chicken breast
  • 1 tsp. olive oil
  • 1 tsp. herbes de Provence
  • 2 Tbsp. butter, divided
  • 1 cup arborio rice
  • 3/4 cup red wine
  • 3 cups chicken broth
  • 1 (15 oz.) can diced tomatoes
  • 1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper
  • 1/2 onion, minced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 8 oz. cremini mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 red bell pepper, cut into strips
  • 3/4 cup grated Peccorino Romano cheese


Season the chicken on both sides with salt, pepper, and Herbes de Provence.  Heat a large saute pan or wide/shallow saucepan over medium heat, and add the olive oil.  Add the chicken and cook 4-6 minutes per side, or until cooked through.  Remove chicken and set aside.

Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, bring the chicken stock, diced tomatoes, and crushed red pepper to a simmer.  Keep at a low simmer.
Add 1 Tbsp. butter to the pan where you cooked the chicken.  Once melted, add the onion and bell pepper and cook until softened, about 3 minutes.  Add the garlic, and mushrooms and cook an additional minute.

Add the rice to the skillet, and cook, stirring continuously, until the edges are translucent.  Decrease the heat to medium-low.  Add the red wine, and stir continuously, scraping up any browned bits, until the wine is mostly absorbed.

Add 1-2 ladle-fulls of the chicken broth/tomato mixture to the rice, stirring constantly, until almost all the liquid has been absorbed.  Add another 1-2 ladle-fulls.

Continue adding liquid until the rice is cooked al dente.  Taste to check doneness—it should have a slight bite in the center.  When cooked to al dente, add 1 more ladle of chicken broth, and remove from heat.  Stir in the remaining Tablespoon of butter, and the cheese.

Cut the chicken into bite sized pieces, and add to the risotto.  Serve immediately and impress those guests!

Mexican Brownies for Cinco de Mayo

Happy Cinco de Mayo!! I realize the name of these brownies could be seen as offensive, and I truly don’t mean to offend but they are a perfect dessert for Cinco de Mayo celebrations and let’s face it, the entire holiday is a little offensive to begin with.  But I promise the rich and complex flavor of these brownies won’t offend anybody’s taste buds! I got this recipe from my mom, who got it from Good Housekeeping’s June 2002 issue.

Ingredients for brownies:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 1/2 tspn baking powder
  • 1/2 tspn salt
  • 1/2 tspn ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup butter (2 sticks)
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 4 large eggs


Ingredients for frosting:

  • 1 tablespoon instant coffee powder or granules
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 1/3 cup powdered sugar




  1. Preheat oven to 350 degree F. Grease 13 X 9 inch metal baking pan.
  2. In medium bowl, combine flour, cocoa, baking powder, salt and cinnamon
  3. In a 3-quart saucepan, melt butter over low heat. Remove saucepan from heat and stir in granulated sugar. Stir in eggs, one at a time, until well-blended; add vanilla. Stir flour mixture into sugar mixture until blended. Spread batter evenly in prepared pan.
  4. Bake brownies 25 to 30 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center of pan comes out almost clean. Cool completely in pan on wire rack.
  5. When brownies are cool, prepare coffee frosting. In cup, disolve coffee in vanilla and 2 tablespoons of water; set aside. In 1-quart saucepan, heat brown sugar and butter over medium heat until mixture melts and bubbles, about 2 minutes. Remove saucepan from heat. With wire whisk, beat in coffee mixture and the confectioners sugar until blended and smooth.
  6. Spread frosting over brownies then sprinkle some coffee grounds on top.
  7. Dig in!