Saturday Post: Devil’s Food Whiteout Cake and Vanilla Earl Grey Tea Cookies

This past week has been one of those crazy ones, but I think the week (and days!) before Thanksgiving will always be like that. My youngest son, Rhys, turned 4 on Tuesday, and I wanted to do something special for his birthday party that we had today. Usually, when we have family over for a birthday party, I go all out on the food (lumpia, pancit, maybe Filipino barbecue, and any other delicious dishes my family brings to the party). This year, I decided to try something different and make Rhys’s birthday cake. Most times, I buy a fun birthday cake from the grocery store or will buy one of Costco’s huge birthday cakes. Cake is not one of my baking talents.

One of the cookbooks I borrowed from the library – Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan – has an amazing-looking cake on the cover. I had to try making it!

It was not the easiest cake in the world to make. In fact, my first attempt did not work out (the cake layers stuck to the pans) and I used one of the cake layers as the cake crumbs that were pressed into the frosting. So, it took me 3 days to fully make this cake. On Thursday, I had my failed attempt, on Friday, I successfully baked two layers for the cake and refrigerated them overnight, and today, I made the frosting for the cake and assembled it.


I also was not able to make the Italian meringue frosting that was used in the recipe. I only had 4 hours this morning to assemble the cake as well as clean the house. So I went with a simple cream cheese frosting from probably my favorite food blog: Simply Recipes by Elise Bauer. The frosting part was the easy part. Getting the cake crumb topping onto the cake was more difficult. Which is probably why it looks a bit of a mess.

The cake was very brownie-like and fudgy for a cake and it tasted great. It wasn’t too sweet and the chocolate flavor shone through. I used a 60% cocoa chocolate bar for the bittersweet chocolate and Hershey milk chocolate for the chopped chocolate.

The adults all liked the cake, but the birthday boy hardly ate any of his! This is funny to me because he is the one who requested a chocolate chocolate cake. I was also surprised that one of my nephews, who does NOT like cake, ate his whole piece and wanted more! So I guess it really was more like a brownie. ūüôā

I was disappointed that I wasn’t able to make the Italian meringue, so I am going to try and make it for my husband’s birthday in January.


Tomorrow, our Sunday School class is having a breakfast potluck. I wasn’t sure what to bring as I was a bit baked out from the birthday cake ordeal. I told my husband about the potluck, and then I went looking for something that was quick to make but would still taste good.

I was about to make some Cream Cheese muffins and set about preparing to do so when Josh walked into the kitchen and asked if we could bring cookies. I was a little surprised. Bring cookies to class for breakfast? Then, he specified that he wanted to make Vanilla and Earl Grey tea cookies.

We have been wanting to try making these for a while, ever since we saw Earl Grey tea biscuits on a biscuit episode of the Great British Bakeoff. They were actually not that hard to make, especially with Josh and I both working together. I had a lot of fun baking with him. We should do that more often!

The brand of Earl Grey we used. I think we ended up using about 12 tea bags.

Butter, lots of butter! 2 sticks to be exact or 1 cup.

Josh took care of getting the tea leaves out of the bags.

We should have just taken the lid off the food processor to put in the rest of the ingredients: flour, salt, powdered sugar. But this lid isn’t very easy to put on. If we start using the food processor more, we might be in the market to get a better one. We made quite a mess getting all the ingredients in there. Also, because the finer ingredients kept escaping out of the bowl, Josh was not able to grind up the two vanilla beans completely. We had to sift out the larger pieces of vanilla beans using a mesh strainer. To replace the chunks of vanilla beans that were not ground, Josh added some vanilla extract.


The dough looks a little odd with all the chopped up vanilla bean and tea leaves, but the dough tasted good just like this!

It looks even odder when it is rolled into a log. This was rolled in and sprinkled with raw sugar and then wrapped in plastic wrap to go in the freezer.

I think the TARDIS will be showing up in a lot of our baking/cooking pictures. This is a cookie jar that I got from my sister-in-law for Christmas last year. I store candy in it instead of cookies. I love it!

After being in the freezer for 30 minutes, the log was ready to be sliced. Josh sliced it into 1/3 inch cookies or as close as he could get to 1/3 inch.

The cookies after baking. They probably could be a little bit browner but the bottoms had already browned so Josh took them out. I think they tasted good like this, with just a little bit of crisp to them.
All of my children except one liked these cookies. The one who didn’t like them probably had issues with the ground tea leaves. He is very particular about the texture of his food.

The tea flavor is very subtle in these cookies. I was able to taste the black tea but not very much of the bergamot. The vanilla is the best part of the cookies though. They are buttery and perfect with a cup of tea!


Winter tomatoes

Winter is such a subjective thing.  Some people get freezing temperatures for 5-6 months, while others are more blessed and have mild winters.  Living in San Diego County, we have the mild type.  On occasion our temperatures will dip into the mid 30s at night, but typically we warm up during the day.  For instance we have a forecasted high of 86 on Sunday, though it is supposed to get much colder next week with highs in the low 60s.  I know it is a tough life, but somebody has to live it.

This year I am trying something new to take advantage of the weather.  I have planted 5 tomato plants in the last month or so to see how they grow.  I believe the temperatures will be warm enough, but they may lack enough direct sunlight.  The winter sun is blocked in the mornings by two very large pine trees that my neighbors have.  I positioned my pots where they should get a good amount of sun.  I just hope it is enough.  The seed I planted just over a month ago is doing well and has started to bud.  The other 4 plants are smallish but seem to be growing well.









I tried planting leeks earlier in the year, but most of them didn’t grow. ¬†I picked the 4 smallish leeks that did grow and we will be eating all of them tonight in soup.




I was able to pick up 52 red scallop edging bricks for free.  I love getting free stuff for my yard.

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Crumpets revisited, Madeira cake, and cookbooks!

I had a container full of discard starter in the fridge that I had been saving for crumpets for about a week! Today, I was finally able to make them. This time I followed the method at Chocolate and Zucchini and they came out much better than my last batch. I think I might have oiled my cast-iron skillet too much though so I will do that differently next time. I think the key for me was not to add the baking soda to the batter until I was ready to cook it. I also did not flip the crumpets over, and I let them “set” by cooking on only one side. That way I was able to get the big holes on the top that characterize crumpets. I didn’t take pictures this time though because they still aren’t very pretty-looking. I think this is because I cooked them more like pancakes since I do not have crumpet rings. My kids kept asking to try them as I was making them. I don’t know if this is because they smelled good or because they were just hungry!

I also was able to make a Madeira cake, which I learned about from the Great British Bakeoff. Josh and I love how many new names for baked goods that we learn from the show. I think a Madeira cake is pretty close to a pound cake in ingredients. We’ll see how it is texture and taste-wise once I take it out of the pan.

I used Nigella’s recipe: My-Mother-In-Law’s Madeira cake.  I did change it a bit. I had just made that lemon pound cake I posted about a few days ago so I wanted a different flavor. Hopefully, I didn’t ruin the cake by doing that! I used maple sugar in place of some of the caster sugar, and then used maple syrup as part of the lemon juice portion.

My cake is cooling now but I think I might have underbaked it. Horrors! It is sinking a little bit in the middle. I had it in the oven at 325 degrees for 60 minutes.

Before I put it in the oven. I wasn't sure how much it would rise.
Before I put it in the oven. I wasn’t sure how much it would rise.

After baking. It doesn't have the crack across the length of the cake but hopefully it isn't too underbaked to eat!
After baking. It doesn’t have the crack across the length of the cake but hopefully it isn’t too underbaked to eat!

My cookbook reading material for the next few weeks!
My cookbook reading material for the next few weeks!
The San Diego Chef’s Table cookbook is more for me just to see what the restaurants in the area are like. I always like reading about them in the newspaper, but I think this book will be more in-depth. From a quick look-through, I don’t think there are any actual recipes I will try making from this book.

The Great British Bake Off: Big Book of Baking – There were a few recipes I wanted to try that I saw on the show. I haven’t been able to look through the whole book yet. I need a good hour I think to do that!

Eat What You Love Everyday by Marlene Koch – I have one of her other cookbooks, Eat What You Love, and my mom has the second one, Eat More of What You Love. I enjoyed those two cookbooks, so I thought I would take a look at this newest one.

Baking by Dorie Greenspan – I used her lemon-lemon cream recipe and wanted to see what other recipes she has. And no, I STILL haven’t been able to make lemon-lemon cream. Yes, this makes me sad. Somehow I have to carve about two hours out of my day to make it and when I do, I need to make a LOT because we love the stuff.

My two oldest went on a cruise with my parents last week and have been talking about the food on the ship almost every day. Today, Corran, my oldest, was telling me about getting to eat crepes for breakfast. At first, he said the word “crepe” differently, so I had no idea what he was talking about. We won’t go there. I’m sure my face when he said it was a bit comical though.

We often like to have breakfast for dinner, so I think tonight we will probably give crepes a try! Corran said it is more like a dessert, but since crepes are very thin pancakes, I told him that we will have breakfast dessert for dinner. I am hoping not to hear much complaining at dinner tonight!

My Mom’s Easy Eggrolls

Hooray!  I am finally posting my mom’s eggrolls recipe! I also finally figured out how to post recipes properly so that they can be easily printed.

Here is a link to the recipe shortcode you can use: How to post recipes with a print link. 

When I have a chance, I will look into how to turn the print link into a print button, but in the meantime, this works for me!

My Mom's Easy Eggrolls

  • Servings: 30 eggrolls
  • Difficulty: medium
  • Print


  • 1 lb. ground pork, ground beef, or a mixture of both
  • 1/2 package frozen mixed veggies (12 – 16 oz package)
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 Tablespoons soy sauce
  • dash of pepper
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 package of eggroll wrappers (30 wrappers)
  • water (for wrapping)


Saute garlic and onions until onions become transparent. Add ground meat to garlic and onion mixture. Cook until meat is no longer pink. Add the frozen mixed vegetables to the meat mixture. Cover and simmer on low for 10 minutes.

Add soy sauce and pepper to filling. Simmer on low for another 10 minutes.

Place in colander to drain and cool. The mixture has to be nearly cooled down or wrapping it will be difficult.

When cooled, add beaten egg and mix thoroughly.

Separate eggroll wrappers from each other. Place 1 Tablespoon of mixture in the middle of each wrapper. Wet the edges with the water and roll. Freeze after wrapping in ziploc bags.

Do not thaw the eggrolls before cooking or else they will fall apart in the pan.

Cook frozen eggrolls in oil over medium heat until golden brown on one side. Flip eggrolls to cook the other side. Serve with sweet and sour sauce.

Some quick notes:

I posted a few weeks ago about my eggroll-making method. You can read it here. Here are a few hints though to make the recipe above even easier.

  1. Use garlic powder or dried minced garlic and dried chopped onion in place of the fresh garlic and onion.
  2. Instead of using the whole wrapper, cut or slice each wrapper in half across the diagonal (so you end up with two triangle-shaped wrappers instead of a square wrapper) and use a smaller portion of filling, about 1-2 teaspoons. These roll up smaller and are better for kids to eat. I think they are a bit crispier too! Sometime soon, I will post my mom’s recipe for tofu vegetable eggrolls. Those use the whole wrapper because vegetables take up a lot of space!
  3. I do not add an egg anymore to the filling before wrapping. I can’t remember why the egg is added but it might be to bind the filling together a little bit.
  4. When cooking frozen eggrolls, sprinkle flour into the oil in your pan. This will keep it from splattering as much while cooking.
  5. Here are a few of the products that I use for the eggrolls:

I have to confess that this wrapper drives me nuts. I will have a major tantrum while separating these.
I have to confess that this wrapper drives me nuts. I will have a major tantrum while separating these. If I have to use this wrapper, I buy them from the military commissary.

My all-time favorite eggroll wrapper. It is SO easy to work with!  I have found that I can work a lot faster when I use this brand. I also don't tear as many wrappers during separating.
This eggroll wrapper is a little bit harder for me to get ahold of. It’s only at the Asian market. I can roll eggrolls so much faster though when I use these.

This sweet and sour sauce is easier to find than most. I buy it at our local chain grocery store.
This sweet and sour sauce is easier to find than most. I buy it at our local chain grocery store.

We like this sweet chili sauce too for dipping our eggrolls.
We like this sweet chili sauce too for dipping our eggrolls.

Josh and I are a bit addicted to this spicy vinegar. I want to try making our own sometime! This is good with these eggrolls, but it is amazing with vegetable lumpia!
Josh and I are a bit addicted to this spicy vinegar. I want to try making our own sometime! This is good with these eggrolls, but it is amazing with vegetable lumpia!

I might be posting again later today. I am taking three of my kids to the library and I am borrowing a copy of a cookbook from the Great British Bakeoff!  I can’t wait to look through it!

Tuesday – Catch-up post

Note: I had planned on publishing this post on Saturday, but my sick family has occupied my attention since then. ūüôā We are on the mend and hoping that the cold/flu is done with us for a little while.

Saturday, November 7th, 2015

Today, I had planned on baking/cooking most of the day, but as sometimes happens, my plans had to change. My daughter, who is sick right now, wanted to play outside with her brothers. So I took her outside to play in the sunshine for about half an hour. I helped her swing on the glider, stand on a big rock, and take a walk around the yard. It was worth it to get to hold her hand and see her big smiles.

I did still get to bake and for once, I was actually completely happy with one of the recipes I made.

Honey-Oat Casserole bread was my first bake. I wanted to make a levain bread, but I realized I would have had to start that last night. So that has been postponed until Monday.  (P.S. I still haven’t gotten to the levain bread. Maybe on Friday. One thing I am learning right now is that I have to be very flexible with my goals for baking something new, especially if it takes a lot of planning and time.)

This bread was relatively easy. I didn’t have to knead it, and I was able to use a mixer. It didn’t rise as much as I would have liked but it does have a nice crust.

Before baking. I should have smoothed it out after putting it in the pan.
I think I should have let it rise a little longer. It was just about 70 degrees in our kitchen when I started baking. This was after about a 45 minutes to an hour rise.

nice, brown crust and sounded hollow on the bottom when i tapped it
I made the bread to go with dinner but we ended up not eating it tonight. So it will have to be breakfast instead!

My second bake was a reworked recipe for yogurt cake. Yogurt cake just doesn’t sound nice so I will call it lemon pound cake instead! It probably doesn’t use enough eggs to really be considered a pound cake, but it is very similar to pound cake.

I doubled the recipe so I would have enough for a bundt pan and a loaf pan.

I don’t think I would change anything in this recipe! The cake ended up pillowy soft. I actually can’t remember where I found this recipe so here is the reworked recipe, for two pans, instead of one. I also changed quite a few of the ingredients from the original. I kept the bundt cake for my family and brought the loaf cake for my fellow nursery workers at church the next morning.

Lemon Pound Cake

Makes two bundt cakes, two loaf cakes, or one of each


  • 2 cups butter, softened
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 6 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 16 ounces plain yogurt
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • confectioner’s sugar


Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C). Grease and flour the two cake pans. Mix together the flour, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl. Set aside.

In a large bowl, rub the lemon zest into the sugar until you can no longer see the zest. Add the butter. Using a mixer, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Beat in the eggs one at a time, then add the vanilla extract and lemon juice. Alternately beat in the flour mixture and the yogurt, mixing just until incorporated.

Pour half the batter into one pan and the other half into the second pan. Bake in the preheated oven for 60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. The loaf cake needed about 3 to 5 minutes more than the bundt cake. Allow to cool for 10 minutes in the pan and then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely. Sprinkle with confectioner’s sugar once cool.

I used lemon juice and confectioner’s sugar to make a drizzle for the tops of the cakes. I probably used about a 1/4 to 1/2 cup sugar to 1 – 2 Tablespoons of lemon juice. Icing is a bit of a “mix it until it’s the right consistency with me” and is not always successful. Fortunately, this time it turned out the way I wanted!

Tuesday, November 10th

I do have a few goals for today. One of them is to make applesauce since I bought about 10 pounds of apples on sale a few days ago. If that is all I accomplish today in the kitchen (besides the usual cooking meals :)), then I will be happy.

Bokashi Composting

I hate to waste food and kitchen scraps, but I have found that I am bad at traditional composting. ¬†Partly I think it is our dry hot summers that cause the compost pile to dry out, quickly cancelling out the composting processes. ¬†Thankfully, I discovered Bokashi which allows me to use our kitchen scraps and the food my kids don’t eat to better¬†my yard.

I have read that Bokashi is a Japanese word meaning fermenting organic matter. ¬†Since I don’t know Japanese I can’t confirm that, but I do know that the waste scraps do ferment in the bokashi process. ¬†Bokashi isn’t true composting as the waste will look the same at the end of the process as when you used it in your kitchen. ¬†Bokashi is an anaerobic fermentation process that essentially creates worm food.

When doing bokashi, you will need a container for the scraps and some sort of bokashi bran. ¬†There are expensive bokashi buckets with spigots for sale, but I just use a plain 5 gallon bucket. ¬†The spigot buckets do allow for removing the excess liquid in the bucket. ¬†The liquid is good for plants and the process is supposed to work better without too much liquid. ¬†So far I haven’t seen any problems with using a plain bucket.


The bokashi bran is some sort of bran with special microbes in it. ¬†I buy my bran mix from Teraganix. ¬†I have also bought the microbial inoculant from Teraganix to make my own bran mix but haven’t used it yet since I bought 4 large bags of the premixed on sale.


To me, the best thing about bokashi is that I can use almost all of the kitchen scraps and waste.  Meat, dairy, and citrus cannot be used in traditional composting.  Meat and dairy fester and smell horrible when put into a compost pile, but in bokashi they ferment just like everything else.  Most people say that too much citrus in a compost pile is bad for a variety of reasons such as changing the acidity of the compost pile or killing worms.

To start the bokashi bucket, I put in several crumpled sheets of newspaper to soak up moisture with about a quarter cup of bokashi bran.  After that food scraps can be added as you get them.  I add about an eighth of a cup of bokashi bran every inch or two of scraps.  It is important to keep the scraps in the bucket well compacted, I typically use a plate to smush it down but will use some newspaper every so often.  This allows the anaerobic process to work better, and of course allows more to be put in the bucket.

food scraps in bucket
food scraps in bucket
bokashi bran on the scraps
bokashi bran on the scraps

Once the bucket is full, the bokashi needs to sit for around two weeks. ¬†After the resting time, it should be a bucket of lovely fermented food scraps. ¬†It will smell fermented, so when you open up the bucket, do not be surprised if there is an odor. ¬†It shouldn’t smell rotten, I would say it smells somewhat yeasty. ¬†You will need to have a place in your yard to put the bokashi. ¬†It needs to be buried in the ground so worms and such can eat it and turn it into something good for your plants. ¬†If you bury it too shallow, animals may be attracted to it. ¬†I have had a raccoon get into my buried bokashi before.

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finished bokashi in a hole in the ground
finished bokashi in a hole in the ground












Things you can put in the bokashi bucket other then the typical food

  • newspaper in moderation.
  • napkins/paper towels if no chemicals are in them
  • meat/fat
  • bones if they are small like some chicken bones
  • coffee
  • egg shells
  • I read dryer lint can go in there but I have found the lint in my yard later

There will be most likely be white mold on top of your bokashi after the two weeks, but that is ok. ¬†If you ever see green mold growing then that is bad. ¬†To fix that you need to dump a quarter cup of the bokashi bran onto the green mold. ¬†That should clear up the mold, but you may need to add more so keep an eye on it. ¬†Never put anything that has already started to mold into your bokashi bucket, the green mold isn’t good for the process.

Using bokashi for our kitchen scraps has greatly reduced the amount of food that we just throw away.  Rather then going to a landfill where the food sits and is wasted, we are now using it to make our plants grow better.  This is even better when the scraps we are recycling are vegetables from our yard.  We are creating a sustainable garden that uses its own waste as fertilizer. Bokashi is also great for suburban yards because there is no smelly pile that will disturb the neighbors.  No matter how small your yard or garden bokashi might be a great way for you to reduce your waste and grow better plants.


Breakfast and Tea Cakes

I took a little bit of a break from baking anything new for a week. So that is why I haven’t posted for a while! I am also without my two oldest minions (sons ūüôā this week who help me out around the house. Josh has been doing a good job though of taking over their jobs in addition to all the other things he does for me. I think I might keep him!

My kids were getting a little bored of breakfast cereal, (and I was too!¬† I am not a big cereal person, mostly because I can’t drink milk) so on Monday, I baked up some Lemon Crumb Muffins.

The recipe makes a large batch though, so I halved it so that it would work better for the 5 (currently) of us.

My attempt at food photography. It didn't turn out quite the way I wanted.
My attempt at food photography. It didn’t turn out quite the way I wanted. I was in a bit of a rush though so I couldn’t retake.
The best part of these muffins is the streusel!
The best part of these muffins is the streusel!

I think it has been at least a year since I’ve made these muffins. I really should make them more often since we have a lemon tree in the backyard!

I was going to try and make lemon cream on Monday too but I ran out of time. Lemon cream isn’t something that can be made quickly and does require a bit of planning. I might have to put that off until next week. Lemon cream is a lot like lemon curd but it is… creamier.

The recipe for lemon cream comes from Dorie Greenspan. Lemon cream does take a bit of work, but it is well worth it to us since Josh and I are a bit addicted to lemon curd.

Today’s bake was raspberry tea cakes. To go with our tea.

We have been drinking a lot of tea lately because of a recent electric kettle purchase. Before I go on, there IS a difference between boiling water in the microwave and boiling it in a kettle when you make tea! It is hard to explain but it seems like the water boiled in a kettle “holds” the heat longer than the water boiled in the microwave. Actually, this would be an interesting science experiment for homeschooling…

I have¬† a certain cookie cookbook that I pull out every year around Thanksgiving and Christmas. It’s the Southern Living Christmas Cookies cookbook from 2002. Quite a few of my favorite Christmas cookies are in this book: wedding cookies, gingerbread, lemon bars. This recipe for royal raspberry tea cakes was in that book.

The dough was a little bit sticky, and the best thing about this recipe - no eggs!
The dough was a little bit sticky, and the best thing about this recipe – no eggs!
After baking. I was so so glad that the raspberry preserves didn't melt and run off the sides of the cookie. I am thinking that this is because the cookie baked up around the jam before it could melt.
After baking. I was so so glad that the raspberry preserves didn’t melt and run off the sides of the cookie. I am thinking that this is because the cake baked up around the jam before it could melt.
The preserves I used. The cocoa is subtle and not overpowering.
The preserves I used. The cocoa is subtle and not overpowering.

I thought the tea cakes were a little bit plain-looking this way so I mixed up a quick confectioner’s sugar glaze to drizzle on top. My drizzling wasn’t very good though so alas, I didn’t take pictures of it. The cookies taste good either way.

I have been having trouble staying away from these cute little cookies so I think had better stay out of the kitchen for a little while.

Josh and I are watching a new season of The Great British Bake-off and now Josh has come up with a fabulous idea for a date night at home. He was saying that we should find a recipe used on the show and try to make it together. I think we might do this with earl grey tea biscuits. It probably won’t be a recipe that was used on the show but the idea to make them is inspired by the show.

I’ve always wanted us to bake or cook something special together in the kitchen after the kids are in bed. Yes, it might make a mess and it might not turn out right, but that is part of the fun, right? ūüôā