Thursday, April 17, 2014

Bunny Nest Carrot Mini Bundts #BundtBakers

What does a bunny bring for Easter? Candied eggs, of course. What you may not know is that bunny nests are made of carrot cake, cream cheese glaze and coconut. True story. (Unless you are in France, and then the flying church bells deliver the eggs and chocolate. Seriously. I don’t make this stuff up, folks!) 

On this day in 1968, my life changed forever when our family went from four to five with the arrival of my baby sister. I was five years old so I remember it well. I had been sent to stay with my maternal grandparents for a few weeks towards the end of Mom’s pregnancy. I “worked” with my grandmother in the store each day, dusting the appliances, keeping my “accounts” and playing in those fabulously large boxes refrigerators and the like are delivered in and occasionally accompanying my grandfather out on short service calls. I drank small bottles of ice cold Coca-Cola and Grape Nehi to my heart’s content from the old-timey red machine that took just a nickel. And my grandmother kept a small bowl of nickels at the ready. I ate candy and cake and ice cream at will. In short, it was the holiday of any child’s dream. Have all the babies you want! When the phone call came that Marta had been born, family lore tells the story of my reaction: I said that I would come home when the baby stopped crying. I have no personal recollection of making that statement, but, hey, I was no fool. I knew I had it good where I was. My parents were stunned when they picked me up. Apparently I was as wide as I was tall. So 1968 was also the year a lot of my fat cells were created. But I don’t hold it against my sister. She is smart and funny and one of the most generous souls I know. If Marta has bought you a gift, careful thought went into that thing and it will be something purchased with just you in mind.  She is one of my favorite people to spend time with, because she has a wicked sense of humor and can always make me laugh. She is a great cook, an astute businesswoman and a talented graphic designer as well as the caring mom of three beautiful boys. With an April birthday, Marta’s were often celebrated with an Easter theme when we were growing up so I thought it appropriate to make these little carrot cakes with her in mind. Happy birthday, dear sister! I love you!

Easter, circa 1969

This month’s Bundt Bakers theme is Easter and spring and our host is my good friend, Tara of Noshing with the Nolands. Happy Easter, everyone! Let’s bake some Bundts!

For the cake:
2 eggs at room temperature
3/4 cup or 170g sugar
1/2 cup or 120ml of light cooking oil (canola or sunflower)
1/4 cup or 60ml milk
 7 oz or 200g carrots
1 1/2 cups or 190g flour
1/3 cup or 40g finely chopped pecans or nut of your choice
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt

For the glaze:
4 oz or 115g cream cheese, room temperature
1 oz or 30g butter, room temperature
8 oz or 225g confectioners’ or icing sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract or essence
Zest 1/2 navel orange
2-3 tablespoons fresh orange juice

For the grass:
7 oz or 200g sweetened flaked coconut (That’s half a bag of Baker’s Angel Flake coconut.)
Paste food coloring – I used Wilton’s leaf green

For the candy eggs: I used pastel colored peanut M&Ms but any small candy eggs will do nicely.

Peel and cut the very ends off of your carrots.  Cover them with water in a medium sized pot and cook until very fork tender.  Drain the water off and mash them with a potato masher until there aren’t any lumps. Transfer the mashed carrots to a bowl and leave to cool.

Meanwhile, you can make the glaze. Put all the ingredients into a mixing bowl and beat until well combined. Add the juice a tablespoon at a time. Keep adding juice until the glaze is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, but thin enough to drizzle. We are going to dip those mini Bundts in it to coat once they are baked and cooled.

To color the coconut for grass, put the coconut into a large Ziploc bag and add in your paste coloring. I use the end of a clean knife to scoop some out. Stick the knife in the Ziploc and use some coconut to clean it off.  If you need to add more coloring, always use a clean knife. Close the bag securely and knead until the coconut is uniformly colored. (This takes approximately half an episode - 10-12 minutes - of How I Met Your Mother online with no commercials, so have a seat and enjoy the process.)

If it feels too sticky when you are done, you can spread it out on some paper towels to dry for a while.

When your carrots are cool and you are ready to start mixing, preheat your oven to 350°F or 180°C and prepare your 12-cup mini Bundt pan by buttering and flouring it or spraying it liberally with non-stick spray.

Add all the cake ingredients to a large mixing bowl, including the cooled carrots and mix well.

Scrape the bowl down with a rubber spatula and beat for about two more minutes on high.

Divide the batter between the holes in your prepared mini-Bundt pan.

Bake for 18-22 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Remove the little cakes from the pan and allow to cool completely before even thinking of glaze.

I turned mine right side up on a mini muffin tin.

If upright nests are important to you, trim off the rounded bottoms of the little Bundts. Do with these what you must but know that you will get absolutely no judgment from me if you eat them all, one by one, right as you stand there slicing.

When you are ready to glaze, hold each mini Bundt with a thumb on the bottom and one finger in the little hole on top or vice versa. Turn the cake in the glaze until it is lightly covered. Place flat side down on your serving platter and push a little of the glaze into the hole.

Sprinkle each mini Bundt with colored coconut, making sure to pat some on the sides.

Fill the little holes with candied eggs or peanut M&Ms.



If you are looking for more Easter or spring time Bundt inspiration, I’ve got a whole lot of lovely links right here.

#BundtBakers is a group of Bundt loving bakers who get together once a month to bake Bundts with a common ingredient or theme.  We take turns hosting each month and choosing the theme/ingredient.

If you are a food blogger and would like to join us baking Bundts each month, please send me an email with your blog URL to  If you are just a lover of Bundt baking, you can find all of our recipe links by clicking our badge above or on our group Pinterest board.

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Monday, April 14, 2014

Easter Simnel Marzipan Muffins for #MuffinMonday

Simnel cake with marzipan baked inside is a British spring or Easter tradition that dates back a few centuries, with a much debated history. Whatever its origins, it is made of a rich batter, full of dried fruit and candied peel, topped with yet more rolled marzipan. Additionally, it is traditional to decorate simnel cakes with small balls of marzipan to represent the apostles, sometimes only 11 because Judas is excluded, or 12 to represent the apostles and Jesus. These are often browned in the oven before serving. 

I’ve written before in this space about trying to pass on my own American traditions to our daughters. What I may not have mentioned, because it’s really his own story to tell, is that my husband also grew up as an expat, a third culture kid. I am sure his mother and father did their best to impart some British traditions to him and his brothers but they went to American curriculum schools and never lived in the United Kingdom so, truth be told, his knowledge of British culture has huge gaps. Many times I have felt it incumbent upon me to shore up that side of our daughters education as well. Mainly because I've been an Anglophile since starting school in the British system. Rather secondarily, perhaps, because their father is British. Problem is, I’ve never lived in Great Britain either, so my information has been gleaned from those three years of schooling and what I learned reading ancient Anglo-Saxon literature as well as Enid Blyton, Jane Austen, the Brontë sisters, historical novels, English Renaissance and Romantic period poets, countless biographies of Queen Victoria (I have kind of thing about her.), not to mention The Secret Garden. Oh, yes, and watching Thomas the Tank Engine, Rosie and Jim and Wallace and Grommit. So, as you can imagine, I have many cultural gaps as well. Simnel cake is one of them. I’ve certainly heard of it and knew pretty much what it was supposed to look like, down to the typical ingredients. But when my friend, Nicky, suggested Simnel muffins for Easter, I’d never made one before.  Fortunately the internet is a knowledgeable place and I have mixed and matched several cake recipes to come to this delicious muffin conclusion. I hope you enjoy it as much as we did. Even if Simnel muffins aren’t traditional. 

1.1 lb or 500g marzipan, divided (You may not use quite all of it.)
3/4 cup or 110g whole raw almonds
1 cup or 160g mixed dried fruits (Mine had currants, sultanas, raisins, cranberries and tart cherries)
1/4 cup or 60g mixed candied peel (orange and lemon)
1/2 cup or 120ml orange juice
2 tablespoons dark rum – optional but recommended – sub more juice if not using.
1 3/4 cups or 220g flour
3/4 cup or 170g sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon mixed spice
1/2 cup or 120g butter, melted then cooled
2 eggs
1/3 cup or 75ml milk

Divide your marzipan into thirds and wrap two thirds in cling film and refrigerate. 

Cut the last third into 12 reasonably equal pieces. Roll them into little balls and then flatten then into disks that are smaller than your muffin cups. Set aside.

Prepare your 12-cup muffin pan by greasing it with butter or non-stick spray, or lining the cups with paper liners.

Preheat your oven to 350°F or 180°C and put your almonds on a baking sheet in the oven while it preheats. Shake the baking sheet to move the almonds around every few minutes and take them out when you can smell that they are toasting. This will take anywhere from 7-18 minutes, depending on how long your oven takes to preheat. Mine takes at least 15 minutes so my nuts are usually in the whole time. Do not let the almonds scorch! 

Meanwhile, heat your orange juice and rum in the microwave or in a small pot on the stove until they are just starting to boil and pour them over your dried fruit and peel. Leave to steep. 

When the almonds are toasted, remove the pan from the oven and set them aside to cool. When they are cool, chop them in the food processor until they are in small pieces but not ground too finely. 

In a large mixing bowl, combine your flour, sugar, baking powder, mixed spice, salt and chopped almonds.

In a small bowl, whisk together your eggs, milk and melted butter. 

Pour your egg mixture and your mixed fruit, along with the soaking liquid, into the dry ingredients and fold until just combined.

Spoon half of the batter into the prepared muffin cups. 

Press one disk of marzipan gently into the top of the batter. 

Top with the balance of the batter, making sure that the disks of marzipan are completely covered. 

Bake for 20-25 minutes in your preheated oven or until golden brown on top. The toothpick checking trick will give you a false underdone reading because the marzipan in the middle comes out sticky, so you’ll have to trust that, if your oven has been at the proper temperature, after 25 minutes, they are done. 

While the muffins are baking, take the remaining marzipan out of the refrigerator and cut about one quarter off and set that aside. You may need it later when we are making apostles. 

Cover your clean work surface with cling film and put the bigger piece of marzipan in the middle. Top with another piece of cling film. 

Use a rolling pin to flatten the marzipan out until it’s less than a 1/8 in or about 3mm thick. 

When the muffins are done, remove them from the oven and allow to cool in the pan for a few minutes, then put them on a wire rack.

Lift the top bit of cling film off of the rolled out marzipan and cut out circles with a cookie cutter.  

Put your hand under the second piece of cling film and raise the marzipan slightly to help peel it off cleanly. 

While they are still a bit warm, top each muffin with a circle of marzipan. The heat will warm the marzipan and help it stick to the muffin tops. 

Now we are going to make the traditional 12 marzipan balls. Scoop up all of your marzipan scraps and roll them into a small log. If there is not much left, add some from the reserved marzipan you cut off earlier. I managed to use just the scraps but you may need more, depending on how thick you rolled out the batch for topping. You want 12 balls of about 3/4 in or 19mm. Or make smaller balls. Anyway, the extra marzipan is there, if you need it. Top each muffin with an apostle or Jesus marzipan ball. 

Happy Easter! 


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Sunday, April 13, 2014

Stuffed Whole Baby Savoy Cabbages #SundaySupper

Savoy cabbage is milder tasting than its green or red counterparts and baby ones are milder still, compared to their grownups. If you are serving folks who aren’t crazy about cabbage, but do like greens, give Savoy cabbage a try. The baby ones are also adorable. 

Our elder daughter is dating a delightful young man that is not only a talented type designer but, bonus, he cooks and bakes beautifully. Every weekday he creates lunch for his office mates as part of his contribution to the team. It’s a brilliant arrangement, by which, as I understand it, he gets a discount on his share of the office rent and everyone gets a healthy, freshly prepared, delicious meal every day. So smart, these young people! I’ve been wanting to try one of his specialties (from an original recipe by Jacques Pépin) a whole stuffed cabbage that is cooked then cut into wedges for serving. But when I came across baby Savoy cabbages in my local grocery store and I couldn’t resist them. Some day I'll make the big guy.

The week’s Sunday Supper theme is Stuffed, Rolled and Wrapped so the individual stuffed cabbages are perfect! They may seem a little fiddly to make but I assure you that the baby Savoys are fairly hearty little cabbages and you can stuff your filling in with confidence. The stuffing and the simple tomato sauce they cook in is what my mother made whenever she made cabbage rolls as I was growing up.

4 small Savoy cabbages – about 2+ oz or 55-60g each

For the filling:
12 oz or 340g ground beef
4 oz or 115g ground pork
1 medium onion (about 2 1/2 oz or 70g
1 egg
1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup or 45g raw rice
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

For the sauce:
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 can ( oz or 400g) whole tomatoes – buy the best quality you can afford. I like the Italian ones for best flavor.
2 cloves garlic
2-3 sprigs fresh thyme plus extra for garnish, if desired

Mince your onion very finely and then mix it together thoroughly with the rest of the filling ingredients.

Divide your filling into reasonably equal portions.

Gently open your little cabbages and start filling from the middle, closing up the leaves over the filling until you have used all the filling allotted to that baby cabbage. Repeat until all four are filled.

Separate all the leaves and start stuffing in the middle.

When the area is full, close the leaves around the filling.

Keep adding stuffing and closing the leaves.

When you get to the outer leaves, put some stuffing on them and squeeze them up against the inside.

Finally, put the last of the stuffing right in the top and close up.

So cute, right?! 

Cut four pieces of foil and wrap them around the cabbages so that they hold their shape, leaving a hole at the top of the foil.

Puree your canned tomatoes with a hand or regular blender, along with the garlic, salt and sugar. Use the tomato can as a measuring device and add a full can of water to the mixture and stir to combine.

Put the four stuffed cabbages in a pan that has a tight fitting lid, hole side down and pour the tomato garlic sauce in the pan with the foil-wrapped cabbages.

Bring the sauce to a boil and then put your lid on the pan and simmer for about an hour or until the internal temperature of the stuffed cabbages reaches 160°F or 71°C.  (While the “safely cooked” temperatures have been reduced for cuts of pork, they haven’t changed for ground meats.)

Meanwhile, pull the leaves off of your fresh thyme sprigs and mince them.

When the cabbages are cooked, remove them from the pan, unwrap your little foil bundles and arrange them on your serving dish.

Add the minced thyme to the sauce and check seasoning, adding more salt and pepper, if necessary. Cook the sauce down until it thickens slightly.

Pour the sauce on and around your stuffed baby cabbages. Garnish with some extra thyme, if desired.


How they look on the inside.

Do you like your food stuffed, wrapped and rolled? Check out the 54 links below to everything from appetizers to desserts!

Starters and Snacks
Entrees and Mains
All Things Sweet

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