Sunday, May 13, 2012

Happy Mother's Day!

It has certainly been a busy few days, but never fear: I have not abandoned the kitchen.  I spent a lot of time in there yesterday, in fact getting ready for our Mother's Day party at Gram's today.  I have two recipes to share today: our family's favorite old pasta salad recipe, and a new lemonade cake!

2 colors of cake!
First, the cake.  I wanted to bake something for the party that would honor the moms, feed everyone, and look amazing.  So when my mom got her issue of Better Homes and Gardens and I saw the cover, I knew I had found my cake: the pink lemonade cake.  The cover shows a tall white-frosted cake with four layers, alternating light and dark pink in color.  It was beautiful, and lemonade flavored, so my mind was made up. 

The good news is that the cake looks much more difficult than it actually is.  It's flavored with lemonade concentrate and lemon extract.  It gets red food coloring added to make it a light pink; then you pour half the batter into a cake pan, and add more coloring to the other half. Once the cakes are baked, each layer is cut in half horizontally to make 4 layers (thanks to Mom for help with that!  I would have made a huge mess out of it).  The frosting is also easy, because it tastes like and looks like a meringue buttercream, but with a shortcut: there is no simmering on the stove,  no whipping egg whites.  It's made with Fluff, butter, confectionary sugar, and lemon extract!  Easy, tasty, and beautiful?  I like that.  And I am happy to say that the cake was a hit.  Most of it went, and I got compliments from everyone except my youngest cousin, whose complaint was that the cake was for girls because it was pink :)

Then I also made pasta salad this morning.  We make this salad any time there is going to be a big cookout, party, or any time we are craving a delicious and healthy pasta salad.  No gross mayonnaise here!  It's made with a garlic vinegar olive oil sauce - way better than mayo.  Mom got the recipe out of a magazine about a zillion years ago, and we've made it (and doubled it) so much that Mom even has notes written on it (like the fact that it's better when you add a shredded carrot, and that you can use chives or scallions).  She has even written the measurements for doubling the salad, which we do nearly every time we make it.   The best part about it is that you can exchange or add ingredients; for instance, it calls for black olives but since we didn't have them, I added green (mmmmm.)  Last time we had it, we added radishes.  Basically you can be creative.  Make this the next time you have to bring a pasta salad anywhere, and people will be pleasantly surprised.

My 2 contributions to the party
Happy Mother's Day to all you moms out there!  I am very lucky to have the mother that I do, and also to be the "mother" to two gorgeous dogs, one sweet mouse, and a tiny snail:)


Pink Lemonade Cake
from Better Homes and Gardens May 2012 Issue

1 cup (2 sticks) butter
4 eggs
3  1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups sugar
red food coloring
1 1/3 cups milk
1/4 cup frozen lemonade concentrate, thawed
1 teaspoon pure lemon extract
1 recipe Lemonade Buttercream (see below)

1.  Allow butter and eggs to stand at room temperature for 30 minutes.  Meanwhile, grease 2  9x2-inch round pans.  Line bottoms with parchment; grease paper.  Flour pans, tapping to remove excess.  Set aside.  In medium bowl, stir together flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside.

2.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In extra-large mixing bowl, beat butter with mixer on medium to high for 30 seconds.  Gradually add sugar, about 1/4 cup at a time, beating on medium until well combined.  Scrape sides of bowl; beat 2 minutes more.  Add 1/8 teaspoon red food coloring; beat to combine. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.

3.  In bowl, stir together milk, lemonade concentrate, and extract (mixture will look curdled).  Alternately add flour mixture and milk mixture to butter mixture, beating on low after each addition until combined.  Remove half (4 cups) of tinted batter; spread in one pan.  In remaining batter in bowl, stir in 1/4 teaspoon red food coloring.  Spread in second pan.

4. Bake about 35 minutes, until tops spring back when lightly touched.  Meanwhile, prepare Lemonade Buttercream.

5.  Cool in pans on wire racks for 10 minutes.  Remove layers from pans; discard paper.  Cool completely on wire rack.  Trim off domed tops of layers so cake is flat.  Cut each layer horizontally in half to create four layers.  Brush crumbs from layers.

6.  Place one dark pink layer, cut-side down, on a plate,  Spread 1 cup frosting just to edges.  Stack final light pink layer following by another dark pink layer, frosting each just to the edges.  Stack final light pink layer, cut-side down; spread frosting on top and sides as desires.  Makes 18 servings.

Lemonade Buttercream
from Better Homes and Gardens May 2012 Issue

3 cups (6 sticks) unsalted butter, softened (no, that's no a typo... 6 sticks of butter. It's worth it.)
2  16-ounce jars marshmallow creme
1/4 cup frozen lemonade concentrate, thawed
1 cup powdered sugar
2 teaspoons pure lemon extract

1.  In very large bowl, beat butter with mixer on medium until light and fluffy, about 30 seconds.  Add marshmallow creme and lemonade concentrate.  Beat until smooth, scraping bowl sides.  Add powdered sugar and extract; beat until light and fluffy.  If frosting is stiff, soften in microwave for no more than 10 seconds, then beat until smooth.  Use to frost pink lemonade cake.

The Best Pasta Salad
(that is literally the name... and I don't know where it's from.  I am giving the original-ish recipe, with some of our additions [like the carrot].  You probably don't need Mom's notes about how to double it, but if you plan on it, use 2 boxes of pasta, and do not double the oil)

11 ounces small shell pasta
3 cloves garlic
1/2 pint yellow cherry tomatoes
1/2 pint red cherry tomatoes (regular tomates are okay too)
1 handful of black or green olives, pitted
2 tablespoons fresh chives (or scallions)
1 handful of fresh basil
1/2 a cucumber
4 tablespoons white wine vinegar
7 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1 shredded carrot

1)  Bring a large pan of salted water to a boil.  Throw in the pasta and cloves or garlic.  Boil until al dente.  Drain and run under water to cool.  Put the garlic to one side to use for the dressing. Put the pasta into a bowl.

2.  Chop the tomatoes, olives, chives, basil and cucumber pieces about half the size of the pasta and add to the bowl. 

3.  Squash the garlic cloves and mush in a mortat and pestle.  Add the vinegar, oil, and seasoning.  Drizzle this over the salad, adding a little more seasoning to taste.

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