Lemon Berry Cheesecake

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Fab Foodstuff: Lemon Berry Cheesecake! There’s something about lemon that makes your head spin, especially on a hot summer day. It might be the refreshing burst of citrus that seems to hydrate the senses. Or it could be the charm of living in the South that makes it incredibly desirable. Perhaps you’re just a sweet-tart kinda soul. Whatever the reason, add a little berry to the mix and it feels like a party. Because time may be a factor, I began with a prepared cake mix. The rest is pure magic.

LEMON BERRY CHEESECAKE

Ingredients:

16-ounce box of yellow cake mix

1/2 cup butter, melted

3 eggs

1/2 cup strawberry preserves

1 pound powdered sugar

8 ounce block Neufchâtel cheese, softened

1/2 teaspoon lemon extract

Sliced strawberries, garnish

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 325°. Combine cake mix, melted butter, and one egg. Press crust into the bottom of a greased and floured 10” deep dish pie plate. Spread a thin layer of strawberry preserves over crust. Mix powdered sugar, 2 eggs, Neufchâtel cheese and lemon extract until smooth. No lumps should remain. Slowly pour cream cheese mixture over the layer of strawberry preserves. Bake 50-60 minutes. Cool and cut into wedges. Garnish with fresh strawberry slices. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Mandarin Orange Cake

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Next Step: Mandarin Orange Cake! For all those gloomy days out there, a taste of sunshine comes to greet you in a naturally sweet cake. Did you realize mandarin oranges don’t only come in a can? Actually, you know them by other names in the produce department: “Halos” and “Cuties”. Sometimes people refer to mandarin oranges as clementines or tangerines. Small world, huh? Whatever you choose to call them, their pretty color and ease in peeling make them a popular choice. This cake recipe is versatile enough to be baked in a muffin tin, miniature bundt molds, or as a single-layer coffeecake. Something else to think about. The sugary glaze tops it all.

MANDARIN ORANGE CAKE

Ingredients:

1 1/4 cup flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

3/4 cup sugar

1/3 cup butter, melted

1 large egg

1/2 teaspoon orange extract

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

zest of one orange

1/2 cup milk

Ingredients for Orange Glaze:

1 cup powdered sugar

2 tablespoons orange juice

Orange peel zest, for garnish

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350°. Spray miniature bundt molds with nonstick oil with added flour. Sift together flour and baking powder in a bowl. Set aside. Cream together sugar and butter in a medium bowl. Add egg; mixing well before adding orange extract, vanilla extract, and zest of one orange. Gently fold in flour mixture, alternating with milk. Stir until combined. Divide mixture into miniature bundt molds, filling 2/3 full. Bake 30 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean. Prepare orange glaze by combining powdered sugar and orange juice. Stir until smooth. When cakes are golden brown, remove from oven. Cool slightly before inverting molds onto a wire rack. Remove molds. Transfer cakes to a platter to finish cooling. Drizzle with orange glaze and garnish with orange zest. Serve warm.

Unbelievable Egg Nog Cake

Eating My Way Through the Holidays. Festive Food Gifts: Unbelievable Egg Nog Cake! Did you know you can freeze eggnog for up to six months? You can. And isn’t it a relief to know that you won’t be pouring money down the drain? Too much of anything can take away the joy. We all get caught up in holiday indulgences, thinking it’s the only time of year to appreciate our favorite treats. No more. Rather than feeling like a glutton for punishment, followed by waves of guilt, here’s a way to stretch the cheer throughout the winter months. When the nights are dark and the fire warms your feet, snuggle up with a slice of nostalgia. You deserve it.

UNBELIEVABLE EGG NOG CAKE

Ingredients:

16.5-ounce yellow cake mix

3-ounce vanilla instant pudding mix

1 cup eggnog

4 eggs

1/3 cup vegetable oil

1 teaspoon nutmeg

1/4 cup water

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Ingredients for Glaze:

1/4 cup butter, warmed

1/4 cup eggnog

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon rum

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

2 cups powdered sugar

Garnish with rosemary sprigs and pomegranate arils

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350°. Spray a bundt pan (or 8 mini bundt pans) with nonstick oil containing flour. Set aside. In a large bowl, combine yellow cake mix, dry vanilla pudding mix, eggnog, eggs, vegetable oil, nutmeg, water, and vanilla extract. Beat with a mixer for 2 minutes until thoroughly combined, scraping down the sides as needed. Pour batter into pan(s). Bake 50 minutes for large, or 25 minutes for small bundt cakes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Remove from oven to cool for 10 minutes before inverting on a wire rack. Allow to cool 10 minutes longer before transferring to a cake plate. While cakes are cooling make the glazed icing. In a bowl, whisk together butter, eggnog, vanilla extract, rum, and nutmeg until smooth. Sprinkle in powdered sugar, stirring with a spoon, until smooth. Drizzle glaze over cake. Garnish with rosemary sprigs and pomegranate arils for a festive finish.

Xmas Crinkle Cookies

Eating My Way Through the Holidays. Festive Food Gifts: Xmas Crinkle Cookies! Shortcuts are the key to success for that next cookie-exchange the kids forgot to tell you about. “Oh yeah, Mom, sorry.” No worries. Head to the kitchen to clang some pans around, preheat the oven, and dust a little powdered sugar on your nose. They’ll be none the wiser. By the time the house begins to smell like a neighborhood bakery, you’ll have rows of cookies lined up ready to be boxed. And if you’re one of those organized parents, just so you know, these cookies freeze well. Arrange them in a freezer gallon bag, layered between squares of waxed paper. I have literally taken these crinkle cookies out of the freezer and handed them to a little girl to eat. Other than being slightly chilled, they retain a chewiness that makes them simply delicious. You deserve a pat on the back. You’re welcome.

XMAS CRINKLE COOKIES

Ingredients:

1/2 cup powdered sugar, for dusting

15.25-ounce box strawberry cake mix

1/2 cup vegetable oil

2 eggs, room temperature

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350°. Place powdered sugar in a shallow dish. Set aside. In a mixing bowl, combine strawberry cake mix, vegetable oil, and eggs. Stir until a dough forms. Chill dough for 20 minutes. Shape dough into 1” balls. Roll in powdered sugar and place 2” apart on ungreased baking sheet. Bake 7-9 minutes, or until center is just set. Remove pan from oven; cool for 2 minutes. Transfer cookies to a wire rack. Dust with more powdered sugar.

Itty Bitty Pumpkin Cake

Eating My Way Through the Holidays. Festive Food Gifts: Itty Bitty Pumpkin Cake! Do you have a love affair with pumpkin spice? You know, that delectable blend of bakery spices recognized as nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger, and allspice. Perhaps they remind you of autumn. The days are still warm as the evenings turn chilly enough to gather around the fire pit in a thick cozy sweater. Childhood memories conjure up bumpy hayrides through apple orchards, jack-o-lanterns on the front porch, and disheveled piles of newly-raked leaves. Plus there’s all things pumpkin: pumpkin pie, pumpkin cake, pumpkin roll, pumpkin latte, and now this.

ITTY BITTY PUMPKIN CAKE

Ingredients:

1 1/4 cups flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 tablespoon pumpkin spice

1/4 tablespoon cinnamon

1/2 cup butter, softened

1/2 cup sugar

1 egg

3/4 cup pumpkin purée

1/3 cup buttermilk

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Powdered sugar, for dusting

Fresh strawberries, for garnish

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350°. Spray six mini bundt pans with nonstick oil containing flour. Place pans on a baking sheet. Set aside. In a bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, sea salt, baking powder, pumpkin spice, and cinnamon. Set aside. In another bowl, cream together butter and sugar. Beat on High setting with a hand mixer for 2 minutes. Add egg and beat two minutes longer. Set aside. In a third bowl, combine the pumpkin purée, buttermilk, and vanilla extract. Mix well. Gradually pour half the pumpkin mixture and half the flour mixture into the egg mixture. Mix well, scraping the sides down as needed. Add the remaining ingredients; stirring only until combined. Do not over stir. Fill each prepared mini bundt pan 3/4 full. Bake 25-30 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean. Allow cakes to cool 5 minutes before inverting onto a wire rack. Once cool, dust with powdered sugar. Garnish with a fresh strawberry before serving.

Elderflower Lemon Cake

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Clean Plate Club: Elderflower Lemon Cake! In honor of the royal wedding, I treated my friends to an unofficial version of Harry and Meghan’s delicious inspiration. It lends to the warm floral notes of Spring with just enough citrus and vanilla to make a moist and fluffy cake. Notice the luscious cream cheese icing drizzling down the sides like a cascading satin gown. Petite flowers, crushed pistachios, and lemon segments produce a sensational finish. Sounds like a royal pairing of Love and Happiness, doesn’t it?

ELDERFLOWER LEMON CAKE

Ingredients:

4 eggs, room temperature

3/4 cup sugar

2/3 cup olive oil

1/3 cup butter, melted

1 teaspoon citrus peel, granulated

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

4 tablespoons elderflower liqueur

1 1/2 cups flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

1 small box lemon pudding mix, instant

3/4 teaspoon sea salt

4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature

4 tablespoons natural golden honey

1 tablespoon elderflower liqueur

1 tablespoon pistachios, crushed

Fresh lemon slices, cut into segments

Fresh flowers

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 325°. Grease and flour a bundt pan. Set aside. In a stand mixer, combine eggs and sugar. Beat on High for 3 minutes. Turn to Low setting; drizzle in olive oil and melted butter. Continue beating one minute longer. Fold in citrus peel, vanilla extract, and elderflower liqueur. In another bowl, combine flour, baking powder, lemon pudding mix, and sea salt. Gradually add the dry ingredients to the wet batter, scraping down the sides as needed. Pour cake batter into the prepared bundt pan. Bake 55-60 minutes until cake is golden brown and a tester comes out clean. Remove pan from oven and cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes. Invert onto a cake plate to unmold. To make icing, combine cream cheese, natural honey, and elderflower liqueur. Beat until light and fluffy. Drizzle over cooled cake. Sprinkle with crushed pistachios. Garnish with lemon segments and tiny fresh flowers.

Financier Almond Cake

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Sunshine Eats: Financier Almond Cake! Not everyone lives around the corner from the best pastry shops in Paris. So we manage by baking at home. My son, Johnny, and his wife, Katie, treated me to their gluten-free version of a popular French sweet. Know what you get when you combine ground natural almonds, luscious brown butter, and airy egg whites? Clue: It’s a French pastry chef’s dream! By choosing a small cupcake mold or ramekin, this springy honey-sweet dessert becomes a star attraction at the end of a meal. Drizzle it with a lightly sweetened St~Germaine glaze, top it with a fresh raspberry crown, and you’re bound to feel a tiny bit Parisienne. Ooh-la-la!

FINANCIER ALMOND CAKE

Ingredients for Cake:

6 tablespoons unsalted butter

1/2 cup sliced almonds

1/4 cup coconut flour

3/4 cup powdered sugar

2 egg whites

1 tablespoon natural honey

1/2 teaspoon almond extract

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350°. Butter 2 ramekins or coat a 6-count muffin tin with butter or nonstick oil. Set aside. Melt the butter over medium heat. Do not burn. Simmer until brown bits begin to form. Lower heat and simmer, stirring frequently to scrape the brown bits at the bottom of the pan. Continue cooking until butter turns dark brown, not burnt, for about 6 minutes. Set aside to cool for 10 minutes. Meanwhile pulse the sliced almonds and coconut flour in a food processor until nuts are finely ground. Transfer flour mixture to a medium bowl. Whisk in the powdered sugar. Fold in the egg whites, mixing until smooth. Gently stir in the honey. Finally, fold in the cooled brown butter. Stir until batter is smooth. Spoon into the greased ramekins or muffin pan. Spread batter evenly. Bake 25-30 minutes until the edges are golden brown and a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack. If using a muffin pan, invert after 5 minutes to remove mini-cakes from pan.

Ingredients for Glaze:

1 cup powdered sugar

3 tablespoons St~Germaine liqueur

Fresh raspberries for Garnish

1 teaspoon ground almonds for Garnish

Instructions:

Sift powdered sugar into a small bowl. Whisk in St~Germaine liqueur until a smooth consistency is reached. Gently spoon the glaze over the top of the cakes. Garnish with fresh raspberries and a sprinkling of ground almonds.

Unbelievable Eggnog Cake

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? After the Holidays: Unbelievable Eggnog Cake! Did you know you can freeze eggnog for up to six months? You can. And isn’t it a relief to know that you won’t be pouring money down the drain? Too much of anything can take away the joy. We all get caught up in holiday indulgences, thinking it’s the only time of year to appreciate our favorite treats. No more. Rather than feeling like a glutton for punishment, followed by waves of guilt, here’s a way to stretch the cheer throughout the winter months. When the nights are dark and the fire warms your feet, snuggle up with a slice of nostalgia. You deserve it.

UNBELIEVABLE EGGNOG CAKE

Ingredients:

16.5-ounce yellow cake mix

3-ounce vanilla instant pudding mix

1 cup eggnog

4 eggs

1/3 cup vegetable oil

1 teaspoon nutmeg

1/4 cup water

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Ingredients for Glaze:

1/4 cup butter, warmed

1/4 cup eggnog

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon rum

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

2 cups powdered sugar

Garnish with rosemary sprigs and pomegranate arils

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350°. Spray a bundt pan (or 8 mini bundt pans) with nonstick oil containing flour. Set aside. In a large bowl, combine yellow cake mix, dry vanilla pudding mix, eggnog, eggs, vegetable oil, nutmeg, water, and vanilla extract. Beat with a mixer for 2 minutes until thoroughly combined, scraping down the sides as needed. Pour batter into pan(s). Bake 50 minutes for large, or 25 minutes for small bundt cakes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Remove from oven to cool for 10 minutes before inverting on a wire rack. Allow to cool 10 minutes longer before transferring to a cake plate. While cakes are cooling make the glazed icing. In a bowl, whisk together butter, eggnog, vanilla extract, rum, and nutmeg until smooth. Sprinkle in powdered sugar, stirring with a spoon, until smooth. Drizzle glaze over cake. Garnish with rosemary sprigs and pomegranate arils for a festive finish.

Snickerdoodle Chocolate Chip Cookies

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? After the Holidays: Snickerdoodle Chocolate Chip Cookies! When my 11-year old granddaughter came for a visit, one of the things we did together was bake homemade cookies. It was a wonderful way to build social skills for life, not to mention lasting memories. Conversation flowed easily while mixing cookie dough and then afterwards licking the bowl. Her technique for cracking an egg, without getting eggshells in the dough, was to hold it securely in the palm of her hand, above a custard cup…and squeeze. Don’t laugh. It worked. Surprisingly it takes a lot more uneven pressure to break it that way, but her reasoning was, “Nana, it’s easier than trying to get my thumbs in the opening and pulling it apart.” Priceless.

SNICKERDOODLE CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES

Ingredients:

16.5-ounce box yellow cake mix

1/2 cup vegetable oil

2 eggs

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

1/3 cup sugar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350°. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Set aside. In a mixing bowl, combine yellow cake mix, vegetable oil, and eggs. Stir until thoroughly mixed. Fold in chocolate chips. Chill dough 20 minutes. Whisk together sugar and ground cinnamon in a shallow dish. Set aside. Scoop teaspoon-sized balls of cookie dough; roll in cinnamon sugar. Place on the prepared baking sheet. Bake 8-10 minutes. Remove from oven and allow cookies to cool on the baking sheet 2 minutes longer. Then transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely. Repeat with the remaining cookie dough. Store in an airtight container.