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Hubby has this little habit of making suggestions.  Usually, his suggestions involve things that I should bake.  (This is clearly a strategy on his part – he knows he’ll get the baked goods when I pull them out.)  This past weekend, my mom, aunt and friend were visiting, and hubby suggested me right into baking muffins for them before they woke up on Sunday morning.  (I’m an early riser.)  I thought first of making a batch of banana muffins, but I had a beautiful box of strawberries in my fridge, and the end of a bag of sliced almonds, and strawberry almond muffins were born.  They were the perfect fuel for a day of walking the monuments on my girls’ weekend, but I’m sure they’d be perfect for lazier mornings too.  These muffins are officially in the rotation.

Strawberry Almond Muffins

1 cup rolled oats
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon fine salt
3/4 cup milk
2 eggs
3/4 cup applesauce
2 teaspoons almond extract
1 1/2 cups large-diced strawberries*
1/2 cup sliced almonds

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Prepare a muffin tin with 12 wells (line with paper liners or spray with baking spray such as Baker’s Joy or Pam for Baking).
  • In large bowl, whisk together oats, flours, sugar, baking soda, baking powder and salt.
  • Add milk, eggs, applesauce and almond extract and stir to combine well, but do not over-stir.
  • Fold in strawberries and almonds, just until combined.
  • Spoon into muffin wells and bake for 25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.  Serve warm.

*I used fresh strawberries.  To substitute frozen, just thaw and drain the strawberries so they are as dry as possible.  They will almost certainly still be wetter than fresh berries, so do use fresh if you can.  This winter, when fresh strawberries aren’t available, I’ll see about trying out the recipe with frozen berries and let you know if I have any tips.

Yield: 12 large muffins.

Source: Covered In Flour

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Cranberry Almond Cake

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I’ve been taking Wilton classes for the last eight weeks – I finished Wilton 1 in June and just finished Wilton 2 recently.  It’s been a blast and I wish I could continue to Wilton 3, but my schedule has just gotten impossible to juggle.  I definitely plan to take Wilton 3 in the future, but for now any cake decorating will be done with the many techniques I learned from my fabulous instructor (who reads this blog – hi, Gabriella!) in Wilton 1 and 2.  I couldn’t have even learned those techniques, though, if it weren’t for a gaggle of people who promised to eat my cakes every week, because I’m certainly not up to all those sweets.  So thanks to my hubs and our pals Gorka, Stephen, Susanna, Eliina, Sindy, Kevin and Tequila and their wonderful spouses and significant others for their endless sugar tolerance and iron stomachs!  (Wow, it’s turning into shout-out central around here.)  I let them vote for the cake they wanted to eat as my final Wilton 1 cake, and they voted for chocolate – out-voting me and one other lone member of the group.  So, I promised my fellow non-chocolate-lover a cherry almond cake next.  Well, fate ordained that we spent all of Wilton 2 making sugar flowers – mmmmm, sugar flowers! – and this was the first opportunity I had to make another cake, and then I switched grocery stores, couldn’t find the dried cherries, and had to make do with cranberries.  The long anticipated cherry cranberry almond cake was well-received all the same!

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Cranberry (or Cherry) Almond Cake

2 1/2 cups cake flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cup dried cranberries
3/4 cup milk
2 teaspoons almond extract
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 sticks unsalted butter
1 2/3 cup granulated sugar
4 eggs

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Prepare two eight-inch round or oval cake pans (either grease and flour, or spray with Pam for Baking).
  • Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt.  Transfer 1 1/2 tablespoons of the flour mixture to a separate bowl, add the cranberries, and toss to coat.
  • In another separate bowl, combine the milk with the almond and vanilla extracts and set aside.
  • In an electric stand mixer fitted with the beater attachment, beat together the butter (which should be softened) until creamy.  Add the sugar and beat together until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes, stopping to scrape down the mixer bowl as necessary.  Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.
  • Reduce speed to low and add the flour mixture in three additions, alternating with the milk mixture, and mix only until all ingredients are just combined.  Gently fold in the cranberries.
  • Pour half the batter into each of the prepared cake pans.  Bake about 55 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.
  • Fill the cake with your choice of filling (I used almond cream) and decorate as you desire.

Source: Adapted from Williams-Sonoma.

Cake Design: Wilton II Grand Finale Cake

Sorry I didn’t get a picture of the inside of the cake!  Take my word for it; it looks like cake.

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