Almond Poppy Seed ‘Sheet’ Cake

Sheet cakes are sometimes thought of by some as a lazy man’s cake. Yes, they are easy to bake and contain no fancy layers or have intricate decorations but ….

Traditionally a sheet cake refers to a cake baked in a large, shallow rectangular pan such as a jelly-roll pan. They are single layer and almost always frosted on both top and sides.

The famous ‘Texas Sheet Cake’ that is very popular in the US seems to be referenced as far back as 1936. I understand it started out as three layers and ultimately became a one layer, large sheet cake. By the 1970’s these recipes were using sour cream instead of buttermilk and alternative ingredients had evolved.

Today, if you are wanting to make a sheet cake you can find over 300 recipe choices on allrecipes.com alone. At this time of year with so many people hosting block parties, barbecues, family gatherings etc. I thought it would be nice to post a favorite recipe of mine. If you like poppy seed, you will absolutely love this cake. 

Almond Poppy 'Sheet' Cake
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Almond Poppy 'Sheet' Cake
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Ingredients
Cake
Topping
Servings:
Instructions
Cake
  1. Preheat oven to 325 F. Beat egg whites until stiff, set aside in fridge. In a small bowl, combine flour, poppy seed, baking powder & salt. In a large bowl, beat egg yolks, gradually adding sugar, followed by oil, milk, flavorings & dry ingredients.
  2. Gently fold in egg whites. Pour into 2 unbuttered 9 x 13" pans or onto an unbuttered cookie sheet 18 x 15 x 1". Bake on middle rack for about 20 minutes. Remove from oven & allow to cool completely.
Icing & Topping
  1. In a small bowl, combine icing ingredients & beat until smooth; spread on cake & cool completely. Melt chocolate & margarine in microwave. QUICKLY spread topping over cooled cake.
Recipe Notes
  • I was only needing a small amount today so I made a quarter of the recipe & baked it in an 8 x 8-inch pan. It cuts nicely into 9 or 18 pieces.
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German Plum Cake / Tart

I know it sounds quite ordinary but we are not just talking about just any plum cake. Variations of the German specialty, ‘zwetschgenkuchen’, exist where some versions are made with a shortbread pastry verses a yeast dough, some have streusel – some do not – some are round, other’s are rectangular. One thing for sure is that they all use the plump, sweet, juicy European plums also known as Italian Prune Plums or Empress Plums. This variety is ideal for cooking not only because of their texture but also because their flavor becomes more complex through cooking.

Fruit and yeast-based cakes are a German hallmark with this cake being a perfect example. Its not overly sweet, has a touch of tartness to it, a small hint of cinnamon and that tender yeast dough.

When I was growing up and my mother used Italian Prune Plums in her canning or baking, I just thought it was because they were available at the time. I had no idea that they played such a special part in German baking until I was older.

I realize this is probably not the kind of thing you feel like making on a hot summer day. I suggest putting it on hold for a rainy day because it is well worth the effort. Just to encourage you further, I’ve added an alternate yogurt dough you could use instead of the yeasted one which would speed things up.

German Plum Cake / Tart
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Servings
6-8
Servings
6-8
German Plum Cake / Tart
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Servings
6-8
Servings
6-8
Ingredients
Streusel
Yogurt Cake Dough (an alternate to use instead of yeast dough)
Servings:
Instructions
Yeast Dough
  1. In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in 1/3 cup warm milk & allow to become frothy, about 5-10 minutes. With an electric hand mixer, beat together sugar, salt, warm melted butter, egg & vanilla. When yeast is ready, Combine with egg mixture. Add flour, 1 cup at a time to wet mixture. Stir well after each addition; dough should become smooth & elastic. It will not be firm enough to knead into a ball, more like thick batter. Cover loosely with plastic wrap & set in a warm, draft-free place to rise for an hour or until doubled in bulk.
Streusel
  1. In a small bowl, combine streusel ingredients. Using fingertips, rub mixture until it resembles coarse meal.
'ALTERNATE' Yogurt Dough
  1. In a bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder & salt. In small bowl, beat together yogurt, milk, oil & vanilla. Make a well in center of dry ingredients; add wet mixture & combine until dough forms a ball.
To make Plum Cake Tarts
  1. Generously butter eight - 4 x 3/4" mini tart pans or press out a rectangle of dough about 8 x 10" size on a baking sheet or a jelly-roll pan could be used. For tart pans, divide dough into 8 pieces & press dough out over bottom & up sides. For the rectangle shape, dough could be rolled out on parchment paper & laid directly on pan.
  2. Lay plums close together in rows, covering the entire dough. If using YEAST DOUGH, set pan in a warm place & let rise rise an hour. Sprinkle the streusel over the top & bake at 350 F. for 30-35 minutes or until top is golden. If using YOGURT DOUGH, evenly sprinkle farina over dough before placing the plums on the pastry ( it helps to keep the pastry from becoming soggy). Arrange plums on pastry; distribute streusel over cake. Bake at 350 F. for 30 minutes or streusel is light golden.
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Carrot Cake Roll

From breakfast to dessert, healthy to decadent, traditional to innovative, the carrot cake is considered a timeless classic that never goes out of ‘style’. It was probably borne out of necessity, making use of the carrots’ natural sweetness, evolving from the carrot pudding of medieval times. Carrots contain more sugar than any other vegetable besides the sugar beet.

In the 1970’s, carrot cake was perceived as being ‘healthy’ due to the fact that carrots, raisins and nuts are all ‘good for us’. Then along came that glorious cream cheese frosting that forever bonded the pair. While raisins are undoubtedly the oldest compliment to carrots, pineapple, apples or applesauce as well as walnuts have all become modern day  add-ins of choice.

I remember my mother making a jelly roll cake  when I was growing up. It was a sponge cake baked in a sheet pan. She would spread a layer of jam over it when it was cool and roll it up. It looked unique and tasted great. Of course, today a cake roll is very common place with many variations. As far as carrots are concerned, you can transform this versatile veggie into everything from energy bars and smoothies to cinnamon rolls and cookies etc, etc, etc…. My choice today is to make a CARROT CAKE ROLL with CREAM CHEESE FILLING,  yum!!

Carrot Cake Roll
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Servings
8-10
Servings
8-10
Carrot Cake Roll
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Servings
8-10
Servings
8-10
Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
Carrot Cake Roll
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a jelly roll pan ( 10 x 15") with parchment paper & spray with baking spray.
  2. With a hand mixer, beat eggs on high for 5 minutes, until frothy & dark yellow. Beat in sugar, oil & vanilla. In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt & spices. Stir into wet ingredients just until blended. Fold in dry carrots.
  3. Spread batter in prepared pan. This makes a very thin layer; use a spatula to make sure it is spread evenly to the corners of pan. Bake 10-15 minutes. Test cake with a toothpick to be sure it is completely baked. While cake is baking, spread a clean kitchen towel on work surface. Sprinkle with powdered sugar. As soon as cake comes out of oven, turn it over on towel. Remove parchment paper carefully.
  4. Working at the short end, fold the edge of the towel over cake. Using the help of the towel, roll cake tightly. Let cool completely while rolled, at least an hour.
Filling
  1. While cake is cooling, make filling. Beat butter & cream cheese together until smooth. Stir in powdered sugar & vanilla; beat until smooth.
  2. When cake is cool, carefully unroll the towel. Spread the filling evenly over cake & re-roll tightly. Chill about 30 minutes to an hour. Dust with powdered sugar, if desired, slice & serve.
Recipe Notes
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Brunch – Celebrating Mother’s Day

HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY!

In the food service industry, brunch on Mother’s Day is huge. What better way is there to celebrate your mom then by taking her out of the kitchen on her day. As is the case with many culinary traditions, the origin of brunch is a bit hazy.

There are numerous theories, such as the English tradition of feasting after a hunt, or from the Catholic tradition of fasting before church and having a large meal after services. By 1930, ‘brunch’, that blend of breakfast and lunch had caught on in the United States. From some of the classic dishes restaurants offered such as eggs benedict,  brunch evolved into decadent spreads that even included morning cocktails.

Today as we celebrate Mother’s Day, many special memories come to mind. My mother passed away in 1978 but even after 39 years, time has changed nothing. I still miss the sound of her voice, the wisdom in her advice, the stories of her life and just being in her presence. I miss her today as much as the day she left us and I always will.

It is also with loving thoughts, I celebrate my mother-in-law, Dolores, for her loving and kind ways and for raising that ‘special’ man I love sharing my life with. To my sisters, who give so much of themselves to be the great mom’s they are.

In July 2016, I posted a blog entitled ‘Brunch in Thibery, France. It has some more brunch ideas for croissants, crepes and french toast you might like.

For today I have two brunch items in mind. One is BAKED EGGS IN PORTOBELLO MUSHROOM CAPS  and the other a SAVORY SALMON & DILL MUFFIN.  Enjoy your day!

Salmon/Dill Muffins & Baked Eggs in Mushroom Caps
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Salmon/Dill Muffins & Baked Eggs in Mushroom Caps
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Ingredients
Salmon/Dill Muffins
Baked Eggs in Mushroom Caps
Servings:
Instructions
Salmon/Dill Muffins
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a 8-cup large muffin pan with paper liners.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together flour & baking powder; add grated cheese, salmon & fresh dill. In a small bowl, beat together egg, milk & oil. Make a well in center of flour mixture; add wet ingredients, mix only until combined.
  3. Fill muffin cups half full; divide cream cheese between the 8 cups. Top with remaining batter to evenly fill cups. Bake 15-20 minutes or until they test done.
Baked Eggs in Mushroom Caps
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Remove stalk from mushroom caps. Make sure mushrooms do not get cracked so the eggs & sauce leak out. Place mushrooms in a baking dish that will keep them from tipping. Divide pasta sauce between mushrooms & spread. Break an egg into each mushroom. Pour cream over the eggs, drizzling to try to cover the whole surface.
  2. Carefully place mushrooms in the oven for about 20 minutes. When eggs are almost set lay cheese slices on top & continue baking for another 5 minutes.
Recipe Notes
  • Cooking times can vary between ovens; watch eggs closely.
  • If you prefer, you can scrape out the mushroom 'gills' to make more room for the filling.
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Mini Fruit Crumble Cakes

Crisp or crumble, call it what you like, its just simply good to me. I think, over the years, I have made fruit crumble in just about every flavor and shape possible.

Crumbles became popular in Britain during WWII when crumble topping was an economical alternative to pie due to shortages of pastry ingredients. Other ingredients such as breadcrumbs or oatmeal helped further reduce the use of rationed flour, fat and sugar.

Crumble cakes can be made either sweet or savory. The sweet variety usually will contain fruit topped with a crumbly mixture of butter, flour and sugar. With the savory version, meat, vegetables and a sauce make up the the filling with cheese replacing the sugar in the crumble mix. The crumble is then baked until the topping is crisp. Generally the sweet dessert is served with custard or ice cream and the savory variety with accompanying vegetables.

Fruits that are commonly used in making crumble include apples, blueberries, peaches, rhubarb and plums or a combination of two or more. Due to its simplicity, this dish has remained popular over the years.

The MINI FRUIT CRUMBLE CAKES  I made for today’s blog were made with various kinds of preserves but you can prepare your own fruit for the filling or simply use canned pie filling — your choice!

Mini Fruit Crumble Cakes
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Servings
8
Servings
8
Mini Fruit Crumble Cakes
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Servings
8
Servings
8
Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  2. In a large bowl, combine flour & sugar. Cut in butter until mixture is crumbly; set aside 1/2 cup of the mixture. To remainder add baking powder, baking soda & nuts.
  3. Beat egg slightly in a small bowl. Stir in yogurt & lemon zest. Add to dry ingredients; stir just until moistened. Spread 2/3 of batter over bottom & part way up sides of 8 - 4" x 3/4" mini tart pans. Spoon pie filling over batter. Drop remaining batter by spoonfuls over filling.
  4. Sprinkle with reserved crumb mixture; place tart pans on baking sheet. Bake 25-30 minutes, or until done. Serve warm or cold.
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Easter Hot Cross ‘Scones’

Eostre is an obscure Germanic and Anglo-Saxon goddess of spring and dawn, and it is thought to be the namesake of the Christian holiday Easter. Because food has always had a close association with Easter, special dishes were cooked in her honor. Most important of these was a small spiced, sweet bun from which our ‘hot cross bun’ derives. These little spiced buns are a rather old English tradition, which are still traditionally eaten on Good Friday. They are marked on top with a cross which is of ancient origin connected with religious offerings of bread.

Hot Cross ‘Scones’ are an easy take on the seasonal classic bun. They are the best of both worlds; hot cross yeasted buns and a tender spicy scone. Scones work for me in the way that most of the time I have the ingredients on hand and they only take about twenty minutes or so to make.

As always, I enjoy the idea of variation in just about everything. I had three scone recipes in mind for today’s blog. One recipe is a hot cross scone made by changing out the regular flour for ‘Kamut’ flour. This flour is made from an ancient grain originally grown by the pharaohs of Egypt. It contains more protein, minerals and other nutrients than modern wheat.

The other two recipes are Spiced Orange & Fresh Apple Hot Cross Scones,  both made with a sour cream batter. Hopefully they will become part of your Easter recipe collection.

Easter Hot Cross 'Scones' X 3
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Servings
24
Servings
24
Easter Hot Cross 'Scones' X 3
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Servings
24
Servings
24
Ingredients
Scone Batter
Glaze
Icing for Crosses
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda & salt. Add butter; using a pastry blender, blend until mixture forms fine crumbs. Stir in spices, dried fruit & orange zest.
  2. In a small bowl, combine sour cream, eggs, & vanilla; whisk until well blended. Add to flour mixture; stir until a soft dough forms.
  3. Scoop onto lined baking sheet. Bake 15-20 minutes until golden. Remove from oven, combine water & honey glaze. Warm very slightly in microwave; brush over tops of scones. When scones have cooled, decorate with icing crosses.
Recipe Notes

FOR VARIATIONS:

  • To make Kamut Scones use 1 3/4 cup kamut flour & 3/4 cup white flour instead of all white flour.
  • To make Apple Scones add 1/4 of a large apple, peeled & cut in 1/4" dice. to basic recipe.
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Pizza Memories

A number of years back, Brion and I decided we would like to seriously explore Rome ‘on foot‘. We rented a furnished apartment up in the hills of the northwest part of the city, by the Embassy residences. Each morning we would set out to travel the cobbled streets of Rome, checking out the art of Michelangelo, the sculptures of Bernini or wander through the ancient Roman ruins. In no other city can you see so much in a short space of time and yet merely scratch the surface. 

Rome is the real thing! So many of its legendary sites are the original article that to see them is to fulfill a lifelong dream. It’s this that raises the ‘goose pimples’; that feeling that the city really is as old as its seven hills, that in Rome, time and beauty are measured on an altogether grander scale.

We found it easy and relatively fast to get around the city by using the public transit system. We paid 18 euros for a 7-day pass which could be used as many times as you wished. Rome’s buses struggle to cope with the daily demand that is already well over its operating limits; battling their way through traffic and streets made impenetrable by cars double parked. To rent a car to see the sights of Rome would be an exercise in frustration or to say the least, taking your life in your hands. Best to spend a day and learn the ‘system’ and you’re set!

Rome is a city that bathes in a warm Mediterranean climate. During the month we spent there we experienced some great weather — 20-23 C with only one day of rain.

Of course when in Italy it would be unthinkable not to eat pizza during your stay. We discovered a small little pizza place close to our apartment. Once or twice a week we made a point of enjoying some ‘authentic pizza’. The two options generally available in the pizzerias are Roman  pizza (the paper thin, almost charred version) and Neapolitan  with the thicker crust. As for the toppings, there are unlimited choices. 

The pizza recipe I’d like to share today is one that is probably one that is more American/Canadian  then Roman  but nevertheless real good. I had adapted it from Pillsbury.com quite a few years ago.

 

Ranch Chicken & Bacon Pizza
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Servings
8-12
Servings
8-12
Ranch Chicken & Bacon Pizza
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Servings
8-12
Servings
8-12
Ingredients
Pizza Crust without Yeast
Servings:
Instructions
Pizza Crust
  1. In a medium bowl, measure dry ingredients for pizza crust. Make a well in center & add milk. Stir until dough leaves the sides of the bowl. With buttered hands, gently knead 5-6 times. Spray or butter a 14-inch pizza pan; press dough evenly over bottom & up sides.
Pizza Toppings
  1. In microwave, bake the potato & slice thinly; slightly cook chopped onion. Crisply fry bacon & coarsely chop. Seed Roma tomato & chop along with cooked chicken.
  2. Preheat oven to 375 F. Spread ranch dressing evenly over dough. Combine chesses; sprinkle half of the cheese over crust. Top with thinly sliced potato then remaining ingredients; ending with cheese.
  3. Bake 13 - 16 minutes or until crust is golden & cheese is melted.
Recipe Notes
  • If you are pressed for time, no worries, just use a purchased pizza crust to speed up the process.
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‘Kartoffelpuffer’ – German Potato Pancakes

Today is Shrove Tuesday or Pancake Day. The date can be any time between February 3rd and March 9th. It is exactly 47 days before Easter Sunday, based on the cycles of the moon. The expression ‘Shrove Tuesday’ comes from the word shrive, meaning ‘absolve’. This day is observed by many Christians who make a special point of self-examination of considering what wrongs they need to repent and what amendments of life or areas of spiritual  growth they especially need to ask God’s help in dealing with.

Shrove Tuesday precedes Ash Wednesday or the first day of Lent. Popular practices, such as indulging in food that one sacrifices before commencing the fasting and religious obligations associated with Lent.

FASTNACHT, (or Shrove Tuesday) is celebrated throughout Germany with masquerades, carnival processions and ceremonials that vary in character according to locality and folk custom. Fasching is Germany’s version of Mardi Gras, a French term for ‘Fat Tuesday’. This carnival climaxes on the night before the fast. It’s roots go way back to ancient Roman times.

Fastnachts are yeasted doughnuts that are eaten in Germany instead of pancakes. Typically they have no hole or filling and are dusted with powdered sugar. The rich treats presented a way to use up all of the butter, sugar and fat in the house prior to the self-denying diets of Lent.

GERMAN POTATO PANCAKES  are my Shrove Tuesday meal. I definitely grew up enjoying pancakes and with the many flavor options of today how could you not like them! 

Kartoffelpuffer - German Potato Pancakes
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Sour cream or applesauce make great compliments to this meal.
Servings
14 pancakes
Servings
14 pancakes
Kartoffelpuffer - German Potato Pancakes
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Sour cream or applesauce make great compliments to this meal.
Servings
14 pancakes
Servings
14 pancakes
Ingredients
Servings: pancakes
Instructions
  1. Par boil potatoes; cool slightly so you can peel & grate them. In a small bowl, combine next 6 ingredients. In a separate dish, whisk together melted margarine, buttermilk & eggs. Carefully combine wet & dry ingredients, stirring only until just blended.
  2. Heat a non-stick griddle to 350 F. Fold potatoes into batter. Using a 1/4 cup measure, place batter on grill, spreading slightly. Brown lightly on both sides.
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Glazed Mango Pinwheels

When you think of sticky rolls, yeast dough comes to mind. Yeast with its long, slow rise, adds that wonderful flavor to breads of all kinds. But there are always those times when you need a quick ‘homespun’ dessert. This is where we can turn to baking powder and baking soda, those little white powders baker’s simply can’t live without. 

I have always had a love for mangoes. In our part of the country they are quite expensive. Using the ‘individually quick frozen’ (IQF) mangoes seems to be the most economical way to buy them.

Adding a bit of cardamom spice to these Glazed Mango Pinwheels  gives them such a flavor boost. My blog photo shows them when they first came out of the oven. After you invert them on a platter that nice sticky glaze runs down the sides ….. yum!

Glazed Mango Pinwheels
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Old fashioned goodness with a new twist on sticky buns!
Servings
8
Servings
8
Glazed Mango Pinwheels
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Old fashioned goodness with a new twist on sticky buns!
Servings
8
Servings
8
Ingredients
Syrup Glaze
Dough
Spread
Servings:
Instructions
Mangoes & Syrup
  1. Thaw & coarsely chop mangoes; toss with lemon juice; set aside. In a saucepan, combine syrup ingredients. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally, then simmer 3 minutes; set aside.
Dough
  1. In a bowl, combine flour, baking powder & salt; cut in 1/2 cup margarine until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Make a well in the dry ingredients, add milk & mix lightly with a fork to make a stiff dough. Knead 10 seconds on a floured surface then roll out to a 12 x 10 -inch rectangle. Preheat oven to 375 F. Spread dough with 2 tbsp margarine; sprinkle with sugar & cardamom spice.
  2. Spread mango pieces over dough, leaving a 1-inch border all around. Roll up in a jelly roll fashion; cut into 8 slices. Place cut side down in a 9 x 9-inch baking dish, leaving space between rolls. Bake about 20-25 minutes. Reheat syrup glaze until hot then pour over & around pinwheels. Allow to sit for about 5-10 minutes then invert onto serving platter.
Recipe Notes
  • If you prefer more glaze, nothing says you can't double that part. No doubt, they will probably be even better!
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Apricot Cream Coffeecake

In contrast to it’s name, coffeecake usually does not have any coffee in it but is most often served with coffee. This is a cake that was not invented by a pastry chef but rather evolved from a variety of different types of cakes. Said to have had it’s origin in Europe, coffeecake became famous in Germany, Scandinavia and Portugal. The Scandinavians were advocates of the coffee break and desired something sweet with their coffee, thus contributed to the evolution of this tasty cake.

By 1879, coffeecakes had become well known in America and became common place to most households. As time passed, the original recipe was being prepared with cheese, yogurt, sugared fruits, nuts and spices. The most preferred baking pan for this cake is the ‘bundt pan’. The hole in the center of the pan allows heavier batters to become cooked all the way through without any dough being left unbaked in the center.

Sour Cream Coffee Cake, sometimes called Russian Coffeecake, is one of the most delicious and poplar of all versions. Due to the fact that this dense cake is not overly sweet makes it ideal for breakfast, brunch, snacks as well as other informal occasions. The lactic acid in the sour cream results in a tender crumb as well as keeping the cake fresh longer while the fat contributes to the flavor and moistness. The slight tang of the sour cream underscores the velvety, buttery cake. With the batter being rather thick, it will support a heavy filling or streusel.

This is a cake with limitless possibilities. Personalize it to suit the occasion with fillings such as Apple Nut, Brown Sugar & Nuts, Cranberry Orange, Date or Fig. Of course, instead of a glaze you can always put some streusel in the bundt pan first, giving it a glorious look and taste when baked and inverted on a serving plate.

Today’s recipe combines the use of sour cream and cream cheese. The aroma when it comes out of the oven is heavenly not to mention the taste later.

Apricot Cream Coffeecake
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Servings
12-16
Servings
12-16
Apricot Cream Coffeecake
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Servings
12-16
Servings
12-16
Ingredients
Filling
Streusel (optional)
Coffeecake
Glaze
Servings:
Instructions
Filling
  1. In a small bowl, combine cream cheese with apricot preserve until smooth; set aside.
Streusel
  1. If using streusel on top or inside, combine streusel ingredients well; set aside.
Coffeecake
  1. Preheat oven to 325 F. Lightly butter & flour a 12-cup bundt cake pan.
  2. In a large bowl, beat sugar, margarine, vanilla & eggs at medium speed for 2 minutes. In another bowl whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda & salt; fold into creamed mixture alternately with sour cream. Beat on low speed for another minute.
  3. Spread 1/3 of the batter in pan; spread with 1/2 of the filling. Repeat 2 times. Bake 45 minutes or until tests done with a wooden pick. Remove from oven to a wire rack; cool for 20 minutes. Combine glaze ingredients while cake is cooling. Invert bundt pan onto serving plate & drizzle with glaze.
Recipe Notes
  • If you choose to use streusel, after buttering & flouring the pan, sprinkle streusel in the bottom which will essentially become the top of cake.
  • Or place some streusel on the bottom of pan & sprinkle some over each layer of filling. 
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