Baking Fun for the Weekend

The forecast for St. Louis this weekend is rain, clouds, and more rain, thanks to the remnants of Hurricane Isaac. Don’t get me wrong, I am not complaining at all. We are so deep in the depths of a drought that any rain is fabulous. Rainy days make me want to bake. Weekends, especially long weekends give me time to bake.

On this last weekend of summer, according to some, I thought I would share some of my favorite desserts from the summer’s posts, and maybe inspire you to try one.


I can’t end the summer without revisiting an ice cream recipe. Try Cinnamon Ice Cream for something different.

If you want to go all out, top it with Hot Fudge Sauce and experience a little ice cream heaven.

Or you could take just a few minutes to whip up Vanilla Shortbread and revel in the decadence of a cookie that showcases butter. All butter, all the time.

If you are looking for relatively healthy, but still indulgent breakfast, make Banana Muffins. They take no time to make, but you can also make them the day before so they will be ready when you roll out of bed and start the coffee brewing on a lazy weekend morning.

Finally, if you want a quick (and I mean quick) dessert to take to any party or dinner, try White Texas Sheet Cake. This recipe takes just a few minutes to put together, and you can stir it up with a wooden spoon and bowl – no mixer required. If you don’t need a large cake, half of the recipe fits into a 9 by 13 pan beautifully. Just cut all the ingredient amounts exactly in half and you are good to go.

What are you baking, or eating, this Labor Day weekend?

An Afternoon of Baking – White Texas Sheet Cake

Yesterday afternoon I used six sticks of butter in less than an hour. That kind of boggles my mind. A pound and a half of butter gone in no time! Well, not gone, but you know what I mean.

I was making a White Texas Sheet Cake for a dinner meeting we are having at our church tonight. I also made a batch of Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars for the people who are setting up for the meeting. The cake alone took three sticks of butter, with the icing taking one more. I made 1½ times the recipe so it would fill a larger pan and make a taller cake to serve more people.

We first started making this cake a few years ago when I was looking for something to make with Calvin on a lazy summer day. I hadn’t been planning on baking and the only butter we had was in the freezer, so I was looking for a recipe that used melted butter, or oil. I found this one in a fundraising cookbook and away we went. Based on the amounts of ingredients, I figured we could make half a recipe into twelve cupcakes that would bake in about 15 minutes. Calvin was in first grade, I think, and pulled up a stool to watch them bake through the oven door window. We made cream cheese icing for the tops and everyone was happy.

The original recipe calls for a 10 by 15 by 2 inch pan. I don’t have a pan that size, so I usually make the full recipe into 24 cupcakes. I made it in a 12 by 17 by 1 inch pan (1/2 sheet size) last week to test it, and it worked beautifully. The cake is only about ½-inch thick when you do it this way, but it makes for a nice ratio of cake to icing. Feel free to increase the recipe by 1½, if you want a taller cake in the larger pan, though be warned – this is what took three sticks of butter.

Look at the lovely sheen on the top of the icing. Easy as pie – just pour it on, smooth it out and it levels itself and dries shiny.

The original recipe also called for sour cream, which isn’t something I usually have on hand. I don’t think I have ever used the sour cream, substituting plain nonfat yogurt in equal amounts. It works perfectly and makes a beautiful cake with a fine, moist crumb.

I apologize for not siting the source. I have since given away the cookbook and only kept a typed copy of the recipe. I did a quick Google search and every recipe that came up was exactly the same, except for slight variations in the extract amounts. Thank you to whoever came up with it in the first place!

White Texas Sheet Cake
from The Cook’s Life
serves 24-30

If you don’t like almond extract, substitute equal amounts vanilla extract for the almond extract. Do NOT skip sifting the powdered sugar for the icing, or you will have lumps in your icing. Trust me – SIFT the powdered sugar!

1 cup butter (2 sticks)
1 cup water
2 cups flour
2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 eggs, well beaten
½ cup sour cream or nonfat plain yogurt
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 teaspoon almond extract, optional

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease a 15 by 10 by 2 inch pan OR a 12 by 17 by 1 inch pan OR 24 muffin cups, and set aside.

Bring butter and water to a boil in a saucepan or the microwave. In a large bowl, stir together flour, sugar, salt and baking powder. In a separate bowl, mix together eggs, sour cream or yogurt and extracts.

Once you have everything ready, the cake stirs together in no time. No mixer required.

Add hot butter and water mixture to dry mixture and stir until smooth. Add egg mixture and stir until well combined. Pour into prepared pan and bake for 15-22 minutes depending on the size of your pan. Cupcakes and the larger pan will take the shorter amount of time. Cake is done when it is golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool for 30 minutes before icing.

½ cup butter (1 stick)
¼ cup milk
4 ½ cups powdered sugar, sifted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon almond extract, optional
1 cup finely chopped pecans, optional

In a saucepan, bring milk and butter to a boil. Remove from heat and add remaining ingredients and stir until smooth.  Pour and spread over the cake. Let icing cool and totally set up before cutting or covering the cake.

This icing really is easy, as long as you SIFT your powdered sugar. Those aren’t lumps in the icing, but bubbles. See above picture for smooth, lump-free icing.

Make this a day ahead of time, if possible. Cake improves with age and is a good keeper, staying moist for 3-4 days.

Download the recipe here.