Category Archives: winter

Vanilla Bean Cake with Vanilla Bean Meringue Buttercream Frosting

Screen shot 2014-01-02 at 3.31.27 PM My mom loves vanilla cake so I decided to make her a special vanilla bean cake for her birthday.  This cake will turn chocolate cake lovers into vanilla cake lovers.  It is extremely light and bursting with vanilla flavor.  It is very refreshing!



  • 5 large egg whites
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
  • 3 cups granulated sugar
  • 3 cups cake flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  •  ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup buttermilk, room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons of vanilla bean paste (5 vanilla beans)


  • 5 large egg whites
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons of granulated sugar
  • 4 sticks of butter
  • 2 tablespoons vanilla extract
  • Vanilla bean paste from 2 vanilla beans



  1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F
  2. Prepare 2 or 3 9 inch round cake pans with non-stick spray.  I did two so I could freeze the batter and use it later!
  3. Cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
  4. Add eggs one at a time.
  5. Mix on medium for about 10 minutes for until very fluffy.
  6. In a separate bowl mix together flour, baking powder, and salt.
  7. Alternately add the dry ingredients and the buttermilk into the egg mixture.  Mixing on low.
  8. Take out the paste from the vanilla beans and add it to the batter.
  9. Add the vanilla extract.
  10. Mix on medium until all is incorporated.
  11.  Bake for 30 minutes or until golden brown.
  12.  Let cool before frosting.


  1. Combine sugar and egg whites with a mixer.
  2. Put egg mixture into a pot and put on medium high heat.
  3. Whisk mixture for about 5 minutes until sugar has dissolved.
  4. Then bring back to stand mixer after the midrange has cooled.
  5. Mix for about 10 minutes until light and fluffy.
  6. Add butter one tablespoon at a time.
  7. Add vanilla and vanilla bean past.
  8. Frost cake and garnish with fresh raspberries.

This cake is extremely light and special.




Restaurant Review: Franks Diner in Kenosha, WI

I have become obsessed with watching Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives on the Food Network.  There are a good amount of restaurants that have been featured on the show in near Chicago, however, I chose to visit a small diner in Wisconsin this past weekend.  I drove up to Wisconsin with my mom for breakfast and we had a great time.  Franks Diner is in an old train car and the staff are full of character.  First, I ordered one of their homemade cinnamon rolls which was amazing!  Hands down the best cinnamon roll I have ever had.

BeFunky_Instant_1 My mom ordered oatmeal, which was also fantastic.

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I also ordered a garbage plate — one of the items they are famous for.  The garbage plate includes hash browns, eggs, onions, and bell peppers while including options to add different meats, vegetables, and cheeses.  I ordered a garbage plate with corned beef, and cheddar cheese.  It was fantastic.  The garbage plate also comes with toast, which is of course homemade and delicious.

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I wish I lived a little closer to this diner, but distance won’t stop me. I will be back for more!  I encourage you to visit this diner if you are ever in or near the Kenosha area.

Inside Franks! "Shut Up and Eat!"

Inside Franks! “Shut Up and Eat!”

You can check out the diner website here.

Kenosha is a small city on Lake Michigan, and I encourage you to walk down the walk from Franks’ to the beach.  The lighthouses were beautiful even in the 30-degree weather!

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— Lizzie

Dark Chocolate Tart with Oranges and Almonds


Oranges, almonds, and — obviously — chocolate are some of my favorite ingredients ever. Hands down. I drink orange juice by the gallon, keep tubs of raw almonds on my desk (Target sells yummy raw almonds by the bucketful, believe it or not), and enjoy chocolate — but that’s just a normal-person thing.

I came across this 2003 Bon Appétit recipe on Epicurious by accident whilst browsing for food for our annual Christmas dessert party and knew I had to add it to my menu. I’ve never been a huge tart person, and indeed I’ve never made a tart, but this recipe screamed delicious: fudgy chocolate, chewy candied oranges, slivered almonds — all in a perfect, crumbly chocolate tart shell infused with cinnamon. Although this recipe has a few components that must be made separately (read: tart shell and candied oranges), it is overall quite easy (the filling comes together in, like, 60 seconds) and well worth the time spent making it!


Here is the recipe. [My notes are in brackets.]


Candied Orange Peel:

  • 1 orange
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons water

Tart Crust: 

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 6 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 3/4 cup all purpose flour


  • 1 cup slivered almonds, toasted, coarsely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 8 ounces bittersweet (not unsweetened) or semisweet chocolate, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon Grand Marnier or other orange liqueur



Candied Orange Peel:

  1. Using vegetable peeler, remove peel (orange part only) from orange in strips [note: you can also use the cutting method from this post]. Cut strips into matchstick-size pieces and place in small saucepan. Cover with cold water; bring to boil. Cook 30 seconds; drain. [Note: this is to blanch the bitterness from the peels. I did this twice when I made this tart, and I highly recommend doing this. It is well worth the extra five minutes!]
  2. Rinse saucepan; add 1/4 cup sugar, 2 tablespoons water, and peel. Stir over medium-low heat until sugar dissolves. Simmer until peel is translucent and syrup is thick, about 20 minutes. Using tines of fork, transfer peel to plate and cool.
  3. Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and store at room temperature. [Note: the peel doesn’t need to be made far in advance; it only takes 15 minutes to cool.]

Tart Crust:

  1. Using electric mixer, beat butter, sugar, cinnamon, and salt in large bowl until smooth. Beat in cocoa powder. Add flour and beat until dough comes together in moist clumps. Gather dough into ball; flatten into disk. Wrap in plastic and chill until firm, at least 1 hour and up to 1 day.
  2. Roll out dough between sheets of waxed paper to 11-inch round. Peel off top sheet of paper. Invert dough over 9-inch-diameter tart pan with removable bottom; peel off paper. Gently press dough into pan. Press dough overhang in to form double-thick sides. Pierce dough all over with fork. Refrigerate 30 minutes. [Note: For the best use of your time, this is the best time to make the candied orange peels — while the tart crust is refrigerating. This will give the peels plenty of time to candy and then cool — and you can also bake the tart during the candying process.]
  3. Preheat oven to 375°F. Bake crust until sides look dry and bottom looks bubbly, about 14 minutes. Transfer crust to rack. Using back of spoon, press up sides of dough if falling. Cool completely.

Filling & Tart Assembly:

  1. Toss almonds, sugar, and cinnamon in small bowl. Chop all but 2 strips of peel. Sprinkle chopped orange peel, then almond mixture over bottom of prepared crust. Place cream in heavy medium saucepan. Bring to simmer. Remove from heat. Add chocolate and whisk until chocolate melts and mixture is smooth; mix in Grand Marnier. Pour into crust. Refrigerate until filling is firm, at least 3 hours. Garnish with remaining 2 orange peel strips. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover loosely with foil and keep refrigerated.)
  2. Using sharp knife, gently loosen crust from pan sides. Remove pan sides. Cut tart into wedges; serve cold.


That’s it! This is a super easy recipe and I highly recommend it. It’s also great to make ahead, as the tart only gets more delicious with a few days in the fridge. This was one of the hits of the night at my Christmas party (aside from the baklava, which really stole the show — recipe coming soon), and can be one at your next event too! (Or just make it for yourself — I won’t judge.)

— Halie

Tiramisu Cake


I wanted to make a special cake for my mom’s birthday, and ever since her trip to Italy last year, she has been into tiramisu.  I figured making a tiramisu cake would be a nice alternative to the usual chocolate or vanilla birthday cake.



For the Cake:

  • 2 cups cake flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 ¼ sticks unsalted butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
  • ¾ cup buttermilk

For the espresso extract:

  • 2 tablespoons instant espresso power
  • 2 tablespoons boiling water

For the espresso syrup:

  • ½ cup water
  • 1/3 cup sugar

For the filling and frosting:

  • 2 8-ounce containers of mascarpone cheese
  • ¾ cup powdered sugar, sifted
  • 1 ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup cold heavy cream
  • 2 ½ ounces of semisweet chocolate finely chopped


For the Cake:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Butter two 9 inch round cake pans.
  3. Beat butter until creamy.
  4. Add sugar and continue to beat.
  5. Add eggs one by one and then the yolk while mixing.
  6. Add vanilla.
  7. Add the dry ingredients alternately with the buttermilk, adding the dry ingredients in 3 parts and the buttermilk in 2.
  8. Pour one half of cake batter in each pan and bake for 30 minutes.

For the extract and syrup:

  1. Stir the espresso powder and boiling water together until blended.
  2. Stir the water and sugar together in a saucepan.
  3. Bring sugar water to a boil.
  4. Remove from heat and add extract.
  5. Once the cakes have cooled pour 1/3 of the espresso syrup on top of each layer.

For the filling and frosting:

  1. Mix the mascarpone, sugar, and vanilla together in a bowl until smooth.
  2. In a separate bowl whisk the heavy cream until it forms peaks.
  3. Fold in the heavy cream to the mascarpone mixture.
  4. Frost each layer and add the semisweet chocolate between the layers.
  5. Assemble the cake and frost the outsides.
  6. Dust with coco powder and top with extra chocolate.






My mom loved this cake.  It was full of flavor and very refreshing!

This recipe was adapted from Smitten Kitchen and can be found here.


— Lizzie

PS: Follow us on instagram @textbooksandteacakes for lots of yummy food photos!

Menu: A Global Christmas Party

xmas menu

My Christmas party menu for this year… my family always gets together for desserts and to exchange gifts, and we end up hosting practically every year. This is fine by me as I get to cook a ton and I love putting dessert tables together.

What’s on your menu for the holidays?

— Halie