Christmas Recipes

Christmas Recipes
Christmas Recipes

Italian Recipes

Italian Recipes
Italian Recipes

Dessert Recipes

Dessert Recipes
Dessert Recipes

Dutch Baby Pancake

This is not your typical pancake. I have been making pancakes every day for about 2 years straight now for my little princess. She never really liked cereals. Doesn't drink milk unless it's a cappuccino. Yes, I know. She has good culinary taste for such a young age. I came across a Dutch Baby Pancake recipe about a year ago. I have to be honest. It flopped. It was totally flat and never quite rose. Chef actually ate it. He is sweet like that. He will try something of mine even if it doesn't look the best and then tell me gently how to fix it for next time. I was frustrated that it was so boring and didn't look puffy and fabulous like it did on the recipe and never made it again. Until today. Sunday morning. Dutch Baby Pancakes were a hit. And here is maybe why. I mixed it for about seven minutes with my hand mixer. I kept mixing and mixing. The batter is very watery but it was getting these little bubbles. I believe I didn't mix it enough the last time. I even used low-fat milk and still rose to a beautiful puff of dough that smelled buttery and just divine. You could use half and half instead of the milk. I will have to try that the next time and see the result.

2 large eggs
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole milk or low-fat (you can even use half-half)
dash of salt
2 oz (4 tbsp unsalted butter)

Heat oven to 450 F. and put a large skillet or shallow Dutch oven in to heat. I used a cast iron skillet. Beat the eggs, flour, milk, and salt.  Mix all the ingredients together and keep on mixing. The more air you beat into the batter, the higher it will rise in the oven. As soon as you take it out of the hot oven, it will deflate a little. But no fear, it is delicious! When the oven is hot, toss the butter into the skillet and let it melt. Pour the batter into the skillet and return to the oven. Bake for about 12-15 minutes. It should be nice and golden and puffy. Serve with powdered sugar alone or with lemon juice (recipe below). If you don't have lemons around, it is just fine with the powdered sugar. With just powdered sugar you are saving some calories. If you don't mind a little extra fat, do the butter/lemon topping.

4 oz melted butter
juice of 1 lemon
powdered sugar

When pancake is done, pour on the butter, the lemon juice and dust on the powdered sugar. Serve immediately.


Banana Bread with Chocolate Chips

We are taking a trip to North Carolina. A little fresh mountain air will do us all good! I will be ready to bake and post some more when we are back so keep checking for new posts! 

Mixed Berry Strata

We all know it's summertime and most of you are lucky enough to be surrounded by fresh berries to just go and pick. Well, I'm not! I live in Florida. There aren't any berries around us this time of year. There is nothing surviving in this apocalyptic heat. But at Costco...yes, at Costco, I found some super fab berries. And they were cheap. I bought blackberries, blueberries, strawberries, and raspberries. I've been there twice in the last ten days just to get more berries. And I've been busy. When I was pregnant I spent way too much time watching the Food Network. My favorites were Paula Deen and Giada. Giada...what a cute Italian chick. Her smile could light up a room. Now she's a mommy and she has a new show filmed at her home with her super cute baby with the same luminous smile. Giada made a Mixed Berry Strata the other day. I don't normally like bread puddings. Slight confession. I am going to Hell for certain. My dad makes them pretty often and I don't eat the portion he gives me to try. I know, I'm a bad daughter. If you are lucky enough to live where there are some fresh berries growing. Go pick them and then make this. If you are not, go to Costco or your local super market or fruit market and get some. Or pick up some frozen berries. It's all good. But wait! You have to have day old bread. The most important step. If you have some bread in the house and you are just reading this post, make it tomorrow. Trust me, it's worth waiting for the stale bread.

Here are some fresh raspberries that were growing all over my in-laws garden last month in Italy.

My mother-in-law prepared an exorbitant amount of jam prior to our arrival. She's thoughtful like that. I ate fresh jam on this semi-sweet, homemade Calabrese bread for breakfast every morning. That could be blamed for part of the damage caused to my derriere last month. IF you don't speak French, I will translate: my arse started to expand in Italy. And then the fresh cheeses aided the slow but steady expansion of my backside. I am getting off topic here. Berries. 

Aren't they gorgeous!

There were so many. The kids could've picked for hours. 

Mixed Berry Strata recipe courtesy of Giada De Laurentiis


  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup whole milk ricotta
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 4 slices of bread, torn into 1-inch pieces (about 4 cups)
  • 1 (10-ounce) bag frozen mixed berries, thawed and drained
  • or if you have fresh fruit, please use it.


Melt the butter in a small saucepan over low heat. Turn off the heat, add the honey, and stir to combine.
Meanwhile, in a large bowl combine the eggs, ricotta, and sugar. Using a fork, mix to combine and beat the eggs. Add the milk, orange juice, butter and honey mixture, and bread. Stir to combine. Gently fold in the berries.

Place the ingredients in a 10-inch round (2-quart) baking dish. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours and up to 12 hours.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Bake the strata until golden on top and baked through, about 40 minutes. Let stand for 5 minutes before serving. Spoon into dishes and serve.

*Note about the recipe. I added the exact amount of honey and sugar that the recipe called for. Chef (a.k.a. my hubby), told me he didn't think it was sweet enough and to add some powdered sugar before serving. I thought it was sweet enough.

A blessed birthday cake. Italian style!

We were in Italy this past month visiting my fabulous in-laws. I'm supposed to be uploading photos to my other blog. It just ain't happening. There are about 600 photos. I get overwhelmed when I think about it because I would like to tell stories with the photos. I will tell a few quick ones here on my super-sweet Cake Duchess blog! My mother-in-law whipped up a very yummy birthday cake for my father-in-law. She made pan di spagna and filled it with budino (pudding). The top of the cake gets a nice dose of homemade whipped cream and is decorated with fresh strawberries.

We didn't have birthday candles to light but she had a blessed candle from Lourdes, France. You see, she and my husband's amazing grandmother had just returned from a pilgrimage to Lourdes. They came back with every souvenir you could imagine to give out to every one they know. Friends. Families. Neighbors. They all got a little something holy and blessed from Lourdes. They are so kind. 
Look at that pudding oozing out of the middle. It was crazy good. Don't ask me for the recipe. My mother-in-law was not used to nosy me following her around the kitchen with my camera and notepad. She was not cooperating. Well, she had to only feed about 12 of us every day at lunch and dinner. That could explain her reticence in reciting her recipes while she was rushing to feed us, the hungry and impatient masses.

Before the cake, we had a some juicy watermelon. I cannot find a watermelon as sweet as they have in Italy here at my local fruit markets.
We took Nonno to Milano for the day. We spent the whole day around Il Duomo. This is the 4th largest church in the world and it took about five centuries to build. It is magnificent. I have been to Il Duomo many times but I never went inside. The beauty was overwhelming.

We even went to the top. It wasn't as scary as I had remembered it being.

 The floors inside Il Duomo were spectacular. I wish I had a better camera to capture all the details inside.


Ciambella Romagnola

We bought our house 8 years ago and somehow we were fortunate enough to move next door to some of the sweetest Italian/Americans on the planet. Eric's mom is from Bologna. Marta is one classy chick. She grew up in a castle in Bologna. Her parents had a famous restaurant and she worked there when she was a kid and learned how to make some of the most amazing Bolognese dishes that exist. Our neighbors have become our extended family and we have spent many holidays and birthdays together. Marta always makes a special cake for these festivities. A ciambella. Marisa (her daughter-in-law)and I always fight over who she made it for because Marta puts this exquisite prune filling in the middle. Somehow it happens to be mine and Marisa's favorite dessert. Yes, prunes. Odd? A little. Maybe it's because we're both Sicilian and born a week apart?

Tonight my Sicilian cousin Al came over for dinner and I decided to make a Ciambella. I didn't have prunes to stew. I did have fresh organic green apples. It would make Nonna Marta proud. 

1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 cup all-purpose unbleached flour
1 cup cake flour
pinch of salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon shredded lemon zest
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled and cut into pieces
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 tablespoons milk

4 apples diced and sauteed over medium-low heat for about 15 minutes with about 1/4 cup of water. When the apples were nice and soft I mashed them a little and added some cinnamon and a couple of tablespoons of sugar.

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or you could grease it with the tablespoon of butter. Put all the dry ingredients for the dough, including the lemon zest, in a bowl. Blend them thoroughly with your hands or with a fork.  Rub the butter into the dry ingredients, using your fingertips, until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Stir the egg, vanilla, and mild together. Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients, and add the liquids. Gradually work int eh dry ingredients, tossing them with a fork (don't stir). You want to moisten and not beat the dough. You could work the dough with your hands. The dough should be moist, lumpy, and sticky. You may need to add more tablespoons of milk and flour until you get the right consistency.

Generously flour a work surface and turn the dough onto it.  Lightly flour your hands. Pat the dough out to form a rectangle about 8 inches wide and 13 inches long. Spoon the apple filling down the center, in a ribbon about 2 inches wide. Fold the two flaps of pastry lengthwise over the filling, overlapping slightly. Pinch the seam together down the length of the cake. Pinch the ends together so the filling doesn't ooze out during baking. And if it does, it's not a problem.

Transfer the pastry to the baking sheet and sprinkle  with 2 teaspoons of sugar. Bake 25 minutes. Reduce the heat to 250 F and bake another 25 minutes. You should check it at around 15-20 minutes to see how it is looking. You don't want it to be too dark. Cut the ciambella into slices of about 1/2 inch thick and enjoy!


Apple Puff Pastries

I adore apple desserts. If I were given the choice of super, beyond amazing, apple dessert or chocolate dessert made by Paula Deen...I would choose the apple one. know, I am not normal. Why would any sane woman prefer an apple dessert over a rich, gooey, chocolate dessert? Maybe it is because I consumed insane amounts of Nutella when I was little (see previous post). I came across the Pepperidge Farm Puff Pastry Sheets and thought I should buy them and experiment. My husband told me he would help me make something easy with them and it included apples. Here is what we made (well, what he made and I assisted. Well, actually, I photographed and kept checking the oven. There, the truth!).

Apple Pastries

*Remember to take out the pastry sheets from the freezer about 30-40 mins before to have them defrost. While defrosting, you could slice your apples and squeeze a little lemon or lime juice on them so they won't turn brown.

3 medium apples
apricot jam
puff pastry sheets

Preheat the oven to 325. Peel and slice your apples thin and put them aside in a bowl.

If your sheets are not defrosted, squeeze some lemon or lime juice on them to keep them from browning. Once the sheets are ready, you can begin to assemble.Sprinkle a little flour on the sheet and roll it out a little.

 Cut the sheet into six squares.

Spoon about a tablespoon of apricot jam in the center of each pastry square.

Spoon about another tablespoon of jam on top of the apple slices. Sprinkle about a teaspoon of sugar on top of the last layer of jam.

You could use any flavored jam that you have. We also had a jar of his mom's homemade raspberry jam. We brought it back with us from Italy last month. It was also perfect with the apples. Chef decided to fold over the edges of the raspberry ones.

Here they were lined up ready to be baked.

I timed the oven for 20 minutes. We kept checking it every 5-7 minutes. The total baking time was about 35-40 minutes. I wanted them a little golden brown and for the apples to be tender.

This is how they looked when they were done. Delicious! 

The jam gets nice and gooey.  Don't be afraid if some overflows and gets too brown. You can lift them out nicely with a spatula. 


And you will thank Pepperidge Farms for making such a lovely product. If you have more time, you could attempt to make your own puff pastry.  Chef told me we could make them  also with crema pasticciera.  That is something I will try this summer.


Nutella Cake

Have you ever heard of Nutella? It is a magical chocolate hazelnut spread from Italy. 

You can find it probably at your local grocery store. At my grocery store it is in the same aisle as the jams and peanut butter. The first time I tasted Nutella was in Sicily and I was 10 years old. I was there that summer visiting with my dad. I was on the beach with my cousins and they brought these pannini di Nutella (Nutella sandwiches). Ingenious! Crisp, white bread with gobs of chocolate spread in the middle. Why hadn't my mom ever thought of this fabulous afternoon snack? I felt I had been cheated for so many years. Maybe that is why today I am not easily excited over chocolate because I possibly ate about 1,000 of those Nutella pannini that splendid summer on the beach in Sicily.

Here is my version of a dreamy Nutella Cake. Sort of like a Nutella Pound Cake, but without a pound of butter. Be warned. While it is baking you may feel compelled to take it out while it is undercooked and begin to devour it. The smell coming from the oven was intoxicating. We brought it to my mom's to celebrate 4th of July yesterday and it was safely sitting on my lap. My daughter said it smelled like chocolate waffles. I decided to be polite and not pick at it while we were on the way to my mom's.

Nutella Cake

1 1/2 cups all purpose flout
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 stick unsalted butter at room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 egg
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
One 13 ounce jar of Nutella
1/2 cup sour cream at room temperature

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Lightly butter a 5-by-9 inch loaf pan and line with parchment, leaving a 2-inch overhang on all sides; butter parchment. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, salt and baking powder.

In a large bowl, beat the butter with the sugar until light and fluffy (about 5 minutes). Add the eggs and vanilla and beat to combine. With mixer on low, add flour mixture in 3 additions, alternating with sour cream, beginning and ending with flour mixture.

Spread one-third of the batter in the prepared pan. Then spread half of the nutella on top. Repeat with another third of the batter and the remaining Nutella. Top with the remaining batter. Lightly swirl the Nutella into the batter with a butter knife. Do not overmix.  I left about 1/4 of the Nutella in the jar in case I needed to have a spoonful or two while waiting for the cake. You may feel the urge to do the same. 

(Here is photo of the 1st layer of Nutella spread on the batter)

(I kind of forgot to leave a little extra batter to put on top and just spread the rest of the Nutella. You could do it that way too and it will turn out just fine. The Nutella won't burn.)

Bake the cake for about 1 hour. Depending on your oven. My cake was ready in 55 mins. Check your cake around 55 minutes to see how it is doing by inserting a toothpick in the center and seeing if it comes out clean. It could take another 15 minutes if it is still raw. It just depends on your oven. 

Lift cake out of pan with the parchment paper (see how clever this parchment paper is?) and let cool. To cut clean slices you have to let it cool for about 2 hours. If you don't care about having a messy cake, cut the cake into slices immediately and serve. That is what we did!


Chewy Chocolate Brownies

I realized it was time to start a baking blog when I found myself baking brownies three times in one week. I was in search of brownie perfection. Does such a thing exist? Yes, if you ask my wise daughter she will tell you frankly as she did to me one night in the beginning of June. The conversation went something like this. "Honey, how did you like my brownies the other night?". "Mommy they were good", she responded. "But they are so much more delicious when you put chocolate on the inside too." So here is this recipe with chocolate on the inside.

Chewy Chocolate (on the inside too) Brownies
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1/2 cup plus 2 T boiling water 
2 ozs semi-sweet chocolate, finely chopped
4 T unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup plus 2T vegetable oil
2 large eggs
2 large egg yolks
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups of sugar
1 3/4 cup of unbleached all purpose flour
3/4 tsp salt
6 ozs bittersweet chocolate, cut into 1/2 inch pieces or
 1/2 cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips 

Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a 13 x 9 pan with foil and spray with cooking spray. I like to use Pam Baking Spray.

Whisk the cocoa in the boiling water in a large bowl into smooth. Add unsweetened chocolate and whisk until melted.

Whisk in melted butter and oil. Add eggs, yolks, and vanilla and continue to whisk until smooth. Whisk in sugar until fully incorporated. Add flour and salt and mix with rubber spatula until combined. Fold in bittersweet chocolate pieces or semi-sweet chocolate chips.

Scrape batter into pan and bake until toothpick inserted comes out with few moist crumbs (approximately 30-35 minutes).

After cooling on a wire rack, lift the brownies with the foil overhang. Slice when completely cool. I know you won't wait that long. We never do. Enjoy the crumbly, gooey, chocolate mess!!

Satisfied customers! They couldn't look up from their plates to smile that's how good those brownies were!!



Mariskaneni. Doesn't get sweeter than this.

I didn't get to meet my mother's mother. You see she died of cancer right before I was born. I did get to meet Nonna Mattia, my father's mother. She lived in Sicily and I was in Florida. I only got to see her twice and she was sick and always in bed. But my dad saved all the letters she wrote him when he emigrated to America so I got to "know" Nonna Mattia a little by reading her tender words to her favorite son Saru'. And I heard stories from father about what a wonderful lady Nonna Mattia was. What a terrific cook and baker she was.

Let them eat cake! That's what I say!

I recently started a food blog and I found myself posting mostly desserts. I thought these lovely recipes deserved a place all for themselves. I never thought I would be baking as much as I am. I am not a professional baker. I'm a mom-baker. I have two kids and they both have a fierce sweet tooth. I  get really annoyed with all the processed crap that is out there. I try to buy as many organic snacks as possible. But they can be so expensive. So I bake. And I bake often.