Monthly Archives: April 2014

Welcome Neighbors Cake

A few weeks ago, my friend Kim in Santa Cruz sent me an email saying that her good friend had moved into a home just down the street from me, and Kim was going to come for a visit to see the new home and her friend’s new daughter. She said that if I was going to be around, she would like to stop by and see me.

I suggested that I should bake a cake for her to give to her friend, and Kim said that would be nice. So, I set about deciding what the cake should be. I was looking through my Wilton School book “Decorating Cakes; A Reference & Idea Book” and they had a cake they called “Welcome Neighbors”. I stopped looking and decided that I could use their cake as a guide. I took a few liberties in implementing the cake, but overall, I think it came out well.

I am showing three pictures of the final results; the overview, the top of the cake, and the side of the cake.

overviewOverview of the Welcome Neighbors cake

side-focusSide view of the cake

top-focusTop view of the cake

Most of the decorations are made ahead of time using Royal Icing. That includes the bird house and birds, and the flowers. The vine, and its leaves are butter cream, as is the wording, and the borders on the top and bottom edges of the cake.

I started with 10 inch layers for the cake, but trimmed them a bit because as they cool in the pans, they pull in differently at the top of the layer versus the bottom; I wanted to start with vertical sides on the cake, and a flat top. I also had to trim the tops of the layers so they would be flatter. A few months ago, I got tired of using toothpicks and thread to split and trim my cake layers and bought a special tool for doing that. I am not happy with that slicing tool as the knife on it seems to be too loose and not give me the straight through cut that I bought it to make; the cut seems to rise as it goes across the cake layer.

I sliced the layers so that the final cake would be a tort, and filled one layer with apricot glaze, and the second layer with dark chocolate ganache. Between the layers, I used pastry creme. That makes the three fillings similar to the tastes found in napoleons, those scrumptious French pastries that were one of my original baking experiments some 45 years ago. I learned from Julia Child and even made my own puff pastry.


These recipes were in Marlys’s Cook Book, and are credited to Nannie- who was Marlys’s grandmother. Nannie’s maiden name was Sara Martha Arguello, and she was born in what is now Tijuana, Mexico, so I feel these recipes have some real standing as being authentic Mexican recipes. Nannie married Leo Smith Sr, who was over 93% Mexican; the Smith name is a story in itself.

I know the family has made updates to the recipes; I am certain that enchilada sauce was not found in a can at the grocery store, and even the corn tortillas were probably home made. However, none of that takes away from the authenticity of these recipes.

enchies 008This is a rolled enchilada with filling #1 cut open.

Another aspect of the recipes is inflation; I found it impossible to find a 28 ounce can of enchie sauce, most large cans are now down to about 20 ounces. And the 6 inch corn tortillas are now only 5 1/4 inches in diameter. But we are finding the problem of inflation in a lot of our recipes that come from long ago.

This article contains three different fillings for the enchiladas and shows two different constructions; the normal rolled enchiladas and an enchilada casserole. The casserole is easy and quick to make. I personally like rolled enchiladas, but they are more time consuming, and much more messy to make than the casserole. Rolling tortillas that have been warmed in enchilada sauce is very messy!

enchies 001Enchilada casserole made with filling #2


Sara Martha Arguello (Nannie 1962)

This recipe contains three different filling recipes, each for a dozen corn tortillas. There are also two construction methods for making the enchiladas: rolling the enchies, and a layered casserole. The enchilada sauce is slightly different for the two construction methods.

  • package 6″ corn tortillas
  • can of enchie (or chili) sauce
  • grated cheese (cheddar)

See the construction methods for the number of tortillas and amount of sauce.

These are the recipes for the enchie fillings. Each recipe is for one dozen corn tortillas. If using the Layered Casserole construction method, you might want to cut the recipe in half.

Recipe 1.

  • 1 lb. sharp cheddar cheese, grated
  • 10 green onions, chopped
  • 4 oz chopped olives

Recipe 2.

  • 1/2 lb. monterey jack cheese, grated
  • 1/2 lb. sharp cheddar cheese, grated
  • 1 (4 oz) can diced ortega chili
  • 10 green onions, chopped

Recipe 3.

  • 1 lb. cooked meat, shredded or chopped

    (roast, hamburger, turkey, chicken)
  • 1 (4 oz) can diced ortega chili
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped

For recipe 3, saute ingredients in a small amount of olive oil until onions are cooked. Add salt and pepper.

Now you need to choose your construction method

Rolled-up Enchiladas


  • 4 Tablespoons fat
  • 4 Tablespoons flour
  • 1 (28 oz.) can (or more) enchie sauce

Make a roux with the fat and flour. Add the canned sauce and cook until thickened.


Work one tortilla at a time. Originally, the tortillas were dipped into hot oil to make them pliable and able to be rolled. Now, we find it is enough to dip them into the hot sauce mixture to warm the tortillas so they are pliable. Then, put a small amount of the filling mixture in the center of the tortilla and roll it up; place it seam side down in a baking pan. Only make a single layer in the pan. When it is full, top it with the remaining enchie sauce. See cooking directions below.

Layered Enchilada Casserole

The Layered Casserole requires an oven-proof dish which can hold 6 tortillas. Ours is nearly straight sided, 3 inches deep and 6 inches in diameter sloping up to 6 1/2 inches in diameter at the top.

Since only 6 tortillas are used in a casserole, the Enchie Filling recipes should be cut in half unless two casseroles are being made. In that case, double the amount of sauce.


  • 1 (14 oz.) can of enchie sauce. Do not thicken.


Build up the casserole as follows:

  • small amount of sauce
  • a tortilla
  • about 1/5 filling mixture
  • about 1/5 sauce
  • repeat tortilla, filling mixture and sauce until dish is full, then:
  • last plain tortilla on top (my pan holds 5 layers +last tortilla)
  • Cover with remaining sauce.

Cooking for Both Constructions

Cover with foil and bake 350 degrees for 25 minutes. Uncover; sprinkle with the cheddar cheese and bake an additional 5 – 10 minutes.

I am not certain why the enchie sauce for the casserole is not thickened. It felt to me that it would hold the casserole together better if it were thickened like for the rolled enchies. The amount of filling in any given layer of the casserole was very similar to the amount of filling in a rolled enchilada.

enchies 011Cut open rolled enchie with filling 3.

Another trick with the enchie sauce that Marlys taught me is to taste it, and if it seems too acidic, add a spoon or so of sugar. I find that I don’t like it as acidic as it comes from the can.

I used ground turkey for my meat in filling #3. I seasoned the turkey just as I would if using it in another recipe.

I was only able to get 8 rolled enchiladas in my 9 x 13 baking dish; I needed a second baking dish for the last four.

I found that the full recipe for each filling made about 24 ounces of filling; then each enchilada, and each layer of the casserole, used about 2 ounces of the filling; after a couple attempts, I discovered that was just about what I picked up with the cooking spoon I was using, making life quite a bit easier.

Rolo filled Bon Bon Cookies

Ever since I made the salted caramel filled Bon Bon cookies, I have wanted to make the filling a Rolo rather than the chips I had used; Rolos seem to be the desired source for caramel because they are available at all types of markets. It took me several attempts before I came to what I felt was a success.

bonbons 003

My early attempts would find the cooked cookie cracked and leaking caramel- not something I would want to serve. I had started my attempts by only replacing the chocolate Kiss with the Rolo; then I even tried cutting the Rolo in half since the weight of the Rolo is almost twice the weight of the Kiss.

Finally, I decided I had to see how others were keeping the Rolo embedded in their cookies. The place I focused was a website where the author – Sally- was making a caramel embedded chocolate chip cookie. I started by following her recipe and making a batch of the cookies. I must say, they answered the question about how to embed a Rolo in a chocolate chip cookie. If you like that idea for a cookie, then head on over to the website and check it out –Sally’s Baking Addiction.
These salted-caramel chocolate chip cookies are really big- about 3.5 to 4 inches in diameter!

I have a couple notes from making Sally’s recipe. She reserves a half cup of chocolate chips for pressing onto the top of the cookie just before baking; I found that probably 1/4 cup of chocolate chips was enough to reserve, but I would not put the rest into the dough- the 1/2 cup there is enough. Making the dough does not need a mixer; a whisk and spatula are enough as the dough is quite soft at this point. It hardens in the refrigerator, and then is almost too hard to scoop; you may want to wait more than 10 minutes for it to soften after it comes out of the refrigerator. Because the cookies are so large, I found it safest to move them from the cookie sheet to the wire racks using a pan cake turner.

From making that recipe, I learned three things that I needed to change in the Bon Bon recipe to use it with the Rolos.

  • The amount of dough surrounding the Rolo has to be increased.
  • The cooking temperature needs to be decreased.
  • The cookies need to be cooled on a flat surface, not a wire rack.

In making the chocolate chip cookies, Sally uses a total of 3 Tablespoons of dough. Now her dough has chocolate chips in it, so the 3 Tablespoons doesn’t translate directly to Bon Bon dough. I tried both 1 Tablespoon and 1.5 Tablespoons and I think the answer is at least 1 Tablespoon and maybe a bit less than 1.5 Tablespoons. Okay, the original chocolate filled Bon Bon I was measuring the dough with a #110 scoop; since a #64 is 1 Tablespoon, the #110 is more like 60% of a Tablespoon, or just under 2 teaspoons. For my experiments, I used a #50 and a #60 scoop. The #60 is just more than 1 Tablespoon (#64) and the #50 is just less than 1.5 Tablespoons (#48).

The Chocolate filled Bon Bon recipe uses an oven temperature of 350 degrees; I noted that Sally uses the temperature at 325 degrees with about the same cooking time. So I lowered the temperature for the Rolo filled Bon Bon by 25 degrees to 325 degrees.

Finally, the above steps stopped the cracking of the cookie and the obvious leaking of the caramel but there is still a soft spot on the bottom of the cookie. (I noticed that Sally’s salted caramel chocolate chip cookies also had this soft spot). If I cool the cookie on a wire rack, the hot caramel sometimes would leak through the soft spot and drop through the holes in the wire rack. If the cookie is cooled all the way on the cooking sheet, then the caramel can’t escape and the cooled cookie looks perfect. Sally cools her cookies for a full 10 minutes on the cookie sheet before moving them, so I suggest the same treatment for the Rolo filled Bon Bon cookies.

Update: I have just made a new batch of these cookies, and found a couple pieces of advice to give you. First, I used the new Mini Rolos instead of the regular Rolos. One advantage is that you do not need to unwrap them; they come without individual wrappings. The second advantage is that you can now use less dough to cover the rolo; I was able to get nearly 100% perfect cookies using my 1 Tablespoon scoop. (Actually it is a #60). I am not changing the recipe below because it still reads correctly. Previously, when I was using the regular Rolos, I had to use my #50 scoop which is more dough (about 1.28 Tablespoons) and thus, a bigger cookie.

I also found that the Rolo wasn’t picking up the salt as much as I desired. To solve that problem, I moistened a paper towel, and placed a few Rolos at a time on it. I placed about a dozen Rolos on the moist towel while I was working on a cookie sheet; by the time I used them, they were picking up the salt nicely.

Rolo Filled Bon Bons

  • 3/4 cup Crisco
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 3/4 cup flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup very finely ground nuts (pecans or almonds)
  • 2 Tablespoons course Salt (Sea Salt?)
  • 1/2 bag Rolos

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Remove foil from about 36 Rolo candies. You may need a few more or less depending upon how big you scoop the balls of dough; I measured the total dough at 48 Tablespoons.

Cream together Crisco and both sugars. Add egg, vanilla and extract. Beat well. Add flour, baking powder, salt and nuts.

Roll at least 1 Tablespoon of dough into a ball. Press a thumb-print into the ball. Pick up a Rolo, press it into the course salt, and then place it into the thumb-print in the dough ball. Press the ball around the Rolo so that the candy is completely enclosed. Place on ungreased cookie sheet. Continue making Rolo filled balls and placing them on the cookie sheet about 2 inches apart.

Bake for 12 minutes—do not overbake. Allow cookies to cool for at least 10 minutes on the cookie sheets before moving them to wire racks to completely cool.

Makes about 2 1/2 dozen cookies.

Chocolate Bunnies for Easter Cupcakes

This year for Easter I am making cupcakes for all the kids, young and old. Now I have talked about cupcakes, and making pull-apart cakes out of cupcakes before; I am not going to say anything different about cupcakes as such. I did fill my cupcakes with some left-over butter cream frosting that I had, and I frosted them in green with the twisting rose-like pattern. On the frosted cupcakes I placed a chocolate rabbit, and a couple jelly bean eggs.

Easter 003

So today, I want to talk about the making of the chocolate rabbits. First, I bought a sheet of molds from the Decorette shop– my favorite cooking store. There were three whole bunnies on the sheet, and I cut them apart so I could more easily handle them. Half the molds are the left side of the rabbit and half the molds are the right side. With the bumps and holes in the molds, you can put the two halves together aligned.

molds 005

With this mold set, you can make either hollow rabbits, or solid rabbits. I tried both, but had enough trouble with the hollow rabbits that I ended up making all mine solid. The trick is to get the chocolate the correct temperature so that it flows nicely. And this is a trick. I first tried to use a bain marie to melt the chocolate, but then the problem was to transfer the melted chocolate into the mold. I used a small spoon, but still the chocolate got outside the cavity of the mold and I had work cleaning up after the chocolate set.

So next I tried the use of the disposable piping bag. In this case, you put the chocolate pieces in the bag, tie it shut, and microwave it for 15 seconds at a time until the chocolate is melted. Then you snip the tip of the bag off with a scissors and pipe the chocolate into the mold.

This works real well for the first one or two rabbits, but then the chocolate cools too much and you have more trouble. I didn’t do this, but I think you need to use the equivalent of a warming tray to hold the bag after each use so the chocolate stays at a temperature of about 105 degrees, and easily flows.

To make hollow rabbits, you fill one side of the mold, put the second side on the filed side and shake the mold so that the warm chocolate flies around the mold and sticks to all of the cavity. Then you let it rest for a few minutes and open the mold. If the chocolate has set, one side of the mold will come off easily, and then you turn the other side so that the rabbit can drop out onto a dish towel. As I said, I had trouble with hollow bunnies and I think it was that my chocolate was not warm enough to fly around the mold when I shook it.

To make the solid rabbits, you mold the two halves separately. First you fill one side of the mold and set it. (I placed it in the freezer for a couple minutes). Then when it has set, it falls out of the mold. Now you fill the opposite side of the rabbit and set the already molded side on top and let that set up. Voila, you have a solid rabbit ready to fall out of the mold.

Easter 004

The Decorette shop had other Easter theme molds for chocolate, too. Most of them were larger, and would need to be made with the hollow technique. There were some egg molds that were about 5-6 inches long, and there was a rabbit that was more like 8-9 inches tall. Maybe next year I will try some of those for Easter goodies. It would be fun to decorate a large chocolate egg with Royal Icing.