I have an announcement, something that I have been holding in and protecting for some time now. It started with a dream then it moved over to a wish and then it turned into something real, something I have been able to shape, contour and cultivate for months now. Yesterday morning November 12,2018 it all changed for me, that wish connected me ever so slightly to chef’s and cooks I have looked up to and learned from for years.
Julia Child the Master of French Cooking, Edna Lewis and her soul feeding food, Ina Garten and her flawless simply elegant meals, Ree Drummond and her lifestyle nourishment. Samin Nosrat and her explosion of the four food flavors. Gordon Ramsay and his Military perfection in the kitchen, Rachael Ray and her ease of preparation, Martha Stewart and her determination of home cooking perfection. Bernard Clayton and his layered pastry, Alice Waters and her dedicated seasonal movement, Americas Test Kitchen and their persistence to find the perfect recipe, Rick Bayless and his flavorful pallet of spice. Ruth Reichel and her passion with food, Jack Gilmore and his dedication to the Texas farmer, Steven Raichlen and his ability to tame smoke and fire. All the above names and countless others have one thing in common they are cookbook authors and as of yesterday I joined that list too. I am a published cook book author!
I give you, The Campground Gourmet, Simple, Delicious Recipes for Dining in the Great Outdoors. Available now on Amazon.
I can not begin to tell you the amount of work that went into this project however, I can tell you about all the amazing and dedicated individuals that have helped me put all the pieces together. Stephanie and Jeremy Puglisi creators of RV Family Travel Atlas, they are my editors, they have spend countless hours editing, creating and guiding me along this adventure. I am truly grateful to the both of you and your belief in me, this cookbook and our friendship, thank you so much.
Steven Dunbar, my love and champion. You have always, always encouraged me to take adventures and just go for it. I can not think of a single time in our 12 years of marriage (13 on Friday 11/16) where you have asked me not to do something, you have never said no. But, I’m certain when I am in the thick of it you wish you had. I love you husband, thank you so much for all your help, encouragement and the strongest shoulder I could ever rest my head on when I was too tired to go any further. Oh, and for cleaning up when that raccoon destroyed my photo set on the patio, you are a saint.
To my children, you were my first true recipe taste testers, I made all your baby food when you could eat solids. I found out by trial and error what all your favorite cookies, meals, smells and tastes are. I have watched all three of you grow up and develop new tastes and favorite food memories. I love when you ask me to make your favorite meals, even if it is a box a macaroni (Paige) or a beurre blanc sauce (Andrew) or a perfect pan seared steak with a fried egg (Sean).
My friends and family who have been in the loop and truly kept my project safe and protected until yesterday when it was out there for everyone to see. Your encouragement, help and cyber cocktail time truly made this experience a magical gift. You helped me choose recipes, look at images and you also told me that when I made it big I owed all of you an Airstream or one heck of a vacation…I love each one of you and I appreciate your loyalty and friendship more than you could ever know.
I have always felt at home or in my comfort place at a campground, sitting in front the fire watching the golden coals smolder and send tiny shooting stars into the sky. The fire at a campground not only warms you up at the end of a long day of hiking or swimming in a lake, it feeds you. You can place a piece of cast iron over the coals and slip a fresh caught trout in that pan with onions, herbs some olive oil and a bit of salt and pepper and you have one of the best over the fire flavor meals anyone can create. It’s the fire, smoke and quiet, the total concentration of keeping the temperature there in just the right zone. It’s the laughter while watching a marshmallow swell with the heat of the fire only to spontaneously catch on fire and smolder away. It’s that crisp morning air and a rich hot cup of coffee in your favorite camp mug- it’s the great outdoors. There is so much my cookbook is about, the recipes are perfect for at home, at a park, sharing with your family at a celebration or sitting in Jackson, Wyoming under the peaks of the Grand Teton and all her beauty.
I’m Kate Dunbar, The Campground Gourmet, I tell stories through food and help individuals create culinary adventures with my recipes.
Who doesn’t love a good popover? That crisp and crunchy outer shell and that soft hollow creamy center. Growing up at Christmas our meal would not be complete with out a prime rib roast and Yorkshire pudding popovers.
Recently I was looking over my enormous stack of holiday magazines trying to see what recipe needed a bit of a change, a new look and possible twist to the traditional recipe. My answer was on the page of Donna Hay’s magazine. A beautiful and crisp golden popover standing a mile high in its well used pan.
Sitting there looking at that image sipping my coffee and eating my favorite cinnamon and sugar donut that my loving husband went and bought for me that morning, the idea came like a lightening bold! Sweet cinnamon popovers, there is my twist.
Not only is this recipe easy to make, it tastes so good! The brown butter and cinnamon are so comforting, I hope you enjoy this recipe it is very simple to make and can be done in about 40 minutes, happy baking.
Brown Butter & Cinnamon Popovers
1 cup whole milk
½ cup half and half
2 whole eggs
2 Tablespoons brown butter, cooled
1 ¼ cup all purpose flour
pinch of Kosher salt
¼ cup browned butter, warm
½ cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
Tools; blender, immersion blender or whisk
Preheat oven to 450 degrees, place your muffin pan in the oven at this time to heat thoroughly.
Add the milk, eggs and cooled brown butter together and blend on medium speed for 30 seconds. If using a whisk mix for 1 minute. Now add the flour, cinnamon and salt. Blend for 1 minute on medium high speed or mix by hand for 3 minutes.
When your oven has come to temperature, CAREFULLY remove the hot muffin pan and add ½ Tablespoon of canola oil to each muffin well. If you have a pastry brush, CAREFULLY brush the sides of the muffin well with the oil. Now quickly mix the batter again with your whisk or blender for just a few seconds. CAREFULLY pour batter into the hot muffin pan, only filling each well ½ way full. Place the muffing pan back in the oven and set your timer for 15 minutes. DO NOT OPEN YOUR OVEN DOOR DURING THIS COOKING TIME! After 15 minutes, lower the oven temperature to 350 degrees and set your timer for 12 minutes. Once the popovers are a rich golden brown, they are finished. Remove the pan and turn out the popovers onto a cooling rack, you may have to use a knife to release them from the pan, now pierce the bottom of the popover to release the steam and set on a cooling rack.
After the popovers have cooled to where you can handle them, brush the tops with the brown and press into the cinnamon sugar.
If you would like a filling I have included my Masala Chai Applesauce recipe. Please enjoy them immediately.
Chai Spiced Apple Sauce
8 assorted apples (granny smith, honey crisp and pacific rose are my favorite)
1 cup spiced apple cider
1 Tablespoon honey, local is best
1 teaspoon vanilla, vanilla bean paste or 1 vanilla bean scraped of seeds
1- 1” piece of ginger grated or ¼ teaspoon dried ground ginger
1 teaspoon Masala Chai powder
Peel, core and rough chop the apples, set aside. In a large pot, add the cider and honey, reduce by half. Then add the apples, vanilla and masala chai powder, stir well place lid on the pot and lower heat to medium low. After 30 minutes stir well, turn off heat and mash apples with a potato masher to a chunky consistency. Let cool and keep in the fridge for up to 5 days.
If you have ever driven US Route 101 in California near San Luis Obispo there is a kitschy land mark that has welcomed cattlemen, cowboys, cowgirls, brides, honeymooners and road travelers since 1958. Ladies and Gentlemen I am referring to The Madonna Inn, I cannot remember my first time there but I can tell you I was little, maybe four or five. The pink walls, pink patterned carpets, oversized floral bouquets, huge crystal goblets, Swiss milkmaid waitress uniforms, pink sugar for ice tea or coffee, copper toped tables, copper salt and pepper shakers and then the Copper Café’s famous Bakery. With over eight types of cakes and the same number of pies this bakery has grown tremendously not only in kitsch but in the hearts of many who have eaten sweets from this step back in time bakery. Some of the newest additions are chocolates, cookies, cupcakes and other sweet treats.
However, there is one cake the Madonna Inn is famous for creating and that is, the Madonna Inn Pink Champagne Cake. Three-lovely and feather light white cake layers all snuggled in-between a whipped almond flavored Bavarian cream and fresh made whip cream. The outside of the cake is iced with a whip cream icing and tiny hot-pink colored white chocolate crumbles are pressed into that amazing whip cream. Then the ultimate cake topper or crown is stacked mile high, curls and curls of that same hot-pink colored white chocolate then those thick ribbon like curls have a soft dusting of powder sugar on top. The finished cake resembles a beautifully decorated French hat box with billowing satin pink bow.
I could eat this cake all the time, yes it is rich, yes it is sweet and yes it is full of sugar, fat, cream and chocolate! It is worth every extra pound I have put on my body by eating it over my 39 years on this planet. I love this cake, I cannot express it any other way than just that, its a little girls dream cake always has been to me and it will always remain that way. When you take your road trip to the famous Madonna Inn spend time there, do not rush your visit. Go have a bite to eat at the Copper Café or sit down at Alex Madonna’s Gold Rush Steak House and enjoy a cattleman’s dinner among the 1960’s style pink tucked leather booths. Billowing all around you are the pink silk flowers, twinkle lights, Tiffany style chandeliers and if you can find her there is the little doll perched high over your head swinging away in her tree swing, the soft sounds of music floating in from the Silver Bar Cocktail & Lounge and maybe on a good night you will see Lady Madonna herself, Mrs. Phyllis Madonna. Ask her to come over and tell you her story about why her loving husband Alex Madonna built this Americana landmark.
I was just there a few days ago picking up my lovely 8” round cake (for a steal at $35.00) and I asked the young lady helping me, “is that fresh whip cream that’s used on the out side of the cake and in-between the layers?” Her response “Yes, on the outside and only one of the layers the rest are whipped almond flavored Bavarian cream.” Then I asked, “do you color the chocolate here, is it a powder color or a liquid?” She replied “I’m sorry I can not tell you.” Can you tell me if you make the curls and crumbles here?” “Yes, we do. “ “Can you tell me if it’s an egg white cake like a chiffon?” With a pause and a slight head turn she stated- “quite possibly”. That was it, I had the basic information now to drive home and get this sorted out.
To date I believe I have introduced well over 150 people to this cake, my husband and my three children have been the best sports whenever we hit the road to travel north. They know that the car is going to pull over so I can have a walk back in time with my memories and create new ones with them. My daughter flutters in all the pink and glitter, my sons they like the downstairs men’s room. Why? The men’s bathroom is famous; maybe a bit more than the cake, it has a motion-censored waterfallinstead of a urinal and when my youngest son was about three-year-old that was the best experience he could ever have at using the big boy potty. On average I loose my youngest son to that waterfall at least four times during our meal. I can promise you stopping at the Madonna Inn will brighten your day, you will have the biggest smile on your face and a good giggle too. Go get some cake, go look around, count how many colors of goblets there are, walk the gardens, sneak a peek at the waterfall and please tell Phyllis hello from me.
Light and tender white cake with a hint of champagne and almond.
1. ¾ stick of softened unsalted butter
2. 1 ½ cups granulated sugar
3. 3 cups sifted cake flour (swans)
4. 1 teaspoon vanilla
5. 1 teaspoon champagne extract or almond extract
6. 1 tablespoon baking powder
7. ½ teaspoon salt
8. 1 cup room temperature whole milk
9. 6 egg whites at room temperature
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and parchment line 2-9 inch cake pans. With an electric mixer or stand mixer on medium speed, cream butter and sugar. Mix in vanilla, champagne extract or almond extract. In a separate bowl, sift cake flour, baking powder and salt. Add flour mixture alternately with milk until all combined. In a clean, dry bowl beat egg whites until stiff but not dry. With a rubber spatula, add a scoop of the egg whites to the cake batter and slowly fold in, add a little more egg white and fold in, continue until all the egg white is incorporated into the batter. Divide batter between pans. Tap on the counter to level.
2. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes. Test with toothpick for doneness, only tiny amounts of crumb should hold to the toothpick. Cool cakes in pans for 10 minutes then turn over onto rack for 10 minutes. Remove pans and allow to cool completely.
Assembling the Champagne Cake
1. Take one cooled cake round and place it on a serving plate or cake board, spread a ½ inch layer of the Bavarian cream all over the cake but keep the cream a ¼ inch from the edge of the cake.
2. Split the second cake layer in half horizontally and place the first of the split layers on top of the Bavarian cream, center your cake. Add a ½ inch layer of your stabilized whip cream keeping a ¼ inch from the edge of the cake.
3. Place the second layer of the split second cake on top of the whip cream and now spread a ½ inch layer of the Bavarian cram. Making sure to keep it a ¼ inch from the cake edge.
4. Place you last cake layer on top of the Bavarian cream, push the cake layers down slightly to level then smooth a good layer of the whip cream all over the cake and press the hot-pink chocolate crumbles into the sides and top of the cake.
5. For other decoration, you can add the Bavarian cream to a pastry bag with a star tip nozzle and decorate the top and bottom of the cake base. Keep cake refrigerated.
Whip Cream Icing
This is a stabilized whip cream icing. It is necessary so the whip cream does not slide off your cake.
1. 2 cups very cold whipping cream
2. 3 tablespoons sifted powder sugar
3. 1 teaspoon clear vanilla or almond extract
4. 1 teaspoon gelatin
5. 1 ½ tablespoons cold water
6. 1 ½ tablespoons boiling water
1. To prepare the gelatin, get a small bowl and add the cold water to it, sprinkle the powder gelatin over the water and let it sit for 5 minutes. Add the boiling water to the gelatin mixture and stir to dissolve. Set aside.
2. Whip Cream; place your cold whip cream, powder sugar and flavor in a mixing bowl use a hand mixer or stand mixer on medium high speed for 1 minute, slowly add the liquid gelatin to the cream and then mix until stiff peaks form- be careful, if you mix it too long you will have butter. Keep in fridge until ready to ice cake.
1. If you choose to color your whip cream, make sure to add your coloring to the cold whipping cream before you start to mix it.
Makes 4 cups
1 package Instant Vanilla Pudding (5.1 oz package)
2 cups heavy whipping cream
2-5 Tb. milk
Beat the whipping cream on high until stiff peaks form. Run the mixer on low while slowly sprinkling in the pudding powder. Mix until fully incorporated. Add milk 1 Tb. at a time, to reach desired spreading consistency. Add more milk for a thinner, smoother filling.
Pink Chocolate Crumbles & Curls
1. 2 bags white chocolate chips
2. hot pink food color
4. double boiler
5. parchment paper
7. OR USE
8. Wilton Candy Melts in hot-pink, follow the directions on the back of the package on how to melt the chocolates. When you have a smooth consistency spread the melted chocolate in an even layer on parchment paper and allow it time to cool 15-20 minutes. Once cooled break up into small pieces and keep covered until ready to use.
1. Double Boiler Method
2. Heat water in the bottom portion of your double boiler, bring to a boil then turn the heat to low so the water is simmering, in the second bowl add the white chocolate chips and place that bowl over the simmering water, wait 5 minutes then slowly start stirring chocolate. When only a few lumps remain take the bowl off the hot water and continue to stir placing the bowl on a folded towel it will help keep the chocolate warm and the bowl will not slip. When the melted chocolate is smooth add a few drops of food color and mix well. Then spread out your chocolate on a piece of parchment paper and allow to cool for 15-20 then break it up into pieces.
For years I have tried to make ice cream! Now really, how hard can it be? Hard! Either it’s too icy, too fatty or just not flavorful. However on a recent trip to Charleston South Carolina, I asked a pastry chef what was her secret? She said it’s in the milks and then in the bloom time-what is that? Walk me through the process, please. Would you believe it, she did! I learned that the French style (egg yolk based) is the best for ice cream. Half of the problem is the texture; and, that rich, creamy custard base is exactly what achieves the silky feel.
What to choose for the flavor; well, that is a tough pick. I’m a purist I prefer simple ingredients: vanilla beans that are plump and have possibly been sitting in a mason jar filled with Basil Hayden’s Bourbon for say maybe six months. Or, fruit picked at the peak of freshness and flavor. Peaches have just come into season here and they are amazing this year I see pints of peach ice cream in my future.
Now for the ice cream maker, long ago and far away, an old, banged up and battered, well-loved White Mountain hand crank ice cream maker was a staple during summer time. My backside would have frost bite from sitting on top of that machine for what seemed like hours. I’m going to pull a Sophia from Golden Girls moment on you. Picture it Ojai, California summer 1978 I’m three years old and it’s about 100° outside in the shade. My grandfather has just picked up ice and rock salt; my grandmother has just made the ice cream base. Outside on the patio, the ice cream making station was created. The frozen silver canister with its paddle was placed inside the wooden barrel ice cream maker, the ice cream base was added to that canister then the lid was attached and the sides were packed with ice and rock salt. A few folded burlap sacks sat on top of it keep it insulated. My Poppa would then grab a grandchild of his choice_ usually it was me_ and plop me on top of those burlap sack. Why you ask? Because my backside was small enough to sit on top of those burlap sacks on top of the ice cream maker holding the ice and salt in place. Poppa churned the ice cream until it was thick and frozen to perfection. When he was finished he, would throw me in the pool so my backside would warm up. Good times!
It was worth it! His vanilla ice cream tasted like nothing I have ever had. Unto this day I have still been trying to get it just right. So with the tricks of the different milks and the tip of bloom time (see recipe) I was given in Charleston by that pastry chef I came home and bought a Cuisinart ice cream maker and got to work. I came up with a recipe that used three different milk types: whole, half-and-half and whipping cream. It’s that balance it creates folds cream not milk crystals.
I hope you enjoy this recipe and please let me know how it works for you. I just visited the White Mountain ice cream maker website_ I’m thinking of getting one, I have twins their backsides are small just perfect for sitting on top of the ice cream maker! I could make a lot of ice cream this summer.
Real French Vanilla Ice Cream
1 ½ cups whipping cream
1 cup whole milk
½ cup half and half
1 1/3 cup granulated sugar
4 egg yolks
1 whole vanilla bean
Pinch of salt
Optional: 1 cup chopped fresh fruit, ½ cup chocolate chips, 2 tablespoon fresh herbs, ½ cup jam or jelly, ½ teaspoon flavoring of your choice.
Combine all three milks, sugar, and the pinch of salt in a medium saucepan. Split and scrape the vanilla bean place it in the pot too. Heat over medium-high, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is warmed through, do not boil just tiny little bubbles should form around the pans edge. Remove the pan from the heat.
In a separate bowl, whisk the egg yolks until smooth and pale in color. Slowly pour 1 cup of the warm milk mixture into the bowl with the egg yolks, whisking constantly this will temper the egg yolks so you won’t have scrambled eggs. Return the entire mixture to the saucepan and place over medium heat. Cook, stirring constantly and making sure to scrape the bottom of the pan, until the mixture thickens slightly and coats the back of a spoon (about 170 F). Pour the ice cream base through the mesh strainer into the bowl; place vanilla pod back into the strained base, let the custard cool slightly, then cover and refrigerate until completely chilled (24 hours). Remove the vanilla bean before churning, add optional ingredients if wanted then follow the manufacturing directions of your ice cream maker and enjoy.
Every family member, friend, chef or baker has a go to dessert recipe; a tried and true treat they can make it with their eyes closed. My Mom, Helen, discovered this chocolate cake recipe over 30 years ago in a magazine though she can’t remember the publication, possibly Sunset, Woman’s World or maybe even Gourmet she took the base ingredients and changed them to her liking. This cake has a history steeped in secrecy, adoration, gratitude, and appreciation and above all else my mother’s love. Proudly positioned in her faded yellow recipe card box sits a splattered and stained and quite faded card with the title “The Chocolate Cake” written across the top.
Over the 39 years of my life this delightful cake has made appearances at Christmases adorned with a miniature children’s carousel for birthdays it was always decorated with three candles representing the past, the present and future. It’s been featured at Graduation celebrations with a perfect icing scroll or waiting with small American flags atop for my son’s return home from his BCT (Basic Combat Training) with the U.S. Army. The cake has celebrated beginnings such as the family meal as we wished my son good luck and Godspeed to his Army post in Korea, and endings being brought to share after the passing of a loved one.
This cake with its tall and sturdy yet tender layers is perfectly complimented by a rich and feather light chocolate icing and all of this time the recipe has remained the World Champion of my family’s culinary secrets. No family member has ever had it, many have asked. Mom’s reply has always been the same “I found this gem. Go and find yours, then let’s compare.” She delivers her response in the tone of a treasure hunter. She found her own personal “X marks the spot” and she encourages others to find their own as well, not to take hers. I completely understood so I knew there was never going to be a chance in all holy heck that I would ever get my hands on that cake recipe.
When I opened my bakery and café, I received a priceless gift. It was a fresh recipe card, void of batter splatter and cocoa dust. My Mom’s handwriting revealed the few ingredients, oven temperature and the steps to follow to make The Chocolate Cake. This was truly one of the simplest recipes I had ever seen and one of the most loving gifts I had ever received. Now it was mine (head tilted back cackling away calling out, “Mine, mine, mine!”) I now had the ability to share a bit of my mom with my customers and reveled as they devoured her chocolate cake!
You are joining me on my new adventure, you are now on my maiden voyage as a food writer, recipe developer, food photographer, published recipe author and above else a storyteller. In good faith and in celebration of my Mom I asked if I could share her recipe with all of you. Could I please reveal the ultra secret, long ago and far away magazine find my mother has carried with her and the memories of my family members, friends, ex-boyfriends (sorry husband) and former customers? Mom said I was allowed to publish this saying, “ Show them that you care that you will go to all lengths to uncover stories, recipes and memories, help them create an amazing cake that wows everyone.”
Enjoy this cake. Serve it with three things, laughs, people and stories. Or take it up a notch and wash it down with merlot, coffee or cold milk. Thank you for being here, thank you for taking this curious adventure with me. I cannot wait to see where we are headed next!
Oh, here is a side note, when I received that recipe card the first time my exact statement was this “ Mom! What in the hell? This cake is vegan? I’ve been eating a vegan cake all my life? My Mom’s statement “What’s a vegan?” I love you Mom.
Helen’s Chocolate Cake
What you will need:
2- 9” round cake pans buttered or non-stick sprayed, parchment lined and cocoa dusted. Oven preheated to 350.
1 cup oil canola, vegetable, safflower (do NOT use olive oil or coconut oil)
2 cups room temperature water
1 tbsp. vanilla extract
4 tbsp. Heinz white vinegar
In a large bowl sift the flour then sift the cocoa powder, granulated sugar, baking soda, instant coffee and salt. Mix well with a whisk and set aside.
In a medium size bowl measure out oil, water and vanilla, in a separate smaller bowl measure out the white vinegar and set aside.
Add the oil, water and vanilla into the dry ingredients; mix well with your whisk until no dry ingredients remain. Once the batter is smooth add the vinegar and mix to incorporate. Pour evenly into the two prepared pans and place in your hot oven. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, testing the center of the cake for doneness with a wooden skewer. The skewer should have very little crumb clinging to it. Remover the cake pans and place on a cooling rack for 10 minutes. Turn over cake pans on cooling racks and let sit for 10 more minutes, remove the pans and carefully peal away the parchment paper, allow to cool completely.
Wrap cake in waxed paper, parchment or plastic wrap with a 2-4 vent hole pricks in the plastic wrap (the cake needs to breath) and leave out room temperature over night. In the morning make the icing and assemble your chocolate cake.
Light and Creamy Chocolate Icing
1 cup sifted cocoa powder
4 cups sifted powder sugar
1 ½ cups softened unsalted butter or butter flavored shortening
In a mixer with a paddle attachment mix butter or shortening on medium speed for 5 minutes, stop and scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the vanilla and salt mix for an additional minute. Scrape the bowl down, add your sifted cocoa powder, mix on low speed for one minute then increase speed to medium high for 2 minutes. Scrape bowl down and add your sifted powder sugar, mix on low speed for 2 minutes see if the icing looks dry if it does add 1 tablespoon at a time milk, half & half, whipping cream or thick coconut milk mixing for 1 minute after each liquid addition. When it looks moist increase speed to medium and mix for five minutes stopping at the 3-minute mark to scrape down the bowl and continue. Ice your cooled cake and enjoy.