Half-Baked Turtle Brownie Cheesecake

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While I was waiting for the kid to show up I was getting pretty bored and pretty desperate, but I didn’t have a lot of energy. One of my former colleagues recommended cheesecake as a way to start labour and I figured, why not? I had nothing to do, and an easy cheesecake recipe would be doable given my lack of energy. This one from Sprinkle Some Sugar seemed to fit the bill. It involves using store-bought brownie mix, fudge sauce, AND COOL WHIP, so it’s the ultimate in cheater recipes for me. And given that the day I baked it the temperatures skyrocketed again for a roller coaster June, I was happy to be able to chuck this in the fridge instead of hanging over a hot oven.

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The belly bump may have accidentally encountered some caramel during the making of this recipe.

The original recipe is a bit of a misnomer, as it states that there is no baking involved whatsoever with this recipe. That is a bold-faced lie – you gotta bake the brownie bottom. But it’s worth it.

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Find a round springform pan, about 8″ or 9″ (this one is 9″ I think), spray it with cooking spray, and whip up some brownie batter. You can use your favourite recipe but I used this boxed stuff (hey man, I was really pregnant at the time, gimme a break).

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I figured the salted caramel would add more panache to the finished product.

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Plus I love the ridiculous measurements of the wet ingredients. So simplistic!

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While this is baking, work on your caramel sauce (you can buy caramel sauce, of course, but this one is easy and a good way for caramel newbs to get started).

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In a small pot over medium-high heat, whisk together 1 cup granulated sugar and 1/4 cup water. Whisk and swirl the pot until the sugar is all dissolved, then keep swirling the pot (but no stirring or whisking!) frequently until the liquid turns a nice dark amber colour.

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When you get the colour you like, carefully pour in 3/4 cup heavy cream – watch out, because it will fizz up like crazy – and whisk that until smooth. Then tip in 3 tablespoons butter and 1 teaspoon vanilla and stir until those are all melted away. Set the finished caramel sauce aside to thicken up and cool completely.

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Once the brownie bottom is ready and baked according to whatever instructions you have, remove the outer ring and let it cool completely as well and start working on your filling.

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In the bowl of a mixer, beat together 16oz softened plain cream cheese, 1/2 cup granulated sugar, and 1/2 cup brown sugar until smooth and creamy. I mean, it’s gonna be creamy anyway because it’s cream cheese but you get what I mean about the texture, right? Man I need more sleep …

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Stir in about 3/4 cup of that lovely caramel sauce you made (or squeeze it from the bottle you purchased you philistine) and add in as well 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon and a pinch of nutmeg.

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Then I want you to do something totally foreign to me: grab 4oz Cool Whip and fold that in as well.

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Put the outer ring of your springform pan back on and smush all that Cool-Whipped creaminess into the pan.

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Give it some smoothing out so it *kind* of looks like you baked it, then chuck that in the fridge for 3-4 hours.

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Before serving, crush a bunch of pecans and spread them over top.

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Grab some fudge sauce (I bought it, don’t judge) and whatever’s left of your caramel.

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Pop off the outer ring and drizzle liberally with fudge and caramel. The fudge I bought didn’t drizzle, so I have fudge poops drizzled with caramel but you get the general intention here, at least. Keep the leftover cheesecake wrapped up in the fridge for up to a week. Enjoy!

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Better Than the Box Brownies

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I know.  There are a plethora of brownie recipes on this website.  But until I find the perfect one, the search continues.  I found this one when both the Pie and I had meetings on the same day (which meant we had to change out of our pyjamas and actually go to work).  The Pie’s boss (and his family) had been complaining for a while that there had been no baked goods delivered, and my boss was doing the same.  So I whipped up a double batch of these in the hopes that they would shut up for a while be pleased.  These are more adult brownies, as they’re not as sweet as some recipes that use melted chocolate.

Start by preheating your oven to 325°F and line a 8″ x 8″ baking pan with parchment paper such that you end up with two handles out the sides.

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Find a heat-proof bowl and dump in 10 tablespoons butter (1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons), 1 1/4 cup granulated sugar, and 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder.

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Set the bowl over a pot of barely simmering water and let the butter melt until the whole thing is a gooey, grainy mess.

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Remove from the heat and allow it to cool so it’s just warm to the touch.  Add in, one at a time, 2 cold eggs (if the mixture was hot you’d cook the eggs and that would be bad).

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Add in as well 1 teaspoon vanilla and beat the whole thing for a little bit until it’s nice and smooth.

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Now you’ll want to stir in 1/2 cup all purpose flour.  Stir that in really well, until it’s totally combined.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl.

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Continue to beat the batter until it’s smooth and glossy again.  This is very thick batter for brownies, so don’t be shocked if it takes you a bit of effort.

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Now, if you want, you can tip in 2/3 cup nuts of your choice.  The recipe calls for chopped walnuts, but I find them too bitter so I used pecans.

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Pour the batter into your parchment-ed pan.

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You’ll have to put some effort into smoothing it into the corners.

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Bake for 20-25 minutes, until the centre is completely set, and a toothpick inserted comes out clean.  Some people making this recipe had to cook it for an additional ten minutes but mine was done after twenty (I’m using a convection oven).  Let it cool completely on a wire rack before lifting out and cutting into small pieces. I don’t have any pictures of the cut up brownies for you because I forgot and by the time I remembered they’d already been eaten.  Sorry!

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Boozy Cookie Croutons

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… Otherwise known as BISCOTTI.  If you WANT to call it that. Cait likes to make biscotti every year and this year she dragged me over to make it for her help her out and learn a few things. We doubled our recipe but we were making a billion, so I’ll give you the single recipe here, which produces one heckuva lotta biscotti.

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Start with your dry ingredients.  In a small bowl, whisk together 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour and 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder.  We were also making a gluten-free version for Cait’s sister Jul so we did the same recipe again with the Robin Hood ready to go gluten-free flour.

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In a larger bowl, cream together 1/2 cup room temperature butter and 3/4 cup granulated sugar.

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Add to that 2 eggs and 2 teaspoons vanilla extract and mix until well combined.  If you had an electric mixer this would be an easier task, but I only had my trusty wooden spoon.

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Finely grate the zest of 2 oranges (eat the oranges because you need vitamin C this time of year) and plop that into the mix, together with 3 tablespoons Grand Marnier or other orange liqueur.

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Slowly add your flour mix into your wet mix, then add in about a cup of your nut of choice and some chocolate chips (again, probably about a cup — we just dumped the package in).

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At this point stirring becomes next to impossible, so I made Cait take over and she kneaded the dough into submission.

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The gluten-free version was even tougher and she had to wrestle it to the floor in order to get some leverage.  We ended up adding a whole lotta extra booze to the GF version just to moisten it.  Whoops.

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Form your dough into a happy ball and chuck it in the fridge to chill out for about 20 minutes.  While this is going on you can preheat your oven to 350°F and line some baking sheets with parchment paper.

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When the dough is chilled, separate it into several little tubes.

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Roll the tubes out into long rectangles about 3/4″ thick and 4″ wide.  Our GF ones were a little thicker.

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Place as many rectangles as you can fit on your baking trays (don’t worry, they’re not going to expand too much) and chuck them in the oven for 30 minutes to bake.

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When they’re ready, set them out to cool for 5-10 minutes.  Turn your oven down to 300°F.

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Using a sharp bread knife and a downwards cut, slice your biscotti into 1″ wide pieces.

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The GF ones began their structural crumble at this point.

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Tip your biscotti pieces until they’re cut-side-up and bake them for a further 30 minutes.  Let cool to room temperature before storing or serving.

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The gluten-free ones, made with the Robin Hood gluten-free flour, did not turn out as well.  To boost cohesion, we ended up dumping a huge amount of Grand Marnier into the mix.  I think in retrospect, I would have used an extra egg, and I would have made my own flour mix.  I think in this one I would have employed a bit of coconut flour, which I like for its relative stickiness, as well as some xanthan gum for its gluey properties.

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We packed them up in festive baggies!

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Pecan Pie

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Phew.  This is the last of my backlogged posts.  I made this pecan pie, an adaptation from Epicurious, way back in October, for Thanksgiving.  Instead of the whole wheat crust, I used my new favourite recipe from The Joy of Cooking, the same one I used back when I made the two processor pies.

So, assume you’ve made one batch of dough, and you have two discs of dough to use.  I made one into a pumpkin pie, but saved the other for this recipe.  Roll it out and stuff it in the pan and whatnot, like you normally would.

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Chuck that in the freezer to stay cool and grab yourself a small saucepan. Pitch in 3/4 cup pure maple syrup, 3/4 cup packed brown sugar, 1/2 cup light corn syrup, and 1/4 cup butter.

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Melt that sucker over medium heat until it’s all dissolved.

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Increase the heat and boil that for a minute, then remove it from the heat and allow it to cool to room temperature, about 45 minutes.

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In a small bowl, whisk together 3 eggs and 1 teaspoon vanilla.

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Whisk in the cooled maple mixture.

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Then stir in 1 1/2 cups pecan halves. Mmmmm.  I love pecans.

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Pour the filling into the crust.

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Bake that sucker for about 55 minutes, or until the filling is slightly puffy around the edges and the centre is set. Mine took less time for some reason (so you see it burned a bit), but it might have had something to do with the pumpkin pie I was cooking at a slightly higher temperature.

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Serve at room temperature, with a dob of whipped cream!

Cinnamon Buns and Puppy Sitting

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I have a serious backlog of posts for you folks just sitting, waiting for me to have a chance to write them all down.  I’m also horribly behind on my holiday gifts, too, but I’ll talk a bit more about that a little ways down the road.

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Anyway, a couple weeks back we were puppy sitting for a friend of ours.  This is Stella.  She’s grown significantly since I took this picture, but she’s still a little cuddly doll.

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That said, however, keeping an eye on the little troublemaker basically trapped us downstairs for a couple hours.  The best way to pass the time, I figured, was to make cinnamon buns.  Because, well, that’s the sort of thing I do. These ones are less sweet and not very sticky, more a roll than a sticky bun.  Papa John, of course, adored them, but they’ve got tons of cinnamon in them so that’s a foregone conclusion where he is concerned.

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Let’s start with the dough, shall we?  In a large bowl, mix together 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour with 1 tablespoon active dry yeast (or one packet).

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In a small saucepan, melt together 1/3 cup butter with 1 cup milk and 1/3 cup granulated sugar.  Stir this until it’s just warm, about 130°F, then add this to the flour mixture.

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Add in 3 eggs and beat with an electric mixer on low for about 30 seconds.  Make sure to scrape the sides of the bowl so all the goodness is in there.  Then you can beat it for about 3 minutes.

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Use a wooden spoon to stir in about 2 1/4 to 2 3/4 cups additional flour.  It will be slightly more or less depending on humidity levels, moisture, etc.  All that jazz. Tip the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead that sucker with a bit more flour to make a nice soft dough that is smooth and not sticky (this will take you about 5 minutes).

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I was able to do this only because both Stella and Gren fell asleep for a little bit (after making a giant mess with their water bowl) and I had a free hand.

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Shape the dough into a ball and dump it into a greased bowl, turning once to coat it entirely. Cover that and let it rise in a warm place, about an hour and a half, until it’s twice the size it was.

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While that’s doing its thing, combine in a small bowl 3/4 cup packed brown sugar, 1/4 cup all-purpose flour, and 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon.

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Use a pastry blender to cut in 1/2 cup butter until it’s all crumbly.

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Give your dough a punch or two to flatten it out, then tip it back onto that lightly floured work surface and let it rest for about 10 minutes.

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Roll out your dough with a rolling pin until it’s roughly in the shape of a 12″ x 18″ rectangle.

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Sprinkle that cinnamon filling all over the rectangle, and then top with 1/2 cup toasted pecans and 1/2 cup raisins (I forgot the raisins, oops. I did add in some toasted almonds, too, just for fun).

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Start from one of the long sides and roll the dough up into a nice little tube.

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Slice your tube into 12 even pieces (start by cutting it in half, then each half into halves, and it’s easier that way) and lay them into a buttered 9″ x 13″ baking dish.

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Loosely cover the cut buns and let them rise in a warm place for another 45 minutes, until they’re all puffy and stuff.

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Then you can pop them into an oven preheated to 375°F and bake them for 25-30 minutes, until they’re a nice golden brown.

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Let them cool for a few minutes, and while they’re doing that, whip up a wee glaze.  In a small bowl, mix together 1 cup icing sugar, 1 tablespoon milk, and 1/4 teaspoon vanilla.  You can add additional milk, a little at a time, until it’s drizzle-able.  Having made this once, I would probably double the glaze amount, or at least increase it by 50%.

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Drizzle the glaze over your still-warm buns and serve!

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Coffee Raisin-Nut Bars

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We’re at that stage in the fall where we’re starting to get sick of pumpkin things, but the chocolate and peppermint of winter is still too far away.  At this point I like to rely on coffee and spice to bolster me through.  This quick plate of squares is adapted from The 250 Best Brownies, Bars & Squares, because Esther Brody has not disappointed me yet (well, except for that one time).

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Preheat your oven to 350°F and butter a 9″ x 13″ baking dish.  Make yourself a cup of coffee.

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In a small bowl, whisk together 1 1/2 cups flour, 1/2 teaspoon baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon baking soda, 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves, 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice, and 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg.

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In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat together 1/4 cup room temperature butter with 1 cup packed brown sugar until it’s all turned into one big bowl.

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Add in 1 egg and 2 teaspoons vanilla and beat until combined.

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Pour in 1/2 cup hot coffee and mix (drink the rest of it — I know *I* need the caffeine).

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Blend in your flour mixture, a bit at a time.

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Then tip in 3/4 cup raisins and 3/4 cup chopped nuts (I like pecans) and give that a stir.

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Spread that into your prepared pan and bake for 20-25 minutes, until you can stick a wooden skewer in it and it comes out clean.

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Set that on a wire rack to cool.

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While that’s on the go, make yourself up some frosting.

With an electric mixer, beat up 1 cup icing sugar with 1/2 cup softened butter until it’s all fluffy and frosty.

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In a measuring cup, mix together 3 tablespoons coffee liqueur, like Kahlua, with 2 tablespoons whipping cream (or milk) and 1 tablespoon instant coffee powder.

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Pour that into the frosting mixture, alternating with a further 1 cup icing sugar, and beat until fully combined.

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Spread the frosting on your cooled squares and cut them up.  Yum!

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Sour Cream Coffee Cake

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Today we are expecting the newest addition to our family.  Although given who his father is, it’s unlikely that he’ll be on time.  Nevertheless, while we wait, why don’t we have a cup of coffee and this lovely moist coffee Bundt cake?  This is a Sara Lee creation I got from What’s for Dinner?

Preheat your oven to 350°F and generously butter and flour a large Bundt pan.

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Mix together 1/3 cup brown sugar, 1/4 cup granulated sugar, 1 teaspoon cinnamon and 1 cup chopped nuts (I used pecans).  This is your streusel topping.  Set that aside for now.

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In a large bowl, mix together 1 cup softened butter and 1 cup sugar until fluffy.

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Add in 2 eggs, one at a time, and beat until well combined.

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Sift together 2 cups flour, 1 teaspoon baking soda, 1 teaspoon baking powder, and 2 teaspoons cinnamon, and chuck those into the bowl as well.

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Stir in 1 cup sour cream and 2 teaspoons vanilla until the batter is fully mixed.

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I decided that I wanted my Bundt cake to be right side up so I layered half my streusel mix into the bottom of the Bundt before putting half the batter on top.

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Then you add the second half of the topping and more batter.  If you want to do it the other way it will be easier but your cake will be upside down, that’s all.  Doing it my way meant that the streusel on the top of the cake caramelized a bit.

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Bake the thing for about 40 minutes, until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean.  Let it cool completely before tipping out onto a plate.

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Because my topping caramelized, it stuck a bit to the pan, and so to cover it up I made a bit of frosting to go on top out of butter, icing sugar, vanilla, and a bit of cream.   That’s it!

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