Italian Cream Cake And Tips For A Better Batter

I love baking. Always have. I have to admit, though, that I haven’t always kept my recipes well organized. Some recipes get stuffed inside any one of 100s of cookbooks or notebooks, a shoebox or desk drawer. I decided to try to get more organized, as I was starting this blog, when I misplaced a few of my recipes including my all-time favorite non-chocolate cake recipe. An Italian Cream Cake. I’ve made it so many times, I should have it memorized by now. But, I try something different with it every time, so it’s never really the same. I’ve made a chocolate version, an orange version, a blackberry version and a raspberry filled version.

When I first realized I couldn’t find my recipe, I tried a random recipe I found online or a cookbook, but it wasn’t the same. Since I have no idea where I originally got the recipe, I’ve tried several times to recreate it and I think I have the right recipe now. Wish me luck. I’m making this for a dear friend’s 85th birthday, so I hope it turns out well.

There are several keys to making good cakes. You can’t just dump all the ingredients together all at once. Well, you can, if you want a dense cake. But, if your goal is moist and tender, you need to keep some things in mind that will, scientifically, make the best cake.

First, creaming together your butter and sugar is very important. The butter needs to be softened to room temperature. Leave it sit out for a half hour before baking. You should be able to lightly press into the butter and still have a little resistance without smooshing all the way through it. If it is still too cold, give it another 30 minutes. It’s tempting, but it’s not a good idea to try to soften it up in the microwave because melting changes the structure of the butter. Butter that is too cold or too hot will not give you the same result in your cake.

It should also be noted that using part butter and part shortening will produce a more tender cake as well. Shortening “shortens” gluten strands because it is 100% fat; whereas butter is only 80-85% fat and the remainder is water, which can toughen your cake. I’ve used all butter in this recipe and it is still delicious, but I prefer butter and shortening. You may have different preferences, so experiment with it until you get it to your liking.

Mixers vary in strength, so you’ll need to rely on texture and appearance to determine when the creaming is complete. Use the setting for “Cream” based on the manufacturer’s recommendation for your mixer. During the creaming process, the sugar crystals aerate the butter causing minute air bubbles in the butter…which will be activated by your leavening agent (baking soda or powder) during baking which will give you a light, fluffy cake. Test the texture of your mixture periodically. It will be ready when the sugar is almost dissolved, it will feel silky rather than grainy. The mixture will be visibly fluffy and still retain some of the yellowish tint from the butter.

Now that you’ve mastered the creaming process, making the rest of the batter will be a piece of cake. Sorry, bad pun intended. The important takeaway for the rest of the batter is to not overmix anything. Overmixing will ruin the aeration from the creaming. After the creaming process, adding the ingredients and mixing only until you can no longer see that ingredient is sufficient timing for mixing. Add the eggs (one at a time) after the creaming process. Then, add the extract. Then alternating dry and liquid ingredient additions to the mixture minimalizes gluten formation, resulting in a lighter, fluffier, moister cake. Finally, fold in the last ingredients and you’ve got an excellent cake batter.

Italian Cream Cake
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Italian Cream Cake

This delicious Italian Cream Cake is a favorite of mine that is frequently requested by family and friends. 

Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Total Time 55 minutes
Servings 12
Author Lisa

Ingredients

Cake

  • 1/2 cup salted butter
  • 1/2 cup butter flavored shortening
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 5 extra large eggs separated
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup sweetened flaked coconut
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans

Frosting

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 8 oz cream cheese
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 6 cups powdered sugar

Decorations

  • 1 cup sweetened flaked coconut toasted

Instructions

Cake

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
    Italian Cream Cake ingredients
  2. In a small bowl, sift the flour with the baking soda, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

  3. Separate the egg yolks and the egg whites. Set aside the yolks.
  4. Whip the egg whites until they form a stiff peak. Set aside.

  5. In a separate, large bowl of an electric mixer, cream together the butter, shortening and sugar until light and fluffy (approximately 5 minutes) checking texture periodically. Mixture, when rubbed between your fingers, should be silky rather than grainy.

  6. Add the egg yolks, one at a time, mixing just until blended.

  7. Add vanilla.

  8. Add the flour mixture (in fourths), alternately with the buttermilk (in thirds), beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Be careful not to overmix any of the ingredients or the cake could turn out too dense. Mix just until you can no longer see the ingredient you just added. 

  9. Gently fold the chopped pecans and the coconut into the batter.

  10. Gently fold the whipped egg whites into the batter.

  11. Divide the batter between 3 greased and floured 9-inch cake pans or 36 cupcake cups (filled 1/2 way).

  12. Bake the cakes for 20-25 minutes. Insert a toothpick into the center, the cake is done when there are just a couple moist crumbs stuck to the toothpick and the cake is toasty brown. (If making cupcakes, start checking them between 15-20 minutes.)

    Italian Cream Cake layer
  13. Let the cakes cool in the pan on a wire rack for 15 minutes before removing the cake. Then allow them to finish cooling on the wire racks for about an hour before decorating with the frosting.

Decorations

  1. Spread one cup of the sweetened flaked coconut into a small baking pan. Bake for about 10 minutes in a 350 degree oven. Tossing the coconut frequently. The coconut will burn easily, so make sure you check it often. 

    Toasted coconut

Frosting

  1. In a large bowl, cream the butter and cream cheese.

    Italian Cream Cake frosting ingredients
  2. Add vanilla.

  3. Gradually add the powdered sugar, one cup at a time until it well blended. You may not need all 6 cups of the powdered sugar, but this should be a firm frosting if you're going to pipe the frosting onto the cake. The more pwdered sugar you use, the firmer the frosting will be and will hold it's shape better for piping.

    Italian Cream Cake crumb coating
  4. Once the cake is sufficiently cooled, layer the cakes with frosting between each layer. Spread a thin layer of frosting around the entire cake and refrigerate for one hour before continuing. (This is called a crumb coat. It will allow for easier spreading of the frosting while decorating and will keep the crumbs of the cake from mixing in while you spread your frosting. It will also cover the cake, so if you're piping on the frosting, any gaps in your piping will be concealed by the crumb coat.)

    Italian Cream Cake
  5. Continue decorating as desired with your favorite decorating tips.

    Italian Cream Cake cupcakes
  6. Optional: For this cake, I used raspberry preserves as a filling just as an added flavor. You can experiment with many different flavors for this cake or enjoy it as it was originally intended.

I haven’t been able to determine the origin of this cake. I’m not sure why it’s called an Italian Cream Cake, but there doesn’t seem to be any connection to Italy. It’s primarily a dessert served around the holidays in the Southern United States. I’m only guessing, but I think the frosting was probably made with mascarpone cheese once upon a time. Mascarpone being fairly expensive, perhaps someone started using cream cheese instead. It produces the same texture frosting and with the powdered sugar, the taste would be comparable.

If you know, let me know in the comments below.

The Easiest Way To Peel An Egg

My first goal today is to explain my technique for making the perfect hardboiled egg. I’ve heard of and tried all kinds of tricks for easy to peel eggs; such as adding salt and/or vinegar to the boiling water, or in desperation, even oil…eww. But, in the end, the simplest way requires only a pot and water.

Use the method I describe below and you won’t have to fight with the removal of the shell and inadvertently peel off huge, unsightly chunks of the delicate white of the eggs.  And you definitely won’t get any of that greenish-gray ring around the yolk from being overcooked. These snafus of hardboiled eggs can really ruin the appearance of your tasty deviled eggs or egg salad.

Speaking of egg salad, my second goal of today is share my egg salad recipe with you. So, egg salad, hmmm? Does there really need to be another egg salad recipe? A quick glance at Pinterest and you’ll probably find 100 recipes to choose from. They’re all the “perfect” recipe or the “best” tasting or simply “amazing”…you get the idea. And, I’m sure they are all delicious. I’ve never had an egg salad that I didn’t like; well, except, maybe, that one time. You know, when you eat it to be polite, but the greenish tint makes you hope that they’re just over-cooked and pray that they haven’t been sitting around a little too long. Anyway, I used to be satisfied with just adding a little mayo to the chopped eggs, but over time, it progressed into something a little different and I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

 

Egg Salad

An easy to make egg salad recipe with a foolproof method of peeling off those stubborn shells.
Course Appetizer, Breakfast, Dinner, Lunch
Cuisine American
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Inactive time 13 minutes
Total Time 15 minutes
Servings 6
Author Lisa

Ingredients

  • 6 extra large eggs
  • 1/4 cup mayonaisse
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 2 tbsp Ranch dressing
  • 1 tbsp onion minced
  • 1 tbsp celery minced
  • 1/4 tsp salt optional
  • pinch pepper

Instructions

  1. The key to easy-to-peel hardboiled eggs with a perfectly yellow yolk is to not overboil the egg.
  2. Place six extra large eggs in an empty pot. Fill with enough water to cover the eggs by an inch or two. Cover the pot with a lid.

    Egg salad ingredients
  3. Over high heat, bring to a rapid boil.
  4. Remove from the heat and leave covered in the pot for 13 minutes...exactly.


  5. Drain the hot water from the eggs and fill the pot with cold water. Lightly tap each egg...just enough to slightly crack the shell. Leave the slightly-cracked eggs in the cold water for 5-10 minutes. 


    Cracked egg
  6. Firmly tap the tips of the egg (this helps separate the shell from the egg) then peel off the shell.

    Peeling the egg
  7. To make the dressing, mince the onion and celery then add it to the mayonaisse, sour cream, Ranch dressing, salt and pepper in a small bowl.  

  8. Dice the eggs then add to the dressing and mix thoroughly.





    Egg salad
  9. Serve on your favorite bread or in place of dressing on a salad.

    Egg salad suggestion

I like to serve it on a toasted bagel or croissant. If you like croissants, I’ll be sharing my recipe in the coming weeks and hope to work on my bagel recipe, too. Please like my page on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest so you don’t miss any recipes.

 

Mini Blueberry Buttermilk Cake

When I hear someone say that they don’t like cake, I can only imagine that they’ve only ever had boxed cake. Don’t get me wrong, some of them are very good, but if I’m going through the process of making a cake, I’m going all in and making it from scratch.  My parents have been good sports and sampled my countless experiments with baking from scratch since I was a kid. So, for my mom’s birthday the other day, I didn’t want to bake a cake she’s had a million times before. I thought about some things that she likes that I would be able to incorporate into a cake and the idea of the Mini Blueberry Buttermilk Cake was born.

She likes blueberries, however, it’s not really a good time of year for fresh blueberries, so I decided on a blueberry filling and a syrup made from blueberry jam for a topping to drizzle over the frosting. She likes buttermilk on occasion, so I thought the sourness of buttermilk with a the sweetness of blueberry filling would make a nice contrast that would still go well together.

Why mini cakes instead of a whole cake or cupcakes, you ask? Well, I just wanted to do something different and I found these cute 4-inch mini baking pan paper cups at the store recently and have been waiting for an opportunity to use them. By the way, you can certainly use this recipe for a layered cake or cupcakes, you’ll just need to adjust the baking time accordingly.

Mini Blueberry Buttermilk Cake

This moist white cake is so versatile. You can eat it without frosting, add different fruit toppings or chocolate. Use a simple butter cream frosting for an everyday cake or dress it up with sprinkles or syrup for special occasions.

NOTE: I indicated that this recipe makes 24 servings because it makes 12 mini cakes and each mini cake is actually 2 servings.

Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Prep Time 35 minutes
Cook Time 18 minutes
Inactive time 1 hour
Total Time 55 minutes
Servings 24
Author Lisa

Ingredients

Cake

  • 2 3/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 cup butter softened
  • 2 1/2 cups sugar
  • 5 large eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups buttermilk

Filling/Syrup

  • 2 cups blueberry jam divided
  • 1-2 tbsp water

Frosting

  • 8 oz cream cheese softened
  • 1/2 cup butter softened
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 5 cups powdered sugar

Instructions

Cake

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spread the baking cups a couple of inches apart on the baking sheets. 

    Buttermilk cake ingredients
  2. In a small bowl, sift the flour with the baking soda, salt, and baking powder.

  3. In a separate, large bowl of an electric mixer, cream together the butter and sugar and vanilla, scraping the sides of the bowl occasionally, until light and fluffy - about 5 minutes. 

  4. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing until well blended. 

  5. Mix the flour mixture (in fourths), alternately with the buttermilk (in thirds) beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Be careful not to overmix the ingredients or the cake could turn out too dense. Mix just until you can no longer see the ingredient you just added.

    Buttermilk cake batter
  6. Pour mixture into baking cups (about 1/2 full). Bake 18-22 minutes. Just until they barely start to turn golden. Insert a toothpick into the center, and if there are a couple of moist crumbs, it's time to take them out. 

  7. Let cool on a wire rack for about 1 hour.

Filling/Syrup

  1. Syrup - In a small saucepan, heat 1 cup of jam over medium/low heat until the jam starts to melt. Gradually add water a little at a time and stir until it reaches the desired consistency. You may or may not need 2 tbsps of water depending on how thick or thin you want the syrup. (Set aside until after you're done frosting the cakes. The syrup will thicken a little upon standing. If it's too thick, return to the stove and add a little more water.)

    Buttermilk cake with filling
  2. Using a decorating bag filled with 1 cup of jam and a filling tip, insert the tip halfway into the cake and squirt just enough jam into the cake until you can see it. Repeat randomly throughout the cake.

    Tip: If you don't have a filling tip, you can use a small paring knife. Insert the knife halfway into the cake and gently twist a small hole. Cut a small tip off the decorating bag filled with jam and fill the holes.  

    Buttermilk cake decorative ideas

Frosting

  1. Cream butter and cream cheese until smooth.
  2. Mix in vanilla extract.

  3. Add powdered sugar. Mixing one cup at a time until it is well blended. You may not need all 5 cups of the powdered sugar. Add at least the first 3 cups, then test for firmness of the frosting.

    (If you're spreading the frosting over the cake, a thinner frosting like this would be sufficient. If you're using decorating tips and piping the frosting, you'll need to add more of the powdered sugar until it is firm enough to hold it's shape.)

    Decorate cakes as desired and drizzle syrup over the top

    Buttermilk cakes closeup

I actually want to try this with fresh blueberries when they are in season at a reasonable price, so don’t forget to like this page on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram for updates. Also, comment below to tell me what other fruit you would try with this cake.

Colomba di Pasqua Italian Easter Cake

This is the first of a segment I call “Recipes with Friends”. The idea is that one of my wonderful friends who are also wonderful cooks or bakers will share a recipe with us and write a little bit about the recipe. Well, one particularly wonderful friend is an online penpal, named Max. He is from Italy and we’ve been online friends for 9 or 10 years. Max is a self-proclaimed-not-so-good-cook, although I think he is probably a better cook than he gives himself credit. So, I’m letting him off the hook and didn’t ask him to bake this delicious Colomba di Pasqua Italian Easter Cake, but I will give him credit for the idea.

Max has encourage me to start this blog to share my recipes, he’s given me advice and shared his opinion on many topics, so I found it fitting that the first “Recipes with Friends” includes something about him. Max and I share a fondness of nice shoes. I don’t have many opportunities to wear them these days, but Max likes to tease me and send me pictures of all the beautiful shoes he would buy for me if I lived in Italy. I must say, he has exquisite taste in shoes and is very fashionable.

We’ve talked about recipes and different food stuffs over the years. I’ve shared recipes and pictures of my creations with him. He has even shared some with me. This recipe is not one of them, however. When chatting of Easter plans he told me of this Easter cake he bought to take to his mother for the holiday. I’d never heard of it, so naturally, I looked it up. This was mere hours ago and I was quite intrigued. Usually when I want to experiment with a new recipe, I scour through the many recipes I have saved, look online and through my favorite cookbooks. I look for something that stands out as different then compile a list of ingredients. Next, I decide how large of a recipe I want to make and figure out how much of everything I will need. I try the recipe and make adjustments that suit my tastes. Sometimes it’s a hit. Other times I need to start over and create something from scratch. I looked at a few recipes for this cake, but chose to try the first one I came across that had an English translation (www.academiabarilla.com). It was nice to have the translation, but the measurements were still in weight, so I hope my conversions are right or, at least, close. This is one of those times I wish I had a scale. Anyway, it’s baking in the oven as I write this and it smells heavenly.

While the bread is baking, I’m reading some articles about the Colomba, which is the counterpart to the Christmas Panettone and Pandoro. Colomba is Italian for Dove by the way. Colomba di Pasqua translates to Easter Dove. This bread is supposed to be formed into a dove-shaped mold, unfortunately, I do not have one of those either, so I shaped it by hand. We’ll see what it looks like when it’s done baking.

Colomba baked
Colomba after baking

That doesn’t look anything like a dove. Well, maybe if you squint and tilt your head. Well, maybe not. But, it’s not bad for a spur of the moment, first attempt challenge. I just sampled a piece and it’s really very good. In the short amount of time that I’ve had to research this recipe, I have found that a traditional Colomba di Pasqua uses natural yeast and has an average rising time of 30 hours. Wow! 30 hours. I didn’t start this recipe early enough for that. I used a rapid rising instant yeast and the standard rising time of allowing for the dough to double in size before the next step. Maybe I’ll plan ahead next time and try the natural yeast instead.

Colomba di Pasqua

A quicker version of the traditional Italian Easter cake.

Course Bread
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Inactive time 2 hours
Total Time 50 minutes
Servings 1 loaf
Author Lisa

Ingredients

  • 3 1/3 cups flour
  • 9 tbsp butter
  • 1/2 cup + 2 tsp sugar
  • 2 packets rapid rise instant yeast
  • 1/2 cup + 1 tbsp warm water
  • 5 oz mixed candied fruit (I used raisins and candied pineapple)
  • almonds and pearl sugar for sprinkling on top
  • 1 pinch salt

Instructions

  1. Dissolve the yeast in a 1/2 cup warm water and gradually add 1 1/2 cups of flour. Set aside in a warm place and allow to rise to double the size (approximately one hour). This is the starter dough.

    Colomba ingredients
  2. In a separate bowl add the remaining flour, 3 well beaten eggs, sugar, salt and melted butter. Add this mixture to the starter dough and knead until incorporated. Set aside in warm place, cover with a towel, and allow dough to rise until it doubles in size again (approximately one hour).
    Colomba dough
  3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

  4. Sprinkle flour over the raisins and candied pineapple and shake off the flour. This removes the stickiness from the fruit and will make it easier to fold into your dough.

  5. Beat the remaining egg with 1 tbsp of water to coat the top of the dough.

  6. When the dough has doubled in size, fold in the fruit. Be careful not to over knead the dough. Using a dove-shaped bread mold, shape the dough (or make a rough shape by hand if you don't have a mold) and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Using a pastry brush, coat the top and sides of the loaf. Sprinkle the almonds and pearl sugar on top of the loaf.

  7. Bake the loaf for approximately 30 minutes.

  8. When the loaf is done baking, allow to cool to room temperature before enjoying.

    Colomba baked

Have you ever had Colomba di Pasqua before? Have you tried this recipe? Please comment below and let me know how this compares. Look for updates in the future as I’ll be experimenting with this recipe again.

Cranberry Orange Scones

What would Sunday morning be without fresh baked, buttery delicious, melt in your mouth, scones. Whether you’re hosting a family brunch or just lounging around having a relaxing day, these scones won’t take up all your free time to make them.

I’ve experimented with many different variations of this recipe and have a few suggestions that are key to creating the best scones.

  1. The butter must be kept as cold as possible. I usually dice the butter into cubes then put it in the freezer until I’m ready to use it. If at any time, while you’re rolling and cutting the shapes, the butter becomes soft, you should put the dough in the refrigerator for 10 or 15 minutes. It’s important to keep the butter cold right up until you put the scones in the oven. Cold butter, as it melts in the dough, is what gives the scones a flaky texture.
  2. Using frozen cranberries as opposed to dried cranberries, will help keep the dough cold as you’re working with the dough.
  3. If you’re going to switch out the frozen cranberries for dried cranberries, you’ll need to increase your cream in the dough by 1/4 cup. The frozen cranberries will provide extra moisture to the dough where the dried cranberries need the extra moisture to  reconstitute to their original state.
  4. Likewise, if you’re using dried cranberries instead of frozen, you’ll need to reduce the sugar by 1/4 cup. Dried cranberries have added sugar, so you won’t need the extra sugar in the recipe.
  5. Make sure your work surface, your hands and your rolling pin are all well-floured while working with the dough.
  6. When you mix the dough, only work it until it is blended and form it into a ball. Don’t over mix it and don’t worry about lumps in the dough. You need to have lumps of butter in the dough for the scones to become flaky. Over mixing the dough will make them tough.

Cranberry Orange Scones

Easy to make scones. Great for breakfast, lunch, dinner or a snack. Make them as the recipe calls or swap your favorite ingredients. 

Course Breakfast, Lunch, Side Dish
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 35 minutes
Servings 20
Author Lisa

Ingredients

Scones

  • 4 1/2 cups flour divided
  • 2 tbsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup sugar divided
  • 1 tbsp orange zest
  • 3/4 pound cold unsalted butter diced
  • 4 extra large eggs
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1 1/2 cups frozen cranberries

Egg wash

  • 2 tbsp milk
  • 1 extra large egg

Glaze

  • 1/2 cup confectioners sugar
  • 4 tsp orange juice

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.

  2. Dice butter into cubes and place in the freezer until you're ready to add the butter to the dough. Cut the cranberries in half and return to the freezer until you are ready to add them to the dough.

  3. Whisk one egg and the 2 tbsp of milk together to make an egg wash and set aside.

  4. In a large bowl of a stand mixer, combine 4 cups of flour, baking powder, salt, 1/2 cup sugar and orange zest. Add the butter and mix at the lowest speed. Be sure to scrape the bowl to ensure that the butter is mixed with the flour. The cubes of butter should reduce to about the size of marbles.

    Scones ingredients
  5. Lightly whisk the remaining 4 eggs and combine with the heavy cream. Gradually pour this mixture into the flour and butter mixture. Mix just until combined. 
  6. In a separate bowl, sprinkle 1/8 cup of sugar over the cranberries and mix throughout the cranberries then add to them to the dough. Continue to mix on the lowest speed of the mixer, just until the cranberries are mixed in.

  7. Sprinkle flour on your work surface, rolling pin and hands. Transfer the dough to your work surface. Knead the dough into a ball. Being careful not to overwork the dough. It is normal to have lumps and to see bits of butter.
  8. Roll the dough evenly over your work surface until the dough is about 1/2 inch thick. Flour a round cutter so the dough doesn't stick to it. You can use any shape cutter you wish, but the larger the cutter, the longer you will need to bake the scones. I use a 3 1/2 inch round cutter. Transfer the cut out shapes to the parchment-lined baking sheet.

    There will be remnants of dough leftover after cutting out the shapes, simply gather up the dough, form a ball and roll out the dough again. Repeat this until there is no more dough remaining.

  9. Using a pastry brush, brush the egg wash over the entire top of each scone and sprinkle with a pinch of sugar. Bake for approximately 15-18 minutes or until the top of the scones are slightly browned and the sides are firm.

  10. Transfer the scones to a rack and allow to cool to room temperature. Meanwhile, add the orange juice to the confectioners sugar and whisk into a smooth glaze. Once the scones have cooled, using a pastry brush, dab the glaze over the top of the scones.

    Scones with glaze

Have fun experimenting with the recipe. You can swap out different berries or other fruit, add nuts or chocolate chips. Yes, you can even add cheese for a scone that is better than a dinner biscuit. Let me know how your scones turned out in the comments below.