homepage logo

Baking is her specialty

By Staff | May 28, 2010

Cristen Clark, of Runnells, grew up baking with her grandmother. Clark’s mother also baked. As a stay-at-home mom, she said she now has more time to bake.

RUNNELS – Cristen Clark grew up as a farm girl near Prairie City and has fond memories of being in the kitchen and enjoying treats prepared by her grandmother and mother .

She said she is thrilled to be at a point in her life where she now has the time to get back into the kitchen experimenting and preparing all sorts of goodies for her own family.

Clark graduated from high school and went on to Drake University, where she played softball and majored in journalism and public relations. She worked out of her home, until marrying her husband, Mike, and having a daughter, Halle who is 19 months. She now describes herself as a stay-at-home mother.

Clark would spend time with her grandmother, Madeline Slings, who was a home economics teacher for many years.

Clark recalled the first recipe she baked with her grandmother was cream puffs. In fact, she added, this is the recipe that defines her as a baker.

Coconut cupcakes.

“It was a big treat to get to go over to her house and bake,” Clark said. “My mom also used to bake the best treats while (I was) growing up.”

Clark is a self-described baker. Although she loves to cook, it was the “celebration sweets” she enjoys creating, not only for their delicious flavor, but also because it is also hen those types of treats are consumed, is when people are the most happy.

Clark enjoys baking most, with cupcakes being her favorite thing to do. Clark said she also enjoys getting out the frosting tips and experimenting with different decorations.

Clark not only bakes desserts for her husband and daughter, but is finding that she is doing more for family and friends.

It’s a hobby right now, which she said she would keep it that way as it is more enjoyable than making it a job.

Tanna's strawberry cake.

Because her husband works in the pork industry, and she was raised on a beef farm, Clark said, it’s those types of meats she uses the most in her everyday cooking.

The Clark family enjoys stir-fry meals and does much grilling now that it’s summertime.

Clark said she would like to become a better bread maker and may try working on that in the future.

Her favorite cooks to follow include Dorie Greenspan and Ina Garten, but, she said, she mostly enjoys finding recipes and giving them a twist to make them her own.

“I might switch-up the frosting or cake types,” Clark said.

Some advice from Clark when it comes to baking is to always use an oven thermometer because the temperature your oven says just might not be correct.

“When baking there’s a reason to follow the temperature it says on the recipe to get the best results,” said Clark.

When baking cookies, Clark said, she always uses parchment paper.

“The cookies seem to work better baking off of that rather than non-stick spray,” she said.

And, most importantly, she added, when it comes to baking, use quality ingredients and to always have a well-stocked pantry.

Tanna’s strawberry cake


2 1/4 cups cake flour

2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup shortening

1 1/3 cups sugar

1/4 teaspoon almond extract

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 cup egg whites

1 cup milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Sift together flour, salt and baking powder. Cream shortening until soft and smooth, then gradually blend in 1 cup of sugar. Add almond and vanilla extract.

Stir in half of the egg whites and beat vigorously until light and fluffy. Stir in the flour mixture and milk alternately in three portions, beginning and ending with the flour; beat well after each addition.

In a separate bowl, beat remaining egg whites until stiff, gradually beating in remaining sugar. Fold this mixture lightly into the batter, carefully, but thoroughly, so as not to deflate.

Turn the batter out evenly into two 9-inch layer pans lined with parchment paper on the bottom and buttered on the sides.

Bake for 25-30 minutes or until cakes spring back when lightly pressed with fingertips in center.

Allow cake to cool in pans for five to ten minutes. Run a butter knife along the sides to loosen. Turn out and cool completely. Once cooled, poke 20 to 30 holes in each layer with a toothpick.

Wrap cakes in plastic wrap or place them in a freezer safe container and freeze or refrigerate them for a few hours.



8 ounces of fresh strawberries (fresh)

1 cup sugar

1/4 cup water

While cake is cooling, mix these three ingredients and let stand at room temperature to bring the natural juices out of the berries.

If possible, this step can be done up to three hours in advance of baking the cake.

(Note: As a Fourth of July treat, add blueberries to the mixture.)


2 cups heavy whipping cream

1 tablespoon vanilla (Clear imitation vanilla keeps the cream white and doesn’t have the alcohol essence that the extracts provide.)

1-2 cups powdered sugar – depending on one’s liking of sweetness and how important it is to have a standing frosting. The more sugar, the thicker the frosting becomes. This is extremely helpful if you want to pipe the frosting with a pastry bag and tip.

Using a handheld mixer or stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, begin whipping the cream at medium speed, working to medium high speed once it begins to stand up slightly. Slowly add the vanilla and gradually add the powdered sugar until desired frosting consistency is reached.


Place one layer of cake down, take juice from berries, place it over holes, evenly over the cake. (Let soak in for a few minutes). Frost top and sides of the cake. Add strawberries leaving a 1/2-inch border around the edges with no berries, because when the second layer is added the berries with shift outward.

Add the second layer and repeat the process, frosting the entire cake.

Serve chilled. Serves 12-16

Grandma Slings’

cream puffs


1 cup water

1/2 cup butter

1 cup flour

4 eggs

1/4 teaspoon salt

Heat oven to 400 degrees.

Heat butter and water to rolling boil in a 2.5 quart saucepan. Stir in flour all at once. Stir vigorously over low heat until mixture forms a ball, or for about 1 minute. Remove from heat and cool slightly.

Add eggs, one at a time. Beat until smooth after each addition. Drop by heaping tablespoonfuls, or a 2-inch ice cream scoop, onto lightly sprayed or parchment lined baking sheet. Bake 35-40 minutes. Cool. Slice off tops and fill with filling. Replace tops.

Easy chocolate cream filling

2 small packages instant chocolate pudding

3 cups milk

1/2 cup powdered sugar

Using an electric mixer or whisk, mix well. Chill for 1 hour. Spoon into puffs within 1-2 hours of serving.

Add in 8 ounces of berries that are in season. If strawberries, cut into 1/4-inch pieces. If raspberries, leave whole.

Snowball cupcakes

1 dark chocolate cake mix

3 eggs

1/2 cup oil

2 cup sweetened flaked coconut

1 recipe buttercream frosting.

Line muffin tins with paper liners.

Combine first 4 ingredients, mix on medium speed for 3 minutes.

Fill muffin cups 1/2 to 3/4 full. (A 3-inch ice cream scoop is perfect.)

Bake for 18-22 minutes.

Remove from oven and cool completely.


1 cup butter at room temperature

6 cups powdered sugar

1 tablespoon vanilla extract or clear imitation vanilla

2 tablespoons milk

Combine butter and extracts. Slowly add powdered sugar. Add milk after half of powdered sugar has been added.

Frost cooled cupcakes generously. Then roll cupcake tops in flaked coconut.

Contact Kriss Nelson by e-mail at jknelson@frontiernet.net.

Please Enter Your Facebook App ID. Required for FB Comments. Click here for FB Comments Settings page