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This cake was seriously so rich that I can’t do it true justice with words or pictures.  But I’ll try.  The cake was three layers.  The top and bottom layer were butter pecan.  That cake by itself is so good.  But I sandwiched between it a layer of butter yellow cake.  And the filling, oh it was unreal.  I made a caramel mousse that was so so good.  And the outside of this cake was chocolate buttercream.  I actually just followed the recipe on the back of the Hershey’s Cocoa box for the first time ever.  And I found myself wondering why I’d never made this recipe before.  If fact, I wondered why I had ever bothered to purchase chocolate frosting when this recipe was so good and so so easy.  I coated the outside of the cake with milk chocolate chips, because why not and because moarchocolate!  Yep, this cake was rich.  Moist, buttery, chocolatey, beautiful.  And oh so rich.

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A couple weeks ago I was hired to make cupcakes for a wedding.  The bride was open to what flavors she got, but she did request a batch of gluten free.  I had given her some of the cupcakes as a taste test from Harry’s Birthday party.  She loved the Almond Joy cupcakes and the Lemon Delight.  But wanted something different than the blue suede.

We settled on Lemon Delight which was lemon cake with homemade lemon curd filling and light whipped frosting (I love my Bettercream!).  I garnished them with white sugar crystals, yellow nonpareils and lemon gumdrops cut into wedges.

The next flavor was the Amond Joy I’d made before.  The cake was chocolate almond cake with coconut cream filling and topped with rich vanilla almond buttercream.  I garnished these with coconut shavings and raw almonds.

The next flavor was Raspberry white chocolate.  This was a white cake with raspberry filling and white chocolate mousse on top.  It is a very simple and classic wedding flavor.

Finally was the gluten-free.  I made a a gluten-free chocolate cake and filled it with a rich chocolate buttercream.  I topped it off with caramel mousse and light brown and dark brown sprinkles.  Long gone are the days of gluten-free being synonymous with tastes bad.  These ones were really rich and a huge hit.

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Homemade Slurpee

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Who doesn’t love Slurpees!?!?!?  I know I do!  They remind me of junior high summers.  My mom would take me and my sister to get them of Friday mornings after we got up to go to an early morning church service.  I also always try to make it to 7-11 on Slurpee Day which, of course falls on July 11th, 7-11.

But now I’m an adult and I sometimes sort of try to be healthier.  I don’t know exactly what’s in a slurpee, I’m pretty sure it doesn’t qualify as real food.  But I still love them!  So I was really excited when I found an option that isn’t too terribly bad for me.

I start by getting the best sweetest, reddest watermelon the summer has to offer.  I dice into 1 inch cubes anyways for general consumption, but I also set aside a good amount of these cubes to be frozen.  Once they’re frozen, I add about 2/3 cup of frozen diced watermelon to a magic bullet cup.  I then add about 2/3 cup frozen strawberries.  I squeeze about two tablespoons of fresh lemon juice into the cup and add about two tablespoons of sugar.  I add water to fill the cup about half way, then I blend away.  What comes out is a refreshing, cool, icey that is the best slurpee alternative I’ve ever tried.

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I am a little behind on posting this, but I wanted to share anyway.  This last Easter, I found a fun pin on Pinterest that showed how to make a dessert version of an Easter classic, deviled eggs.  I was thrilled because they are beautiful, and who doesn’t love Jell-O!

I remembered that as a kid, my mom made some fun jello eggs out of some molds she had and I was happy to hear that she still had the molds.  They are available still on kraft.com and aren’t even too expensive.  I did have a couple failed attempts to get the molds open with breaking my jello eggs in half, but I learned that if I submerge the mold in near-boiling water for about ten seconds, they molds pop open easily enough.

Once I got the jello eggs out of the molds, I sliced them in half longways.  Just as you would if you were making real deviled eggs.  On the Pinterest post, they scooped a well out of the jello eggs to make a place for the cream filling.  I kept breaking my eggs when I tried to do this, so I decided to skip that step altogether.

In the end, I was quite happy with the way they turned out.  They were bright and fun and most importantly, yummy!  I think I may make them again some day!

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A couple weeks ago I made these awesome hostess copycat cupcakes. They’re chocolate cake with cream filling, chocolate ganache, and cute little loops on top. I used my good ol’ faithful pastry pride for the filling. I made the ganache with Nestle Tollhouse milk chocolate chips and cream. When making the ganache, I recommend finding a chocolate that you really like because that’s what the flavor will come from. Put it all in a sauce pan over low heat and add a little bit of cream. I know, lack of measurements is probably not very helpful, so here’s a rough guess of what I used – 1 cup chocolate chips and 1/4 cup cream. You can use more or less cream, but the whole point is to have the chocolate soft and pliable even when it cools back down.

The key to these cupcakes is the tall paper liners. I found some tall liners at Hobby Lobby, but I’ve also seen them at my local cake and candy supply store. The tall liners keeps the cake from spilling out and allows you to add the ganache once you’ve added the cream filling. Speaking of adding the ganache, I just spooned some onto the cupcakes once they were baked, cooled and filled with cream filling. While the ganache was still warm, I put a little white buttercream frosting into a ziplock bag and cut the corner off and piped the loops right on top. By doing this step before the ganache set, it allowed the cream to sink in a bit and set with the chocolate.

I had been wanting to try these for a while, so when my mom asked me to bring cupcakes for my dad’s birthday dinner, I was happy for an excuse to make them.

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When Harry was born, I joined a new mom support group. At the time there were about a dozen moms and we all had babies about the same time. I stayed in touch with a good handful of them, and now since it’s been a year, it’s birthday party season. So I’ve got about five birthday parties to attend within about a month. And that’s not counting Harry’s party which is coming up in two weeks.

Since we have lots of birthday parties to attend, I wanted to do something special for each one. But of course buying gifts isn’t always the most special thing to do. And I know Harry got a lot of Christmas gifts, so I don’t necessarily think that toys are with my friends need. So I offered to make the smash cakes. And a couple of our friends took us up on it.

For the party we went to yesterday, they were having a Safari themed birthday. It wasn’t an all out traditional Safari, it was more like a “first birthday girly colors with giraffes and elephants Safari.”

For the cake, I decided to use sprinkles. I made the cake with vanilla cake and vanilla buttercream because it’s the safest most mild cake flavors for a one-year-old to eat. I cut out some shapes using my Cricut and wax paper. I borrowed a cartridge from a friend of mine that has some really cute Safari birthday animals. Once the cake was frosted, I put the cut out shapes onto the frosting. And then the fun part! I put handfuls of sprinkles and just pressed them into the side of the cake. I used different colors around the sides, and then used a lot of the sprinkles that had fallen off on the top.

Once the cake was covered in sprinkles, I put it into the fridge to let the frosting set. Buttercream frosting can get really firm in the fridge, just like butter does. So I wanted the cake in the coldness of the fridge to get nice and firm before removing the wax paper. Once the frosting was firm, I simply peeled off the wax paper cutouts. And I was left with a beautiful white smooth spot where the wax paper had been. I took a knife to carve out the shape of an ear on the elephant and the eyes on the giraffe. I even added a little reflection in the balloon that’s tied to the dress tail.

I was very pleased with the way the cake turned out, and I know that little Evey liked it too.

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A few years ago, I experienced a maple bacon donut. DH and I were at the LA County fair, and it was the featured food. And it was amazing! First of all, it was as big as your face. The enormity of it alone made it fun, but really it was the crispy warm freshness that made it especially good. It was the perfect balance of fried, sweet, and salty. It is the epitome of fair food.

There's my hot hubby showing off that wonderful donut!  I wasn't exaggerating when I said it's as big as you're face.

There’s my hot hubby showing off that wonderful donut! I wasn’t exaggerating when I said it’s as big as you’re face.

Since then, I have started to see maple bacon desserts in various forms all over the place.  They all look so fun, so a couple years ago, I tried a maple bacon cupcake recipe myself.  But that recipe was too involved and I haven’t done it again since. Recently, however, I happened to have about six pieces of cooked bacon that we didn’t have a specific plan for, so DH suggested I make maple bacon cupcakes again.  I decided to go for it, but instead of following the old complicated recipe I used before, I wanted to keep it simple and experiment.  Here’s what I did.

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Cupcake Ingredients

  • One Box White or Vanilla Cake Mix
  • 2 Eggs
  • 1/3 Cup Vanilla or Plain Greek Yogurt
  • 1 1/2 Tsp Maple Extract
  • 1/2 Cup Real Maple Syrup
  • 6 Pieces of Cooked Bacon

Cupcake Directions

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line a cupcake pan with paper liners.
  • Mix first five ingredients in a medium mixing bowl until incorporated (careful not to over mix).  Batter will be thick.  Crush up the bacon and add to batter.  Mix briefly.
  • Spoon batter into cupcake pan to be two thirds full.  Bake for 20-25 minutes until tops are dry.  When finished, allow to cool completely before frosting.

*Recipe makes 12 cupcakes

Frosting Ingredients

  • 1/4 Cup Butter, softened
  • 6 0z. Cream Cheese, softened
  • 1/2 tsp. Vanilla Extract
  • 1 tsp. Maple Extract
  • 1 tsp. Salt
  • 1 lb Powdered Sugar
  • 1-4 Tbs. Milk, as needed

Frosting Directions

  • In stand mixer, cream together butter and cream cheese until smooth and fully incorporated. Add extracts and salt and continue mixing.
  • With mixer on low speed, gradually add sugar.  Once sugar is added, frosting may be crumbly and pasty.  Continue mixing and add milk one tablespoon at a time until desired consistency it reached.
  • Spoon frosting into a ziplock back and seal.  Cut a corner off the bag, and pipe onto cupcakes as desired.

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Trick-Or-Treat Brownies

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I know, I know… everyone has recipes for your left over Halloween candy! I laugh because most of those recipes refer to how you don’t want to eat all the candy and then suggests baking it into cookies or other wonderful pastries (which apparently you’re not supposed to eat?).  That really makes sense to me, make a dent in your kids’ stash by multiplying it into more junk food.

Well, I am going to offer you an idea of something fun to do with your excess goodies, but I won’t suggest that this is a better or healthier option that just eating it.  And here it is… simple as can be.  Just chop it up and throw it in your brownies.

That simple.  Use whatever brownie recipe (or box mix) you have on hand.  Then chop up your favorite candies and mix them into the batter.  Save a handful of the candies to put on top of the brownie mix right before you put it in the oven.  This will make sure the candy is visible and that your friends and family will know what they’re about to get in to.

While you can really go in whatever direction you want with this idea, I do have a routine that I like to use.  First, I really love Ghirardelli Brownie mix.  It’s so so good and rich.  And, you can buy a big box with about 6 bags of mix in it from Costco.  I also like to double the recipe for a 9×13 pan.  This makes for thick brownies that feel really gourmet.  When I added my candies this time around, I held on to the most colorful candy to put on top.  I mixed in a king sized Snickers bar, a king sized Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup pack, and a king sized KitKat.  I top the batter with Reese’s Pieces and a couple candy corns.

Look at all that yummy-ness packed inside those brownies.

Look at all that yummy-ness packed inside those brownies.

Your friends will think you slaved for ages over these guys, but they are so so easy.

Your friends will think you slaved for ages over these guys, but they are so so easy.

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Home-Made Apple Hand-Pies

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This cold weather is bringing out my inner domestic goddess.  We had rain today and it was heavy and cold outside.  This afternoon, before Harry’s nap time, I pulled back the curtain in the family room and we played inside the toasty house while watching the gray poor down outside.  And it was wonderful.  So, when Harry went down for his afternoon nap, I decided to do some baking.  I wanted something as warm and cozy as I felt, so I made apple hand-pies.  Since I had a pre-made crust in the fridge, they were a piece of cake (or rather, pie).

 

Ingredients

  • 4 small granny smith apples
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • Dash of nutmeg
  • 1 package pre-made pie crust (Here’s the one I used)
  • Extra sugar for garnish

 

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Whisk together sugar, flour, cinnamon and nutmeg in a medium mixing bowl, then set aside.
  • Peel and finely chop apples. I used my food chopper to get the pieces very small. Then add to the sugar mixture and mix until evenly combined.
  • Open one of the pie crusts and spread out on a pastry mat or smooth surface.  Use a rolling pin to thin out the crust and make sure it’s even all around.
  • Cut circles out of the dough using a biscuit or cookie  cutter, a cup, or a cut-n-seal.  Place a scoop of the apple mixture on half the circles, then take the other half of the circles and place them on top of the apple mixture.  press edges together to seal in the apple pie filling and move to a large bar pan.  Repeat process until all the dough and apple filling is used.  Re-roll dough as needed. I got about 12 and had to put them on two separate bar pans.
  • Sprinkle hand-pies with sugar and bake for 20-25 minutes until golden brown.  Remove from oven and let cool for about five minutes, then remove from bar pan and continue cooling.  If you let them cool completely on the bar pan, they may stick.

 

We served ours with vanilla ice cream and caramel sauce.  It was a wonderful treat for this cozy October night. I hope you enjoy them as much as we did.

 

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Pumpkin Scones

This week, I had the pleasure of hosting Mommy Group at my house.  A couple moms from church came over and we let the kids play while we enjoyed each other’s fellowship.  So, I of course, jumped at the chance to bake one of the many many wonderful things I’ve seen on Pinterest.  I have been told that Starbucks is not bringing back their pumpkin scone, so I decided I better figure out a recipe that will stand in.  And I have found one for sure!

As is my habit, I will share my variations and then send you off to the original source.

  • The biggest difference is that I used cake flour for these guys.  I had read somewhere (probably on a blog I found through Pinterest) that cake flour makes for lighter pastries.  So, last time I went to the market, that’s what I bought.  And, since that’s what I had, that’s what I used.  These scones, therefore, had a nice light, almost spongey texture.  Scones are typically very thick and dense and even border on dry.  But not these puppies.  I think that’s because of the flour.
  • I also made them in my food processor instead of by hand.  The instructions said to cut in the butter, well, “Ain’t nobody got time for that!”  So, I threw my flour/sugar mixture into the food processor, and added cold cubes of butter and pulsed away.  It took all or thirty seconds to mix beautifully.  I left it in there when adding the wet ingredients, too.  I think this actually helped with keeping the final product really soft and fluffy.  Working the dough too much makes it tough.  So by using the food processor, the dough mixed quickly without danger of being over worked.  This is the food processor I use, by the way.  DH gave it to me for my birthday a couple years ago.  It matches the Kitchen Aid Mixer he gave me a few years earlier.  He really loves me, I know.
  • The next variation had to do with the glaze.  One, I took a basting brush and bathed the scones in melted butter BEFORE baking them.  And then, for the first glaze, I used about a tablespoon of melted butter with about half a cup of powdered sugar and I only added a teeny tiny bit of half and half.  I wanted the glaze to be thick like a paste because I knew it would melt and spread over the hot scones.

These things turned out SO GOOD.  I loved them so much that I decided to drive out to my mom’s house and deliver a few just so she could enjoy them too.  Here’s the recipe I followed.

Pumpkin Scones

I have to share this one more picture I took when the mommies were here.  This sweet little girl is Natalie and she has a brand new baby brother at home.  She will clearly be a good mommy because she’s practicing her skills right now by giving Snoopy and friends tummy time.  She is as sweet as the pumpkin scones!

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