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Two Cookie Cakes, One Recipe.

I’m all about saving time and reducing waste. So last week, when I realized I had to make not one, but two cakes for two entirely separate events, I started thinking of ways I could somehow lessen the work and the waste, while still pleasing both cake recipients. Event #1 was my anniversary; the recipient of this cake being my boyfriend. Now at first I thought maybe I would just make him a batch of cookies – he absolutely adores my chocolate chip cookies. Event #2 was my dad’s birthday; the recipient of this cake being (obviously) my dad. My dad is not a dessert fan, but he does have a few things he enjoys – gingerbread, lady fingers, cookies.. COOKIES! There was the common thread. But I had really wanted to make my dad an actual cake that I could write on….COOKIE CAKES! And so it was written.

My standard chocolate chip cookie recipe made two cookie cakes – one 10″  and one 8″. As they cooled, I started mixing up some colors for the decorating portion of tonight’s show.

the colors of the wind (or icing).

the colors of the wind (or icing).

I decided to use the larger cake for the anniversary, for two reasons: 1. like I said, my dad doesn’t eat too many sweets, and 2. I wanted to eat some too. I went with the blue theme for this one.

i guess that's why they call it the blues.

i guess that’s why they call it the blues.

I went with a complimentary dark purple for accents and writing.

complimentary.

complimentary.

Don’t for a second think that I wasn’t thinking ahead here. For my dad’s cake, I chose light yellow.

they call me mellow yellow.

they call me mellow yellow.

Which also looks great with a dark purple.

purple planning.

purple planning.

Both cakes were a hit! My boyfriend liked his so much, he ate a piece for breakfast.

the breakfast of champions.

the breakfast of champions.

And then asked me to marry him. :)

must've been something in the cake...

must’ve been something in the cake…

I guess it’s true what the say about the way to a man’s heart. ;)

 

 

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Tres Leches Cake: Three Times the Awesome.

tres leches

Last month, my boyfriend took me to a Mexican restaurant for my birthday. It was absolutely fabulous – possibly the best Mexican restaurant I’ve ever been to, and I have been to many (too many). From the sangria to the dessert, it was to die for. Here’s a glimpse of the gloriousness:

heaven on a plate.

heaven on a plate.

Anyway, for dessert, we split a slice of Tres Leches Cake. Now, I’ve had this cake before, and always loved it, but this was one especially grand. It was so moist, perfectly sweetened, and wonderfully light all at the same time. It was at this moment I decided I needed to make this cake at home.

Having never made this cake before, I needed to find a good base recipe to start with. I began searching my books and the ‘net, and eventually settled on this one.

I knew going in that my first attempt at this mouth-watering food-coma-inducing dessert was not going to be anywhere near the perfection I had at the restaurant. But you know what? It really did turn out pretty darn good. I started by gathering up the three major players: the milks.

the three musketeers.

the three musketeers.

Next, I made the cake, pretty much exactly as the recipe dictated, except I added the dry mixture in larger amounts that two tablespoons at a time – I pretty much divided it into fourths and added 1/4 at a time. It worked just fine, as you can see.

the canvas.

the canvas.

Next, I poked holes in it, allowed it to cool, than doused it with the milks until it couldn’t take it anymore. (Tip- put a sheet pan below the cake to catch all the excess milk mix when you pour it over the top – it was the best idea EVER and there was literally no milky mess to clean up at all.)

drowning in milk.

drowning in milk.

Next, I whipped up some homemade whipped cream to use as the topping.

whip it good.

whip it good.

Once it was whipped to stiff peaks, I applied it to the cake.

top that.

top that.

For me, this just wasn’t enough. It needed something more. So, I mixed up some cinnamon sugar, and dusted the entire thing with it.

a dust of sweetness.

a dust of sweetness.

The result: a Tres Leches cake that won the hearts of many, and could definitely hang with the best of them.

one of the cool kids.

one of the cool kids.

Now that I have the cake down, my goal is work towards that unforgettable piece of awesome from the restaurant. You know what they say – practice makes perfect. So everyone I know may be enjoying practice cakes for a while. I do believe this is not such a bad thing. ;)

 
 

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Super Easy Recipe: Cinnamon Chip Cake.

I just felt like baking the other day, as I do again right now, but I had no reason and no real ideas of what to bake. So I entered into the kitchen with an open mind and with open cabinets. I started rooting around, seeing what sort of fun ingredients I had. I found chocolate chips, walnuts, mini chocolate chips, almonds…and some cinnamon chips (my favorite!). So I started there and decided to base a recipe around the chips. A small cake maybe? Sounded like a good idea, and I could bring it into work as a little something extra. I pulled out my trusty recipe binder, and began seeing what I could do. I started with a very simple cake recipe, and worked from that, tweaking and adding ingredients as I went along, and eventually wound up with a nice little loaf-sized cinnamon chip cake.

quick and easy and delicious.

quick and easy and delicious.

I let it cool, and whipped up a cinnamon sugar glaze, and doused the thing with it, until it was completely covered.

glazey.

glazed over.

I then cut a piece off, and called my boyfriend into the kitchen for an official taste-tasting.

passed the test.

passed the test.

Success! I boxed the rest up and brought it to work the next day. And I believe that quite possibly the world became a better place because of this cake. It’s a winner, small and simply.

Give it a try! :)

Cinnamon Chip Cake. 

What you’ll need:

1/2 cup butter

1 cup sugar

2 eggs

1 tsp vanilla

1 1/2 cups flour

1 cup cinnamon chips

What you’ll do:

Preheat the over to 350 degrees, Cream together the butter and sugar until fluffy. Add the eggs and vanilla, and mix well. Add the flour, and mix until smooth. Fold in the cinnamon chips. Grease a 9 x 5 loaf pan, and pour the batter in (it should be somewhat thick). Bake for about 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.

Cinnamon Sugar Glaze.

What you’ll need:

Cinnamon

Confectioner’s Sugar

Milk

What you’ll do:

So…for the glaze…I just kinda winged it. I didn’t measure any amounts of the ingredients other than the milk, of which I used 1/4 cup. I sprinkled in some cinnamon, and then just added confectioners sugar until I liked the texture – not too thick that it couldn’t be poured, but not so thin that it dripped all over the place.

 

 
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Posted by on March 28, 2014 in cake, cinnamon, Indulgences, recipes

 

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Good Books Come to Those Who Wait.

 

books

Every so often, I feel the desire to write about something other than baking – a small indulgence of a different kind, so to speak. Today, is just such a day. Today’s topic: books.

I have this theory – I believe that the right book finds its way to you at the right time. Whether it be a gift, something left on a table in the doctor’s office, something you happened to notice one day on your own shelf that you never gave a second glance to before….however it happens, it’s like a light goes off when you see it, and you just know this is the next book you must read. When this happens, I find I better get right to it and start reading because whatever is in this book is something that I really need. And it has not let me down yet.

Well, a couple of weeks ago, this happened again. This time, the book was intended for someone else, but due to extenuating circumstances, was not given to the person it was initially intended for, and wound up being given to me, instead. As soon as it was placed in my hand, I knew it had to be the very next book I read. For the next week or so, I kept carrying it around, thinking I was going to start it. Then, after a somewhat tough day, I finally opened it and began reading.

I finished it two days later – this afternoon, to be exact. I laughed. I cried (a lot). I related to it and the characters. But most of all, I learned something about myself when I had finished – something I needed to learn in order to get to the next chapter of my own story. And to the next book.

Everything happens for a reason. Everything is connected. What we do everyday not only changes our own lives, but changes the lives of every person we come into contact with – and sometimes those we don’t. We find the things we need, if we only open our eyes and look around us. Life is a gift – a wonderful, exciting, scary, emotional, roller-coaster of a gift. I’m sure the author of this book, or of all the other books that have changed me, did not ever think they would have such an effect on a random individual so far removed from them in time and space. Yet, that is precisely what happened. We all are part of each other.

our real-life bookshelves.

our real-life bookshelves.

Thank you, friend, for giving me this book. Thank you author, for writing this book. Thank you world, for my place in it. I can’t wait for the next book. :)

 
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Posted by on March 24, 2014 in book, Indulgences, life

 

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Irish Soda Bread: Take 3.

So I think I’ve kind of started a tradition of baking Irish Soda Bread for St. Patrick’s Day ever year. This is the third year in a row now that I’ve done it, and it appears that it’s true what they say about the third time being the charm.

once, twice, three times a soda bread.

once, twice, three times a soda bread.

Not that the first two attempts were failures, by any means. But there’s something special about this third one. It’s more golden, its more evenly shaped, and if I’m going to be completely honest, it tastes better. At least I’m pretty sure it does – it’s hard to remember exactly when the last time you’ve eaten something was a year ago. But this one tastes spectacular – and I really don’t remember being quite so blown away by Year #1 or Year #2.

healthy glow.

it’s real, and it’s spectacular.

I can say that it was finally getting the recipe exactly right that really made it stand out this year – and that would be partially true. But the reality is that this year, I used a different base recipe – something a friend wrote on a piece of paper at some point and I found in my binder, stuffed in the front pocket, with a slew of other random and un-filed hand-written recipes, some by me, some by others. The ingredients were pretty much the same, with some of the amounts being a little different, and the method of production being different as well. It was actually much less complicated, and more of a “throw everything in and mix” kinda thing. I like that.

a dough to remember.

a dough to remember.

But as I often do, I had to make a few slight adjustments for things I didn’t have in the house. I did not have buttermilk. But I know that milk + vinegar = buttermilk. I definitely had vinegar; but alas, I had no milk. I thought I did, but there was only half and half. I really wanted to make the bread, and I only had a specific window of time to complete this task in, so, I just plowed ahead, half and half in hand.

I also did not have quite enough raisins. but I’m ok with that and would have probably used less anyway. I had no caraway seeds at all though – and this recipe called for them. So…I just pretended I didn’t even see it, and left them out entirely.

modified.

change is good.

In the end, my modified version of the hand-written recipe yielded a soda bread that was wickedly delicious and gloriously golden.. Hours later when my boyfriend came home from work, the first thing he said was “The house smells amazing!” So, if you’re feeling lucky and want your house to smell amazing too, here’s the recipe. Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Irish Soda Bread.

What you’ll need:

3 1/2 cups flour

2/3 cup sugar

1 tsp salt

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp baking powder

1 cup raisins

2 eggs

1 1/3 cup half and half

1 1/2 tblsp white vinegar

4 tblsp melted butter

1/2 tsp vanilla

What you’ll do:

Preheat the oven to 350. Sift the flour into a large mixing bowl. Add the sugar, salt, baking soda, baking powder, and whisk together. Add the raisins. In a separate bowl,  beat the eggs, then add the buttermilk, butter, and vanilla, and combine. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients in the large bowl, and pour the wet ingredients into the well. Mix with a large spatula, until a dough forms. Knead the dough a few times, and shape it into a rough ball. Place the ball on a baking sheet, covered with parchment paper. With a large serrated knife, cut an “X” across the top. Bake for 50 minutes, or until an inserted skewer comes out clean.

 
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Posted by on March 17, 2014 in bread, holidays, Indulgences, recipes

 

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Baking Crossroads.

I am at a point where I can’t decide what to bake. I have four things in mind, and each sound fantastic in their own way. Each are also very different – some more sweet, some more savory; some more dense, some more fluffy; some look pretty, some honestly, kinda don’t. Three of them I’ve made before; one I have not. One was a request, the others are just because. So…what should I do?? Maybe you can help.

Here are my four options:

#1: Irish Soda Bread.

DSC_1037

This is one I’ve made before (actually twice before). It’s rather light, not overly sweet, kinda crumbly, and full of raisins. It’s also timely, with the pending arrival of St. Patrick’s Day. Did I mention how tasty it is?

#2: Beer Bread.

bread of beer.

bread of beer.

This one I’ve also made before, but apparently have never written about it. I was sure I had posted it when I made it last, although that was about 3 years ago, when I was just starting the blog, so I suppose it was overlooked. So that’s actually giving it an edge here. Also, my boyfriend is obsessed with fancy beer, so I have plenty of fun options to get creative with this time around!

#3: French Macarons.

the mac daddy.

the mac daddy.

I have definitely made these before AND posted about them. I also ate a bunch of them while on my Paris Patisserie Tour, back in the summer of 2012. I haven’t made them since then, and I’ve never made them in colors – only vanilla and chocolate in their natural state. I think because in Paris, they tasted so completely heavenly and looked so beautiful, I’ve been intimidated to make them ever since. I mean, come on – look at these:

the real thing.

the real thing.

Can I do that?? I’m not sure. But maybe it’s time to find out. PS – this one was the request. I do love baking something I know someone really wants…

#4: King Cake.

I have never made this, so i have no photo to provide. I have eaten it, and I have loved every bite. I have researched recipes, but they all seem pretty different, so I’m a little lost at where to start. The one that I’ve eaten and savored sort of reminded me of a cheese danish. But some recipes don’t even have any cheese products in them – so what am I to do?? I did come across one recipe that sounded like it would yield a very close result to the cake I call King. And I love a good experiment. So there’s that.

So, there you have it.  Four very deliciously different paths to head down, all leading to very equally appealing results. What’s a baker girl to do?? Help!

 

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Home Grown Irish Potatoes.

DSC_0162

Ok, so these “potatoes” are actually not grown. They’re not even actually potatoes. They just kinda look like them. Mini potato lookalikes, that taste nothing like their larger counterpart. Nope, there is really nothing potato-like about Irish Potatoes other than an odd bumpy oval-ish shape and a brown coloring (which on the Irish Potato, is cinnamon, not skin).

cinnamon skin.

cinnamon skin.

Irish Potatoes are actually very similar in ingredients and method of production to buttercream icing. Both involve creaming together butter and confectioner’s sugar, but Irish Potatoes also include a bit of cream cheese and some coconut. Two of my favorite things.

potato mixing.

potato or buttercream?

They are also a stiffer consistency then the buttercream icing you’d want to use on your cake. They need to be, so they can be rolled into the classic potato shape they’re named for.

rolled and ready.

rolled and ready.

As I mentioned before, once they’re shaped, they are rolled in a bowl of cinnamon, and completely coated.

cinnamon rolled.

cinnamon rolled.

Finally, they are put in the fridge to set (about an hour or so should do the trick).

potato chillin'.

potato chillin’.

As far as actual recipe goes, I used a traditional Irish Potato recipe that I’ve had floating around for a few years and have used in the past with much success. It went a little something like this:

Irish Potato Candy.

What you’ll need:

1/4 cup butter (softened)

4 oz cream cheese (about half a package)

1 tsp vanilla

4 cups confectioners’ sugar

2 1/2 cups coconut

cinnamon for coating

What you’ll do:

In a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter and cream cheese until smooth. Add the vanilla and confectioners’ sugar, and beat until fluffy and icing-like. Add the coconut, and beat until well-blended. Roll into walnut-sized potato-shaped ovals. Roll each in a small bowl of cinnamon, until completely covered. Chill for about an hour. Eat and enjoy!

 

 
 

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The Great White Chocolate Debate.

white chocolate

Over the weekend, I took part in WHYY’s 5th Annual Chocolate Tasting. I love WHYY, and have since I was a wee lass, so I’m happy to do anything that promotes them and helps raise money to keep them doing what they’re doing. It’s good stuff, and good people. 

Anyway, this year, I made over 400 Oreo and cream cheese truffles to support the event. I use the term “I made” loosely, as my boyfriend stayed up until almost 1 AM on Valentine’s Day to help me get them all dipped in chocolate and ready to go. He’s a very dedicated and hard-working assistant, not to mention a fast learner. So yeah, I had help.

There were to be two varieties: plain Oreo with milk chocolate coating, and mint Oreo with white chocolate coating. They looked like so:

a team effort.

a team effort.

 

So needless to say, before we let them leave the house, we had to taste them. Being a white-chocolate lover since I received my very first Easter basket, I went for the white, whereas my BF went straight for the milk chocolate, claiming he’s not a fan of white chocolate. That got me thinking – white chocolate really is not for everyone. You never hear someone say “Yeah, white chocolate is just ok.” It’s either “Mmmm!! I LOVE white chocolate!” or “Eww! I HATE white chocolate!” usually accompanied by “It’s not even REAL Chocolate!” Yes, that’s true – white chocolate is basically chocolate with the chocolate removed, which therefore logically speaking would make it not chocolate.

white not-chocolates?

white not-chocolates?

I have a theory though. If we were to globally wage a campaign to change the name of white chocolate to something else – removing the “chocolate” from the name in the same fashion it’s been removed from the confection itself – i think more people would accept it and enjoy it. No, it does not taste like chocolate – and by giving it a name that would lead folks to believe it does can be deceiving, and frankly, turn people off before they even give it a real chance. I think a new name would solve this problem, and give white chocolate the love it rightfully deserves. Of course, I have no idea what that name should be…White Not-chocolate? But that still has “chocolate” in the name itself and also just sounds too negative. White Candy? That’s a little generic and no one will have a clue as to what they’re about to eat. White Cocoa Butter? That’s a little better…but the “cocoa” could still cause confusion. White Sugar Butter? That actually sounds kinda gross. I don’t know….any suggestions? 

 

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The Making of a Birthday Cake: One Cake’s Story on How it Became a Birthday Sensation.

DSC_0151

So, I made a birthday cake for my mom – her birthday was yesterday. As I was making it, i took a ton of photos and documented it’s progress from generic un-decorated cake layers, to celebrated birthday star. Here is one cake’s journey, in photos, from average unknown plain jane, to birthday stardom.

Stage 1: assemble the layers.

DSC_0126

Top one layer with buttercream, spread it out evenly, and place the other layer on top.

DSC_0127

Stage 2: Ice the entire cake.

DSC_0129

Smooth it out, but be sure to save some icing to color for decorating.

DSC_0134

Stage 3: adding shell border and flowers.

DSC_0136

Color your icing as you see fit. I chose a kind of mauve-y tone for the flowers and border, and a light green for the leaves.

DSC_0138

Stage 4: Personalize.

DSC_0140

This cake was for my mom, so I added the appropriate message.

DSC_0146

Stage 5: eat and enjoy!!

 

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Pick a Pizza, Win a Prize!

You can never have too much pizza. At least, I can’t.

I know it’s cliché, but pizza really has been one of my favorite foods since I was like, born. Maybe because it’s just so versatile, that you really could never exhaust all of your potential pizza options in one lifetime. Maybe because it’s also as much fun to make as it is to eat. On the heels of our recent pizza-making team effort, my boyfriend and I decided to try our hands at another pizza variety. We used the same crust recipe and the same sauce recipe, but this time let the sauce cook for a few hours in the crock pot.  We also switched up the toppings, like you do, and for this one, went with pepperoni and mushrooms, and used a mix of Havarti and mild cheddar cheese.

waiting to bake.
waiting to bake.

Oh yeah – and this time we also rolled out the dough much thinner, and made two thin-crust pizzas, instead of one giant extra thick and puffy one. Having not one, but two crusts made it into a little friendly pizza-making competition. We each rolled a dough, and topped it individually, and baked them, one at a time.

Pizza #1:

Pizza 1.

which is which?

Pizza #2:
and whose is whose?

and whose is whose?

So….can you guess which one is mine? Pizza #1 or Pizza #2? First person to comment on the post with the right answer gets a free Small Indulgences cookbook!  And no guessing if you already know – that means you, Steve. ;)

 
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Posted by on February 10, 2014 in book, dinner, Indulgences, meats, pizza

 

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