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Pumpkin Almond Spice Cake.

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The other day, I discovered Pumpkin Pudding. It looks like this:

pudding

Being a lover of all things pumpkin, I was shocked to learn this was not a new item. It has existed for at least a year, possibly more. After recovering from the kick I gave to myself for not discovering this last year, I quickly snatched up 3 boxes, knowing I’d figure out something to do with them when I got home. And figure out something, I did.

I started out with a spice cake. I used this recipe (minus the caramel icing) which made two lovely 8″ layers.

hello, layers.

hello, layers.

While the layers lay cooling, I made the pudding and let that chill. Once the layers were cool and the pudding was chill, I put them together,  like so:

pudding in the middle.

pudding in the middle.

I put that in the fridge for a bit, and started contemplating what sort of icing to use that would enhance the overall eating experience. I had a little bit of the pudding left in the bowl, so I thought I’d try and make something that used up the rest of the pudding (there was no way I was letting THAT go to waste). So, I quickly wrote a Pumpkin Pudding Buttercream recipe. It went like this:

Pumpkin Pudding Buttercream.

What you’ll need:

8 oz butter, softened

3 TBSP pumpkin pudding (already made with milk)

4 cups confectioners sugar

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp nutmeg

1 TBSP milk

What you’ll do:

In a large bowl, mix the butter and the pudding until there are no lumps. Add the confectioners sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and milk, and mix until smooth.

 

After I made the icing, I iced the cake, but I still felt it needed something. So I got a bag of slivered almonds, and covered the sides of the cake with them, like this:

a side of almonds.

a side of almonds.

After that, we ate it, and said a little thanks to the gods of autumn for making it the season with all the best flavors.

 
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Posted by on September 18, 2014 in cake, confections, Indulgences, nuts, recipes

 

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Short and Sweet Recipe: Mini Strawberry Shortcake.

strawberry shortcake3

Last week, my fiance and I were invited to another couple’s place for a game night. Being that we never like to show up anywhere empty handed, I decided to make a little dessert to bring along with us. I wanted something relatively simple, relatively summery, and relatively small, since it was going to be a small gathering. After much contemplation, I settled on the queen of summer desserts herself: Strawberry Shortcake. I already had some really nice-looking strawberries that had I literally just purchased the day before, so it would appear that the stars had aligned just right. (Except for that one star that I’ll call “heavy cream” – I had to send my fiance out to get that at the last minute).

But otherwise, I had all the ingredients to make a tasty vanilla cake, whipped cream frosting, and fresh strawberry filling between layers and adornments for the top.

top that.

top that.

Again, since it was for small gathering, I decided to make it a 6″ cake, instead of the traditional 8″. Not only would it be a more appropriate amount of dessert, but it also looked so darn cute. Like the puppy version of a cake.

baby cake.

baby cake.

And even with making it smaller, there were leftovers. Not that I’m complaining.

Wanna make your own for that Labor Day gathering you were invited to this weekend? Here’s how!

Mini Strawberry Shortcake.

For the Cake:

What you’ll need:

1 cup water

1/4 cup + 2 tblsp canola oil

1 tblsp white vinegar

2 tsp vanilla extract

1 3/4 cups sifted flour

1 cup sugar

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp baking soda

(Plus 1 cup of chopped strawberries for filling and 5 additional whole strawberries for decorating)

What you’ll do:

Preheat the oven to 350. In a large bowl, combine the water, canola oil, vinegar, and vanilla. In a separate bowl, whisk together the sifted flour, sugar, salt, and baking soda. Add the dry ingredients to the wet, and mix until smooth. Grease two 6″ round pans, and evenly divide the batter between the two. Bake for approx. 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool completely on a wire rack.

For the Whipped Cream Frosting:

What you’ll need:

2 cups heavy cream

3 tblsp sugar

1 tsp vanilla

What you’ll do:

In a pre-chilled mixing bowl, whip the cream with the whisk attachment until it forms soft peaks. Add the sugar and vanilla, and continue whipping until stiff peaks form.

Frost the top of one of the layers of the cake with the whipped cream, and using a decorating bag fitted with the star tip, pipe a border around the edge, Fill the center with the chopped strawberries, and place the second layer on top. Cover both layers entirely with a smooth coating of the whipped cream. Using the same star tip, pipe a shell border around the base of the cake, and 8 rosettes around the top. Cut the 5 large strawberries in half, and place one half on top of each of the rosettes. Pipe a dollop of whipped cream onto on of the remaining two halves, and make a little strawberry and cream sandwich for the center.

 

 

 

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Recipe: Cookies and Cream Coffee Cheesecake.

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July 30th was National Cheesecake Day. I happened to be off from work, and I was browsing the internet, like ya do, and I came across this bit of wonderful news. I wanted to bake something I hadn’t made in a while, and a cheesecake was one such thing. It was clearly a sign from the universe that I had to make a cheesecake that very day.

I wasn’t sure which kind I wanted to make. My first thought was peanut butter or maybe almond butter….but then I started thinking my fiance really likes coffee and coffee-flavored stuff…and I have all these leftover faux-reos from the Cookies and Cream Cupcakes I just made…so I found a pretty simple recipe for a coffee cheesecake, made a few of my own tweaks and additions, and the Cookies and Cream Coffee Cheesecake with Coffee Whipped Cream and Dark Chocolate Drizzle was born. Pretty long name for a cheesecake, but it earned it.

longest. name. ever.

longest. name. ever.

My fiance loved it, and so did my co-workers (it was too good not to share!). So now, I’ll share the recipe with you, so you can share it with your family and friends. It’s the circle of life (or cheesecake).

Cookies and Cream Coffee Cheesecake.

What you’ll need for the crust:

16 Oreos or faux-reos

2 tblsp butter

What you’ll do for the crust:

Preheat oven to 350. Combine the cookies and butter in a food processor until finely crumbled. Press on the bottom and up the sides of a 9 in disposable pie pan, like so:

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the crust of it.

Bake for 10 minutes Let cool completely. Leave the oven on at 350 for the cheesecake.

What you’ll need for the cheesecake:

2  8 oz packages of cream cheese, softened

1/2 cup of sugar

2 eggs

1/3 cup of very strong freshly brewed coffee at room temperature (I used Gevalia Crème Brulee  flavored)

What you’ll do for the cheesecake:

In a large bowl, cream together the cream cheese and sugar until well mixed. In a small bowl, whisk the eggs, and add them, along with the coffee to the cream cheese and sugar. Mix until smooth (this should be less than a minute). Pour into cooled crust and bake for approximately 35 minutes, or until set. You can tell it’s set by lightly touching the center and it not sticking to your finger. It should look something like this:

all set.

all set.

Let it cool completely, then refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

What you’ll need for the coffee whipped cream:

1 cup chilled heavy cream

1/4 cup confectioners sugar

1 tblsp very strong coffee at room temperature (I used the same coffee as in the cheesecake)

What you’ll do for the coffee whipped cream:

In a chilled bowl (cream whips best when the bowl is cold), whip the heavy cream until it forms soft peaks. Add the sugar and the coffee, and continue to whip until stiff peaks are formed. Using a star tip, pipe a shell border of  whipped cream around the edge of the chilled cheesecake, and a single rosette in the center, like so:

pipe it good.

pipe it good.

Finally, in a small saucepan, combine 2 ounces of GOOD dark chocolate (I used Scharffen Berger Unsweetened Fine Artisan Dark Chocolate) and a tablespoon of butter over low heat, stirring continuously until completely melted. Pour chocolate into a plastic decorating bag BEFORE cutting the tip off. Hold the bag directly over the chilled cheesecake, then snip the tip, and drizzle the chocolate back and forth until you’ve reached drizzling nirvana.

enlightenment.

enlightenment.

Chill it again for about 30 minutes, then cut, serve, and devour….err…I mean, enjoy. :)

gone in 60 seconds.

gone in 60 seconds.

 

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The Cupcakes of Summer.

I love summer. I always have. It’s my favorite season. Knowing this, I’m not sure why I remain in the Northeast, where there’s that season-that-shall-not-be-named, full of snow, ice and misery. I believe my love of summer stems from my love of being outdoors. So for the majority of summer, I’m out there more than in here. Thus the reason I have posted anything in over a month.

biker chic.

biker chic.

I have, however been doing a lot of baking recently. so I figured the time has come to share it with the universe. Last week, I made two different kinds of cupcakes for a post-wedding celebration. The first of the two was Cookies and Cream. I made up the batter and mixed in crushed fake oreos (faux-reos).

batter up.

batter up.

Next, I baked them (obviously).

coolin'.

coolin’.

Then, I decorated them with cookies and cream frosting, and half a faux-reo on top.

topped off.

topped off.

The other type of cupcake was Chocolate with Cream Cheese Frosting.

I baked those as well (duh). They rose rather nicely.

on the rise.

on the rise.

Next, I topped them with a large dollop of cream cheese frosting.

like snow capped cupcake mountains.

like snow capped cupcake mountains.

Finally, I sprinkled them with shaved chocolate.

after shave.

after shave.

I took super close up shots of them both, because I’m obsessed with super close up shots of food.

cookies and cream super close up.

cookies and cream super close up.

and…

Chocolate and Cream Cheese super close up.

chocolate and cream cheese super close up.

It was fun making these. It made me want to make more cupcakes again. So I think I just might. But first, an oreo coffee cheesecake for National Cheesecake Day. It’s cooling RIGHT NOW!  Stay tuned for more details…. :)

 

 
 

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World Cup Cake.

soccer ball cake

No, not a World Cupcake. a World Cup Cake. As in that thing you see every time you turn on any TV station or look at any social media site. The World Cup is omnipresent these days. And if you live in my house, you’d have to be dead in order to avoid it, as my fiance is absolutely-ridiculously-bordering-on-unhealthily OBSESSED with all things soccer, and that’s during the three off years between tournaments. So you can imagine what I’m dealing with here right now.

After about the 1 million trillionth conversation about “football” (a real soccer geek refers to it by it’s REAL name I’ve come to learn), I just couldn’t take it anymore. So I went off and did the one thing that would help restore my sanity and bring some normalcy back into my life: I baked a cake.

shapes of cake.

shapes of cake.

Now this was not just any cake. Not by a long shot. Yes, it was a classic vanilla, and separated into two layers. But these layers were different. One was a half-sphere, while the other almost pancake-like.

I began assembling the layers as I envisioned the finished cake in my mind, and coated them with a layer of the almond butter cream I had leftover from my dad’s failed cake-turned-cake sandwich.

the base coat.

the base coat.

Next, I busted out my giant tub of fondant, and started rolling a large piece to cover this mystery dome. Once I carefully placed the fondant atop the cake, I cut out my smaller pieces, and carefully began putting them in place.

there's really no escape.

there’s really no escape.

Once it was fully detailed and smoothed over, I added the finishing touch – a field to play on.

we've come full circle.

we’ve come full circle.

Once it was complete, I cleaned up, and left it conspicuously in the center of the kitchen table, so when my fiance arrived home just a few short minutes later, it was the first thing he saw upon entering the kitchen.

And that, my friends, is true love; no matter what part of the world you’re playing in. :).

 
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Posted by on June 23, 2014 in cake, confections, Indulgences

 

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Cake Sandwich (With Almond Pound Cake and Maple Buttercream).

So I made this cake for my dad for Father’s Day. It was an almond pound cake. I wrote the recipe, and the batter was very good. But I made a mistake when I baked it – I used a loaf pan, and I should have baked it at a lower temp for a longer time. Instead, it started burning around the edges before the insides were even completely cooked. So, after seeing the finished product, I decided it didn’t pass my leaving-the-house test.

not up to snuff.

not quite up to snuff.

I was pretty bummed, because I knew it was a great tasting cake on the inside, and I really didn’t want to throw the whole thing away. So I wrapped it in foil, and stowed it away for the night. The next morning, I awoke with a brilliant idea. The cake is a loaf-shape. What do you do with a loaf? Why, you slice it and make sandwiches, of course! So, I would cut off the burned ends, and make cake sandwiches filled with icing! I quick whipped up a batch of maple buttercream.

sandwich filling.

sandwich filling.

I cut the burned ends off of the loaf, and began slicing the rest into bread-like slices.

the best thing since sliced bread.

the best thing since sliced bread.

I took two slices and spread an ample amount of the maple buttercream on one slice.

not your mama's sandwich.

not your mama’s sandwich.

I then assembled the slices into a complete cake and icing sandwich.

dessert for lunch.

dessert for lunch.

At this point, I realized, this sandwich might be too much for one person to eat in one sitting. So in keeping with the Small Indulgences philosophy, I sliced it in half, into two much more petite, but equally delicious mini-sandwiches.

a small indulgence at it's best.

a small indulgence at it’s best.

At this point, I ate one, you know, just to make sure it was ok…

love at first bite.

love at first bite.

This time, it definitely passed all of my leaving-the-house tests. And it made so many sandwiches, that I decided to wrap them up, and share them!!

sharing is caring.

sharing is caring.

And that’s how you turn what seemed like a bad cake into an awesome dessert to enjoy and share. It’s all about how you look at it. :)

 

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Red Cake, Pink Frosting.

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Over the weekend, I made a cake by request for someone – a red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting, covered entirely in rosettes. They needed it to feed about 40 people, so I made it two tier – one 8″ layer, and one 6″ layer.  The baked cake looked pretty rad (or should I say, “red”).

red is the new rad.

red is the new rad.

Due to that rich red color red velvet cake boasts, I decided it best to crumb coat the cake first, to keep the final iced creation free of red specs.

crumb free.

crumb free.

After the initial coating, I refrigerated it for a bit, and made the rest of the cream cheese frosting. I tinted it a very light pink, to make it more rose-like (and because pink is just flat-out pretty).

pretty in pink.

pretty in pink.

A rosette cake uses a lot of icing, thus the finished product was a little on the heavy side. So, be extra careful when picking it up and make sure you pack it in a sturdy box.

heavy petals.

heavy petals.

All in all, this cake was a success – you really can’t go wrong with the red velvet/pink cream cheese frosting combo. It’s also one I really enjoyed making. It just goes to show you – when you do what you love, you love what you do (and other people love it too). I think Dr. Seuss said that. ;)

 
 

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The Adventures of (stuffed) Grumpy Cat.

Last weekend my fiance, our close friend, and I took a trip out to the local Barnes and Noble. While wandering around, we came across a stuffed Grumpy Cat. I’m kind of obsessed with the unhappy little ball of furry cuteness, so upon this discovery, my wonderful fiance snatched it up and bought it for me.

Best. Present. Ever.

Best. Present. Ever.

I promptly gave my new favorite possession a prime spot in the center of the bed.

Grumpy Cat says, "no napping during the day."

Grumpy Cat says, “no napping during the day.”

But that wasn’t enough. Grumpy Cat (stuffed) was not satisfied with merely remaining stationery on a pillow. And so the adventure began the next morning, when our morning coffee was interrupted.

Maybe coffee will make Grumpy Cat less grumpy.

Maybe coffee will make Grumpy Cat less grumpy.

The coffee didn’t help. Next, our taste in music was insulted. Man, he’s grumpy. (The stuffed version is a he, fyi).

"I refuse to listed to your crap-rock."

“I refuse to listen to your crap-rock.”

The next day our water heater broke. Ugh. But no one was more upset then Grumpy Cat (stuffed).

A cold shower makes Grumpy Cat extra grumpy.

A cold shower makes Grumpy Cat extra grumpy.

I thought maybe some exercise would help improve his mood. Heck, it always works for me! But, alas, it only made things worse.

This running thing is for the birds.

“This running thing is for the birds.”

Maybe all Grumpy Cat (stuffed) needed was a friend. Everyone needs a friend, right? Apparently not everyone.

"I hate you."

“I hate you.”

I was starting to give up. I decided to let Grumpy Cat (stuffed) explore on his own and maybe that would cheer him up. He didn’t get very far.

"This may be a cat door, but it's certainly NOT a Grumpy Cat door."

“This may be a cat door, but it’s certainly NOT a Grumpy Cat door.”

As a last resort, I gave him a book to read, to hopefully take his mind off of his grumpiness.

"I don't see what's so great about this Harry Potter fella anyway."

“I don’t see what’s so great about this Harry Potter fella anyway.”

I give up. I should have known you can’t change a cat. :P

 
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Posted by on May 24, 2014 in Indulgences, life

 

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Chocolate and Peanut Butter Cheerios Treats.

cheerio treats2

So the other day, a co-worker of mine said something along the lines of “Wouldn’t it be awesome to make Rice Krispies Treats with Chocolate and Peanut Butter Cheerios instead of Rice Krispies?” I responded with a resounding “YES!!” and then remembered I had a bag of marshmallows at home just waiting to be used. “I’ll make these tonight!” I declared. So when I got home, I made a beeline for the kitchen and started prepping ingredients. My fiance came home mid-prep, and wanted to go out for a run. So I left the butter in the saucepan (since it had to be melted anyway) and out we went. Upon our return, he noticed the chunk of butter in the pan on the stove, and gave me his classic raised eyebrow “what on earth are you doing now?” look. He was in for a very pleasant surprise.

I started with a box of Chocolate Cheerios and a box of Peanut Butter Cheerios (both of which are delicious on their own, but even better when combined). I mixed them with the marshmallow and melted butter and spread them out into the pan, let them cool, and brought them into work the next day. They were a raging success, and will be made again, I guarantee it.

Cheerios are the new Rice Krispies.

Cheerios are the new Rice Krispies.

We cut them into squares, and found them to be denser then the traditional Rice Krispies version, but the chocolate, peanut butter, and marshmallow combo was magically delicious, fo’ sho’.

Chocolate and Peanut Butter and Marshmallow, oh my.

Chocolate and Peanut Butter and Marshmallow, oh my.

The recipe is very simple. You just sub in Cheerios. But here’s the actual measurements I used, in case you want to give this quick and easy perfect-for-any-party treat a try on the fly.

Chocolate and Peanut Butter Cheerios Treats.

What you’ll need:

1 bag (10oz) large marshmallows

1/4 cup butter

4 cups Chocolate Cheerios

4 cups Peanut Butter Cheerios

What you’ll do:

In a medium saucepan, melt the butter. Over low heat, add the bag of marshmallows, and mix until smooth. In a large mixing bowl, combine the Cheerios. Pour the marshmallow mix over top, and stir until all the Cheerios are completely coated. Grease a 13×9 baking pan, and spread the mix into the pan. Let cool. Cut into squares. Eat!

 

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I’m a Real Runner Now! (I think).

This past Sunday, I ran the Broad Street Run for the 3rd time. Even though it’s one of the most crowded races I run (40,000 runners!), it’s still my favorite. I love running through the city of Philadelphia, seeing the street lined with cheering folks, from all walks of life, playing music, shouting out support, smiling, and waving. Plus it’s pretty freakin’ amazing to run through the very same city that I’m usually driving through, stuck in some kind of traffic, not looking at anything but the bumper inches in front of mine. The Broad Street Run provides an entirely new perspective. It gives new life to the city I’ve spent so much time with my head down in. Every building, every cross-street, every person becomes a wonderful site worth savoring as I wind my way with the crowd from the North end of the city to the South. The neighborhoods that are so vastly different, are joined seamlessly into one, but the endless stream of runners, and spectators. It’s kind of a spiritual experience, I suppose.

Anyway, this year, something was different. Not with the race, or the city or the crowd – something was different with me. For the first time, I felt like a real runner – a competitive runner. Someone who actually knew what they were doing, prepared accordingly, and actually ran kinda hard. There were 3 main reasons for this:

1. I dressed properly. In the past, I’ve worn clothes that I could run in, but I always had some weird thing going on – a shirt that made me too warm so I had to hold it, keys that I didn’t know what to do with, shorts that rubbed me the wrong way, etc. But this year, I finally had the outfit down. I had the right pouch to hold my keys, the right armband to hold my phone, and the right clothes to avoid being too hot, too cold or too chafed.

dressed for success with my partner in crime.

dressed for success with my partner in crime.

2. I wanted people to get out of my way. For the first time in any race I’ve ever run, I found myself getting annoyed when I came up behind someone who was slower than me. In the past, I felt relieved when this occurred, and slowed down to their pace, giving myself a break. Not this time. The last three miles in particular, I was determined to keep the pace I was running, and found myself dodging folks left and right, doing Indiana Jones-like sideways jumps between two runners with little space between them, hopping up onto the sidewalk, and muttering “c’mon!” under my breath. I’m becoming a monster.

3. I beat my previous time (by A LOT). My fiance always said that I could run faster, and as much as I hate to admit it, he was right. Not only did I crush my previous time, I felt FINE. I was in no pain that day, no pain the next day, and I could even run again. In the past, it took a good few days before I even considered running again after running a race longer than a 10k. But not this time. I could have run again that same day. But I’m not that insane (yet).

What does all this mean? Well for starters, all that running over the past 4 years has really paid off. And all that thinking that I couldn’t run any faster – that was a load of mental crap. Anything really is possible, once you decide that it is. I just hope this doesn’t mean it’s time to sign up for a full marathon. Yikes.

 

 
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Posted by on May 6, 2014 in Indulgences, life, running

 

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