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Category Archives: holidays

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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The Lamb Cake Gets a Makeover.

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Easter was over a week ago. I know. I’m a little behind…again. But seriously, this time I have a legitimate excuse – I have a wedding to plan! And although I’m writing a week late, I did actually make the Lamb Cake for Easter, I just haven’t had a chance to tell the world about it yet. This is the 4th year of the Lamb Cake; the 4th year since my Aunt Cetta gave me the lamb-shaped pan, and I decided to make it my job henceforth to bake the traditional Easter Lamb Cake every year going forward.

the pan where it all started.

the pan where it all started.

Over the years, the Lamb Cake has evolved, Year 1, I was just learning how to make this thing happen. Year 2, I played around a little and made some adjustments, Year 3, I had a near disaster, but managed to save the Lamb and maintain good form. This year, I was tired of the same old Lamb. I wanted something a little different. Plus it was also my fiance’s (I’m still getting used to saying that) birthday, so I wanted to make the Lamb out of things that he would like. He’d been asking me to make him a red velvet cake for a while now, so, I seized the opportunity to make the inside of the Lamb red velvet. Why didn’t I think of this before! Anyway, with red velvet insides, I needed something that worked on the outside. Instead of piping the Lamb with swirls of buttercream, I flat-iced it with a thin layer of my signature buttercream , then coated it with coconut flakes.

flakey.

flakey.

The coconut complimented the red velvet innards quite nicely, if I do say so. I put the Lamb in a box, and we carted it off to my parents’ house for Easter dinner. When it was time for dessert, I added a little something extra, to make it a little more birthday cake-like.

birthday lamb.

now it’s a party.

We devoured it as usual, until only the head remained (I will not subject you to the gruesome photographic evidence).

Until next year….

 
 

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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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Home Grown Irish Potatoes.

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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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Cookies and Cream (Cheese) Truffles.

oreo bites3

Yeah, I know – it’s been well over a month since I’ve posted anything…and it’s not like I haven’t been baking. If anything, I’ve been baking more than I have in a long time, what with the holidays and stuff. I just haven’t been writing about it. So, today, I just felt like writing again. So here I am.

I figured I’d ease my way back into blogging with a super easy and super delicious little treat that a friend mentioned to me in passing last month, saying that I should make it as one of my Christmas cookies this year, because it makes a lot of them and it’s easy and everybody loves them. Well, she was right about all of that.

Basically, you take a whole package of Oreos (or faux-reos, which is what I used because they taste the same and in some cases, even better), crumble them all up in a food processor, mix them with one package of cream cheese (but put a small amount of the crumbles aside for sprinkling on top later), and roll them into walnut-sized balls. Refrigerate them for a few hours. When they’re good and cold, take them out, and dip them into melted chocolate, I used unsweetened bakers chocolate. Some people may tell you to use semi-sweet – that’s your call. But truth be told, unsweetened was all I had in the house, so I had to use it. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little concerned with how this was gonna play out. Anyway, as soon you dip them, sprinkle some of the crushed cookie bits on top, and let them sit for at least another hour.

oreo truffle shuffle.

oreo truffle shuffle.

So, after I let mine sit, I figured I’d better eat one. I was pleasantly surprised – the unsweetened chocolate actually complimented the sweetness of the cookie/cream cheese ball quite well. But I was still concerned. Maybe I just don’t like things as sweet as everyone else? I had so many of them though, I couldn’t just not share them. So I started slipping them into to cookie gift boxes and trays, and you know what happened next? Not only did everyone like them, but each time I gave someone a cookie assortment, they specifically asked me what that one was, and said how fabulous it was. Go figure.

I guess it’s true – what you have really is all you need – especially when it’s unsweetened chocolate.

 

 

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Pumpkin Rosemary Pie, 2.0

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Last year, I wanted to try something a little different for Thanksgiving, so I crafted a recipe for Pumpkin Rosemary Pie. It turned out quite good, so I thought I’d made it a tradition, and bake it again this year. However, this time, I made two small changes:

1. I used 2% milk

2. I made an entirely different kind of crust.

The first one was basically because I thought a milk with more fat would just give the pie a little boost, texturally speaking, which it did. As for the second, well about mid-year, I found a recipe for a cornbread crust in this book that I just loved and have been using as much as I possibly can ever since. I thought this pie would be the perfect opportunity.

pie crust perfection.

pie crust perfection.

I topped it with a homemade cinnamon whipped cream (which was enthusiastically taste-tested by my boyfriend, who’s always willing to help out in these situations). Once we were sure it passed the test (it took multiple tastes – we just HAD to be sure it was good), I piped it on the pie, packed the whole thing up, and brought it to Thanksgiving dinner at my parents’ house, where it was devoured by all.

just before the carnage.

just before the carnage.

Stayed tuned ’til next year, for the release of version 3.0!

 
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Posted by on December 3, 2013 in holidays, Indulgences, pies, recipes

 

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Recipe: Pumpkin Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies.

pumpkin cookies

I hate when things go to waste. I had this partial can of pumpkin leftover from the pumpkin fudge I just made, and I really wanted to put it to good use. But I couldn’t figure out what I wanted to use it for. I wanted to make cookies, so I started looking up pumpkin cookie recipes, but nothing really tickled my fancy. So, I decided to make up my own pumpkin cookie recipe. I started with my chocolate chip cookie recipe. I added oatmeal and pumpkin.

orange you glad i added pumpkin to the batter?

orange you glad i added pumpkin to the batter?

I also used mini chocolate chips instead of the regular sized ones. I’d like to say this was a conscious decision, but in reality, the mini chips were all I had in the house, and I didn’t feel like running out last minute and picking up a bag of the bigger ones. Thankfully, it seemed to all turn out ok.

mini chips to the rescue.

mini chips to the rescue.

They turned out soft, chewy, and not at all flat. So, the experiment was a success, and the leftover pumpkin definitely did not go to waste. All is right in the kitchen. :)

happiness is a pumpkin cookie.

happiness is a pumpkin cookie.

Pumpkin Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies.

What you’ll need:

5 oz.   shortening

8 oz.   sugar

.25 oz.  salt

3 oz. (about 2)  eggs

.25 oz.  vanilla

12 oz.  flour

.25 oz.  baking soda

1 cup canned pumpkin

1 cup cinnamon flavored oatmeal (about 2 of the pouches)

6 oz. mini chocolate chips

What you’ll do:

Preheat the oven to 375. In a large bowl, cream together the shortening, sugar, and salt. Add the eggs and the vanilla, and beat until smooth. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour and baking soda, and slowly add it to the wet ingredients. Add the pumpkin and the oatmeal, and mix well. Fold in the mini chips. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, and scoop dough into rounded tablespoon sized balls, at least an inch apart onto the sheet. Bake for 8-9 minutes, or until edges start to brown.

 

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Oh, (Pumpkin) Fudge.

pumpkin fudge

I mean this both literally, and figuratively.

I made fudge the other day – pumpkin fudge, to be specific. I was excited – I found the recipe on allrecipes.com, and it sounded amazing and looked pretty easy, especially with my pastry school background. Well, one can never be too confident.

As I moved through the stages of the recipe, things seemed to be going fine – although each step took forever – I wondered if maybe I was doing something wrong – but I came to learn later that was actually the one thing I was doing right. The mixture finally reached 232 degrees, and I stirred in the spices. And here, is where I dropped the hubcap full of lug nuts –  instead of patiently waiting for the mixture to cool on its own to 110 (which seemed to be taking an ETERNITY, especially after already having waited and waited and waited for it to finally become hot enough), I decided to place the bowl over an ice bath. BIG MISTAKE. It sure did speed up the cooling process, but it made the end result more like pumpkin caramel than fudge.

soft and chewy pumpkin... caramel?

soft and chewy pumpkin… caramel?

So, in the end, it wasn’t quite what I had in mind. At the same time, it was still pretty good – good enough where I’d intentionally do this again to yield the same result. It tasted like concentrated pumpkin pie squares.

pumpkin pie bites.

pumpkin pie bites.

And seriously, who doesn’t love pumpkin pie? I’ll just have to keep the fact that it was supposed to be fudge a secret. ;)

 
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Posted by on October 16, 2013 in candy, confections, holidays, Indulgences

 

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Ye Olde Beer and Cake.

So, I have this thing with combining baking and alcoholic beverages. For a while, I was into making cupcakes that represented various cocktails, such as the mojito, or the piña colada. When I discovered an old prohibition-era recipe for bourbon cookies, I got into making said cookies with other hard liquors (see Honey Whiskey Balls). But now I have a brand new idea, that actually stemmed from a pretty old one. I decided that I was going to make chocolate beer cupcakes this weekend for a Memorial Day Party I was attending. I made similar cupcakes once before, but this time I used a different beer (Harpoon Chocolate Stout) and my standard chocolate cake recipe.

the not-so-secret ingredient.

the not-so-secret ingredient.

The cupcakes turned out great – just as I had envisioned. The beer toned down the sweetness, and the cream cheese glaze icing gave it that little something fabulous. Together, they made the perfect combination.

beer + cake = tlf.

beer + cake = tlf.

However, this is merely the beginning. The success of these cupcakes spawned a discussion – it would appear that beer and cake seem to go together. They’re like, MFEO. And at that moment, I realized what I needed to do: open up a tavern/bakery that features the pairing of the two. And I shall call it: Ye Olde Beer and Cake.

let them eat cake (and drink beer).

let them eat cake (and drink beer).

Now this tavern/bakery (tavernakery?) would specialize in selecting beers and cakes that are the perfect match – flavors and styles that go together like bread and butter.  It’d be like…heaven.

heaven is a cake on earth.

heaven is a cake on earth.

So anyway, there you have it. Keep an eye out for Ye Olde Beer and Cake, coming soon to a town near you. And just think, you can say you knew me when…

 
 

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Featured Fan Favorite: Carrot Cake Lamb.

A while back, I had been doing this Featured Fan Favorite thing – where someone finds a recipe on the blog that strikes their fancy, makes it themselves, and tells me all about it – including a picture of their results, Well, I’m happy to say that the Featured Fan Favorite has returned, and what better way to bring it back than with a reader’s very own Lamb Cake!

Juli Eberts created her Easter Carrot Cake Lamb based on the recipe from the blog!

it's b-ewe-tiful!

it’s b-ewe-tiful!

I especially love how she did the face – I may have to try it that way next year! Juli says, “The kids named him Sammy the Lambie and everyone loved the cake!  Thanks for the great recipe!”  (Sammy the Lambie!! I wish I’d thought of that!)

Thank you, Juli, for sharing your fabulous cake and for following Small Indulgences! xoxoI

I bet you’re now asking yourself, “How can I be the next Featured Fan Favorite? Why, it’s simple! Pick a recipe – any recipe from the blog, create it, and tell me all about it in an email to  – smallindulgencesbakery [at] gmail [dot] com. Don’t forget to include a photo! There’s nothing I love more than sharing the work of fans! (except maybe eating the work of fans.) ;)

 

 

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