90 Years of Cake.

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This past weekend, I attended a birthday party for my Aunt, who is turning 90 (how awesome is that???). I was tasked with baking her a cake. As you know, I love baking cakes, so I was thrilled to get a chance to do it. At the same time, I was a little nervous. Here was a woman who in her prime was an amazing baker herself (she’s the one that gave me all the baking pans, including the infamous Lamb Pan), and she has had 89 other cakes to compare this one to. I had two pieces of knowledge that could give me an edge over at least some of the previous cakes – I knew she loved chocolate, and that her favorite color was purple. So, I went with that, and here’s what happened.

90th cake

Because the cake was for a party, it was kind of big (a half sheet cake). We had to clear out the entire bottom row of our fridge to make a space for it!

that's one big cake.

that’s one big cake.

I did have a lot of fun making all the flowers though. First, I mixed the icing until I came up with the perfect shade of purple.

and it was all...purple.

and it was all…purple.

Then, I started piping flowers. As I went along, I mixed in some plain white, so they wound up being varying shades.

shady.

shady.

My aunt loved it. I really don’t know how it stood against the 89 other cakes, but really, that doesn’t matter. She loved this one, and she was happy on that day. And that’s really what life’s all about, whether you’re 90, or 38. 🙂

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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.

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.

 

 

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. :).

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. 🙂

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. 😉

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….

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. 😉

 

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. 😉

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.