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.

DSC_0345

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:

DSC_0313

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.

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!

Cheers to Wine Cake.

wine cake4

I have this friend who I’ve got this little tradition with. For the past two years, at the beginning of the year ,we’ve each gotten the same book – one of those “365 Days of Something or Other” type books, and we’ve each independently read the passage for each day, and then texted each other with our thoughts. It’s a fun little way to stay connected, and we decided to continue it this year. The book of choice for 2014 is called “One Good Deed: 365 Days of Trying to Be Just a Little Bit Better” by Erin McHugh. The book doesn’t actually start on January 1 like the others did, so we just flipped to the first, and started there anyway. Why am I telling you this? Well, about a week ago, one of the daily passages involved a cake. A “Wine Cake,” to be exact. And it even included the recipe. It sounded easy and tasty, so I thought I’d try making it and see for myself.

After making the decision and prepping the kitchen, I realized I was missing one of the ingredients – a box of instant vanilla pudding. I only had chocolate, and a lot of it for some reason. It was snowing, and I wasn’t about to leave my house for one box of pudding….so, you guessed it, I threw in the chocolate instead.

improv baking takes the cake.

improv baking takes the cake.

It looked good – really good. But then another obstacle was thrown in my path – there was no recipe for appropriate frosting included with this cake. I thought that some kind of wine-based buttercream might work out well, so I did what any good baker would do — googled “white wine frosting.” I got nothing. Well, I got SOME things, but nothing that really seemed to be what I envisioned. So, I did the next thing any good baker would do — made up my own White Wine Buttercream recipe.

a little wine with your frosting.

a little wine with your frosting.

I frosted the cake, and decided it needed just a little something – some pizzazz or “flair”, if you will. So I made it sparkle (with sugar crystals).

look at me, i'm sparkling.

look at me, i’m sparkling.

I put it aside, while my boyfriend and I made pizza (again), and after we ate as much pizza as all the kids at an 8-year-old’s birthday party combined, we decided it was cake time. It was so moist – and although you got a soft hint of white wine, it was by no means overpowering. And the chocolate pudding – yeah, that made all the difference (in a good way). So, since I found the recipe in my reading, I’ll share my modified recipe for Wine Cake now with you, and even throw in my made-up frosting recipe. Cheers to that. 🙂

White Wine Cake.

What you’ll need:

1 package yellow cake mix

1 package instant chocolate pudding

1 tsp nutmeg

4 eggs

3 tbsp butter (softened)

½ cup canola oil

1 cup white cooking wine

¼ cup hot water

What you’ll do:

Preheat the oven to 350. In a large bowl, whisk together the cake mix, pudding, and nutmeg. In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs, and add them to the dry ingredients. Add the butter, oil, wine, and and water, and mix by hand or with a mixer until well blended.  Grease two 8” round pans, and divide the batter evenly among the pans. Bake for 25-30, or until the top springs back and the cake pulls away from the sides of the pan.

 

White Wine Buttercream.

What you’ll need:

8 oz butter

4 oz shortening

1lb 4 oz  confectioner’s sugar

¼ cup white cooking wine

1 tsp nutmeg

What you’ll do:

Cream together the butter and shortening. Add the confectioner’s sugar, wine and nutmeg, and mix until smooth and consistent.

 

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.

 

Recipe: Almond Butter Cupcakes with Almond Butter Buttercream.

almond butter cupcake

I am a super huge peanut butter fanatic. However, there is one thing better than peanut butter – almond butter. If you have never had almond butter, I suggest you run out right now and get yourself some (unless you’re allergic to nuts – then DO NOT DO THAT). But if you like peanut butter, and you like almonds, then you’ll love almond butter. And what’s the one thing that’s even better than almond butter? Dessert made with almond butter, of course!

I had purchased a jar of it recently, and was sitting around daydreaming about what to bake next, when images of said jar floated into my mind…and I decided to try baking almond butter cupcakes with almond butter buttercream. I started with a recipe for a regular cake made with brown sugar, and carefully adjusted the ingredients based on the addition of the almond butter. The batter looked (and tasted) pretty fab. So far, so good.

almond butter makes batter better.

almond butter makes batter better.

I baked the cupcakes, and while I waited for them to cool, I made almond butter buttercream to top them. If you’re gonna do it, you might as well go all out.

cooling time.

cooling time.

I just did a simple spiral top with a large round tip. They looked like so:

all almond, all the time.

all almond, all the time.

Because it was right before Halloween, I even used orange and black baking cups. I put them in a box, and sent them out into the world to be enjoyed (but kept three for myself and my boyfriend as he LOVES almonds even more than I).

what's in the box?!

what’s in the box?!

People went nuts over them. (See what I did there?). Anyway, here’s the recipe…Enjoy!

Almond Butter Cupcakes.

What you’ll need:

1/2 cup dark brown sugar

1 egg

1 tablespoon canola oil

1 teaspoon almond extract

1 tablespoon baking powder

1 cup flour

1/2 cup fat free milk

1/4 cup almond butter

What you’ll do:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, beat the sugar, egg, oil, and almond extract. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour and baking powder, and add to the first bowl, along with the milk, and beat together until just combined. Add the almond butter, and beat until smooth. Line a muffin tin with paper liners, and fill each about halfway. Bake for 15-18 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Makes about a dozen cupcakes.

Almond Butter Buttercream.

What you’ll need:

1/2 cup butter, softened

2/3 cup almond butter

2 cups confectioners sugar

1 teaspoon almond extract

4 tablespoons heavy cream

What you’ll do:

In a large bowl, cream together the butter and almond butter. Add the almond extract, and the sugar – one cup at a time, beating well between each cup. Add the heavy cream, one tablespoon at a time – you may want to add more or less than 4 tablespoons, depending on your desired consistency. I found 4 to be perfect.

Recipe: Madeira Cake with Lemon Whipped Cream.

madeira42

Up until last week, I had no idea what a Madeira Cake even was. I was going through some old magazines, and happened to stumble across the recipe for it in an issue of Cake Craft and Decoration from February of 2012. If you are unfamiliar with this magazine, it’s based out of the UK, and as such the recipes are geared more towards someone doing their baking there. However, this recipe sounded pretty good, and after reading about what a Madeira Cake actually was (a dense sponge cake – close to a pound cake in consistency, usually eaten with tea or sometimes for breakfast), I decided this would be my next project. Truth be told, I think what really excited me was the fact that it called for caster sugar, and I had specifically purchased a bag when I was last in the UK just so I could experiment with it, and finally here was my big chance.

the travelling bag of sugar.

the travelling bag of sugar.

The recipe also called for either margarine or butter, stating that butter gives a better flavor but margarine gives more rise, so a combination of the two would be best.. Because I harbor a vehement hatred for margarine, I had none in the house. I did, however have shortening, so I decided I’d try a butter/shortening combo instead. The recipe also stated that the classic Madeira cake has two to three thin slices of citron peel on top. I really just didn’t want to decorate it that way, so I opted for sifted confectioners sugar.

sifted sugar coat.

sifted sugar coat.

Additionally, I whipped up a batch of lemon whipped cream, and served each slice with a generous dollop on top.

dessert is served.

breakfast dessert is served.

Keeping with the tradition, I just had a slice for breakfast, although I drink coffee, not tea. But either way, cake for breakfast is never a bad thing. Don’t knock it until you try it, my friends. 🙂

Just one last quick note before I get into the recipe – this cake DOES NOT bake at 350. DON”T EVEN THINK ABOUT IT. It bakes much lower, for much longer. Don’t rush it. It will be worth it, I promise. Good things are always worth the wait.

Madeira Cake (adopted from Cake Craft Magazine).

What you’ll need:

8 oz caster sugar

4 oz butter

4 oz shortening

4 eggs

12 oz flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

What you’ll do:

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. In a large bowl, cream together the sugar, butter, and shortening until fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour and baking powder. Mix in the dry ingredients, one third at a time. Do not over mix – once everything is combined, stop mixing, and pour the entire thing into a well-greased 8″ pan. Bake for 1 hour and 25 minutes.

Once cooled, sift confectioners sugar on top. Serve as is, or with the topping of your choice -. lemon whipped cream works really well.

 

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.

A Double Shot of Lemon (with whipped cream).

This past weekend, I was having company over, and I realized I didn’t have much time to make dessert. Knowing that my reputation was at stake, I had to come up with something unique, delicious….and quick.

I had just recently made a batch of lemon whipped cream (to use as a topping for a cocktail – which is another post unto itself), and I had a lot of it leftover. Great – I had the topping, but now what do I put it on? I could make another Key Lime Pie… I had all the ingredients for it still on-hand…but I wanted something else. Something light and lovely. Lemon Sponge Cake. In cupcake form. Genius.

all lemon, all the time.

all lemon, all the time.

Now ultimately, I would have loved to dust the top with the zest of a real lemon, however I only had fresh limes. So in keeping with the them, I decided to use the next best thing – yellow sanding sugar.

just like lemon.

just like lemon.

Anyway, I have to say, the lemon whipped cream was really the superstar of this dessert. So, here’s the recipe – it’s the perfect addition to summer cakes and cocktails alike – it goes wonderfully atop an orange soda spiked with whipped cream vodka, in case you were wondering. 🙂

Lemon Whipped Cream.

What you need:

8 oz heavy cream (chilled)

1.25 oz confectioner’s sugar

1/2 tsp lemon extract

What you’ll do:

First of all, put the mixing bowl you are going to use in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes. Cream whips better in a cold bowl. Using the whip attachment, whip the cream until it forms soft peaks. Add the sugar and the lemon extract, and whip until stiff peaks are formed. Do NOT over-whip, or you’ll wind up with lemon butter. Which might actually not be that bad, but you certainly can’t top cupcakes with it.

Recipe: Cinnamon Banana Maple Cupcakes.

“I even picked all of the chocolate chips off of the paper after I finished the cupcake. There may have been a bit of paper stuck to some of them. Oh well!” 

That’s the sign of a good cupcake – if you’re willing to risk eating the paper. And these cupcakes apparently were paper-eating-worthy.

maple cupcake open

worth the risk.

I made them because a friend suggested it – she wanted a banana maple cake, and thought I could make a pretty good one. I was flattered, and of course, accepted the challenge with open arms (and oven).

“The cupcake was piquant, thanks.”  

No, thank YOU for eating. There was other feedback  along these lines, but most with some unsuitable for posting expletives used to stress the deliciousness experienced….

pretty and piquant.

pretty and piquant.

I modified an existing coffee cake recipe of mine, including the addition of maple syrup and a packet of banana flavored oatmeal. I substituted the eggs with white vinegar (my new favorite baking trick) and topped it with a maple buttercream, based on my Signature Buttercream, but, like the cake, with the addition of maple syrup.

“The icing is amazzzzzzzzzing.”

I guess it worked. 🙂

fabulously frosted.

fabulously frosted.

Anyway, because they were such a hit with the masses, I’m going to share the recipe with you now, so you, too, can win friends and influence people with delectable desserts and captivating cupcakes.

“These are really friggin’ good.”

Heck yeah, they are. Now go wash my car and fold my laundry, and maybe you can have another… 😉

two for the road.

two for the road.

Of course I’m kidding. But I’m not kidding about how good they are – see for yourself!

Cinnamon Banana Maple Cupcakes.

What you’ll need:

1/2 cup brown sugar

2 tblsp white vinegar

3 tsp canola oil

1 cup flour

3 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

1 packet banana oatmeal

1/2 cup half and half

1/4 cup maple syrup

1 cup cinnamon chips

What You’ll Do:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a large mixing bowl, combine the brown sugar, white vinegar, and canola oil. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt and oatmeal, and add to the sugar/vinegar/oil. Mix until just combined, and add the milk and maple syrup. Mix well. Fold in the cinnamon chips. Line a cupcake tin with paper liners, and fill each about halfway. Bake for 15-18 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Makes about a dozen cupcakes.

 Maple Buttercream Frosting. (*this recipe is measured all in weight,except for the maple syrup)

What you’ll need:

8 oz butter (softened)

4 oz shortening

1 lb 4 oz confectioners sugar

1/4 cup maple syrup

What you’ll do:

Cream together the butter, shortening, and sugar. Add maple syrup. If you’d like a thinner frosting, add water, a very little bit at a time until desired consistency is reached.