Sweet and Cheesy.

So for three years now, I’ve hosted an annual Christmas Party, affectionately known as the B.Y.O.Ch. (pronounced “bee-yoch”) which stands for “Bring Your Own Cheese.” Needless to say, there is a lot of cheese there, from mild, to spicy, to downright smelly.

a plethora of cheese.

a plethora of cheese.

The thing is, cheese is not usually all that sweet. So in addition to cheese itself, the door is open to any cheese-related dish. For me, that means desserts, of course. In the past I’ve made cheesecake, but this year I went with an assortment of cheesy cookies.

There were Cottage Cheese Cookies…

chocolate and cheese.

chocolate and cheese.

….Cream Cheese Cookies…

creamy and dreamy.

creamy and dreamy.

…and Breakfast Cookies (made with shredded cheddar cheese).

breakfast for dessert.

breakfast for dessert.

To top it off, I mixed in these little guys, made from marzipan.

marzipan mice army.

marzipan mice army.

As usual, there was so much leftover, that I have more cheese in my fridge right now than one person should in their entire life. Don’t worry though – it definitely won’t go to waste. ūüėČ

Return of the Lamb Cake.

Right before Easter last year, my Aunt gave me a bunch of baking pans, including a stainless steel “lamb pan.” I went on to discover that the lamb-shaped cake¬†produced by this unique piece of bakeware is actually an Easter tradition, one which my¬†Aunt embraced many years ago. So, last year, I decided that this tradition should experience a revival. And thus, I made my very first Lamb Cake, for Easter 2011.

where the magic happens.

So, being that the definition of “tradition” is an inherited, established, or customary pattern of thought, action, or behavior, i had to make the lamb cake again this year. And make the lamb cake, I did.

Lamb Cake 2: the sequel.

Personally, I think this year’s lamb cake turned out just a tad better than last year’s. I used the same carrot cake recipe (this one, doubled and minus the cinnamon chips), and the same cream cheese icing (however I’ve tweaked that recipe over the year so it’s a little better than last year’s). I decorated the body¬†using the same star tip, and lined the bottom with jelly beans. I used a small jelly bean for the nose this year (last year I piped it), and this year I piped the blue eyes (last year I used mini M&Ms). But the biggest difference is that this year, I gave him a tail.

a tail of two lamb cakes.

For the tail, I used this stuff called, I kid you not, Fluffy Stuff. It was similar to cotton candy. It was perfect.

Anyway, for the second year in a row, the lamb cake was the belle of the Easter ball. The tradition has now officially been revived. Thank ewe.

Recipe Tuesday Afternoon (Delight): Cinnamon Chip Carrot Cake.

Full disclosure: I’m really proud of my carrot cake. It’s a recipe I created myself, and is pretty close to perfection, if I do say so myself. More than one person has gone as far as dubbing it “the best carrot cake they’ve ever had in their life.” That’s no small feat, as there are probably hundreds of different carrot cakes out there. What makes mine so special, you might ask? Well, it uses real carrots for starters. It also doesn’t have nuts in it. Instead of nuts, I use Hershey’s Cinnamon Chips. I believe these chips were a gift to us from the gods – I can’t resist eating them right out of the bag. I think I may have even eaten¬†a whole bag once. But that’s all in the past. The chips provide the crunch factor like a nut would, without the allergies, and with the addition of melt-in-your-mouth cinnamon-y goodness. Top with cream cheese icing (recipe posted here), and add a border of more chips around the base.¬† This cake is guaranteed to make you the most popular kid in school (or in the office – it worked for me). By the way, this cake is small – it’s a 6 incher – the perfect Small Indulgence. ūüôā

Cinnamon Chip Carrot Cake.

What you’ll need:

2 eggs

1 1/4 cups flour

1 cup sugar

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp baking soda

3/4 cups canola oil

2 oz carrots (peeled and finely chopped)

1/4 cups Cinnamon Chips (plus extra for decorating)

What you’ll do:

Preheat the oven to 350¬į F.¬† In a large mixing bowl, beat the eggs until well combined. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour sugar, salt, cinnamon and baking soda. Pour them into the eggs and continue mixing on low speed. Add the oil and carrots and mix well. Fold in the cinnamon chips.¬† Grease two 6″ rounds, and divide the batter equally between them. Bake for 22 ‚Äď 25 minutes. ¬†Cool¬† completely on a wire rack before frosting. Share and enjoy with friends. ūüôā

Recipe Sunday: Valentine’s Day Petits Fours (Part 1).

Rather than upset myself by staying up extra late to complete a project that would turn out much better if I exercised a little patience and spread it out over two days, I’ve decided to break this Recipe Sunday into two parts. Tonight, is the prep. Also, this is a little different from¬†previous Recipe Sundays. It does include recipes, however, it’s more of a project tutorial, rather than a lesson in baking. I’m not going to provide a recipe for the cake itself, mainly because these can be made with any flavor of cake you choose, but I recommend something basic – vanilla, chocolate, red velvet…something that blends well with others. There are three other components as well:

Strawberry Jam (Recipe previously posted here)

Cream Cheese Icing (Recipe included below)

Poured Fondant (Recipe included in Part 2)

And away we go….

Valentine’s Day Petits Fours (Part 1).

First, make your cake of choice. Bake it in a¬†well-greased half sheet tray – you wont have to cut the layers in half mulitple times if you do it this way.¬†Next,¬†prepare your….

Cream Cheese Icing.

What you’ll need:

1 8oz package cream cheese (softened)

1 stick (1/2 cup) butter (softened)

4 cups confectioners sugar

1 tsp vanilla

What you’ll do:

Cream together the cream cheese, butter, and vanilla. Add the confectioners sugar one cup at a time, mixing well between each addition.

Next, prepare your Strawberry Jam. Let it cool completely.

While that’s cooling, you can prep your cake. Cut cake into small squares, about an 1″ in size.

hip to be square.

Cut the squares in half, lining up the tops and bottoms.

divide and conquer.

Drop a small amount of strawberry jam on each “bottom.”

Radar about to be “jammed.”

Pipe some cream cheese icing on top of the jam.

top that.

Put the corresponding tops back on, cover the entire sheet with plastic wrap, and put them in the fridge.

put it back on!

Go to bed.

To be continued…..

Recipe Monday Night: Coffee Cake Cupcakes.

Whoops, I did it again.

I totally missed Recipe Sunday. In the midst of all the Pixie Cake commotion and promotion, I completely forgot about the importance of sharing. It’s never too late to share, though, so, a full 24 hours later, I give you Recipe Sunday/Monday Night’s feature: Coffee Cake Cupcakes.

These cupcakes are one of my signature creations: a coffee cake base, topped with cream cheese frosting, and sprinkled with streusel. And who doesn’t love streusel?

a little streusel goes a long way.

Coffee Cake Cupcakes.

What you’ll need:

1/2 cup light brown sugar

1 egg

3 tsp oil

3 tsp baking powder

1 cup AP flour

1 tsp cinnamon

1/2 cup milk

What you’ll do:

Preheat oven to 350¬į F.¬† Mix sugar, egg, and oil. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and cinnamon. Add to egg mixture alternately with milk. Line a muffin tin with paper liners, and fill each about 1/2 way. Bake for 15-18 minutes. Makes about 18 cupcakes.

Cream Cheese Frosting.

What you’ll need:

2 8-ounce packages cream cheese (room temp)

1/2 cup butter (softened)

2 cups sifted confectioners sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

What you’ll do:

In a medium bowl, cream together the cream cheese and butter until creamy. Mix in the vanilla. Stir in confectioners sugar, one cup at a time, mixing well between each.

Streusel Topping:

What you’ll need:

1/2 cup AP flour

1/2 cup light brown sugar

1/4 cup butter (softened)

What you’ll do:

In a small bowl, combine the flour, brown sugar, and butter, mixing until crumbly. Line a sheet tray with parchment paper, and spread crumbs out across tray. Bake for 5 minutes at 350,¬†then check for crispiness – I don’t like mine too crispy so I don’t let it go much longer than this, however it’s a matter of preference. Let cool, and sprinkle on top of iced cupcakes.

Recipe Sunday: Cream Cheese Cookies.

I’m actually posting this recipe for two reasons: 1. it’s Christmas which means it’s time to bake cookies, and 2. people have actually asked me for this particular recipe.¬† The recipe came from my mom’s recipe box – it was hand-written by her, who knows how long ago, and therefore I had to hand-copy it with those archaic objects known as pen and paper. I wanted to make these in particular, as every Christmas I host a B.Y.O.Ch. (Bring Your Own Cheese) Party, and I try to keep the desserts in line with the theme. So, my mom mentioned she had this old recipe for Cream Cheese Cookies, and I said, “yes, please!”

The recipe itself is rather easy – good things don’t always have to be complicated. And the results are like little puffs of cakey cream cheese euphoria. So, add this one to your Christmas cookie baking repertoire this year – it’s simply delightful, and came from an old-school hand-written recipe card, which makes it all the more charming. ūüôā

cream cheese dream.

Cream Cheese Cookies.

What you’ll need:

1/4 cup butter (room temperature)

1 package (8 oz) cream cheese (room temperature)

1 egg

1/4 tsp vanilla

1 package white cake mix

What you’ll do:

Preheat oven to 375¬įF. Cream together butter and cream cheese until smooth and well-blended. Add egg and vanilla, and mix well. Add cake mix, 1/3 at a time, mixing completely between each addition. Cover the dough and chill for at least 30 minutes (I like to chill mine overnight). Drop into rounded spoonfuls (a mini ice cream scooper works great) onto an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for 8-10 minutes, or until they are slightly brown around the edges.

Told ya it was easy. ūüôā

A fine line between love and cheesecake.

So it’s no secret that cheesecake is fattening. It’s also no secret that cheese makes everything better, including dessert. Cake is great as it is, but make it with cheese…..yeah baby, that’s right, we’re talking cheesecake: the dessert you love to hate.

So, what’s a health-conscious dessert-loving girl to do?? Why, make them mini, of course.

many mini cheesecakes.

Not only does this cut down on the calories (without cutting down on the lusciousness), it also cuts down on the cooking time (big cheesecakes take so long to bake (often over an hour!). But these delightful little devils bake in 30 minutes (or less!). Plus, you can make many flavors, and bake them all at the same time, like we did in class.

We had a NY Style Cheesecake, which was pumpkin:

complete with autumn accoutrements.

A French style, which was coffee:

let them drink cheesecake.

And an Italian bad-boy, which was citrus:

delizioso!

What’s the difference between¬†NY, French, and Italian Cheesecake, you might ask? The cheese, of course! NY is made with cream cheese, French is made with Mascarpone¬†cheese, and Italian is made with Ricotta. At least, that’s how we made them – and they were all wonderfully cheese-alicious. Like I said, cheese makes everything better. Maybe, just maybe, I’ll even post one of the recipes for this coming Recipe Sunday….

Don’t hate me because i’m¬†dessert-iful.

everything’s coming up streusel.

Yum, Everything’s better with streusel. I think it’s been confined to topping only coffee cakes and muffins for too long. What wouldn’t be made better by having a crumb topping of butter, flour, and white sugar? These cinnamon cupcakes I made recently sure were:

streusel my cupcake.

But these are still on the traditional side, as far as streusel goes. You could have streusel on your pudding, streusel on your cereal, even streusel on your chicken (I’d totally eat that). Or how about streusel-covered fruit! Once, I even made stand-alone streusel. I was going to use it¬†for cupcakes, but I had planned on putting it on top of the icing, as opposed to baking it right on top of the cake, like so:

top that.

This particular cupcake was my very own creation – coffee cake cupcake, with cream cheese icing, topped with streusel. And yes, they were the tops. What I discovered while making these guys, was that streusel was super yummy even by itself.¬†I couldn’t stop eating it. It was TOO good. Maybe that’s why you don’t see streusel for sale as a snack food. Although, I’d love to sprinkle some streusel on my ice cream…hmmm…snack-sized streusel..I think I might be on to something.¬†ūüėČ

i bake for no one.

Sometimes, I just HAVE to bake something, with no real plan for the finished product or where it might end up. When the urge hits me, I have to act on it – I’ve tried to ignore it in the past, but it doesn’t do any good. It just grows and itches like a bug bite on the one spot of your back you can’t reach. Like drinking alone, baking for no one is the sign of a true addict.

i'm the Johnny Cash of the baking world.

Interestingly enough, I feel that some of my best work has come out of these baking for no one binges. Yesterday, as you may have read, I baked a Blueberry Buckle¬†for the first time. This cake had no predetermined use – however it¬†found a lovely home in the bellies of many happy co-workers and had completely vanished by day’s end.

chase away those blues.

Another impressive result of event-less baking was Eggnog Pie.¬† I found a recipe, really wanted to try it, and figured I’d find a good home for the pie, and sure enough, half¬†went to an actual event that popped up, and the other half…work again. My co-workers love me (or is it¬†“hate” me -there’s a¬†fine line between the two).

free to a good home.

Third and foremost, may very well be the best thing I ever baked. That’s a¬†bold statement, I know, but it’s almost a year later, and I’m still constantly getting requests for these handsome delectable¬†little devils.¬† It was on a whim that I threw these together. I wanted to make a coffee cake with a new recipe I found, and really just didn’t feel like making a giant cake and having it sit around. Plus, I wanted something with icing. So, I turned it into Coffee Cake Cupcakes, and put a layer of cream cheese icing between the cake the streusel topping. If my memory serves me, these too wound up in the mouths of co-workers. What can I say – they make the best guinea pigs for new stuff.

extreme coffee cake makeover.

And now, I must quickly end this post, as I just squashed a bug that was crawling on my shirt, and I can’t sit here any longer because I keep thinking they’re all over me now. Dang bugs.

a little bit of cheesecake.

Yesterday, i made a cheesecake. It was from a recipe on the back of the gelatin box, and it sounded pretty good, so I thought I’d give it a shot. I prepared my usual homemade graham cracker crust (I have very strong feelings about using only homemade crusts). After it cooled, I made the cheesecake, which was more like a cream cheese pie, but there’s really nothing wrong with that. I poured the cheesecake/cream cheese pie mix into the crust, only to discover that there was a ridiculous amount still left in the bowl. I did not need two cheesecakes – there were only going to be 4 guests (including myself) partaking in this dessert to begin with, and even one cheesecake was probably too much. The stuff was too good to just throw out (and I would never do that anyway – re: my philosophy on no cake left behind).

The wheels starting turning, and thoughts of Small Indulgences filled my head. And out came: Cheesecake Bites.

I took a mini cupcake pan. Filled the bottom of each cup with Oreo cookie crumbs.

that's the way the cookie crumbles.

Poured the cheesecake on top.

bite me.

Chilled and served.

this is what they serve at parties in heaven.

Ok, I haven’t actually served them yet. Like I said, there were only 4 guests at the party last night. So I’ll just bring these to work, and win some friends and influence people. Who knew it was so easy.