Thursday, December 20, 2012

Dots & stripes cake

For sweet Claire, whose birthday is on New Year's day- she had a pre-Christmas birthday party at a candy store, complete with face painting and glitter tattoos. The cake was vanilla with vanilla filling.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

P&G eStore Holiday Specials

Ok, so every now and then I post a book or product review on here. I participate in a great blogging network called BlogHer (see that ad column on the left? That's why that is there. Clicking on it would be awesome, thanks). For the holiday season, they've asked some bloggers to help promote Proctor & Gamble's eStore. Here's the skinny on what's in it for you:
  • 15% off on a first-time order from a new customer, using promo code: A9Z-MN5-KY3-ISA 
  • Free Shipping on orders over $25
  • Free Samples with every order
You had me at "free samples." Here are a few products that I honest-to-goodness love. LOVE.
Crest 3D White Whitestrips Vivid Enamel Safe Dental Whitening Kit
I started using these years ago when they first came out because I saw an ad in a magazine and got them at some special promo price. They seriously get your teeth so white (it's the first thing all my husband's friends in Italy notice about me. Crazy Euros), and they're easy and quick to use. There are quite a few different types. I just go with the basic because that's what I'm used to. I'm sure the others are amazing as well. For a full list and to order, go here.

Tide PODS Detergent Spring Meadow - 66 ct
These new Tide Pods are Laundry Detergent + Stain Remover + Brightener in one. Just throw the pod in the washer (with some laundry) and you're done! I love the Spring Meadow scent, but it also comes in Ocean Mist and Mystic Forest. For a complete list and to order, go here.
Duracell Coppertop Alkaline AA Batteries, 16 ct

Batteries. I'm a mom. We have lots of toys. Enough said. Our batteries of choice (or, rather necessity) are AA and AAA. Duracell is also having a sweepstakes where you can win $100 of batteries! Enter here.
Some other great products: 
Oral-B Rechargeable Electric Toothbrushes
Olay Skin Care 
CoverGirl Cosmetics 
Downy Unstoppables 
Braun Electric Razors 
Gillette Bundles (men) 
Check out the eStore. With free shipping and 15% off, you can't go wrong!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Chocolate Truffle Pie

For Thanksgiving at my in-laws' this year I was assigned a chocolate dessert. I didn't really feel like making brownies or cake, and I found this recipe for Chocolate Truffle Pie that sounded amazing. A chocolate ganache layer, a chocolate whipped cream layer and a sweetened whipped cream layer in a graham cracker crust- three ingredients and some chilling time.
The pie is very rich and sweet- I would recommend cutting these slices very small. It's delicious and everyone loved it!
Truffle Pie
adapted from Deen Brothers
Truffle Layer:
2⁄3 cup heavy cream
1 cup dark chocolate chips
1 10-inch prepared graham cracker crust

Whipped Chocolate Layer:
1 cup dark chocolate chips
1 1⁄2 cups heavy cream
1⁄2 teaspoon vanilla

Whipped Cream Topping:
1 cup heavy cream
1⁄4 cup confectioners’ (powdered) sugar
For the truffle filling, in a saucepan, bring 2⁄3 cup cream to a simmer. Place the 1 cup chocolate chips in a bowl and pour the hot cream over the chocolate. Let stand for 1 minute, then gently whisk until smooth. Spread truffle filling over the bottom of the prepared crust. Freeze for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, for the whipped chocolate filling, in a small saucepan over low heat, melt the 1 cup chocolate chips and 1/2 cream until melted, stirring often. Let cool to room temperature. In a chilled bowl, beat the remaining 1 cup cream until thick. Add the chocolate mixture and the vanilla and beat until firm peaks form. Spread the whipped chocolate mixture over the truffle filing in the crust. Refrigerate overnight.

Just before serving, for the topping, beat 1 cup cream on medium speed of an electric mixer until it begins to thicken. Add confectioners’ sugar and whip until stiff peaks form. Spread the whipped cream over the top of the pie. Serve immediately.

Servings: 8

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Hello Kitty Cake V

Oh, the ever popular Hello Kitty party decor at Party City. This is the fifth cake I've done to match it. I love Hello Kitty and it's fun to come up with new ways to incorporate the colors and elements. This cake was for Olivia, who turned 5. I worked with Olivia's mom a few years back and we were pregnant at the same time. I imagine our boss was thrilled to have two of us on maternity at the same time. Oh, well.
Olivia's mom wanted fondant swags and a Hello Kitty figure. The HK is RKT (a little fat). The cake is chocolate vanilla marble with chocolate buttercream.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Elmo Sesame Street Cake

This cake was for Carolina (LOVE that name! We almost named both our daughters that, but alas, other names won out), who turned 2. Her favorite Sesame Street characters are Elmo, Cookie Monster and Abby Cadabby. Elmo's body is cake, but his head and limbs are RKT. The rest of the decorations are fondant and gumpaste.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Green Orchid Cake

A 50th birthday cake for my husband's business partner. Green orchids are made from gumpaste/fondant, wrapped in satin ribbon. Cakes were red velvet and carrot with vanilla filling.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Star Wars Cake

A Star Wars cake for Coleman, who apparently loves Darth Maul. His mom wanted a positive influence as well, so Yoda made it on there, too.
The cake was dark chocolate with cookie butter filling.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Salted Caramel Apple Bars

Ahhh, fall. I grew up in Salt Lake City, where there are distinct seasons. And fall was not my favorite because it meant school started and it was right before winter. Now that I live in Southern California, I love fall because it means sweaters, soups and pretending that it's chilly (I now really think 68 is chilly. What's wrong with me?), even though it's sunny and warm outside.
Ok, well it was pretend fall last week- for a few days it was rainy and chilly- like 65! Then it got warm again. I'm not complaining. But to make it seem more like fall, I decided to make some apple bars. I bought these huge organic granny smith apples and decided I wanted to put them in a yummy recipe. I don't really do fruit and desserts that much, especially pie, so I wanted something different. I stumbled upon Two Peas and their Pod's recipe for Salted Caramel Apple Crumb bars and decided to try it out.
The recipe starts out with making a salted caramel sauce, which is pretty easy. I got a little worried once I added the TWELVE TABLESPOONS OF BUTTER that it was too greasy, especially since it's followed by 1 cup of heavy cream, but once the sauce cooled, it was fine. And delicious.
The rest of the recipe is a cinch- two bowls (well, I only used two), no stand mixer, mix, press, pour and bake. Love it.

Sorry for the bad photo
This is best eaten the day of because the golden brown topping and crust gets soggy. Also, I added one teaspoon of vanilla to the caramel sauce before letting it cool. Get the recipe here!

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Train Cake

This cake was for Aiden a couple months ago, who turned 1. The cake was chocolate with vanilla filling.

Friday, October 19, 2012

TWD- Pumpkin Bagels

I really love bagels. When I was in high school, we would go to lunch at Einsteins all the time. I loved bagel sandwiches. Then I went through my stage where I thought I shouldn't eat 500 calories of bread. Then I got married and while we were living in Virginia, I discovered Panera. And now I'm back to loving bagels (seriously, get the Cinnamon crunch with Hazelnut cream cheese).
This week's TWD is for bagels. Making bagels is time intensive and involves quite a few steps. First, you make the dough of yeast, sugar, shortening, salt and flour. I added about a 1/2 cup pumpkin puree and used half whole wheat flour. Once it's risen for about an hour, you refrigerate it overnight. Then you shape the dough into balls, poke a hole in it and pull it so it looks like a ring. I found it interesting how active the dough still is- in the picture below, all the bagels were shaped the same way, but the top left was shaped first and the bottom right last (I know, they're not on dishtowels. Sometimes I don't follow directions):
After they've been shaped you boil them for about 90 seconds. They come out looking like soggy, wrinkly doughnuts (again, I know there's no cornmeal under these (see above) :)).
Then you brush them with egg whites and sprinkle them with whatever. I chose sesame seeds for some and cinnamon sugar for the rest. 
These baked up beautifully and were so delicious. They had the signature chewy outside and had the perfect texture inside.
This was my lunch after they came out of the oven- ham, provolone, basil, tomatoes and olive oil. I couldn't wait to eat before taking the picture, ok? Don't judge me.
Heather has the recipe!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

BHBC- Diary of a Submissive

I know there's a craze going on right now that was sparked by "Fifty Shades of Grey." I have not read that book, nor do I want to. Knowing that about myself, I probably should have read the book description of this month's BlogHer Book Club selection before signing up to be a reviewer. 
This book by Sophie Morgan (not her real name) is supposedly a true story about the author, from an allegedly normal childhood and family, and her journey to realizing her tendencies toward submissiveness. I meant to keep an open mind about this, but I just did not get it. The behavior is abusive, demeaning and cruel. And yet, of all the things she forces herself to do, kissing someone's feet is the ultimate degrading experience?!! I felt like the reader doesn't really get to know the author or any insights into her mind and thoughts. I wondered why she wrote the book, if not to explain behavior that I felt needed explanation. The language is crude and offensive. I know I'm being judgmental, but when you write a book about this, it's open to be judged. 
Read what other reviewers said here.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Cookie Monster Cake

This cake was for my buddy boy, who turned 1 last week. I'm so sad that he's growing up so quickly. Why, time, why?!! My boy is crazy about food- ever since he was about 5 months old he would get all excited when he saw people eating anything, and got upset that he couldn't have any. So, I thought it was fitting that he should have a Cookie Monster cake. I used this cake as inspiration (it's so adorable, I love it!!). The cake was chocolate with Cookie Butter buttercream. He's holding a real chocolate chip cookie.
The cake board says "C is for Canon." Happy birthday to the happiest boy.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Karaoke Cake

This cake was for Abbey, the mom of my daughter's pre-school friend. Apparently, Abbey loves Britney Spears and was having a karaoke party. The gorgeous birthday girl loves pink and green. The cake was chocolate with salted caramel buttercream, after her favorite Starbucks drink!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Orchid Cake

A cake for Sydney, who turned 21. The flowers are all made from half gumpaste/half fondant. I think combining the two is easier to work with and isn't as dry. I painted the middles with color gel. The cake is red velvet with vanilla meringue buttercream.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Pumpkin Bars with Browned Butter Frosting

First pumpkin recipe of so-called fall! Pumpkin bars are great to feed a crowd. This is my usual pumpkin bar recipe, but after having browned butter frosting on these banana bars, I decided it was only just and true to put them on these pumpkin bars.
Make them and feel like it's fall. Or just feel happy that these are in your belly.
Pumpkin Bars
adapted from BHG
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 eggs
1 15-ounce can pumpkin
1 1/2 cups sugar
cup cooking oil

In a medium bowl stir together flour, baking powder, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt; set aside. In a large mixing bowl beat together eggs, pumpkin, sugar, and oil. Add the flour mixture; beat until well combined. Stir in chopped pecans, if desired.

Spread batter in an ungreased 15x10x1-inch baking pan. Bake in a 350 degree F oven for 25 to 30 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool on wire rack. Cut into squares. Store in refrigerator. Makes 24 bars.

Browned Butter Frosting
1/2 cup butter
3 1/2 cups powdered sugar
8 oz cream cheese, softened
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Melt butter in a small saucepan over medium heat; cook 4 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool slightly. Combine browned butter, powdered sugar, cream cheese, and 1 teaspoon vanilla in a medium bowl; beat with a mixer until smooth. Spread frosting over cooled bars.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

TWD- Pumpkin Cinnamon Chocolate Loaf

Ahh, it's October. What should be starting to feel like fall. Leaves falling, crisp air...
Well, it's actually about 100 degrees here, but I personally am rebelling by acting like it's fall. I made pumpkin bars last weekend and this bread last night.
This week's Tuesdays With Dorie is for Cranberry Walnut Pumpkin loaf or some such nonsense. If you're new here you should know I don't do dried fruit or nuts very often. Especially in bread. I thought this was going to be a quick bread (non-rising), but it is a yeasted bread.
This recipe is somewhat time consuming- it requires chilling in the refrigerator overnight. Pumpkin puree and some sugar make it slightly sweet, but really only slightly.
Instead of the nuts and fruit, I rolled mine out, spread it with melted butter, and then sprinkled it with brown sugar and cinnamon. I then sprinkled some chocolate chips over the cinnamon sugar and rolled it up.
The bread is moist and chewy- I really liked the texture and my additions made it more dessert-y. I think this would be great toasted or even made into French toast the next day.
Rebecca at This Bountiful Backyard has the recipe!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

TWD- Whole Wheat Loaf

What is it about homemade bread that is so comforting, that reminds you of growing up? Even for me, whose mom didn't make homemade bread, it's just something that makes me feel so content, like I should curl up on the couch with a blanket and a book.
Ok, it's actually been like 100 degrees where I live and I wasn't crazy about the idea of turning on the oven, but today was only about 83 so I decided to make this week's TWD for whole wheat bread.
The recipe comes together pretty quickly as far as bread goes: whisk together warm water, yeast and honey. Once the yeast blooms, add bread flour (I used all-purpose) and wheat flour (I used Trader Joe's 100% whole wheat white flour, my favorite). Knead in the stand mixer until smooth. Let it rise a couple times:
I think I let mine rise too long in the loaf pan because it was flat on top. So it's not pretty, but it tasted delicious. The texture is moist and chewy, great for butter and honey.
Michele of Veggie Num Nums and Teresa of The Family That Bakes Together will have the recipe.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Minnie Mouse Buttercream Ruffle Cake

For my girl, who turned 5 last week. The spunky, crazy and sassy LuLu loves Minnie Mouse. I wanted to try these buttercream ruffles and what better time to experiment than on a cake for our family? There's a tutorial here, but it's really easy. The cake was chocolate, filled with chocolate ganache. The buttercream was just vanilla.
Happy birthday to my sweet pea!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Roasted Banana Bars with Browned Butter Frosting

I'd like to say that I'd been planning on making these bars for a while, but honestly, we had a bunch of bananas that went super-ripe in about a day's time (what's up with Costco bananas? They're green one day and brown the next?!). So, I have made banana bars before, but this whole roasted banana idea intrigued me. 
Start out by roasting the bananas with brown sugar and butter. I did mine under the broiler in about 5-7 minutes.
After the bananas are roasted, it's pretty straight forward. Butter, sugar and eggs, add in the dry and wet ingredients alternately.
Ok, and now listen carefully. Do NOT, I repeat DO NOT use any other frosting with these. This frosting is so yummy and wonderful it's a crime not to use it. Now get to it and make these. And share with friends. A lot of friends.
Roasted Banana Bars
adapted from Cooking Light
3 cups sliced ripe banana (about 5 medium)
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 tablespoon butter, chilled and cut into small pieces
4 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup nonfat buttermilk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup butter, softened
2 cups granulated sugar
4 large eggs
Baking spray

1. Preheat broiler.
2. To prepare bars, combine banana, brown sugar, and 1 tablespoon butter in an 13"x9" baking dish. Put under broiler for 5-7 minutes, until the bananas are golden. Cool slightly.
3. Reduce the oven temperature to 375°.
4. Weigh or lightly spoon cake flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour, soda, and baking powder in a medium bowl. Combine banana mixture, buttermilk, and vanilla in another medium bowl. Place butter and granulated sugar in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until well blended. Add eggs to granulated sugar mixture; mix well. Add flour mixture to sugar mixture alternating with banana mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture.
5. Pour batter into a 13"x18" baking pan (cookie sheet) coated with baking spray. Bake at 375° for 20 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool completely in pan on a wire rack.
Browned Butter Frosting
1/2 cup butter
3 1/2 cups powdered sugar
8 oz cream cheese, softened
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Melt butter in a small saucepan over medium heat; cook 4 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool slightly. Combine browned butter, powdered sugar, cream cheese, and 1 teaspoon vanilla in a medium bowl; beat with a mixer until smooth. Spread frosting over cooled bars.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

TWD- Cherry Nectarine Pie

What is it about baking in someone else's kitchen that makes you feel out of sorts? We're visiting family and we're staying at my parent's. For some reason, I cannot bake very well in my mom's kitchen. Cooking is ok, just not baking. Things turn out like this and this. So sad.
I wasn't sure how this week's TWD for Blueberry Nectarine pie would turn out, but I thought pie doesn't have to rise. I should be ok. I opted for cherries because, well, I like cherries more.
The fruit is cooked in sugar, flour and lemon zest for a few minutes until it's syrup-y and the fruit is soft.
Pour it in the pie crust, top with the other crust and pretend you know how to crimp the edges.
The recipe says to bake 30-40 minutes. Mine took almost 40 minutes. Maybe not the prettiest pie. It was hard to make the edges look good because it's baked in a cake pan. That's my excuse.
This recipe was really fantastic. The cherries were juice and a little tart, and the nectarines added some more tartness. I probably should have used a little more sugar, but paired with ice cream, this was delicious.
Hilary and Liz have the recipe!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

TWD- Semolina Bread

I meant to make this recipe for Semolina bread last night. About 7pm, I read the recipe. Three rises of two hours. Not a feat I was willing to start at 7pm. So I started this morning. By dinner time, we had a nice loaf of bread. That was too hot to eat.
The recipe starts with a starter of yeast, water and flour:
Once it's risen, add some more flour- all purpose and semolina, salt and oil. Rise again. Shape in a loaf and rise again. Slit (with a razor??!! I used a knife) (also, was anyone else confused about the slitting instructions?), and bake:
The bread is tender and chewy, with a nice crust. This is a great, easy recipe, if not hands-off time-consuming. Anna of Keep it Luce and Renee of The Way to My Family’s Heart have the recipe!

Monday, July 16, 2012

Hello Kitty Cake IV

I made this cake a couple months ago, but I didn't get any pictures of it except for this one from Instagram. It was for 2 sisters who had the exact same birthday, two years apart. It was made to match the same Hello Kitty party decor as this and this.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Cinderella Cake

When I was pregnant with my first son, one of my good friends was also pregnant with her first daughter. Her daughter was born a couple weeks before my son. Now, three years later, she asked me to make little Hanna's birthday cake. I can't believe how quickly time goes by! Hanna wanted a Cinderella cake (when I dropped it off on the morning of her birthday, Hanna was already in her Cinderella dress ready to party). 
Cake was strawberry with vanilla filling.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Noah's Ark cake

The same cute mom who requested the Cars 2 cake also wanted me to make her son's christening cake that was for the same weekend. She wanted something similar to this cake, and this is what I came up with. She liked the animals and colors, so I stuck with that. I know Noah's ark wasn't a sailboat, but the boat was made of rice krispie treats and I wasn't sure structurally how to make a tower sit on top of it.
Cake was red velvet with vanilla buttercream.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Cars 2 Cake

Someone contacted me on Facebook to order a cake like the Cars 2 cake I made last year. She wanted it for her little boy, who turned 1. This one was to be bigger, so it's three tiers. The cars are made out of rice krispie treats and covered and decorated in fondant.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

My Little Pony Rainbow Dash Cake

First My Little Pony cake I've made- what happened in the past year that MLP has completely changed? They're all sleek and less cutesy. Anyway, Liv and Sadie are sisters almost exactly two years apart and they love MLP from Netflix. :) Rainbow Dash is their fave.
The inside was rainbow vanilla with vanilla buttercream.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Fire Engine Cake

This fire engine cake was for Drake, who had a Cars 2 cake last year. I tried airbrushing the red, which was fun and worked fine. Until I cleaned up. Red. Everywhere. Even upstairs on the bathroom counter (must have gone through the vents). Crazy!
Cake was chocolate with chocolate filling.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

TWD- Chocolate Almond Cinnamon Biscotti

This week's TWD is for Hazelnut Biscotti. Biscotti is Italian for "baked twice," and are crispy cookies (my husband, who speaks Italian, will remind me that "biscotti" is plural and "biscotto" is singular) that are usually eaten for breakfast with some kind of coffee drink. In Italy, they're yummy, probably because you're in Italy. But also because everything is better in Italy. 
I started mine with toasting some sliced almonds in a pan. I opted for almonds because I was on the fence about making these until yesterday afternoon when I saw Sugar Hero's picture on Instagram and that's what I had on hand.
I halved the recipe because I wasn't sure what we would eat these with since we don't drink coffee and it's not hot chocolate weather. I added about 1/4 c cocoa powder and 1/4 t cinnamon. I omitted the liqueur and added almond extract.
I followed the baking time- it says the first baking should be exactly 35 minutes (I took  mine out at about 33 because it was looking pretty hard). For the second bake, the recipe says at least 10 minutes. I baked mine for about 8. They are tasty, but pretty dry. Maybe nothing a dunk in some chocolate milk can't fix?
Jodi of Homemade and Wholesome and Katrina of Baking and Boys will have the recipe!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Cupcake Cake

This was a cake for my mom's birthday, which was the same day as Father's Day. I know they sell giant cupcake pans for these, but I thought it would be more of a challenge to carve it myself. I used this tutorial to help. 
The cake is chocolate (her fave) and I tried this new frosting- Salted Caramel. It's my new fave!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Ruffle Cake

A cake for Sydney, who turned 6. I made this cake for her two years ago. The perfect girly girl, this year sweet Syd wanted a ruffle cake-
Cake was chocolate with chocolate filling. 

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

TWD- French Strawberry Cake

This week's TWD is for French Strawberry cake, a light genoise cake filled with macerated strawberries and covered in cream. The recipe is very straightforward and easy. 

"A gĂ©noise cake is an Italian sponge cake named after the city of Genoa and closely associated with Italian and French cuisine that does not use any chemical leavening, instead using air suspended in the batterduring mixing to give volume to the cake."

It's baked in a single layer, and then torted:
There's nothing I dislike more than torting a cake. I never do it if I can help it. If I want layers, I'm more than happy to bake them in separate pans. I only got two layers from my attempt to tort this.

This was delicious and fresh- perfect for a summer BBQ! Check out  Sophia of Sophia’s Sweets and Allison of Sleep Love Think Dine for the recipe!