Saturday, February 27, 2010

Luscious Lemon Cupcakes

These light lemon cupcakes would be perfect for a nice spring afternoon.. maybe this was my subconscious' attempt at saying it's ready for the warm weather promised when the move to Texas was made?? Whatever the case may be, these cupcakes are wonderful little bites of Luscious Lemon Cake, topped with Lemon Buttercream. 

Luscious Lemon Cake
Adapted from Epicurious 
Yields 24 cupcakes
Oven: 350 Bake time: 30minutes

1 cup oil
2 1/2 cups AP flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 TBS baking powder
3/4 cup milk
4 TBS sour cream (If you don't want to buy sour cream, you can just use 1 cup of milk)
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups sugar
4 eggs

1 TBS lemon zest
Juice from 1/2 lemon *if you just wanted a regular cake don't add the lemon

Whisk flour, baking powder and salt.
In another bowl mix milk, sour cream and vanilla extract.
Beat oil, sugar, and add eggs one at a time. Reduce speed and alternate adding flour mixture and wet mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Mix in lemon juice and zest.
Pour batter into prepared cupcake pan.
Bake for 30 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean and transfer to cooling rack.

Once the cupcakes have baked and cooled, it's icing time.

Lemon Buttercream
1 cup Crisco
4 cups powdered sugar
Juice from 1/2 lemon
1 TBS lemon zest *depending on how tart you want the icing, feel free to add more lemon juice

Beat crisco and powdered sugar. Mix in juice and zest.

Think happy spring thoughts and enjoy :) Happy Baking!

Friday, February 26, 2010

Peanut Butter & Jelly Cupcakes

These are my new favorite cupcakes. I love love LOVE peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and I obviously love cupcakes so I just knew this marriage would be a great success. It may seem like I've been baking a lot this week and well, you're right, I have been... but there is a rhyme and reason behind all of it I promise! I mentioned a few weeks ago that I started taking a cake decorating class and since I missed last week to go to Miami (totally worth it) I had to bring cupcakes AND a cake to class this week.  With this class, not only am I getting to learn some new decorating techniques, but it's also a great opportunity to try out new ideas and recipes.. i.e. PB&J Cupcakes. And let me tell you, these things are AH-MAZING.  I actually made two different cupcakes from this recipe and the cake is a different recipe as well, but I'm kind of anti posting before having others actually try the goods so they'll be up by the end of the weekend.

Lets get started on this amazing recipe. First off for the cake part.. I'm always on the lookout for a great white/yellow cake and I think this one is definitely a keeper. After spending a good amount of time on Epicurious I came across a recipe with rave reviews and decided I had to try it. I did make a few modifications to the recipe because it was originally for a Lemon Layer Cake, so I just omitted the lemon component and added in peanut butter. So without further ado...

Peanut Butter Cake
Adapted from Epicurious 
Yields 24 cupcakes
Oven: 350 Bake time: 30minutes

1 cup oil
2 1/2 cups AP flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 TBS baking powder
3/4 cup milk
4 TBS sour cream (If you don't want to buy sour cream, you can just use 1 cup of milk)
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
1/2 cup peanut butter *if you just wanted a regular cake don't add the PB!

Whisk flour, baking powder and salt.
In another bowl mix milk, sour cream and vanilla extract.
Beat oil, sugar, peanut butter and eggs one at a time. Reduce speed and alternate adding flour mixture and wet mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture.
Pour batter into prepared cupcake pan.
Bake for 30 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean and transfer to cooling rack.

Once the cupcakes are cooled, the 'coning method' is used to add in the jelly component. Use a sharp knife to cut out a small hole in the top of the cupcake.

Add a spoonful of grape or strawberry jelly to each hole. I went with grape because that's what was in my fridge. Once the holes are filled, trim a bit of the removed piece of cake so it will fit back on top without completely popping out.

After all the cupcakes are coned and filled with jelly, it's time for the Peanut Butter Buttercream. I actually made this icing a little different than the one I made for the Banana Cupcakes, and to be honest I think it's a little long story short I'll add the recipe here as well.

Peanut Butter Buttercream
1 stick of butter
1 cup of peanut butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
about 2 or 3 cups of powdered sugar
2 TBS water

Beat butter, peanut butter and vanilla till smooth. Beat in powdered sugar and add water till you get a smooth creamy consistency. 

I promise, you will not be disappointed in this cupcake!! Happy Baking!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Chocolate-Coffee Shortbread Cookies

When I came across this recipe I knew it was going to be one that I just had to try...  And since I was home by noon on the one and only snow day in Texas, what else would I do rather than use this extra time to bake something!? I love shortbread, I love chocolate, and I love coffee so to find cookies that incorporated all of these amazing flavors was obviously going to be awesome. The recipe that I used was originally 'Espresso-Chocolate Shortbread Cookies' but I couldn't seem to find any instant espresso at my grocery store so I just made some super potent instant coffee instead. Don't worry though, they were still very tasty.. so if you can find instant espresso then by all means use it, but if you can't then now you know instant coffee will work just as well. The semi-sweet chocolate chips are a perfect addition to these light and buttery cookies with a rich coffee flavor.

Although I wanted to eat all these yummy cookies myself (I mean, I did eat one.. I had to make sure they weren't poisoned or anything ya know?!) I was actually making them with a specific person in mind- my Daddy Tom. 

That's me and my Dad after my first triathlon.

My dad is also a lover of chocolate and coffee and he just happens to be in Afghanistan right now saving the world.. if you aren't lucky enough to know my father, he's basically one of the most awesome and amazing people I know. I may be a little bias because he is my father, but I think anyone who chooses to fight for a cause they believe in and makes the decision to go somewhere because they want to make a difference is a true hero. So when I decided to make him something to send over the pond, I knew they had to be something good and something that would travel well. Enough about my amazing father, on to the recipe! 

Chocolate-Coffee Shortbread Cookies
found on SmittenKitchen who adapted from: Baking: From My Home to Yours
Oven: 325 Bake Time: 18-20  minute
Makes 32 cookies (I actually halved the recipe here when I made my batch)

1 TBS instant espresso powder OR instant coffee powder
1 TBS boiling water
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
2/3 cups powdered sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups AP flour
3/4 cup mini chocolate chips (or regular chocolate chips chopped a little more)

-Dissolve coffee or espresso in boiling water and set aside.
-Beat butter and sugar together until mixture is smooth (if you're using a stand mixer use a paddle attachment) Once smooth, beat in vanilla extract and coffee. 
-Reduce speed and add flour. Make sure not to over mix it.. just mix long enough so you can't see it anymore.
-Fold in chocolate chips.
The next step can be done 1 of 2 ways: 
1. Smitten Kitchen suggests the following: Transfer dough into a gallon-size ziplock bag. Place bag on a flat surface and roll the dough out while in the bag into a 9 X 10 1/2 inch rectangle, 1/4 inch thick. When the dough is the right thickness, seal the bag and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
2. I actually laid out a piece of saran wrap out on a flat surface and dusted it with flour. I transfered the dough on to the saran wrap and with dusted hands flattened out the dough until it was about 1/4 inch thick, trimming the sides so they were straight with a knife. I dusted the flattened dough with flour, wrapped the remaining saran wrap over the top and refrigerated for 2 hours.
-After the dough was chilled, I unwrapped the dough and with a sharp knife cut the dough into squares. Transfer these squares to parchment paper lined baking sheets and prick each square with a fork.
-Bake cookies for 18-20 minutes. Once baked transfer to cooling rack and when those goodies are cool, dig in!

  Happy Baking!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Pancakes and Snow

This morning I woke up craving something warm...maybe it was in anticipation of the chance of snow?? I mean, they were calling for 4-6 inches! Whatever the reason was, I decided that pancakes sounded like an excellent idea and I just had to share my wonderful breakfast with you all. I love pancakes and I've been told that I do a pretty mean job with the Banana Pancake variation. I must admit that I went the quick and easy route with the Hungry Jack Buttermilk Pancake Mix, but its not the mix that matters... it's all about the additions.

I started by making the smallest recipe batch since I live by myself at the moment. Great thing about pancake batter though is that it keeps for a few days, so now I can have pancake again, later this week! So with Hungry Jack thats: 1 cup of the mix, 2/3 cup milk, 1 TBS oil, 1 egg. Now the additions: 2 TBS Wheat Germ (totally optional I just wanted to make em a little healthier) 1 tsp cinnamon, 1 tsp sugar and a dash of vanilla extract.
Once that was all mixed I heated the stove top and poured a cup full of that yummy batter into the skillet. When it comes to pancakes, it's all about the timing and getting the flip perfect. Once the bubbles start showing up and the sides start to get a little crusty you're good to go. If you're still nervous you can check to see if the bottom is that perfect brown you're looking for before flipping. I also opted to add some banana slices right before the big flip. You can always add bananas to the mix, but if you wait till after its started cooking and place the slices on the top before flipping your bananas get a little caramelized (YUM-O).

A couple minutes on side number 2 before moving that delicious little cake to the plate and the indulgence can begin. I topped this gorgeous pancake with a couple heaping spoonfuls of vanilla yogurt, some extra banana slices and a drizzle of honey.

Can we say awesome? And not to mention a pretty well rounded breakfast!

This was the perfect start to a great snowy day.. Did I mention that it actually happened??

Today it snowed in Texas. Yes, ladies and gentleman, that is correct. It snowed. In Central Texas...and stuck! Crazy right? but not as crazy as the way Texans FREAK OUT and completely forget how to drive. Now I realize that I have had the privilege of living in some cold places, making me completely capable of driving in a lot of snow, but these people down here started freaking out as soon as it started flurry-ing. As I drove to work at 7am the snow fall had just begun (ie nothing was on the ground yet) people were driving 40 mph on the highway, I drove by 3 accidents and people with their flashers on. Needless to say I found it all hilarious and it was even more hilarious when we the post shut down at 11am and we all got to go home :)

And what's the perfect thing to do on a snow day? Baking of course :) Be on the lookout..I've got some good swEEts coming your way soon.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Banana-Avocado Icing

Adventure #1

No, it's not Gak and you didn't just get slimed by someone on Nickelodeon, but you did just get your mind rocked with some Banana-Avocado Icing! I didn't include this in the original post with the other banana cupcakes, because to be honest I wasn't sure if this icing would keep over night because of the fresh banana and avocado in the mix. I even went back and forth about adding avocado to the actual cupcake, but thought I'd try my experiments one at a time.

I must give credit, where credit is due.. I was inspired by one of my co-workers: the other day at lunch, Heidi was talking about how she used to make her own baby food for her son JP. She was explaining how she had found a recipe for a banana-avocado puree kinda thing that she actually liked so much that she would find herself eating it. We were all intrigued at the idea of mixing an avocado and banana, but I think I was the only one trying to think of how I could incorporate this into some kind of baked dish ha.

So Wednesday night after the kitchen was all clean I decided to try out my little experiment. I made a very small amount, not really knowing what I was about to embark on. I scooped half a ripe avocado in a small bowl and then sliced half of a banana. I added a TBS of butter and then started up the mixer. I let that mush together a bit before I started adding some powdered sugar. I probably added about a cup of powdered sugar (I was kind of just eyeing it as I go, looking for the right mix so I lost track of how much I was incorporating). I will most definitely try this recipe again and be a little more specific with my measurements. I must admit, the consistency was a little Gak like, but the overall flavor was pretty awesome and everyone at the office that tried it was in banana- avocado love.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Banana Cupcakes 3 Ways

I definitely didn't want to make my trip to visit Cailin in Miami empty handed... I mean, not only is she one of my best friends, but she was the one that I made my very first cake for! I went back and forth about what I wanted to bake and then it came to me one afternoon as I realized I still had 3 lovely bananas waiting in the freezer for me, just begging me to be a part of something yummy. I also thought it would be a great opportunity to try out a few new icings I've been wanting to make...soo the end result?? Banana Cupcakes 3 Ways.

The recipe I used actually comes from one of the most amazing cupcake books: Hello, Cupcake! by Karen Tack and Alan Richardson. Honestly, if you ever want to make a fun cupcake or just look at some fun things you can do with them, this is the book to have.. they do some amazing things with cupcakes and offer step by step directions to make the creations using simple ingredients in very creative ways. My mom got me the book this year for Christmas and I was excited to actually get to use a part of it finally. Along with all their fun creations, they offer the recipes for their Favorite Homemade Cupcakes and some icings as well. For these cupcakes, I made my own icings.

Banana Cupcakes
courtesy of Hello Cupcakes! by Karen Tack and Alan Richardson

Makes 18 standard cupcakes
Oven: 350 Time: 15-20 min

1 2/3 cups AP flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
3 medium ripe bananas
1/3 cup buttermilk
1 stick butter
1 1/4 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract

Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in medium bowl.
In another bowl, mash bananas and buttermilk.
In yet ANOTHER bowl, beat butter and sugar until fluffy. Add eggs one at a time.
(Make sure the bowl you use for this mix is the largest- If you're using a Kitchen Aid mixer, beat the butter, sugar and eggs in there and add the other bowls ingredients to it)
Once the butter sugar and eggs are beat, add the flour mixture alternatively with the banana mixture in batches, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Stir in vanilla.

Spoon batter into paper lined muffin tin and pop into the oven!

While the cupcakes were baking I got to making my 3 different icings. I went with a Honey-Cinnamon Buttercream, Chocolate Ganache and Peanut Butter Buttercream. Since I was using three different icings I made pretty small batches... icing is something that is hard to mess up and it's really all about getting the right consistency which can always be adjusted by adding more sugar or adding more butter or liquid depending on what needs to be done. If you ever have any questions PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE email me, I'll be happy to try and help :)! The following recipes will be for about 1/4 of a full recipe...that means they can easily be doubled if you were using only one of the icings. A conversion and general rules for icing is up on the Tips & Tricks!!

Honey-Cinnamon Buttercream
4 TBS butter
2 TBS crisco
1 TBS cinnamon
1 TBS Honey
1 1/3 cup powdered sugar*
1/2 TBS water (just to get the right consistency)

Cream butter, crisco, cinnamon and honey. Mix in powdered sugar.
Feel free to add more cinnamon or honey depending on your tastes.
*I'm guesstimating on the sugar because I was using a 1/3 cup.. I just added 1/3 cup of powdered sugar until I got the right consistency.

Chocolate Ganache
This recipe makes about 1 cup of ganache.
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 TBS butter
1/2 bag chocolate chips

Place chocolate and butter in a bowl. In a small saucepan, heat cream to just a boil. Remove from heat and pour over chocolate and butter and stir until smooth. Let sit and cool for a few minutes before use.

Peanut Butter Buttercream
4 TBS butter
2 TBS crisco
1/2 cup peanut butter
1 1/3 cups powdered sugar*
1/2 TBS water (give or take)

Beat butter, crisco and peanut butter. Mix in powdered sugar. Add water if necessary.
*Again, I added the sugar by 1/3 cup increments... use your best judgement when making your icing!

Well, now that the cupcakes are iced and the kitchen is clean, I've got to finish packing and get ready for some fun in the sun... I'll let you know what the consensus is regarding the favorite combo :) MIAMI HERE I COME!!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Happy Valentines Day

Happy Valentines Day!!

I'm not going to lie.. I've never been a huge fan of Valentines Day. That's not to say that I've ever really had a horrible v-day experience, I just don't like holidays that exclude those not in committed relationships. To be honest, I think the world- specifically all the single ladies and gents out there- would be in a much happier place come Valentine's Day if it was more like back in the day when everyone got a Valentine's Day treat despite whether or not they'd found someone to spend it with. Back in the college years we liked to call this "Black _(insert day of the week here)_" Not that we were all angry, men hating ladies.. quite the contrary.. many of us had some fine fellas here and there, not to mention all my girlfriends are extremely pretty :) ..we just liked to pretend we were man haters and use V-Day as an excuse to have a little girly fun for those of us without significant others at the time.

Who wouldn't want to spend time with these lovely ladies??

But Oh! How the times have changed!! Now that I'm all grown up ;) I've got myself a fine little honey to call my own! Unfortunately he's not in Texas with me at the moment, but we're working on that... so I thought I would send him a little cake love to get him through our time apart... he loves when I send him treats. Just thought I'd share my creations with you.

Me and Dustin playing around at my Aunt and Uncles in the country..

Since I had to make a cake for my class on Friday, I figured I would use it two-fold and use the second layer for some sweets for my sweet. I remembered that my mom had sent me some Valentine's Day cookie cutters last year and finally put them to good use... So after letting the cake cool and all that jazz, I used the heart shaped cookie cutters and ended up with about 6 hearts out of the 8 inch round cake. I then sliced each heart in half and filled them with pink buttercream icing.

After the hearts were sliced and filled and laid them atop a wire cooling rack, as I heated vanilla candies for the topping. I used a bag of the vanilla Wilton Candy Melts (added pink food coloring as I melted them in the microwave) to cover the cakes...I was thinking of those yummy Little Debbie Valentine's Day cakes that my mom used to put in my lunch box. The candies melt pretty quickly once they were spread on the cake and form a lovely hard candy shell to keep the cake nice and moist underneath. I finished them off with some personalized candy heart messages and Voila! Homemade Little Debbie Valentine's Day Conversation Heart Cakes!


Saturday, February 13, 2010

The adventure begins...Cake Decorating Classes

Class #2
For the past couple years I've been using the grandness of the internet, books and blogs galore to gain insight into the art of cake decorating. I've tried my hand at covering cakes in fondant (and I'm starting to get pretty good) and have made some pretty cool 3-D birthday cakes in the process as well, but one of the things I'm missing is the intricacy in decorating- all the little details and more importantly getting to learn how to use all those cool tips I have in my cake box!
Best Christmas present ever :) I have one great boyfriend.

Last summer I actually tried to take some cake decorating classes while waiting around for my job to start, but was never able to make it happen. But nows my chance! I started looking around the local craft stores and found a Wilton decorating class at the local Michaels. This is where the dork in me shines.. the class is on Friday nights- yes, I give up my Friday nights to learn the art of cake decorating...but I'll tell you what, it is my most looked forward to evening in the week and I couldn't enjoy myself more.

Last night was our first time actually practicing on a cake. Everyone at work is going to start 'love-hating' me even more... I have to have a cake made, ready to decorate every class... so what does that mean for my office?? There is going to be a freshly decorated cake every Monday for the next few weeks! I figured this would also be an awesome way to try out new cake recipes that I haven't had a reason to try out. From a suggestion of my decorating instructor, this time around I cheated a little bit..I usually always make my cakes completely from scratch, but this cake is actually started with a boxed cake mix- Duncan Hines Butter Recipe Golden to be exact. The finished creation is a Yellow Almond Sour Cream Cake...I must say the end result was awesome; a super moist cake with just a hint of almond that holds up really well (the recipe is at the bottom of the post). If you don't have a lot of time to mess with a completely from scratch cake I highly suggest it.

Back to the decorating! This week we just learned some basics, but I thought I'd share my creation. I mastered the art of filled stars, writing with icing, and dots.

At the end of class we were set free to create with the different techniques we learned. Earlier in the evening we were talking about paisleys (don't ask me why) so I used that as inspiration and then went with my monogram to practice my handwriting. I thought it came out pretty good.what do you think??

Yellow Almond Sour Cream Cake
Oven: 350 Bake Time: 25-30 minutes
Adapted from the side of the box

1 box Duncan Hines Butter Recipe Golden
4 eggs
1 cup sour cream
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp Almond extract
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Grease and flour two 8-inch round cake pans.
Mix eggs, sour cream, oil, and sugar in a large bowl. Once combined, alternate adding cake mix and water. Pour into cake pans and bake.

Happy Baking :)

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Keller Williams, Nalgenes and Cake

After the success of David's Guinness and Bailey's Birthday Cake, Katie (one of my other co-workers) requested one for her boyfriend's upcoming birthday. In lieu of payment, she offered to buy my ticket to an upcoming Keller Williams concert in Austin. I love me some Keller Williams, I love me some Austin and I love me some baking so obviously I accepted. (side note: if you've never heard Keller Williams, I highly suggest listening to some of his music..he's awesome- a folky, crunchy, bowl-cutted guy who JAMS out at any chance)

Katie was going to be out of town for Andy's actual birthday so we decided the best place for the presentation would be the Super Bowl party we would all be attending. I had made the three-layered Guinness cake, filled with Bailey's Irish Cream Buttercream Icing the night before the party and covered the cake with homemade whipped cream the morning of. It was a very simple birthday cake, but I was proud of how it had come out nonetheless. Everything seemed to be going well...Katie and I had figured we'd bring the cake out during half-time since everyone would be jamming out to The Who and definitely ready for cake. This is when the fun began...

As I placed the cake on Arlene's counter I couldn't find a place to put the cake containers top so I figured I would just put it on the top of the refrigerator to get it out of the way... The next thing I know I know, a Nalgene is falling from the top of the fridge and side swipes the whole left side of the cake. I screech in horror, only to be followed by immediate laughter by me and the other girls in the kitchen. Did I mention the cake was a surprise? haha


Katie and I trying to conduct damage control.... fail.

Thankfully, we all got a good laugh of it and Katie and Andy were good sports about it as well. At least it wasn't a wedding cake right?! Although the presentation wasn't the best, the cake turned out well. This time around I doubled the ingredients for the cake, which made the cake a bit more dense than the first one I made because of the amount of beer...Nevertheless, Arlene said it was like eating three layers of an amazing beer brownie and after JP had a couple bites he walked around the room stroking his chin, letting everyone know that since he had beer cake he was going to start growing a beard. (By the way.. JP is 4 years old haha)

Just another adventure in the world of baking..

Tip of the day: Don't place your decorated cake next to the fridge if you don't know what's on top.

Happy birthday Andy :) and Happy Baking!

Monday, February 8, 2010

Chocolate Covered Short-zel-bread

So right now I'm going to admit I'm a huge nerd....when I can't sleep I often brainstorm different combos for new cookies and cakes. The week before the Super Bowl, I started thinking of something sweet I could bring to the party I was attending. For whatever reason, the first thing that came to mind was chocolate covered pretzels.. chocolate, pretzels, sweet, amazing combination. Chocolate covered pretzels was too easy though.. I had to come up with something good and then it dawned on me:
a shortbread cookie (also one of my faves) +chocolate covered pretzels= chocolate covered short-zel-bread.
These cookies have the consistency of shortbread, with a hint of peanut butter, combined with crushed up pretzels and dipped in chocolate. They take a little bit of time because they need to be refrigerated or frozen, but that also means you can make them ahead of time and leave them in the freezer until you have time to bake them!

Chocolate Covered Short-zel-bread
A swEEts Original
Oven: 350 Bake time: 12 minutes

1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
1 egg yolk
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/4cup of flour
3/4 cup crushed pretzels
2TBS peanut butter
Semi-sweet chocolate chips

Cream butter, egg yolk, sugar, peanut butter and vanilla.
Add flour and crushed pretzels (to crush pretzels use a food processor, if you don't have one place pretzels in a ziplock bag and crush with your hands or beat with back of large spoon).

Divide dough into a log and wrap in saran wrap. Refrigerate until firm (at least an hour) or place in the freezer. After the dough has been chilled, uncover the dough and cut into slices. Place slices onto a parchment paper lined cookie sheet. Bake for 12 minutes.

After the cookies are baked place cookies on cooling rack. Once cookies are cooled, it's time to melt the chocolate. Place semi-sweet chocolate morsels in a microwave safe bowl and heat for 1 minute. Mix chocolate chips until smooth- if some chips still remain heat for another 10 seconds. Dip each cookie in chocolate and place on wax paper or the same parchment paper you used to bake the cookies on. Place freshly dipped cookies in refrigerator for another 10 minutes or so.

Happy Baking! :)

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Leftover cake?? sounds like Cake Balls!

So after I got done with April's cake I had a bunch of scrapped cake from the carving and leveling of layers. I also had a good amount of frosting left over (as usual) and of course I didn't want to waste all these perfectly edible ingredients. As I stood in my kitchen trying to figure out something to do with these goodies, fighting the urge to just go to town with the bowl and a spoon, I spotted the box of Christmas truffles that I've also been fighting the urge to go to town on. Then it dawned on me: Cake Balls!

The truffles I had happened to have little crunchies in them-making my cake balls not completely round....

Cake Balls are the easiest way to utilize all the left over cake bits and frosting, in a quick and yummy ball of deliciousness. And they couldn't be any simpler to make. Even though I used leftovers, you could easily bake a cake for the sole purpose of cake balls..I also just happened to have a bunch of left over chocolates from Christmas time, but if this doesn't happen to be the case, you could always use almond bark, chocolate chips, mint-chocolate chips, butterscotch chips, peanut butter chips...really, the possibilities are endless!

*WARNING: These balls are incredibly delicious and you can't have just one*

Leftover cake
Leftover frosting

Crumble cake and add to frosting in a large bowl.
Using your hands, a fork, or perhaps a potato masher, mix the cake and frosting.
Once your ingredients are mixed (cookie dough like consistency) roll into small balls.
Place on a wax paper covered cookie sheet.
Chill in refrigerator or freezer for at least 30 minutes- up to 2 hours.
After your cake balls have chilled, add your chocolates to a double boiler on the stovetop. Stirring until melted.

Double boiler just means bringing a small amount of water to a simmer and then placing a heat proof bowl over the simmering water to melt the chocolate that's resting within.

Once your chocolate is melted, using a skewer or a fork dip cake balls, covering completely and placing back on the waxed paper.
Let the chocolate set by chilling for at least another 30 minutes.

Quick&Easy version
1 Cake mix
1 tub of frosting
1 bag of chocolate chips, etc.

Procedure is the same as above.

Happy Baking!

Hello Kitty Cake

One of the girls at work is obsessed with Hello Kitty.... for example, yesterday as we sat around April's desk staring at her Hello Kitty adorned office space, we decided that we needed a little Rosa's Cafe in our lives and headed out for lunch. When we got into the car I couldn't help but notice the bouncing little Hello Kitty figurines dangling from the rearview mirror and as we sat down to lunch and April placed her newly purchased Hello Kitty hot pink purse next to her in the booth, the little girl in the booth next to us (complete with hello kitty earrings) couldn't stop hanging over the partition to sneak a peak. So when it was brought to my attention that April's birthday was this week of course I knew exactly what kind of cake she would be getting! Thankfully Hello Kitty is a pretty simple cartoon critter, but fun to create nonetheless :)

Even though I pretty much had in mind what the little kitten looked like, I kept a basic photo of the Sanrio feline close by to make sure I got it all just right. I started by using 2 8-inch round cake pans and 2 single cupcakes (for her ears). After cooling and keeping in the fridge overnight, I did a little sculpting so her face would be a little more oval. I also cut the cupcakes each in half and placed the two halves on top of each other so they would be the height of the cake. I have found that baking a cake the night before and keeping it in the fridge overnight makes it easier to mold and carve when it comes crunch time.

The more I work with fondant, the more I learn and I feel like I'm getting half way decent at it, for being self taught that is... Although sometimes I've been known to make my own Marshmallow Fondant, this time I went with the store bought: Wilton's Rolled Fondant. Even though I think the marshmallow tastes better using the store bought fondant guarantees the strength and right consistency, not to mention its a lot less messy than making your own. After crumbing coating the cake and attaching the ears with frosting and a couple toothpicks, I covered the cake with white fondant and then colored/molded the bow, whiskers, nose and eyes with the leftovers. This was actually the first time I have been completely happy with how the fondant covered cake has turned out.. it was perfectly smooth... basically, I'm getting goood ;)

I meant to take a picture of the whole process, but got in the zone while creating the cake and completely forgot! SORRY!

April absolutely loved the cake, which also made me completely happy. The cake itself was a Vanilla Cake with Vanilla Buttercream Icing. I tried something a little different with a white cake recipe that I've used before and I think I'm going to keep using this change in cakes to come.