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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

I am the Owner of the Coolest Pair of Sneakers

As a little sidenote: my beloved gave me some adorable Converse Chuck Taylor shoes for Christmas. I had designed them myself at the Converse website a little while ago and emailed the design to him then sort of forgot about them. To my surprise, I had these babies on my feet Christmas day!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Pumpkin Gooey Butter Cake

Since there's a definite snow-blivion going on outside (yes, in Virginia Beach, VA), I'm in the mood for baking. What to bake? Well, I just have this cream cheese getting to room temp on the counter, a couple of sticks of butter that are begging to be melted, and a yummy can of pumpkin puree. Hmmm.... Paula Deen's Pumpkin Gooey Butter Cake! A couple of people I know that have made this cake and they LOVED it, even non-pumpkin-lovers. So of course, I just had to try it! Be forewarned: this recipe involves 2 sticks of butter! This is not for the health-conscious! The recipe goes a little like this:

Cake Bottom:
  • 1 (18 1/4 oz) package yellow cake mix (I used butter recipe golden)
  • 1 egg
  • 8 tbsp (1 stick) butter, melted
  • 1 (8 oz) package cream cheese, softened
  • 1 (15 oz)n can pumpkin puree
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 8 tbsp (1 stick) butter, melted
  • 16 oz of powdered sugar (about 2 cups)
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
1. Preheat oven to 350. Lightly grease a 13 x 9 baking dish (I used an 8 x 8 Pyrex dish)
2. Combine cake mix, egg, and 1 stick melted butter into a bowl and mix with electric mixer (you can use an old-fashioned wooden spoon). Pat the mixture into the bottom of the baking dish.

3. For the filling: In a large bowl (this part I used the Kitchenaid for), beat the cream cheese and pumpkin until smooth. Add the 3 eggs, the melted butter, and the vanilla.
 4. Add the powdered sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg, and mix well (don't forget to scrape down those sides!)

5. Spread pumpkin mixture over cake bottom and bake for 40-50 minutes for the 13 x  9 and about 55-65 minutes for the 8 x 8. The center should be a little gooey-- set, but gooey.

Gooey success!
For best results, serve with whipped cream (as seen above).

Some variations I found were a chocolate peanut butter flavor (with chocolate cake mix and 1 cup peanut butter used instead of pumpkin) and a pineapple flavor (with 1 cup crushed pineapple instead of pumpkin).

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas Festivities: Gingerbread House

My beloved and I decided to begin the tradition of gingerbread house-making for the holiday season. We started with a Deluxe Wilton Gingerbread House Kit (found at the craft store). We mixed the royal icing then got to work constructing our delicious domicile.

Let me tell ya, keeping those walls to hold together was a challenge. But we sang Christmas songs as we held the walls in place. Apparently, you're supposed to let it sit for several hours at this point so the royal icing can dry... but we didn't figure that out until after we finished the whole house (whoops)... so we moved on to decorating.

You know you like our gumdrop bush clusters

And this is the finished house on its goods side...
Up next year: a Gothic castle with a working chocolate fountain and an egg nog moat. We'll see how that works out, since this is our first gingerbread house!

Word to the wise: Do not attempt eating the house or the candy that comes with it... It is not flavorful and it is pretty much for looks.

Merry Christmas, everyone!!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Cupcake Makers, Eh?

I've been looking through lots of ads for last-minute Christmas shopping ideas, and I keep coming across different cupcake makers. Apparently, most department stores are carrying it-- including JC Penney and Kohl's. They carry the Babycakes cupcake maker( by Select Brands, Inc.) that makes 8 mini cupcakes in less than 10 minutes. It includes a recipe book, a piping bag, a few tips, and "crust-cutting tools." (??) It costs about $30 and it has an interesting old school look about it...

Courtesy Select Brands, Inc.

Sunbeam also has a cupcake maker called Pattie. This makes 6 cupcakes in about 10 minutes and doesn't seem to include any accessories. This one has a more fun look.
Courtesy Sunbeam

This one costs about $40 and can be found in just about the same department stores.

So, readers, have any of you tried one of these? Do they make delicious, moist cuppin' cakes? Let me know! I'm curious!

*Oh, and what is this crust-cutting toolage?

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Sample Machine Cake

My dear brother recently celebrated his 30th birthday (which was also a special birthday--30 on the 30th!) so I just had to make him an awesome cake! He has been making beats for several years, and music is his passion, so I wanted to make something that embodied that. Then I thought, "why not make a cake that looks like his sample machine?" I started with a white cake recipe from allrecipes.com

  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 3/4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 cup milk
1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Baker's Joy a 9x9 inch pan ( I used an 8x8)or line a muffin pan with paper liners.
2) In a medium bowl, cream together the sugar and butter. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, then stir in the vanilla. Combine flour and baking powder, add to the creamed mixture and mix well. 

3) Finally stir in the milk until batter is smooth. Pour or spoon batter into the prepared pan. 
4) Bake for 30 to 40 minutes in the preheated oven. For cupcakes, bake 20 to 25 minutes. Cake is done when it springs back to the touch.* For my 8x8 pan, it took about an hour*
While the cake was baking, I worked on a Ghirardelli Chocolate Buttercream recipe:

  • 4 ounces Semi-Sweet Chocolate Baking Bar ( I used semi-sweet chips)
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/3 cups hot milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/8 teaspoons salt
1) In heavy saucepan on low heat, melt broken chocolate with butter, stirring constantly. 

2) Beat sugar with milk, vanilla, and salt until smooth. Add melted chocolate, and beat until thick enough to spread on cake. 

After the cake had cooled, I cut a layer, and added some frosting and Heath bits.
After covering the cake in fondant, I went to work on some details.
Little knob detail...
And here was my reference...
Courtesy  zzounds.com

He loved it! 

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Impromptu French Coconut Pie

I have just been enlisted by my good friend, Violet, to make two delicious coconut pies for a party this evening. Even though I think coconut is the bane of my existence (it's a texture thing [and a flavor thing, now that I think about it...]), I decided to make it for her, since I am the best baker she knows (;-)). I immediately looked up a recipe on foodtv.com and came upon Paula Deen's French Coconut Pie recipe. I liked it because it looked very easy, and you only need one bowl (no Kitchenaid required, even!)

  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter, melted
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 (3 1/2–ounce) can shredded sweetened coconut (about 1 cup)
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 (9-inch) unbaked pie shell (regular, not deep-dish)
I doubled the recipe to make two pies, but if you have a super-large bowl like I do, both pie fillings will fit!

1) Preheat oven to 350.
2) In a large bowl, combine all ingredients (except pie shell, of course).

3) Pour mixture into pie shell and bake 45-60 minutes or until firm.

And that's it! The only thing that takes time is actually waiting for the pies to bake in the oven. If I actually liked coconut, I would've made a third pie for myself, but it definitely looks good... Anybody have any tasty coconut recipes that I could ease myself into?

Friday, December 3, 2010

Lemon-Honey Cake with Vanilla Lemon Buttercream

My mom's birthday was this past Saturday, and I wanted to make her a cake that she actually enjoyed. I recalled a while ago that she had found a cake recipe in Women's Day magazine for Lemon-Honey cupcakes. Well, if a recipe can make 24 cupcakes, it can make 2 8" round cakes. The recipe is as follows:

  • 2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon each baking powder and baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup reduced-fat sour cream
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons grated lemon zest
  • 4 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 3 large eggs
1) Heat oven to 350 and Baker's Joy your cake pans.
2) Whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl to blend. Whisk sour cream, milk, lemon zest and juice in a small bowl until well mixed.

3) Beat butter, honey and sugar in a large bowl (or your Kitchenaid) for 2 minutes until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at a time, until blended.

4) With mixer on low speed, beat in half the flour mixture, then the sour cream mixture. Beat in remaining flour mixture until just combined.
5) Evenly divide batter into cake pans and bake for 35-40 minutes (keep checking it, since ovens vary). Cool 10 minutes in pan, then turn cake out onto cooling rack.

For the Lemon-Vanilla Buttercream, I used my usual Butter Vanilla Buttercream recipe, but replaced the butter flavor with lemon extract. I chose a light yellow and lavender color scheme for the cake, and used a fail-proof design-- a bunch of roses!

**side note: I am totally aware that I forgot to cross the "t" in yellow icing, but my mom didn't notice it, so it's all good! :) **

Monday, November 29, 2010

Pumpkin Pecan Muffins with a Pecan Streusel Topping

I made these delicious muffins for Thanksgiving, but these can be made year-round (if you're going to hoard cans of pumpkin like I'm going to). I started searching for a basic pumpkin muffin recipe at allrecipes.com but I added pecans and used canned pumpkin instead of a fresh one. Here's my modified version:

  • 2 cups canned pumpkin puree
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour (I used unbleached this time)
  • 2 cups white sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground cloves
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons ground nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 3 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup chopped pecans (you could add more or completely delete)
Streusel topping:
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup softened butter
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans
1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two standard muffin pans (or 1 jumbo muffin pan) with paper cups.
2) In a large bowl, stir together flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, spices, and salt. In a separate bowl, beat together 2 cups pumpkin puree, vegetable oil and eggs. Stir pumpkin mixture into flour mixture until smooth. Scoop batter into prepared muffin cups.  

3) In a different bowl, mix brown sugar and flour. Add butter and cut mixture, using a fork. Add pecans, and spoon the topping on top of the unbaked muffins.

It looks like a lot, but it will work out. Trust me!
4) Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a butter knife inserted in the center of a muffins comes out clean. 

These muffins were a definite hit with the family! I loved the added crunch of the nuts and the crumbly streusel topping! Make sure to use a napkin when eating them. They get a little messy!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Martha's Pumpkin Cake

 Since my beloved and I are not Mr. and Mrs. yet, we still spend time at our respective family's homes for Thanksgiving. I wanted to make a dessert for his family as a little gift, so I tried a new pumpkin cake recipe. I turned to Martha Stewart (she has yet to fail me in the recipe department) for her Pumpkin Spice Cake recipe. It can be found here, along with a tasty Honey Frosting recipe.
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, spooned and leveled
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 (15-oz) can solid-pack pumpkin puree
1) Preheat oven to 350. Spray 2 6" pans (could potentially be three pans) with Baker's Joy.
2) In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, salt, and pumpkin pie spice. In a larger bowl, mix together the wet ingredients and sugar. Combine the dry with the wet, and gently mix until smooth.
3) Spoon batter into pans and smooth out the tops. Bake until a butter knife inserted comes out with only a few moist crumbs. (I would go for 55- 60 minutes with these 6" pans. The original recipe called for a 9" square baking pan.)
4) Cool the cakes for 10 minutes in the pans, then turn them out onto a rack (right-side-up) to cool completely.

And, of course, I used my reliable little cream cheese buttercream to pair with this delicious cake. I wanted it to look like a carrot cake, so I made little pumpkins to go around the edges with some hanging vines. Just a simple little design.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!!
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