A Simple Princess Leia Birthday Cake for a Serious Star Wars Fan

A Princess Leia Star Wars CakeWhat to do, what to do? Your 5-year old daughter is absolutely obsessed with Star Wars, but you’re (more than) a little burned out ’cause the Star Wars marketing has officially jumped the shark and gotten out of control lately (yeah, I’m lookin’ at you, R2D2 Coffee Creamer). And, with my kiddo’s birthday being just two days after Halloween, we’re pretty sugared out. But when we had a small family gathering to celebrate November birthdays, I decided it just wasn’t a party without cake. So I started scheming …

lightsaber cupcake picksMy daughter is pretty into the lightsabers (she made her own at Disneyland using some of her birthday money this year), so my first idea was to take the focus of the cake completely off the characters and just use elements of Star Wars somehow. When I found this Set of 12 Star Wars Mini Plastic Light Saber Cupcake Topper/Cake Picks, I knew I had to grab them – they were absolutely perfect.

(photo via iFavor123 on Etsy)

Pop! Princess Leia Bobblehead
Because my daughter has asked me for this Pop! Princess Leia bobble head every single time we’ve seen it, I decided to surprise her and use it as the cake topper. It’s a major cheat – the figurine is so cute that it would look adorable on top of anything, but it was just the right thing to keep the cake looking simple and clean. It also made it perfect for my little 5-year-old girlie-girl. You can pick these up anywhere – I happened to grab mine at my local Hallmark store.

So there you have it. I made a small “smash cake” sized cake this year, using two 6-inch round pans. I totally cheated this year and used a box of Duncan Hines Devil’s Food cake mix (I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – if you’re gonna use a box mix, make sure it’s Duncan Hines) and Duncan Hines Creamy Homestyle Vanilla frosting.

suppliesMy favorite Marshmallow Buttercream frosting that I like to make goes on a lot easier and it tastes sooo much better. If you have time, I highly recommend whipping up a batch. You can grab the recipe from when I used it on this cake and this cake. I sprinkled a little iridescent white cake sparkles on top and added some silver pearl sprinkles (by Wilton) to tie in with the lightsaber handles.

Princess Leia Birthday Cake by Four-Eyed Girlie

My little Leia was pretty surprised once this cake came out.  So, I’m officially dedicating this cake to all the girlie-girls out there who like to engage in some badass lightsaber battles and a little cosplay, but still like to keep things looking cute. 🙂

Climbing Pie Mountain

photo(10)When I found out that my friend Danny had been given the task of making Saveur Magazine’s Salted Caramel Apple Pie for the Thanksgiving Dinner she’d be attending, I was all up in her business asking if I could help. I’ve never made a pie before and I was eager to check that off the bucket list. Kicking off my pie-making career with this recipe was one heck of a start, but I’m happy to say that we climbed Pie Mountain and each had our own pies to show for it … barely.

photo(11)Things got off to a good start: we’d donned adorable aprons, we’d made our flaky butter pie dough, apples were sliced and doused appropriately for their 1st phase of marination and the remaining steps ahead of us sounded delicious. But wow, Saveur sure knows how to make a recipe convoluted — there were only three steps numbered in the recipes, but each step had many more tasks within the paragraph! With two sets of eyes (and two pretty sharp brains) you’d think we’d catch everything, but each time we referred back to the recipe, we seemed to find something we’d missed. No big deal, we made a quick jaunt to the grocery store for a package of pie shells (oops, the receipe makes two crusts, but we needed two for one pie) and heavy cream (no, the 4 sticks of butter weren’t enough I guess).

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Photo capture from Saveur.com

Upon our return, the homemade dough was properly chilled, so it was time to roll it out. Danny didn’t mess around, she busted out her ruler and took cutting those 1.5″ strips seriously. Our apples had been doused in round two of their marinade, and they were ready to get into that pie crust and get cozy with the salted caramel sauce we were making. The caramel sauce turned out just as described … deep reddish brown and seductively shiny-looking. That caramel was almost a lacquer once it got inside of the pie pan. We decided to both use one homemade crust and one store-bought so we could each taste the fruits of our labor. Once the lattice detail on top was complete, we were ready to throw these babies in the oven.

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At the end of SIX HOURS, we were ready to call it a night … it was late, we both were semi-delirious, and Danny assured me we both didn’t have to wait for them to bake, I could swing by in the morning and pick up my pie before dinner.

Poor Danny. Apparently that’s when things got crazy. Suddenly, smoke was filling the kitchen, and when she looked in the oven, all the filling was bubbling and leaking outside of the pie pans. WTF? She was able to keep her smoke alarm from sounding after midnight and miraculously — she also somehow managed to save these pies from destruction. They were completely intact and edible, even if they had a sloshy filling.

So what went wrong?

Well, somehow we managed to forget about that heavy cream that sat in the fridge; apparently, we were supposed to have added it to the caramel sauce after taking it off the burner. I think we were being so careful to not burn the caramel, we just plum forgot. I think that forgetting the heavy cream is what caused our caramel sauce to melt back down to its buttery-pure sugar state and eventually, bubble and run over at high temps in the oven. My thought is without the cream, the sauce couldn’t congeal and stay creamy and thick in the filling.

Was it still good?

Yes, the pie was tasty. It was flavorful and delicious, but instead of sticky gooey caramel sauce intermixed with honey crisp apples, we had more of a caramel apple marinade inside.

Was making your own crust worth it?

Tough call. It was my 1st time, and I don’t have much to compare it to, but based on this experience — no. Instinct told me that the consistency wasn’t quite right, but it still worked and it still tasted great. However, the difference between the store bought and homemade wasn’t worth the hassle in this particular case.

Should I make this pie myself?

Why not? I will say, I felt very accomplished. I’ll also say that it was a very testy recipe though. If you do take on this task, allow yourself a lot of time and do it with a friend. It definitely took the stress off and many f-bombs in the kitchen were replaced with laughs!

At the end of the day, I made a pie, it tasted good, and I had a blast with my pal, Danny. It was a win all around. Be sure to let me know if you brave this recipe — click this link to get on your way!

Christmas in November: Treats (and recipes!) from the Holiday Craftacular

photo(8)Well folks, this year I broke my own rule. I have a strict policy of “No Christmas until AFTER Thanksgiving”. Even as much as I love Christmas time, I do not indulge in Peppermint Mochas nor do I listen to my vintage holiday albums until after I’ve eaten turkey. But this year, when my friend Crystal of Baby Begonia asked if I wanted to be a vendor at her Holiday Craftacular, I just couldn’t pass up the opportunity.

photo(1)Since I’d never really done an event like this, I wasn’t exactly sure how much to make. I wanted a variety, and I wanted to show off how tasty treats can be adorably sweet, but I also didn’t want to go home with 10 lbs. of leftover fudge on my hands, either. I decided to stick with some tried and true holiday favorites, and I threw in one new treat for fun. Fortunately, I guesstimated correctly; I ended up selling everything I made — hooray! But the best part was seeing all the people enjoy the stuff in person. I had a great time and I definitely want to try and do more of these “live” events in the future!

So now for the good stuff … here’s what I made. You’ll recognize these for sure, and I’ve even linked up the past posts in case you’d like to make some this year. (Just wait until Friday, though – okay?)

photo(6)#1 “Elements of the Holidays” Mini Bread Loaves
Inspired by the Periodic Chart of Elements, I think of certain flavors as elements of the holidays. I usually do Gingerbread and Pumpkin Bread, but since my favorite Gingerbread recipe was more labor-intensive than I could pull off under such a time crunch, I opted for making Cranberry Orange Bread instead. These make such nice hostess gifts if you’re an invited guest for Thanksgiving dinner or even if you just don’t want to show up empty handed at the holiday party. I made some Fall themed loaves with brown hounds-tooth fabric I had, attached an orange bow, and voila – they’re ready for Thanksgiving! I also did my signature red and green stripes/polka dots loaves for Christmas.

Learn to make the no-sew packaging yourself, here!
(The post also includes my favorite Pumpkin Bread recipe.)

photo(7)#2 Triple Decker Maple Peanut Butter Pretzel Fudge
Yup, you read that right This stuff is ridiculous. The part I love most is that it’s delicious and pretty. I package huge pieces of it so you can see how rustic the pretzel rods and crushed pretzels look on top, even though it’s so decadent that there’s realistically about 4 pieces per “block”.

Recipe and free download for a tag is here, now go make some yourself!

#3 Festive Holly Berry Cupcakes
These are so. freaking. easy. Use your favorite cupcake recipe and pick up a bottle of these Holly Mix sprinkles by Wilton. Yes, I apply the sprinkles individually with tweezers so I can make them perfect. Really, it’s that easy.
IMG_00139#4 Red Velvet Brownies drizzled with Cream Cheese IcingThese were new for me, but I had to make them, simply because I wanted something red! This is a GREAT brownie recipe – super crackly on top, and gooey on the inside. I used a round cookie cutter to cut the brownies so they’d be a perfect fit inside these red/white striped baking cups I had. But, when I cut them, the tops were so crackly that they weren’t very pretty, so I flipped them upside down and iced the bottoms! Wish I would’ve remembered to take a pic before they were gone. Sorry ’bout it.

This recipe is a keeper. Make your own using this recipe here.

Now it’s time to take a break and gear up for more holiday treat making once the season officially begins! Still trying decide on this year’s goodies. What will you be making?

Operation Ballerina Birthday Cake: Cherry Vanilla Cake, from scratch!

I have a secret to share: Four-Eyed Girlie is intimidated when it comes to making cakes. Making a perfect cake is hard. And I have this problem with needing things to be perfect. It takes work, and a lot of practice, and still — it’s not always perfect. But when it comes to my daughter’s birthday, I enjoy making them (perfect or not). I guess it’s because when I was a kid, my parents made me a custom birthday cake every year for my birthday. All I had to do was name a theme, and it was on! So now, I consider a special cake for my daughter’s birthday the ultimate labor of love.

This year, my soon-to-be three year old muttered two words when the topic of cake came up: “Pink” and “Ballerina”. Whoa. This girl is SUPER girly these days. Although I’m pretty girly myself (I am a grown woman who wears a bow in her hair most days), a pink ballerina cake was still a little out of my comfort zone. But, it was her birthday request and I was eager to deliver.

I wasn’t exactly sure how to go about the “pink” cake. I knew I could use food coloring and dye it, but that just seemed like a cheat. And strawberry cake mixes taste like … well, let’s just say they don’t taste so much like strawberry, but more like sticky sweet chemical sludge. So, I knew I had no choice — I had to find the ultimate recipe, from scratch. I went to the Sprinklebakes blog right away (she is a complete superhero and totally my idol), and sure enough, I found it: her Cherry Vanilla Cake recipe.

This cake is no joke. It uses maraschino cherries and the juice … and paired with almond extract instead of vanilla, it actually isn’t as sweet as you’d expect it to be. This baby is entirely from scratch … and guess what, it’s not difficult! Most importantly, it is the perfect shade of pink to make any girly-girl smile. I didn’t even need the optional food coloring in the recipe, the batter was pink enough, and the bits of cherries throughout were gorgeous! You really should make it yourself. Click here for the recipe.

As for icing, I went with the Marshmallow Buttercream Frosting I used last year on my daughter’s jumbo sprinkles cake. I love this frosting SO much. I just added a teeny dab of Wilton’s pink color gel with a toothpick to get the perfect ballerina pink. Click here for the recipe.

Of course, I wanted it to look “charmingly homemade” (it’s how I justify it to my perfectionist self!) and slightly retro … so after I found a vintage looking ballerina cake topper, pearl sprinkles for the side, and iridescent glitter dust to sprinkle on top, I was all set. I took super girliness to a whole new level with this one! The birthday girl was thrilled though, and all the adults enjoyed this uber-pink creation as well.

If you decide to make it, let me know how it goes! 😉

Sweet Treats: Pumpkin Swirled Brownie Bites

photo(1)I was asked to make some treats for the Sip + Shop event at Fox & Moon Clothing last night and the lovely shop owner Kristen asked, “Can you do something ‘pumpkin-y’?” Of course, I thought about Martha’s Pumpkin Swirled Brownies right away!

For the event, I thought bites would be better, so I used my cute little heart-shaped cutter to make adorable bite-sized pieces. Then, I decided they still needed to look cuter, so I drizzled them with cream cheese frosting.

Visit this post to get the recipe!

These “brownies” are really more like pumpkin bread with brownie batter mixed throughout. They do have a little bit of an after-bite thanks to a dash of cayenne, so be warned — but truly, it’s that bite that make these guys really special. When I serve them as brownies, I like to skip the drizzle, because the brownie/pumpkin swirl is really pretty – but the drizzle on these bites were just perfect!

Enjoy!

My 1st Smash Cake!

I was thrilled to make my 1st smash cake for a photo shoot at the Miranda D Photography studio today! She takes such lovely photos of the littles and its an honor to have one of my sweet treats make an appearance in her work. I can’t wait to see how the photos turned out of the baby tearing up this cake to celebrate her 1st birthday. For now, I’m crossing my fingers that this little cutie was just as photogenic. 🙂

Thanks for having me, Miranda — can’t wait to visit your studio again!

Go check out Miranda’s work at www.mirandadphotography.com.

Sweet Treats: “Manly” Cupcakes and others inspired by Pie!

One of my dear friends turned 40 last night, and his awesome wife threw him a little “semi”-surprise party on a Tuesday night to celebrate. Although it ended up being a FANTASTIC gathering — it was a little bit, um … spur of the moment. So when she asked me to make cupcakes, I had to get things together pretty fast.

This crew is quite a group of beer aficionados, so right away I knew I wanted to make some sort of beer cupcake. And when I found out his favorite dessert was southern-style Banana Pudding with Vanilla Wafers, I knew I had to incorporate that in, too. So … drum roll please: these are the creations I came up with!

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These cupcakes were very manly — and freaking tasty, too. I’m not even a beer drinker, and I thought these were some of the most chocolatey, moist and delicious cupcakes I’ve ever eaten! The cake not only has a Chocolate Porter infused into the mix, but it has mini chocolate chips as well, which melted inside when baked and really kept the cake nice and gooey. As for toppings, I used crushed chocolate covered pretzels, ’cause really — what goes better with beer than pretzels?

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Want to make your own, but short on time like I was? It’s OK – you can use a box mix! I found this easy recipe from Duncan Hines and made some tweaks to it, and it was fantastic. I also used a Chocolate Porter instead of the Guinness Stout. And seriously – if you are in a time crunch, don’t feel guilty about using a box, just make sure if you are using one, its Duncan Hines.

Make your own!

Cake:

  • 1 (18.25 oz) box dark chocolate cake mix
  • 1 (12 oz) Guinness Extra Stout (or Chocolate Porter)
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 3 eggs
  • 3/4 cup mini-chocolate chips
  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Place cake mix, beer, oil and eggs into a large bowl and mix together. Fold the chocolate chips into the batter. Fill cupcake liners 1/2 full. Bake 18-22 minutes or until cupcakes spring back when lightly pressed with finger. Cool on racks.

I also borrowed from this awesome post on the Bake at 350 blog when it came to styling them. Like she says, keep them manly – don’t use piping or swirls. And she topped them with the chocolate covered pretzels, which was pure genius.

You can use her recipe for beer frosting too on the post, or you can cheat like I did and use cream cheese frosting. It was a hit.

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The Banana Cream Cupcakes were also a cheat. I used Duncan Hines Yellow Cake mix, and made the cupcakes according to the package directions. Then, I used a cupcake corer to remove the middles and I filled them with Banana Pudding and Pie Filling. Use your favorite vanilla icing to frost them. Then, I smashed ‘Nilla Wafers to sprinkle the tops with and stuck a whole one right on top. Let me tell you, I can say with confidence these were the yummiest cupcakes I’ve ever made.

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