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 β€” 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 β€” 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! πŸ˜‰

Advertisements

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 β€” 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!

Sweet Treats: Cookie Butter Truffles

photo(11)I had the honor and privilege of manning my uber-talented friend’s boutique, Fox & Moon Clothing, on Sunday while she took some much needed time off to enjoy a music festival. I decided to promote a little treat as a “free gift with purchase” as an incentive to bring new peeps into the shop (Actually, it was just an excuse to get back in the kitchen and make something fun, since this summer has been so insane). I had limited time and funds available for the project, so when I came across this Trader Joe’s Cookie Butter Truffle recipe, it seemed to fit the bill perfectly.

I ended up tweaking the recipe a teensy bit, and I used milk chocolate instead ’cause I think it tasted better (you can absolutely use dark chocolate if you wish). I like to make them a little smaller so they end up as a perfect one-bite kind of treat. You should totally make some.


photo(7)Cookie Butter Truffles (a variation on Pint Sized Baker‘s recipe)

Three ingredients:

  • 2 cups Trader Joe’s Cat Cookies
  • 3/4 cup Trader Joe’s Cookie Butter
  • Milk Chocolate Chips

Directions:

  1. Throw the cookies in your food processor or blender and grind ’em up until they’ve turned into crumbs. Set aside. Take another handful or two, grind coarsely and reserve for the truffle toppings.
  2. Mix cookie crumbs and cookie butter together in a medium sized bowl until they’re combined. (Use your hands and really get in there to mix it) Texture should be grainy, but able to form a ball and hold. If ball won’t hold, add a tad more cookie butter.
  3. Lay the balls out on a cookie sheet lined with wax paper. Put them in the fridge or freezer to let them set up.
  4. Once balls feel firm (but not rock hard), melt chocolate and dip the balls. Return dipped balls to lined cookie sheet and sprinkle with reserved cookie crumbs.
  5. Wait for chocolate to cool and harden. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Anybody can make these little guys. Anybody.

Heads up: If you’ve never tried cookie butter, don’t expect cookie dough. Big difference. Cookie butter tastes like gingerbread, and its made with European style biscuits, so it’s not like chocolate chip cookie dough at all. It’s important to make that clear.

Once you get over that, you will love cookie butter! Mixed with the cat cookies, you get a crunchier more textured filling inside than you would with a usual truffle. Throw those babies in some mini cupcake/candy liners, and you’ll complete the sweet, confectionery look!

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 β€” 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!

photo(7)

These cupcakes were very manly β€” 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 β€” what goes better with beer than pretzels?

photo(8)

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.

photo(7) copy

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.

photo(8) copy

Special Treats: Surprise for Mamas!

I sure am lucky to have a lot of mama friends in my life, and when new babies are born, I like to make “special” cookies, just for mamas. I found this special recipe after I had my daughter and they helped me, so I like to make them for moms who might want a little help, too.

lactCookies

I made a batch yesterday and wanted to make a few surprise deliveries. My packaging supplies are a little tapped out lately, so I threw together these bags with stuff I already had. It’s super easy, and it’s not hard to do!

Here’s what you’ll need:

collageCZ

1. Cardstock/Scrapbook Paper Stack; prices vary by brand and store / 2. Scalloped edge scissors; $3.95 / 3. X-Large Circle squeeze punch, $17.99 / 4. Plain brown paper lunch sacks, Prices vary by store

Simply choose whatever paper you’d like to use, cut the same width as the bag. Fold bag down, and fold paper over the bag fold. Punch holes through bag and paper and tie with ribbon or wraphia. Embellish using craft punches, scalloped scissors or whatever you have on hand!

If you’d like to make your own cookies for a nursing momma, check the recipe! Have fun surprising someone, too!

An epic birthday calls for an epic cake

Today is Mr. Four-Eyed Girlie’s 40th birthday. We had a party to celebrate his magnificent self last night (he really is the best) and I made a ginormous surprise birthday cake for him.

I could go into all the details of how I brainstormed with my parents after I was inspired by this cake. Or, I could elaborate on my dad’s brilliant idea to use petit fours icing to coat the “40” shaped cake, rather than try to frost it (and my mom found this delicious recipe for petit fours icing using white chocolate – yum!). Or, I could talk even more about how we spent the whole day putting it together and how my dad, AKA Mr. Precision, cut all those fondant Star Trek emblems for my cupcakes. But, sometimes you have to stop trying to document every moment β€” sometimes it hits the spot to just focus on having fun with it and do the best you can.

20130512-144235.jpg

I really wanted to surprise my husband. Never in a million years did he think I’d indulge his love for Star Trek with a cake. My parents have enjoyed being a cake making team for years and their enthusiasm has definitely rubbed off on me. Having them work with me and teach me was so fun, and the experience is what really ended up being the biggest gift.Β  Oh, and my husband got a surprise made with love from not just me, but my parents as well. πŸ™‚

So while I may not be the next Cake Boss, this came from the heart! Happy Birthday to the best husband ever – and a big thanks to my amazing mom and dad!

Sweet Treats: Pumpkin Swirled Brownies

I found the absolute perfect pumpkin/chocolate combination, and of course the recipe comes from none other than Ms. Stewart. A touch of cayenne gives these brownies a very special bite, and a hint of spice that gently lingers. Thanks, Martha β€” you never let me down.

You should make some, too!

Pumpkin-Swirl Brownies (adapted from Martha Stewart recipes)

  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, plus more for pan
  • 6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 3/4 cups sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 cups solid-pack pumpkin
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup chopped hazelnuts or other nuts

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9-inch square baking pan or dish. Line bottom of pan with parchment paper; butter lining.
  2. Melt chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water, stirring occasionally until smooth.
  3. Whisk together flour, baking powder, cayenne, and salt in a large bowl; set aside. Put sugar, eggs, and vanilla in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment; beat until fluffy and well combined, 3 to 5 minutes. Beat in flour mixture.
  4. Divide batter between two medium bowls (about 2 cups per bowl). Stir chocolate mixture into one bowl. In other bowl, stir in pumpkin, oil, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Transfer half of chocolate batter to prepared pan smoothing top with a rubber spatula. Top with half of pumpkin batter. Repeat to make one more chocolate layer and one more pumpkin layer. Work quickly so batters don’t set.
  5. With a small spatula or a table knife, gently swirl the two batters to create a marbled effect. Sprinkle with nuts.
  6. Bake until set, 40 to 45 minutes. Let cool in pan on a wire rack. Cut into 16 squares.