Sunday, November 20, 2011

Gabba-rific 2nd bday!

So its been a long time since I've posted anything on here and I feel like the holidays are the best time to get started again! Before I post about all the cakes, cookies and holiday goodies I wanted to share my sons amazing Yo Gabba Gabba themed second bday!!
I had been planning for almost a year and the site really helped in my journey! Please take a peek at my sons party, everything (including the cupcake liners and tshirts with help from my best friend) is homemade!! Hope you enjoy it as much as we did!!

 My first attempt at fondant!

 Balloon wreath:
 My little bday boy!
Candy buffet:
Candy Buffet:
 Brobee watermelon:

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Sweet (and Salty) success!!

I am always on the lookout for a new cupcake idea! Last saturday I was watching the cooking channel when they aired a show, Unique Sweets (love it!) and they talked about a salted caramel cheesecake cupcake. It sounded sooo good. I was concerned that the cream cheese would overpower the salted caramel, as I wanted it to be the star, so I fooled around with ideas like: a chocolate cake with a caramel filling and cream cheese frosting. Then the idea of making everything salted caramel, cupcake, frosting, filling...OVERLOAD! then after careful consideration came to the idea of a Dark Chocolate Salted Caramel Cupcake..... here is my adventure!

I used a basic dark chocolate cake recipe:

  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • cup granulated sugar
  • teaspoon baking soda
  • teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup oil
  • cup water
  • teaspoon vanilla extract
  • tablespoon vinegar
  • Mix all ingredients together until moist and well blended and bake in a 350 degree oven for 20-25 minutes (20 was perfect for me!) Also I didnt have any vanilla on hand, and wasnt in the mood to go to the store, so I mixed 1 tsp of dark rum into the cupcake batter!
I then made a simple salted caramel filling:
1/2 cup sugar
3 tablespoons cold, salted butter, cubed
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon of heavy cream (I actually used whole milk because I did not have cream on hand)

Whisk the sugar as it melts and cook until it becomes a deep amber color. Add the butter and stir it in until melted. Pour in the heavy cream (mixture will foam) and whisk until you get a smooth sauce. You may have some lumps but keep stirring until they have melted.  Remove from heat and let cool slightly.  

I then cut about an inch hole out of each cooled cupcake and filled with the caramel!

Next I made a salted caramel buttercream frosting....

1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons water
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 stick salted butter
1 stick unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar

In a saucepan, stir together granulated sugar and water.  Bring to a boil over medium high heat.  Cook without stirring until mixture turns a deep amber color.  Remove from heat and slowly add in cream and vanilla, stirring until very smooth.  Let caramel cool for about 20 minutes, until it is just barely warm and still pourable.

In a mixer fitted with paddle attachment, beat butter and salt together until lightened and fluffy.  Reduce speed to low and add powdered sugar.  Mix until thoroughly combined.

I changed the frosting up a bit. As I didnt have sea salt (funny right?) I added 1/4 tsp salt subbed 2 sticks of salted butter. This heavenly frosting was perfection! I must admit these have to be one of my best creations, sweet, salty, sticky, creamy, buttery deliciousness (is that a word? is now!)

I drizzled some with a dark chocolate sauce and left some plain! Its hard to see the caramel filling as it blends into the chocolate cupcake but you can taste it alright!!!!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Birthday Cake!

HAPPY birthday to me!! nothing says a great birthday more than good food. So I of course decided to take on my own birthday cake and I found an amazing and super easy recipe with a wonderful result!!

The cake is from a Paula Deen recipe and is a Deep Dark Chocolate Truffle Cake. Crispy outside and a fudgy truffle inside... i was in heaven!

First you will use a 9 inch spring form pan lined with parchment paper. I also used a little bit of cooking spray just to guarnatee no sticking.
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. While the oven is heating melt 8 oz semi sweet chocolate (I always use Ghiradelli) and 4 oz of dark (for this I used 60% cocoa) in a microwaveable safe bowl with 2 sticks of butter (gotta love Ms. Deen!!!!) in 30 second increments until smooth and shiny.

Mix 1 1/4 cups sugar into the melted chocolate.

Now separate 6 eggs, whites in 1 bowl and yolks in the other. Add the yolks, one at a time, into the chocolate and sugar mixture until combined.

Take the egg whites and mix (I used my stand mixer but a hand mixer will work perfect) until the egg whites form stiff peaks.
Something like this!!
Then gently fold the egg whites into the chocolate mixture just until combined.
Pour into your ready pan and bake at 325 degrees for 1 hour.
Let cool in the pan for another hour remove cake and cool in the fridge for ATLEAST 4 hours (its worth the wait I promise you!!)
During this time I whipped up an easy raspberry sauce combining a bag of frozen raspberries, a 1/4 cup of sugar and a tablespoon of lemon juice simmering until thickened.

The end result was heaven on a fork.... creamy rich fudge cake with the tart raspberry sauce was like heaven on my tongue...and with only around 4 ingredients its by far one of the best birthday presents I have received!! haha

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Assemble Da Minions!!!

My oldest son is absolutely OBSESSED with the movie Despicable Me. And if you have ever seen it you will know why.... those cute little minions!!! So tomorrow we are celebrating his one year anniversary post-surgery, an amazing blessing, and I decided to turn these cute little minions into cupcakes!! I had so much fun making them because each turned into their own personality!!

I used smarties for the eyes, black licorice pinwheels and Twinkies for the bodies!! Here are some pics of the little guys! (oh and I used blue frosting to replicate their blue overalls) Martha Stewart perfection went out the window with these but...I love them!!!!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Eggplant Parmigiana

You didn't think I only baked sweets did you? I'd like to consider myself a die hard in the kitchen. I'm willing to try anything once and the best part about cooking is once you know the basics, you can play around and make anything yours...which is exactly what i did with this recipe!

I caught myself watching food network one day and drooling... classy right? but I was amazed... the eggplant parmigiana in front of my eyes was amazing. Crispy, fried, gooey, cheesy goodness!!

I've heard a lot of people have a bad rap with eggplant (my husband included) he describes it as "mushy baby food" well... lets change that!! By taking a few extra, basic steps, it will change everything and made even him a believer!!! Below I will highlight step by step.

First make the sauce.

If you have your own family recipe, by any means make that. We have ours but I only prefer to use it with meat sauce. This is a simple, flavor packed exception.

  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 medium yellow onions, peeled, halved, and cut into thin slices
  • 5 garlic cloves, peeled and grated
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 3 (28-ounce) cans San Marzano whole plum tomatoes
Saute the onions and garlic in the olive oil until translucent, anywhere from 3-5 minutes. Top with salt and red pepper flakes. Add in the tomatoes and sugar then simmer for 10-15 and taste! 
Next (I suggest while the sauce is simmering) cut up 2 whole eggplants into 1/2" thick slices. Lay slices on a cookie sheet and salt both sides. Let sit, covered, for an hour. This step is crucial! it will draw out all the excess liquid and bitterness thus leaving crunchy eggplant perfection! After the hour is up, rinse of eggplant and let dry on paper towels. 

Next fry the eggplant:

  • 1/2 cup of all purpose flour
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 5 large eggs
  • 3 tablespoons whole milk
  • 4 cups breadcrumbs (I love panko)
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
  • Vegetable oil, for frying, as needed, about 1 1/2 to 2 cups
Put the flour in a medium bowl and season with salt and pepper. In another bowl, whisk together the eggs and milk and season with salt and pepper. In a third bowl, combine the breadcrumbs with the oregano and fresh thyme leaves and season with salt and pepper. Dip each eggplant slice in the flour and shake off any excess. Then, dip in the egg mixture, and finally in the breadcrumbs. Make sure to coat both sides of each slice of eggplant.
In a large skillet, pour enough oil to accumulate about 1/2-inch in the bottom. Heat the oil until it begins to smoke lightly (alternatively, test with a thermometer and wait until the oil registers between 380 degrees F and 400 degrees F). Use a pair of kitchen tongs to add a single layer of the eggplant to the pan. Cook them until they are golden brown, about 2 minutes on each side. Remove from the oil and transfer to a baking sheet fitted with a kitchen towel so the eggplant can drain as the others cook. Season lightly with salt. Take care to reheat the oil back up to temperature before adding another batch of slices to the pan.
Next is all about assembley you will need:

  • 1 1/2 pounds mozzarella cheese,shredded
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan
  • 1 pound provolone cheese, slices
  • 2 handfuls fresh basil, leaves only, torn
To assemble: In a 9 by 13-inch baking dish, spoon about 1/4 of the tomato sauce on the bottom. Top with a layer of the fried eggplant; the eggplant slices can overlap slightly. Top with about 1/3 of the mozzarella slices. Sprinkle with about 1/4 of the Parmesan and provolone cheeses. Top with a layer of torn basil leaves. Spoon sauce and repeat the layering 2 more times to make 3 layers. End with the remaining mozzarella. Carefully press the layers down firmly into the dish once assembled. Place the dish in the top part of the oven and cook until the cheese is melted and bubbly, 35 to 40 minutes. For extra browning, put the dish under the broiler for a minute or two just before serving to get an extra brown cheesy top.

Amazing!!! Enjoy and I hope everyone tries this recipe out!
I would like to thank Alexandra Guarnaschelli for this recipe/show! Although I made some tweeks myself she was my guide to ultimate sublime!! Here is a link to the recipe if you would like that as a resource also:

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Went fishing and caught...cookies!?!?!

So.... I have finally decided to undertake cookie decorating (AH!).
Today was literally my first day ever decorating cookies (well more than the sporadic sprinkle on Christmas cookies I was so used to as a child)

I went for a simple shape of a fish and a star.

I found a really easy Royal Icing recipe, although I am still working on the perfect consistency, and used your basic Sugar Cookie dough.

All in was fun, tiring, hard and easy... all rolled up into one!!
Here are a few pictures of my very FIRST decorated cookies. Do i need work? yes. Will I try again? Man i just don't know... lol




Friday, August 12, 2011

New York Deli by Way of Gardnerville, NV

I have always wanted to attempt homemade bagels. You know that sensation of biting into a warm, crispy, doughy bagel that just brings you home? so why not that.... just bring it HOME! Although a little time consuming it was worth every second to take a bite of these amazing bagels.

Essentially....once the dough is boiled you can top with any seasonings you like. Or even add raisins, chocolate chips or cheese to the dough. But, I'm getting ahead of myself....

It all starts out with a great dough. I did some research and came across this great bagel dough for the bread machine! Except I made some revisions, like letting them rise in the machine for an extra 30 minutes once the cycle had finished and then after *shaping the bagels let rise again for another 45 minutes!
I also added 2 tbsp of honey to my boiling water instead of the sugar and topped my first batch with a homemade "everything" bagel mix (quite simple yet a little too salted) and some with sesame seeds (my fave!)

*I don't have any fancy cutter and simply use a glass to shape my bagels. The hole was made by sticking my thumb in where I thought the center was, and twirling to expand!!

Now for some pics... Enjoy!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Typical Saturday Morning Cereal Turns to Homemade Eggs Bendict

I'm adventuresome...what can I say? And when I get an idea in my mind. I have to follow through. Success or not... I suppose this is how I was lead to eggs Benedict! I didn't want to make it easy on myself so EVERY thing was homemade. Minus the Ham (do not have a farm) which was roasted a couple of nights before in a smokey brown sugar glaze...anyways...

Lets begin with the English muffins. My favorite part! I searched high and low on the internet for different recipes and came to the conclusion: I would take my skills and switch up some things. But basically, this is the final recipe I used:

  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 tablespoons white sugar
  • 1 (.25 ounce) package active dry yeast
  • 1 cup warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
  • 1/4 cup melted shortening
  • 6 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt

  1. Warm the milk in a small saucepan until it bubbles, then remove from heat. Mix in the sugar, stirring until dissolved. Let cool until lukewarm. In a small bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water. Let stand until creamy, about 10 minutes.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the milk, yeast mixture, shortening and 3 cups flour. Beat until smooth. Add salt and rest of flour, or enough to make a soft dough. Knead. Place in greased bowl, cover, and let rise.
  3. Punch down. Roll out to about 1/2 inch thick. Cut rounds with biscuit cutter, drinking glass, or empty tuna can. Sprinkle waxed paper with cornmeal and set the rounds on this to rise. Dust tops of muffins with cornmeal also. Cover and let rise 1/2 hour.
  4. Heat greased griddle. Cook muffins on griddle about 10 minutes on each side on medium heat. Keep baked muffins in a warm oven until all have been cooked
Let rise until nice and fluffy (and holey looking) Such an important step to get the wonderful crevices we all love!!!!
 Next step was a basic Hollandaise  recipe (thanks Tyler!) which I had my husband whip into submission (the perks of having someone with muscles in the house)
After poaching some eggs and compiling our meal we were set and I have to was divine!! (excuse my liquidy Hollandaise, I unfortunately did not get the best picture before and I added a little of water to mine...although delicious I cant stand the texture of it...weird right?)

C is for Cookie!

My sons first bday party (last October) was Sesame Street themed so I had fun and made some Cookie Cupcakes using a simple lemon cake, I dyed coconut flakes blue, used white melting chocolates for the eyes (with a mini chocolate chip "glued" on) and a half-cookie in his mouth! The end result was too cute I just have to share!

My Boys

And of course I have to include my ultimate creation.....

My 2 sons!!!They inspire me every day to follow my dreams!

Marble Fudge Red Velvet Cupcakes

So... this recipe happened on a whim and can i just say... its the best thing that ever happened to me!

I am a HUGE fan of the website where people post some of the most amazing recipes I have ever seen! Browsing one day I came across a recipe for "Not Red Velvet Cake with Fudge Glaze". Red velvet without the..RED!? are you mad! But the ingredients were simply wonderful. I couldn't resist however and added just a touch of red food coloring (about 1 tbsp).

Filling the tins....
I then saved about 1/2 of a cup of the batter which I mixed with around 1 tsp of cocoa powder. It was more trial and error to get it to the "extra chocolatey" taste I desired! I put a tsp in each tin and swirled my heart out! (P.S the batter with the extra coca powder is very thick, thus making it slightly difficult to swirl but oh soooo moist and fudgey when baked)

While the cupcakes were in the oven I made a simple cream cheese butter cream....SINFUL!
2 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup butter, softened
2 cups sifted confectioners' sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

The finished product? probably one of the best things I have ever made!! Although it didn't swirl as much as I would have liked I thoroughly enjoyed a big chunk of fudgey cake smack dab in the middle!!!

Monkey Bread

So theres nothing I love MORE than a fresh baked monkey bread! It has become our typical Christmas morning breakfast but sometimes...I just cant wait until then!
I take a tiny cheat and use the bread machine for my dough but the outcome blows any "canned biscuit" recipe out of the water!
It's beyond simple and for anyone who has a bread machine PLEASE try this recipe! (Just make sure you devote a good 3-4 hours for this recipe... long wait? WORTH IT!)

Basic Monkey Bread Dough:
    1 c. warm milk 1 1/4 t. salt 1 large egg 1/4 cup butter, softened 3 tablespoons sugar 3 1/2 cups unbleached flour + 1-2 tablespoons if needed 2 1/4 teaspoons bread machine or instant yeast


Dump all ingredients into bread machine in order listed. Select dough cycle and start (easy right???)

After dough is complete dump onto floured service and press down. Roll out the dough until around 3/4" thick. (this is the fun part) DO NOT roll in balls. No perfect 1"x1" squares. Take your pizza cutter and slice dough into about 1" diamonds or squares.

Now I take a large plastic bag and fill with 1/2 cup of granulated sugar and 1 teaspoon of cinnamon. Mix to combine. Place monkey bread piece into the bag, close and shake to cover dough pieces completely.

Lay dough pieces, rather haphazardly, into a bundt pan and vary layers with nuts (if you like, my favorite is pecans!) At this point you need to cover the dough and let rise, until doubled, around 30 mins more!

One more step (you're almost there!!): In a microwaveable safe bowl combine 1 cup packed brown sugar and 3/4 cup melted butter (or that margarine stuff) until it has the consistency of caramel. Pour over the dough (sometimes I even mix nuts into my caramel as we cant get enough in our NUTTY household)
Bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes or until golden brown. Cover with foil in last 15 minutes to keep top from overbrowning.

Let cool slightly (if you can wait that long) and ENJOY ENJOY ENJOY!!!!!!

The beginning....

So it all began when I was asked to make a wedding cake for my best friend (cake? wedding? biggest day ever? no pressure!) Luckily, I had a few baking tricks up my sleeves and time to practice. Since they live in IL and I in NV we would have to rely on my tastings and a few pictures through text/email. We decided on a two-layer black and white cake with a chocolate black out filling and a basic butter cream.

My Classic White Cake Recipe:

  • 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 6 large egg whites (3/4 cup)
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 (9-inch) diameter by 1 1/2-inch deep layer pans or 1 (13 by 9 by 2-inch) pan, buttered and bottoms lined with parchment or waxed paper

Bake at 350 degrees. In a large mixing bowl, beat butter and sugar for about 5 minutes, until light and fluffy. Stir together flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside. Combine egg whites, milk and vanilla extract. Add 1/3 of the flour mixture to butter mixture then add half the milk mixture. Continue to alternate beginning and ending with flour mixture. Scrape bowl and beater often. Pour batter into prepared pan(s) and smooth top with a metal spatula. Bake cake(s) about 25 to 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center emerges clean. Cool in pan on a rack for 5 minutes.

Thanks to Ina Garten (Love her) I found a recipe for an incredible Chocolate Cake. This is the link to Ina's recipe on

My Butter Cream recipe is TOO simple and consists of 4 ingredients:
In a standing mixer fitted with a whisk, mix together sugar and butter. Mix on low speed until well blended and then increase speed to medium and beat for another 3 minutes.

Add vanilla and cream and continue to beat on medium speed for 1 minute more, adding more cream if needed for spreading consistency.

Lastly the Black Out filling (Thanks to Oprah!) was a part of a Three-Layer Cake. It takes a loving hand and a watchful eye but was definitely worth it.

  • 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon corn syrup
  • 2/3 cup cocoa powder , sifted
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 2 tablespoons butter , softened
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

My decorating skills were weak (at best) but it definitely started my love of the 3 T's (Trying, Testing and TASTING!) Here are a few pics of my trials and tribulations of my very BEST friends wedding cake. 
(they loved it BTW... or at least pretended to)