Friday, December 20, 2013

Holiday Sweet Treats

Who else has been baking nonstop in preparation for the holidays?  Here's what I've been up to the last few weeks.

One of my favorite chocolate chip cookies with both milk chocolate chips and dark chocolate M&Ms were definitely a winner at work.

Peanut butter cup cookies are a never fail crowd pleaser.  I have been making these cookies for as long as I can remember to gift friends, families, and coworkers.

Toffee is a favorite gift to give around here because one batch sure makes a lot!  I tried a new recipe this year from Thomas Keller's Bouchon Bakery cookbook.

Peanut Butter Cup Cookies
from Hershey's Kitchens
Makes about 3 dozen cookies

About 36 mini peanut butter cups, unwrapped, chilled
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 salt
1/2 cup butter
1/2 white sugar
1/2 brown sugar
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 375F.  

Whisk together flour baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl; set aside.

Beat together the butter, brown sugar, white sugar, peanut butter in a large bowl until light and fluffy.  Add egg; mix until blended.  Add vanilla; mix until incorporated.  Add in the dry mixture, mixing until there are no longer any white streaks.

Shape dough into 1 inch balls and place into each ungreased mini muffin cup.  Do not flatten.

Bake 10 to 12 minutes until puffy and lightly browned; remove form oven.  Immediately press peanut butter cups into the center of each cookie.  Cool completely in muffin pan.

Keeps for 3-5 days in an air tight container at room temperature.

Wishing you and yours the merriest of Christmases and the happiest of holidays!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Cheesecake Desserts

Looking for something to bring to your next holiday party?  Cheesecakes tend to be my go to crowd pleaser dessert.  It adapts really well, whether you are looking to mix in fruit, chocolate, or even cookie dough and brownies.  Below are a few of my tried and true favorites:

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Buttercream Ruffle Cake

Had the pleasure of making a cake for my friend's daughter's first birthday party.  It was a ballerina themed party; so, this pink buttercream ruffle cake fit right in.  The cake was kept fairly simple given I also made 2 dozen cupcakes, carrot and white cake with chocolate chips, as well as the smash cake for the birthday girl.

I am becoming quite a fan of this design; given this is my second attempt at a buttercream ruffle cake now.  As I mentioned before, it helps a lot to score vertical lines around the cake to keep your columns of ruffles uniformed.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Mini Red Velvet Bundt Cakes

I can't believe I haven't used my mini bundt pans from last Christmas until today.  I finally put them to use for a quick birthday treat for two of the husband's coworkers.  I always thought that bundt cakes had to be dense; however, I used my go to red velvet recipe and it not only held up well but it came out of the pan perfectly.  Can't wait for another excuse to use my mini bundt pans.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Praline Walnut Pumpkin Cake

After much success with my first upside down cake, I knew I wanted to make this Praline Pecan Pumpkin cake when I saw it on Pinterest.  Because I didn't have any pecans on hand, I subbed in walnuts.  I recommend sticking with the pecans.

The cake was fairly simply to make the day of, for a dinner party with friends.  Like the upside down cake, it started out with brown sugar and butter melting in a pan over the stovetop.   The mixture was poured into the bottom of the cake pans along with the walnuts.  The reason why I thought the walnuts didn't work here was because it lacked the nuttier taste.  If I toasted them before tossing them into the bottom of the cake pans, it might have worked.  Because I was keeping the cake simple, I added two layers of cream cheese frosting instead of frosting the cake completely.  Next time, a drizzle of caramel sauce  over the top would do wonders.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Pumpkin Desserts

I cannot believe that it's already Fall.  Up until this past week, we were still experiencing temperatures of mid 70s around the Bay Area.  Nonetheless, I am looking forward to indulging in all things pumpkin this season.  Below are a few tried and true pumpkin recipes from the archives:

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Minnie Mouse Cake

This Minnie Mouse cake is definitely one of my favorite cakes made to date.  It was requested by a friend for her daughter's 5th birthday.  I have seen this design done plenty of times and I was very excited to finally get the chance to replicate it.

The cake was 2 tiers of chocolate cake with oreos and oreo buttercream filling with a vanilla bean buttercream frosting.  All decorations were made with store bought fondant.  The ears and the bow were the only 2 things I made in advance.  I loved that the details were very simple (a lot of circles) but once the cake was assembled, it made quite the statement.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Ultimate Chocolate Cake (Tuxedo Cake)

This past weekend was Cake4Kids' 3rd annual CakeOff4Kids event.  Because a few of the bakers that signed up to bake in the contest dropped out at the last minute, I volunteered to bake a cake for the event.  The category I was "entered" in was the Ultimate Chocolate category.  I went with my go to chocolate cake baked with chopped Andes Mints, filling it with ganache, peppermint butter cream frosting, and more crushed Andes Mints.

I searched high and low for the Andes baking chips that I have used often in my Best Brownies with no such luck.  So, I enlisted the husband to unwrap two boxes of Andes Mints and I manually chopped them to bits.

The contest required two cakes, one for the judges and one for the guests.  For the judging cake, I wanted to make it taste as "chocolately" as possible.  So, in addition to filling the cake with ganache and peppermint butter cream frosting, I coated the outside of the cake in the same.  For the tasting cake, I went with the classic ganache pour with all of the leftover ganache.

I didn't place in my category but I had a small sample of the cake and this combination definitely jumped up my list of favorite cakes.  I can't wait to replicate it for the Holidays.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Yellow Ombre Cake

This cake actually started out as an attempt at i am baker's rose cake but my roses came out so wonky.  So, in the last minute, I just took a spatula to it; turning it into a simple ombre cake instead.  The cake was a white cake with lemon zest and lemon extract filled with smashed raspberries and a vanilla buttercream frosting.  With the last of the raspberries, I made a heart in the middle but in the end, without creating a border, it just bleed everywhere (pun not intended).

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Batman Cake (Oreo Cake)

For my niece's birthday party, I made a chocolate cake with Oreos baked in the batter.  She is currently obsessed with everything Batman so I used the frozen buttercream transfer method to quickly decorate the cake.  My sister helped by using the same method but with melted chocolate to make mini toppers for the cupcakes.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Upside Down Peach Cake

I celebrated Labor Day weekend with a few friends over for a backyard BBQ.  What better way to say goodbye to summer than with a dessert chock full of peaches.  Enter the peach upside down cake from Baking Illustrated.

The recipe was perfect with the sugary sweetness being balanced with the dense yellow cake.  Also, the dense cake was the perfect vessel for weight of the peaches as well as soaking up the brown sugar sauce.  My husband, who is amazingly immune to my baked goods, asked for seconds.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Buttercream Ruffle Cake

After much success with my strawberry cake recipe last week, I went ahead and made the same cake flavor again for my cousin's birthday cake.

When my husband and I sampled the extra cupcakes, we both agreed that the taste and texture was just as good as the last time.  Since this cake was for my cousin, I was able to stick around and taste the actual cake as well.  Unfortunately, the cake was dry and dense; not like the cupcakes at all.  However, I suspect that the cake was not as moist as I anticipated because this time around, I grabbed a container of nonfat yogurt instead of full fat yogurt.  This would definitely make a difference in moisture.

To decorate the cake, I went with a popular buttercream technique that I have seen on Pinterest.  After crumb coating the cake, I scored lines up and down the side of the cake about 1 inch apart to make sure my ribbons would be the same size as well as straight all the way around.  The ribbons were made using the #104 tip with the smaller end facing out.  I ran out of frosting or else I would've added at least a quick border around the top of the cake.  For the lettering, I used my candy mold again to keep it simple and clean.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Spiderman Cake (

This Spiderman cake was for another Cake4Kids recipient.  I used the frozen buttercream transfer technique to make Spiderman's face as I only had a few hours after work to put it together.  My sister helped by using candy melts in my new ABC mold to write our "Happy Birthday Jose" while I was at work.  I love how clean it made the cake; it looks ten times better than my piping skills.  This will definitely be a new go to technique for me.

The cake flavor request was for strawberry cake and I was excited to give this cake flavor another go.  I have tried recipes with strawberry jello, strawberry puree, and strawberry yogurt but I couldn't recall an absolute favorite.  This time, I used an adaptable white cake recipe as the base and substituted the sour cream for strawberry yogurt and gave it a boost of strawberry extract.  My sister, who sampled the extra cupcakes, deemed it the best strawberry cake ever!  We now have a new house favorite.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Red Velvet Cupcakes (

I signed up for another request this past week.  This time I baked 4 dozen red velvet cupcakes with cream cheese frosting for one of the agencies.  This cupcake combination has been done many times on this blog as seen here and here and even as a comparison here.  I wanted to bring them to light again as I realized how forgiving my go to recipe is.  I made these cupcakes with the milk and vinegar shortcut for buttermilk and I think that explained why there wasn't any differences when I forgot the extra tsp of vinegar at the end.  I also used all purpose flour instead of cake flour and they still came out fluffy.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Oreo Desserts

I can't believe it's the first week of August already.  I am still trying to savor the last few weeks of longer days and warmer nights, before we have to embrace all the hustle and bustle that comes with the "back to school" season.  The coming of back to school season makes me nostalgia for my days in elementary school and finding Oreos at the bottom on my lunch bag.  Given how much they are featured here on my blog, I guess you can say they are still a favorite treat.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Banana Cream Pie

I must be going bananas as this is my second recipe of the week featuring them.  I couldn't let summer slip on by without making a pie and while I do love myself a peach pie or a strawberry pie, I really wanted a cold slice of banana cream pie.

The crust and the pastry cream were directly out of Martha's Pies and Tarts.  This is one of my favorite go to books for pies.  The crust aslo known as pate brisee was simply amazing; it's practically fail proof.  One thing that disappointed was the pastry cream.  I thought it would set up a bit more but it never did.  So, it ended up more like pudding.  The two other times I made a banana cream pie, one with pastry cream and one with  pudding, I didn't have this problem at all.  Regardless, it tasted spot on.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Banana Nut Bread (Paleo)

Since participating in a 30-day Paleo challenge, I have been trying to keep up with living a Paleo lifestyle.  One of the things I wanted to change was the sugar-laden quick muffins and breads I was grabbing for breakfast; enter discovering Elana's Pantry.  It was difficult to pick just one of  her recipes; everything looked so good.  It was hard to believe it was all gluten and grain free.  Because I had some overripe bananas, I went with the Banana Nut Bread.  This ranks high up there for my tried and true Paleo swap outs; even my none Paleo believing friend didn't know it was Paleo.

Banana Nut Bread (Paleo)
adapted from Elana's Pantry
Makes 1 loaf

2 cups almond meal
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
3 ripe bananas, mashed
3 eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon honey
1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
1/3 cup walnuts, chopped


Preheat oven to 350F.

Grease a 3 x 9 loaf pan and set aside.

In a medium bowl whisk together, the almond meal, baking soda, and salt.

Beat in the eggs, one at a time.  Stir in the bananas, vanilla extra, honey, coconut oil, and walnuts.

Pour batter into the pre-greased pan.  Bake for 55-65 minutes or until top appears dry and a toothpick inserted through the center comes out clean.

Allow to cool in pan and then serve as desired.  Keeps well wrapped up at room temperature for 3-5 days.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Blueberry Crisp (Paleo)

I decided to mix things up this weekend by bringing a paleo dessert to a friend's house instead of my usual baked goods.  It was the perfect treat after a nice barbecue dinner.  To make it completely paleo, I suggest a nice scoop of almond ice cream or coconut milk ice cream on top.  We went 50% paleo and enjoyed it with some sugar free vanilla ice cream.

Blueberry Crisp (Paleo)
Adapted from Paleo Desserts: 125 Delicious
6-8 servings

11 oz container of fresh or frozen blueberries
zest of 1 lemon
1 cup of almond meal
1/2 cup of finely chopped nuts (walnuts or pecans)
1/2 cup of unsweetened shredded coconut
1 tsp of cinnamon
1/8 tsp of salt
1/2 tsp of vanilla
2 tablespoons of honey
1 tablespoon of coconut oil, melted

Step 1: Grease a 8x8 baking dish with coconut oil.  Toss blueberries with the lemon zest.

Step 2: In a medium bowl, stir together the  dry ingredients - almond meal, nuts, shredded coconut, cinnamon and salt.

Step 3: Stir in the vanilla extract, honey, and melted coconut oil.  Add more or less coconut oil based on how dry or wet the mixture looks.

Step 4: Sprinkle the wet mixture on top of the blueberries.  Bake for 25-30 minutes at 350F or until bubbly and golden brown on top.

Serve warm or cold.  Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days.
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