Sunday, December 18, 2011

Italian Chocolate Balls

I've been baking like crazy this month...Cake and Cupcakes for Ben's 5th birthday party, a baby shower cake for a coworker and friend, cookies for The Great Food Food Blogger Cookie swap, cookies for a work cookie exchange....and then good old christmas cookies for family and friends. Woohoo! I've used some of my old standby recipes- Orange Drop Cookies (15 dozen made so far...woah!), Cutout Cookies (6 dozen), and Angeletti (3 1/2 dozen) as well as some new recipes. Preparing for Christmas stresses me out....but the baking relaxes me, which explains why I am making so many cookies!!

Two of the new recipes I tried came from a little box set of cookie recipes I found in the gift shop at the hospital I work in. It's called One Smart Cookie, and it's published by Daymaker inspirational gifts, and it has 50 cards with cookie recipes. It's a cute little gift set...and I have one to give away to one of you as well!

This is a great recipe...coconut, nuts and chocolate all rolled into one, and the best part is that it doesn't require any baking!

Italian Chocolate Balls adapted from One Smart Cookie
Makes 2 dozen

1/2 Cup butter, softened
3 cups powdered sugar
1 cup flaked coconut
1 can sweetened condensed milk
2 cups chopped pecans or walnuts
1 tsp salt
1 16 oz bag milk chocolate chips

Mix all ingredients except chocolate chips in large bowl, and stir  with wooden spoon until combined. Roll into small balls. Melt chocolate chips according to package directions, stirring until smooth. Dip* balls in chocolate and pace on waxed paper to cool.

* I have issues dipping things in I melted the chocolate, and spooned it onto each of the cookies. Might not be as pretty, but they're still a big hit around here!

Giveaway Time!- 

Leave a comment here telling me what your favorite christmas cookie is, and you're entered to win. You can gain additional entries by following Baked by Beth on  twitter and/or facebook and then leave me another comment with your handle(s). Winner will be chosen 12/30 and notified by email.

Congrats to Cindy B, the one and only entrant! Those are some odds...I'll email you to get your shipping info, Cindy. Enjoy the recipes!

Monday, December 12, 2011

My Cookie Swap Recipe: Orange Drop Cookies

Today is the big link up of allllllll 625 bloggers recipes for The Great Food Blogger Cookies Swap 2011. The guidelines for the swap were pretty simple. Make 3 dozen homemade cookies, use a recipe you haven't posted on your blog before, and send em to three unsuspecting food bloggers.

I decided to use my all time favorite cookie recipe for the swap. This recipe is a family favorite- it came from my mom's childhood nanny, Grammy Grace, and I try to make these cookies every year at Christmas. These are Orange Drop Cookies...soft, citrusy pillows that are amazing with or without the orange glaze. I know this because I'm impatient, and typically eat a cookie or two four before they are iced.

My cookies went to Vanessa of  French Foodie Mom, Monica of Sweet Bites Blog, and Jenny of Jen eat, then speak. I'm hoping they arrived in good condition, and quickly..The post office around here definitely isn't the fastest on the planet! One of the best parts of this project was being introduced to 6 bloggers you may not have heard of...I checked out the blogs of each blogger I sent cookies to, as well as the bloggers I received cookies from. I'll definitely be back for more!

Sneaky little elf...tryin to hijack my cookies!

Orange Drop Cookies 
Makes 5 dozen cookies

1 3/4 cups sugar
1 cup butter, softened
2 eggs
1 whole orange
4 cups flour (I used whole wheat, just as yummy as all purpose)
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 cup buttermilk

Preheat oven to 375 degrees and line baking sheets with parchment paper. Finely grate orange rind, then remove remaining orange peel. Place orange slices in blender or food processor and grind until fine. Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy, then beat in eggs, orange and rind. Sift dry ingredients together, and add to butter mixture, alternating with milk. Using medium scoop, drop on prepared cookie sheets 1 inch apart. Bake 9-10 minutes, or until bottoms of cookies start to brown. Remove from oven and cool completely on wire racks before adding glaze.

Orange Glaze:
6 tbsp melted butter
6 tbsp freshly squeezed orange juice
2 tbsp grated orange rind
Powdered sugar to thicken

Combine butter and orange juice and mix well. Add enough powdered sugar to thicken to desired consistency. Stir in orange rind, and spread on cookies.


Saturday, December 10, 2011

The Great Blogger Cookie Swap 2011

When I found out about The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap 2011, I *knew* I had to participate. I love cookies...who doesn't love cookies! I love making cookies, especially during the holidays, and getting 3 mystery packages of cookies in the mail sounded like a no brainer!

When registration closed, there were 625 bloggers signed up to participate. That's 1875 dozen cookies flyin' through the mail over the past few weeks. How cool is that!! 

Monday is the official link up of the cookie exchange, with recipes and all. For now, I can share the cookies I  received in the mail! Talk about fun! 3 packages, addressed to me, full of cookies! 

My first box of cookies arrived Wednesday- and I couldn't wait to see what was inside! Amanda from Sweet Fix sent me "London Fog" cookies...Earl Grey Tea Butter Cookies with White Chocolate Filling. These were thin, crispy cookies with a hint of earl grey tea filled with white chocolate, and they were to die for. I may or may not have eaten half of this tin of cookies myself!

London Fog from Beth at Just So Parenting
Thursday's mail brought a beautifully decorated box from The Lushers...filled with oatmeal, cranberry and white chocolate cookies. Yum, yum, yum. Yum. No other words necessary. Yum. 

How pretty is that box? Photo from Beth at Just So Parenting

The Lushers' Oatmeal Cranberry White Chocolate Cookies. Photo from Beth at  Just So Parenting

My final box of cookies arrived today , and I while I was sad it was the last box, I was not disappointed in the least as to what was inside! Beth from Just So Parenting sent me these slightly highly addictive Chewy Lemon Lavender Snowdrop Cookies. Soft, sweet, chewy, tangy....the list of adjectives goes on and on. Once I have my hands on this recipe, I'll definitely be making these!

Chewy Lemon Lavender Snowdrop Cookies from Beth at Just So Parenting
(this is my photo....I actually got the camera out before the cookies disappeared!!)
Thanks to these three ladies for some amazing cookies, and thanks to Lindsay of Love and Olive Oil and Julie of The Little Kitchen for organizing this event. I'm sure it was a huge success! 

My recipe will be up Monday...can't wait to share my all time favorite cookies with you!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Remembering my Dad

My family and I celebrated my dad's life yesterday- a life that ended very unexpectedly 10 years ago. We decided to celebrate together this year, as the cooker boy has had a lot of questions about Pop Pop Jim.We had lunch at the beach, and Ben sent Pop Pop Jim some balloons.  I baked this cake, which was always my dads favorite...He called it "Schocolate cake with schocolate icing" as a kid...the Schocolate stuck even as he grew up, and it became a family joke. I wasn't into baking much when my dad was around, but I'm sure he's drooling over this cake from up above.

Ben and Mom releasing the balloons and Ben's note to Pop Pop Jim

I spent some time scanning old pictures and posting them on Facebook, as most of our family and friends are still in Ohio, and I wanted everyone to be included in the celebration. Several people posted great memories of my dad on my wall, and they were definitely fun to read. He was an incredibly funny guy, and that's what I miss the most.

Family Pictures

The recipes. I used the "Too Much Chocolate Cake" and Hershey's "Perfectly Chocolate" Chocolate Frosting recipes for this cake. Talk about chocolate overload...exactly what my dad would have enjoyed!

Too Much Chocolate Cake from

1 devils food cake mix
1 pkg instant chocolate pudding
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup warm water
4 eggs
2 cups chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare (2) 9 inch cake pans with baking spray and set aside. In large bowl, combine dry ingredients and stir to break up lumps. Add oil, sour cream, milk and eggs and whisk until combined. Stir in chocolate chips. Pour batter into pans and bake for 30 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean when inserted into center of cake. Cool in pans on wire racks until completely cool.

Perfectly Chocolate Chocolate Frosting from

1 stick butter
2/3 cup Hershey's Cocoa powder
3 cups powdered sugar
1/3 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla extract

Melt butter in saucepan and stir in cocoa power. Whisk until smooth and transfer into large mixing bowl. Alternate adding powdered sugar and milk, beating until smooth and creamy. Add vanilla extract and beat until just combined.

Enjoy, and let me know what you think!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Rose Cake

I saw a cake like this on I am Baker, and thought it was absolutely well as something I must try! I found this lovely little cake stand at T.J. Maxx, and needed something to put on it, so I decided to try my hand at this decorating technique. I used a chocolate cake mix to get my cake layers made quickly, and whipped up a batch of Kahlua Buttercream, and went at it.

I prepared this like I would any other layer cake- froze, filled, crumb coated, and frosted. I put the cake in the fridge to set the base layer of frosting, so I could wipe off any mistakes if I needed to (which I did...a few times). Once I got the hang of it, I realized that Amanda of I am Baker is a genius. This is a really simple technique that when finishes leaves you with a stunning cake!

I will send you to Amanda's site, I am Baker, as she has wonderful step by step instructions on how to make this cake. I promise, it IS as simple as it sounds. The rest of her site is amazing as well- I try a lot of recipes I find here. If you find yourself with a few minutes, nose around. You won't be sorry!

Kahlua Buttercream

2 Sticks Unsalted Butter, at room temperature
1 lb powdered sugar
4 tbsp Kahlua or Kahlua flavored creamer
1 tsp vanilla

Cream butter in bowl of stand mixer using whip attachment. Add powdered sugar in small additions, mixing well after each addition. Add vanilla then Kahlua (or creamer) 1 tbsp at a time, using more or less to achieve the desired consistency.

Enjoy, and let me know what you think!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Big Birthday Cake for my Little Brother

My "little" brother turned 30 this year, and that makes me feel older than my own 30th birthday did! My brother is the general manager of a local bar, so we decided to celebrate his birthday there and let some of his staff and customers in on the celebration. I decided  I'd make two cakes for his birthday, one for our family dinner, and one for the celebration at the bar.

The big cake was a moist chocolate cake covered in chocolate ganache with a hint of Chambord, filled with the same ganache and seedless raspberry jam. Yum, yum, yum. I am a big fan of chocolate and raspberry, and this was the best combination yet! I also made a small amount of white chocolate ganache flavored with Chambord to use for decoration. Obviously I need to work on writing on cake...Ganache probably wasn't the easiest to start with! The white chocolate, however messy, was a great contrast to the rest of the cake,

This cake recipe is made 2 full 9x13 layers! I ended up mixing the batter in halves based on the suggestion of Deb at Smitten Kitchen, the blogger I got the recipe from...the full recipe would have been way too much for my mixer to handle.

Chocolate Butter Cake with Bittersweet Chambord Ganache
adapted from  Smitten Kitchen

5 1/3 C. cake flour
5 1/3 C. sugar
2 2/3 C. unsweetened cocoa powder (not dutch process)
6 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp salt
5 1/3 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 2/3 C. buttermilk
5 large eggs + 1 large egg yolk
2 2/3 C. freshly brewed coffee
1 C. seedless raspberry jam

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare 2 9x13 inch pans with baking spray, and line bottom of pans with parchment paper.

Combine dry ingredients in large mixer bowl. Whisk ingredients until combined. Add buttermilk and butter and mix on low until moistened. Increase speed to medium high and mix until batter is light and fluffy, between 2-3 minutes.

Combine eggs and coffee in a medium bowl, and whisk until combined. Add to batter in 3 additions, scraping down the bowl after each addition and mixing until just combined.

Pour batter into prepared pans, each pan uses about 5 1/2 cups batter.

Bake at 350 55-60 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out clean.

Let cool in pans on wire rack 10-15 minutes, then carefully turn cakes out onto rack to cool completely.

Bittersweet Chambord Ganache

2 lbs bittersweet chocolate chips, I used Ghiridelli
2 sticks unsalted butter, cut into pieces
2 C. heavy cream
1/3 C. chambord liqueur

Place chocolate chips in large bowl. Heat cream in a heavy saucepan over medium heat, removing from heat just before it boils. Pour over chocolate chips, and let sit for one minute. Whisk until smooth, then add butter, continuing to whisk until smooth. Stir in liqueur, and let cool to room temperature.

Assemble cake:

Place one layer on cake board and top with a thin layer of cooled ganache. Let ganache set, then spread 1 cup raspberry jam on top. Top with 2nd layer, and apply thin coat of ganache as a crumb coat to top and sides of cake. Let ganache set, then spread the remaining ganache over top and sides of cake. Top with fresh raspberries.

Enjoy, and let me know what you think!!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Block O Grooms Cake

Soon after my brother Jason and his wife Monica started making wedding plans, Monica asked if I could make a surprise Groom's Cake for Jason. Of course I said yes...that was a no brainer! I knew I'd have my hands full, making 100 cupcakes as well as a surprise groom's a kitchen that wasn't mine, and trying to get the grooms cake finished without my brother finding out. I figured the best way to go was a Block O, since Jason attended the Ohio State University and was in the Ohio State University Marching Band. Our family is full of Buckeye fans...both the college "Buckeyes" as well as the candy ones. I decided to try to replicate a buckeye in the cake- chocolate cake filled with peanut butter mousse and topped with chocolate buttercream under the marshmallow fondant. I had my work cut out for me.

I did a trial run a few weeks before the wedding, to make sure everything worked out well. I originally planned just to ice the cake with red and white buttercream, but I didn't like the way it looked once it was finished. That's when I decided fondant was the way to go. I also knew this cake wouldn't be complete without the Candy buckeyes all Buckeye fans love!

All said and done, Jason knew we were trying to pull something over on him. None of us females are all that great at keeping secrets! I think he was happy with the cake though...and I know the guests enjoyed it!

Buckeye Cake recipes from many sources, listed below

Chocolate Cake: my favorite chocolate cake recipe x 2 and baked in 9x13 cake pans. Can be baked ahead and frozen if desired, as the assembly and decorating takes some time.

Peanut Butter Mousse Filling: from Cafe Johnsonia

2 C peanut butter, not natural
8 oz cream cheese, softened
1 C powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 C heavy cream, chilled

In large bowl, mix peanut butter and cream cheese with electric mixer on medium speed until combined. Add powdered sugar and vanilla, mix until all sugar has been incorporated....this mixture will be thick! Set aside. In bowl (preferably chilled) of stand mixer, beat heavy cream with whisk attachment on high speed until soft peaks form. Using a large spatula, gently fold whipped cream into peanut butter mixture in two additions. The first lightens the mixture without deflating the whipped cream. The second lightens it even more, and smooths it out. Cover and chill until ready to assemble cake.

Chocolate Buttercream Icing from Brown Eyed Baker

2 C (4 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
5 C powdered Sugar
2 tsp Vanilla
8 oz semisweet chocolate, melted and cooled

Using whisk attachment of stand mixer, mix butter on high speed until light and fluffy. Scrape down bowl as needed. Add powdered sugar in small batches, and mix well on low speed after each addition. Once all powdered sugar has been added add vanilla and mix on medium speed. Add chocolate and continue to mix until light and fluffy, scraping the bowl as needed. 

Marshmallow Fondant from Whats Cooking America with Peggy Weaver

1 16 oz package mini marshmallows
2-5 Tbsp water
2 lb powdered sugar
1/2 C shortening

Place marshmallows and 2 Tbsp water in large microwavable bowl. Microwave for 2-2 1/2 minutes, in 30 second increments. Stir after each 30 seconds is up. Remove from microwave, and add 3/4 of the powdered sugar to the bowl. Use a wooden or plastic spoon to stir to mix partially, then dump contents of bowl onto shortening covered work surface. Using your hands (also well greased with shortening), knead fondant like you would knead bread..I use the push, fold, turn and repeat method. Add the remaining sugar as you knead. If the fondant starts to stick to your work surface or hands, recover with shortening. If fondant starts to tear, add water, 1/2 tbsp at a time, kneading well after each addition. This is a lot of work...I find that it takes 7-8 minutes and several applications of shortening to get the fondant to a nice stretchable state. Shape into a ball, rub outside with shortening, and wrap in plastic wrap (2 layers) before refrigerating. I find the fondant easier to work with after being refrigerated. Let come to room temperature before attemping to knead. Color or flavoring can be added as you knead before rolling out. I covered my cake with white fondant, cut the "O" out of white fondant, then "painted" with red gel food coloring mixed with a little vodka. The alcohol evaporates, and it thins the gel enough to paint with. The green for the leaves I mixed food coloring with fondant and kneaded since it was such a small amount.

I suggest checking out Peggy's site for a great in-depth tutorial on working with Fondant, complete with pictures. I'm not doing the process justice,as I am still learning.

Candy Buckeyes: adaped from and previously posted on my site.

Cake preparation and assembly:
I baked my cakes ahead of time, wrapped in plastic wrap x3 layers and froze them. I had to transport all of my cooking utensils with me to West Palm Beach, so I wanted to make the process as easy as possible.

Made the mousse, stuck in the fridge, then made the frosting.

I drew the block O on wax paper and used that as a stencil for trimming the cakes before filling and frosting.
I also used a simple syrup to brush on the cakes for a little added moisture. Filled with mousse, stacked cakes, crumb-coated with a light layer of buttercream and stuck in the fridge.

While the crumb-coat was setting, I made the fondant. I didn't frost the cake until I had the fondant ready to go, as I wanted the fondant to stick to the buttercream well. I Cut out the block O, painted with red food coloring and let dry. Made the green fondant, and cut out my leaves. I adhered these pieces to the cake using a little bit of simple syrup. Tinted a little white buttercream red to pipe around the edges of the cake to give it a more finished look.

I made the buckeyes last, and placed them on and around the cake after I placed the cake on the dessert table.

One lesson learned: Warm, humid weather and buttercream don't the evening went on I noticed the fondant had cracked and started to slide a little. All in all, I was super happy with my first big fondant cake! I thought it looked great on the dessert table, and it gave the newlyweds a cake to cut for pictures!

Photo Courtesy of Dawn V. Gilmore Photography

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Wedding Cupcakes!

I posted a few weeks ago about all of the reasons I'd been baking but not blogging. Well, I'm still kinda slacking in the blogging area...I just recently moved, am trying to get organized for a garage sale, and have been working up to 5 twelve+ hour days a pretty please be easy on me!

I wanted to get a new recipe up- and this is a  good place to start. A few weeks ago, I posted pics of the Cupcakes and Grooms Cake I made for my brother Jason and his wife Monica's wedding. These cupcakes were a combination of a few of my favorite recipes. The cupcakes themselves are the Champagne Cupcakes with Raspberry Filling, and the icing is very brightly colored Lemon Buttercream. I figured what better way to celebrate than with Champagne in the cupcake batter as well as the filling- and the bride and groom (and my new nephews!) were easily won over with a test batch I made for them in February. The wedding was held outdoors in West Palm Beach, Florida, and the Raspberry and Lemon were light enough to enjoy...not too heavy to keep anyone from dancing!

The Cupcake recipe is from The Pampered Chef...and it is one of my all time favorite cake recipes! I usually make cakes completely from scratch, but this recipe is easy, yummy, and so'd never know it starts with a mix!! Perfect for when you have 100 cupcakes to make, and no time for mistakes!

Raspberry Filled Champagne Cupcakes with Lemon Buttercream Icing adapted from The Pampered Chef and my own imagination

makes 24 standard cupcakes

Champagne Cake:
1 box white cake mix
3 egg whites
3/4 C champagne
1/2 C milk
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
2 tsp vanilla extract

Raspberry Champagne Filling:
1 1/2 C frozen raspberries
1/3 C sugar
1/4 C water
1 C champagne, divided
2 Tbsp cornstarch

Lemon Buttercream Icing:
2 sticks  unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 lb powdered sugar
juice of 1 lemon
gel food coloring,  if desired

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line cupcake tins with wrappers. Place cake mix in large bowl and whisk to break up any large lumps. Add champagne, milk, egg whites and vanilla and stir until combined (2-3 minutes by hand).

I use a Pampered Chef scoop to place batter in liners so my portions are equal and my cupcakes are of similar size. Fill liners 2/3 full. Place pans in oven, and bake 22-26 minutes, or until tops spring back when touched. Remove from oven to cool.

Prepare filling while cupcakes are baking, or ahead of time if making large quantities. Place 1/4 C champagne and 2 Tbsp cornstarch in small bowl, whisk until smooth and set aside.  Combine raspberries, remaining champagne, sugar and water in a small saucepan. Heat over medium-high heat until boiling, stirring occasionally. Slowly add champagne-cornstarch mixture to pan, whisking constantly. Continue cooking 2-3 minutes to thicken mixture. If you don't want seeds in the filling, pour through a fine mesh strainer to remove. Set filling aside to cool.

When cupcakes and filling are completely cool, prepare icing. Place butter in a large bowl (or bowl of a stand mixer if you have I FINALLY do!!) and beat on high speed until smooth. Add powdered sugar and lemon juice in small batches, mixing well after each addition. Add more or less lemon juice to achieve desired consistency.

If coloring frosting, add small amounts of gel food coloring to obtain desired color.

To fill cupcakes, cut a divot out of the center of the cupcake, place filling inside, place divot back on top..and frost as desired.

FYI: I had about 33 cupcakes with each color frosting...and because my sister-in-law wanted bright, vibrant tropical colors, each batch of frosting used approximately 1 small container of Wilton Gel Food Coloring.
This is what happens when you use that much frosting:

Gorgeous Teal Frosting...not so gorgeous teal tongues!
Photo courtesy of Dawn V. Gilmore Photography

Just for fun....most photos courtesy of Dawn V. Gilmore Photography

More to come soon...

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Busy, Busy Girl!

I've had a busy few weeks, and while I've done a lot of baking I haven't had the time to do much blogging. I am a little behind with my posting, so I thought I'd at least post pics of my latest goodies and will follow up with recipes soon!!

Top of Beach Wedding Cake for Monica's Bridal Shower Dinner

Beach Wedding Cake with White Chocolate Shells

Cupcake Toppers for Jason and Monica's Wedding

Block O Groom's Cake for Jason
Cake Table at Jason & Monica's Wedding
Chocolate Covered Strawberry Cake

Chocolate Covered Strawberry Cupcake

Rose Cake

White Cupcakes with Chocolate & Maple Buttercreams Swirled

Be back soon with recipes!!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Lemon Pound Cake with Lime Glaze

As most of you know, I'm a single mom and I work two jobs. I work full time at a hospital, which is 3 12 hour shifts a week, and part time at a long term care facility on an as needed basis. I occasionally take some of my baked goodies into my part time job, and I share with my patients if they are able to eat sweets. These patients are recieving long term respiratory care, so I get the chance to know them and their families well. One of these patients (I'll call her Mrs. L) I've known since I first became a therapist, and I see her both at the hospital as well as the long term care facility. Mrs. L is a sweet and sassy southern lady and we talk food quite often as she is usually watching the Food Network when I go into her room.  Mrs. L asked if I'd make her a Lemon Pound Cake, so I did just that for Valentines Day. I found cute ceramic mini loaf pans in Valentines Day colors at Target, so I bought one of each color. I made these cakes the night before Valentines day, and I have to say for being thrown together quickly they turned out very well! My patient loved hers as well...I was able to sneak in and leave it on her bedside table while she was still sleeping. When I checked back after breakfast, she'd already tasted the cake and I think her exact words were something like "Oooooooh girl!"

Printable Recipe

Lemon Pound Cake adapted from

1 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
1 cup sugar
4 eggs
1 vanilla bean
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 tbsp lemon zest

1/3 cup powdered sugar
1/3 cup lime juice
1 tbsp lime zest

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare one large or three mini loaf pans with non-stick spray and line with parchment paper. Combine flour, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl and whisk gently to combine.

Cream butter in a large bowl with mixer on high speed. Add 1 cup sugar and mix until combined. Decrease mixer speed to low and add eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Scrape insides of vanilla bean into mix, and mix briefly. Alternate adding dry ingredients and lemon juice, mixing well after each addition. Continue mixing until batter is smooth. Stir in lemon zest.

Pour into prepared pan(s), and bake: 60-75 minutes for large pan, 40-50 minutes for smaller pans.

Remove from oven when top of cake is domed, and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean or with few crumbs. Let cool in pan for 15 minutes, loosen cake by running a knife around the edges of the pan, then remove cake to cooling rack.

While cake is cooling, prepare glaze by mixing 1/3 cup powdered sugar with 1/3 cup lime juice. Pour on cakes while still warm, and sprinkle lime zest on top. Dust cakes with powdered sugar before serving.

Enjoy and let me know what you think!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Cupcakes with a Heart

I haven't posted for a while, but I promise I haven't given up baking or blogging! The past few weeks have been busy with work and other things in my personal life that have kept me pretty busy. I knew I had to get this done by valentines day, and I wanted to share this recipe with you. This is my entry into the PomWonderful Cupcake Contest- a contest combining two of my favorite things- Cupcakes and Pomegranates. I started with one of my favorite cake recipes, made a few changes and incorporated Pomegranate Juice, tried a new trick I learned from Bake It In a Cake and voila- Cupcakes with a Heart.

Cupcakes with a Heart (aka Champagne and Pomegranate Cupcakes with Tahetian Vanilla Bean Buttercream)

Makes 30 Standard Cupcakes

2 boxes white cake mix
6 egg whites, divided
1 cup milk, divided
3/4 cup champagne
3/4 pomegranate juice
4 tsp vanilla extract, divided
4 tbsp vegetable oil, divided

3 sticks butter, softened
2 lbs powdered sugar, divided
1 tahetian vanilla bean or 2 tsp vanilla extract
2-4 tbsp milk
red food coloring if desired

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, combine 1 cake mix with 3 egg whites, 1/2 cup milk, 3/4 cup champagne, 2 tbsp oil and 2 tsp vanilla. Stir with wire whisk for 2-3 minutes or until smooth.

In a second bowl, combine remaining cake mix with 3 egg whites, 1/2 cup milk, 3/4 cup pomegranate juice, 2 tbsp oil and 2 tsp vanilla. Stir with wire whisk for 2-3 minutes or until smooth.

Spray bottoms of 2 8x8 pans with nonstick spray, and pour a 1/2 in thick layer of champagne cake in one pan and pomegranate cake in the other. Bake 10-12 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Set aside and let cool.

Prepare muffin pans with liners and fill slightly less than 2/3 full with batter. Take a small heart-shaped cookie cutter (small enough to fit inside a cupcake) and cut 15 hearts from each cake layer. Insert a heart of the opposite color into each cupcake and push down as far into batter as it will go. Take care to keep cupcakes lined straight so that when cupcakes are bitten into you can see the heart.

Bake for 24-26 minutes, or until cupcakes are lightly browned. Remove from oven and cool completely before decorating.

In large bowl, cream butter with electric mixer until smooth. Slice down the side of the vanilla bean and scrape insides into bowl, or add extract. Mix until combined. Add powdered sugar in small batches, mixing well after each addition. Add milk, 1 tbsp at a time until desired consistency is reached. Add food coloring, if desired. Frost cupcakes and place some sort of decoration on the front, so the cupcakes remain facing forward.

Enjoy, and let me know what you think.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

The Pioneer Woman's Chocolate Chip Cookie Cinnamon Rolls

Sundays are all about Breakfast Rolls at my house- The Cooker Boy loves to help me make the dough, and he would devour the entire pan if I'd let him. This recipe is a variation on the first Cinnamon Roll recipe I poted- both the original and this version are from The Pioneer Woman. The addition of brown sugar, salt and chocolate chips makes these cinnamon rolls taste like chocolate chip cookies. I didn't make any changes to this recipe- it's perfect just the way it is! ( I did, however, cut the recipe in half. As much as I love breakfast rolls, there's no need for me to make more than 2 pans at a time.)

Chocolate Chip Cinnamon Rolls from The Pioneer Woman Cooks

2 cups whole milk
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup canola oil
4 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 pkg dry active yeast
1/2 tablespoon (heaping) salt
1/2 teaspoon (scant) baking soda
1/2 teaspoon (heaping) baking powder

1/2 stick butter,melted
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup chocolate chips or chunks
1/2 cup chopped pecans (optional)

4 oz cream cheese, softened
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 stick butter, softened
1/2 cup whole milk
1 1/4 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 teaspoon salt (scant)

Heat milk, sugar and oil in a large pot over medium-high heat until warm but not boiling. Allow to cool to slightly warmer than lukewarm. Add yeast and 4 cups flour and stir until just combined. Dough will be wet and sticky. Cover and set in a draft-free area (I use my oven, turned off of course) and let sit for 1 hour.

After 1 hour, add remaining flour, salt, baking soda and baking powder. Stir until combined. Refrigerate dough at least 1 hour prior to rolling, and longer if you have the time.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees, and grease desired pans. Divide dough in half, and keep unused half refrigerated until needed. Generously flour your work surface, then turn dough onto floured surface.
Roll into a large rectangle, leaving dough about 1/4 inch thick. Mix melted butter and vanilla, and drizzle 1/2 of mixture onto dough. Use fingers or pastry brush to spread evenly across the dough. Combine sugar and salt, and sprinkle half over melted butter. Top with half of brown sugar, chocolate chips and pecans if desired.

Beginning with the edge farthest from you, roll dough toward you forming a tight roll. Pinch edges together to seal. Slice into 1/2-3/4 inch thick pieces, and lay in prepared pans. Allow dough to rise for 20 minutes then bake for 20-22 minutes at 375 degrees or until tops of rolls are golden brown.

Prepare icing while rolls are baking. Mix butter and cream cheese until smooth. Add powdered sugar, salt, vanilla and milk and mix with electric mixer until smooth and pourable.

Pour on rolls while warm, and top with extra chocolate chips and pecans if desired.

Enjoy, and let me know what you think!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Rubber Duck & Diaper Cakes

 Just a few photos today- These cakes were made for a coworker's baby shower earlier in the week. I used some of my favorite recipes for the rubber duckie cake- the bottom tier is chocolate cake with raspberry champagne filling and vanilla buttercream, and the top tier is white cake with a layer of chocolate ganache filling and tiramisu buttercream. Both layers were popular- and the cake was demolished by my coworkers- and someone asks me about it every time I'm at work now. I've even earned a new nickname...Martha!

As I was shopping for a gift, I thought I would try a different kind of cake- a diaper cake. This one requires no baking, just a little time and creativity in assembling. The mom-to-be loved it, and I think I've found a new business effort! Diaper cakes make great baby shower centerpieces, as well as gifts. I made mine using Pampers Swaddlers Diapers, baby washcloths, receiving blankets,  a hooded bath towel and some ribbon. I'm sorry I didn't take better pictures before I wrapped it up- it turned out super cute, and all of the "ingredients" are must haves when you bring a new baby home!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Celebrate Life: Raspberry Champagne Cream Cupcakes

A few months ago, I happened upon the Frosting for The Cause Website and was excited to volunteer for the project. Frosting for The Cause is a volunteer baker/blogger effort to raise awareness as well as funds for cancer research. Each day of 2011, a new blogger will post about their experience baking goodies for their local hospice as well as where they are choosing to make their financial contribution.

As a Respiratory Therapist working in a medical center, I interact with cancer patients as well as non-cancer patients who are making the decision to seek hospice care. I am often blessed with the opportunity to be involved in the transition from critical care to the comfort care that hospice provides. I have been touched by many patients who eventually sought hospice care, and I am honored to have been a part of their lives, even if for just a brief moment in time.

On a personal level, cancer has affected a few of my family members as well as several of our family friends. Some of these people were lucky enough to win their battle with cancer, some were not. Each of them has taught me something along the way- that no matter what, life is to be celebrated. Life can be long, life can be short- we never know what the future holds for us. This post is dedicated to those family, friends, patients and their families that have fought long and hard fights.

The recipe I decided to use for this project is a celebration cake- Raspberry Champagne Cream Cake. I made the cake itself last week for my family's New Years Day Dinner, again Monday for a friend's birthday party, and decided that I would make the same recipe in cupcake form to take to the Stuart F. Meyer Hospice House here in Palm Coast, Florida.

Photo from Florida Hospital Hospice Care

The SFMHH is a small, 8 bed inpatient facility with a warm homelike atmosphere that provides patients (and their family members) the care and support they need in their last weeks and days. My son and I visited the facility this afternoon to drop off the cupcakes, and it is truly a beautiful facility filled with warm and caring people. I was honored to be able to provide this small gift to the patients, their families, and the staff that works so selflessly to provide comfort at every level. My financial contribution will also be going to Florida Hospital Hospice Care, in honor and memory of the patient's I've handed over to the loving care of the Florida Hospital Hospice Care nurses.

"You matter because you are you. You matter to the last moment of your life, and we will do all we can, not only to help you die peacefully, but to live until you die."  Dr. Cicely Saunders (founder of modern hospice care)

Mini Raspberry Champagne Cream Cupcakes adapted from The Pampered Chef
Makes 56 mini cupcakes

1 package white cake mix
3 egg whites
3/4 cup pink champagne
1/2 cup milk
2 tbsp vegetable oil
2 tsp vanilla extract
3 drops red food coloring gel

Raspberry Champagne Sauce:
1 1/2 cups frozen raspberries
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
1 cup pink champagne, divided
2 tbsp cornstarch

2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 lb powdered sugar
2 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup Raspberry Champagne Sauce

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Place mini cupcake liners in mini muffin tin and set aside. Place cake mix in large mixing bowl, and whisk to break up lumps. Add the remaining cake ingredient, and whisk 2-3 minutes or until smooth.

Using a small scoop, fill cupcake liners 2/3 full.
Place in oven, and bake for 16-17 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of a cupcake comes out clean. Remove pan from oven, and cool on cooling rack for 10-15 minutes. Remove cupcakes to cooling rack and cool until completely cool. Repeat with remaining batter.

While cupcakes are baking, prepare Raspberry Champagne Sauce. Combine 1/4 cup champagne and 2 tbsp cornstarch in small bowl, whisk until combined and set aside. Combine raspberries, sugar, water, and 3/4 cup champagne in small saucepan. Heat over medium-high heat until mixture comes to a boil.

When mixture comes to a boil, slowly add remaining champagne to pan, whisking constantly. Continue to cook for 2-3 minutes or until sauce is thickened. Remove from heat, pour sauce into a small bowl through a fine mesh sieve to strain any lumps and seeds out. Let sauce cool for 1 hour.

When cupcakes and sauce are completely cool, prepare frosting. Place butter in a large bowl, and beat with electric mixer on high until smooth. Add powdered sugar in small batches, mixing well  and scraping down sides of bowl after each addition. When all powdered sugar has been incorporated, add vanilla and 1/4 cup Raspberry Champagne Sauce, and mix until just combined.

Prepare pastry bag with selected tip, fold over edges and place inside a drinking glass. This stabilizes the bag and gives you two hands to use to fill the bag with frosting!

Pipe frosting on cupcakes, and top with sanding sugar if desired.

Top with sanding sugar, if desired, and enjoy.

Boxed up and ready to go!

 Remember that even the small things in life deserve to be celebrated!