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I Made a Cake

7 Jun

It’s no big deal.

Except that it was pretty.  And really delicious.  

So delicious, Aunt Gerry wanted to lick the plate.  And Mom ate a whole piece.  You know, despite not liking chocolate cake.  And Grandma didn’t share her second half with Granddad.  

Yes, people, it was so good, my family was starting to show their ugly sides.

Except for Cousin Pam.  Probably ‘cause the cake was for her birthday.  So she could eat however much she wanted. 

Dark chocolate cake.  Layers of whipped chocolate ganache.  Covered in a rich Raspberry Swiss Meringue Buttercream.  Drizzled in chocolate ganache.  Because a touch more chocolate was definitely needed.

I cut, I cooled, I smoothed.  I cooled again, I covered, I drizzled.  

The end result?  Worth every step. 

Psst… Interested in seeing the steps?  Take a look at Sweetapolita.  She gives an amazing step-by-step.

May the Luck O’ the Irish Be with You!

17 Mar

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Yes, today is the one day of the year where it is not only acceptable, but highly recommended that you drink copious amounts of green beer, eat endless plates of corned beef and cabbage and wear head-to-toe green.

Well, since I’m preparing to head north for a week (and hangovers are not useful when packing, I know) and Mom’s a vegetarian, I decided to make these delicious Irish Cake balls, instead.

Based on the Irish Cupcakes, these cake balls are super easy and super tasty.

Simply break-up your favorite chocolate cake in a large bowl.  Yes, it’s okay if you take a bit of help from Pillsbury or Duncan Hines.  I won’t tell.

Add buttercream that has been flavored with a couple of tablespoons of Bailey’s Irish Cream.  Or, if you are trying to grow hair on your chest, a couple of tablespoons of a good Irish whiskey – here’s looking at you Jameson.

Now, mix until the mixture is moist, but not gooey.  Roll into balls and freeze until firm.  Dip into chocolate.  Again, you can spike this if you want.  I won’t tell.

Kinda the perfect St. Patrick’s Day treat, no?  Chocolate and a bit of Irish deliciousness.

These may just make this St. Patrick’s Day better than the one where we got a little heavy handed on the green food coloring…

Cheers!

Let Them Eat Cake!

1 Feb

My fabulous Cousin Pam is in town (by the way, I capitalize “cousin” because in our family, familial relation becomes part of everyone’s name.  In fact, when Pam calls me, she notes, “Kristina?  It’s Cousin Pam.”  Honest.  Ask her.).  Her first order of business was to plan a special birthday celebration for her sister, Debbie.  To accompany the champagne toast, Pam asked me to make a cake.

We decided Debbie should decide the flavor components.  After all, it was her birthday celebration.  Well, she said she wanted chocolate cake, not chocolate frosting and something with fruit, if possible.  After much discussion, we ended up with a four-layer cake, filled with orange ganache, covered with orange buttercream and topped with dark chocolate curls.

The result?  Pretty divine, if I do say so myself.  And it seemed to be a hit with everyone else.  Although, that could have been the champagne talking.

Photo Credit: Cousin Pam, Photographer, Great-Aunt Gerry, Stylist (89 year’s young and still finding new skills!)

Now, Pam is trying to convince me to add cakes to my repertoire.  Maybe if she sticks around for a few more weeks she’ll have me convinced.

By the way, be sure to check out her blog Pam Plants a Garden.  It will give you a glimpse as to why Mom and Cousin Pam are kindred spirits.

Like A Big Pecan Pie (Bar)… That’s Amore

26 Jan

I was overly ambitious (unfortunately, an all to common flaw of mine) in early December.  I asked Jess to send me a list of baked goods that she wanted to try or wanted to learn to bake, but either hadn’t gotten around to making or was too nervous to attempt.  I thought it would be fun to tackle some tricky desserts.

Oh, the overly ambitious part – I was going to make/bake, photograph and schedule blogs before the holiday rush.

Well, here we are.

Anyway, one of Jess’s items was pecan pie.  Although pie is not my go-to dessert, I too love (love) pecan pie.  It’s sweet, it’s gooey, it’s nutty… it’s deliciously decadent.

So when I finally had some time to do some baking, I went back to the list and remembered a recipe I marked from Blue-Eyed Bakers.  I figured rather than making a whole pie – which I would inevitably end since mom doesn’t do pecan pie (she opts for cherry… yuuuuck!) – I would make some pecan pie bars.  Kill the craving and easily  give some away!  Ahh, perfect combo.

Start with the shortbread.  In the food processor, combine the cold butter, flour, brown sugar and salt.

Pulse until small lumps, about the size of peas, form and the mixture looks sandy.  Like this.

Dump the mixture into the prepared dish, which is simply a 13 x 9 x 2 pan lined with either parchment paper or foil.  Be sure to let extra hang over the sides.  This will help you pull the finished product out of the pan.  Genius.

Evenly press the shortbread into the dish and bake until golden brown.

As a side note,  thanks to this recipe, I realized shortbread is really not my thing.  In general, I’m usually disappointed in it.  Not sure why, but it just doesn’t excite me.  That said, stick with me here folks.  I promise this blah shortbread will be elevated.  Remember caramel and pecans are coming.

Starting… now!  While the shortbread is baking, coarsely chop said pecans.  Don’t stress too much. Some can be whole.  It will be just fine.

In a heavy saucepan, melt together the butter, brown sugar, honey, heavy cream and salt.

Bring to a bubble and allow to cook, stirring now and then, for a minute or two.

Take the mixture off the heat and add the vanilla and pecans.  Stir.

Pour over the hot shortbread.

Pop this in the oven and bake until bubbly all over.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely.  Cut into bars.

You can either dig in or go one step further and dip the ends in chocolate.  I won’t judge.  Either way works.

They do look so fancy with the chocolate, though.

One note.  I actually thought these tasted better after they sat for a day or two.  The shortbread softened a bit and everything really melded together.  It might just be me.  If you don’t agree, then okay.  But if you do, then I told ya so!

 

Pecan Pie Bars
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Shortbread
12 tablespoons (1 ½ sticks) cold, unsalted butter
2 cups all-purpose flour
½ cup light brown sugar
½ teaspoon salt 

Filling
2 heaping cups of whole pecans
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 cup light brown sugar
⅓ cup honey
2 tablespoons heavy cream
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

8 ounces good quality dark chocolate (optional)

Directions…
Preheat the oven to 350℉.  Line a 13 x 9 x 2 inch pan with parchment paper or foil leaving some excess hanging over the ends.

To make the shortbread, cut the butter into ½ inch cubes.  In a food processor fitted with a metal blade, pulse the butter with the flour, brown sugar and salt until the mixture begins to form tiny lumps (the size of peas) and it looks sandy.  This should take 30-45 seconds.  Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and evenly press the shortbread into the pan.  Bake until golden brown, about 18 – 20 minutes.

In the meantime, prepare the filling.  Start by roughly chopping the pecans.  Set aside.  In a heavy saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter, brown sugar, honey, heavy cream and salt. Bring to a simmer and allow to bubble, stirring occasionally, for 1 minutes.  Remove from the heat and add the vanilla extract and the pecans.  Pour on top of the hot shortbread crust and spread as evenly as possible.  Bake until bubbling evenly all over, about 14- 16 minutes.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely before lifting out of the baking pan.  Cut into bars.

At this point you can serve the bars.  If you prefer, melt the chocolate according to the package and dip the ends of the bars.  Allow the chocolate to harden before serving or storing.

Source: Blue-Eyed Bakers

 

Oreo Truffle Balls

13 Jan

So for dessert the other night, my friend Kate requested Oreo cupcakes (aka Cookies and Cream).  Well, I didn’t really feel like making a whole batch.  Plus, I wanted to use what I had on hand (remember!?).

I had some Oreos – well, Tuxedos if we want to be technical.  The generic brand from our local grocery store.  My grandfather swears by them.  And his sweet tooth would know.

Anyway, I figured I could do something with the Oreos.  Turns out, the lovely Bakerella came through again.

So, so simple!

Crush up the cookies -cream centers and all.  I did this in the food processor.  Apparently I wasn’t feeling too lazy this time.

Once the crumbs are, well, nice and crumbly, add the cream cheese.

Mix.

So far, so good?  Good.  Great.

Now shape into balls.  I used a small ice cream/cookie scoop.

Refrigerate (or freeze if pressed for time) for a bit.  You want the Oreo balls to be pretty firm before the next step…

Dipping in the chocolate.  I used candy melts in dark cocoa and vanilla.  Both received good reviews.  I then used the alternate flavor to drizzle.  Fancy, I know.

Once they sit for a bit, they are ready to eat.  Or store.  But eating them is a better choice.

Oreo Truffle Balls
Printer Friendly Version

1 package Oreo cookies (or your favorite version)
1 8 ounce package cream cheese
Candy melts or chocolate for dipping 

Directions…
Finely crush the cookies (including the cream filling).  Add the cream cheese and mix well.  Shape into balls and place on a parchment paper lined cookie sheet.  Refrigerate until firm.

Melt chocolate according to package.  Dip balls into the chocolate using a spoon or fork.  Tap off excess.  Place back on cookie sheet.  Refrigerate until firm.

Enjoy!

Makes 36 balls (depending on the size)

Note: I made ⅓ of a recipe (1/3 package of cookies, little less than 3 ounces of cream cheese) and got about 14 balls

Source: Bakerella


Mini Mini

11 Jan

On Saturday night my friend Ann had a bunch of us over for dinner.  Ann LOVES (and I mean LOVES) Christmas and all things Christmas.  This was one last chance to sit in the presence of glorious Christmas decorations, eat some food, chat with some friends and drink magnums of vino.  What can be wrong with a night like that?

Anyway, I offered to make dessert and, despite the Mexican dinner menu, decided on an assortment of mini desserts.  Dinner and dessert don’t really have to match, right?

My plan:  use items I had on hand.  After assessing the pantry and a couple of Google searches, I decided on gingerbread latte cake balls, Oreo truffle balls, mini magic bars and chocolate chip cookie cupcakes.  Yum!First things first – gingerbread latte cake balls.

Right before Christmas I was working on a jumbo cupcake order.  Well, I got a little too excited and overfilled the first batch of gingerbread cupcakes.

Despite appearances, they tasted good.  So I went ahead and threw them in the freezer for later use.  I figured they would be perfect for cake balls, made famous by the clever Bakerella.

Mini dessert night was just the time.

I crumbled up the cupcakes and added my vanilla latte buttercream (a usual pairing).

I mixed until it came together.  As Bakerella notes, you want it moist but not gooey.

Then I shaped them – some into Christmas trees (I was trying to be fancy) and some into regular balls.

After some time in the fridge, I dipped them in white chocolate.  A little extra drizzle and voila!

I need to work on them a little, but I think for the first try, it went pretty well.

Plus, I discovered a couple of things:

  • When crumbling the cake, you can use a food processor.  I didn’t feel like getting it out though (yes, lazy!).  Instead, I used a pastry cutter.  Worked like a charm.
  • At least for white chocolate, the chips don’t work very well for dipping.  Better bet is to go with candy melts (you can buy these at a craft store).  Next time I’ll try white chocolate bars, but definitely not the chips.

If you want to give cake balls a try, take a peak at Bakerella’s recipe and read through some of her tips.  And let me know how it goes!

Stay tuned for Oreo truffle balls (pictured on the right, next to the gingerbread latte cake balls).

Enjoy!

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