Sunday, February 15, 2015

Cherry Cordial Cupcakes


Happy Valentine's Day!!! Oh, wait a minute... I'm a day late! But guess what? These cupcakes are too yummy not to share, regardless of what day it is!


So this flavor combo may be overdone, but it's probably overdone for a reason - WHAT - just WHAT can possibly be wrong with chocolate covered cherries? I mean, seriously? These cupcakes may sound complicated, but they are super easy. Start with your favorite chocolate cake recipe - I used Duncan Hines Dark Chocolate Fudge just because I was pressed for time and to top it off, it's really delicious. :) I added marshmallow fluff to pitted maraschino cherries, popped them in the cupcake, topped them with ganache, and finished with a sweet cherry Swiss meringue butter cream. These are super fun to make!


Here's what you will need:
Favorite chocolate cake mix (I used Duncan Hines Dark Chocolate Fudge)

For filling:
1-2 jars of pitted jumbo (if available) maraschino cherries, drained (reserve liquid for the Swiss meringue butter cream)
1 7.5 jar of Marshmallow Fluff

For ganache:
6 oz semi-sweet or Hershey's Special Dark chocolate chips
1/2 cup of whipping cream


1.) Line 2 regular muffin pans with cupcake liners and prepare mix, fill liners, and bake your favorite chocolate cake recipe as directed, usually 18 minutes at 350, depending on your oven.
2.) While cupcakes bake, prepare cherries by stuffing them with Marshmallow Fluff, either using a disposable decorator bag, or piping out of the end of a snipped sandwich bag. Set aside.
3.) Place chocolate chips in a heat proof bowl. Heat up 1/2 cup of whipping cream just until boiling and pour over chocolate chips, whisking until thoroughly incorporated for your ganache; set aside, and let cool for about 10 minutes.
4.) While your cupcakes are cooling, start working on your Swiss meringue butter cream. Make sure you wipe your mixing bowl, whisk, and flat beater attachments with a paper towel and some lemon juice in order to cut any lingering grease. Add your egg whites and sugar into the bowl, and set over a pot of simmering water, whisking constantly. If you have a thermometer, continue until you reach 160 degrees. If not, keep whisking until all the sugar is dissolved and your egg whites are hot.
3.) Transfer your bowl to your mixer and with the whisk attachment, beat until the meringue is glossy, about 10 minutes, and the bowl is cooler to the touch. Switch over to the flat beater and add your butter cubes one by one until well blended and the meringue is smooth.
4.) Add the cherry juice slowly, cherry extract, and pinch of salt until blended. You may have to refrigerate the butter cream for about 15-20 minutes to help solidify.
5.) With a small spoon or cupcake corer, made a hole in the center of the cupcake. Fill each hole with a cherry, and spoon ganache over each cherry, or put ganache in a disposable decorator bag or sandwich bag with the tip snipped off for ease of topping the cherries. I used a decorator bag and filled each hole to the top. Allow to cool for about 20 minutes.
6.) Frost your cupcakes and drizzle with leftover ganache and top with a cherry.
Make sure to keep cupcakes refrigerated, I had some butter cream sliding off a cupcake after I was done with the photos. :) 


Now go bake something and spread the cherrylicious YUM!!! 

XOXO,
Diana

As always, I appreciate your comments, questions, thoughts, and ideas! 

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Half-Baked Meyer Lemon Sweetheart Tart


Happy Valentine's Day! Well, technically there are still 2 days left, but I DO have a sweet treat for you, a Half-Baked Meyer Lemon Sweetheart Tart! Why half baked? Because only the crust gets baked! The rest is easy peasy Meyer lemon squeezy - you pop it in the fridge after mixing and let it do its thing. Lightly tangy and sweet Meyer lemon blended with smooth cream cheese, sweetened condensed milk, and Cool Whip come together for a lovely dessert for your sweetheart. Strawberries that look like tiny hearts on top, what could be better?


As far as the crust goes, I thought a shortbread would be a nice base for the lemony treat. I have never made shortbread cookies as I very much prefer stuff with chocolate, so I searched for a chewy shortbread recipe and came across this one from In the Kitchen with Don. While you are at it, please visit his page to check out other recipes as well!

This recipe yields two tarts. You can always halve the recipe, but, why would you want to? ;) 

Shortbread Crust (by In the Kitchen with Don):
1 cup softened butter
1 cup white sugar
1 egg
1/2 tsp. vanilla
pinch of salt
2 cups of flour


Filling:
1 tub Cool Whip (I used the Extra Creamy)
1 brick of cream cheese, softened
1 14oz can sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup Meyer lemon juice (the juice of 2 lemons)
1 TBSP grated Meyer lemon rind
1 pint of sliced strawberries for garnish

Step one, the CRUST:
1.) Preheat the oven to 350. Cream the butter with the sugar until light and fluffy.   
2.) Beat in the egg and vanilla, then mix in the flour and salt. It will make a slightly sticky and stiff dough. 
3.) Separate into two parts, and press the dough into the bottom and up the sides of 2 10" tart pans with your hand  - you may have to sprinkle flour on your hands to keep the dough from sticking. (Set one batch aside if you only have one pan). Bake for 20 minutes and cool in tart pan completely.  

Step two, the FILLING:
1.) Cream the Cool Whip and cream cheese with the whisk attachment on a stand mixer or a hand mixer until creamy. Add sweetened condensed milk slowly and beat until blended. 
2.) Slowly pour the Meyer lemon juice in (so as not to make a mess) and sprinkle the grated rind in and mix. 
3.) Spoon the filling into the 2 cooled shortbread crusts, smooth with an offset spatula (if available) and refrigerate for about 2-4 hours. Slice your strawberries and add for garnish prior to serving. Enjoy! 


Thank you so much for looking! Now go bake something (halfway) and spread some YUM! 

XOXO,
Diana


Sunday, February 1, 2015

"Almond Joy" Oatmeal Cookies


Happy 2015!!! I know, I know, it's a little late for that, but oh my goodness, if I haven't been busy, I've been sick! A cold, flu, cough, sneezy, stuffy, you name it, I got it... Needless to say, I didn't get much done except make cakes in between while I was feeling good, thank goodness for that!

Obviously I've not done much in the blogging world, which is unfortunate, because that means I haven't been playing in the kitchen. {Insert Sad Face!} Once I started feeling better, I got that urge to make something, and that something was... COOKIES! I haven't made any for us at home in a while, being that I'll probably eat them all up (it's happened) and I had a bunch of ingredients leftover from the holidays. I always have almonds on hand, I found some shredded coconut, and I had extra chocolate chips from sales I had gotten... To me, that sounded a lot like a certain candy, and I just KNEW I had to turn these things into a cookie!


I LOVE oatmeal cookies, and that seemed to be the perfect base for these. They turned out chewy, coconuty, almondy, and chocolatey. Perfection!

Adapted from Quaker Oats Vanishing Oatmeal Cookie Recipe

Ingredients:
1 stick, plus 6 TBSP of butter, softened
3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar, I used half light and half dark
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 TBSP molasses
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup sweetened shredded coconut (You may use a little more for more coconut flavor)
1/4 cup sliced almonds
3 cups Quaker oats (uncooked, I used quick 1 minute oats)
1 cup Hershey's Special Dark Chocolate Chips

Method:
1.) Heat oven to 350 degrees.
2.) Combine flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt in a medium bowl and set aside.
3.) Add the sugars (brown and granulated) to a large bowl and beat with a mixer until creamy.
4.) Add the eggs, vanilla, and molasses, and beat until combined.
5.) Add shredded coconut and sliced almonds. Reserve some for topping the cookies if desired.
6.) Add oats and chocolate chips. Mix well.
7.) Using a cookie scoop or tablespoon, drop onto an ungreased cookie sheet or one covered with parchment paper. I used a Silpat mat for one batch and parchment paper for another batch and they turned out beautifully either way.
8.) Bake for 8-10 minutes, cool for about 3 minutes on cookie sheet, then move them to a wire rack.
9.) Cool completely, though you are more than welcome to eat a couple of them warm if tempted. (I did and I don't regret it!)


I hope you enjoy! As always, I welcome your comments, questions, thoughts, and ideas!

Now go bake something and spread some YUM!

XOXO,
Diana


Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Dark Chocolate Pomegranate Bliss Cake


Hi everyone! It seems as though lately all I have been able to get is about 1 post a month - that is SO SAD! I have to say the last few months of this year have been extremely busy for me and it's been super tough to just sit down and do nothing at all, much less write a blog post! Hopefully that will change in the next year as I am excited to spill the beans on some exciting news! Stay tuned...! 

On to this awesome cake. I have a question for you. Why do pumpkins and cranberries get to have all the fun around the holidays? Why not pomegranates? They always seem to show up for the holiday festivities, but they really just kind of stand in the background, ho-humming around. Well, ho hum NO MORE! They are the star of this cake (aside from the dark chocolate, haha!) I usually pick up a baggie of Brookside Dark Chocolate Covered Pomegranates when they are on sale and I absolutely love these things. I wondered what it would be like to have the same flavors in a different package? Well you know me, I LOVE to bake cakes. I didn't have to look too far to find my favorite dark chocolate cake recipe. I went straight to Sweetapolita's site to get it! I should know this recipe by heart now, as much as I like to use it, but I usually can't even remember what I was going to say from one second to the next nowadays. Next, I used my absolute favorite chocolate buttercream recipe, but I used Hershey's Special Dark cocoa to make it, well, dark and rich. ;) The recipe comes from Kittencal on Food.com. As it so happens, photo #1 by "UberFoodNoob" is my cake, made a couple of years ago (just an interesting little tidbit of info there).

If you are into dark chocolate, or pomegranate, or CAKE of any kind, I beg you to make this. You won't be disappointed. Plus, it's fairly easy and it would be perfect to take to a Christmas party! Enjoy! :)


Cake inspired by my favorite chocolate cake recipe by Sweetapolita:


For the cake:

2-1/2 cups + 1 tablespoon of all-purpose flour

3 cups granulated sugar

1 cup + 1 tablespoon Hershey's Special Dark Cocoa

1 tablespoon baking soda

1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1-1/2 teaspoons salt

3 eggs, at room temperature

1-1/2 cups buttermilk, room temperature

1-1/2 cups pomegranate juice (I use POM Wonderful)

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1-1/2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract

For the butter cream:

1 cup of butter, softened (margarine will not yield the same flavor)

5 1/3 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted

3/4 - 1 cup of Hershey's Special Dark Cocoa

2/3 cup half-and-half cream (can use unwhipped whipping cream in place of half and half) or 2/3 cup milk

3 teaspoons vanilla

1/2 cup pure pomegranate juice

For Garnish:

Brookside Dark Chocolate Covered Pomegranates (I love these for a snack mixed with cashews!)


Cake Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and prepare three 8 inch pans by spraying with non-stick spray. I love using Baker's Joy with flour or the Pam made for baking.

Sift all the dry ingredients, including sugar, into the bowl of an electric mixer.

Combine the eggs, buttermilk, pomegranate juice, oil and vanilla in a separate bowl and beat lightly.

Add the wet milk mixture to the dry ingredients and mix for 2 minutes on medium speed, covering the top with a dish towel or a splash guard, as this batter will be thin.

Divide the batter evenly in the pans.

Bake for 20 minutes and rotate the pans. Bake about 12 more minutes or until a toothpick comes out mostly clean. Cool on wire racks for 20 minutes, then turn over onto racks to cool completely.

Buttercream Instructions: 

Cream the butter in a bowl and add vanilla, beating for a few seconds to mix. Sift the confectioners' sugar together with the cocoa and in 1/2 cup intervals, blending alternately with the cream in the mixing bowl. Lastly, add the pomegranate juice. I had to use 1/2 cup to get some flavor in there.

Garnish with Brookside Dark Chocolate Pomegranates if desired. Enjoy!

Keep cake refrigerated, as it will be easier to cut. It can stand at room temperature for a couple of hours.


Have a MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Thank you so much for looking, now go bake something and spread the yum!

XOXO,

Diana

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Pumpkin Velvet Cake with Pumpkin Pie SMBC

  • Hello everyone! It's been a while since my last post as it seems I got inundated with a bunch of cake orders late September and every weekend thereafter! I was a little sad about making cakes and not having one of my own last month, so of COURSE I had to make something for home! With pumpkin season in full swing and a bottle of Lorann's Pumpkin Spice Emulsion sitting lonely in my cabinet, I had to get baking. After making Sweetapolita's Red Velvet Raspberry Supreme Cake several times with amazing results, I was inspired! (She inspires a lot of my work, by the way...) Why not make a PUMPKIN Velvet cake, with a light, yet tasty Swiss meringue buttercream to top it off? I didn't want the usual cream cheese buttercream (though it's one of my favorites!) I wanted something lighter for this dense pumpkin-y cake. I decided to make a Pumpkin Pie Swiss Meringue Buttercream. It had a light pumpkin pie flavor that was not too overpowering, it was just perfect. 

  • For the Pumpkin Velvet Cake:
  • (Adapted from Sweetapolita's Red Velvet Raspberry Supreme Cake
  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 3 tablespoons pumpkin spice emulsion*
  • 3 eggs, at room temperature
  • 1/3 cup canned or fresh pureed pumpkin, drained and patted dry between paper towels
  • 2 cups of all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup of cake flour (Such as Swan's Down or King Arthur)
  • 1 tablespoon Dutch-process cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1-1/2 cups of warm buttermilk
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon of vinegar
  • 1-1/4 teaspoons of baking soda
            *I used Lorann Pumpkin Spice Emulsion, can found at Amazon, I purchased mine at Home Goods
  • For the Pumpkin Pie Swiss Meringue Buttercream:
  • 5 large egg whites 
  • 1 1/4 cups of sugar
  • 3 sticks of butter, cut into cubes 
  • 2 teaspoons of pure vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup canned or fresh pureed pumpkin, drained and patted dry between paper towels
  • 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • Dash of cinnamon
  • Pinch of salt

Method:
Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees
Grease and flour (or use Baker's Joy spray) 3 8" cake pans.
1.) Using a mixer with a paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugars until light and fluffy.
2.) Add the Pumpkin Spice Emulsion and mix until well blended.
3.) Add the eggs, one at a time, waiting for each to blend in before adding the next.
4.) Add the drained pumpkin puree and mix until well blended.
5.) Sift the flours together with the cocoa, cinnamon, and salt.
6.) Add to the wet mix in by 1/4 to 1/2 cup intervals, alternating with the warm buttermilk, starting and ending with your dry ingredients.
7.) Once all the ingredients are well combined, gently fold in your mayonnaise.
8.) In a small bowl, mix your vinegar and baking soda and again, gently fold into your cake batter. 
9.) Divide batter evenly into the 3 cake pans and bake until toothpick inserted comes out clean, about 25 - 30 minutes. 

While the cake cools, prepare your Pumpkin Pie Swiss Meringue Buttercream:
1.) Place egg whites and sugar in a mixing bowl that has been wiped with lemon to prevent grease from seeping into the meringue or it may not fluff up. Make sure you also wipe the whisk and paddle attachments for beating the egg white/sugar mixture. 
2.) Place bowl over a pot of simmering (not boiling) water and whisk egg whites and sugar constantly until the temperature reaches 160 degrees, or the mixture feels silky between your fingers and the sugar has dissolved. It REALLY helps to have a candy thermometer on hand, which is not expensive considering how helpful that little tool can be. I happened to take advantage of buying mine at my hobby store with a 40% off coupon. :) 
3.) With the whisk attachment, start beating the egg white and sugar mixture on medium-high to high, about 10 minutes or so. The egg whites should look glossy at this point, and the bowl should not be hot/warm to the touch. 
4.) Switch over to the paddle attachment and start adding the cubes of butter, one by one, mixing them on low speed. Mix until smooth. Add vanilla, pumpkin puree, and pumpkin pie spice and mix until well incorporated. 

If the frosting is too runny at this point, refrigerate for about 30 minutes. It will still be soft enough to decorate the cake. The frosting was not as smooth as I would have liked it to be as I had to refrigerate mine overnight! I used an offset spatula and a Wilton 2D tip to decorate with. You can decorate any way you like of course, it still tastes great no matter how it looks!


The cake came out more dense than light and fluffy, which was fine with me. This was more than likely due to the addition of pumpkin puree. I may try to play around with this recipe a bit more to try getting it more fluffy, but the taste was still wonderful. Oddly enough, it wasn't ridiculously overpowered with pumpkin flavor either, it was just right. This would be great to take along to a Thanksgiving gathering, or if you are as pumpkin crazy as I am, why need an excuse? 


Thank you so much for looking! Now go bake something and spread some YUM! 

XO, 

Diana

Monday, September 22, 2014

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Cake and Cupcakes

This weekend I had the pleasure of making a cute cake and cupcakes for a sweet 3 year old's birthday. He wanted Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and they wanted a small cake and cupcakes. The cake was a 3 layer 8 inch round chocolate cake with butter cream and fondant, and the cupcakes were also chocolate but with cream cheese butter cream and fondant accents. The cutters for the cupcakes were from JB Cookie Cutters on Etsy - if you ever need any, they are WONDERFUL to deal with. They were tons of fun to make, in fact, I still remember what I was doing when the VERY FIRST Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon that came out in 1987. (27 years ago... Wow, that makes me feel OLD!) I was headed to a skate party for a friend's birthday and I was a little late because I was hooked and had to finish watching it! Well... I never thought I would be making a cake with these guys, but here it is:

Top of cake


Donatello and Raphael Cupcakes


Top close-up


Michelangelo and Leonardo Cupcakes


Front view of cake


Thank you so much for looking! 

XO,
Diana




Monday, September 15, 2014

"Loaded Potato" Stuffed Shells


I'd had an idea brewing in my mind for a little while after I ate a Big Bob Gibson's loaded potato, one they are pretty famous for. Those things are wonderful - HUGE, filled with pork (or turkey or brisket), gooey cheese, melty butter, chives, sour cream, and bacon bits, BUT- they are super filling. I usually end up feeling sick after eating one, just because even though it's a lot of food, I always end up eating it all! For some reason, stuffed pasta shells came to mind and the idea came to life. Ricotta, shredded mozzarella, shredded cheddar, chopped chives, crumbled crispy bacon, stuffed into a small shell. Why not? They didn't have the meat, but everything else fit and these were a hit!

Ingredients: 
About 30 pasta shells, cooked as directed on the package
4 cups ricotta cheese
2 eggs, lightly beaten
3/4 cup mozzarella cheese (I use Kraft a touch of Philly for extra gooeyness)
1/2 cup of shredded cheddar 
8 slices of bacon, cooked crisp and crumbled 
1/4-1/2 cup of chopped chives
Sour cream for garnish


1.) Preheat oven to 350 and grease a 9x13 and 8x8 inch pan. I had to split mine up.
2.) Cook pasta shells as directed on package. Drain and set aside when done.
3.) Mix the ricotta cheese with lightly beaten egg and mozzarella cheese until combined. 
4.) Spoon ricotta mixture into each shell (I used a disposable cake decorator bag which made the process easier).
5.) Bake the shells for 25 minutes.
6.) Immediately upon pulling shells out of the oven, sprinkle cheddar cheese to let it melt over the shells. Spoon sour cream (or use a decorator bag) on the shells, sprinkle with chives and crumbled bacon. Serve immediately. 


These were still good after microwaving for a few seconds, sprinkling the cheese, and adding the sour cream, bacon, and chives after. They were gone within a couple of hours as I served them as a side/appetizer. These would be wonderful with a side salad for a meal. 

Thank you so much for looking! Now go bake something and spread some YUM!!! 

As always, I appreciate your comments, questions, thoughts, and ideas.