Saturday, December 21, 2013
Merry Christmas everybody! Or nearly Merry Christmas, only 3 days to go (or 4 for those who don't count Christmas Eve)! I'm already in holiday mode, even though I still have to go into work on Monday and do a 3/4 day on Tuesday. I may be going in physically, but my mind is wayyy checked out. How bout you guys? Do you start to feel this way around the holidays?
I can happily say I'm done all my cookie decorating, which is why I'm writing the second post in my "Cookies, cookies and more cookies" series (more on that in a bit). Now before you get all jealous and hateful, let me clarify: I'm done all of my sugar cookie decorating... not all of my baking. In fact, I haven't even started any normal cookie baking. All of my time this month has been consumed with cookie decorating for bake sale, orders, and friends and family (more on the first two later). However, I do have plans to do some baking this weekend, and am relieved to say that I am only baking a couple batches, so it shouldn't be too bad!
Back to my "Cookies, cookies and more cookies." Back in September, I decided to start a series featuring decorated sugar cookies that I make. Because I fairly consistently use the same recipe, and I don't offer tutorials on how to decorate the cookies, it wasn't making sense for me to write a post for every single set of cookies. Instead, I figured that a post every few months showing multiple sets would be a better use of my time, and because I post all of my cookie (and other goodie) photos on my Facebook page for my Sweet Inspirations business, I didn't want to duplicate the work I was doing (I have a very busy life right now!). Although I have made multiple cookie sets between September and December, I will wait until the New Year to post those so that this post can focus strictly on Christmas!
If you know me personally or follow my blog, you might think these cookies look a little familiar. That's because I made very similar ones last year. I had no intention of making the same or similar set, but my mother kept harassing me saying that these Nordic Christmas cookies were her absolute favourite, and the fact that they are my most re-pinned item on Pinterest prompted me to reconsider my decision. So I re-made some of the old cookies and added in some more wildlife-themed cookies. I'm very happy with them! I should also mention that I am extremely happy with my Airbrush machine that was a birthday present to me back in October- I love it! It creates such added dimension and interest, which you'll be able to see in my other photos!
Back in November, I was asked to contribute some goodies to a bake sale my mother's work was hosting, in support of the local Women's Abused Shelter. I had already participated earlier in a similar bake sale around Halloween (will post pictures in the future), which was quite successful. I was more than happy to let my creative side loose while knowing that the proceeds would be going to a cause that is near and dear to my heart.
Most people said they liked the reindeer with the icicles the best. Personally, I actually liked the 'Merry Christmas' the best! What's your favourite?
The whole lot of em! It was quite the undertaking, but I loved doing them!
A very good friend of mine ordered a cute Christmas set for her family Christmas. This is the most traditional Christmas set I've done before, and I really enjoyed doing it! A few things I'd like to say about this set/photo. Again, I LOVE my airbrush machine. You can see the effect it has here on the Christmas trees; subtle, but the slight darkening around the edges really adds dimension. Can't get enough of it. Second, I LOVE chalkboard effect cookies! I think that middle cookie really tied in the whole set, and was so much fun to do!
Third of all, this is my first time a) using my newly built DIY lightbox and b) experimenting with my brand new Canon Rebel T3i camera. Merry early Christmas to meeee! I decided to build a lightbox, something I've been thinking about for a long time, because it's extremely difficult these days for me to capture pictures in natural light. Because I work Mon-Fri during the day, by the time I get home, it's dark out. And I'm not always so fortunate to have things to photo on the weekend when I can utilize natural light. So I finally got off my butt and built a lightbox! I'm thinking it could benefit from one more lamp, but that's a purchase for down the road. As for my camera, that's also something I've been thinking about for quite awhile! Up until now, I've taken all my photos with a simple Sony Cybershot point and shoot that is about 7 years old. It's actually done me quite well, and is a great little camera. However, I felt that it was time for an upgrade, and I definitely noticed an immediate difference. I'm so happy with it, and have only just begun to understand how to use it! It's quite exciting.
Lastly, here are the CUTEST cookies ever! Well maybe not ever, but they are pretty darn cute! Earlier in the month I had some time on my hands, so started doodling some cookie ideas that were floating around in my head. This is what the result was! These cookies were brought into my work earlier in the week for a Christmas cookie exchange.
There were about 40 cookies in total that I brought in and I must say (brushing off shoulders), that my cookies were the star of the show. Yes I'm totally that full of myself, and totally chose to work 4 days on these cookies to bring into work so I could knock the socks off of my co-workers. Which really isn't that hard to do, considering most people in general have never seen any cookies like these, so anything would impress them. I'm just happy to say that mine did impress them. As a quick side note again- you can see here how awesome using an airbrush machine is! Don't those chevron and polka dot backgrounds really add something to the cookie? Love love love it.
Well that's it for this year's round of decorated Christmas cookies. If you have any questions on decorating sugar cookies, I would be more than happy to try and answer your questions or direct you to somebody who could. I love hearing when someone has tried out something new and special, it really makes my day.
Sending you warm Christmas messages! Pin It
Wednesday, December 18, 2013
Less than 8 days to go until Christmas! Yippee, I can't wait! Although I must say, as excited I am for the holidays, and even moreso for some time off of work, this time of year sure is exhausting! I haven't been this busy all year, and while I'm doing things I love, like decorating, baking lots and lots of goodies, Christmas present shopping and wrapping, and visiting friends, it leaves me pretty spent by the end of each evening! I'm not complaining, just looking forward to a little break! How bout you all, do you find the Christmas season to be fun, relaxing, enjoyable, stressful, sad? I think for most people it's a combination of joy and stress; I just hope there's more joy than stress!
I've used this chocolate cupcake base from Annie's Eats multiple times, and it has consitently provided good results. If you're interested in baking these cupcakes and/or seeing what else I've made with this recipe, check out my Black Forest Cupcakes and Chocolate Raspberry Cupcakes with Truffle Filling. I altered the recipe very slightly by adding 1 1/2 teaspoons peppermint extract (and 1 less teaspoon of vanilla extract) and a good handful or two of peppermint chips (seen in photo on top of frosting), but if peppermint isn't your thing feel free to omit them.
I actually made these cupcakes a year ago and was a little skeptical at first about pairing chocolate cupcakes with cream cheese icing; however, the combination of the tangy sweet icing, dark chocolate glaze and chocolate pepperminty cupcake sent me over the moon. They turned out to shoot to the top of my cupcake list! I'm happy to be finally sharing these cupcakes now, and I hope that you find the opportunity to make them sometime in the near future, provided you're not too busy with Christmas decorating/shopping/baking/whatever else comes with this busy and glorious season!
Refer to my post on Black Forest Cupcakes for recipe and instructions.
1/2 cup bittersweet chocolate chips
2 tablespoons heavy cream
8 oz. (1 package) cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1-2 teaspoons peppermint (not mint!) extract
3-4 cups powdered sugar (depending on preferred stiffness)
To make ganache, put chocolate chips in a small glass bowl. Place heavy cream in a microwave safe glass and microwave until it begins to boil. Pour cream over chocolate chips, stirring quickly until chips have melted. Dip cupcakes into mixed chocolate and shake off excess. Allow to cool and harden, at least a half hour to an hour.
For the frosting, beat the cream cheese and butter together using the paddle attachment of a stand or hand mixer. Scrape down the bowl once or twice to ensure no chunks of cream cheese are left. While beating, add the peppermint extract. Add powdered sugar, starting with 3 cups initially, on low speed and increasing to medium-high for 2 minutes, until frosting is light and fluffy. If frosting is not stiff enough, add an additional 1/2 cup of powdered sugar at a time, until desired consistency is reached.
Fit piping bag with decorative tip, and pipe frosting over cupcake. Top with desired garnish, such as peppermint chips and/or festive sprinkles. Pin It
Monday, December 2, 2013
Christmas is a wonderful, magical time for some people. I'm certainly one of those. I love the decorating, the music, the buying gifts for people in my life, the snow (as long as I don't have to drive in it), but most of all, I love seeing and spending time with family. I look forward to the days of just being with each other, relaxing, playing board games and eating delicious food. I can't wait!
However, Christmas can be a really tough holiday for some individuals. I work in the field of Addictions and Mental Health, and my job has forced me to witness the heartbreak and sadness that sometimes comes with the Christmas season. For some, it can be the darkest time of the year due to stress, pressure and expectations that come with the holidays. It can be a reminder of lost family and friends, either because people have passed away or relationships have disintegrated over time. It can trigger break downs in mental health, relapses or increases in substance use and more. Sadly, the Christmas season is the busiest time of the year for professionals in my field of work, and so I do what I can. Christmas isn't about getting gifts, it's about giving love and care to others. These cupcakes are 1 part of my donation to a bake sale, where proceeds will go towards the local Abused Womens Shelter in town.
These cupcakes are really yummy. They're a little dense, but they taste exactly like Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal- I'm sure they taste like Snickerdoodle cookies as well, I just have never had those so I can't attest! They are warm and cinnamoney and perfect for the cold season. Enjoy!
Yield: about 28 cupcakes
For the cupcakes:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups cake flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon cinnamon
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 3/4 cups sugar
4 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups milk
For the frosting:
3 sticks (1 1/2 cups) unsalted butter, room temperature
4 cups powdered sugar
pinch of salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 tablespoons heavy cream
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons sugar
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line cupcake pans with paper liners. Combine the flours, baking powder, salt and cinnamon in a medium bowl; whisk to combine.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter and sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 3-4 minutes. Beat in the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Blend in the vanilla. With the mixer on low speed, add in the dry ingredients in three additions alternating with the milk, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients. Beat each addition just until incorporated.
Divide the batter evenly between the cupcake liners, filling each approximately 3/4 full. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean, about 18-20 minutes. Allow to cool in the pans about 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.
To make the frosting, place the butter in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat on medium-high speed until smooth, about 1 minute. Add the powdered sugar to the bowl and mix on medium-low speed until just incorporated. Sprinkle in the salt and vanilla extract, and beat on medium-high until smooth. Mix in the heavy cream on low speed until just incorporated; then, increase the speed to high and beat until light and fluffy, scraping down the bowl as needed, for about 4-5 minutes.
Fill piping bag fitted with decorative tip (I used a Wilton 1B) and frost cupcakes as desired. For the garnish, mix cinnamon and sugar together until completely combined; sprinkle on top of each frosting swirl to complete.
Source: cupcakes from Annie's Eats Pin It
Tuesday, November 12, 2013
It IS still pumpkin season, even though we just had our first serious snowfall in Southern Ontario. Which, by the way, let me just tell you is not a lot of fun when you don't have any winter tires and live out in the country and have to drive 60 (km/h) for pretty much the entire 40 minute (no longer 40 minute) drive home because you keep sliding all over the place. Note to self: get winter tires ASAP, even though they cost a bazillion dollars that you don't have.
Anyways, I think pumpkin season
If you've followed my blog for some time now, you may think these cupcakes sound familiar. Last year I posted about these Brown Butter Pumpkin Caramel Cupcakes, which are fairly similar. However, if I had to choose between the two, I would definitely, hands down, go with this recipe. These were perfectly cake-like, and not a more muffiny texture at all. Soft, moist and flavourful pumpkin cupcakes topped with the most delicious maple cream cheese frosting (so delicious I nearly licked the entire bowl clean, both times I made these), you just can't go wrong. I adore these cupcakes. And, the pictures of them look WAY better than my previous post. Bonus!
Yield: 24 cupcakes
For the cake:
3/4 cup unsalted butter
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon ginger
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 1/2 cups pumpkin puree
3 large eggs
1/2 cup sour cream
For the frosting:
8 oz. (1 package) cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
2 teaspoons maple extract
3-4 cups powdered sugar (depending on preferred stiffness)
Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Cook, swirling the pan occasionally until the butter turns a light brown and starts to take on a nutty aroma. There will be little bits that accumulate on the bottom of the pan; this is what it is supposed to do, but watch carefully to avoid burning of the butter, which can happen quickly. Once completed, let the butter stand until cool but not solidified.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line cupcake tins with papers.
In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, salt and allspice. Set aside.
In a large bowl, whisk the pumpkin puree with the granulated sugar, brown sugar, eggs and sour cream, until well combined. Stir in the flour mixture until just combined. Whisk in the browned butter until well blended.
Divide batter between cupcake liners, filling them about half full. Bake cupcakes for 20-25 minutes, or until they spring back when pressed in the middle.
For the frosting, beat the cream cheese and butter together using the paddle attachment on a stand or hand mixer. Scrape down the bowl once or twice to ensure no chunks of cream cheese are left. While beating, add the maple extract. Add powdered sugar, starting with 3 cups initially, on low speed and increasing to medium-high for 2 minutes, until frosting is light and fluffy. If frosting is not stiff enough, add an additional 1/2 cup of powdered sugar at a time, until desired consistency is reached.
Fit piping bag with decorative tip, and pipe frosting over cooled cupcake. Top with desired garnish.
Source: cupcakes from Sprinkle Bakes, frosting from Sweet Treats n' Healthy Eats Pin It
Tuesday, October 29, 2013
Earlier in the month I celebrated my 25th birthday. Gah! I feel old. I may have gone through a quarter century life crisis. For about a week. Then I decided to buy a brand new car (my first car ever!) and say screw the judgement of others and continue seeing a guy who is younger than me (and I'm not just talking a year here). Who cares? I certainly don't. Life is for living and enjoying, not worrying and stressing!
Back to where I was originally heading with this story. Rewind. Earlier in the month I celebrated my 25th birthday and made a dense, moist and truly decadent cake. However, the presentation was ermm... something left to be desired. Let's just say, it was not the most attractive thing I've ever made.... in fact, it was one of the least attractive things I've ever made. But, I found an amazing recipe in the process. So when the opportunity was presented to me a couple weeks ago to bake up some goodies for the United Way bake sale put on by my mother's work, I immediately had a vision of this cake, and new exactly which recipe I would use.
Because I couldn't cut into the cake to show you the inside, I snapped a few pictures during the process so you can get an idea of how it turned out! They're at the bottom, following the recipe instructions!
Yield: 1 3-layer 6-inch cake
For the cake:
2/3 cup brown sugar
2/3 cup white sugar
1/2 cup buttermilk
2/3 cup canned pumpkin
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1 cup flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder
scant 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
scant 1 teaspoon baking soda
scant 1/2 teaspoon salt
For the ganache:
4 ounces milk chocolate chips
2 ounces heavy cream
For the buttercream:
1 cup butter, room temperature
4-5 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2-4 tablespoons heavy cream
orange food dye
black food dye
size 3-4 piping tip
toy plastic spider
Preheat oven to 350 degrees C. Grease 3 6-inch cake pans, line with parchment paper, grease on top of paper and coat lightly with flour, shaking out any excess.
In a small bowl combine buttermilk and pumpkin. Mix together until incorporated. Set aside.
In a medium bowl, sift together flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter, brown and white sugar and vanilla until light and fluffy. Add in eggs, one at a time, until fully incorporated. Alternating, add the flour mixture and buttermilk mixture to the butter, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Mix on low for 1 minute until fully combined.
Divide evenly between the 3 cake pans. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted into cake. Let rest in pans for 10 minutes, then remove and let cool completely on wire racks.
While the cakes are cooling, make your ganache. Place chocolate chips in a small bowl. Place the heavy cream in a small glass and heat in microwave until boiling (keep an eye on it so it doesn't boil over). Pour hot cream over chocolate chips, whisking until chips are completely melted. Set aside to cool.
Once cakes are completely cool (you may have to level them out, although mine were pretty flat and this wasn't needed), spoon half of ganache over the top of 1 cake, reserving the second half for the second cake. Spread the ganache over the cake, leaving a small amount of space around the edge to ensure the ganache does not drip off (see picture below for clarification if needed). Set cakes aside so that the ganache can set. This takes a couple hours. You can put it in the fridge to speed up the process, and frost once the ganache is firm. I waited until it was firm enough to wrap in plastic, then refrigerated the cake rounds until the following day to assemble the cake (layered cakes are always easier to assemble when cold).
To make the frosting, beat the butter in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment until light and smooth. Add the powdered sugar to the butter and mix on low initially (to avoid a poof of sugar in your face), and gradually increase speed. Beat on medium high until light and fluffy, about 3-4 minutes. Add in the vanilla and 2 tablespoons of cream into the whipped butter. If the frosting is too stiff, gradually add 1 tablespoon cream into frosting until it reaches your desired consistency. Tint a small amount of the frosting black (if making a spider web) and the remaining a nice bright orange (or your desired colour).
To assemble the cake, frost the first layer of cake, ganache side up, with the buttercream. Repeat with second layer.
Place the final layer on top.
Cover top and sides with a thin layer of frosting (this is called a crumb coat, to catch any crumbs before doing the final frosting). Refrigerate cake for 20 minutes, or until crumb coat has formed a crust and is hard.
Frost the top and sides with a thicker layer, and return to fridge again for a crust to form. Once the frosting is firm (this will help to ensure that black frosting of web does not leach colour into the orange) fill a piping bag fitted with a round tip, size 3-4, with reserved black frosting. Pipe on spider web and find creepy plastic spiders from the dollar store to adorn your cake with!
Source: Cake and ganache from I am Baker, Buttercream by Sweet Treats n' Healthy Eats. Pin It
Saturday, October 26, 2013
You know what I love? Sunny, blustery fall days where the beautifully coloured leaves dance about your feet as you take a stroll through the city park all bundled up with a big thick scarf around your neck. You know what I don't love? Rainy-borderline-snowy and miserably cold fall days. The only good thing about days like these is that I believe it gives you permission to wear fuzzy pajamas, curl up on the couch with a good book or movie, and indulge in heavenly soft and comfortingly warm cinnamon rolls. Perfect.
Yield: 12 rolls
For the dough:
3 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/3 cups warm milk (about 110 F) + a possible additional 1/4 cup**
3 tablespoons maple syrup
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
For the filling:
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon granulated sugar, divided
2 + 1 teaspoon cinnamon, divided
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 large apple (any kind), peeled and diced
For the glaze:
1 cup powdered sugar
2 oz. low fat cream cheese
1/2 teaspoon maple extract
1 tablespoon milk
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, combine 3 1/2 cups of the flour, yeast and salt. Stir briefly to combine. In a medium measuring cup, whist together the milk, maple syrup and butter. With the mixer on low, gradually add the milk mixture and continue mixing until a rough dough comes together, about 2 minutes. Knead the dough on low speed for 5-6 minutes, or until smooth and elastic. The dough should clear the sides of the bowl- if it's excessively sticky, you can add as much of the remaining 1/2 cup of flour as necessary. Conversely, if the dough seems dry and not overly soft, you may need to add more milk. This is challenging to do if the dough has kneaded for awhile, so you'll have to keep an eye on it and if it appears to be dry try to mix the additional milk in as soon as possible.
Spray a large bowl with nonstick cooking spray. Shape the dough into a ball and place in the bowl. Briefly warm your oven up at the lowest possible temperature for about 2 minutes, just until the inside is warm. Place the bowl in your oven, along with a small bowl of hot water. Dough needs warmth and moisture to rise, so this will promote a much quicker rising than leaving it out at room temperature. Allow to rise until doubled in size, about 1- 1/2 hours.
Meanwhile, in a small bowl stir together the diced apple, 1 teaspoon cinnamon and 1 tablespoon of sugar. In another medium bowl, stir together the remaining ingredients for the filling until well combined and evenly moistened.
Coat a 13 x 9 inch baking dish with nonstick cooking spray. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Roll it into an 18 x 12 inch rectangle. Mist the dough with water, then sprinkle evenly with the filling mixture, leaving about a 1/2 inch border along the long edge farthest from you. Press the sugar into the dough gently to adhere, then sprinkle with apple mixture. Starting with the long edge closest to you, roll the dough into a tight log about 18 inches long, pinching the seam to close when you get to the end. Use a sharp serrated knife to cut the dough into 12 equal pieces.
Transfer the rolls (cut side up) to the prepared baking dish. Return to the oven (reheat briefly and replace water with hotter water if needed) and allow the rolls to rise until just about doubled in size, about 45 minutes.
Once rolls have risen, remove and preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Transfer the rolls to the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove the pan to a wire rack and allow the rolls to cool. Make the glaze by mixing the powdered sugar, cream cheese, extract and milk in a food processor (or by hand, this just takes longer). Add more milk if you want a thinner consistency. Spread the glaze over the rolls, then serve.
Source: slightly adapted from Tracey's Culinary Adventures, taken from Comfort Food Makeovers Pin It
Monday, October 14, 2013
Happy Thanksgiving to all of my fellow Canadians! I hope that you're all enjoying the beautiful weather and the time that comes with a holiday.
Here are a few things that I'm thankful for this year:
- A job in my field of work that has a lot of potential (right now in the early stages of program development, so I haven't been doing too much), when so many of my classmates and friends are still without work in this sucky economy.
- A loving and supportive family. I've gone through some pretty major changes in my life in the past few months, and my parents have been behind me every step of the way, and I'm so grateful for them.
- A great group of friends. Even though almost all of the people that I call my best friends live a distance away (anywhere from an hour and a half to all the way across the world), they are still there for me in a moment when I need them, and I hope they feel the same way about me. Good friends don't come by often, and I try to make every effort to keep those special ones in my life.
- A brand new car! Not only a brand new car, but my first ever car! A Hyundai Elantra GT (hatchback) with all the bells and whistles. I'm in love. And it's name is Hernandez. Random? Completely. But when I wondered to myself what I would name my car if I was to, Hernandez was the first name that popped into my head. Crazy I know, it's not even a first name, but it was so outrageous that it's just stuck.
- The beautiful fall weather. Here in southern Ontario we didn't have a fabulous summer. It was cool and rainy most of the time, with only one stellar week of heat and sun. So I am absolutely loving this 20-30 degree sunshiney weather with colorful leaves.
- Last of all, I really am grateful for where I am in life right now. It might not seem like it sometimes. It's certainly not where I expected to be after just celebrating my 25th birthday. Sometimes I actually feel disappointed or concerned that I'm not where I 'should' be. As I mentioned earlier, a few months ago I made a major change in my life, and that was really tough to make. It affected everything in my life from that point on; it was scary and at the time I wondered if it was the right decision to make. But now I know without a doubt it was the right decision, and although my life isn't 'perfect' right now, I am happy. And grateful for what I have.
These muffins are incredible. If you haven't seen them on Pinterest or on another blog, you're in for something special! Light, moist, full of flavour, (borderline dessert-ish) but still healthy enough to eat for breakfast or a snack... what? Pumpkin and whole wheat flour makes it healthy. Ish.
Make them. Do it do it do it. And then thank me.
Yield: 12 muffins
For the filling:
4 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup powdered sugar
For the muffins:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 + 1/8 teaspoon cloves
1/4 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 large eggs
1 cup sugar
1 cup pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie mix)
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons oil
For the topping:
1/4 cup sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoon cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
To make filling, combine cream cheese and powdered sugar in a medium bowl or food processor and mix well until blended and smooth. Transfer the mixture to a piece of plastic wrap and shape into a log about 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Smooth the plastic wrap tightly around the log, and reinforce with a piece of foil. Transfer to the freezer and chill until at least slightly firm, at least 2 hours.
To make the topping, combine the sugar, flour and cinnamon in a small bowl or food processor. Add in the butter pieces and cut into dry ingredients with a pastry blender or two forks until the mixture is coarse and crumbly, OR if using food processor, gently pulse until mixture is crumbly. Transfer to the refrigerator until ready to use.
To make the muffins, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line muffin pans with paper liners. In a medium bowl, combine the flours, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, ginger, salt and baking soda; whisk to blend. In the bowl of a stand mixer combine the eggs, sugar, pumpkin puree and oil. Mix on medium-low speed until blended. With the mixer on low speed, add in the dry ingredients, mixing until just incorporated.
To assemble the muffins, fill each muffin well with a small amount of batter, just enough to cover the bottom of the liner (1-2 tablespoons, a medium cookie scoop works well for this). Slice the log of cream cheese into 12 equal pieces. Place a slice of the cream cheese mixture into each muffin well. Divide the remaining batter among the muffin cups, placing on top of the cream cheese to cover completely. Sprinkle a small amount of the topping mixture over each of the muffin tops.
Bake for 20-25 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely before serving.
Source: adapted from Annie's Eats, who adapted from BakeSpace.
Thursday, September 19, 2013
I think that although this cake made a wonderful dessert for late spring/early summer, it would make an equally amazing dessert for the fall. Due to the density of the cake and the warm spices included, it could easily fit into the fall season. It reminded me of Apple Caramel Cake that I made last Thanksgiving for my birthday, which I had decided was my favourite cake to the date. Although I don't think this Hummingbird cake topped it, it's sidled right up behind it! I particularly like this version of cream cheese frosting, because with the whipped cream it makes it much lighter and not as sweet- sometimes with cream cheese frosting the sugar level starts to burn the back of my throat. Too much info? Oops... well, did I mention the whole thing is super easy and quick to make??
3 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla
8 oz. can crushed pineapple, liquid included
2 cups diced ripe bananas
2 cups pecans, chopped and toasted
16 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
1 1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup heavy cream, cold
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and grease and flour 3 9-inch cake pans.
Prepare toasted pecans: chop pecans in small pieces and place on a parchment covered baking sheet. Bake for 5 minutes, watching them so that they do not burn. Set aside and let cool.
Whisk together flour, soda, salt, sugar and cinnamon in large bowl. Add lightly beaten eggs, oil and vanilla to the dry ingredients and stir until combined. Add crushed pineapple (liquid as well) and cut up bananas, and stir until combined. Finally stir in 1 cup of chopped toasted pecans. Reserve the rest of the pecans to sprinkle on top of the cake if desired.
Spread batter evenly among cake pans and bake for 22-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Remove and let cool on a cooling rack.
For the frosting: beat the cream cheese, sugar and vanilla until smooth and fluffy. In a separate bowl, beat the heavy cream to nearly stiff peaks, then add the whipped cream into the cheese mixture and quickly and briefly beat to combine. Do not over beat.
To assemble the cake: gently level the cake layers using a large serrated knife to remove any mounded tops. Place first layer cut side down and spread frosting on top with an offset spatula. Continue with the remaining two layers and then frost the sides. Sprinkle with remaining pecans, if desired. Store in fridge.
Source: cake from Bakerella, who adapted from Southern Living.com; frosting from Not So Humble Pie. Pin It
Wednesday, September 4, 2013
So, if you've followed my blog for some time now, you might have noticed that I haven't posted any sugar cookies since Easter. That's not because I haven't been making them; I have actually, although not in gross quantities, but because it felt almost pointless to share them on my blog here. The reason I say that is because I almost always use the same recipe and refer back to one of my original posts for it, and there's not much else that I can say about them. Unlike some of the cookie gurus who post tutorials on how to decorate different cookie designs (Callye from SweetSugarBelle, Marian from Sweetopia, Georganne from Lilaloa), I could never have the time or patience for the amount of work that requires.
So I'm going to share a few pictures of the different creations I've produced over the past several months, and hope that you enjoy!
I should also perhaps mention at this time that this past year I've started up my own little side business- nothing serious, just a part-time hobby endeavour. I mostly bake cookies for different holidays and events like baby and bridal showers, anniversaries, bachelorette parties, etc., and occasionally bake cupcakes and cakes. I love that I'm able to create goodies to share with others, particularly when I see their eyes light up and tell me how fab something looks or how good it tastes. It truly makes my day! And if you haven't already guessed, my little business name is Sweet Inspirations and I have a facebook page dedicated solely to it at: www.facebook.com/mlsweettreats.
Here are a few Mother's Day bouquets that I made- I had over a dozen orders for them! I think they were a big hit :).
Each bouquet was a little different, and a few were even customized!
A custom bouquet: this customer's mother enjoyed walking, gardening (water can), cooking (pot and spoon), and crafting/scrapbooking (scissors, glue, painting).
A bridal shower order earlier this summer. The customer gave me complete freedom to create whatever I wanted to! A little nerve-wracking, but I loved the results!
A wedding celebration of sorts order. I absolutely loved creating this set, because it was so personal! The mother of the bride contacted me and explained that she was having a BBQ in celebration of the return of her daughter from China. While in China, her daughter had gotten married. The mother explained that she wasn't a typical bride; she has a ruby engagement ring and wore a traditional red Chinese wedding dress.
Cherry blossoms and symbols standing for 'double happiness' and 'love'. I have to say, this font was by far the most time-consuming and labour-intensive font I have ever attempted. Each letter had to be drawn out to a point with a tooth-pick. It took forever! But the result was worth it.
This was my latest order, from a very good friend of mine who is helping to throw a baby shower for twin girls! The set was designed to match the invites, and I have to say, I love the simplicity of them! I was so excited to make these for my friend.
Well that's it for now! I think in a few months I will do a similar post. In the meantime, if you'd like to see some of the work I do (including some cakes and cupcakes that I don't post on here), please feel free to check out my facebook page (www.facebook.com/mlsweettreats). Pin It
Thursday, August 29, 2013
I made these muffins on a complete whim, but I'm so glad that I did! Actually, not a complete whim- I had read a blog posting on some mini oatmeal peanut butter muffins and was thinking of making those, although was a bit skeptical because I know oatmeal is significantly lacking in flavour. As I was breaking out my new Pampered Chef mini muffin pan a little booklet fell out, which contained a recipe for 'Lil' Citrus Muffins'. Although I immediately changed my mind to wanting to make these citrus muffins, I took one look at the recipe and realized that the ingredients would produce a 'muffin' much more close to a cupcake. The original recipe even has a butter-sugar topping for the 'muffins'! Frankly, it sounded delicious, but I really couldn't justify making 2 dozen secretly-cupcake-muffins just for myself. So I revamped the recipe to make it a little healthier!
These mini muffins were so good that I promptly ate 4 while they were still warm out of the oven. I'm not even ashamed to admit it. They are teensy-tiny and relatively healthy, and really, 4 minis is likely not even equivalent to 1 regular sized muffin. So go and make these!! And then stuff your face with them while they're still warm. Because trust me on this, that's when they taste the best!
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 cup butter, softened
scant 1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt, or low-fat sour cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 teaspoons orange, lemon or lime zest (or a combination!)
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line mini muffin pan with mini liners or spray lightly with non-stick cooking spray.
In a small bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt; mix well.
In a medium bowl, whisk butter and sugar until well blended (either by hand if butter is soft enough, or with an electric hand-mixer). Add egg; whisk until smooth. Mix in Greek yogurt, vanilla and zest. Add flour mixture; mix until dry ingredients are moistened, being careful not to over mix.
Using a small cookie scoop, drop a scoop of batter into each cup. Batter makes enough for 22-24 muffins. Bake 12-13 minutes or until light golden brown. Cool in pan for several minutes, then remove and allow to cool completely on a rack.
Source: adapted from The Pampered Chef, 2006. Pin It
Thursday, August 15, 2013
As a pescatarian (vegetarian who eats seafood), I'm always looking for ways to get enough protein, particularly because I don't eat fish overly often due to the high cost. Apart from soy proteins, usually made by Yves, beans are my next go-to, and I've become quite fond of black beans in the last year or two. I never used to enjoy them much before, but I'd have to say that they're now my favourite bean! So most recipes that include them I'm willing to try. Add in something that takes under 10 minutes to make (apart from grilling the corn), and I'm hooked!
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed well
1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2 green onions, thinly sliced
2 plum or vine-ripened tomatoes, chopped
1 yellow or red pepper, diced
2 corn on the cobs, grilled and kernels removed*
1/4 cup chopped fresh coriander or dried coriander to taste (I added somewhere between 1/4-1/2 tsp)
1 teaspoon grated lime rind
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1/4 cup vegetable or olive oil
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced (optional- I did not indulge)
1 small clove of garlic, minced
salt and pepper to taste
* to grill corn on the barbeque, simply brush each cob with a small amount of vegetable or olive oil, and place on grill over medium heat. Rotate the cob every 1-2 minutes, or when the kernels have begun to get charred. Once the entire cob is done, remove from grill and when cooled, cut off kernels with a sharp serrated knife.
In a large bowl, toss together black beans, chickpeas, onions, tomatoes, pepper, corn and coriander.
In a separate small bowl, whisk together lime rind and juice, oil, garlic, and salt and pepper. Pour over bean mixture; toss to coat and adjust salt and pepper to taste.
While you can serve this immediately, I prefer to let the mixture sit for a half hour so that the bean mixture may soak up the seasonings. Ideally eat within 2 days, although it was still fine at 5-6 days later for me.
Source: slightly adapted from Canadian Living The Vegetarian Collection
Sunday, July 21, 2013
It's been a very long time since I last wrote a post, and before that my posts were few and far between. Most of you who follow my posts are likely aware that my lack of attention towards blogging was due to being in school and being rather busy. Well, I am happy to announce that I officially finished my Masters of Social Work degree at the end of June. Yippeee!!!! No more school for a bit [and yes I say a bit because I may pursue further studies down the road, who knows!]. As for the last month, I've started a new job as a Researcher Assistant [which really means a glorified student that gets paid -insert sigh and eye roll], although it allows me to work from home, hours are completely flexible and it's not full-time, which is absolutely wonderful for the summer. Come the fall I will likely look for an additional part-time job, but for now I'm enjoying the downtime. I've also gone through some significant personal changes in the last month that have thrown things a little topsy-turvy for me, so I'm just trying to get back into my groove now. Hopefully that means more blogging!
But enough about me, let's talk about this Cookies n' Cream Chocolate Cake, now there's an alliteration for ya. I've made the chocolate cake base that I used here several times now, and would say that it's tried and true. I made a small adjustment this past time because I didn't have espresso powder, and everything turned out just as delicious as always. The dark, rich and moist chocolate cake paired perfectly with the sweetness of the frosting, which by the way, deserves a platter on it's own. Now I love all frostings (although some are a bit too sweet for me), but this one tasted exactly like cookies n' cream ice cream, which I haven't had in years and years and now I'm craving... hmm that gives me an idea! Topped with a satiny chocolate glaze, swirls of frosting and oreos and you've got yourself one decadent cake.
For the cake:
1 1/3 cup flour
3/4 cup cocoa
1 1/8 teaspoon baking soda
heaping 1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter (1 stick), softened to room temp
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 large eggs, at room temp
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 cup buttermilk, at room temp
1/3 cup + 1 tablespoon sour cream, at room temp
1 oz melted bittersweet chocolate
1 1/2 tablespoon milk
For the buttercream frosting:
1 1/2 cup butter, softened to room temp
4-5 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2-4 tablespoons whipping cream (1/2 & 1/2 or milk works too) depending on how stiff frosting is
For the chocolate glaze:
5 oz bittersweet chocolate
1/4 cup butter
Additional oreos for decoration
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease two 6-inch round cake pans with butter or shortening. Line the bottoms with parchment paper, grease the paper, dust the pans with flour, and knock out any excess flour.
In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugars on high speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add the eggs and vanilla and mix well, scraping the sides of the bowl as needed. In a separate small bowl, combine the buttermilk, sour cream and melted chocolate. On low speed, add the flour mixture and the buttermilk mixture into the creamed butter in thirds, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Mix the batter only until blended.
Divide the batter between the two pans and smooth the tops with a spatula. Bake on the middle rack of the oven for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean (my oven seems to bake things slower so my cakes often take a little longer). Cool for 10 minutes on a rack, remove from the pans, and allow to finish cooling.
To make the frosting, beat the butter in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment until light and smooth. Add the powdered sugar to the butter and mix on low initially (to avoid a poof of sugar in your face), and gradually increase speed. Beat on medium high until light and fluffy, about 3-4 minutes.
In a food processor, gently pulse oreos until they are broken down into fine pieces (not crumbs). Alternatively, you can chop by hand. Combine the chopped oreos, vanilla and 2 tablespoons of cream into the whipped butter. If the frosting is too stiff, gradually add 1 tablespoon cream into frosting until it reaches your desired consistency.
To assemble the cake, level the tops of both cakes, and then cut each layer in half, resulting in 4 layers. (At this point it helps to freeze the cake layers for 20-30 minutes to make it easier to frost). Frost the top of the first layer with the buttercream. Place the next three layers on top, repeating the first step. Once all 4 layers are assembled, frost the sides and smooth over. Reserve 1/2 cup of frosting for decorating.
I like to use a rotating cake table to decorate, found here, as well as an angled spatula for the tops, such as this one, and a flat spatula for the sides, like this.
Refrigerate cake. In the meantime, roughly chop the bittersweet chocolate and place in a microwave safe bowl. Microwave chocolate in bursts of 20 seconds, stirring after each time, until chocolate is melted. Cut butter into small cubes and add into melted chocolate, stirring until all of the butter is melted. Let cool for 5 minutes.
Remove cake from fridge and spoon chocolate glaze over top, allowing it to drip over the edges. Once glaze is on, return to fridge for 5-10 minutes. In the meantime, fit a piping bag with a decorative tip of your choice, and fill with remaining frosting. Once the glaze has set on the cake, top with decorative swirls and an oreo on each swirl.
Sources: Cake slightly adapted from Annie's Eats, who adapted from The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook by Ina Garten and Martha Stewart. Chocolate glaze taken from Tracey's Culinary Adventures. Buttercream by Sweet Treats n' Healthy Eats.
Thursday, May 2, 2013
You know what I'm a fan of? Quick, simple, relatively inexpensive dishes that turn out to be healthy, nutritious, and down right tasty. Now when it comes to desserts, I'm often all about time-consuming and detail-oriented goodies. But this Black Beans and Rice Skillet just happens to be one of those easy and delicious dinners that you can whip out in no time, and have plenty of leftovers for lunches or dinners to come. This dish also just happens to fall perfectly in sync with Cinco de Mayo, which is just around the corner! Fancy that! And nope, I did not plan this at all!
I'm really impressed with how this dish has held up to reheating, and I know for a fact that it will now be in my regular dinner rotations. If you're looking for something to make- especially you Mommys out there with little time and kids hanging off of you... you gotta try this out.
1/2 green pepper, diced
1/2 red pepper, diced
1 small-medium zucchini, diced
1 tablespoon canola or vegetable oil
1 can diced garlic & herbs tomatoes
1 can black beans, rinsed thoroughly
1/2 can sweet corn (or about 1/2 cup frozen corn)
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
salt to taste
3/4 cup white or brown rice, cooked as per directions on package (about 2 1/4 cups cooked rice)
1 cup grated cheddar cheese
Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. When pan is hot, add zucchini and bell peppers; cook for 5 minutes. Add in cumin and chili pepper, stirring until mixture becomes fragrant; about 1 minute. Add can of tomatoes (including liquid) and rinsed beans. Increase heat to high and bring mixture to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook for about 10 minutes, or until peppers and zucchini has softened (most of liquid should be absorbed/evaporated at this point). Add in corn and season with desired amount of salt.
Add in cooked rice and stir well. Add in additional seasoning if required. Cook for an additional minute, then remove from heat. Sprinkle with cheese and stir through.
Source: adapted from Ready Set Eat Pin It
Wednesday, April 24, 2013
Yum, yum, yum, yum, yum! I can't even begin to describe how deliciously decadent these cupcakes were. And what's really exciting about these cupcakes is that I imagined and created these cupcakes myself, without any outside influences. That is, I didn't see them on Pinterest or another baker's blog, the idea came from within me. Now that might not seem like a big deal to you, but I think it's a really special step forward to start moving away from already created recipes into unknown territory. I didn't create the cupcake recipe from scratch- I'm no scientist here; but I did adapt and create the rest of the components. Yay for me! I'm going to go do a little happy dance.
Honestly, you should go make these. They're very simple, despite the multitude of components. And they are sooo good. I brought them to a work potluck and everybody went ga-ga over them. A perfectly rich but light chocolate cupcake, delicious truffle on the inside (and trust me, I'm not a huge fan of truffles but because they're raspberry truffles, they were amazing), topped with light, fluffy raspberry flavoured whipped cream icing and a drizzle of that sweet and tangy raspberry sauce on top. Just fabulous.
I made these Black Forest Cupcakes not too long ago, and you can find the recipe for the chocolate cupcakes here.
For the Raspberry Sauce:
2 pints raspberries, fresh or frozen
1/2 cup water
1/2-3/4 cup sugar, or to taste
2 tablespoons cornstarch
For the Chocolate Raspberry Truffle
8 oz. bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
2/3 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
1/4- 1/3 cup raspberry sauce
For the Whipped Cream:
3 cups heavy cream, chilled
1 cup powdered sugar, sifted
Dr. Oetker's Whip It (Whipped Cream stabilizer that can be found in the bakery section)
1/4 cup raspberry sauce
To make the Raspberry Sauce:
Crush the raspberries with water in a saucepan; a potato masher works well.Whisk in sugar and cornstarch until completely combined. Heat over medium-high heat until mixture is brought to a boil; make sure to stir constantly to avoid burning. Reduce the heat and simmer for 2 minutes. The sauce will have thickened from the cornstarch and will happen quickly, so be sure to remove from heat once it reaches the thickness you desire. Push the sauce through a strainer to remove all clumps and seeds. Refrigerate and save until later. This can be made several days in advance, and is great for other things, such as pancakes, cakes, or these mini cheesecakes.
To make the Chocolate Raspberry Truffle filling:
Place finely chopped chocolate in a heatproof bowl. Heat the cream in a small saucepan until simmering, then pour it over the chocolate. Let sit for one minute and then whisk until smooth. If the chocolate is not completely melted, place the bowl over a double boiler or give it a very short burst in the microwave (15-20 seconds). Add the butter and stir until combined. Set aside and allow to cool for 20-30 minutes before stirring in the raspberry sauce. Add raspberry sauce to taste (I can't remember exactly how much I put in, but I know I kept adding more and more). Refrigerate truffle filling and save until later.
At this time, make the cupcakes. Recipe can be found here. Once cupcakes have cooled, use the cone method to cut out a hole in the cupcake. Spoon raspberry truffle filling into a piping bag (should be relatively soft, unlike an actual truffle). Pipe truffle filling into the centre of each cupcake hole, and then replace top of cupcake.
To make the Raspberry Whipped Cream:
Start by cooling your stand mixer, either by placing it in your fridge or freezer for a few minutes; this helps to whip the cream faster. Add the heavy cream, powdered sugar and Whip It to the bowl of the stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat on medium-low speed for 30 seconds before increasing the speed to medium-high. Whip the cream until stiff peaks form, being careful not to overbeat. Spoon in 2 tablespoons of raspberry sauce and whip on medium speed until incorporated. Add in additional 1 tablespoons at a time until you've reached your desired taste.
Transfer whipped cream into a piping bag fitted with a tip of your desire. Pipe whipped cream on top of cupcakes. If wanting to drizzle with raspberry sauce, transfer sauce into a squeeze bottle for easy application. *Note: if you are not serving the cupcakes for awhile, do not drizzle with sauce until half an hour or so before serving; I made my cupcakes a day prior to serving and by the next day the drizzle had stained the whipped cream, making them appear as if they'd been sitting for a lot longer than they had.
Source: cupcakes from Annie's Eats, Truffle adapted from this post. Raspberry sauce and Whipped cream a Sweet Treats & Healthy Eats original.Pin It
Tuesday, March 26, 2013
Happy Easter everybody! Well, Happy Easter in a few days at least. I can say that this is possibly the most I have ever looked forward to Easter, which is quite sad considering the reason. My placement is closed on Friday and Monday, meaning I have two days off work, which means that I have two whole extra days to devote to school assignments! Am I excited for that? Yes. Is that depressing? Incredibly.
And while I was looking forward to creating this batch of Easter cookies for a couple of lovely ladies who asked to order some after seeing my Whoo do you love? Valentine's Day and Kiss me I'm Irish! St. Patrick's Day sugar cookies, I was also dreading it. Don't get me wrong, I love love love making cookies, it is just a very busy and stressful time for me. And considering I don't know when to stop (i.e. too many cookies and colours), it just adds up. But now that I'm finished, I'm tickled pink with the set and very pleased at how they turned out. I used ribbon roses for the first time AND got to try out my Kopykake projector that just came in the mail last week! Can you tell, can you tell? Well... the only thing that I used it for were the fonts for 'Happy Easter' but I'm super stoked about it. In fact, I couldn't stop staring at how beautiful my writing came out. Already my KK is a win in my books.
That writing is just beauteous. Yup, beauteous. Aside from those though, I think the bunnies were my favourite, they were so cute with their little pastel sprinkly tails! And here they are all packed up and ready to go tomorrow!
If you are interested in the cookie recipe that I use, check out my post on Baby Shower Cookies. For an added spring touch, I changed up the flavour of my royal icing just a tad: I used 1/2 teaspoon vanilla and closer to 2 teaspoons of orange extract. Yum! I actually enjoyed it a lot more than my normal recipe.
Check out my post here on Chocolate Caramel Cupcakes to see what I made for Easter last year.
Have a fantastic Easter weekend everybody! Chocolate Caramel CupcakesChocolate Caramel CupcakesPin It