Red Velvet Layered Cheesecake

One of my managers had her birthday this week, so of course I wanted to make her a cake. When I asked her what her favorite kind of cake was, she said she loved red velvet and cheesecake. I was torn between the two, I thought…why not have the best of both worlds?!  I decided to use this recipe as a guideline:

CHEESECAKE:
Two (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, at room temperature
cup granulated white sugar
pinch of salt
2 large eggs
cup sour cream
cup heavy whipping cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
RED VELVET CAKE:
cups all purpose flour
cups granulated white sugar
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch process)
teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs, at room temperature
cups vegetable or canola oil
1 cup buttermilk
2 tablespoons red food coloring
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 teaspoons white vinegar
CREAM CHEESE FROSTING:
cups powdered sugar, sifted lightly to remove any lumps
2 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, at room temperature
½ cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

This cake essentially just layers a cheesecake between two, decadent rounds of red velvet cake, and is topped with a rich, cream cheese frosting.

I decided to make the cheesecake the night before, to make the process a little more manageable for a work night.

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I started by preheating my oven to 325 degrees F, and placed a large roasting pan on the lower third rack of my oven. I put a kettle of water on the stove to boil, and then sprayed and lined my 9-inch springform pan with nonstick spray and a round of parchment paper. I wrapped a double layer of foil around the bottom and up the sides of the pan (to seal it so the water from the water bath doesn’t seep into the pan).

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In a large bowl, I used my hand mixer to mix the cream cheese until it was smooth and creamy. I then mixed in the sugar and salt for 2 minutes, scraping down sides of the bowl when needed. I added the eggs one at a time, blending after each addition. The last step was to mix in the sour cream, whipping cream and vanilla. I poured the batter into the prepared pan, and set my springform pan into my roasting pan in my pre-heated oven. I then carefully poured the hot water from my kettle into my roasting pan to surround the cheesecake (I poured until the water was about an inch from the top of the cheesecake pan). I let the cheesecake bake for about 45 minutes, until it was set to the touch and not jiggly. I then removed the cheesecake from the roasting pan and let it cool on a wire rack for over an hour. When it was cooled, I put the the pan in my freezer and let the cheesecake freeze completely (overnight).

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The following evening, I made the red velvet cake layers. I preheated my oven to 350 degrees F, and greased and floured my two 9-inch round metal baking pans. In a large bowl, i whisked together flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt. I then added the eggs, oil, buttermilk, food coloring, vanilla and vinegar to the flour mixture. Using my hand mixer on medium-low speed, I beat the mixture until it was blended (about 2 minute). I then spread the batter evenly into my prepared pans, and baked them for 30 to 35 minutes (or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a few moist crumbs attached). I let them cool in the pans on a wire rack for 10 minutes, and then removed the cakes from the pans until they cooled completely (running a knife around the edge of the cake makes it a lot easier to remove).

As the cake cooled, I made the cream cheese frosting. In a large bowl, I used my hand mixer  to beat the powdered sugar, cream cheese, butter and vanilla until it was just smooth (do not overbeat).

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Then came my favorite part – THE ASSEMBLY!! I placed one cake layer on the center of my cake plate, and removed the cheesecake from the freezer. I took off the sides of the pan, and slid a knife under the parchment to remove the cheesecake from the pan. I peeled off the parchment paper, and then measured my cheesecake layer against the cake layers. If the cheesecake layer turns out to be a slightly larger round than the cake, move it to a cutting board and gently shave off some of the exterior of the cheesecake to get it to the same size as the cake layers. I was fortunate enough to have my layers be the same size, but leveled the tops of the red velvet rounds to make uniform layers. I reserved the cutoff tops and broke them down into crumbs to use for decoration. I then placed the cheesecake layer on top of the first cake layer, and then put the 2nd cake layer on top of the cheesecake. I proceeded to frost the entire cake, and applied a crumb coat layer to the cake first to ensure a clean exterior (use a long, thin spatula to cover the cake completely with a thin and even layer of frosting; wipe off your spatula each time you are about to dip it back into the bowl. Don’t worry at this point about the crumbs being visible in the frosting on the cake).

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When my cake had a thin layer of frosting all over it, I put it in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to set the frosting. Once the first layer of frosting had set, I applied the 2nd layer, by adding a large scoop of frosting to the top of the cake. Using a long, thin spatula, I then spread the frosting evenly across the top and then down the sides. I then decorated the cake with the reserved red velvet crumbs (white chocolate shavings would also be a nice touch). I kept the cake refrigerated until we were ready to eat it. I was very pleased with how it turned out!  It was a big hit 😀

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Salted Caramel Layer Cake

One of my favorite partners is rolling off our engagement this year, and our team is throwing him a big going-away party. Of course, I wanted to make a cake. But this cake needed to be special. It needed to be something I’ve never made before. It needed….to involve salted caramel!! After a lot of thought, I decided to make this Salted Caramel Layer Cake. So gathered up my ingredients and got started:

Caramel Cake:
    • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
    • 1 cup sugar
    • 3/4 firmly packed dark brown sugar
    • 3 large eggs
    • 1 tsp vanilla
    • 2 cups flour, sifted
    • 1 cup buttermilk
    • 1 tsp baking soda
    • 1 Tbsp white vinegar
Salted Caramel Sauce:
    • 2 cups sugar
    • 12 Tbsp unsalted butter, cubed & room temperature
    • 1 cup heavy cream, room temperature
    • 1 Tbsp fleur de sel (I used sea salt and crushed it down into smaller flakes)
Caramel Frosting
  • 1/2 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 unsalted butter, room temperature, divided
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream
  • 8oz cream cheese, softened
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 4 cups powdered sugar, sifted

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I started with the cake base. I prepared my 8in cake pans by buttering and flouring them, then lining them with parchment paper. I then preheated my oven to 350 degrees, and began making the batter. Using my hand mixer, I creamed together the butter and sugars. I then added the eggs one at a time, mixing until each one was incorporated. Next I added the vanilla, then alternated adding the flour and buttermilk. In a separate container, I mixed the vinegar and baking soda together, then stirred the mixture into the batter. I mixed the batter until it was just incorporated, then evenly poured the batter into my cake pans. I baked them in two batches since my oven can only fit two cake pans at a time, and let bake for about 20 minutes (until they were golden brown and my toothpick came out clean). I let them cool on a wire rack until they were completely cool and ready for assembly.

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While the cake layers were baking, I made the salted caramel sauce. I poured the sugar into a large, heavy bottomed pot, and whisked it until it was completely melted (about 5 minutes). The sugar clumped in the beginning, but eventually melted completely. I then stopped whisking the let the sugar cook until it turned a beautiful amber color, and had a nutty aroma. I don’t have a candy thermometer, so I go completely by visual cues. At this point, I removed the mixture from the heat and whisked in the butter, then the cream. It will bubble up, so be careful during this stage (I burned my finger!). The last step was to stir in the salt, and let it cool to room temperature. I stored the leftover caramel in a mason jar. It will last in your fridge for about two weeks.

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The last step was the caramel frosting. To make it, I whisked together the brown sugar and 1/2 stick of butter on medium in a heavy sauce pan until it was melted. I brought it to a boil for just a few seconds, them immediately removed it from the heat, and stirred in the heavy cream. I continued whisking this until it was smooth, then let it cool to room temperature. As it cooled, I creamed together the remaining stick of butter and cream cheese until it was smooth. I then mixed in the salt, and slowly incorporated the brown sugar mixture. I then added the powdered sugar, and mixed on medium high until it was fluffy and smooth. To make assembly easier, I chilled the frosting for about 30 minutes before I began layering the cake.

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For the assembly, I placed my cake layer on the my platter and poked holes throughout the layer with a chop stick (I didn’t have any skewers, but it worked just fine!) I then spooned caramel sauce over the layer, and then used an offset spatula to spread a thin layer of frosting over the top. The frosting will most likely mix with the caramel sauce a bit, but that’s ok! I then repeated this process for each layer, and frosted the entire cake from top to bottom. For aesthetic effects, I drizzled caramel over the top, then I made a frosting boarder around the top rim and bottom of the cake. (I’m not sure which wilton tip I used, but I think any of them would work). I then sprinkled a dash of salt on top, and refrigerated it until it was time to cut it. Despite the whole caramel sauce thing, this cake took less time to make than usual! I highly recommend it.

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Next time I might try to double the cake batter to make more layers. It ended up being about 4 inches tall, but I like my cakes to be at least 8 inches high.

Overall, I’d say the cake turned out great! It was relatively dense since I made such thin layers, but actually liked the texture.  It was a big hit 😀

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Citrus Coconut Sugar Scrub

I’ve been hooked on sugar scrubs since I made my my first sugar scrub (Vanilla Brown Sugar) last fall. When I stumbled across this Citrus Coconut Sugar Scrub, I thought it would be perfect for summer. This scrub uses:

  • 1/4 cup coconut oil (melted)
  • 1 cup white sugar
  •  TBSP shredded coconut
  • 6-8 drops of Lemon Essential Oil
  • Juice of 1 lime

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The instructions say to melt the Coconut oil in microwave..But I don’t have a microwave, so I let mine melt in the sun (since it was SUPER hot out today). Once it was melted, I mixed it with the sugar, until the oil was fully incorporated. I then added the coconut and the Lime Oil. This recipe makes about one cup of scrub.

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I am absolutely hooked on coconut oil now. My skin felt soooo soft after I used this scrub, and it smells like tropical paradise 😀 I recently started swimming again, and this scrub is the only thing that can rejuvenate my skin after all that chlorine.

Detox Water

Being the planner that I am, I decided to make some detox water before I went out with my friends tonight. I taste tested it before we left, and it was wonderful! I can’t wait to drink it tomorrow once it’s fully steeped. To make it, I used:

  • 2 liters of water
  • 1 sliced cucumber
  • 10-12 chopped, fresh mint leaves
  • 1 sliced lime
  • 1 sliced lemon

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I put all my ingredients in a large pitcher, and popped it in the fridge. It’s literally that simple. YAY FOR DETOX WATER!! And not being hungover 😀

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Basil-Lemon Quinoa Salad

Another quinoa recipe?? I know, I’ve been making tons of these lately, but quinoa is the best. There are so many variations you can make, and its such a great source of protein and fiber!  So I decided to try out this basil-lemon quinoa salad:

Salad:

1 cup uncooked quinoa
15 oz. can garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
3 roma tomatoes, diced
1 orange bell pepper, diced
1 1/2 cups corn
4 green onions, thinly sliced

Dressing:

2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 tsp. basil (fresh is always best)

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I rinsed and drained my quinoa, then added it to pot with 2 cups water and brought it to a boil. I covered it, reduced the heat to low, and let it simmer for 20 minutes (or until water has absorbed and quinoa is tender).

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In a small bowl, I added all the dressing ingredients together and whisked it all together until it was combined. In a large bowl, I added the cooked quinoa with all the other salad ingredients. I poured the dressing over the top and tossed it to combine. And just like that, I had lunch for the week! I love how bright this salad tastes with the lemon dressing, and you feel like a million bucks after eating it. This is sure to become a go to lunch recipe for me.

My Favorite Flavored Water

I made a drastic life change and decided to give up diet soda today. It was kind of sudden and out of the blue, but it really needed to happen. I usually drink at least 3 diet sodas a day….which is terrible. So I have been experimenting with flavored water as a healthy alternative. And I’ve realized that water can taste even better than soda! Who knew. My favorite flavored water is made with:

  • 1 large pitcher of water
  • 10-12 chopped mint leaves
  • 1 cup blueberries (frozen or fresh)
  • 2 sliced lemons
  • 1 sliced peach or nectarine

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Throw everything together in a pitcher and let it steep over night. You can use fresh or frozen fruit – I always prefer fresh if it’s in season. You can always mix it up or throw in your favorite fruits.

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Monkey Cake (Double Banana Cake)

I have always been a fan of banana bread, but was kind of dumbfounded when I was asked to make a banana cake as a going away favor for one of my coworkers. My first thought was, seriously? Banana Cake?? But the more I thought about it, the more I realized how great a banana cake could turn out! It is almost guaranteed to be moist, naturally sweet, and perfect for summer. So I did some research and decided to use this recipe. The ingredients include:

Cake:

  • 1 1/2 cups bananas, mashed, ripe
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup butter, softened
  • 2 1/8 cups sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 1/2 cups buttermilk

Frosting

  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3 1/2 cups confectioners sugar

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Like always I began by preheating my oven to 275°, and buttered, floured, and placed parchment paper circles in two nine inch circular cake pans. In a small bowl, I mixed the mashed banana with the lemon juice, and set it aside. In a medium bowl, I mixed the flour, baking soda and salt, then added eggs one at a time. In a large bowl, I creamed 3/4 cup butter and 2 1/8 cups sugar until light and fluffy, and then added the vanilla. I beat this  butter mixture into the flour mixture alternately with the buttermilk, and then added in the banana mixture. I poured the batter into my prepared pan and baked them for about an one hour, until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

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I removed the cakes from the oven and placed them directly into the freezer for 45 minutes (this locks in the moisture and ensures that the cake will end up super moist).

I got a SUPER late start on this cake (I literally started gathering the ingredients at midnight), so I let the cake cool overnight. I moved it from the freezer, covered it, and put it in my fridge.

I made the frosting in the morning before I went to work. I creamed together the butter and cream cheese until smooth, and then beat in the vanilla. I added the sugar and beat on low speed until it all was combined, then on high speed until frosting is smooth.

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I then spread the icing on the cooled cake and added fresh banana slices between the layers (hence the name of the cake) and decorated the cake with walnuts and banana chips.

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It tasted AMAZING! And I know I say that about a lot of my cakes….but this really is in a class of its own. It was so moist, and tasted like the best banana bread you’ve ever had…on steroids. If you like bananas, you simple must try this recipe. End of story 😀

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