Category Archives: DIY

Dirt Cup-Inspired Chocolate Cake

To celebrate Earth Day this year, I want to make something special this year! As my mind was sifting through everything I could make to celebrate, I remember dirt cups! As a child, dirt cups were one of my favorite treats. There’s something so wonderful about the simplicity of them. How can you go wrong with pudding, cool whip, and crushed oreos?! They’re also really easy to make, and I tried to keep this minimalist theme in mind while making this dirt cup-inspired cake.

This is definitely one of the easiest, and simplest cake recipes I’ve ever made! Ironically, it is also one of the most delicious chocolate cakes I’ve made. The pudding filling isn’t too sweet, so this is a great cake for anyone who doesn’t have a huge sweet tooth, or might not be the biggest fan of frosting. The recipe can be found below:

  • 1 batch of your favorite chocolate sponge cake (love making Yolanda Gampp’s chocolate cake recipe, using black cocoa)
  • 1 package of instant chocolate pudding (+2 cups whole milk)
  • 1 container Cool Whip
  • 1 package of Oreos, chopped in small pieces
  • gummy worms
  • green buttercream (optional)

Begin by making the chocolate cake layers. You can use whatever recipe is your favorite, but I highly recommend using a chocolate sponge cake for this, and not adding simple syrup! Usually sponge cake and simple syrup go hand in hand, but since the pudding filling is pretty soft, it keeps the cake nice and moist. This recipe is very flexible, so you can make whatever size of cake layers you prefer, and however many layers you want! I opted to make four, 7-inch cake layers, but this could definitely be made with three 8-inch layers, or even two 9-inch layers!

Once the layers are baked, allow them to cool fully. I like to place the layers in the freezer for about 45 minutes to accelerate the cooling process. Once fully cooled, level the tops using a serrated knife.

While the layers bake and cool, prepare the pudding filling! Whisk together 1 package of instant chocolate pudding with 2 cups of cold milk. Cover with plastic wrap, and place in the fridge for about 15 minutes, to allow it to set. Once the mixture has firmed up, fold in the entire container of cool whip using a  spatula. When the cool whip has been fully incorporated, cover and set aside.

dirt cup pudding filling

Then it’s time to assemble the cake! I chose to stack the layers using acetate sheets (channeling a momofuku-inspired look), but after I remade this cake for one of my Food Network live streams and omitted the acetate sheets, I found it’s actually much easier to assemble this cake without them! The pudding mixture stays rather soft, so it doesn’t really firm up after being chilled. I also had some of my Oreos cascade down around the base as I removed the sheets.

Dirt cup cake - removing acetate sheet

To build the cake, cover the base layer with a generous layer of pudding mixture, spreading it evenly over the layer using an offset spatula. Sprinkle with chopped Oreos. Repeat with remaining cake layers. Once all the layers are stacked, top the cake with one final layer of pudding mixture and Oreo bits. If desired, you can also pipe some grass patches on top of the cake with some green buttercream and a small grass tip (like a Wilton #233).  The last step is to add the gummy works on top!!

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This cake feeds around 20 people, and will be gone before you know it! Be sure to cut the cake using a very sharp knife, as it will be very soft with all the pudding between the layers. I brought the leftover cake into my office, and my coworkers couldn’t get enough of it.

 

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Funfetti Cookie Dough Ice Cream Cake

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With summer right around the corner, it only seemed appropriate  that I make an ice cream cake!! This recipe simplifies the process, with a super easy no-churn Ice Cream filling! I also added some of my favorite edible cookie dough and sprinkles, just for fun. The recipes are included below:

Chocolate Cake Ingredients:

  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 3 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks), room temperature
  • 3 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 cup egg whites (about 7 large egg whites)
  • 1 tsp instant espresso, dissolved in 1 Tbsp hot water
  • 1 1/2 cups buttermilk, room temperature
  • 1/8 cup vegetable oil
No-Churn Ice Cream
  • 16 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 16 oz Cool Whip (2 tubs)
  • 1 cup mini chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup sprinkles
  • 2 cups edible cookie dough balls

Optional:

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease and line three 8” round pans.

Mix together all dry ingredients (flour, cocoa, baking powder, sugar, and salt) in a stand mixer on low (with a paddle), until fully combined.

Mix chunks of room-temperature butter slowly into the dry mix, on a low speed. Continue to mix until no large chunks of butter remain, and the mixture becomes crumbly.

Pour in egg whites, and mix on low until just incorporated.  Mix in the buttermilk in two installments, on a low speed. Add in vanilla, espresso, and oil, and mix at a low speed until fully incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula, then beat on medium high for about 30 seconds.

Divide evenly between the prepared cake pans. Bake for 40-45 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean. Allow to cool for 10 minutes, then run an offset spatula around perimeter of the pan to separate the cake from the pan. Place cake layers on a rack to finish cooling.

To accelerate the cooling process, I like to pop my cake layers in the freezer once I’ve removed them from the cake pans.

As the cake layers cool, prep the no-churn ice cream. Combine cream cheese, sugar, milk and vanilla together in the bowl of a stand mixer, or with a hand mixer. Mix with a paddle attachment at a medium speed until completely combined. Gently fold in the cool whip, mini chocolate chips, and the cookie dough balls (reserve a handful to decorate the top of the cake).

Next, assemble the cake! Use acetate sheets or parchment paper to create a  tall cylinder inside the same pan you baked the cake layers in. The cylinder should be roughly 12 inches high, as it has to be taller than the cake will be. Use tape to secure acetate sheets/parchment paper to ensure it keeps it’s shape while filling.
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Place a cardboard cake circle in the bottom of the pan (I trimmed a 10 inch cake round to fit in my pan). Put the first cake layer in the bottom of your pan. Smooth 1/3 of the ice cream on top of the cake layer. Repeat with remaining cake layers, finishing the stack with a smoothed layer of ice cream. Allow ice cream cake to freeze completely, preferably overnight (or at least 6 hours.
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When ready to eat, remove cake from freezer and gently peel away lining. I chose to top the cake with chocolate buttercream swirls (made with a Wilton 1M tip), sprinkles, the leftover cookie dough, and a chocolate ganache drizzle! You could also cover the cake in cool whip/whipped cream 🙂
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Easy Microwave Mirror Glaze Recipe

I’ve already shared my Easy Mirror Glaze Recipe (made with only 5 ingredients!!), which helped make the mirror glaze technique much more approachable. However, I wanted to simplify the process even further, and am now sharing a modified mirror glaze recipe that can be prepared using just a microwave!!!

Microwave Mirror Glaze needs to be a thing! I’m not kidding, this take roughly 5 minutes in the microwave to whip up. I’m 99% sure this is the simplest mirror glaze recipe out there! I wanted to make a mermaid-inspired mirror glaze, so I used some light shades of pink, purple, blue, and green. In addition to making microwave mirror glaze a thing, I also want to make mermaid glaze a thing! So many goals, so little time.

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There are a few things you need to know before you begin making your mirror glaze:

  • You must use unflavored gelatin; the sugar in regular jello throws off the recipe
  • I recommend using miniature white chocolate chips if possible, they melt the fastest
  • If you want to color the mirror glaze, be sure to use gel food coloring. It won’t throw off the consistency of the glaze like liquid food coloring
  • Be sure to pour the glaze over a fully frozen, very smooth cake. I prefer to pour this over cakes frosted with buttercream, but you an also pour it over frozen mousse.

The ingredients needed can be found below:

Mirror  Glaze:

  • 1.5 cups sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 2/3 cup sweetened condensed milk
  • 2 cups white chocolate chips (miniature work best, but regular are fine too)
  • 2 Tbsp. unflavored gelatin (2 envelopes), bloomed in 1/4 cup of water

Optional:

  • gel food coloring (in this glaze I used pink blue, green, and purple)
  • edible glitter
  • large offset spatula (for color swipe over the top of the glazed cake)

Equipment:

  • large, heat-proof bowl
  • thermometer

Instructions:

Mix the gelatin in a bowl with 1/4 cup of water, and set aside to let it bloom while you begin the glaze. Combine together the 1 1/2 cups of sugar, 1 cup of water, and 2/3 cup sweetened condensed milk in a heat-proof bowl. Heat for 1 minute at full power, and remove from microwave. Stir, and heat for another minute. Next, add in the gelatin (it will be very firm), breaking it up into smaller pieces. Heat for an additional minute, then add in half of the white chocolate chips (1 cup). Gently stir to ensure all the chips are submerged. Heat for an additional minute, then remove and slowly stir. The white chocolate chips should be mostly melted. Stir in remaining chocolate, and heat for another minute. Remove from microwave, and let the mixture sit for a minute. This will allow the heat from the mixture to continue to melt any remaining bits of white chocolate. Stir slowly, until all the white chocolate has melted. The glaze should be perfectly smooth, and roughly 130 degrees F at this point.

If there are still bits of white chocolate, heat for additional 30 second intervals (stirring between), until all the chocolate is fully incorporated. Divide the glaze evenly between four bowls. Color the bowls pink, purple, blue, and green. Continue to stir occasionally to stop a skin from forming, until the glaze has reached 90 degrees, or is slightly above room temperature. My glaze took about 20 minutes to cool to the right temperature.

Once the glazes have cooled slightly, pour all of the pink into a large bowl with a pouring spout. Then pour drizzle in 2/3 of the purple, blue, and green glazes on top of the pink.

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Remove the smoothed buttercream cake from the freezer (must be fully frozen!! I recommend freezing for at least 2 hours before glazing), and place on a tall, circular object, on top of a large baking sheet. I elevated my cake with a a small cake pan, then slowly poured the glaze on the cake.

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I began pouring the glaze over the edges, then worked my way into the center. Once I had fully covered the cake, I swiped a bit more blue onto the top of the cake with a large offset spatula. I then sprinkled some edible glitter over the top. I let it continue to drip for about 5 minutes, then scraped the excess from the base, and placed the cake in the fridge.

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See? So easy!!! My cake was a three layer cake made with seven inch cake rounds. This glaze recipe easily covered a cake this size, and I had plenty of leftover glaze. It can be stored in the fridge in an airtight container, and reheated to be used in the future. However, the glaze can develop a skin, so be careful!

How to Make Edible Gelatin Bubbles for Cake Decorating

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I had never made gelatin bubbles before, but was asked to make a bubble gum inspired cake! I had always wanted to try the technique, and learned quite a bit making them. I followed Cake Central’s tutorial, and learned a few things along the way!  I wanted to share the tips that I will keep in mind the next time I make these. These are much less difficult to make than I had initially thought, but it’s definitely a messy process! The below portions make enough bubbles to cover the top of an 8 inch cake.

Ingredients and Materials:

  • 6 Tbsp. of unflavored gelatin (I used the Knox brand, can be found at most grocery stores and Target)
  • 12 Tbsp of cold water
  • heatproof bowl
  • small balloons (I ordered these from amazon)
  • gel food coloring or luster dust (optional)
  • cooling rack (to dry bubbles)

I made three different batches of gelatin, because the gelatin cools very quickly!

The first thing I did was blow up my small balloons into varying sizes (1 inch to 3 inches in diameter). I did my best to shape them in perfect circles. I found it helps to tie the knot very high up on the neck of the balloon. I then fully coated the balloons with a thin coat of shortening. Be sure to wipe away any excess shortening (white areas), as the gelatin won’t stick to the balloon if there’s too much.

Begin by adding 4 Tbsp. of cold water to a bowl. Pour in 2 packets of gelatin (ratio should always be 2 parts water, 1 part gelatin). Gently swirl the water in the bowl to fully incorporate the gelatin in the water. Let the mixture sit for couple minutes to bloom (absorb water). Once the mixture gels up, pop the bowl into the microwave for about 20 seconds (can vary based on your microwave). The gelatin should be warm and very fluid, but not too hot! Gently stir in a few drops of gel food coloring, being sure the gelatin is fully dissolved.

Using your fingers, gently roll balloon around in the gelatin, applying a thin and even coat of gelatin around the majority of the balloon. Gently rest balloon (with tie side down) on a cooling rack, and then dip 3 more balloons.  Once the first coat of gelatin is on, test the remaining gelatin for fluidity. I found that at this point my gelatin had generally cooled to a point where it was too thick and goopy. It didn’t evenly coat the balloon at all. After one coat, I needed to reheat my gelatin for about 5 seconds. I then re-dipped the balloons into the gelatin for second coat, using the same technique. I repeated this process and made two more batches of bubbles. Once the balloons had sat for about 30 minutes (I found they were had started to set by this point), I used a fan (on a low speed) to speed up the drying process. Be VERY careful when you do this. If your fan is too strong, it will blow your bubbles right off your counter!! I added some bowls on the sides and behind my cooling rack to ensure the bubbles stays in place.

My bubbles dried after about 4 hours, but without a fan they will need about 12 hours to harden.

NOTE: As the gelatin hardens, it will shrink. This will create loud, crackling sounds. At first I was convinced my bubbles were shattering, but was relieved to realize it just meant they were firming up quickly!

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Once the bubbles have hardened, use scissors to gently puncture the exposed balloon. Once it shrinks, you can easily loosen the balloon from the bubble, and remove it. If your bubbles collapse at all during this process, don’t worry! They are rather sturdy, and any indents can be popped back into place.

bubble progression

Use scissors to trim away any jagged edges around the base of the bubble. Repeat with all balloons.

These can be made several days ahead of time, as this process is rather time consuming! The bubbles can be stored in a airtight container for several days. Here’s a shot of the cake I decorated with these bubbles! One the bubbles were try, it was very easy to place them on top of my cake.

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DISCLAIMER! I do not recommend actually eating the bubbles. Although they are edible, they don’t taste great (plain gelatin!!). As you make them, the distinct and unpleasant smell will indicate how they would taste. These are much more  of a decorative touch than an edible garnish.

 

The Best (American) Vanilla Buttercream Frosting Recipe

Sometimes simple is best. When it comes to buttercream, that is definitely my approach! While there are tons of delicious variations of buttercream out there (Swiss, German, Italian, French…), I prefer American Buttercream! Why? I don’t like to mess with eggs when it comes to frosting, and I enjoy the way American buttercream tastes. The standard vanilla frosting recipe I use only requires five ingredients. I use this icing as the base of every frosting I make, and then make tweaks to recipe to flavor it (see variations section below)! A full tutorial for this recipe can be seen here.

When using this to frost my favorite vanilla layer cake recipe (which is amazing and bakes flat!!), which can be used to make four 7 inch or 8 inch cake layers, I usually make 1.5 – 2 batches, depending on how I’m decorating the cake.

American Buttercream Ingredients: 

  • 4 sticks or 2 cups (434 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 8 cups (907 grams) powdered sugar
  • 1/2 tsp (3 grams) salt
  • 2 Tbsp. (30 grams) heavy cream
  • 3 tsp (12 grams) vanilla

Instructions:

Beat the butter on a medium speed for 30 seconds with a paddle attachment, until smooth. Slowly add in the powdered sugar, 1 cup at a time. Alternate with small splashes of cream. Once fully mixed, add in the vanilla and salt, and beat on low until the ingredients are fully incorporated, and the desired consistency is reached. If the frosting is too thick, add in cream (1 teaspoon at a time). If the frosting is too thin, add in more powdered sugar (quarter of a cup at a time).

NOTE: If you are making frosting for a cake, it is important to mix the buttercream on low at the end of the process for a couple minutes, to get out any extra air that might have be incorporated during the mixing process. This will make it easier to get super smooth sides on your cake!

Variations:

This is the perfect frosting base for any flavor! The ideas are limitless. I’ve made the following variations: peanut butter, Oreo, chocolate, strawberry, almond, Nutella, Speculoos, salted caramel, coconut, mint, ube, lemon, cookie dough, bourbon, white chocolate, maple, and cream cheese!

When I make variations and plan to use a different extract, I usually swap out 1 or 2 tsp of vanilla, and replace them with my extract of choice. This is what I do for coconut, lemon, mint, almond, ube, and maple buttercream!

For flavors that require mixing in an addition ingredient, like Nutella or peanut butter, I usually replace 1 or 2 sticks of butter with the ingredient of choice! For example, for Nutella Buttercream, I use two sticks of butter, and one cup of Nutella. I then add a couple extra Tbsp. of heavy cream, since the Nutella makes the frosting thicker than standard buttercream. I use this approach for cream cheese, salted caramel, peanut butter, nutella, and speculoos frosting!

For coloring, I always use Americolor Gel Food coloring, and I mix it into the buttercream once all the ingredients are fully incorporated. This is my favorite brand because of it’s coloring strength!! It’s always true to shade, and is so vibrant!

The possibilities are endless 🙂

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Colored Drips Recipe (White Chocolate Ganache)

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I’ve been asked several times about what the colorful drips are on my cakes, and I figured it’s time for me to post the recipe I use. If you’d like to see my full tutorial, you can see one here.

I always use the same white chocolate ganache base, and then color with gel food coloring! My favorite food coloring is Americolor, but whatever brand you have will work. The recipe can be found below:

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup heavy cream (about 4 oz.)
  • 1 1/2 cups white chocolate chips (9 oz.)
  • gel food coloring (optional)

Instructions:

Heat heavy cream in a heat-proof bowl in the microwave for 45 seconds-1 minute, until bubbling. Gently pour white chocolate chips into the heavy cream, making sure they are fully covered with cream. Allow mixture to sit for 2 minutes. Stir slowly until the cream and white chocolate are combined, then heat again for 20 seconds and stir. Repeat as necessary until all the chocolate bits are fully melted and incorporated. Then add gel food coloring if desired. Allow to cool until desired viscosity is reached.

If it seems too thin or thick, you can add a touch more chocolate chips or heavy cream! The type of cream and white chocolate that you use can affect the consistency, so feel free to adjust as needed.

I like to put my ganache into plastic squirt bottles when decorating cakes! But you can also use a spoon to drizzle it over cakes.

Extra ganache can be kept in the fridge for 2 weeks.

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Caramel without a Candy Thermometer!

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I created a tutorial on my YouTube channel to show how you can make caramel sauce without a candy thermometer! It’s the perfect thickness for drizzling. The recipe is included below, and you can watch step by step instructions in my video.

Caramel Recipe:

  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 6 tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream, room temperature
  • 1/4 tsp salt

Instructions:

Turn stove onto medium heat, and place a  pot over element. Pour in sugar. Using a heat proof stirring utensil (I use an old-fashioned wooden spoon), stir until sugar begins to melt into a clear liquid. Continue to stir, until clumps of sugar begin to form. Slowly the color of the sugar clump will deepen from white to amber. Keep stirring until all the clump of sugar have dissolved, and then turn off the heat. Mix in butter slowly, then stir in cream and salt. Place in fridge to cool for 20 minutes, then pour into desired container. I put mine in a squirt bottle (for drizzling over cakes), but a mason jar or Tupperware container would work great too! The caramel will keep for several weeks in the fridge.