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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Easy Caramel Drizzle Recipe

Learn how to make caramel at home without a candy thermometer! This recipe only requires four ingredients, and takes less than 10 minutes to make. It tastes infinitely better than store-bought caramel, and keeps in the fridge for several weeks.

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.

 

 

Grumpy Cat Cake (10 layer funfetti cake)

I received a unique order for a grumpy cat cake, and decided to document the process 🙂

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To make this cake, you will need 8 inch, 6 inch, and 5 inch round cake pans, a mixer, an offset spatula, black gel food coloring, wooden dowels and skewers (to secure the cat ears, and the cat head to the cat body, and a piping bag with grass frosting tip. You also will need about 6 hours to bake and fully assemble.

I used my favorite funfetti cake recipe, listed below:

Funfetti Cake Batter:

  • 1.5 cups (3 sticks) butter, softened
  • 3 cups granulated sugar
  • 5 eggs, room temperature
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup buttermilk, room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 1/3 cups sprinkles
Vanilla Buttercream:
  • 6 sticks butter
  • 12 cups powdered sugar
  • 3 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • black food coloring (to be added later in the process)
Baking Instructions:
Preheat oven to 350º F. Prepare one 8 inch cake pan, six 6 inch round cake pans, and three 5 inch cake pans with a lining of parchment paper, and nonstick baking spray. If you don’t have that many six inch pans, bake the layers in waves. Cream the butter until light and fluffy with an electric mixer (about a minute). Slowly add sugar one cup at a time, making sure to fully incorporate each cup before adding another. Add room temperature eggs one at a time, making sure to fully incorporate each egg before adding another. Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. Pour the buttermilk and vanilla into measuring cup and whisk together with a fork. Add to butter and shortening mixture alternately with milk mixture, beginning and ending with dry ingredients. Gently stir all ingredients until well combined. Stop mixer and scrape down sides of bowl, making sure that all ingredients have fully mixed. Gently fold in the sprinkles, until they have been evenly distributed throughout the batter. Pour equal amounts of cake batter into each cake pan (about 3/4 inch deep), and place pans into oven.
Bake for 20-30 minutes (20-25 minutes for the 5 and 6 inch pans, 30 minutes for the 8 inch pan), or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove and allow to cool slightly in cake pans for about 10 minutes, then run an offset spatula or knife around the rim of the cake pans to remove the cakes. Place them on a wire rack to cool completely. If you want to speed up the process, you can pop the layers into the freezer for about 30 minutes!
While the cakes bake and cool, prepare the vanilla buttercream frosting. Whip the butter until it is light and fluffy, then slowly add the powdered sugar. Alternate installments of powdered sugar with heavy cream, and continue mixing until the frosting has reached desired consistency. Add salt and vanilla, and continue mixing until fully incorporated.
Assembly Instructions:
Once the cakes are fully cooled, remove the parchment paper and begin the assembly. Place a dab of frosting on the surface you will be building the cake on (I used a 10 inch cardboard cake round), and place the 8 inch cake layer onto it. This secures the cake to the base and prevents shifting as you build/transport the cake. Add a thin layer of frosting evenly using an offset spatula (about 1/2 centimeter – enough to cover the layer and secure the next layer, but not enough to be squished out as you add on the weight of additional cake layers), and toss some sprinkles on top of the frosting. Repeat with three six inch layers, and then add one of the five inch layers. Place in the freezer for 10 minutes.
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Remove from freezer, and shave the top half of the cake from the top 5 inch cake layer to the bottom 8 inch cake layer, so that the cake gradually tapers from top to bottom. This give the cat body a better shape (and allows you to eat cake scraps with frosting :P) Apply a thin crumb coat around the cake.
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Cut two rectangles out of one half of one of the 6 inch cake layers (1 inch x 3 inch, with a 1 cm width), and place them against the front of the cake body, where the cat legs should go.  Cut the remaining cake half, and position these two pieces on the sides of the front legs, where the back legs should sit.cover all the legs with frosting, adding additional frosting as needed to shape the legs, and a little extra for the tail!
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Place the cat body back in the freezer for about 15 minutes, to allow the frosting to firm up. After 15 minutes, remove from the freezer and set aside.
While the cat body firms up in the freezer, build the cat head. On a separate cake round, place one of the 5 inch cake rounds, and apply an even layer of frosting and sprinkles. Next, stack and frost the two remaining 6 inch cake layers on top of the 5 inch cake layer. Place in freezer for 10 minutes. Once the frosting has firmed up to hold the layers together, shave the edges of the cat head to make a sphere. Apply a thin crumb coat, the use four triangle shaped  pieces of cake to make the grumpy cat ears. Position them on top of the cat head, and secure the with wooden skewers. Frost the ears, then add addition white frosting to make the cat muzzle.
Place about 3/4 of a cup of the white frosting into the piping bag fitted with a grass tip, and pipe white fur onto the grumpy cat’s front paws and chest. Place about 1/2 cups worth of frosting in a separate bowl, and add two generous squirts of black gel good coloring to tint the frosting black. Using a clean piping bag and grass tip, pipe this black fur onto the cats ears and eye area.
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Using a small squirt of black food coloring, dye the remaining frosting a dark grey color. Pipe the rest of the cat body and head with this frosting. Save a little bit of frosting for touch ups once you’ve fully assembled the cake. I also made a fondant nose and fondant eyes for my grumpy cat, by tinting small pieces of white fondant pink and blue. Once the head is fully decorated, set aside and get the cat body cake.
Measure three thick wooden dowels, and cut them (using garden sheers or a strong pair of scissors) so that they are about 2 inches longer than the top of the body. Insert in the center of the body in a triangle shape.
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Gently lift the cat head off of it’s board, and apply slight pressure to push it onto the skewers. Note that the photo above is from a different cat cake, but used the same technique. Continue to push until the head is fully secured on the body. During this process, the heat and pressure from my thumbs smudged the fur on the sides of the cat head. Use the remaining frosting to cover any spots like this, and to fill in the fur around the neck gap.
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And six hours later, you have yourself a very grumpy cat cake!
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How To: Sunflower Cupcakes

I had some leftover cake batter from making this Double Banana Birthday Cake, so I decided to make my team some banana nut cupcakes! I had never used my leaf frosting tip before, and decided it was time to change that. After a little research regarding technique, I took a shot at making some frosting sunflowers!  I used mini Oreos for the center of the sunflowers, and used about 5/6 of my left over cake frosting to make the yellow frosting for the petals. I colored the remaining bit of frosting green to make leaves. I prefer gel food coloring (because it doesn’t throw off the consistency of the frosting), but if you are in a pinch you can use liquid food coloring and just add in a bit more powdered sugar to your frosting to thicken it. It is actually a lot easier than you’d think. It’s amazing what you can learn on YouTube 😀

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Baking Tips and Tricks

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Below is a list of tips and tricks that I have either learned from the pros (which really means from watching the food network), read in books, or figured out through trial and error (this is an ongoing process). I can say that following these guidelines has drastically improved my baking, and I thought it would be nice to share. I hope that some of these will help you too 😀

Recipe and Ingredients:         

  • Ingredients for cakes should be room temperature (take out of refrigerator approximately an hour before using), it allows the butter and eggs to be properly incorporated into the batter.
  • To check freshness of eggs, put in a bowl of water–if they sink, they’re fresh. If they float and stand on one end, they’re not.
  • ”Eggs” typically means Grade A, large eggs.
  • “Milk” typically means homogenized.
  • You can substitute milk with yogurt or sour cream, to experiment with different textures.
  • To create a replacement for buttermilk, add 1 teaspoon vinegar for every cup of homogenized milk and stir
  • Weighing ingredients with a digital kitchen scale is the most accurate method of baking.
  • 1 large egg white = 37 grams, 1 large egg yolk = 20 grams. Eggs separate best when cold, but whites whip best when room temperature or warm.
  • Egg whites can actually be frozen–just pull them out of freezer night before you need them.
  • For best results, use pure vanilla extract  – it makes a difference (you can make it yourself! All you need is plain vodka and vanilla beans).
  • To bring cold eggs to room temperature quickly, you can put the whole eggs into a bowl of lukewarm water for 30 minutes.
  • To bring butter to room temperature quickly, you can cut into small cubes on a plate for about 15 minutes.
  • Semisweet Chocolate = Dark Chocolate.  Bittersweet Chocolate = Extra Dark Chocolate.
  • Semisweet & Bittersweet Chocolate are interchangeable.
  • Unless otherwise listed, use unsalted butter for cake recipes. That way you can be sure of the amount of salt you are adding to your batter (different brands of butter use different amounts of salt).

Mixing:

  • Incorporate dry ingredients together with whisk before adding to wet ingredients.
  • When creaming butter and sugar, get the mixture very pale yellow and fluffy. It will add small air pockets into the mixture and help develop a wonderful, light texture.
  • Always start and end with dry ingredients when alternating with wet ingredients (3 dry additions, 2 wet).
  • Don’t over-mix once dry ingredients are added. Just mix on low speed until incorporated.
  • Too much sugar can cause a dark crust, too little can cause too light a crust or tough texture.
  • Beat egg yolks with fork before adding to batter.
  • To retrieve stray eggshells in mixture, use the emptied half-shell–eggshell sticks to eggshell. If you don’t get them all, they will sink during baking…you can turn baked cake over when cool and retrieve them. I’d recommend fishing them out beforehand though.
  • A pinch of salt brings out the flavors in sweet baked goods.
  • When folding, you should always add the lighter of the two mixtures on top, using a gentle folding motion, to avoid deflating batter.
  • When mixing egg whites for meringue, wipe all utensils and bowl with vinegar or lemon juice on a paper towel before they come in contact with the egg whites (including the mixer whisk attachment). Any trace of grease can jeopardize your meringue!
  • If incorporating more than one flavor into a batter or icing, always start with the vanilla; vanilla enhances most flavors.

Baking Cakes:

  • For evenly-baked cakes, no domed tops, and no-fuss assembly, bake layer-by-layer.  This means if you’re baking a 3-layer cake, use 3 of the same size/shape pan, and bake 3 shorter layers at same time.
  • Use a small offset palette knife to spread batter evenly in pans. Don’t fill more than 1/2 full–2/3, at the most.
  • Always wait for oven to reach necessary temperature before putting cakes in oven.
  • Keep cakes away from sides of oven, and if possible a few inches from each other (when more than 1 baking at once).
  • Rotate cakes after 20  minutes in oven (don’t disturb before 20 minutes).
  • If baking a chocolate cake, make sure you chose a recipe that includes boiling water, or hot coffee. The heat from the liquid will help elevate the flavor of the cocoa.
  • Use middle rack, unless otherwise stated in recipe.
  • Typically, when in oven, cakes are almost done when you can smell the cake in the kitchen. Sounds weird, but you’ll see! Follow your nose.
  • Leave cakes in oven when testing for doneness. When a skewer comes clean from center of cake (or with very few crumbs), it’s done.
  • Don’t overbake! This is one sure way to end up with a dry cake.

Cooling & Frosting:

  • Let full cakes cool in pans on wire racks for 20 minutes before removing from pans.
  • Remove cupcakes from pan immediately, placing individual cupcakes on wire rack to cool.
  • Before piping frosting, massage the frosting bag a bit. The heat from your hands will warm the butter in the frosting, and make it easier to work with.
  • Brush away any stray cake crumbs with silicone pastry brush before icing.
  • Apply even layers of filling using an 18″ pastry bag and large round tip.
  • Apply thin layer of icing to seal in crumbs, then place in refrigerator for 30 minutes before second layer of icing.
  • Use an offset palette knife/icing spatula for frosting top of cake, and straight palette knife/icing spatula for sides of cake. Use a bench scraper for super-smooth edges.
  • If you don’t have time for frosting your cake, a good sprinkling of powdered sugar does wonders. Tastes and looks great on most cakes.
  • For clean cut cake pieces and minimal crumbs, run your cutting knife under hot water (and dry) right before cutting.
  • To give your frosted cake a glossy finish, you can use a hair-dryer on medium heat over the outside of the cake (right before serving).

Happy Baking!

Vanilla Coffee Sugar Scrub

I’ve heard a lot of great things about coffee body scrubs, and I was intrigued. So I did a little research, and found that coffee really IS wonderful for your skin. Your skin absorbs the antioxidants, it is a natural exfoliate, it can help increase blood flow, and improve the appearance of your skin (since it’s a vasodilator). I couldn’t wait to try a coffee scrub on my skin, and gathered my ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup coffee grounds
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 safflower oil
  • 2 tbsp vanilla

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I mixed the sugar and coffee grounds in a mason jar, and then poured in the oils and vanilla. I made sure it was fully mixed, closed the mason jar, and put it in my shower.

I used it for the first time this afternoon, and it was AWESOME. I love the way this scrub smells, and it left my skin feeling incredibly soft. I can’t wait to use it again 😀

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.

Homemade Pore Strips

All the humidity and summer heat has my face feeling GROSS! My pores feel so dirty. When I saw this idea on pinterest and realized I could make pore strips at home, I was so excited! You will need:

I measured 1 Tablespoon of unflavored gelatin into a disposable container, then added about 2 tablespoons of milk. I then mixed the ingredients together until it had a chunky consistency (See below).  I then heated the gelatin mixture until it became running and spreadable (I used a double boiler, but you can use a microwave and heat it for 10-15 seconds).

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I gave it a quick stir then started applying it IMMEDIATELY to my face.  This stuff hardens up incredibly fast so it is important that apply it to your face right away.

I let this dry for at least 15 minutes. You’ll know it’s ready to remove when it is difficult to make facial expressions. I then started peeling this off…and I’m not going to lie, it was difficult and a little painful! But once I got it all off, my skin felt AMAZINGLY soft. I mean baby’s bottom soft. It was definitely worth it.

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Some tips: DO NOT PUT IT ON YOUR EYEBROWS. Once this stuff has hardened, it can pull some of you eyebrow hairs out. If you get some on them, don’t worry! You can just rinse it off once you’ve peeled off the rest. You can put it wherever you please, but I would avoid putting it close to the edge of your hairline, as it is painful to remove there if you have baby hair (which I do). I also would apply it on thickly, because this will make it easier to peel off once it hardens.

Baking Soda Face Mask

I was really tired after work today, so I decided to stay in….and of course I ended up on pinterest. As I was browsing around, I saw a pin about a Baking Soda Face Mask. After performing a little research, I learned that baking soda is a natural way to cleanse and exfoliate your face. Baking soda is made from naturally occurring sodium bicarbonate, which is a mild abrasive that is actually used in a lot of commercial skin care products, since it helps gently remove dead skin cells and impurities. The ingredients include:

  • 2 Tbs Baking Soda
  • 1.5 tsp Water

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I mixed the water and baking soda together, then applied a thin layer all over my face.

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It felt kind of tingly at first, then it started to kind of burn about three minutes in….and that’s when i rinsed it off! My skin definitely feels clean and refreshed. This is such a simple, easy way to get that deep, clean feeling 😀

Vanilla Brown Sugar Body Scrub

I have always wanted to make my own sugar scrub, and this past Wednesday I decided it was time to do something about it! I simply googled sugar scrubs, and checked out different recipes until I found one I liked. I chose this recipe because it didn’t use any special oils, and can be made with ingredients you most likely already have in your pantry.

You will need:

-2 Cups Brown Sugar

-1 Cup Granulated Sugar

-1 Cup Sunflower or Safflower Oil

-1 Tablespoon Vanilla Extract

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Mix the sugars together in a book, then add the oil and the vanilla.

Once all the ingredients have been incorporated together, you can pour it into a container of your choice! I personally like using mason jars (especially since I had some extras lying around my apartment). I love the way this scrub smells, and how soft it makes your skin feel 🙂

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