Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Getting Ready for New Years Eve

I'm so excited I have NYE off for once. I've been working in a restaurant throughout college/grad school and I always miss the ball drop. Not doing anything crazy but I am excited to be putting together the hors dourves and desserts for the little get together we are planning with friends. I'm also using Love the Day's free printable for decor and inspiration for the food table. BTW - the printables are being offered on behalf of Operation Shower. Check them out if you get a chance :)

Soooo, today I prepped
some of the desserts for NYE...

Chocolate Covered Strawberries
Some sprinkled with toasted coconut, chocolate chips or drizzled with white chocolate

Chocolate Covered Oreo Pops
Decorated with edible star glitter and a little edible gold dust

Homemade Marshmallows

Now, I have been wanting to make my own marshmallows for a long time! I got the big box of Knox Gelatin (kinda expensive) and it has just been sitting there for a few months now. So finally I made them. I read good things about Martha Stewart's recipe so I gave it a try. I can officially confirm that once you have had a homemade marshmallow, ya can't go back to store bought!

Homemade Marshmallows
Recipe courtesy of Martha Stewart
Makes about 16

  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • 3 (1/4-ounce) packages unflavored gelatin
  • 1/2 cup cold water
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 2/3 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pure peppermint extract (I did vanilla extract instead)
  • Confectioners' sugar, sifted, for coating

1. Lightly spray a 9-by-9-inch baking pan with cooking spray. Line pan with plastic wrap, leaving a 2-inch overhang on all sides; set aside. (This confused me a bit, I think I was supposed to put the plastic THEN spray)
2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, sprinkle gelatin over 1/2 cup cold water; let stand for 10 minutes. In a medium saucepan, combine sugar, corn syrup, and 1/4 cup water. Place saucepan over medium-high heat and bring to a boil; boil rapidly for 1 minute. Remove from heat, and, with the mixer on high, slowly pour the boiling syrup down the side of the mixer bowl into gelatin mixture. Add salt and continue mixing for 12 minutes.
3. Add peppermint extract and mix until well combined. Spray a rubber spatula or your hands with cooking spray. Spread gelatin mixture evenly into pan using prepared spatula or your hands. Spray a sheet of plastic wrap with cooking spray and place, spray side down, on top of marshmallows. Let stand for 2 hours.
4. Carefully remove marshmallows from pan. Remove all plastic wrap and discard. Cut marshmallows into 2-inch squares using a sprayed a sharp knife. Place confectioners' sugar in a large bowl. Working in batches, add marshmallows to bowl and toss to coat. Marshmallows can be stored in an airtight container up to 3 days.

These are SO good! They also last longer in hot chocolate than store bought marshmallows and that makes me happy ;-) I did take a little of the batter and added some matcha powder to make a small batch of green tea marshmallows and they were very good too. I plan to experiment with other flavors in the future.

I have a few more desserts I plan to make and hopefully the rest of the food will turn out okay too ;-) Hope you all have a wonderful New Year's Eve! ~Cara Lee

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas

Christmas season just makes me want to bake stuff whenever I have time. I whipped up these gingerbread cupcakes for fun today. I must say I am impressed with the recipe I found. I was also impressed with the $1.50 stand I found at the thrift store this week ;-) But back to the cupcakes, they cooked up beautifully with a few modifications I read in the reviews.
Gingerbread Cupcakes
Makes approximately 1 dozen
Recipe modified from the Food Network

  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup unsulphured molasses
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature, lightly beaten with a fork
  • 1/4 teaspoon orange extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon lemon extract
  • 1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tablespoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 tablespoon baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

In a large bowl, whisk together the oil, sugar, molasses. Add the eggs and whisk until smooth. Add orange and lemon extract.

In another large bowl, whisk together the flour, ground ginger, cinnamon, salt, and cloves. Whisk the molasses mixture into the flour mixture until evenly combined.

In a small saucepan, bring the water to a boil. Remove from the heat and stir in the baking soda and baking powder. Whisk the hot water into the batter until just combined. Transfer the batter into the prepared cupcake liners. Bake at 325 for about 18-22 minutes. After they have cooled top them off with cream cheese frosting (I added a little lemon juice to my cream cheese frosting for a little kick). Garnish with crystallized ginger and enjoy!

So yummy and very moist. It's not a very strong gingery cupcake which I actually prefer. I think this would be good any time of year - not just the holidays.

Merry Christmas! May your holiday be restful... just like my dog Rocco!

~Cara Lee

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Happy Winter!

Today is the first day of winter! Did anyone see the winter eclipse? I decided to sleep. I'm really not a winter person - I hate being cold! But sad I'm missing the eclipse. In honor of the first day of winter here are some wintery red velvet cupcakes I made for an order this weekend....

Hope you all are getting that shopping done for the holidays :)

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Holiday Party

This weekend my BF and I headed down to Chesapeake, VA to see his cousin's Christmas light display (I kind of refer to his cousin as the Clark Griswold of Chesapeake, VA - see video I posted ;-). We also went down to attend his and his wife's holiday party. I decided to contribute some sweets since you really can never have enough during the holidays.

So for the party I made a cake and some cake pops. This was my second attempt at Bakerella's cake pop creation. Flavors: red velvet, chocolate and chocolate peppermint. As for decor, I stuck to basic sprinkles. They took forever to make but I was happy with the result overall - much better than before.
For the cake I had this really cute basic winter wonderland idea in my head. But it did not execute as nice as I wanted. I brought all my materials to their house and assembled and decorated there, but I still felt out of my element I guess. Not to mention I had a huge gaping hole in the fondant and had to patch it up. It was so frustrating. I just wanted to pay tribute to his cousin's Christmas lights and winter. This is what I ended up with.... not my fave cake, but it was presentable. Most important: the cake tasted good and was moist ;-) Flavors were: vanilla almond cake with vanilla SMBC and chocolate ganache as well as red velvet with cream cheese frosting. Hope everyone is having a happy holiday season... can't believe how fast the month is flying by!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Smores Cupcakes

A few weeks ago I won a giveaway from The Pink Little Cake. Kathia at PLC was giving away a whole bunch of Naturally Nora mixes. And I actually won! I decided to finally use one of the mixes to create a cupcake for my last night of class for the fall semester.

My Winnings!

Well, I love smores - even when I'm not camping. There are hundreds of ways of putting it into cupcake form. I decided to use the Naturally Nora Double Fudgey box brownie mix and this is what I came up with for my semi-homemade smores cupcake.

1) Make your favorite box brownie mix (the Naturally Nora is wonderful! Taste like the box mix brownies I grew up, and is all natural.)
2) Make a graham cracker crust to put at the bottom of the cupcake liners (Tip: use a small flat glass bottom to push down the graham cracker crust to make it n
ice and flat).

3) I baked them at 350 for about 18 minutes, checked them and they needed a few more. WIll depend on your oven. Let them cool completely.

4) I made marshmallow frosting that was featured on Martha Stewart's website, which is from Trophy Cupcakes in Seattle (I've actually been there!).
Check out those stiff peaks!

5) Frost the cupcakes and torch them! Unfortunately I do not own a torch :( So I did the broiler method. Kinda tricky, you have to watch it very closely. I probably could have caught my hand on fire at one point when I was trying to get them near the flame lol :-/

6) Enjoy :)
Thank you Kathia and Naturally Nora for hosting the giveaway! Can't wait to try the other mixes :) Now I am going to celebrate the fall semester being over!!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Holidays are in full effect

Well it's December 1st, and the holidays are in full effect. Hanukkah starts today and only 25 more days until Christmas! I have yet to shop for anyone (sorry guys! lol). As my grad classes are winding down for the semester I decided to make some cupcakes for one of my classes that is ending today (any excuse to try a new recipe creation).

I decided to make cran-orange cupcakes. I made some last year, which were pretty good. But I wanted to tweak the recipe a bit. For the cake, I made a yellow cupcake batter and added fresh orange zest. Then I cooked the cranberries first with water and sugar (like you would cranberry sauce) but left them whole and drained the excess juice when cooled. The cranberries are then folded gently into the batter. For the frosting, I'm hooked on the SMBC (swiss meringue buttercream)! The cream cheese frosting I did last year was good, but can be so sweet with an already sweet cupcake. So I did a white chocolate SMBC. To top it all off they are garnished with sugared cranberries and a fondant holly leaf.

Very happy with my result this year. Hopefully my classmates will enjoy them too :) Happy Holidays!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Baby Party Cupcakes

This weekend I attended a friend's baby party (not quite a shower!). It's like a party but with a baby theme and co-ed ;-) I promised to make some cupcakes for the event. How cute are the little baby topper on those cupcakes?! Kinda makes me LOL.

Ready for 'delivery'...

I made two flavors for the party. First, chocolate cupcakes with a
caramel swiss meringue buttercream and salted caramel drizzle. I used my go do chocolate cupcake recipe (Martha Stewart's devils food cake) and made a swiss meringue buttercream. To that I added homemade caramel, which took me 2 1/2 tries by the way! No bueno! After I finally made the caramel, I reserved a few table spoons to add to the buttercream and the rest I added kosher salt to make the salted caramel. Yummmmy...The other flavor I made the pumpkin cupcakes with maple cinnamon cream cheese frosting again. Just seemed fitting for the season (around Thanksgiving and all).

A few of us who used to work with the mama-to-be made a special gift for her baby present, that just seemed so fitting... a diaper cake! It was the first diaper cake I've ever made and it was so easy and fun. How cute is out monkey theme?!
Congrats to Tonya who is due in January!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving

I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving. I was lucky enough to spend it with my boyfriend and his family. We also invited our friends from China for their very first Thanksgiving here in the US! I'm thankful we could share it with them :)

I decided I wanted to try something I have never made before (a dessert of course). I'm soooo tired of pumpkin pie :-/ Apple crisps and crumbles are so easy. So I choose an apple pie with pecans. I made the dough from scratch and everything. I had to ask for some help from my boyfriends mom a few times, but I managed. I used this pie crust recipe and inspiration for the apple filling from here.

Maybe I'll stick to cakes?

Sunday, November 21, 2010

50th Birthday Cake

Had an order for another friend. It was her father's 50th Birthday this weekend. She basically told me the color scheme and we worked from that. This is what I ended up with :) (Wish I got better pics but I assembled it at their house. They were kind enough to hold up a white cloth for me though ;-)

Flavors included: chocolate cake with vanilla swiss meringue and chocolate ganache as well as white chocolate cake with white chocolate swiss meringue and raspberry preserves.

I'm very happy with the result and hope the birthday party went well. Ya know, the more three tier cakes I do, the more I'm just amazed at how time consuming they can be. I need a sous chef!!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Chocolate Pumpkin Brownies

I've been super stressed with school work - less than a month until the end of the semester (thank god!). I had a craving for brownies last night. So between working on my project for class, I googled some recipes and I came across these Chocolate Pumpkin Brownies from I figured I would give them a shot.


1 Tbs unsalted butter, softened
3 ounces cream cheese, softened
½ cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1/3 cup canned pumpkin puree
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
½ tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground ginger
1 Tbs all-purpose flour

5½ ounces best-quality semisweet- chocolate, finely chopped
1¼ sticks (5 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1½ cups granulated sugar (I used only 1 cup)
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
¼ tsp salt
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly butter 13×9-inch baking dish.

2. Prepare pumpkin batter: In a small bowl, using an electric mixer, beat butter with cream cheese until smooth. Beat in sugar, scraping bowl occasionally. Bet in egg, then add pumpkin puree, vanilla, cinnamon and ginger. Stir in flour.

3. Prepare chocolate batter: Combine semisweet chocolate and butter in a medium bowl. Set bowl over saucepan with 1-inch of simmering water and stir occasionally until melted. Remove from heat. In a separate bowl, combine eggs with sugar, vanilla and salt. Beat at low speed until light and fluffy- about 4 minutes. Using a large rubber spatula, fold in melted chocolate. Sift flour over the batter and fold it in just until combined.

4. Spread chocolate batter evenly in prepared pan. Using a Tablespoon, drop dollops of the pumpkin batter all over the top. Using the back of a butter knife, swirl the pumpkin batter slightly into the chocolate.

5. Bake for 30-40 minutes (starting checking on brownies at 30 minutes to see if they’re done- a toothpick inserted into center should come out clean).

6. Let brownies cool completely before cutting.

Yield: 24 brownies

Outcome: Well, first let me state I mis-read the recipe and did not melt the butter into the chocolate. I creamed the butter with the sugar first by accident (habit I guess when baking cakes). Also, since the recipe said semi-sweet I figured it was ok to use chocolate chips. I think next time I will try a better chocolate (like the recipe says) and remember to melt the butter into the chocolate. These were good, but still needed something... and I had JUST the thing! Left over cinnamon maple cream cheese frosting. OMG. It adds just a little more sweetness and a bit of creaminess. Perfect for fall chocolate lovers :)

My Cinnamon Maple Cream Cheese Frosting
(This is a soft recipe and it is important not to over mix)

1 8oz package of cream cheese
1/2 stick of butter unsalted

1 cup powdered sugar (or so)

1-2 tablespoons pure maple syrup

Dash of cinnamon

Combine cream cheese and butter with mixer. Slowly add 1/2 the powdered sugar while mixer is on lowest speed. Add 1 table spoon of maple syrup and the cinnamon. Check the consistency, add more powdered sugar and or maple syrup. *I never measure my powdered sugar when I make cream cheese frosting, I add it until it is the consistency and taste that I like. I don't like it super sweet and I like to be able to taste the cream cheese.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Beach Cake

This weekend I also had a cake order for an old high school friend. She was celebrating her anniversary with her boyfriend and wanted something special. I feel so honored she chose a cake from ME :) They love the beach so I came up with this design based on what she told me. It was a lot of fun to make. I love the beach myself so I love making these cakes. The flavors she wanted were pineapple and coconut. I've never done that combo before. I ended up making a coconut cake and filling it with a pineapple filling and coconut swiss meringue.

I really loved how my palm tree came out! First I had to figure out how to attach the leaves to the trunk - that was fun. Then I was nervous it was going to fall over. But it worked out fine :) I added a little heart on the tree, which I thought was SO cute... that was until I delivered it. I put the WRONG initial for her BF. I felt terrible and I still feel bad as I'm writing this. So remember: always get the facts straight before hand!! Sorry Terry!! I hope you had a wonderful anniversary besides my mistake :(

Tiramisu Cupcakes

Last night a friend of ours had us over for a little dinner party. And of course I can never show up empty handed. Besides alcoholic beverages I brought dessert too ;-) I was originally going to try and make a traditional tiramisu, but alot of the "authentic" recipes called for raw eggs. I don't mess with that! So I opted for Martha Stewart's Tiramisu Cupcakes instead.

Got to use my new elegant liners :)

They were so light and yummy! The cake is like a lady finger cake, soaked in strong coffee/espresso which I mixed with amaretto. The frosting is a light whipped cream with mascarpone cheese. So good! But I am still looking for a good authentic recipe for tiramisu.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Halloween Party

One of my best friends hosted her 2nd annual Halloween party this year. Even though I hate scary movies - I LOVE Halloween! So of course I wanted to help with food (the dessert portion of course). On the menu were: whoopie pies, peanut butter and chocolate rice crispy treats and toasted coconut rice crispy treats, and cupcakes. I also put together some decor since I did win some Halloween printables from Love the Day. Here is the result.... Warning: scary picture of me at the end!

Mwahahaha... I was a zombie baker! I'm cooking up some brains in that pic (aka: cauliflower with fake blood from the party store). I hope I did not scare you too much! I did win scariest costume at the party though. Thank you Allie for letting us have the party at your house again this year and thank you Love the Day for my awesome Halloween banner and water bottle labels! Now that it's November, time to get ready for the holidays!