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!