Friday, January 28, 2011

Snow Day

We had our first 2011 snow storm here in the DC area this past Wednesday. It was kinda crazy - not as bad as the blizzard last year, but people got stuck on the roads for hours and power is still out for many in the area :( Luckily we had power and I am ever so grateful.

Of course I was snowed in and itching to bake something. But what? All week there were these store bought cinnamon rolls on the counter. I try to never eat that stuff. My motivation for staying away? Just look at the label:

I can't even read half the ingredients names. 15 grams of fat in only half a roll?! Holey moley! So I decided to make my own rolls. I made the dough, let it rise once and formed the rolls before I went to bed so they would be ready to pop in the oven in the morning. Here's the recipe I used with my modifications in red.

Overnight Cinnamon Rolls
Modified from All Recipes

  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/3 cup butter
  • 1 (.25 ounce) package active dry yeast
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 eggs
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • Melted butter
  1. Heat the milk in a small saucepan until it bubbles, then remove from heat. Add the butter and stir until melted; let cool until lukewarm.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, dissolve the yeast in the milk mixture. Add the sugar, 3 cups of flour, salt and eggs; stir well to combine with paddle attachment. Then switch to the dough hook and Add the remaining flour, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring well after each addition. When the dough has pulled together, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and supple, about 8 minutes.
  3. Lightly oil a large mixing bowl, place the dough in the bowl and turn to coat with oil. Cover with a damp cloth and let rise in a warm place until doubled in volume, about 1 hour. (My house is pretty cool and dry since it's the winter time. Since I have a gas oven I turned it to 170 degrees and placed the dough in the bowl on top of the stove to create a warm/humid environment to rise. I think my house was still too cool so I let it sit a little longer and it finally began to rise.)
  4. Deflate the dough and turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and roll into a 10x 14 inch rectangle. Lightly brush the far edge with water. In a small bowl combine the cinnamon and 3/4 cup brown sugar and sprinkle over the rectangles. (I divided my dough into four sections and rolled it out separately. So much easier to deal with smaller rolls! This way you can also do some without the nuts for those who do not like them. Combine brown sugar and cinnamon. After you roll the dough into a rectangle, brush with melted butter then sprinkle the brown sugar and cinnamon then sprinkle with nuts.)
  5. Cut the dough into 12 equal pieces; place the pieces in a greased 9x13 inch baking pan, or 12 inch deep dish pizza pan. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator to rise overnight. (Since I had 4 smaller rolls, I cut them each about an inch and a half thick and placed them in muffin tins. I got about 24 rolls. Since the house was cool I left them out to rise overnight on the counter).
  6. The next morning, preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Take the rolls out of the refrigerator and let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes. (Since I left them on the counter I did not have to wait for them to come to room temp.)
  7. Bake the rolls for 25 to 30 minutes or until golden. (Since I used the muffin tins, I only had to bake them for 15-18 minutes. If you use the tin, be careful NOT to over bake. Also may want to put the pans on top of a cookie sheet because some of the filling dripped over when I baked them in the tins.)
  8. Top with your favorite cream cheese frosting or glaze.

These were so yummy! Baking them in the tins make them a little more crustier, so like I said be careful not to over bake (I did that to a few by accident). I think these have become a snow day tradition - I made them during the blizzard last year too. I say calories don't count when it snows! ;-) ~Cara Lee

PS - 4 more days to enter the GIVEAWAY (just a reminder ;-)

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

baking is my therapy

I was feeling a little blue the other day... schools about to start up again, its cold, and sometimes ya just get bummed out. For some, it's retail* therapy that makes them feel better but for me, it's baking. It always makes me feel happy and accomplished (well... as long as the recipe turns out ;-) .

(*For those of you who prefer retail therapy, check out my giveaway this week!)

So I decided to make cookies. But what kind? Yes, my favorite is oatmeal chocolate chip, but I wanted to try something different. I've been wanting to try making these cookies from Momofuku Milk Bar in New York. I've heard about this place on blogs and on the food channel and what not. So I found the recipe for "copycat" cornflake, marshmallow and chocolate chip cookies at The Cookbook Chronicles that I decided to try out. As you know I love oatmeal chocolate chip cookies and these cookies have some of those ingredients so I was sold.

Copycat Momofuku Cornflake Marshmallow cookies
Makes 20 cookies
The Cookbook Chronicles

2 sticks unsalted butter at room temperature
1 ¼ cup packed dark brown sugar
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 ½ tsp kosher salt (plus more for sprinkling)
3/4 cup oatmeal
1 1/4 cup lightly crushed cornflakes (= about 1 1/2 cup cornflakes before crushing)
2/3 cup mini chocolate chips*
about 3/4 cup mini marshmallows

*The chocolate chips in the original Momofuku Milk bar cookie are minis, though substitute with regular-sized chips if you prefer

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a mixing bowl, beat together the butter, brown sugar, and granulated sugar until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes on medium speed. Add the eggs and vanilla extract, and beat until combined.

Add the flour, baking soda, and salt and beat on low speed, just so the dry ingredients become incorporated. With a wooden spoon, mix in the oatmeal, crushed cornflakes, and chocolate chips.

(If you have time and would like the cookies to spread a little less, refrigerate the dough for two hours.)

On a parchment-lined baking sheet, scoop up and roll the dough into golf ball-sized spheres. (Six will fit comfortably on one pan–give them room to spread!) Lightly press down 4 mini marshmallows in the center of each ball of dough. Sprinkle tops with a touch more salt. Repeat with the remaining dough.

Be sure to leave enough space on the cookie sheet !

Bake for 9-10 minutes. The cookies will still look soft in the middle when you take them out of the oven. Allow them to cool directly on the tray for a few minutes before moving them onto a platter.

How cute are those plates?!

Outcome: I did the recipe exactly as followed ( as well as putting them in the fridge, but only for about an hour). I watched them bake and they rose beautifully in the oven, but when they cooled they fell... so very flat. I did not let this discourage me because they tasted great and were still chewy (even the next day). BTW - I hate crunchy cookies! Soft please ;-) Maybe I will try to change up the baking soda/powder ration next time? Anyways, I really liked this recipe. I love the salty and sweet combo. I hope to try a real Momofuku cookie soon. Hey, you know what these cookies reminded me of? The Tony the Tiger Cookies my mom used to bake when I was a kid. Such good memories... I'm happy now :) ~Cara Lee

Tuesday, January 25, 2011


I'm so excited to announce another giveaway!

The kind people at CSN Stores have
offered my lovely readers another chance to win a gift certificate to their stores.

Did you know CSN Stores has over 200 online stores where you can find anything you need whether it be swingsets, fitness equipment, or even cute cookware! CSN Stores is giving the winner of this giveaway $35 to their site! (BTW - I noticed the cutest aprons in the kitchen section ;-)

To enter the giveaway all you have to do is browse CSN stores website and leave a comment telling me what you would buy if you won. Please leave a valid email address as well.

More ways to enter:

-Become a fan/"like" of Cara Lee Cupcakes & Cake on Facebook and leave a separate comment that you are a fan/"like" me

-Become a follower of my blog on Google friend connect and leave a separate comment
-Blog/post about the giveaway and leave a separate comment and link to your post

This giveaway will end Monday night January 31st
at 11:59pm est. Winner will be randomly selected using and announced Tuesday February 1st. (Which reminds me this could come in handy for that special Valentine!)
*Note* This gift certificate does not cover international fees.

Good luck!! ~Cara Lee

Sunday, January 23, 2011

I'm back! (plus an upcoming giveaway!)

I was MIA this past week because I took a nice relaxing vacay with the BF. Escaped the cold DC weather and headed to the U.S. Virgin Islands. We stayed on St. Thomas and visited St. John as well. A nice way to wrap up my winter break as graduate school starts up again this week :( Here's a little taste of my vacation.... I can't believe I'm back in the cold again! I will miss being able to bake whenever I wanted during my winter break from school. Though I will find time hopefully at least once a week or so during this spring semester ;-)

I will be posting a giveaway this Tuesday!
So check back for details :)

~Cara Lee

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Coconut Macaroon Pop (Tutorial)

I never really liked coconut growing up. It was not until a few years ago when I tried it again and loved it (funny how your tastes change as you grow). While surfing the blogesphere I came across this macaroon recipe. It's quick, simple and taste good too. I was also influenced by Bakerella's cake pops when doing this tutorial. I think it was easier to do these than cake pops! Guess I just need to practice the cake pops a bit more ;-) Oh and since the next holiday around the corner is Valentine's day, I decided to make this tutorial Valentine's themed.

Coconut Macaroons

From Bon Appetit Hon

Makes approximately 24


  • 14 ounces sweetened flake coconut
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 large egg whites
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract


Heat the oven to 350 degrees and line a sheet pan with parchment paper.

Place the coconut in a food processor (I used the Magic Bullet - one of the "as seen on TV" things that actually works!) and pulse until the coconut is chopped into rice size pieces.

In the work bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whisk together the egg whites, sugar, and salt. When smooth, add the cornstarch and 1 teaspoon of almond extract and whisk until smooth. Add the coconut and continue to whisk until it is evenly coated.

Using a small ice cream scoop (approximately 1 tablespoon) portion out the macaroons onto your parchment. This is wear I molded the macaroons into hearts. I used the small heart cutter from Wilton. Put the cutter on the parchment, place a tablespoon of the mix in the heart and use your fingers to press the mix to form the heart. Carefully lift the cutter - ta dah! A heart! Bake for 15 – 20 minutes until they are golden on the bottom and just browned on top. Cool on the sheet for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

Now it's time to put them on a stick... 1. Stick a lollipop stick in the bottom of the heart (bout half way in).
2. Remove the stick, dip it in melted chocolate and re-insert into the macaroon. This will help keep the macaroon on the stick when the chocolate hardens. After all the macaroons have been "sticked" put them in the fridge until the chocolate is hardened.
. Now its time to decorate! I used dark chocolate and red candy melts to decorate my pops. I dipped some completely in chocolate and others I just drizzled the chocolate. I did some with heart sprinkles too. Just have fun with it :)

Tips for decorating with chocolate:
~Put some chocolate in a sandwich size Ziploc bag, snip a teeny hole in one corner for easy drizzling

~Be sure to get all the excess chocolate off the macaroon so you can really see the heart. I found it was easy to use a small spatula or butter knife to gently scrape off the excess (especially where the curves of the heart meet at the top)

~If you don't have Styrofoa
m around to stick the pops in, I saw this idea on a blog somewhere... use a colander to hold the pops! (The hard part is finding a colander in which the sticks fit, but I actually found one)
If you don't wanna stick them, you can just decorate them too. I made a few larger heart macaroons and dipped each side in chocolate and drizzled with the red candy melts.

To wrap them up, I covered them with small plastic candy bags. I sealed them with red ribbon and a vintage valentine cutout I made myself :) You can find vintage valentine images on the internet. Print them on photo paper, then use a large punch to cut them out (I happen to have a large circular punch around.)

What a cute gift to give to the people you love! I hope you enjoy :) ~Cara Lee

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Tinkerbell Birthday

It has kind of become a tradition to make my neice's birthday cakes. Last year I did a Sesame Street cake with matching character cupcakes (which are still one of my top favorites I have done). This year for her 3rd birthday she wanted Tinkerbell. Off the bat, the is no way I was going to attempt to sculpt a Tinkerbell. I found a set of Tinkerbell and her fairy friends which I used to decorate with. Everything else was made by hang with fondant - flowers, vines.

The decor was pretty easy. Whenever I make a cake, I make the decor a few days before to dry out. For this cake it was simple flowers, name, number 3 and some vines and grass. I bought a small extruder (which is usually used for clay) to make the name and number. SO much easier than trying to roll it out. For the flowers - I have decided I just don't have patience for beautiful gumpaste flowers. So I use the small blossom cutter and mold as well as make ribbon roses. I also just kinda made up a flower (the big purple one with the white stamens). One day I will learn to make Ron Ben-Israel flowers ;-)

For the big flower on top I actually used the wilton leaf cutter for both the petals and the leaves. I gently pressed them in a flower veiner to give them some life like detail then brushed them with pearl dust. To form the flower I just put yellow royal icing in the middle and pushed the petals in to form the flower. I really loved the way it came out! The curly vines really make it whimsical too.

The cake was a vanilla cake with crusting buttercream. I rarely ever make traditional buttercream. It's really NOT my favorite frosting to use - anyone have a better recipe for that? Preferably one with out shortening? Though the cake looked good, unfortunately it was really dry :( People said it was still fine, but I'm always critical of myself.

I also made chocolate cupcakes. I actually decided to use some of my Naturally Nora mixes I had won. I mixed in Oreos in some and filled others with chocolate ganache or salted caramel. The birthday girl helped me put the sprinkles on (and eat them too! lol). The cupcakes were very moist and yummy :)

Here is the whole spread. I made a little Tinkerbell menu of the flavors of cupcakes and cake for a final touch. Hope you all had a great weekend! ~Cara Lee

~* Happy 3rd Birthday Cali *~

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

My Favorite Cookies

My absolute favorite cookies in the world are oatmeal chocolate chip. Sometimes when I need my fix I get the $1 oatmeal chocolate chip cookies from Potbelly's. Just recently I found these oatmeal chocolate chip cookies with pecans from Elevation Burger which are made with organic eggs and butter. Loved the pecans in there! So I decided to make my own cookies this week. One of my last attempts was not so successful.... but I think I have found my "go to" recipe for now! Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies w/ Coconut and Pecans
Recipe Modified from All Recipes
Makes about 30 mini cookies


1/2 cup butter, softened

3/4 cups packed brown sugar
1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

3/4 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 cups quick cooking oats

1/2 cup chocolate chips

1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup flaked coconut


1. Preheat the oven to 350
2. In a large bowl, cream together the butter and brown sugar. Beat in egg, then stir in vanilla. In separate bowl combine the flour, baking soda, and salt; stir into the creamed mixture until just blended. Gently mix in the quick oats, pecans, coconut and chocolate chips. (Important not to over mix cookie dough). Drop by heaping spoonfuls onto un-greased baking sheets. (I used a small cookie scoop).

3. Bake for 10-12 minutes in the preheated oven. Allow cookies to cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely. Enjoy with a cold glass of milk :)

For the rest of the week I have to prepare a cake and cupcakes for my BF's neice's birthday. Tinkerbell... so extra girly :) Happy hump day and have a good week! ~Cara Lee

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Homemade Doughnuts

For the New Years party I put together, I was so excited to make homemade baked doughnuts. I ordered a mini doughnut pan from a week before and thank goodness it came in the mail just in time. I will admit that a baked doughnut may not be AS satisfying as a fried one from Krispy Kreme... but these were still tasty and can satisfy that doughnut craving. They're also super easy!

Recipe modified from All Recipes

2 cups all-purpose flour

3/4 cup white sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup butter milk
2 eggs, beaten 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons melted butter

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C). Lightly grease a doughnut pan. In a large bowl, mix flour, sugar, baking powder, nutmeg, cinnamon and salt. Stir in butter milk, eggs, vanilla and butter. Beat together until well blended. Spray pan with cooking spray (I used the butter flavor). Fill each doughnut cup approximately 3/4 full. (Tip: fill a zip loc bag and cut the corner for easy filling.) Bake 8 to 10 minutes in the preheated oven, until doughnuts spring back when touched. Allow to cool slightly before removing from pan.

Almond-Orange Glaze
Recipe modified from All Recipes
1 cup confectioners' sugar
2 tablespoons hot water
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1/4 teaspoon orange extract

To make glaze, blend confectioners' sugar, hot water, almond and orange extract in a small bowl. Dip doughnuts in the glaze and let set for a few minutes. (I decorated them with edible gold star glitter from Wilton)

Chocolate Glaze
Recipe from Alton Brown
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/4 cup whole milk, warmed 1 tablespoon light corn syrup
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
2 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted

DirectionsCombine butter, milk, corn syrup, and vanilla in medium saucepan and heat over medium heat until butter is melted. Decrease the heat to low, add the chocolate, and whisk until melted. Turn off heat, add the powdered sugar, and whisk until smooth. Place the mixture over a bowl of warm water and dip the doughnuts immediately. (I decorated them with sprinkles, mini chocolate chips and toasted coconut). Allow glaze to set for 30 minutes before serving. (For some reason my glaze never set :( But it still tasted good.)

And on that note....

Happy 2011

Wow 2010 flew by... I can't believe its 2011. Did you know this year will be my 10 year high school reunion! That'll make ya feel old ;-) Well, I rang in new years eve with my BF and a few friends. My one friend opened up his house for the party and let me put together the whole menu of food and desserts! (Is it sad I was most excited about that? Could care less about the ball dropping lol). I used Love the Day's NYE printables - which everyone loved! Here's a little taste of the party I put together....


Beef Sliders
Served with choice of condiments and sweet potato chips or salt and pepper chips

Sundried Tomato Bruschettas
Sundried tomato pesto with fresh mozzarella and prosciutto served on French bread

Served with mini pitas and veggies

Candied Bacon
Brown sugar candied bacon with a touch of spice and served on a stick

Baked Brie
Brie baked in a pastry with apricot and cranberry

Bacon Wrapped Shrimp
Shrimp baked with bacon

Curry Chicken Skewers
Chicken marinated in a red curry peanut sauce and grilled


Chocolate Salted Caramel Cupcakes
Chocolate cake filled with salted caramel sauce and topped with vanilla swiss meringue buttercream

Chocolate Dipped Strawberries
Topped with white chocolate, chocolate chips or toasted coconut

Homemade Doughnuts
Baked doughnuts topped with chocolate glaze or almond-orange glaze

Chocolate Dipped Oreo Pops
White or milk chocolate covered oreos on a stick

Chocolate Covered Marshmallows
Homemade marshmallows dipped in dark chocolate and topped with toasted coconut, graham cracker crumbs or sprinkles

I was very happy with the result and it all came together just as I envisioned. Thanks again to Love the Day for the printables! Cheers to a new year ~Cara Lee