Spring Flowers Birthday Cake

The first day of spring is one thing, and the first spring day is another. The difference between them is sometimes as great as a month.  ~ Henry Van Dyke

While we still wait for spring…  let’s enjoy a lovely spring inspired cake!

Spring Flower Cake 3

A good friend of mine asked me to make a birthday birthday cake for her lovely daughters 26th birthday.  The birthday girls favorite colors are the tiffany blue, black, white and lots of bling and her mother gave me the direction to make something in that color pallet with lots of flowers, something spring like, so this is what I created.

Spring Flower Cake 5

Although spring seems to be taking its time arriving, it doesn’t mean that we can’t embrace spring in other ways, like with cake… like a cake with lots and lots of flowers!

Spring flower cake 10

I love baking and I especially love making layer cakes with good fillings and frosting, lots of pretty flowers and lovely color combinations.  I love the creative process of designing cakes, being given an idea or a direction and coming up with a way to bring the idea to life.

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I can imagine this cake in multiple tiers… like maybe two or three?  I mean this one is pretty, but just imagine flowers cascading down the cake from one tier to the next.  That would be beautiful.  Does anyone out there need a cake with two or three tiers with cascading flowers, anyone?!?

Spring Flower Cake 3

This cake was a lemon vanilla butter cake, with a thin layer of lemon curd filling and an Italian Meringue Buttercream frosting.  Pretty classic flavor combination, but it seemed perfect for a spring inspired cake.  I love lemon curd, especially homemade, its so easy to make.  Plus, when you make Italian Meringue Buttercream you are left with just enough egg yolks for a batch of lemon curd!  Perfect!

Spring Flower Cake 1

I mentioned that the birthday girl likes bling and although this cake isn’t full of bling, I did add a couple iridescent and black sugar crystals for some… sparkle! The birthday girls loved the cake, but noted that I needed to up my bling for her future wedding cake… so I’ll get to work practicing so I’ll be ready!

Spring Flower Cake 7a

Spring Flower Cake 8So a word about the CUT cake…

I have a thing about seeing the inside of the cut cake. Maybe its because I don’t often get to see the cake cut and have the pleasure of seeing the layers and the filling inside.  I work really hard to make sure that the layers are even and that I have equal amounts of filling and that hopefully the inside will look just as pretty as the outside.  Every so often I’ll get someone to actually send me a picture of the cake after its is cut.  So that I can check my work out on the inside!  My friend was kind enough to send me this picture…  and I am SO pleased with my layers!  Just look at all that evenness.  The inside is just as important as what’s on the outside.

I am so pleased with how this cake turned out, it makes me think of spring and gives me hope for warmer days to come.

Here’s hoping we will start seeing some real spring flowers soon… but until then, hope you enjoy the cake!

Caramel Apple Muffin

Caramel Apple Muffin Title

I love a good muffin!  They are so easy to throw together and most of the ingredients are usually items that you generally have on hand.  So, when Tamara asked me to be a part of her blogs Muffin Mania, I began thinking of what I could share with the Jem of the South community.  I finally decided to make an apple muffin, but not just any apple muffin a Caramel Apple Muffin!

Caramel Apple Muffin Trio

To be honest, my favorite muffins are those that walk that fine line between breakfast appropriate and dessert worthy.  I personally think that it’s okay every once in a while to start out your day with a little sweet goodness, especially if that sweet goodness is accompanied by a nice cup of coffee!

Caramel Apple Muffin 3

These muffins really do remind me of my favorite caramel apple, specifically the ones that are rolled in some nicely toasted pecans. Even though these muffins walk that fine line, I promise that they are 100% muffin and not a glorified cupcake.  They have a classic muffin texture, are moist because of all the apples and have a lovely spice that pairs perfectly with the apple and caramel.

Caramel Apple Mini Muffin

The muffin itself is not overly sweet and they are just as good without the caramel drizzle (but why deny yourself that pleasure)!   I’ll forewarn you that it will be hard to eat just one, but because they have are made with healthy apples, I think that it might be okay to eat another!

Caramel Apple Muffin Apple 2

Caramel Apple Muffins with Pecans
Makes 12 standard , 8 jumbo and A LOT (about 24) of mini muffinsCaramel Apple Muffin Inside

For Muffins
2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons pumpkin pie (or apple pie) spice (or you can find lots of recipes online for a homemade version)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 egg
1 cup homemade buttermilk (Add 1 tbsp vinegar to a 1 cup measuring cup, add evaporated milk to make 1 cup of buttermilk.  Mix and allow to sit for about 5 minutes before using.)
1/2 cup canola
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cups packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
2 cups peeled and coarsely chopped Granny Smith Apples (about 1 1/2 apples)

Pecan Topping
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons rolled oats
1/2 cup toasted pecans
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 tablespoons butter, melted

Caramel Drizzle
1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup half and half
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 tablespoon pure vanilla
pinch of salt

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees F and line a muffin pan with paper liners.

Prepare Muffins

  • In a bowl, whisk together flour, pumpkin pie spice, baking soda, and salt.
  • In another bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, egg, oil vanilla and both the dark and light brown sugar. Mix together until contents are well combined and mixture looks like caramel.
  • Make a well in the center of your dry ingredients and pour your wet ingredients into the dry.  Gently mix until the mixture is just combined, it is okay to still see some flour at this point.
  • Add the apples and gently fold the apples into the mixture.
  • Using a large ice cream scoop, fill each muffin cup almost to the top.

Pecan Topping

  • In a small bowl,  mix together the light and dark brown sugar, pecans, flour, oats.
  • Add 3 tablespoons of melted butter and mix until all the ingredients are moistened and crumbly.
  • Add a heaping tablespoon to the top of the muffin batter.
  • Bake for about 25 minutes for standard, 35 minutes for jumbo and 20 minutes for mini, or until a toothpick come out cleanly.
  • Cool in pan for 5 minutes and remove from pan and allow to cool completely on a wire rack.

Caramel Topping

  • In a small saucepan over medium high heat add both brown sugars, butter and half and half, bring to a boil stirring constantly with a whisk.  The mixture will thicken as heats, cook for about 5 minutes.
  • Add vanilla extract and pinch of salt during last couple of minutes.
  • Liberally drizzle caramel on the muffins.

ENJOY!

NOTES:

  • Be sure to use a firm and tart apple – this produces the best apple flavor and the apples tend to hold their shape during baking.
  • If your caramel becomes to thick for pouring, you can place the caramel in the microwave for 10-15 seconds to loosen it a bit.
  • Muffins are good the day they are made, but they actually taste even better the next day… especially heated for a few seconds.
  • Muffins can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature.

Playing with Cake – Smash Cake

Smash Cake 1

That is some impressive cake smashing, right!

This will not be a long post, but this smash cake picture was too cute not to share!  I recently had the pleasure of making two cakes for a baby’s first birthday party.  A little smash cake and a birthday cake to serve.  I think that the original thought was that they would serve the larger cake and perhaps part of the smash cake, depending on how much ‘smashing’ the birthday boy did.  Well, I guess that this little birthday boy decided to really enjoy his little birthday cake, so there was very little of this cake to share… I love it!

Share and Smash

This smash cake was the perfect size for the birthday boy to dive into and enjoy!  His little cake was a rich chocolate cake with an american buttercream filling and frosting.

Smash Cake collage

The larger birthday cake was a vanilla cake with an Italian meringue buttercream filling and frosting.  Perfect adult (and kid) birthday cake!  I loved the color combination that they chose, blue, grey and lime green.  I decided to use the blue and lime green for the cake colors and think that the cake turned out cute.

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I love playing a part in the celebration of birthdays. For the most part I believe that for a baby’s first birthday, the parties are probably more for the adults than the children because they likely won’t remember it.  Even so, I understand why parents put so much into this birthday, it is an important milestone, plus the pictures are always great!  I will say that after seeing this cutie dive into his little smash cake I really want to believe that he will remember, even if it is a distant memory, the fun he had eating his little birthday cake!  Thankfully if he doesn’t remember, there will be always be the pictures!

Here’s wishing the birthday boy many, many more happy birthdays!!

Apple Pie Love

There’s nothing like a good homemade apple pie…  just look at it sitting there looking all pretty!

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My mom makes the best apple pie with the BEST crust, but this one… this here pie is running a close second!

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I need to say a few things about the wonderful contraption shown below, the amazing apple peeler/corer… the tool that makes my apple pies possible! I remember when I first encountered this kitchen jewel… I was still in high school, or maybe it was middle school and my mom and I were at a Pampered Chef party.  The lady showed us the tool and how it worked and I knew at that moment that I needed it in my life.  Before this tool came into my life, I WAS the apple peeler.   Whenever my mom wanted to make an apple pie she would call ME into the kitchen to peel the apples… all the apples!  Back then it felt like millions of apples that I had to peel!   I remember begging my mom to buy it and she said something like, ‘why should I buy it, I already have an apple peeler!’  Its funny now, but I didn’t think it was funny back then!  I begged (and begged) and eventually she purchased it!  Thank you Pampered Chef!

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For years I avoided making my own crust, I opted for the store bought crust that you roll out…  those aren’t bad, but there is nothing like homemade crust.  My crust has not been perfected just yet, but my mom’s… I don’t even have words to describe it, its just that good!  The ingredients for making crust are very simple, but I think that the technique is what makes the difference between a great crust and a not so good crust.  I’m still trying to perfect the technique, but practice makes perfect… for now mine is pretty good… working on great!

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Oh, and I decided to try a new crimping method for this pie… not too shabby if I do say so myself!

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I think that apple pie and ice cream were meant to be one.  I mean, what’s better than warm apple pie with homemade vanilla bean ice cream oozing into the apple goodness?  At this moment, I can’t think of any better than that, well actually if you added a good cup of coffee to that combo… Now, that would be perfection!

Apple pie and ice cream

If you haven’t tried to make an  apple pie… you should definitely give it a try!

Okay, one more picture to try to convince you to get to baking!  Oh, and I’d love to see pictures of your apple pie if you decide to make one!   :)

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Apple Pie 

For Filling

6-8 apples, depending on size (I used granny smith and honey crisp)
3/4 – 1 cup sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 tbsp flour
1/2 stick unsalted butter

For Crust

2 1/2 cups flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 stick COLD butter
1/2 cup COLD shortening
3/4 cup ice water + 1 tsp vinegar
1 egg and 1 teaspoon of water, mixed for egg wash

Prepare Crust

  • In food processor add flour, sugar, salt, butter and shortening and pulse 4-5 times.
  • Add ice water (but not chunks of ice!) and vinegar mixture to flour and butter and pulse just until starts to come together.
  • Dump mixture out on a floured board or counter top, divide mixture evenly and form into a ball and then flatten into a round disk.  Cover in plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator to rest for at least 1 hour.
  • Once the dough has rested, roll out the dough to about 2 inches larger than your pie dish, roll the dough up on your rolling pin and roll it out over the pie pan.

Prepare Filling

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees
  • Core and slice your apples and add them to a large bowl
  • Add the sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla and flour and mix well.
  • Taste an apple (or two!) for sweetness and seasoning and adjust as needed.
  • Add chunks of butter to apple and add apples to pie plate
  • Roll out the dough for the top crust, roll around rolling pin and pick the dough up and roll it out over the apple filling.
  • Fold the top dough up and under the bottom dough to seal the two layers.  You will have a thick edge of crust to work with and create a pretty scallop or you can use a fork to create a pattern on the edge…have fun and make it pretty!
  • Using a knife or fork, make a couple vents on the top of the pie.
  • Brush the pie with the egg and water mixture, place the pie pan on a cookie sheet (just in case some of the juices overflow a bit!) and bake the pie for about 60 minutes or until the crust is a pretty golden brown.

ENJOY!

Brown Sugar Cookies with Chocolate, Pecans and Sea Salt ~ #fbcookieswap 2013

How can you go wrong with chocolate, toasted pecans, brown sugar and a little sea salt!

Brown Sugar Chocolate 2

Having followed the previous year of the Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap, this year as a new food blogger (YAY!) I was so excited to finally be able to take part in it this year’s festivities!  As soon as I saw the notice from Love and Olive Oil and The Little Kitchen, I signed up and began thinking about ideas for a cookie to send to my assigned matches. Even though I am always thinking about food and have fifty million recipes pinned on Pinterest and bookmarked in my (way too many) cookbooks it still took a while for me to finally decide on a recipe for the cookie swap.Brown Sugar Cookie 8

This cookie is actually inspired by two different recipes, the cookie base is a slight adaptation of Bake at 350′s brown sugar and spice cookie, minus the spice and the topping is from the Leite’s Culinaria’s toffee cookie with dark chocolate glaze.  I decided to go with Bake at 350′s brown sugar cookie recipe because she has never let me down when it comes to sugar cookies and Leite’s Culinaria is always a favorite ‘go to’ spot for recipe inspiration!Brown Sugar Cookies 1

This was a very easy recipe to put together and I think it made for a really pretty little cookie.  I used a 2 inch scalloped cutter to fancy the cookie up a bit and I splurged on some ‘good chocolate’… only the best for my cookie swap matches!!  I think that what I liked most about this recipe is the addition of salt to the very rich chocolate and sweet brown sugar.  They are all simple ingredients, but come together nicely to make a very good cookie.  These 2 inch cookies are really a two bite cookie, so the danger is that you can/will eat more than you plan to because the are so cute and small and seemingly innocent looking… I just want to put that warning out before you decide to make them, it happened to me!

Brown Sugar Cookie collage2

Although I received the benefit of getting three packages of cookies from three amazing food bloggers, the real purpose of the of Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap was to raise money for an important cause.  This years efforts raised over $13,000 for Cookies for Kids Cancer!! Check out the power of cookie baking!!  If you would like to be a part of next year’s Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap, sign up here to receive notifications for next year.

Brown Sugar Chocolate 4

Brown Sugar Cookie collage 1

 

Once I finished the cookies I had to get them ready to send out to my matches.  I decided to use some pretty sparkly paper and a lovely printable chalkboard Christmas labels from Lia Griffith for my cookie mailing.  If you don’t already have food gift labels definitely check these out, they are so cute!  I am SO very bad about mailing things, so the fact that I got my cookies packed and in the mail to my matches on time is truly a Christmas miracle.  It did take two days and a couple visits to the post office, but I eventually got them out and from what I understand they made it safely to their final destinations.

Being a new food blogger this was also a really great way to ‘meet’ other food bloggers.  I’m really looking forward to seeing everyone’s cookie creations at the round up and to exploring all the wonderful blogs represented in the group!

I’ll admit that I was like a big kid every time I drove up to my house and saw a package with cookies waiting for me!  My very first package of cookies were from Bree.  She has a wonderful blog called, Sugar and Grace…  Isn’t that a great name for a blog!  After I received the delicious angel wings from Bree, I sent her an email to thank her for such a great start to my first Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap experience.  I’ll freely admit that I personally ate all of the cookies she sent to me, they went everywhere with me. I mean she sent them to me in such a perfect little travel bag so I just took them with me in the car to run errands, to work on my commute to the office (they tasted really good with my morning coffee!), the movies… :)  Yep, so that’s how I ended up eating them all!

collage_20131205180929879_20131208214827245Next, I received this adorable little box of macadamia cookies from Heather of Heather Likes Food!!  I honestly don’t remember including my ‘love of macadamia nuts’ on the form when I signed up for the cookie swap, but somehow she knew… she knew how much I love macadamia nuts and sent them to me!  These were so good!  There may or may not be any cookies left in that box, but thankfully only the box and I know!  I did share a couple of the cookies with my fiance, well maybe just one actually, but at least I didn’t eat the entire box of cookies myself this time.

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And last, but definitely not least I received the yummy chocolate peppermint cookies from Emily at Everyday Mom.  I ate one and I wish I could say that I got to enjoy more of them, but chocolate peppermint is one of my fiance’s favorite combinations so my Sweetie decided that these were his cookies and finished them all off before I had a chance to eat any more…  he did said that they were really, really good and that he enjoyed them very much!!  I guess I’ll have to get the recipe and make myself some more!

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This was such a great experience!  Be sure to check out the round up which will be posted on Love and Olive Oil and The Little Kitchen blogs.  I can’t wait to see what everyone made!

Brown Sugar Cookies with Chocolate, Pecans and Sea Salt
Makes about 4 dozen, 2 inch cookies 
Brown Sugar Cookie 3

3 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar (packed)
2 sticks salted butter, cold cut into chunks
1 egg
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
5 ounces bittersweet chocolate
1/3 cup chopped pecans, toasted 
Sea Salt flakes, like from a from grinder

  • Preheat oven to 350.
  • Whisk the flour and baking powder together and set aside.
  • Cream the sugars and butter together. Add the egg and extract and mix until well combined.
  • Add the flour mixture in three parts and beat just until combined, scraping down the bowl.
  • The dough will be thick, pull out half of the dough and knead to combine, do the same with the remaining dough and set aside.
  • On a floured surface, roll out the first half of the dough to about 1/4″ thick.  Using a 2 inch scalloped edge round cutter, cut into shapes.
  • Place the first set of cut outs on a parchment lined baking sheets and place in freezer for 10 minutes.
  • Complete the same process using the second half of the dough.
  • Bake cookies for 9-12 minutes, depending on the size of your cutter. Let sit a few minutes on the sheet, then transfer to a cooling rack.
  • While cookies are cooling, set up a double boiler and melt the chocolate over the simmering water.
  • When cookies are cool, add a dollop of chocolate to the center of the cookie and using a small spoon spread the chocolate spread out almost to the edge of the cookie.
  • While the chocolate is still wet, sprinkle lightly with the chopped toasted pecans and a few grains of sea salt. Let the chocolate set.
  • Share cookies and make new friends! :)
ENJOY!