Chocolate

Dairy Free Chocolate Maple Bacon Cupcakes

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Yes, you read that correctly–I put chocolate, maple and bacon together. In a cupcake. Win, win, win, win!

I got the idea from this bacon cupcake but honestly didn’t really follow that recipe at all. For starters, that cake recipe called for sour cream, which is really impossible to substitute for when one is trying to make it dairy free. But the part that really turned me off of that recipe was that she put chopped up bacon inside the batter. I do not like soft bacon, and I knew that there was no way for the bacon to stay crispy after being baked inside a cupcake. So I took this marvelous idea for a bacon cupcake and made it my own.

The cake recipe is from one of my favorite dessert cookbooks: Hershey’s Recipe Collection. I’ve had this since my single days, and I love it! Since I knew that the bacon and maple frosting was going to be pretty heavy, I wanted to go with a light and fluffy cake instead of dense and moist like I would usually pick. Hershey’s “1st Birthday Cupcakes” were exactly what I was looking for. Light, soft, fluffy, chocolately goodness, but not dry. There’s not as much cocoa powder in this recipe as compared to most other chocolate cake recipes, putting it more in the family of red velvet, but without all the food coloring. It’s perfect if you want a chocolate cake that still has all the glory that is chocolate without weighing you down.

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A note before I dive into the recipe: it calls for buttermilk, which can normally be substituted with a regular milk that is “soured” by distilled white vinegar. If you decide to use soy milk (or regular cow milk if you don’t have any allergies to worry about), then you can add the vinegar to the milk and then add that mixture to the batter. However, if you are using almond milk like I did, do NOT add the vinegar directly to the milk. It causes it to separate and when you add it to the batter, it doesn’t incorporate well. You have to add the milk and vinegar to the batter separately. Moreover, if you are a dairy eater and are using buttermilk, then omit the vinegar completely.

So here’s the recipe for these little lovelies (it will make a little over 2 dozen cupcakes).

Ingredients for Chocolate Cupcake:

  • 1/2 cup of all vegetable shortening
  • 1 1/2 cups of sifted sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups of sifted flour
  • 1/2 cup of sifted cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon of baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 1 teaspoon of baking powder
  • 1 1/2 cups of almond milk
  • 4 1/2 teaspoons of distilled white vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

Directions:

  • Pour the almond milk into a glass measuring cup and mix in the baking powder. Baking powder is liquid reactive, so this will allow it to start activating before you add it into the batter, and give the batter a fluffier texture.
  • Cream the shortening with 1/2 cup of sifted sugar with the flat beater attachment until smooth.
  • Add the eggs, mixing well after each one.
  • Add the remaining sugar.
  • Add the baking soda, salt, and vanilla extract, allowing them to mix in.
  • Next, add the flour and cocoa powder. As you start the mixer, slowly add the almond milk so that the batter stays moist and doesn’t get crumbly.
  • Once everything is incorporated nicely, add in the vinegar.
  • Pour into cupcake pans and bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes, or until it springs back when touched.

Now that the cupcakes are baked, let’s move on to the maple frosting.

As is the case with all of my frosting recipes, I did use a stick of margarine, which is not 100% dairy free. It contains the milk derivative ‘whey’. So if you have an allergy that cannot tolerate whey, you can use all vegetable shortening instead. Trust me, it will still be just as delicious!

Ingredients for Maple Frosting:

  • 1 stick of room temperature margarine
  • 1 cup of all vegetable shortening (or 1 1/2 if using all shortening)
  • 1/3 cup + 2 tablespoons of maple syrup (Please buy the real deal; Aunt Jemima ain’t gonna cut it this time! Pure maple syrup is the only way to do these babies justice.)
  • 4 cups of sifted powdered sugar
  • 1/2 – 1 teaspoon of sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

Directions:

  • I used to roll my eyes whenever I read “room temperature” anything in baking recipes, but I am noticing that it really makes a huge difference to use room temperature margarine where frosting is concerned. It’s just too hard to get it to smooth out nicely if it’s too cold. What’s that? You don’t have the patience or planning abilities to remember to set a stick of margarine out 2 hours before you’re ready to start baking? Me neither! Here’s a nice hack for you: put the stick of margarine in a microwave safe bowl, cover it with a paper towel to contain potential splatters, and pop it in the microwave for 10-15 seconds. And just like that, you have room temperature margarine! Just be careful to not over heat it, which can happen quickly in the microwave. If it gets melty then you’ll have to trash it and try again. Runny margarine will completely ruin the texture of the frosting.
  • Once the margarine is room temperature, cream it using the flat beater attachment on the ‘2’ setting until it’s smooth.
  • Add the vegetable shortening and cream it on the ‘2’ setting, again until smooth. This may take a bit, and you may be tempted to up the speed, but don’t do it! Incorporating too much air is the death of smooth frosting.
  • Add in the first 2 cups of sifted powdered sugar 1 cup at a time, allowing it to completely mix in before adding more.
  • After the second cup of powdered sugar, add in the maple syrup and vanilla extract.
  • Add in the remaining 2 cups of powdered sugar, again 1 cup at a time. (I know this seems like a lot of powdered sugar, but the salty bacon will off set it. Plus the maple syrup makes it pretty soft; it really needs the extra powdered sugar to help it thicken up.)
  • Lastly, add in the sea salt. I feel that this part is all a matter of preference, so start with 1/2 teaspoon and taste it before adding in the other 1/2. I ended up going with a full teaspoon, but honestly once I topped it with bacon, it was almost a tad too salty. So take the sodium in the bacon into consideration too. Don’t get me wrong, the cupcakes were still awesome. I just realize that it might be a bit much for some people.

Then of course, there’s the most important component–the BACON! I used a total of 8 pieces of bacon. Personally, I like to cook my bacon in the oven because then there isn’t a bunch of grease splatters to clean up. 375 degrees for 20 minutes on a foil lined cookie sheet (it has to be a cookie sheet with a lip so the grease doesn’t spill out). When they’re done, pat the grease off with some paper towels. Then chop them up into little crunchy bits.

I chose to swirl the maple frosting on with my large open star tip, but use whatever you fancy. The frosting really just serves as the pillow to hold up the real prize of this cupcake–the bacon.

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It’s definitely more of a savory cupcake because it really isn’t very sweet. The chocolate and maple flavors are perfect side kicks to help highlight the salty, smokey, awesomeness that is bacon. I made them for Father’s Day, because they just seemed like a ‘manly’ cupcake. I mean, what guy doesn’t love bacon, right? Now I won’t lie to you–not everyone was crazy about them. They’re definitely a unique flavor that not everyone will be keen on. But the majority of people at the celebration really enjoyed them.

Bottom line–if you love bacon, you need to try these, because I don’t believe you will be disappointed!

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Happy Baking, Everyone!

The Best Dairy Free Chocolate Frosting

wpid-wp-1421600809992.jpegLast week I shared my favorite dairy free vanilla frosting with you, and today I am going to share it’s chocolate counterpart.

I know that dairy eaters would read the title of this post and scrunch their noses at chocolate that doesn’t have milk as if it were a mutant bastard child. But trust me–they would never know that this frosting didn’t have their precious dairy in it! It is not bitter at all, but is smooth and sweet, while still packing a full chocolate flavor.

I used it for my husband’s birthday cake this year, and he declared it his favorite frosting of all time. Considering that he’s a dairy loving Midwestern (from Wisconsin, no less), this was a very high compliment!

Try it out–you will not be disappointed!

A quick note: stick margarine is not 100% dairy free. It contains a milk derivative called ‘whey’. If you cannot tolerate whey, then use all vegetable shortening. The result will be just as delicious.

Ingredients:

  • 2 containers of marshmallow fluff (also called marshmallow creme)
  • 1 stick of margarine
  • 1 cup of vegetable shortening (or 1 1/2 cups, if you are omitting the margarine)
  • 1/2 cup of sifted cocoa powder
  • 2 1/2 cups of sifted powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
  • 2 splashes of vanilla almond milk

Directions:

  • Mix marshmallow fluff until smooth with the flat beater attachment on the ‘stir’ speed setting.(*HELPFUL TIP* Run a rubber spatula under hot water before scooping out the marshmallow fluff to make it come out super easy. It makes a world of difference getting all that sticky deliciousness out.)
  • Add half a margarine stick and mix on the ‘2’ speed setting until smooth. Then add the other half and mix until smooth.
  • Add the shortening half a cup at a time, allowing it to smooth out completely before adding more.
  • Add the SIFTED cocoa powder, again allowing it to smooth out completely.
  • Add 1 cup of SIFTED powdered sugar and mix until smooth. Add the rest of the powdered sugar 1/2 cup at a time, allowing the frosting to completely smooth out each time before adding more.
  • Add the vanilla extract.
  • If it seems a little thick, add a splash of almond milk. I usually end up adding 2 splashes, but this again is all a matter of preference.

The trick to this frosting is to not over whip it. If it gets too much air in it, then you will see holes in it when you are covering your cake. Do not put your mixer any higher than the ‘2’ speed setting. It will take longer, but be worth it when it comes out nice and smooth!

This recipe will yield enough frosting to cover two 8″ or 9″ round cakes, a 12″ x 9″ rectangle cake, or two dozen cupcakes. It will keep at room temperature for a couple days and for a couple of weeks in the fridge. It also freezes really well if you double wrap it tightly in plastic wrap and then store it inside a freezer Ziploc bag. I can’t say how long it will last in the freezer as I’ve only kept mine in there for 3 months, but I would think that as long as it’s not freezer burnt that it would be fine. If you freeze it, allow it to come to room temperature and mix it in your mixer on the ‘stir’ speed setting for a minute or two until it’s smooth.

Enjoy!

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My Doctor Who Cake

Last July, my husband convinced me to watch Doctor Who. He had already seen all of the episodes of the recent seasons (Christopher Eccleston and on), and was hoping to get me hooked and caught up before season 8 started up. Being the nerd that I am, I of course became an instant fan. But the new season started a month from when I started watching, and I had a little over 100 episodes to watch if I was going to catch up in time. We only had 2 kids at the time, but I still didn’t have much TV time. Somehow, I managed to do it, which you could either see as impressive or embarrassing, your pick.

I love Doctor Who.

Now I want to get my hands on the original seasons from back in the day so I can be a true Whovian.

So when I was thinking of ideas for my birthday cake, I immediately went to the Doctor. I wanted to do a Tardis cake. Since my birthday is January 6th, I decided to go with a Christmas Tardis theme. We had the flu over Christmas, so I still wanted to hold on to Christmas because I had kind of felt cheated.

My conception art

My conception art

My mom found an awesome video tutorial on YouTube of how to make a Tardis cake.

I was only having a small gathering of friends and their kids over to celebrate, so I was sure the Tardis cake alone would be enough.

I am not very good at sculpted cakes. I have yet to find a cake recipe that holds up well to being sculpted. So I took a risk and tried a recipe that I had never tried before: vanilla pound cake. Since I was going to need 5 squares for my Tardis, I needed 2 square cakes. I only had 1 square pan though, so I had to do them one at a time, which took forever because the bake time for this recipe is an hour and fifteen minutes! My first cake burned on the bottom and along the edges. I was able to cut it away, but it made my squares smaller than the ones in the tutorial video. For the second batch, I reduced the oven temperature to 325°, and that cake came out perfectly. So if you try this recipe, I would suggest lowering the temperature. (It was a very tasty cake.)

It took to sculpting ok. But since my squares were smaller, I ended up doing 4 instead of 5. I was unsuccessful in leveling, so it wasn’t the sturdiest of structures. Despite me using a ruler, I still managed to cut each square a little differently, so they weren’t all the exact same size when I stacked them. Which left me to cut down my already small cake in an attempt to make it even on all the sides. My husband ended up helping me shape it down because it was not looking pretty.

I now did not have enough cake to feed the people I was expecting, so I changed the plan and made two 9″ chocolate rounds for my tardis to sit on, using my moist dairy free chocolate cake recipe. Instead of going with a Christmas Tardis, I decided to ice the rounds to look like Van Gough’s Starry Night with the Tardis sitting on top, recreating the iconic painting from the Van Gough episode. I was sad to have to scrap my Christmas theme, but excited about the new direction.

I focused first on decorating the Tardis, following the instructions from the YouTube video. The blue icing that I had on hand was not Tardis blue, unfortunately. Lesson learned: always buy a few different shades when you need such a specific color so you can mix up your own. But painting the fondant panels really helped with the color. In the video she used a paint powder, but I didn’t have access to that. So I just mixed a drop of water into gel icing colors inside a painter’s palette to get a more “paint like” consistency, and it worked really well.

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How many panels does it take to cover a Tardis?

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The panels post painting

 

I mixed white & black gel icing colors to make grey, and used that around the edges of the window pieces to dirty them up a bit. The Tardis has been around the block a few thousand times after all; she should look worn in.

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I wish that I would have painted the sign grey before writing the words on, but hind sight is 20/20.

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Obviously, I ran out of space for all the words. I had to make this panel slightly larger than the others just to get these to fit. But the important ones are on there.

I almost forgot about the door handle & key hole, but remembered with enough time to whip them up.

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The Police Box panels

 

My mom got me a fondant rolling mat system, conveniently called The Mat, for Christmas. If you are serious about cake decorating, you need this mat! The fondant didn’t stick to it at all.

I mean, look at that!
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Absolutely incredible.

Once all the pieces were cut and painted, it was just a matter of putting them on. I let my 4 year old help with this part. She was so careful & methodical while placing each panel. I saw a piece of myself in her in that moment, which was so beautiful to witness.

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We got the Tardis done 2 hours before people were set to arrive. That may have been enough time to frost the Van Gough design on the rounds if we were already dressed, the house was already cleaned, and if the baby would sleep the entire time. But none of those things had happened, of course. Time got the best of me yet again. It is not easy getting these cakes done when I’ve got 3 girls 4 years old and under to take care of.

But I couldn’t bring myself to slap plain white frosting on it; it had to have some kind of design to it. My new plan: pipe swirls to make it look like the time vortex. Since I was completely out of time (pun intended), I chose 3 colors: blue, purple, and white.

I stuck the blue and purple icings in their own piping bags and then shoved them side by side into another piping bag, so that they would come out at the same time.

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Too bad I ran out of frosting before the whole cake was covered.

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I only had blue leftover, so the colors were off balanced. Then I ran out of the blue!

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It was not looking like what I was going for. Out of pure panic I decided to add white dashes, partly to hide the spots of crumb coat that were peeking through, and partly to try to add a…wibbly wobbly timey wimey effect… Again, I was panicking.

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I stuck my leaning tower of Tardis on top and called it a day, because I had about 10 minutes to get myself dressed before people showed up.

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Let’s just say that it was meant to look off kilter because it was bumping around the time vortex…

Is it the worst thing ever? No. Did it look anything like what I set out to create? Not in any way. Did the perfectionist in me want to throw it on the street and run it over with my car? Absolutely.

But my main goal in life lately has been to not stress out. Especially on days that are supposed to be fun like my birthday. Despite everything that went wrong with this cake, I had a lot of fun making it. I mean, it’s a Tardis cake! Plus, my girls helped me bake and make frosting, on top of watching me work on all the Tardis pieces. I was actually surprised at how interested they were to just watch me work.

Of course having them in the kitchen with me meant extra messes…

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But the extra clean up was worth it, because it meant I got to spend my birthday with the 3 greatest kids on earth.

Good thing I took pictures of my cake right away, because while I was upstairs getting dressed…

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The Doctor crashed the Tardis on my stove.

At this point, I just had to laugh.

We ate the tie dye swirl cake at my dinner party and then the girls and I devoured the Tardis for breakfast the next morning (eating leftover birthday cake for breakfast the day after a birthday is my favorite birthday tradition).

Death of the Tardis

Death of the Tardis

Structural integrity has never been a strength of mine in cake decorating. But I’m working on it. I’ve decided to make a Tardis cake for my birthday every year until I get it right. I’m only 27; I’ve got plenty of time.

I’ll take the long way, Doctor; you meet me on the year I nail it.

Dairy Free German Chocolate Cake

One of my friends had a birthday today. As usual, my gift was a cake. She requested one that I had never made before, so I was instantly excited: German chocolate cake. I’ve never even tasted a German chocolate cake, because with my dairy allergy I have to make my own cakes.

Upon doing some Pinterest research, I knew I was going to like this one. Who wouldn’t, with the rich, moist chocolate cake, ooey, gooey toasted coconut and pecan filling, and decadent, smooth ganache?

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As you can see, my filling turned out a bit runny, but I think it looks pretty sexy having it ooze over the side.

The German chocolate cake recipe that I used required heavy cream for both the filling and the ganache. Heavy cream is always a tricky one to substitute for because almond / soy milks are obviously much thinner. Since I was supposed to warm the cream, egg yolks, and sugar on the stove for the filling, I decided to put half a cup of almond milk. Since it was too runny, the next time I make this, I’ll do a quarter of a cup.

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For the ganache, I used a quarter of a cup of almond milk to substitute for the heavy cream. Since the liquid is being reduced to a quarter of what the original recipe requires, it didn’t yield quite enough to cover the whole cake…

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So I had to whip up another half a batch so I could finish it off. I decided to only do piped dollops on the top, so if you wanted to do the bottom as well, I’d suggest doubling the ganache recipe so that you have enough.

Also, there was not enough liquid to melt the chocolate like the original recipe. I ended up popping it in the microwave in 10  second bursts until the chocolate and margarine was melted, stirring each time.

Can I just say how finicky chocolate is? I made the original batch of ganache the night before and let it sit in the fridge overnight. But it was rock hard the next day, so I had to microwave it in 10 second bursts until it was softer. It hardens up again pretty fast once you get it on the cake, so you need to work quickly. Then you have to get it at an exact temperature which is cool enough that it isn’t liquid, but still soft enough to pipe. Tricky business this chocolate stuff. But oh so worth it.

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I used my own moist dairy free chocolate cake recipe instead of the one in the link. My policy is: if it’s not broke, don’t fix it. My chocolate cake is the best. Everyone always says how moist and rich it is. It worked beautifully with this cake.

I chose to omit the rum syrup more for time’s sake than anything else. My 2 year old has been down with a stomach bug for 5 days, so I was really pressed for time with this cake (especially since I had to make 2 of these on top of 2 dozen cupcakes). I had a 24 hour period to do it all in, no rum on hand and no time to pop to the store. I knew my cake was moist enough without it, so I wasn’t worried. However I will try that the next time I tackle this beast because I’m sure that the rum flavor would send this already awesome cake into whole new levels of deliciousness.

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It was definitely time consuming with all the different elements, but it was worth it! It was so. good. If you love chocolate and have a birthday to celebrate, you need to make this cake. Or if it’s a Wednesday and you’re craving chocolate, make this cake. I mean, I think we should celebrate Wednesdays more often.

Here’s to Wednesdays. And chocolate. Here’s to chocolate.

Salted Caramel Peppermint Cookie Dough Christmas Bars (Dairy Free!)

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This recipe was born from me tweaking this salted caramel cookie dough billionaire bar. I first tried these billionaire bars over summer. My mother-in-law had made some after finding the recipe on Facebook, and was sure that it would be impossible to make a dairy free version. My response? Challenge accepted! It was an easy conversion, really; I just used a sugar cookie dough that was dairy free (Pillsbury), made my own caramel using margarine instead of butter, replaced the butter with margarine in her chocolate chip cookie dough recipe, and used dark chocolate instead of milk.

Pillsbury is selling peppermint sugar cookie dough that has actual crushed up candy canes inside the dough. I LOVE candy canes, so I was all over it! It got me thinking about making a Christmas version of these billionaire bars, and I came up with these delicious salted caramel peppermint cookie dough bars. They are perfection: rich caramel and dark chocolate, yummy cookie dough, icy blasts of peppermint, and a bit of salt to cut through the richness and round off the sweet. I personally think these would make a fantastic gift, so I thought I’d share the recipe, just in time for Christmas.

These dessert bars have 4 layers:

-Peppermint Cookie
-Salted Caramel
-Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough
-Dark Chocolate, sprinkled with sea salt and crushed candy canes

The first thing you will need to do is work on the peppermint cookie layer. You will need to line a 12×9 pan with parchment paper; that way it will be easy to pop out once the whole thing is set (make sure that the parchment paper goes up the sides). Then take the Pillsbury peppermint cookie dough and press it into the pan, creating one even layer. Bake according to the package instructions. Once baked through and browned, allow to cool completely.

While the cookie layer is baking, get started on your caramel. I use this recipe for salted caramel that I found on Pinterest. To make a dairy free version, I swapped margarine for the butter, and almond milk for the heavy cream. Obviously, almond milk has a much thinner consistency than heavy cream, so whenever you are substituting for heavy cream, you must be conscious of this. Instead of the 1/2 cup used in the recipe, I only used 2 tablespoons of almond milk. It resulted in a thicker consistency caramel, which I prefer for these bars. You can add one more tablespoon if you want a thinner, more “saucey” caramel. But be aware that you won’t know the true consistency of the caramel until it cools down to room temperature.

Once the peppermint cookie layer is completely cooled, spread the salted caramel evenly over it. I found it easier to spread when it was warmed up, so if your caramel is already at room temperature by the time the cookie layer is cooled, I suggest warming the caramel back up in the microwave. It warms up quickly so start it off with 20 seconds and do 10 second intervals after that until it’s thin enough to pour.

Next, you need to make the chocolate chip cookie dough. I used the recipe from the billionaire bar link above, swapping margarine for the butter to make it dairy free. I chose to completely omit the heavy cream because I don’t feel that it needs the moisture. Of course, I used dark chocolate chips instead of milk chocolate. Once that’s mixed up, gently spread it over the caramel. This part needs a delicate touch because the dough likes to stick to the rubber spatula and it’s easy for the caramel to push it’s way through the dough. Try to get it as evenly spread as you can.

On to the last layer! Melt 1 1/2 cups of dark chocolate chips. I like using a microwave because I find it’s too hard to control the temperature in a double boiler. To do it in the microwave, put the bowl of chocolate chips in for 20 seconds. Stir, and put in for 10 seconds. Continue stirring and heating in 10 second intervals until the chocolate is melted and smooth. Then pour it over the cookie dough and gently spread with a rubber spatula until it’s even. Sprinkle with a tiny bit of sea salt and crushed candy canes and you’re done! Let it firm up in the fridge for an hour and you’ve got yourself a delightful Christmas treat that is sure to make anyone happy.

My Frozen Cake

Here’s the thing–I’m the cake lady. For the past 7 years, if someone from my close circle of people needed a cake, they came to me. My cakes didn’t look that pretty when I first started out, but I’ve gotten good enough now that I would be confidant in selling one of my cakes. What I’m trying to say is–cakes are my thing.

I had grand plans for the Frozen inspired cake for our daughters’ combination birthday party. The (now) 4 year old wanted a Barbie cake, and I wanted to do a tiered cake. Our compromise was to do the Barbie cake and set it on top of a sheet cake that was tall enough for me to do the snow capped thing with winter wonderland detailing. I found this tutorial on how to make Frozen barbie cakes but I didn’t have/didn’t want to purchase the special doll dress pan that she had used. I didn’t think it would be a big deal to just carve the skirt shape out of stacked rounds.

Boy was I wrong.

Sticking the dolls in the cake instantly compromised the structural integrity of the cake. Once I started carving, it began crumbling and falling apart.

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Hot. Mess.

Even though it was already crumbling on me, I decided to still try to put in Elsa’s slut slit.

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That was dumb. I was panicking and not thinking clearly.

Right when I was in tears and ready to throw it in the trash, my husband stepped in, took the knife out of my hands, and did his best to save it. Although it didn’t fall to pieces, the shape was not what we wanted it to be and the cake as a whole resembled the leaning tower of Pisa. Since we didn’t need this cake for serving, we wrapped it in plastic wrap to help hold it together, then slapped some icing and fondant on it. Let me just say that it is hard wrapping barbie skirts in fondant. Especially when it’s two skirts that are melded together.

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I did the best I could.

To cover the cracked fondant and ugly seams, I piped some stars on that I was hoping to pass off as “snowflakes”. I threw some detailing on Elsa’s dress along with silver luster dust to make it shimmer like her dress. Unfortunately, I ran out of time and wasn’t able to get to Anna’s detailing. I was pretty sad about that because the detailing on her dress is so pretty; I was actually looking forward to trying my hand at it.

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I wanted to redeem myself with the sheet cake, but I had fondant issues with that one as well. It was such a beast of a cake that it was really hard to get the fondant to cover the whole thing in one piece. Plus, I was completely out of time. I had to just get it done.

This was the largest piece that I had to patch.

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I told myself that it would be fine because I could just cover it with the white “snow” fondant, but of course that part had a seam in it.

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Time was ticking though, and I had to get it done, so I moved on.

To add insult to injury, Baby Ary the destroyer nicked a piece off one of the sides when I wasn’t looking.

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I patched it with leftover fondant, grabbed the royal icing, and piped some quick snowflakes and Christmas trees (the trees carefully placed to hide other fondant cracks), hoping people would focus on those instead of the nasty fondant work.

wpid-20141123_203902.jpgUnfortunately, I literally ran out of time and left an unfinished tree on one side!

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Let’s just call it modern art.

I was able to make fondant Christmas trees (sprinkled with white sugar for sparkle) to plunk on the top, although I didn’t get around to piping snowflakes or even a ‘Happy Birthday’.

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Definitely not my best work, but also not my worst.

When cake is your thing, you always think that your kids will have the absolute best you have to offer. But that has not been the case in my experience. When it’s someone else’s party, all I have to worry about is the cake. The cake gets 100% of my attention, so it turns out fabulous. But when it’s my party, I have to worry about every single little detail on top of the cake. My parties always have 5,000 details, so something always drops. Since I feel comfortable with cakes, I leave them to the very end, run out of time, and produce something that is unfinished. FOR MY OWN KIDS!!!

But, my girls were happy. “It doesn’t have to be perfect, Mom. I think it looks great!”, Eowyn told me. I wanted to correct her, to point out every single thing that was wrong with it. But instead, I took the compliment and told her what an angel she is.

Is my Frozen cake going to end up on Pinterest? Hell to the no. Does that matter? Absolutely not. What matters is that the birthday girls were happy. They had an absolute blast at their party and loved their cake. That is a job well done.

Every time I do a cake, I get better at my craft. I will continue to push myself, I will learn, and I will get better. But at the end of the day, if the client is happy, then we have to be happy.

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Frozen Birthday Party Prep: Sven Nutter Butter Cookies

I wasn’t sure if I was going to get these done because I got behind on the birthday cake (which still isn’t done). In fact, I had pretty much written these off in the back of my mind. But then my soon-to-be 4 year old came up to me while I was covering the cake in fondant holding a picture of Sven that she had colored in. “This is for you to look at when you do the cookies so you know what he looks like”, she said sweetly. When I looked at her excited little face, I knew I couldn’t scratch the Sven cookies. Even if it meant staying up later than I already have to, I was going to get them done for her.

Luckily, it didn’t have to wait until midnight. I found an opportunity while she was at dance: Ary actually took a nap and although Laurelyn was cluster feeding again, I figured I could do these while I nursed because I had successfully finished my marshmallow pops last night while nursing.

The cookies were a bit more complicated however, and WAY messier. I got chocolate everywhere: the table, the boppy, the baby and my clothes. I hate chocolate work. It really takes a special person because chocolate is tedious and more temperamental than a hormonal woman in her last month of pregnancy. The chocolate was getting all over my fingers, so then it got on the candy eyes because of course I didn’t grab enough paper towels before I sat down. Then I was in quite the predicament because my hands were full of chocolate and the baby was asleep on my lap; I had no way to get up without getting even more chocolate on her! I ended up licking off what I could and using the burp cloth to wipe the rest off.

Of course the baby woke up when I tried to put her in her swing, but I grabbed diaper wipes and extra paper towels for round 2. After cookie #2, I decided got lazy and started only dipping one side instead of the whole cookie. No where near as messy, less time consuming because there’s less chocolate that needs to drip off, and uses less chocolate, which saves money. It would have been best to apply the candy eyes with sterile tweezers, but I didn’t think of it when I was shopping. I found the best way to apply the chocolate was to pour it onto the cookie using a spoon while holding it upright. Pretty sure the chocolate wasn’t hot enough most of the time, but I couldn’t get up and down while nursing. This made the chocolate thick and it didn’t drip as easily. No problem; I just used the back of a spoon to gently wipe the excess back into the bowl.

Is my chocolate work perfect? Please–don’t make me laugh! But they resemble reindeers (I think), therefore look like Sven (to toddlers anyway). My kids loved them, which is all that matters. I might get fancy if I have time later (Ha!) and pipe smiles on them. But if I don’t get around to it, I still think these little guys are pretty cute.

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Hopefully Laurelyn lets me put her down so I can finish this cake. It is quite a hot mess right now…

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Dairy Free Moist Chocolate Cake

I went 18 years before ever having chocolate. I was born with my dairy allergy, and like most people, my parents thought that all chocolate had milk in it. It wasn’t until I was cast in a play my senior year of high school that someone told me about dark chocolate, which does not contain milk. My character was scripted to eat her sister’s box of chocolates on stage, taking a bite out of each one and then putting them back. I brought up in the first read through that that was going to be a problem because of my allergy, only to be met with the prop manager looking at me with a quizzical eye and saying, “But you can have dark chocolate, right?” That play not only opened the world of theatre to me (which is still my life and passion to this day), but also gave me the best thing this world has to offer: CHOCOLATE!

Ever since that fateful day, I have been on a mission to learn how to make all the chocolate desserts I had heard so much about. Chocolate cake, chocolate chip cookies, hot chocolate, brownies, truffles, chocolate covered strawberries, and ganache are all things that I have successfully made without using a lick of dairy. One of my goals in life is to find a way to make a dairy free version of every chocolate delicacy that exists.

Which brings me to my all time favorite chocolate cake recipe. It’s moist, but not so dense that you feel like you’re eating fudge (or what I would imagine eating fudge would be like, as I have not figured out a way to make it without milk yet). It has a rich, chocolately taste that is to die for. Similarly to my vanilla cake recipe, I completely failed at getting the Pinterest slice of beautifully frosted cake shot. When I was photographing my process for both of these recipes, I was doing it for a birthday party and I did most of the baking after the kids had gone to sleep. Time was definitely not on my side, and I was focused on getting it done so that I could get to bed. Once I finally got the dinosaur cake to the party, the last thing that I was thinking about was getting a picture of a slice of cake. I was just relieved to have made it there with the thing still in tact! So please forgive my inexperience in writing food blog posts; live and learn!

This recipe is from my Hershey’s Recipe Collection book that my mom got for me ages ago. I love this book; it’s full of wonderful chocolate recipes. If you’re a chocoholic, then I definitely recommend it!

 

Ingredients:

-2 cups of sugar

-2 eggs

-1 cup of almond milk

-1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

-1 3/4 cups of flour

-3/4 cup of cocoa powder

-1 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder

-1 1/2 teaspoons of baking soda

-1 teaspoon of salt

-1/2 cup of vegetable oil

-1 cup of boiling water

 

The one and only substitution to make this recipe dairy free was to swap almond milk for regular milk. Easy peasy. Of course, soy milk or coconut milk would work fine too.

First, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour your pan, or put liners in your cupcake pan. This recipe will make two dozen cupcakes, or two 8″ rounds, or one 12.8″ x 9.5″ sheet cake.

Cream together the eggs and SIFTED sugar (you must sift the sugar, otherwise you’re likely to get lumps). I am a big believer in scraping the sides of the bowl before adding in a new ingredient. If you skip this tedious step, you will end up will lumps of batter on the sides that never got mixed in properly. So, scrape the sides of the bowl. Every time. Or you will regret it.

Next, SIFT in the flour and mix. Scrape the sides of the bowl.

Set your mixer to ‘stir’ and slowly add the milk and the vanilla extract. Scrape the sides of the bowl.

Then you SIFT in the cocoa powder and mix well. While it’s mixing, throw in the baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Once it’s all mixed in, slow your mixer down to the ‘stir’ setting once more, and add the vegetable oil. Then bump it up to speed 2 until it’s mixed in. Scrape the sides of the bowl.

Return the batter to the ‘stir’ setting and SLOWLY add the boiling water. Trust me, splashes of boiling water to the face hurt badly; take your time pouring it in. Once all the water is mixed in, scrape the sides of your bowl one more time and mix in the lumps until your spatula comes out looking like this:

The batter will be very thin

The batter will be very thin

Bake for 20-35 minutes (depending on if you’re making a sheet cake or cupcakes), or until the middle is springy to the touch and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

I didn’t even get a crappy pan shot of this cake for you guys… Epic fail. The next time I make it, I promise to get the Pinterest picture and update this pathetic post. But for now, you will have to trust me when I say that this cake is the best chocolate cake in the world. Unless you like dry cake, in which case you’ll hate this because it is very moist. But seriously, who in their right mind has ever said, “I’m really in the mood for chocolate cake. But dry cake; non of the moist crap.”

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My thoughts exactly Will Smith.