recipe

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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Double Barbie Frozen Cake: Redemption Edition

For those of you who have been following me know that I did a Frozen barbie cake for my girls’ birthday last November. It was the first time I had attempted a barbie cake and it didn’t turn out the way I wanted it to. The dolls were leaning because the structural integrity was so poor, the fondant seams were a mess, and the detailing was unfinished because I ran out of time.

I learned a lot from that cake.

A neighbor kid turned 5 earlier this month and had a Frozen party (of course!). For the first time I was on the fence about offering to do a cake. The baby has not been sleeping well; she usually wakes up 4 times a night, despite co-sleeping. This throws a wrench into any baking, because I usually get all of my cake work done at night once the girls are asleep. So with the baby’s schedule being so unpredictable, it seemed too risky to roll the dice this time. I would die if I wasn’t able to get a cake done after saying I would do it. Just when I was leaning strongly towards not doing it this time, my 4 year old asked me, “Mom, can you make a cake for my friend?” Looking into her big brown eyes brimming with excitement, I could not deny her request.

So I got in touch with my neighbor and told her that I would be happy to make her daughter a cake as a gift. “Maybe they’ll want something simple”, I said to myself. Kids love cupcakes, and cupcakes are easy! After browsing Pinterest, they sent me a picture of what the birthday girl wanted…

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Definitely not a cupcake. Of course she wanted a barbie cake. What 5 year old girl wouldn’t want this cake? BUT I DON’T KNOW IF I CAN DO THIS CAKE!!!

After the initial panic subsided, I actually thought about it and realized that I could make this cake. Sure, my first attempt at a barbie cake was kind of a disaster. BUT – – I learned a lot from that disaster:

  1. Bake the top layer in a bowl. That way, the shape of the dress is already there and won’t need to be carved.
  2. Don’t make the frosting in between the layers too thick. You want a thin layer, really. Enough to act as glue and add some flavor, but nothing like what you would put in a tiered cake. Too much frosting causes instability.
  3. Don’t pick a cake recipe that is super moist, because it doesn’t hold up well to stacking high or carving. This has always been an issue for me because I believe that there is nothing worse than dry cake. In my opinion, it doesn’t matter how pretty a cake looks if you get dry crumbs when you go to take a bite. The taste must match the beauty of the decorations, or else there’s no point. However, it’s very difficult to find recipes that are the perfect balance of moist yet sturdy.
  4. Chill out. No seriously–this cake needs to be chilled. Over and over again. So set aside enough time to do that.
  5. Details are key. I had to have enough time for the details of the dresses, otherwise it’s not a very interesting cake. Just a dome with dolls popping out.

That weekend was kind of busy for me, because aside from the birthday party, I also had committed to helping my mother-in-law with a jewelry party the night before. She is a stylist for Stella & Dot and one of her clients booked a party, where she brings all of her jewelry samples and the guests get to try everything on. These parties are always a lot of fun, but also a lot of work because my mother-in-law has a lot of samples. As in, it takes the two of us working together for an hour to set everything up. I knew that it was going to take up all of Friday night, and I knew that I couldn’t count on the baby sleeping. Since the birthday party was bright and early at 11 am Saturday morning, I knew that I had to get the cake done before I left for the Stella & Dot party on Friday evening or I would be screwed.

So I planned out my design. I found this YouTube video, which shows exactly how to make a single barbie cake. This is where I got the trick of baking the top tier in a bowl. Aside from the bowl cake, I knew I was going to need two 8″ rounds as well. I decided I was going to use this white cake recipe, swapping the milk for almond milk to make it dairy free. This recipe was perfect. The cake was strong enough to hold up to the stacking, but still moist and delicious. This will now be my go-to recipe for vanilla cake, because it’s kind of perfect in my opinion.

I decided to forgo the fondant this time around because it was already going to be challenging enough without adding the stress of frigging fondant. I wanted the frosting to be nice and firm, so I went with my fail-safe vanilla frosting. 4 ingredients: vegetable shortening, powdered sugar, a dash of almond milk and vanilla extract. Dairy free, delicious, and perfect for this job. One of these days, I’ll do a post with the recipe.

Elsa’s dress has a delicate ombré effect, which I decided to honor. Even though her dress doesn’t actually have snowflakes on it (those are only on the cape; can you tell I live with Frozen fanatics?), I couldn’t figure out a way to replicate the fancy ice shards seen on her skirt. If I was going to use fondant, I could have made scratches and dusted it with luster dust for sparkle. But scratch marks in buttercream just looked like I didn’t know how to frost properly. So, Elsa’s dress would need 4 colors: 3 shades of blue and white.

Anna’s dress has beautiful detailing along the hem of the skirt. The stripe at the bottom is a lighter shade of the blue of the skirt, but I wanted it to pop a bit more, so I decided I wanted to go with purple. A lot of artists had made that choice too, so I wasn’t too concerned about kids calling me out on it (except my own 4 year old, who is very detail oriented and noticed that it was wrong). The stems for the embroidered flowers are also a lighter tone of the blue of the skirt, but again I decided to go with a teal to make the design pop. I didn’t want to do all the work of piping all these details on if no one was going to notice them. Just like her sister, Anna was also going to require 4 colors: dark blue for her skirt, purple for the bottom stripe, and teal and fushia for the flowers.

Despite my well intentions of giving myself enough time to do this cake, motherhood got the better of me yet again and I wasn’t able to start it until Thursday night. Mind you, when I say ‘night’  I don’t mean right after dinner. I mean after the girls were in bed. Thankfully, God took mercy on my poor soul, and I was able to lay the baby down in her crib! Since I was going to be around people the next day, I had to make showering a priority. She was still sleeping when I got out, so I made a mad dash to the kitchen and got to baking! She slept long enough for me to get most of the batter done for the bowl cake; I had to fold the whipped egg whites in with her on my hip because she was not happy with Daddy.

I set the oven to 325° instead of 350° so the outside wouldn’t burn before the inside could bake. It ended up taking 70 long minutes to cook through, so if you do one of these cakes, be sure to plan for that extra bake time.

I hit the ground running Friday morning and baked the two 8″ rounds and made the frosting. The baking took awhile because I only have one 8″ pan. I contemplated using one of my 9″ pans so the cakes could bake at the same time, but I didn’t want to have to carve anything. I really didn’t want to mess anything up because I would not have the time to fix it. Coloring frosting takes for. ev. er. The dark blue for Anna’s dress didn’t turn out the way I wanted it to. The “dark blue” icing color that I bought looked more grey than blue. So I had to futz with it a bit, mixing in a lighter blue to get it to look blue. Note to self: buy more than 1 type of dark blue next time, so that I have more to work with!

Time was really getting away from me and I at least wanted to have the cake stacked and crumb coated before I had to leave. The last 8″ round was still a little warm, but I decided to flip it out of the pan anyways so it would cool faster.

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That was a bad idea.

Luckily it split in a nice line down the middle, so I was able to save it.

I followed the lead of my YouTube video and used a circle cookie cutter to create a well in the middle of the tiers for the dolls’ legs. This was a huge saving grace when it came to structural integrity! With my first barbie cake, I just stuck the dolls in the cake without removing any first, and the moment I did that, the cake started cracking. Cutting holes in the middle worked beautifully!

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I put my cracked cake at the bottom and patched it together with frosting. Luckily, it held up just fine and wasn’t a problem.

I put a thin layer of frosting on it to lock in the crumbs and popped it in the fridge while I went to the jewelry party.

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In case you were wondering what I did with the baby while I was working – I stuck her in her activity chair on top of the counter.

As I anticipated, I didn’t get home until 9 that night. But God took mercy on me again, and I was able to lay the baby down in her crib! I went straight to the kitchen and started working again.

The first step was to wrap up the dolls’ legs in plastic wrap to protect them from the frosting. I did this by putting the dolls back to back and taping their legs together. Then I wrapped their legs in plastic wrap and spun tape around the plastic to make sure it would stay put.

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I put the arms up so that they were out of the way, and then I slid them through the hole in the cake.

Using my spackling tool (which I only use on cakes, obviously), I marked where the two dresses met.

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Next, I took my extra large cake icer icing tip (Wilton #789) and piped the icing for each skirt on in horizontal stripes. I used a small round #2 tip to get the icing on the dolls’ hips, and used a toddler butter knife to smooth it out on their backsides because it was too small a space for my icing spatula.

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Next, I took my icing spatula and carefully smoothed the frosting. This was tricky with Elsa’s skirt in particular because of the ombré effect. I couldn’t just slab more icing on like I would with any other cake, because it would ruin the effect. You’ve really only got one shot at it, so make sure you use enough icing the first time you’re applying it and that you don’t scrape too much off when you’re smoothing it out. I started at the top, smoothing the flat part of the dome first. Then after wiping the spatula off, I lined it up vertically with the bottom of the skirt and smoothed the rest of it in one go.

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I wasn’t able to get the frosting as smooth as I wanted because I couldn’t scrape over it more than the one time. But the ombré effect turned out nicely.

By the time I was done icing the skirts, the baby woke up. So I popped it in the fridge and called it a night.

The next morning I woke up early, hoping that I was giving myself enough time to finish the detailing before we had to leave for the party. Luckily, the older two girls ended up sleeping in until 9:30 so I wasn’t getting interrupted every 5 minutes. But the baby was wide eyed and bushy tailed, so I still had my hands full.

Since Elsa’s dress doesn’t technically have snowflakes on it and since I did the ombré effect, I decided that Anna’s detailing was more vital and focused on her first.

I started by piping a straight purple line along the hem of her skirt using Wilton tip #47.

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Then I used my #2 tip and piped on the peaks.

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If you wanted to be precise, you could use a ruler and toothpick to mark out exactly where each peak should hit. I free handed it because ain’t nobody got time fo dat!

Continuing with the #2 tip, I filled in each peak.

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Then I smoothed it out with my handy dandy toddler knife.

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Now on to the flowers. I started with the long stems, working it from the tip of the peaks up. Again, if you have the time, then you can measure and mark before piping. But I was really cutting it close, so again, I free handed it. After the stems were piped, I used a different #2 tip and did the simple pink tulip. Then I went back to the green and piped on the smaller leaf design that’s in between each peak.

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This didn’t take that long, so I decided I had time for some snowflakes on Elsa. That was 100% free hand. I just took it one snowflake at a time, adding swirls to break it up. I then used a small closed star tip to pipe a line of white flowers along the seam where the two skirts meet so that it would look tidy.

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I ended up finishing at 10:30! Luckily the venue was only 5 minutes away and my oldest girl and I were able to get ready fast.

The birthday girl loved it! Seeing her face light up when I brought it in made all the work worth it.

And that is how I was able to conquer the barbie cake.

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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.

Basket of Roses Cake

My Mother-in-law’s birthday is today. When we got the flu over Christmas, I wasn’t sure if we were going to recover in time for me to do a cake for her. But, we got healthy just in the knick of time and the stars aligned just right, allowing me to bang this cake out in 2 days for her. Normally my cakes take a minimum of 3 days for me to complete because I’ve got 3 kids 4 and under. It’s taken me years to learn how to efficiently make cakes in the stop-and-go rhythm of motherhood. It’s hard to do cakes in piece meal, because once I start, I go into a zone and don’t want to be interrupted. Except, I’m ALWAYS getting interrupted.

Here’s what 2 minutes of cake decorating looks like for me now: put the baby in her seat; cut a hole at the bottom of my icing bag; tell the 2 year old that she can’t stand on a chair to watch, and take the  chair that she dragged into the kitchen back into the dining room; put coupler and icing tip in icing bag, and maybe even put icing in the bag; get snacks for suddenly starving children; pipe a quarter of basket weaving on the side of a 9″ cake; answer 4 year old’s questions about how I’m doing this technique; swat 2 year old’s hand away from the cake, as she’s standing on the chair that she dragged back into the kitchen.

It can get frustrating very quickly, because my thought process is being CONSTANTLY interrupted. I’ve lost count how many times the 2 year old has messed up the side of my cakes, because she was eating the icing off when I wasn’t looking. I typically lose sleep when I do a cake because it’s just easier to work at night when the girls are asleep. So why do I do this?

Because I love it.

It’s one of the only things I do for myself anymore. It’s a much needed creative outlet for this hibernating actress. So I learn to fully think out my designs before I start so that I know exactly what I need to do when I get in the kitchen. I research on my phone while I’m nursing, absorbing as much information from YouTube as I can on new techniques I can try. I’ve learned to break the whole process up into steps, and to spread the steps out over days, because it’s going to take me longer than a professional in a bakery. I let go of my desire to tunnel vision, and accept the interruptions. I make extra icing in anticipation of having to fix whatever the 2 year old is going to mess up.

Before this cake, I had never done a basket weave, piped a buttercream rose, or piped a buttercream leaf. This is by far the most technical cake I’ve ever endeavored. But every time I do a cake, I do something new, so that I’m always learning. Sometimes I crash and burn like I did with my mom’s piano cake (which I plan on redoing for her one day). But sometimes, like today, I hit it out of the park.

I really wanted to do a flower themed cake for my mother-in-law because gardening is her passion. She has one of the most beautiful gardens I’ve ever seen and she meticulously plans out each and every flower, tree, and bush. The over zealous part of me wanted to create a basket of different flowers, but I knew I didn’t have the time for it. Different flowers mean different colored frostings, which means more work. Plus, I would have had to learn how to pipe more than one type of flower. In 2 days. No way. I picked roses because they’re so classic and beautiful.

I watched this tutorial video on YouTube, which goes through how to do the basket weave technique, as well as how to pipe the roses. I followed her instructions step by step and was really happy with the results! If you are interested in learning how to make this type of cake, I strongly recommend watching the video.

My mother-in-law just got me a cookie dough recipe book for Christmas. In this book is a recipe for a egg-free chocolate chip cookie dough cake filling, so I knew that I wanted to try it out for her cake. The recipe is really easy. Normally I always add less almond milk when using it to substitute for heavy cream. But since this was going to be a filling for a cake, I wanted to be sure that it was wetter than actual cookie dough, so that it would spread easily. But even still, adding the whole 1/4 cup of almond milk instead of heavy cream like the recipe calls for made it too wet. I ended up adding an additional 1/4 cup of flour until it was the consistency I was looking for. If you don’t have to worry about allergies, then just follow the recipe. But I wanted to throw that out there for my fellow dairy allergy people.

Cookie Dough Filling from The Cookie Dough Lover’s Cookbook by, Lindsay Landis:

-1 1/2 sticks of butter

-1/2 cup white sugar

-1/2 cup brown sugar

-1/4 cup cream

-1 teaspoon vanilla extract

-1/2 teaspoon salt

-1/2 cup of flour

-1/2 cup mini chocolate chips

Prepare it the way you would normal cookie dough: cream the butter (or margarine, in my case) with the sugars; add the dry ingredients; add the milk; stir in chocolate chips. I used regular sized chocolate chips because they don’t make dark chocolate in the mini size. I don’t think it made any difference, but if you’re using dark chocolate and want the pieces to be smaller, just pulse them in a blender first.

I went with my go-to dairy-free moist vanilla cake, and did chocolate buttercream frosting since I needed the basket to be brown anyways. I wanted white roses, but didn’t have clear vanilla extract, so I flavored that icing with peppermint.

First thing is to bake your cakes; you’ll need 2 rounds for this design (mine are 9″). Once the cakes are cooled, dam and fill them (check out this great YouTube video on how to dam and fill cakes if you don’t know how).

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I decided to not level my cakes, because I hate doing it. It’s tedious and they weren’t that bad. After finishing the cake though, I wish I would have taken the time to do it because it made the basket weaving difficult. (You’ll want to level the cakes before filling and stacking.)

Then I dirty iced the cakes to lock the crumbs in. This technique is actually one that I’ve only recently learned, and one that I wish I would have known about years ago. Crumb coating makes a night and day difference when icing cakes! If you don’t know how to do it, watch this video on crumb coating.

Next, you’ll want to score the sides of the cake where you want the vertical lines of the basket to fall. I have a dry wall spackling tool that I used to do this, but the blunt edge of a chef knife would work as well. I spaced mine out too far originally, so I ended up cutting the spacing in half from what you see in this picture. But you get the idea.

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Then just take your time. I used a Wilton tip #47 for texture. The video will explain how to do the technique much better than I could, so go watch it if you haven’t already.

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It really wasn’t difficult after watching the tutorial video. Just take your time and follow your lines, and you’ll be fine.

Then I piped a rope detail along the edge of the top of the cake using a Wilton tip #18. The video shows you how to do this detail as well. It really helps finish the look off.

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Then I used a Wilton leaf tip and piped leaves around the outer circumference of the top of the cake.

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Then I said a prayer and tried my first buttercream rose. I used a Wilton tip #104.

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I was holding the tip upside-down, so the petals looked fat. Oops. I dumped that one back in the bowl of icing and did it right the second time. But then it flipped upside-down when I tried transferring it to the cake. Oops. So I carefully scraped it off and tried again.

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My buttercream was too soft, so it was impossible to get the very center of the roses to be as tight as they needed to be, and all of them leaned to one side. But for it being my first go at them, I am damn proud of these babies.

There were some gaps in between some of the flowers because I wasn’t able to lay them as closely as I wanted to. So I just filled them in with leafs and pretended that that was the plan all along. Fake it till you make it!

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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.

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.

Dinosaur Cupcake Cake Tutorial

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I offered to make a dinosaur cupcake cake for the daughter of one of my friends back in May, and decided it was the perfect opportunity to do my first baking post on my blog. My friend wanted both chocolate and vanilla cupcakes incorporated, and I also ended up using both vanilla and chocolate frostings in the design. I will be including the recipes for both cakes and frostings, but will give each recipe it’s own post. Otherwise this would be the longest blog post in the history of blog posts.

Click here for my vanilla cake recipe. Click here for my chocolate cake recipe.

**The other recipes are still on my to-do list. I wanted to get this post published, because it’s been sitting in my ‘drafts’ folder for weeks and I’m sick of sitting on it. Check back for the chocolate and vanilla buttercream recipes later.**

You will need a total of 20 cupcakes to make the dinosaur, a lot of chocolate frosting, a very small amount of black frosting, and an even smaller amount of white frosting. As you can see from the picture, I added “grass” cupcakes around the dinosaur. In retrospect, I wish that I would have used mini-cupcakes for the grass because, as you can see from the picture, there are empty spots where I couldn’t fit a regular sized cupcake. Or you could always pipe the grass directly onto the cake board, which would really be the only way that you could be sure to fill in every nook and cranny. Let me just state here and now that I am by no means a professional cake decorator, nor do I aspire to be. I’ve never even taken a decorating class. This is my hobby. I’m completely self taught, and therefore make a lot of mistakes because I’m making this up as I go along. But I learn from my mistakes, and get better with each cake I do.

Once you have your cupcakes baked and cooled and your frostings tinted and ready to go, lay out your cake board. I used an 11 x 14 size, but wished I had gone one size up because it was a little difficult to get all of the necessary cupcakes to fit on the board. Live and learn.

A quick tip–when you’re not using your frosting, keep the bowl covered with a damp paper towel so it doesn’t dry out. Be sure that the paper towel is not dripping though, because the extra water will ruin the consistency of the frosting.

The first step is to lay out the cupcakes in the desired shape (in this case, a dinosaur). I based my dinosaur shape off of this pin that I found on Pinterest. I went with a T-Rex because if you’re doing a dinosaur cake, you should pick the most badass dino out there. Plus, the shape is easy to translate into cupcakes.

Can you see the T-Rex?

Can you see the T-Rex?

Once you’re happy with the shape, SECURE THE CUPCAKES TO THE BOARD. This is a very important step. It would be a crying shame to do all this work just to have the cupcakes fall off the board during transit. Frosting is a cake decorator’s glue. Just put a dab on the bottom of each cupcake and place back on the board. Once that frosting hardens, those babies aren’t going anywhere.

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After all the cupcakes have been secured, the fun part begins. The trick to cupcake cakes is making the cupcakes appear to be one surface from the top. To do this, you have to carry your piping from one cupcake to the next. I went with a swirl design because quite frankly, it’s just the easiest to accomplish this seamless look. I chose to go with the Wilton tip #18, which looks like this:

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Oops–skipped a step. If you do not know how to properly insert a coupler into your icing bag, you unscrew the ring and push the coupler as far down the icing bag as you can.

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Then you’ll want to trim the bag where the bottom most groove hits (notated by the black arrow). After the bag is trimmed, gently push the coupler down until it fits snugly at the bottom, put the icing tip on, and secure it with the coupler ring.

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Fold the icing bag down halfway, and fill it with your chocolate icing, being careful not to allow too many air bubbles in. Don’t fill the bag more than halfway because if it’s too full, it will spill out of the top while you’re piping and make a big mess. Do your best to burp out any air bubbles, and twist the top shut tight.

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I decided to make my dinosaur brown instead of green like the picture of my inspiration cake, because I’ve seen Jurassic Park a million times and know that T-Rexs are brown. Plus I hate coloring frosting, and avoid it at all costs. Plus chocolate frosting is amazing.

To do the swirl design, start on a cupcake on the edge (ex: the one that will have the dino’s eye or mouth). Pipe a dot in the center of the cupcake and let it rise, and without releasing pressure, begin to swirl the frosting around that initial dot. Continue to swirl around until you reach the outer rim of the cupcake. You have to be aware ahead of time of which cupcake you are going to next so that you can continue the line from one cupcake to the next.

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As you can see from the picture, the next cupcake’s swirl will start from the outside and work in. Don’t try to connect this cupcake to another cupcake, because you’ll mess up the swirl design. You can only connect two cupcakes to each other. Then you have to fill in the gaps afterwards.

There was a section that got away from me while I was trying to fill in some of these gaps.

Ugly piping

Ugly piping

I took my flat icing spatula and carefully removed the offending sections.

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Then I tried again. I did straight lines from one cupcake to the next to fill in the gap, and made new swirls along the edges of the ones that needed it, doing my best to tuck the ends of the swirls in.

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The frosting “bridges” over the bigger gaps ended up collapsing on me, so I finally wised up and piped frosting down into the gap, filling it from the cake board all the way up, and adding swirls on top of it to make it look like it all flowed together. Of course, I did this fix literally minutes before we left, so I didn’t get a picture of it. But trust me, it looked a lot better. Learn from my mistake, and fill the holes up with frosting. It’s messy when you’re serving those sections but it looks so much better as a cohesive piece.

The Dinosaur after finishing the chocolate frosting layer

The Dinosaur after finishing the chocolate frosting layer

Now it’s time to add the details so that other people can tell that it’s a dinosaur. The detailing for this was actually pretty easy: one eye (since this is meant to be a profile shot), a mouth, claws on the foot and hand, and spine detailing.

I used the #7 Wilton tip for the eye.

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I then piped the outline of the eye, and filled it in. Easy peasy.

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For all of the black frosting details (the pupil of the eye, the outline of the mouth, the claws, and the spine detailing) I used a #3 Wilton tip.

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Tinting homemade frosting to black has proven to be very challenging for me in the past. I’ve only ever tried Wilton’s black icing tint, and honestly I don’t like Wilton’s icing tints. The colors don’t always turn out the way I hoped and they almost always give a funky taste to the frosting. I’ve used AmeriColor before, and I much prefer that brand. But I have to order it online because I can’t find it in any stores where I live. I didn’t have time to order any before this party, so I made life easy on myself and picked up a pre-made black icing from the grocery store and used that. I tried sticking the container itself directly in the piping bag, but it was too hard to squeeze. So I just squeezed it from the container into my bag. It tasted much better than the Wilton stuff and the color was a perfect black, unlike the purple-ish black you get with Wilton.

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For the mouth I piped a large V on one of the cupcakes, and then piped some short, straight lines in white (also using #3 Wilton tip) for the teeth. Easy.

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The claws were just triangles that I piped and then filled in. Easy.

Hand claws

Hand claws

Foot claws

Foot claws

I did all of the decorating work for this cake the morning of the party, so I was really pressed for time (we ended up being half an hour late to the party). In the moment, it seemed best (and by best I mean easiest) to just continue using the same tiny icing tip to pipe the spine detail rather than take the 30 seconds to switch it out for one with a larger opening. In truth, I’m not entirely happy with how this part turned out. It would have looked much better if the lines were bigger. Live and learn. I just piped a zig-zag going from one end to the other over and over again until it was completely filled in.

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And voila! Your dino is done.

On to the grass cupcakes. Like I mentioned earlier, I hate coloring frosting. It’s hard to get the color just right, and for whatever reason, it tends to separate on me (meaning that the frosting has white streaks through the color). Food coloring never streaks on me, and never gives my frosting a funky taste. But it’s tricky using it with frosting because of it’s liquid form; it will quickly make your frosting runny. So even though I knew I would get a better grass color using proper frosting tint, I chose taste over color and went with food coloring. So my grass was far from the perfect green, but it was still green and it tasted good. To pipe these I used the Wilton grass tip #233.

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The face of the cupcake shows through the grass piping, so you have to ice a thin layer with an icing spatula before you start piping.

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Starting from the outside, I piped little “tuffs” of grass in a circle around the cupcake, working my way in. Start your tip right on the cupcake and quickly pull up, releasing pressure fairly quickly. I never worry about every tuff looking exactly the same because it’s supposed to be grass for goodness sake. Don’t over think it.

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Once all of your grass is done, secure those cupcakes on the board, doing your best to fill it in.

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And just like that, you have an awesome dinosaur cupcake cake! And honestly–it’s not that hard. But it is sure to impress your guests! Mine was a hit at the party : )

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I know what you’re wondering: how did I manage to get all of this done with the kids? Answer: let them terrorize the house while I plugged away working.

Baby Ary sitting in my cookie cutter drawer.

Baby Ary sitting in my cookie cutter drawer.

You’ve gotta pick and chose your battles, folks.

Dairy Free Moist Vanilla Cake

Like the complete sham that I am, I neglected to get the quintessential Pinterest picture of a single piece of beautifully frosted cake for this recipe. This is my very first recipe post and I’ve already screwed up. What ever will I do with myself?

Although my “finished” product picture is just a crappy pan shot, please trust me when I say that this cake is DELICIOUS. I refuse to produce dry cake, so white cake had been a challenge for me for awhile. Every recipe that I tried was dry, uninspiring, and sad. No one wants to eat sad cake; cake should make you feel happy. This cake makes people happy. It’s moist, fluffy, and delicate, but not so delicate that it can’t hold it’s own. I use this recipe for cupcakes all the time, and they stay put together as you peel the wrapper off. It also works well for layer cakes, standing proudly without any sag.

Like most of the recipes I use, this is not of my own invention. But let’s be honest here–very few people can actually take credit for “inventing” a recipe, and most of them probably died a very long time ago. We all borrow from one another, adding our own tweak here and there. Any cake recipe starts with the same foundation: flour, sugar, fat [butter, shortening, oil], and leavening ingredients [eggs, baking soda, baking powder]. I think it’s silly for anyone to get their panties in a bunch over someone else sharing THEIR recipe; no one has exclusive rights to any one recipe because IT’S BEEN DONE BEFORE. Many times. Before you were born even. But I digress. I will always give credit where credit is earned; I’m not here to try to take credit for anything that is not truly mine. However I refuse to feel guilty for “stealing” someone else’s recipes. If you don’t want people sharing your stuff, then don’t put it on the internet.

This recipe is from Allrecipes.com and can be found here.

Ingredients you will need:

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-1/2 cup of vegetable shortening

-3 teaspoons of water

-2 cups of sugar

-3 egg yolks

-1 whole egg

-2 teaspoons of vanilla extract

-2 cups of flour

-1/2 cup of almond milk

-1/2 teaspoon of salt

-1 teaspoon of baking soda

-1 teaspoon of baking powder

-1 cup of boiling water

There was only one substitution I made to make this into a non-dairy cake: I swapped almond milk for buttermilk. Soy milk is a better substitution for buttermilk because you can “sour” it by adding distilled white vinegar or lemon juice to it. I usually add 4 teaspoons of either the vinegar or the lemon juice for every 1 cup of milk. So for this recipe, use 2 teaspoons. But, you cannot “sour” almond milk. It gets curdled and ruins the overall consistency of the cake. The reason I chose to use almond milk is because my youngest daughter used to have a soy intolerance. She seems to have grown out of it, but as she’s only 1, I’d rather be safe than sorry. The almond milk works fine as a substitute, but if you can use soured soy milk, do that instead.

First things first–preheat the oven to 350 degrees. If you are doing a cake, then grease and flour the pan; if you are doing cupcakes like me, put the liners in (this recipe will make 2 dozen cupcakes, or two 8″ rounds, or one 12.8″ x 9.5″ sheet cake).

Then you’ll want to enlist the help of adorable tiny humans in aprons to be your assistants.

The sweetest thing

The sweetest thing

Now, in a large mixing bowl, cream the shortening with the water with the back of a spoon. They will not incorporate; you just want to soften the shortening. If you ever use a baking recipe that requires shortening, always soften it with water first. The ratio is 6 teaspoons of water for every 1 cup of shortening.

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Next, sift the sugar into the shortening/water mixture, and cream until fluffy (on my Kitchen Aid mixer, I start at the number 2 speed and work up to the number 4 speed for a minute or so). YOU MUST SIFT THE SUGAR. Unless you like lumps in your cake, in which case don’t bother with the sifting.

Also, the kids LOVE the sifting part

Also, the kids LOVE the sifting part

The next step is one that will repeat: scrape the sides of the bowl. To me, this is so important, because otherwise you end up with lumps of ingredients on the sides of your bowl that never got mixed in with the rest of the batter. So every time you add an ingredient you must scrape the bowl before adding the next thing. Yes it’s tedious and you’ll want to skip it every time, but trust me–it’s worth it.

Now it’s time to add the eggs. If you don’t know how to separate eggs, here’s how I do it:

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Crack the egg, and gently move the yolk from one part of the shell to the other, allowing the egg white to fall into a bowl. Now the rule with separating eggs goes as such: it’s ok to get a bit of white in your yolk, but you can’t have any yolk in your whites. If you’re making something that requires egg whites, there absolutely cannot be even a spot of yolk in them. The whites will not whip up properly if there is. Egg yolks aren’t as picky; they’re ok if a bit of the white comes along for the ride.

Add each egg yolk and the whole egg one at a time, beating well in between each one. The mixture will get fluffy, as such:

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Scrape the sides of the bowl, then add the vanilla extract and mix.

Sift the flour in, and mix until well incorporated. Scrape the sides of the bowl.

While the mixer is on the ‘stir’ setting, slowly pour the milk in. After all the milk has been added, scrape the sides of the bowl.

Add the salt, baking powder and baking soda, and mix. Then scrape the sides of the bowl.

Again, while the mixer is on ‘stir’, SLOWLY pour the boiling water in (please be careful; you don’t want to add it in too fast and get a splash of boiling water to the face). After all of the water has been added, scrape the sides of the bowl one last time and mix in any lumps so that when you lift your flat spatula, it looks like this:

The batter will be very thin

The batter will be very thin

Bake at 350 degrees in a greased pan for 20-30 minutes (depending on if you’re making cupcakes or a sheet cake). You’ll know that the cake is done when the middle is springy to the touch, and when a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean.

Trust me--they're delicious!

Trust me–they’re delicious!

Let the cake cool completely before frosting, and enjoy!

 

My Eggo is Prego: 17 Weeks

17 Weeks

17 Weeks

 

This week started on Mother’s Day, so I expected to be able to take a nice picture with my hair done and maybe even some makeup (gasp!). However, all plans went SPLAT! on the floor that morning when Baby Ary threw up her water. Poor thing ended up getting the nasty stomach bug that Tyler and I had just recovered from. We had planned to go to a carnival with my in-laws that had set up in a parking lot for the week, and eat an early dinner at a nice restaurant. Eowyn was still healthy, and she had been looking forward to the carnival all week. It had been a tough week for our little 3 year old with Mom and Dad being sick, and we really didn’t want to top it off by canceling our carnival plans. So we sent her off with Afi & Mimi (Tyler’s parents) to have the fun day that we had planned, while Tyler & I stayed home and took care of Baby.

Before I was a mom, I didn’t really get the whole Mother’s Day and Father’s Day thing. It seemed mostly to be just another holiday created by Hallmark and Hershey’s to guilt consumers into buying stuff they otherwise would not. Since becoming a mom, and realizing the level of sacrifice made in raising these tiny humans, I really look forward to Mother’s Day. Motherhood is hands down the hardest job I’ve ever had (or ever will have). So for there to be a day where we all take a break from the hustle and bustle of life to say ‘thank you’ to the people who have sacrificed everything in order to give you everything is a beautiful thing.

It’s easy to build up expectations leading up to Mother’s Day. ‘Queen for a Day’ sounds so lovely; sleeping in because the husband got the kids, breakfast in bed, a shower before midnight, uninterrupted time to do your hair and makeup, and NO COOKING. Sounds too good to be true, really. Probably because it is too good to be true. The fact of the matter is, once you become a parent, the job never ends. I’m sure that even after I die, I will still be praying and petitioning for my children every day from heaven. It would be impossible to payback our mothers and fathers for all that they’ve done in a measly 24 hours; no one day could possibly live up to the unrealistic expectation that we’re sold in commercials.

So when our Mother’s Day plans were ruined for the 3rd year in a row, there was a part of me that wanted to be pissed. Not at Baby, of course; just at life. After I spend day in and day out giving all of me, I deserve one day out of 365 that’s about me, damn it! But there in lies the danger. This entitlement is poison that will put bitterness into your heart. And once bitterness is planted, it festers and grows faster than any garden weed. It will destroy you if you allow it into your life.

So instead of making it about me, I did what we mothers do: I put aside myself and gave my everything to my family. I chose to not be jealous of the fun day that my in-laws got to spend with my oldest daughter, but instead rejoiced that my little girl had an “awesome” day (her words). Instead, I caught vomit and cuddled the sickness out of our youngest all day. Instead of filling my heart with bitterness, I filled it with love and let that love pour over my family.

This weeks picture is what motherhood looks like: never getting around to changing out of your pajamas, hair uncombed, and dark circles. I am not ashamed to show you the truth, because to lay self aside for others is the most beautiful thing one could ever do with their life.

The rest of the week had it’s ups and downs.

The weather’s been warming up, so the girls and I had a picnic on Wednesday:

Baby Ary's trying to pose like her sissy

Baby Ary’s trying to pose like her sissy

Poor Eowyn ended up getting the stomach bug later that night, so Daddy and I were up half the night with her.

I got to pass on a childhood memory with my girls by making strawberry shortcakes with them like how my mom used to do with my sister and I:

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We went on a couple walks through our neighborhood, and met one of our neighbors. They have 4 kids and seem like really nice people. I’m very glad that the weather is finally warming up so we can finally start meeting people out here.

The girls exploring in one of the empty lots of our neighborhood during one of our walks

The girls exploring in one of the empty lots of our neighborhood during one of our walks

As far as my pregnancy goes, I’ve had quite a bit of hip pain this week. My hips are stretching out in preparation for New Baby’s inevitable growth spurt, and it is far from comfortable. There have been many days that ended with me limping up the stairs because it’s hard to lift my legs after a long day of chasing the other two. Tis but a phase that shall pass.

My taste bubs continue to be very picky. I suddenly can’t stand the pickle chips that I had been putting in my deli sandwiches, and have also not been that into roast beef this week. I do however like peanut butter again. Peanut butter and honey toast has become a staple this week. I’m also really into avocados. We had a dutch apple pie for dessert after dinner one night, and I may have been responsible for eating most of it. Not in one sitting, mind you. Soooo good!

I’m not sleeping well either, but this happened to me with both of my other pregnancies too. Oh well; I gave up on sleep 2 children ago.

As always, I’ll close with some baby stats:

-Baby is about the size of a palm, at 5 inches long (crown to rump) and weighing in at about 5 ounces

-Baby is beginning to form body fat

-Baby is practicing sucking and swallowing

-Baby’s heart rate is now regulated by the brain (no more spontaneous beats), and is averaging around 140-150 beats per minute (every time the doctor has checked our baby’s heart rate, it’s been in the 150’s)

 

Also, this is the last week of my 4th month! Thanks to the stomach plague, I’m back down to my pre-pregnancy weight, but that won’t last long! Pretty soon I will have quite the bump to show off.

One more thing before I let you go enjoy your Sunday–the girls and I made blueberry french toast roll ups for breakfast this morning.

Blueberry French Toast Roll Ups

Blueberry French Toast Roll Ups

 

In case you’re wondering–yes, they were as good as they look! Do yourself a favor and click here for the recipe so you can enjoy them too!

 

Happy Sunday, everyone!

 

A Perfect Spring Day

Have you ever been so happy that it made your face hurt because you were smiling so much?

I don’t know what it is about today, but it is absolute perfection.

Maybe it’s the homemade soup that been simmering it’s rich, hearty smell throughout the house all day, (recipe courtesy of The Candid Appetite ).

Spicy Sausage, Kale, and Potato Soup

 

Or the perfect 65 degree weather, accented with the lightest touch of a cool breeze that carries the chirping of birds.

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Perhaps it’s the sky, which is the most beautiful blue with the biggest, poofiest white clouds.

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I know that spending some one on one time with Baby Ary outside while her sister napped had a lot to do with it.

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After our adventures outside, Baby went down for a nap, and now I am enjoying the quiet of the house with my big band/ swing music softly playing against the lovely sound of spring that is coming in through the windows. Growing up in Southern California, I never really experienced a proper winter or proper spring, because it’s pretty much always summer there. After toughing through my first Wisconsin winter (which was the worst this state has seen in 40 years, thank you very much), I am in LOVE with spring! I finally get the hype behind this wonderful transitional season. I loved the snow, but this California girl needed some SUNSHINE!

Here’s hoping your day has been as beautiful as mine ❤

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