Thursday, December 22, 2011

How to Make Christmas Cupcakes in a Jar

Last night* I put my cupcake in a jar planning to good use and made just over two and a half dozen cupcakes in jars to give out as holiday gifts. Overall, this project was not terribly difficult, but it did have many repetitive steps and could be considered tedious at times. Believe it or not, I prefer making complicated decorated cakes to making cupcakes or cookies or really doing any project that involves a lot of repetition. Thankfully my husband stepped in and helped me with the process of decorating the jars. Having company always makes a repetitive project more fun!

The good news is that these carrot cake cake cupcakes with cream cheese frosting, adorably packaged in jars, were very well received as gifts. Seeing others delighted at something I, or in this case we, made always makes a project worthwhile for me.

Here are the steps I took to complete this project:

1) Prepare your jars.
I used 8oz Ball Regular Mouth Quilted Crystal Jelly Jars. I purchased mine at my local Publix grocery store for about $9 per case of 12. To prepare them for this project, I washed them in hot soapy water and rinsed them well. Then I laid them out on paper towels to dry.

2) Bake your cupcakes and make your frosting. I do not have any pictures of this part of the process. I chose to spray the muffin tins with non-stick spray and bake the cupcakes without using paper liners.

3) While the cupcakes are cooling, decorate your jars.

I used some Christmas scrap booking card stock I had previously purchased for 75% off at a Michael's after Christmas sale to decorate my jars. With my husband's much appreciated help :), I traced the center circle of the jar cover on to the card stock and cut them out. I then hot glued the card stock circles to the tops of the jars. The finished products looked like this:

4) Cut the cooled cupcakes in half. Place the bottom half of the cupcake in the jar. Using a large piping tip on your piping bag, pipe some of your frosting of choice on top of the cupcake bottom. Then add the cupcake top. You may have to squish it in a bit to make it fit. Finally, pipe some frosting in over the cupcake top and add your festive decorative sprinkles of choice.

5) Place the cover on your jar and add the wooden spoon. I used this Martha Stewart baker's twine I purchased at Michael's to secure the wooden spoon.

I tied the twine around the glass jar just under the lip of the metal jar cover. However, as both my husband and I handed out the cupcake jars out to our coworkers we discovered that the twine loop and the spoon was slipping off the jar. We solved the problem by pushing the twine loop back up the jar and up over the metal jar top. To make sure the spoons are securely secured I would recommend taking this approach from the beginning and tying the loop tightly around the glass jar just under the metal jar top and then pulling it up over the bottom lip of the jar top. This will ensure that when you slip the wooden spoon under the twine loop it is fastened securely.

And that's it! Enjoy handing these cupcakes in adorable decorated jars out to your friends and family!

*I began writing this post the day after I completed this project and I am attempting to publish it dated for that day 12/22/2011.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Red Velvet Chocolate Chip Cookies: Holiday Baking Contest Entry

Though I highly doubt any of you out there are waiting on baited breath for me to reveal my entry in the recent PattyCakes Holiday Cake Competition, I thought it was time I spilled the details. So drumroll please...I made Red Velvet Chocolate Chip Cookies with a white chocolate cream cheese glaze. The cookies are decorated with some red sanding sugar.

I first learned of the PattyCakes competition last year, but I was due with my son, Trevor, in a few months and I wasn't up to entering. This year I decided I would put myself out there and enter my first competition!
The competition featured Holiday Cakes but also had a "Down Home Dessert Cafe" category, which is what I entered. I struggled with the decision as to what I should make and thought I would enter these, but in the end  I decided to try a red velvet cookie. Red velvet is a staple of the holiday season, but I thought in cookie form, the red velvet would be a bit more unexpected. I finished the cookies with a cream cheese and white chocolate glaze and dipped them in a bit of sanding sugar.

I did not place this year, but I was proud of myself for following through and showing up to compete. With two small children, a husband, and a part-time job in the mix I don't always take the time to nuture my passions. Going to the contest let me spend a few hours among people who are just as passionate as I am about baking and caking and it was wonderful to experience that.

I also got to spend some time with one of my best friends Michele who lives right around the corner from where the competition was held. Michele is special to me for many reasons, but it was particularly fitting that she should be able to attend my first baking competition with me. Sometime back in 2005, I believe, Michele got tired of hearing about me mixing up giant batches of cake or other baked goods with a hand-held mixer. She got all my friends together and they chipped in and surprised me with a Kitchen-Aid stand mixer for Christmas that year. It still brings tears to my eyes to think about my friends, in their early twenties and just starting out in life, to help me out that way. I am especially thankful to Michele who, for whatever reason, believes in me. When she gave me the mixer she said, "I expect great things from you." I have never forgotten it and I intend to live up to those big expectations!

So, this post ended up being about a lot more than the red velvet cookies. However, I did think the cookies tasted good. They were chewy and not too dense and the glaze and sanding sugar added a little extra something. Packaged in a holiday cupcake wrapper and a small clear cellophane bag, as I had them at the competition, they would make a nice gift to take to a Holiday gathering.

Red Velvet Chocolate Chip Cookies

makes 12-15 cookies

1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1 teaspoon red food coloring
1/2 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375.

Cream butter and sugars together until fluffy in the bowl of an electric mixer. Add egg and vanilla and combine until smooth. Beat in red food coloring. Stir in cocoa, flour, baking soda and salt until just combined, scraping down the sides when needed. Fold in chocolate chips.

Using an ice cream scoop, scoop out 1-2 tablespoons of dough and set on baking sheet. Bake for 10-12 minutes.

White Chocolate Cream Cheese Glaze
a KT Kakes original

Over low heat melt 2 4oz bars of Ghiradelli White Baking Chocolate and 4oz of Cream Cheese. Stir until melted and smooth.

Finish the cookies by dipping in sanding sugar the color of your choice.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Pig Smash Cake and Cupcakes: Custom Cakes

 I was so excited to make this pig smash cake and pig cupcakes for a little girl's first birthday. Her Mom had chosen "This Little Piggie" as the theme which I think is just such a cute idea for a baby girl's first birthday.  Everything was just so pink and girly and fun to make!

Here's a close up of the smash cake. I thought she needed some pretty eyelashes and a bow :) The smash cake and cupcakes are white cake with vanilla buttercream frosting and fondant accents.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Holiday Whoopie Pies- Baking Contest Reject

These festive whoopie pies have a little of everything. The cookies have a rich chocolate flavor, the creamy filling has the warm taste of peppermint, and the crushed peppermint gives them a bit of crunch. On paper, or on my blog, they sound like the perfect holiday treat, and yet they left me sorely disappointed.  

I had selected this recipe (part of it is Paula Deen's- the filling- and part of it is my Mom's -the cookie) a month or so ago for a Holiday baking contest. I was very excited about the possibilities of combining a traditional holiday family recipe with some of my favorite flavors; chocolate and peppermint. In the end though, I found these whoopie pies to be much too sweet, and I like sweet things.

Needless to say, these will not be my entry in the baking contest, which is tomorrow. Luckily, I had another idea in my apron pocket. More on that later.

These are not the tastiest cookies in the world, so I'll spare you the recipe. I still had to post about them though because they sure do look pretty, don't you think?

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Cupcakes in a Jar- My Holiday Project Planning

Like many of you, I am sure, several months back I decided to play with fire and check out I had heard much talk about this website, and I say "play with fire" because from what I had heard, I was quite certain this site had the potential to suck even more from my ever dwindling well of free time. Oh, and it has most certainly lived up to that potential!

I mostly use Pinterest to catologue all the wonderful cakes and baked goods I want to make. One of the most intriguing ideas I have seen on the site is for cupcakes in a jar. Putting desserts in jars seems to be a current trend and I am in the process of gathering supplies to hop on board this train of sweet jarred cuteness this Holiday Season. In my mad dash to buy mason jars and adorable tiny and earth-friendly wooden spoons I realized maybe I was putting the cart before the horse. So this post is basically a list of the best links I think the Web has to offer on making and jarring cupcakes. I hope it helps me with my Holiday baking project and I am sharing in case it might help you too!

1) Martha's Buttermilk Cupcakes in a Jar. This recipe does not offer instructions on how to jar the cupcake but I feel it is worth noting that Martha has been putting cupcakes in jars since the Spring of 2009.
2) This post on Glorious Treats has instructions but omits how to put the lid on the jar. Since I have heard stories about the process of boiling the mason jar to seal the lid from my canning friends, this is something I  definitely an area where I want more details. Also, she uses cupcake liners in this recipe whereas I have seen others say they omit them to eliminate the ridges and give the cakes a smooth look in the jars.
3) Cakies has a post on jarred cupcakes and the instructions are fairly descriptive and include information on how to actually bake the cupcake in a jar
4) I like this post because it gives some tips for decorating the jars. To me, especially because these will be Holiday gifts, the decoration of the jar is almost as important as the cake inside it.
5) These instructions show you how to make the cupcakes in 4 ounce jars, instead of the 8 ounce jars, and she also makes an adorable printed label for the top of the jars.
6) These peppermint fudge cupcakes in a jar would be perfect for Christmas gifts! It looks like 4 ounce jars are used here, and I have purchased 8 ounce jars. However, if you add the step of baking the cupcakes in a muffin tin and halve them, and frost between the layers this would work in 8 ounce jars as well.

Good luck to you if you are trying cupcakes in a jar for the first time this Holiday Season, and wish me luck too, please!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Mickey Mouse Clubhouse Cake: Custom Cake

This is a custom fondant covered and decorated cake that was requested by a friend of mine for her sweet little girl's second birthday. Selina loves Mickey Mouse Clubhouse so this was the perfect cake for her.

This is the first time I added elements on wires to a cake. They were fairly easy to work with, although I opted to place the wires in plastic stirrer straws so they would not have direct contact with the cake, and this made them a little more difficult to manipulate.

Here it is from the back.

Here is the full cake with Mickey Mouse Clubhouse figurines.

The cake was inspired by this picture my friend sent me. The flavors are marble cake with chocolate buttercream.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Pumpkin Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

One of the things I like most about baking and caking is the process by which a project "comes together". For me, this process is often a string of random ideas and happy coincidences. I found the inspiration for these Fall themed cupcakes as I was browsing Melissa Diamond's blog at Her turkey cake and Fall cupcakes caught my attention because they were so colorful and fun. As luck would have it- happy coincidence- :), I had some of the Fall leaves sprinkles used to decorate the cupcakes on hand.

When I ran across the Fall tree decoration idea, I was already planning to make some pumpkin cupcakes topped with my favorite cream cheese frosting. I thought these tree decorations would pull the cupcakes together so nicely. After all, a pumpkin flavored cupcake with cream cheese frosting definitely tastes like Fall and with these colorful Autumn trees on top they look like Fall too.

So now I just needed a great pumpkin cupcake recipe. I wanted a recipe that would knock my socks off and wondered who I should turn to: Paula?, Duff Goldman from Ace of Cakes? Their recipes looked good, but they incorporated chocolate, and I wanted a traditional pumpkin cupcake recipe. I considered Brown Eyed Baker's recipe, but it called for cake flour, and I have found my trusty King Arthur's All Purpose Flour makes the best cupcakes. I also perused the 130 options on In the end, I went with Martha, I trusted her to do a classic right, and my trust was not misplaced: These cupcakes are scrumptious! The cake is moist and only slightly sweet and the cream cheese frosting adds a perfect extra bit of sweetness.Martha also suggests that you use your favorite cream cheese froting recipe to ice the cupcakes, and I definitely have one of those!

I followed the recipe as is, with only two minor changes. I did not use canned pumpkin. Instead, I roasted a small pie pumpkin in the oven and pureed it in my trusty chopper attachment for the Cuisinart stick blender. Michelle over at Cook Au Vin, loves pumpkin in recipes and uses fresh instead of canned because it is so easy to prepare the fresh pumpkin. I agree that roasting and making the pumpkin into a puree was no big deal, but I will say that you need to have a very good knife before you attempt to cut the pumpkin in half to roast it. I thought our knives were in good shape, but that pie pumpkin let me know I was sadly mistaken. I ended up hacking the top of the pumpkin off with a paring knife, and roasting it upside down. However, I digress. I also did not have ground allspice, so I omitted it.

I will include Martha's pumpkin cupcake recipe below. If you are interested in the Fall tree decorations you can see the tutorial I followed here.

Pumpkin Cupcakes


2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon coarse salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1 cup packed light-brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 can (15 ounces) pumpkin puree


1.Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line cupcake pans with paper liners; set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and allspice; set aside.

2.In a large bowl, whisk together, brown sugar, granulated sugar, butter, and eggs. Add dry ingredients, and whisk until smooth. Whisk in pumpkin puree.

3.Divide batter evenly among liners, filling each about halfway. Bake until tops spring back when touched, and a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes, rotating pans once if needed. Transfer to a wire rack; let cool completely.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Pistachio Cake with Honey Buttercream: Classic Cakes

As my own birthday approached this past September I found my head, not unusually, filled with thoughts of cake. I wanted to try something different, but not so outlandish that I would risk ending up with a flavor I didn't dig. I started out thinking, "neopolitan cake." Then I thought, "No, those flavors are too simple, what about spumoni cake?" Lastly, I thought, "The pistachio part of the spumoni cake is probably the best, I wonder if I can find a good pistachio cake recipe??" And so go the thoughts of a cake obsessed lady with a knack for Internet searches.

This time around, the product of my Internet searching that piqued my interest the most was Baked's Pistachio Cake with Honey Buttercream and it resides on Oprah's website. Pistachio infused cake? Fluffy buttercream icing with a hint of honey? Sign me up!

Unfortunately, life got in the way, and I did not get to make this cake until October. I guess there was a bigger plan for it though, because instead of my 34th birthday cake, it became a gift for my Grandmother's 80th birthday; which is, as far as birthdays go, a much bigger deal!

As it turns out, this pistachio cake was chosen as one of 10 "sweet creations" in celebration of "O" Magazine's tenth birthday. Also, when I posted about making this cake on the KT Kakes Facebook page Josie over at Pink Parsley mentioned she had made this cake for her birthday a while back. She also blogged it and her write up on it is, as usual dead on. Her observations were also similar to my own. I agree that the cake is delicious but the frosting recipe is the real find here. It is not too sweet and comes together so silky, smooth, and is really SO good! So, I won't re-invent the wheel any further, if you want the details on making this cake you can head over to Josie's blog post.

I linked to the recipe above, but for simplicity's sake, I will also paste it in below. The only change I made was to the number and size of pans I used to bake the cake. The recipe is for a traditional layer cake with 3 8 inch layers, but I only had two 8 inch pans. So instead, I went for two tiers of one 2 layered 8 inch cake and one 2 layered 6 inch cake. I don't think it changed the texture at all and it made for a nice looking 80th birthday cake.

Oh, one quick note on the fondant roses: I used this youtube tutorial to make them. I worked with pre-made Satin Ice fondant that was already tinted red and the roses came together SO quickly! It took me about 20 minutes to make the four roses on the top of this cake. As a bonus, it just so happens that red roses are my Grandma's favorite flower.

Baked's Pistachio Cake with Honey Buttercream via

Servings: Serves 12–16


1 1/3 cups shelled pistachio
2 1/2 cups cake flour (not self-rising)
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking soda
8 Tbsp. (1 stick) unsalted butter , softened
1/2 cup vegetable shortening
1 3/4 cups sugar
1 Tbsp. vanilla extract
2 large eggs , at room temperature
1 1/2 cups ice cold water
3 large egg whites , at room temperature
1/4 tsp. cream of tartar
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1/3 cup heavy cream
24 Tbsp. (3 sticks) unsalted butter , softened
3 Tbsp. honey
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

A Break From Cake: Snickerdoodle Ice Cream Sandwiches

As we prepare to usher out Summer, at least via the calendar, I would like to share a treat that combines the cinnamon tones of coming Autumn days and the refreshing ice cream burst of dwindling Summer nights: Snickerdoodle Ice Cream Sandwiches. As a born and bred Northerner, I had never heard of a Snickerdoodle. I encountered the cinnamon-sugar delights a few years into my tenure as a Southern transplant and, like slightly sweetened iced-tea and cheese grits, these little yummies made it easy to succumb to the Southern way.

A few months back, issues of Women's Day magazine mysteriously began showing up in our mail box. I did not subscribe to the magazine and John says he did not purchase the subscription for me either. I personally think the subscription is some kind of divine act meant to bring me these amazing ice cream treats! The cinnamon sweetness of the cookie combined with the rich ice cream is out of this world! The flavor combination is reminiscient of my favorite Mexican restaurant treat: sopapillas with ice cream.

The Snickerdoodle cookie recipe came together very easily. I usually don't care too much about uniformity in my cookies, but with these being the "bread" for ice cream sandwiches I wanted them to all be roughly about the same size. A small ice cream scoop with a release handle did the trick nicely. I just went with store bought ice cream as the recipe suggests but some super creamy ice cream of the homemade variety would be lovely too.

The mint chocolate chip flavored ice cream I used was chosen by my daughter. Personally, I would have perferred to stick closer to the sopapilla flavor combo and gone with some vanilla, but this was good and the color is more interesting. So go ahead, usher in Fall and hold onto Summer all at the same time. I promise, it will be a delicious experience!

Snickerdoodle Ice Cream Sandwiches
From the July issue of Women's Day

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 tsp cream of tartar
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup plus 2 Tbsp firmly packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
3 cups ice cream

Heat oven to 350°F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cream of tartar, baking soda and salt. Using an electric mixer, beat the butter, brown sugar and 2 Tbsp of the granulated sugar in a large bowl until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in the egg and vanilla. Reduce speed to low and gradually add the flour mixture, mixing just until incorporated.

In a small bowl, combine the cinnamon and remaining 2 Tbsp granulated sugar. Form the dough into 1½-in. balls, roll in the cinnamon-sugar mixture and place on the prepared baking sheets, spacing them 2 in. apart. Bake until set and edges are slightly golden, 10 to 12 minutes. Let cool for 5 minutes before transferring to wire racks to cool completely.

Form sandwiches with 2 cookies and ¼ cup of ice cream. Serve immediately or freeze, covered, for up to 3 days.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Classic Cakes: Carrot Cake Cupcakes

After a blistering hot summer in Atlanta, we have recently had a bit of relief with some 65-70 degree temperatures. The cooler weather feels like a signal to blog my favorite Carrot Cake recipe.

For years I made the Carrot Cake recipe my Mom had given me. I believe it originated from her Betty Crocker cookbook. The recipe called for baby food carrots. I made it many times before I finally admitted it was a bit dry and not very good.  A girl cannot be without a go-to carrot cake recipe, so off I went in search of the moist and delicious recipe that gave carrot cake it's famously good name. I found a true winner in Ina Garten's Carrot Cake Cupcake recipe.

Her recipe calls for grated carrots instead of the baby food, and vegetable oil, which I believe is the secret to this cake's moist and fluffy texture. I like my carrot cake plain, I know that may be blasphemy to some; however, I omit the nuts and raisins. I have also baked this recipe many, many times divided evenly into two 8 or 9 inch round cake pans and it has come out wonderfully every single time.

The cream cheese frosting recipe I use is my Mom's. It is wonderful! Plenty of cream cheese taste and not overly sweet. I believe I doubled the recipe to have enough to ice all the cupcakes.

I made this particular batch of cupcakes for a bake sale at John's office. I wanted to go with something classic, that had mass appeal, to help raise as much money as possible for the cause: the Kaiser Permanente Corporate Run/Walk & Fitness Program. All the cupcakes I sent in sold, and the extra ones I made for us disappeared pretty quickly too. John is burning off the extra calories tonight as he completes the run. As for me, I have to admit, I couldn't resist eating one, or two..and a half of these. They were so worth it though, and I'm sure I burnt off the calories running around after the kids :)

Carrot Cake Cupcakes

2 cups sugar

1 1/3 cups vegetable oil
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 extra-large eggs
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
3 cups grated carrots (less than 1 pound)


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Beat the sugar, oil, and vanilla together in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Add the eggs, 1 at a time. In another bowl, sift together the flour, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt. With the mixer on low speed, add 1/2 of the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients. Add the grated carrots, raisins, and walnuts to the remaining flour, mix well, and add to the batter. Mix until just combined.

Line muffin pans with paper liners. Scoop the batter into 22 muffin cups until each is 3/4 full. Bake at 400 degrees F for 10 minutes then reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees F and cook for a further 35 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool on a rack.

For the frosting, cream the cream cheese, butter, and vanilla in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Add the sugar and beat until smooth.

When the cupcakes are cool, frost them generously and serve.

Cream Cheese Frosting  (double)

2 cups confectioner's sugar
3 oz. cream cheese (softened)
1 tsp vanilla
4 tbsps butter (softened)
Beat until smooth

Thursday, September 1, 2011

A Break From Cake: Better Blueberry Muffins

I do love my go to blueberry muffin recipe, but I will admit it does have one serious flaw: Not every bite of muffin contains a blueberry. Adding enough blueberries to achieve a taste of berry goodness in every bite would probably seriously mess with the chemistry of the recipe. So, I looked to The Complete America's Test Kitchen TV Show Cookbook for a recipe that maximized the blueberry to muffin ratio.

As usual, the Test Kitchen did not disappoint! Their trick to upping the blueberry quotient in the muffins is to make and add a blueberry jam. Genius! The swirl of blueberry jam provides a taste of berry in just about every bite.

My husband, John, loves blueberry muffins and I made this version to serve him this past Father's Day. He loved them! The leftovers also freeze well and John was quite disappointed that my daughter Cadence and I polished off the rest of the batch in the following weeks. We just couldn't resist, they are so yummy!

I made just a few tweaks to the recipe. First, I eliminated the Lemon-Sugar Topping. I find blueberry muffins to be sweet enough as is so I never add extra sugar although most recipes do suggest a topping. Lastly, I used frozen blueberries, instead of the suggested fresh ones, because that is what we had in the house at the time.

Making the blueberry jam does add another step to the muffin making process, but I promise, it is very worth it!

Blueberry Muffins
Slightly Adapted from America's Test

2 cups blueberries
1 tsp sugar plus 1 1/8 cups
2 1/2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon table salt
2 large eggs
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
4 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 cup buttermilk
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Adjust and oven rack to the upper-middle position and heat the oven to 425 degrees. Spray a standard-sized muffin pan with vegetable spray. Bring 1 cup of the blueberries and 1 teaspoon of the sugar to a simmer in a small saucepan over medium heat. Cook, mashing the berries with a spoon several times and stirring frequently, until the berries have broken down and the mixture is thickened and reduced to 1/4 cup, about 6 minutes. I used frozen berries to make the jam and they produced a substantial amount of water. I made a paste of flour and water and slowly added it and stirred it in at the end of the cooking process. Transfer to a smal bowl and cool to room temperature, 10 to 15 minutes.

Whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt together in a large bowl. Whisk the remaining 1 1/8 cups sugar and the eggs together in a medium bowl until thick and homogenous, about 45 seconds. Slowly whisk in the butter and oil until combined. Using a rubber spatula, fold the egg mixture and remaining 1 cup blueberries into the flour mixture until just moistened (the butter will be very lumpy with a few spots of dry flour, do not overmix.)

Using a 1/3-cup measure or an ice cream scoop (I prefer the ice-cream scoop), divide the batter equally among the prepared muffin cups (the batter should completely fill the cups and mound slightly). Spoon 1 teaspoon of the cooked berry mixture into the center of each mound of batter. Using a chopstick (this is what I used and it worked great) or skewer, gently swirl the berry filling into the batter using a figure-eight motion.

Bake until the muffin tops are golden and just firm, 17 to 19 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through baking. cool the muffins in the pan for 5 minutes before serving.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

A Break From Cake: Homemade Fudge Popsicles.

When I saw the recipe for these homemade fudgesicles on the Smitten Kitchen blog I knew I had to make them. It has been an absolutely scorching summer in Atlanta and I knew these would make a nice cool treat for my three-year-old daugther, Cadence, that incorporated her new favorite flavor: chocolate.

I had just purchased some 2oz BabySteps Frozen Treat Trays and they were the perfect size for a little after dinner treat for a pre-schooler. I followed the tip given by Smitten Kitchen blogger, Deb, and used wooden popsicle sticks instead of the plastic holders that come with the trays. These pops were so creamy and chocolately that the plastic stick surely would have been gnawed on to get every last yummy taste. Yes, I made these for my daughter, but I HAD to have one for the purposes of writing an accurate review of the recipe, you know!

I had only fat free milk in the house, so I substituted that for the whole milk called for by the recipe. Whole milk would make these even creamier, but I found the low-fat version to be delicious as well.

Very Slightly Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Fudge Popsicles

2 tablespoons semisweet chocolate chips
1/3 cup sugar
1 tablespoon  cornstarch
1 1/2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/4 cups skim milk
Pinch of salt
1/2 teaspoon pure Mexican vanilla
1/2 tablespoon unsalted butter

In the bottom of a medium saucepan over very low heat, gently melt the chocolate chips, stirring constantly until smooth. Stir in sugar, cornstarch, cocoa powder, milk and salt and raise heat to medium. Cook mixture, stirring frequently until it thickens, anywhere between 5 minutes and 10 (it took mine 7 minutes to thicken).

Remove from heat, add vanilla and butter and stir until combined.

Set aside to cool slightly then pour into popsicle molds. Freeze 30 minutes, then insert popsicle sticks. Freeze the rest of the way before serving.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

A Break from Cake: Blueberry Oat Bars

In my house, we love berries! With strawberries and blueberries at their best this time of year, I have been easily tempted into trying several new recipes that incorporate them. I have already shared my strawberry cake. These Blueberry Oat Bars were another attempt to get some fresh berry lovliness into a baked good.

One morning as I was about to make some oatmeal with fresh blueberries mixed in, it occured to me that the blueberry oat combo would likely be delicious in bar form. I did a quick Google search to see if anyone out there thought the same thing, and wouldn't you know it, Starbucks makes Blueberry Oat Bars! I guess I am not that original.

I used this copycat recipe with just a few tweaks. I could not unearth my Quaker Instant Oats in my overcrowded pantry, so I had to settle for instant steel cut oats. I was worried that the change of ingredient would ruin the recipe, but the steel cut oats gave the bars more of a granola texture which I enjoyed. Just make sure yo use instant steel cut oats if you go this route. Also the recipe says to bake the bottom crust 10 minutes, but I let mine go 15 until it began to brown.

I did follow the recipe's instructions and put 3/4 of the oat mixture on the bottom. If I make this again I will divide the oat mixture evenly between the bottom and top crusts. I found the bottom layer to be quite a bit too thick.

Overall, these were a nice morning treat with some coffee and were a great way to get that fresh berry fix!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Classic Cakes: Strawberry Cake

Many of the cooking blogs I frequent talk about cooking "seasonal meals". There is less opportunity to be seasonal in baking. After all, chocolate, vanilla and even carrot cake are good pretty much all year round, right?

With berry season upon us, I thought this strawberry cake was the perfect way to use delicious, sweet, in-seasaon strawberries in a cake recipe. It was a bit difficult to find a strawberry cake recipe that read like it would turn out well. None of my tried and true sources (The Cake Bible , America's Test Kitchen) had one. So, I turned to an internet search, and this time it yielded a beauty!

A conversation on pointed me to this recipe on The Baking Pan website. This recipe incorporates a strawberry puree into a light and fluffy vanilla cake. The cake is accented by a light strawberry cream frosting. The combination creates a cake that just melts in your mouth. Just to reassure you that I am not exaggerating, I will tell you that I brought this cake into the office to share with my co-workers, and more than one person used an expletive to describe how good it was!

I followed the recipe pretty much as it is published here. The only change I made was to the frosting. I found it a bit sweet for my taste so I increased the amount of softened butter to about 1 1/2 cups to up the creaminess quotient a bit.

If you love cake, and you love strawberries, this cake is a must make while the berries are at peak season freshness!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Classic Cakes: Old Fashioned Chocolate Cake

What I am about to post here today is an amazing discovery that I should most likely file away in my personal secret recipe box. However, because I am feeling generous, and because the search that finally brought me to this Mecca of chocolate cake took the better part of a decade, I would like to share.

There are a few die-hard chocolate cake lovers among my group of friends. I have often wanted to surprise them with a great chocolate cake on their birthdays but all the chocolate cake recipes I tried in the past have left me disappointed. Most scratch chocolate cakes come out dense and lack that moist choclately goodness that true chocolate lovers crave. So, to prevent the passing on of my disappointment to my chocolate afficiando friends, I have avoided making them chocolate cakes.

I tried this particular recipe for my brother and father-in-laws birthdays and was astounded at how great it turned out. The cake has a rich chocolate flavor, but is still light and moist. The frosting is a devine fluffy chocolate buttercream. Both recipes are adapted from America's Test Kitchen. The cake recipe called for unsweetened chocolate and I substituted bittersweet. I recommend using the Ghiradelli baking bars. Also, America's Test Kitchen published a different frosting recipe with this cake, but it was more complicated to make. To be honest, I like the melt-in-your-mouth quality of this chocolate buttercream a bit better anyway.

I was talking with my Grandma about this cake and she said her mother handed her down an excellent recipe for chocolate cake. She thought it was peculiar that the recipe called for soured milk. This makes me believe the buttermilk is the secret ingredient in this cake. Unfortunately, my Grandma can't find her mother's recipe, but this one turns out quite well too.

I liked this so well that I made a second cake as a late birthday surprise for my friend Rahul. He enjoyed it, and I hope you do too!

Old Fashioned Chocolate Cake

1 3/4 cups unbleached all purpose flour
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped coarse
1/4 cup cocoa powder (recipe calls for Dutch processed but it came out fine with regular Hershey's)
1/2 cup hot water
1 3/4 cups sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon table salt
1 cup buttermilk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 large eggs plus 2 large egg yolks, room temperature
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, very soft


(I tripled the original recipe and it makes enough to generously frost the cake with a bit leftover)

3 3/4 sticks unsalted butter, softened
3 3/4 cups confectioners' sugar
Pinch of table salt
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
8 ounces of semisweet chocolate
4 ounces of bittersweet chocolate

For the Cake:

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Prepare 2 9 inch cake pans by lining with a circle of wax or parchment paper and spraying with Baker's Joy spray.

Combine the chocolate, cocoa powder, and hot water in a medium heatproof bowl set over a saucepan filled with 1 inch of barely simmering water, stirring occasionally until smooth. Add 1/2 cup of the sugar to the chocolate mixture and stir until thick and glossy, about 1 to 2 minutes. Remove the bowl from the heat and set aside to cool.

Whisk the flour, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl. Combine the buttermilk and vanilla in a small bowl. In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whisk the eggs and yolks on medium-low seed until combined, about 10 seconds. Add the remaining 1 1/4 cups sugar, increase the speed to high, and whisk until fluffy and lightened in color, 2 to 3 minutes. Replace the whisk with the paddle attachment. Add the cooled chocolate mixture to the egg-sugar mixture and mix on medium speed until thouroughly incorporated, 30 to 45 seconds, pausing to scrape down the bowl as needed. Add the softened butter 1 tablespoon at a time, mixing about 10 seconds after each addition. Add about 1/3 of the flour mixture followed by half of the buttermilk mixture, mixing until incorporated after each addition. Repeat using half of the remaining flour mixture and all of the remaining buttermilk mixture. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the remaining flour mixture; mix at medium-low speed until the batter is thouroughly combined. Divide the batter evenly between prepared pans.

Bake the cakes until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with a few crumbs attached 25 to 30 minutes.

For the Frosting:

In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the butter at medium-high speed until smooth, about 20 seconds. Add the confectioners' sugar and salt and beat at medium-low speed until most of the sugar is moistened, about 45 seconds. Scrape down the bowl and beat at medium speed until the mixture is fully combined, about 15 seconds. Scrape down the bowl, add the vanilla extractm and beat at medium speed until incorporated, about 10 seconds. Reduce the speed to low and gradually beat in the melted and cooled chocolate. Increase the speed to medium-high and beat until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes, scraping down the bowl once or twice.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Valentine's Day Ice Cream Cake

For Valentine's Day I decided to make a sweet for my sweets. It pains me to say this, but my husband John and daughter Cadence don't really like traditional cake. So for Valentine's Day, instead of one of the usual treats I make, I went with something I knew they would love; ice cream cake!

To make this cake I used a combination of this Dairy Queen icecream cake recipe and this recipe.


1 half gallon of vanilla ice cream
1 half gallon of strawberry ice cream (you can use the flavors you like best)
1 package of Oreo cookies or similar with the cream centers removed (I used Publix brand)
1/2 cup Hershey's chocolate syrup
1 8oz tub of cool whip
gel food coloring in the color of your choice

Line the bottom of two 8 inch cake pans with a circle of wax paper. Set the flavor of ice cream you will be working with first on the counter to soften a bit. When it is a workable consistency fill one of the pans completely with the flavor ice cream you want on the bottom of your cake. I chose strawberry. Smooth the ice cream with a cake spatula.

Place the full cake pan of icecream back in the freezer.

Next, scoop the cream centers out of the Oreo cookies and discard. Crush the cookies in a food processor and put the crumbs in a medium sized bowl. Stir in the 1/2 cup of Hershey syrup.

Meanwhile, set out the second flavor of ice cream to soften. This will be the flavor you want on the top of the cake. I used the vanilla. When the ice cream has softened, fill the pan half way with the ice cream and then top with the cookie crumb mixture. Place the cake pan back in the freezer.

Let the two layers set up in the freezer for several hours.

Working with the bottom layer first (I used strawberry), run warm water over your cake spatula and sweep it all around the edge of the pan. Then dip the entire cake pan in a bowl of warm water. Turn the layer over onto a ten inch cardboard cake round. Immediately set the cake round and first layer of ice cream in the freezer to firm up.

After a few hours remove the first layer and the cake pan containing the top layer from the freezer. Repeat the steps above to unmold the top layer from the pan and turn it over on top of the bottom layer.

Place the Cool Whip in a bowl and add a few drops of gel food coloring. Mix in the color.

When the cake has firmed up, remove it and decorate it with the Cool Whip icing.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Monkey Baby Shower Cake for Sarah and Randy

My husband John's little sister Sarah and her husband Randy are expecting a baby girl later this month and we couldn't be more thrilled for them. We were honored to host their baby shower over the weekend and I was very excited to create this cake in the same theme as their nursery bedding: monkies!