Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Dark Chocolate Pomegranate Bliss Cake


Hi everyone! It seems as though lately all I have been able to get is about 1 post a month - that is SO SAD! I have to say the last few months of this year have been extremely busy for me and it's been super tough to just sit down and do nothing at all, much less write a blog post! Hopefully that will change in the next year as I am excited to spill the beans on some exciting news! Stay tuned...! 

On to this awesome cake. I have a question for you. Why do pumpkins and cranberries get to have all the fun around the holidays? Why not pomegranates? They always seem to show up for the holiday festivities, but they really just kind of stand in the background, ho-humming around. Well, ho hum NO MORE! They are the star of this cake (aside from the dark chocolate, haha!) I usually pick up a baggie of Brookside Dark Chocolate Covered Pomegranates when they are on sale and I absolutely love these things. I wondered what it would be like to have the same flavors in a different package? Well you know me, I LOVE to bake cakes. I didn't have to look too far to find my favorite dark chocolate cake recipe. I went straight to Sweetapolita's site to get it! I should know this recipe by heart now, as much as I like to use it, but I usually can't even remember what I was going to say from one second to the next nowadays. Next, I used my absolute favorite chocolate buttercream recipe, but I used Hershey's Special Dark cocoa to make it, well, dark and rich. ;) The recipe comes from Kittencal on Food.com. As it so happens, photo #1 by "UberFoodNoob" is my cake, made a couple of years ago (just an interesting little tidbit of info there).

If you are into dark chocolate, or pomegranate, or CAKE of any kind, I beg you to make this. You won't be disappointed. Plus, it's fairly easy and it would be perfect to take to a Christmas party! Enjoy! :)


Cake inspired by my favorite chocolate cake recipe by Sweetapolita:


For the cake:

2-1/2 cups + 1 tablespoon of all-purpose flour

3 cups granulated sugar

1 cup + 1 tablespoon Hershey's Special Dark Cocoa

1 tablespoon baking soda

1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1-1/2 teaspoons salt

3 eggs, at room temperature

1-1/2 cups buttermilk, room temperature

1-1/2 cups pomegranate juice (I use POM Wonderful)

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1-1/2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract

For the butter cream:

1 cup of butter, softened (margarine will not yield the same flavor)

5 1/3 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted

3/4 - 1 cup of Hershey's Special Dark Cocoa

2/3 cup half-and-half cream (can use unwhipped whipping cream in place of half and half) or 2/3 cup milk

3 teaspoons vanilla

1/2 cup pure pomegranate juice

For Garnish:

Brookside Dark Chocolate Covered Pomegranates (I love these for a snack mixed with cashews!)


Cake Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and prepare three 8 inch pans by spraying with non-stick spray. I love using Baker's Joy with flour or the Pam made for baking.

Sift all the dry ingredients, including sugar, into the bowl of an electric mixer.

Combine the eggs, buttermilk, pomegranate juice, oil and vanilla in a separate bowl and beat lightly.

Add the wet milk mixture to the dry ingredients and mix for 2 minutes on medium speed, covering the top with a dish towel or a splash guard, as this batter will be thin.

Divide the batter evenly in the pans.

Bake for 20 minutes and rotate the pans. Bake about 12 more minutes or until a toothpick comes out mostly clean. Cool on wire racks for 20 minutes, then turn over onto racks to cool completely.

Buttercream Instructions: 

Cream the butter in a bowl and add vanilla, beating for a few seconds to mix. Sift the confectioners' sugar together with the cocoa and in 1/2 cup intervals, blending alternately with the cream in the mixing bowl. Lastly, add the pomegranate juice. I had to use 1/2 cup to get some flavor in there.

Garnish with Brookside Dark Chocolate Pomegranates if desired. Enjoy!

Keep cake refrigerated, as it will be easier to cut. It can stand at room temperature for a couple of hours.


Have a MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Thank you so much for looking, now go bake something and spread the yum!

XOXO,

Diana

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Pumpkin Velvet Cake with Pumpkin Pie SMBC

  • Hello everyone! It's been a while since my last post as it seems I got inundated with a bunch of cake orders late September and every weekend thereafter! I was a little sad about making cakes and not having one of my own last month, so of COURSE I had to make something for home! With pumpkin season in full swing and a bottle of Lorann's Pumpkin Spice Emulsion sitting lonely in my cabinet, I had to get baking. After making Sweetapolita's Red Velvet Raspberry Supreme Cake several times with amazing results, I was inspired! (She inspires a lot of my work, by the way...) Why not make a PUMPKIN Velvet cake, with a light, yet tasty Swiss meringue buttercream to top it off? I didn't want the usual cream cheese buttercream (though it's one of my favorites!) I wanted something lighter for this dense pumpkin-y cake. I decided to make a Pumpkin Pie Swiss Meringue Buttercream. It had a light pumpkin pie flavor that was not too overpowering, it was just perfect. 

  • For the Pumpkin Velvet Cake:
  • (Adapted from Sweetapolita's Red Velvet Raspberry Supreme Cake
  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 3 tablespoons pumpkin spice emulsion*
  • 3 eggs, at room temperature
  • 1/3 cup canned or fresh pureed pumpkin, drained and patted dry between paper towels
  • 2 cups of all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup of cake flour (Such as Swan's Down or King Arthur)
  • 1 tablespoon Dutch-process cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1-1/2 cups of warm buttermilk
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon of vinegar
  • 1-1/4 teaspoons of baking soda
            *I used Lorann Pumpkin Spice Emulsion, can found at Amazon, I purchased mine at Home Goods
  • For the Pumpkin Pie Swiss Meringue Buttercream:
  • 5 large egg whites 
  • 1 1/4 cups of sugar
  • 3 sticks of butter, cut into cubes 
  • 2 teaspoons of pure vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup canned or fresh pureed pumpkin, drained and patted dry between paper towels
  • 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • Dash of cinnamon
  • Pinch of salt

Method:
Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees
Grease and flour (or use Baker's Joy spray) 3 8" cake pans.
1.) Using a mixer with a paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugars until light and fluffy.
2.) Add the Pumpkin Spice Emulsion and mix until well blended.
3.) Add the eggs, one at a time, waiting for each to blend in before adding the next.
4.) Add the drained pumpkin puree and mix until well blended.
5.) Sift the flours together with the cocoa, cinnamon, and salt.
6.) Add to the wet mix in by 1/4 to 1/2 cup intervals, alternating with the warm buttermilk, starting and ending with your dry ingredients.
7.) Once all the ingredients are well combined, gently fold in your mayonnaise.
8.) In a small bowl, mix your vinegar and baking soda and again, gently fold into your cake batter. 
9.) Divide batter evenly into the 3 cake pans and bake until toothpick inserted comes out clean, about 25 - 30 minutes. 

While the cake cools, prepare your Pumpkin Pie Swiss Meringue Buttercream:
1.) Place egg whites and sugar in a mixing bowl that has been wiped with lemon to prevent grease from seeping into the meringue or it may not fluff up. Make sure you also wipe the whisk and paddle attachments for beating the egg white/sugar mixture. 
2.) Place bowl over a pot of simmering (not boiling) water and whisk egg whites and sugar constantly until the temperature reaches 160 degrees, or the mixture feels silky between your fingers and the sugar has dissolved. It REALLY helps to have a candy thermometer on hand, which is not expensive considering how helpful that little tool can be. I happened to take advantage of buying mine at my hobby store with a 40% off coupon. :) 
3.) With the whisk attachment, start beating the egg white and sugar mixture on medium-high to high, about 10 minutes or so. The egg whites should look glossy at this point, and the bowl should not be hot/warm to the touch. 
4.) Switch over to the paddle attachment and start adding the cubes of butter, one by one, mixing them on low speed. Mix until smooth. Add vanilla, pumpkin puree, and pumpkin pie spice and mix until well incorporated. 

If the frosting is too runny at this point, refrigerate for about 30 minutes. It will still be soft enough to decorate the cake. The frosting was not as smooth as I would have liked it to be as I had to refrigerate mine overnight! I used an offset spatula and a Wilton 2D tip to decorate with. You can decorate any way you like of course, it still tastes great no matter how it looks!


The cake came out more dense than light and fluffy, which was fine with me. This was more than likely due to the addition of pumpkin puree. I may try to play around with this recipe a bit more to try getting it more fluffy, but the taste was still wonderful. Oddly enough, it wasn't ridiculously overpowered with pumpkin flavor either, it was just right. This would be great to take along to a Thanksgiving gathering, or if you are as pumpkin crazy as I am, why need an excuse? 


Thank you so much for looking! Now go bake something and spread some YUM! 

XO, 

Diana

Monday, September 22, 2014

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Cake and Cupcakes

This weekend I had the pleasure of making a cute cake and cupcakes for a sweet 3 year old's birthday. He wanted Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and they wanted a small cake and cupcakes. The cake was a 3 layer 8 inch round chocolate cake with butter cream and fondant, and the cupcakes were also chocolate but with cream cheese butter cream and fondant accents. The cutters for the cupcakes were from JB Cookie Cutters on Etsy - if you ever need any, they are WONDERFUL to deal with. They were tons of fun to make, in fact, I still remember what I was doing when the VERY FIRST Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon that came out in 1987. (27 years ago... Wow, that makes me feel OLD!) I was headed to a skate party for a friend's birthday and I was a little late because I was hooked and had to finish watching it! Well... I never thought I would be making a cake with these guys, but here it is:

Top of cake


Donatello and Raphael Cupcakes


Top close-up


Michelangelo and Leonardo Cupcakes


Front view of cake


Thank you so much for looking! 

XO,
Diana




Monday, September 15, 2014

"Loaded Potato" Stuffed Shells


I'd had an idea brewing in my mind for a little while after I ate a Big Bob Gibson's loaded potato, one they are pretty famous for. Those things are wonderful - HUGE, filled with pork (or turkey or brisket), gooey cheese, melty butter, chives, sour cream, and bacon bits, BUT- they are super filling. I usually end up feeling sick after eating one, just because even though it's a lot of food, I always end up eating it all! For some reason, stuffed pasta shells came to mind and the idea came to life. Ricotta, shredded mozzarella, shredded cheddar, chopped chives, crumbled crispy bacon, stuffed into a small shell. Why not? They didn't have the meat, but everything else fit and these were a hit!

Ingredients: 
About 30 pasta shells, cooked as directed on the package
4 cups ricotta cheese
2 eggs, lightly beaten
3/4 cup mozzarella cheese (I use Kraft a touch of Philly for extra gooeyness)
1/2 cup of shredded cheddar 
8 slices of bacon, cooked crisp and crumbled 
1/4-1/2 cup of chopped chives
Sour cream for garnish


1.) Preheat oven to 350 and grease a 9x13 and 8x8 inch pan. I had to split mine up.
2.) Cook pasta shells as directed on package. Drain and set aside when done.
3.) Mix the ricotta cheese with lightly beaten egg and mozzarella cheese until combined. 
4.) Spoon ricotta mixture into each shell (I used a disposable cake decorator bag which made the process easier).
5.) Bake the shells for 25 minutes.
6.) Immediately upon pulling shells out of the oven, sprinkle cheddar cheese to let it melt over the shells. Spoon sour cream (or use a decorator bag) on the shells, sprinkle with chives and crumbled bacon. Serve immediately. 


These were still good after microwaving for a few seconds, sprinkling the cheese, and adding the sour cream, bacon, and chives after. They were gone within a couple of hours as I served them as a side/appetizer. These would be wonderful with a side salad for a meal. 

Thank you so much for looking! Now go bake something and spread some YUM!!! 

As always, I appreciate your comments, questions, thoughts, and ideas. 

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Rumchata Ice Cream with Cajeta Swirl


Okay... So I am in trouble. BIG trouble. All thanks to Baked Bree. I saw a recipe for No Churn Coffee Ice Cream she made the other day. Being that I must be the last person on earth (Okay, maybe in my town) with NO ICE CREAM machine, I had to see what it was all about! Apparently she used Kahlua, which helped the ice cream not freeze into a rock solid mass. Sooooo... I was inspired! I bought some Rumchata while on my trip to Cali last month (they stopped selling it in my area, I'm so annoyed!) and figured, "Why not?" Rumchata is derived from the idea of horchata, which is basically rice with water or cream, sugar, vanilla, and cinnamon. I have had raisins added to mine as well and it's plain delicious. As for the ice cream adult version, I wanted to add a little twist to it. CARAMEL. Not just ANY caramel, no sirree, but CAJETA. If you grew up in a Hispanic household, this may be more familiar to you. Cajeta is boiled sweetened condensed milk. That's it! It's boiled in the can, you pop it open, and BAM. Pure heaven. Creamy and dreamy... SO. Without further ado, I will give you the recipe.


You will need: 
4 Tablespoons of Rumchata
2/3 cup of sweetened condensed milk
1 1/4 cups of heavy whipping cream
1/2 tablespoon espresso coffee grounds, optional. I added them to give the ice cream a little hint of coffee.
1 can of sweetened condensed milk, boiled in the can for about 3 hours 

For the cajeta:
Remove the label from the can of sweetened condensed milk and begin the boiling process in a pot full of water. You can add the can to the pot prior to the water boiling. As it cooks, be sure to check on it often and make sure the can is covered with water at all times. If you see it getting low, just add more, enough to cover the can, plus an inch or so. Boil for 3 hours. Turn the heat off and pull the can out carefully with gloves or tongs. Open it and transfer to an airtight container. This would be best to be prepared ahead of time in order for it to be cool when you swirl it into the ice cream. 


The next part is very easy. In a mixing bowl, mix your sweetened condensed milk, 4 tablespoons of Rumchata, and half the tablespoon of espresso granules until well blended. Pour in your cream and mix with the whisk attachment (if using a KitchenAid) or hand beater on high until soft peaks form. Pour ice cream into an airtight container. 

Wait about an hour and a half for ice cream to start freezing a little bit. Drop in 2-3 tablespoons (or a little more) of cajeta and swirl with a knife or spatula. Cover the container tightly again and freeze for up to 6 hours or overnight. Guys, this ice cream is FANTASTIC. I never had some homemade come out so good! Give it a try. I promise you'll love it!

Thank you so much for looking! Now go freeze something and spread some YUM!!!

XOXO, 
Diana

As always, I appreciate your comments, questions, thoughts and ideas! 

Sunday, August 24, 2014

S'mores Cake Pops


I am kind of sad, I had a wonderful post written up for these S'mores Cake Pops and I LOST IT! Don't you hate it when you type up a sentence, paragraph, book (I would be sick to my stomach) and somehow this wonderful thing we have technology fails us? Especially Blogger - my stuff is getting saved CONSTANTLY - so in this case, I have to either blame myself for not making sure it was saved, or I think I recall the internet being down for a while - it may not have saved before I closed my post. (sad face)

Well August 10th was National S'mores Day and somehow I missed it.  So when my sister-in-law called upon the family to go to her house and celebrate back to school/end of summer and getting together before SHE started a new chapter in her life and started school, I decided I would make it S'mores day all over again!

I had found Wilton Marshmallow Candy Melts earlier this year but I never got around to using them. I was obsessed with making a S'mores cake pop and I finally got my chance! I decided I would make the chocolate the main event in this cookie, so I used brownies for the pop portion. I used Duncan Hines Dark Chocolate Fudge mix to make it quick. Here's what you'll need:

8x8 pan of brownies (Your favorite recipe or box mix)
Ingredients needed for brownies (eggs, water, etc.)
2 bags of Wilton Marshmallow Candy Melts
3 Crushed Graham Crackers
Paramount Crystals (purchased on Amazon.com) or vegetable shortening (to thin out candy melts)
Flower foam square to put your cake pops on or cake pop holder (I don't have one of those yet!)

Here's my sweet little nephew enjoying a pop.


1.) Bake your brownies, and let cool. Cut into 1 1/2 inch squares once cooled.
2.) In the meantime, melt your candy melts by following the directions on the bag - I used a mini crock pot. Make sure you stir constantly, I have scorched mine before and it's not fun to smell! I also added about 12 teaspoons of the paramount crystals before I got the consistency I wanted for dipping. Make sure you add the crystals or shortening little by little so as not to overdo it.
3.) Crush your graham crackers and put in a small bowl or over a plate to catch your crumbs.
4.) Dip a cookie stick or paper straw (I used straws) in the candy melt, then insert into the brownie.
5.) Put the dipped pops on a cookie sheet that fits in your freezer or refrigerator to let the candy melt set, about 15 minutes.
6.) Once the candy melt has hardened in the pop, take back out of the freezer and begin your dipping process. Before the candy melt hardens, sprinkle with graham cracker sprinkles and pop your stick in the foam or cake pop tray and let set. Enjoy!

Thank you so much for looking, now go bake something and spread some YUM!

As always, I welcome your comments, questions, and ideas!

XOXO, Diana

Sneaking in a bite myself... 








Monday, August 11, 2014

Cherry Apricot Sauce


I know things have been a little quiet around here, but we've been super busy with work, traveling to the CrossFit Games (a completely inspirational trip!) and trying to get back into the groove of things after coming back from California. I had never been there and I have to say, I am desperate to go back! There are just some places I visit that call me back with a vengeance and this is one of them. (The other being Ogunquit, Maine). It doesn't hurt that my best friend since high school lives near the Los Angeles area, so there's a definite plus to going back! I got to see her, her awesome husband and her super sweet puppy.

Watching all the athletes and seeing how fit everyone looked inspired me to think up new ways to eat the healthy stuff we eat at home, since we've been in a little bit of a rut with the same 'ol, same 'ol. Now this is not necessarily called Paleo or anything, it's just a slightly better version of what could potentially be a sugar-laden sauce for your food or dessert.

Now, with the price of cherries going down, I've been buying more and more and enjoying the heck out of nature's candy. We have also bought apricots just ONCE this summer - the last time I tried to get them they were $2.99/lb and mushy as heck. I decided I would buy some preserves and settled on the Low Sugar Smucker's. I hadn't thought of making a mish-mash sauce just yet, but the inspiration struck last week when I bought a HUGE box of cherries I didn't know what to do with. I had some fish and pork that needed dressing up and... Ding ding ding! The lightbulb turned on. What makes this a really nice and easy sauce to make is the fact that you use preserves from a jar. No need to be messing with having to peel apricots, chop them up, etc. The only time consuming part was having to cut my cherries in half to pit them. (I still don't have a fancy-pants pit-machine thingy! Shame on me!)

I ended up using this deliciously tangy sauce on a piece of otherwise boring pork chop, then I made some snapper the other night - it was perfect! This would probably also go very well on top of some pork tenderloin, salmon, or even some homemade vanilla ice cream. The end result is a lightly tart sauce, which can probably be sweetened with a little more honey.

Ingredients:
2 cups of red cherries, pitted and washed
4 tablespoons of honey (more or less to adjust, I like my stuff a bit on the tart side)
2 tablespoons of lemon juice
1 cup of low sugar apricot preserves. (I used Smucker's)


Method:
Place cherries in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Put in your honey and lemon juice. Using a fork or masher, mash up the berries and let simmer while occasionally stirring, for about 5 minutes. Turn down the heat to medium-low. Add 1 cup of the preserves and stir or whisk until blended and let simmer for 5 more minutes. The sauce may be used immediately, or let cool to room temperature before putting in a jar and refrigerating. I warmed my sauce up prior to using the next day, just warming what I was using for my meal. Use within 4 days, makes about 1 1/4 cups of sauce.

Enjoy! Now go make something and spread some YUM!

As always, I welcome your questions, comments, thoughts and ideas!

Diana