Thursday, June 30, 2011

Beach Party Cupcake Toppers

For the last few years, I have been charged with creating my nephews' birthday cakes. It's always something fun and I love working with the boys to decide what they want! This past weekend we had a birthday party for my oldest nephew and it was at the river - a beach party theme. Lot's of swimming and splashing and... CUPCAKES!

I loved making him cupcakes. He has decided that he likes chocolate cake. His mommy does not. So usually, I don't make chocolate cake for him. When you do cupcakes, it's easy to do a variety. I made some vanilla cupcakes along with these chocolate beauties.

So they looked really yummy and I know he would have been happy with these, but...  he really wanted them decorated with some of his favorite sea creatures.  He had adorable pajamas on one morning that had crabs, sharks, and octopuses.  I snapped a photo of each creature with my iPhone and thought about how to make them.  Here's what I came up with...

I cannot believe how cute they turned out!  I used the pictures on my iPhone as a template for the designs.  I pulled up the photos on my phone and laid wax paper on top.  I then traced the basic design of each.  I used these outlines under the sheets of wax paper that I piped Royal Icing onto as guides for where to draw.  I just used the basic Wilton recipe for the icing.  I outlined the shape of each animal and immediately flooded each one and let them dry overnight.  The next day, after removing them from the wax paper, I piped on the white for the eyes, gills, and mouths.  I used a black food color pen to add the black dots to the eyes on each design.  The day before the party, I rolled out homemade marshmallow fondant and cut our the circles to mount them on.  I used a little of the leftover icing to secure the critters to the fondant and then I decided to add bubbles!  That always makes me think of Finding Nemo :)...

Here they are on the cupcakes -

And here's the Happy Birthday boy with his cupcakes!  He's a cutie!!!

Linking up at

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Featured on Nap Time Creations

Wow!  I never imagined that I write a 3rd "Featured" post in the same week.  This is so exciting!

Emily, over at Nap Time Creations, included my Sausage Zucchini Pasta Sauce post as part of her dream meal.  How nice! 

Nap-Time Creations

Margarita Pie

Oh, margarita, how do I love thee? And I can love you even more as a dessert!

My hubby and I hosted a dinner party this weekend. We provided the main dish and everyone else was to bring the rest of the meal. I realized on the day of the party that no one was bringing dessert. You can't come to my house and not have dessert!  I had to come up with something fun and fast.

A few weeks ago, I tried Pioneer Woman's Key Lime Pie recipe.  It was delicious!  I used to make a no-bake margarita pie with a pretzel crust. It was always yummy and a big hit!  Thinking of both of those desserts gave me an idea...

I started by placing a few handfuls of pretzels into my food processor and chopping them into crumbs.

I put 4 tablespoons of butter into my pie plate and melted it in the microwave.  I then added 1/4 c. sugar and the pretzel crumbs, a little over a cup into the pie plate.

I mixed everything together and pressed the mixture into the bottom and up the sides of the pie plate.

The pretzels provide that wonderful salty compenent to the margarita flavor of this pie.  I put the crust into a 325 degree oven and baked it for 9 minutes.  I let it cool while I made the filling.  This is where the recipe from Pioneer Woman comes in, I used her recipe for the filling.

It started with gobs and gobs of fresh lime zest!

I used two limes worth because they were pretty small limes.  Then I juiced those two limes along with 3 of their friends!

I put the lime juice and zest into the bowl of my mixer with two egg yolks and beat it all together.  Next, I added a can of sweetened condensed milk...

I beat it all until it was nice and frothy and then...  I strayed from the recipe and took it down my favorite path...

I added 2 tablespoons of Patron Anejo and...

I added 2 teaspoons of Cointreau Orange Liqueur.  I'm telling you, I could eat this straight from the bowl!!!  I poured all of this goodness into the pretzel pie crust.

I baked this for 16 minutes and placed it on the cooling rack.  Once it was cool enough to go in the refrigerator, I wrapped it with plastic wrap and stored it in the frig until we finished dinner -- probably about 4 hours.  When I was ready to serve the pie, I whipped some fresh whipping cream with a few tablespoons of sugar and topped the pie with that and some more zest.

We all dug in and ohhhed and ahhhed our way through this pie.  And I have to admit that sharing this with friends made it taste even better!

Linking up at:

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Featured on Alli N Son's Sweet Tooth Favorites

I was so excited to see that my Strawberry Lemon Cake post was featured on Alli N Son's Sweet Tooth Favorites this week!  Alli is sweet enough to host a weekly link up party that is so fun to participate in each Friday.  Four other gorgeous blog posts also were featured, so be sure to check them all out!

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Monday, June 20, 2011

Featured on Debt Free Spending

Stephanie at Debt Free Spending has graciously featured my Chocolate Covered Strawberry Cupcakes post over on her site

Be sure to visit today for great tips on couponing and living debt free!  She has lots of helpful information and also runs a local ministry to provide for the needs of her community.  What wonderful company to be in!

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Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Sausage & Zucchini Pasta Sauce

Growing up, I had a friend whose family would order junkyard pizza.  It was a pizza with every conceivable topping on it.  Now this was just not something my family ever did -- everyone had too many topping they didn't like and we could have never agreed on what to include or exclude...  I was shocked when I finally got brave enough to try a slice.  It was delicious.  Everything worked together even when they didn't work alone.

We don't order too much pizza these days, but the junkyard concept comes into play at our house still.  It's usually a last minute meal and it starts when I look in the fridge and pull something together.  It happened the other night and I thought I'd share the yummy results.

I opened the refrigerator and discovered that I had the following leftovers already cooked -- 2 large sausage links, 3 grilled chicken tenders and a bowl of spaghetti noodles.  Hmm... what could I do?  I grabbed a couple of large zucchinis and half an onion and a can of diced tomatoes and got started. 

I sliced the chicken tenders and sausage links on the diagonal -- just to make them look bigger and strech it a bit.  I do this often and it helps us use less meat and still feel satisfied because it looks like there's more meat there.  It works for us :).  I then sliced the onion and zucchini up very thinly.  I heated a few tablespoons of olive oil in my skillet and added the meat and onions, along with 2 cloves of freshly pressed garlic.  I stirred this around until the onions became almost clear.  I then added the zucchini.  I sprinkled on salt and freshly ground pepper and bruschetta seasoning.  I get this seasoning in its own grinder bottle from our local Italian food supplier and it's the Cannamela brand.  So delicious!!!  Once the zucchini were just softened, I added in the can of tomatoes.  I kept stirring this all together and let it simmer for a few minutes.  I tasted it a few times while simmering and adjusted the seasoning as needed.

I ran the cooked pasta under warm water from the faucet until they were warmed.  I put some noodles on each plate and topped with the sauce.  It was delicious.  Even the kids cleaned their plates.

Do you ever just throw things in a pan and see what happens?

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Strawberry Lemon Cake

So here is the Strawberry Cake recipe I promised in my last post.  I don't think I mentioned the lemon part, but there is just something about the combination of these two flavors that screams summer to me!  And as you saw in the decorating post, I topped it with plenty of icing and fresh blueberries.  The icing is a Lemon Vanilla Buttercream.  It all worked together really well!

This cake started with the strawberry puree.  I could dive right in this and swim there forever...
I had sliced a pint of strawberries and sprinkled them with a few tablespoons of sugar the day before.  I pulsed them a bit in the food processor until they looked like this --

I put the butter and sugar into the mixer bowl.

And creamed them together until light and fluffy.  Then I mixed in the vanilla and strawberry puree.  I added the eggs one at a time and mixed them well after adding each one.

In a separate bowl, I had sifted together the cake flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  I then added the zest of a lemon to that mixture.  It is always a good idea to mix zest or fruit that you are putting in a cake batter with some flour to keep the items from sinking to the bottom.  Instead of adding a pinch of flour to the zest, I figured I would just throw it all in together.

I added the flour in about 3 portions, mixing well between each addition.  Don't forget to scrape down the paddle and the sides of the bowl.

Once the batter was complete, I split it equally between two prepared pans.  I placed them into a 325 degree oven for about 25 minutes.  They were moved to a cooling rack for a 10 or 15 minutes and removed from the pans.

Once they were completely cool, the fun began...

ICING!  I spread a generous amount of icing on top of the first layer.  Then I topped that with some more strawberry puree.

I topped all of that deliciousness with the other cake layer and iced the rest of the cake.  You can see more about my icing technique in my previous post (linked at the top of the post).  It turned out cute and yummy -- very moist and strawberryie -- ok, maybe not a word, but it should be!

Here's the finished cake.

Strawberry Lemon Cake
1 1/2 sticks butter, room temperature
1 3/4 c sugar
2 1/2 c cake flour, sifted
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
zest of 1 lemon
1/2 tsp double strength pure vanilla extract
3/4 c strawberry puree *
2 eggs, room temperature

*I sliced 1 pint of strawberries and mixed with about 2 tbsp sugar and pulsed in the food processor until pureed.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Spray two 9 inch round pans with non-stick cooking spray that has flour added.

With the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Then add vanilla and eggs one a time, mixing well in between each addition.  In a separate bowl, sift together the cake flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  Mix the lemon zest into the flour mixture.  Add the flour mixture into the wet ingredients in 2-3 additions, mix between each one.

Divide the batter evenly between the two pans.  Bake for 25 minutes.  Cool and ice and enjoy!

Lemon Vanilla Buttercream
2 1/2 sticks butter, room temperature
4 1/2 c powdered sugar
1 tsp double strength pure vanilla extract
1 tsp lemon extract
2-3 tbsp half & half

Cream the butter.  Add the vanilla and lemon extracts and mix well.  Add the sugar about a cup at a time.  Once all of the sugar is incorporated, add the half & half a tbsp at a time until the desired consistency is reached.

This post will be linked up at:

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Blueberry Ruffle Cake

This weekend, I had berries that I needed to use, again.  I know, I know, what a problem to have!  I decided to make a strawberry cake and I'll share that recipe in a later post. 

For today, I thought I'd share how I iced the cake.  I used this method because I just didn't want to worry with getting the icing smooth.  Sometimes, I just can't be bothered with picture perfect icing.  This is a great way to cheat!  And it turned out really cute...

I first applied a crumb coat of icing to the cake.  I wanted to make sure that I didn't have any cake peaking through if my ruffle lines weren't perfect.

I then used my 102 tip to pipe a stripe of icing against the very bottom of the cake.  The line doesn't need to be very flat -- in fact, wiggles and bumps make it even more interesting since we're trying to make it look like a ruffle.  I then worked my way up the side of the cake letting each line slightly overlap the line below it.

Once I made it to the top of the cake, I just kept on making ruffles into the center of the cake.  I left an area on top to fill with blueberries.  I wish that I had left even more room for them because each bite of this cake with a blueberry in it was just wonderful.  I loved it!

This post is linked up at:
      Sugar & Dots What I Whipped Up Wednesday
      We Are That Family Works for Me Wednesday
Jump on over to these pages to find lots of other fun posts!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Muddled Strawberry Margarita

So what do you do with leftover strawberry puree???

You make a MARGARITA, of course!  I love margaritas and I've read through several awesome recipes for them lately.  They are my favorite thing in the world on a hot summer day!

I was baking a strawberry cake today and had a zested lemon and some strawberry puree staring me in the face when all was said and done.  Normally I'm a lime margarita on the rocks kind of girl but there was something about that bowl of strawberry goodness that was calling my name! 

I pulled out my shaker and put in some ice, about 3 tbsp of the puree, the juice of 1/2 lemon, 1 oz Patron Anejo, 1/2 oz Cointreau, and 1 oz water -- I would have used simple syrup instead of water but I'd already sweetened my strawberry puree so that was all of the sugar I needed.  Feel free to use syrup if you like a sweeter cocktail.  I shook everything up and poured it through the strainer into my margarita glass.  Before pouring, I used the lemon half to rub the edge of the glass and dipped it into sugar.  Now, I did not strain the puree to remove the seeds and pulp.  I was really going for the muddled fruit texture -- feel free to strain if you don't like that! 

This drink will be made again in this house!  Next time with girlfriends in attendance!

This post is linked up over at This Week's Cravings!  Check out the party over there!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Tiki Tacky Cupcake Toppers

This weekend, a beautiful friend who is expecting her second child was showered with lots of love and gifts.  I had the priviledge of providing the cupcakes for the celebration.  Now, the sweet ladies who planned the shower came up with such a fun theme -- Tiki Tacky!  A luau theme with tons of pink and purple.  I loved the idea, but what to do, what to do... as a cupcake topper?  I kept seeing the bright hibiscus flowers in Hawaiian print shirts in my head but had no idea how to create such a thing.  And I couldn't find anything I liked locally...

So I made a big batch of royal icing for the first time ever -- using Wilton's recipe and flavoring with raspberry extract.  I kept reading that you could make decorations from it and let them dry on wax paper that could be peeled away before using as a cake topper, so I gave it a whirl...  I could not have been more pleased with how much fun these were to make!

I didn't take any pictures of the process because I wasn't sure they'd turn into anything I'd want to share.  Now I wish I had taken them anyway...  I knew I wanted a 5 petal flower but I didn't have anything around the house that was the right shape.  I meant to look up some clipart to try.  Instead, I noticed that a co-worker had on the most perfectly sized 5 petal flower earring and I asked her if I could trace it.  Although she's still convinced that I'm crazy, she obliged me and here's what I made with them!  I laid the drawing under a sheet of wax paper and piped the outline of the flower.  I then flooded it with the same color icing thinned a bit.  While wet, I added a lighter drop of icing to the center and used a toothpick to pull it up each petal.

I let them dry for about an hour and went back and piped on the raised outline in pink and stamen in white.  I let them dry overnight.  I still wasn't satisfied with those stamens as the icing was a little too thin so they spread out too much.  I picked up a little cake glitter and used corn syrup to paint it on the stamen tips.  Once everything was completely dry, I peeled them off the wax paper and they were ready!

Since it was for a baby shower, I wanted to include something 'babyish' for the cupcakes, too.  So I used a technique I saw from IBakeCakes to make a quilted fabric look from fondant, to make a Hawaiian print I used for onsies and baby bottles.

Here's how the cupcakes turned out -- thank you to my friend, Corrin, for taking such a great photo!

I'm linking this post up over at Tidy Mom I'm Lovin' It Friday.  Check it and all of the other wonderful posts over there out and join the party!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Emma's Candy Bar Pie

Since we finally had a night without any plans, my 8 year old daughter, Emma, and I decided to head into the kitchen together.  Her second grade teacher made a pie for Pi Day and she has been talking about it ever since.  We made a pie from her memory and our collective imaginations of what might be yummy.  And when you start with ingredients like these, how can you go wrong?

This pie was really simple and such a fun activity to do with my kiddo.  How could I resist that face?

Here are the ingredients you'll need --

We started with the crust first.  Just throw one package of graham crackers that you've broken in half into the food processor.  Pulse until they are completely crumbed and add the butter.  Continue pulsing until the butter is combined well.

Pour the mixture into a pie plate and press into the bottom and up the sides of the dish. 
Bake the crust in a 350 degree oven for about 9 minutes.  Remove from oven and allow to cool while you prepare the filling.

The filling starts with fresh sweetened whipped cream.  Pour heavy whipping cream into the bowl of your mixer and gradually increase the speed to high until the cream is thickened and stiff peaks begin to form.  Add sugar by the spoonfull as the cream is mixing.

Set aside 1/3 of the whipped cream.  Fold chocolate sauce of your choice into the remaining 2/3 whipped cream.

Chop the candy bars -- we only chopped one Hershey Bar and four Reese's Cups.  Then we cut one other Hershey Bar and one pack of peanut butter cups for garnish.

Put half of the chocolate whipped cream into the pie crust and spread to cover the entire bottom of the pie. Sprinkle about 3/4 of the chopped candy bars on top of the filling.

Mix the other 1/4 of chopped candy bars into the remaining filling and spread mixture on top of the chopped candy layer of the pie.  Use the reserved whipped cream and cut candy bars for garnish.  Emma did a great job decorating our pie below.  Refrigerate the pie overnight before enjoying.

Candy Bar Pie
1 package graham crackers, about 9 crackers
4 tbsp butter, room temperature
8 oz heavy whipping cream
3 tbsp sugar
1/2 c chocolate sauce*
2 Hershey's Bars
3 twin packs Reese's Peanut Butter Cups

*I used the same homemade chocolate sauce that used in my Chocolate Covered Strawberry Cupcakes recipe as filling.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Break graham crackers in half and place in food processor.  Pulse until they are completely crumbed.  Then add butter and continue pulsing unil well combined.  Pour mixture into pie plate and press into bottom and up sides of dish.  Bake for 9 minutes.  Remove from oven and cool while preparing filling.

Pour heavy whipping cream into bowl of mixer.  Slowly increase spead of mixer to high and add sugar one spoonful at a time.  Continue whipping until stiff peaks begin to form.  Reserve about 1/3 of whipped cream.  Add chocolate sauce to the remaining whipped cream and fold in.

Chop 1 Hershey Bar and 2 packages of Reese's Cups into small pieces.  Cut the rest of the candy for garnishing.

Spread 1/2 of chocolate whipped cream into bottom of pie crust.  Top with 3/4 of chopped candy bars  Mix remaining chopped candy bars into remaining chocolate whipped cream and spread over the top of the pie.  Use remaining candy bars and reserved whipped cream to garnish the pie.

Refrigerate overnight and enjoy!

I'm linking this post up over at Alli N Son's Sweet Tooth Friday.  Check it out for bunches of sweet recipes!
And I'm linking up this cool new party that I just found -- Delicate Contruction's Made by Little Hands Monday.  I think it's such a cool idea to feature what our littles are making, too!
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