Tuesday, October 23, 2012


A few months ago I decided to participate in my first Reddit Gift Exchange...books! I spent a lot of time trying to find something my match would like and sending it out...worrying that I had picked something she wouldn't like or already owned...and then waiting...and waiting...and waiting some more for my gift. Nothing ever came, and thus was I a touch unimpressed with my first experience of Reddit gifts.

Then in late September they posted an exchange that I just could NOT pass up. Doctor Who! I am a newly converted Whovian. I just started watching the "New" Who in July of this year...and I haven't stopped since. I enjoyed Christopher Eccleston's Ninth Doctor...I was enthralled with David Tennant as Ten...and I suppose I tolerate/enjoy Matt Smith as Eleven.

So when this exchange came up...I knew I wouldn't be able to restrain myself, despite my earlier disappointment.

I got my match selected some items for her and shipped them away, but I didn't want to get excited or anxious about my match because I didn't want to be let down again. I was looking at it as a nice thing to do for someone else and didn't worry about reciprocation this time.

There was absolutely NO need for me to be worried...my match was FABULOUS! He did some stalking (just a bit, it didn't take much) and found out that I used to have this tiny little miniscule baking blog with a lovely friend and from there he selected an item that I have wanted since I watched my first episode of Doctor Who - way back in July - a TARDIS Cookie Jar!
I've been lusting after this cookie jar, which lights up and has a sound effect when someone opens the lid, I just couldn't convince myself that it was okay to buy the thing for myself. It has been in my cart on Amazon and ThinkGeek on multiple occasions. What I am saying is I am delighted with your selection gift giver!

Then - on top of that fabulousness - he also threw in a version of Ten's Sonic Screwdriver!

Both of these lovely items actually arrived last Friday, but I wanted to wait to post until I could bake actual cookies to put in my cookie jar.
That is a small flashlight version of Ten's Sonic Screwdriver that I also received. Adorable!
The jar even lights up and makes the sound of the Tardis when you open and close the lid!

I took some time trying to decide what cookies to bake and settled on Mountain Mama Cooks Browned-Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies. After receiving my gift on Friday...taking a quick trip to Noblesville on Saturday to see Katie, Jason and Jonah...I finally had time to make them Sunday night.

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Adapted from Cooks Illustrated


1 3/4 cups flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

14 tablespoons butter

1/2 cup granulated sugar

3/4 cup packed brown sugar

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1 large egg

1 large egg yolk

1 cup chocolate chips

Heat oven to 375F degrees. Whisk flour, baking soda and salt together in bowl; set aside. Heat the butter in a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until melted, about 2 minutes. Continue cooking, swirling the pan constantly until butter is dark golden brown and has a nutty aroma, 1 to 3 minutes. Remove the skillet from heat and transfer butter to large heatproof bowl. Add both sugars and vanilla to bowl. Whisk until fully incorporated. Add egg and egg yolk and whisk until mixture is smooth and no lumps remain. Using a spatula, stir in flour mixture until just combined. Stir in chocolate chips and give the dough a final stir to ensure every thing is well mixed. Drop dough by the spoonful on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper (or greased) 2 inches apart. Bake cookies 10-11 minutes until cookies are still puffy and golden brown. Transfer cookies to cooling rack and cool completely.

The cookies were pretty delicious. They didn't spread nearly as much as I had feared they would...and they were just a touch crunchy on the outside but still chewy and delicious in the middle. For me they tasted like a really yummy version of a Tollhouse cookie. Very basic. But with just that little bit extra to make them totally worth being made from scratch. I will definitely make them again.

As for the cookies and the cookie jar? They didn't disappear into time and space, they made a trip to work, where I am sure my co-workers were pleased to see some baked goods out of me. (I haven't been bringing much in lately, due to making larger orders for other individuals and some serious back pain over the past few years. Also, I am poor.)

Rainbow Revisited

It was a busy couple months for first birthdays. After Jonah's birthday in August, a co-worker's granddaughter had her first birthday party in mid-October. She asked me if I would make some rainbow cakes and cupcakes in sticking with their loose theme of vibrant colors. She wanted 4 dozen cupcakes, a rainbow layer cake with a rainbow inside AND out and a smaller layer cake for the birthday girl to have to herself. I was a little concerned about getting the bright colors for both the cake and the frosting, but that is what she wanted, so that is what I did! After learning my lesson - and using most of my gel dye stash - for Jonah's cupcakes, I ordered the Ateco Spectrum Gel Paste Food Dye. It was cheaper to get the 12-pack on Amazon than to try to track down individual colors, so that is what I went with.
These were spectacular. I usually like Wilton products, but based on my rather limited experience I prefer these. They gel produced vibrant colors without having to use the entire bottle. I was also really pleased that the dye didn't alter the flavor of the buttercream that significantly. Bonus: The squeeze bottles were so much easier to use than the little pots that the Wilton's gel comes in and I didn't end up with dye all over my hands ands counter. Leery of the frosting not being vivid enough I prepared it the night before.
Of all of the colors. I will say I was most displeased with the red. It worked and I think I'm probably the only person who cared...but I have never found a red dye that I was happy with...this did come the closest though. The next day it was time for the batter. The recipe I decided to use was from Whisk Kid. I have lots of other white cake recipes I could have just colored, but I wanted to make sure the batter was sturdy enough to hold up in the thin layers, so I went with the recipe from someone who had previous success. If I was going to make this rainbow cake again just for a friend, it would have to be a GOOD friend, as this was a LOT of work, I would go with the white buttercream on the outside with the rainbow surprise!
The cupcakes looked so pretty before going in to the oven!
And Just as pretty once they came out!
A swipe of vanilla buttercream and some coordinating sprinkles...and the cupcakes were done!
I didn't do much in the way of process for the cakes...but here is the inside...
...and the outside as was requested.
It was an interesting experience...and a far cry from our first attempts at rainbow baking back in 2008.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Jonah's Birthday

Warning: These pictures were taken with a iPhone 3G that was more than four years old. Don't judge.
So I've felt like a return to blog posts lately - if not a return to baking - although I am still doing a fair bit of that, just less often and in greater quantity. To start myself off I thought I'd post some pictures of something a little bit adorable that my dear friend Katie and I worked on for her son's first birthday back in August. Of course Jonah was the cutest thing around, but he isn't mine to post pictures of on the Internet, so I will refrain. Katie did a LOT of work for the little guy's first birthday party and her whole family chipped in to help with cleaning and decorating the house and feeding everyone at the party. I, however, am only going to show you what I had a tiny part in - the baked goods for the Sesame Street themed event.
• Chocolate and vanilla cupcakes with vanilla buttercream as Elmo, Cookie Monster and Oscar the Grouch. • Jonah's smash cake. • White chocolate dipped oreo pops. • Browned Butter Rice Krispie Treats (DELICIOUS!) Katie had picked out the cupcakes she liked the look of from some images online and was confident that with our powers combined we could manage to pull off some Sesame-Street-esque faces. I was not so sure and was hopeful that I could convince her to just let me pipe some brightly colored frosting...I failed. I still am not sure how I feel about the cupcakes as a whole, but I think you can probably tell who they are supposed to be.
Wehad a heck of a time getting Elmo's red frosting. It was pink for a very-very-very long time. Lesson learned, the frosting really does get darker as it sits...and sometimes Wilton Gel isn't the best option. Jonah's smash cake was just a three-layer 6-inch cake. I made up some marshmallow fondant with thoughts of doing something a little more detailed for his big day...but in the end time was not on my side and we went with simple instead with some brightly colored buttercream and his name cut out of white fondant. I tend to like simple anyway. I'm not sure how pleased Katie was with it though.
I'd post some recipes, but the chocolate cake was one that I actually posted on here years earlier. The buttercream was very basic. The vanilla wasn't amazing. Oreo pops don't really have a recipe. And the Browned Butter Rice Krispie Treats were entirely Katie's doing. (Did I mention those were delicious? Totally worth the effort Katie put in.)

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Bacon Bluegrass Cupcakes

Soo....2 and a half years later...

As you may or may not know. I am a avid University of Kentucky basketball fan and when it comes to March Madness I can be a little bit ridiculous in both my fervor and my superstitious behavior.

Last Friday UK met up with the Indiana Hoosiers on their way to the Elite Eight. IU and UK have a pretty great traditional rivalry going on under regular circumstances and meeting up in the NCAA tournament after IU beat UK in the regular season on a last-minute shot took the rivalry to new heights.

To direct some of my nervous energy prior to the game I decided to make some kind of Kentucky cupcake. I'd seen some people making Kentucky Blue Velvet Cupcakes, but I'm just not a huge fan of any variety of velvet cupcakes. So I thought about what else Kentucky was known for...I didn't have to think very long...and came up with BOURBON! Yum!

After a few minutes scouring the Internet I settled on an amalgamation of a couple different recipes.

I went with the Chocolate-Bourbon Cupcake recipe from http://allisoneats.com. Which was an awesome decision. These cupcakes retained their bourbon flavor. WIN! They were also delicious and moist sans frosting. Right out of the oven these had a lovely almost caramelized top which had just a little bit of crunch to them. I've only made these once, so I don't know if that was a side affect of the liquor, or if I screwed up something about the recipe. Either way it turned out tasty.

1 cup bourbon
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (preferably Dutch-process)
2 cups all purpose flour
2 cups sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
2/3 cup sour cream

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two muffin pans with paper liners.
Bring the bourbon and butter to a simmer in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add cocoa powder and whisk until mixture is smooth. Cool slightly.
Whisk flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt in large bowl to blend. Using electric mixer, beat eggs and sour cream in another large bowl to blend. Add bourbon-chocolate mixture to egg mixture and beat just to combine. Add flour mixture and beat briefly on slow speed. Using rubber spatula, fold batter until completely combined.
Fill cupcake liners 3/4 full (I just used an ice cream scoop and they turned out well) and bake 20-25 minutes (mine actually took a bit longer), until toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

For the frosting I started off with a Maple-Bourbon recipe from http://hauteapplepie.com.

1 stick butter, softened
8 oz. cream cheese
3-4 C powdered sugar
2 Tbsp good bourbon, such as Maker’s Mark
1/4 C real maple syrup OR 1/2 tsp maple extract
+ additional sifted flour as thickener

Beat butter and cream cheese until smooth. Beat in one cup of powdered sugar. Add bourbon and maple syrup and beat well. Beat in remaining powdered sugar. If frosting is not thick enough to your liking, beat in 1/4 C flour or additional sugar to thicken.

I ended up using additional flour, and a mixture of maple syrup and maple extract. As with most frosting I used the recipe as a jumping off point and went from there until I got something that I could pipe...and taste the way I wanted it too. The bourbon was also definitely present in this frosting too. I also wouldn't recommend the frosting for piping in any kind of warm temperature. It worked, but it was very very soft and if it had been warm or not it wouldn't have held its shape at all.

I topped it all off with some bacon bits. I baked the bacon in the oven which made it not to crunchy and not to underdone. It worked out really well. The salty bacon really tempered the incredibly sweet frosting. Or at least I thought so!

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Mickey Mouse Pancakes

If you know me, or if you've ever lived with me, or just spent the night at my house, you know how much I love love love breakfast! Hens in a Nest, french toast, omelets, pancakes, biscuits and gravy, muffins, bacon, bacon, and more bacon... what's not to love? I often find myself eating breakfast for dinner because I usually don't make much of a breakfast during the school week. I was especially excited on Father's Day because I was going to go to Fort Wayne, and my Nana was making breakfast for everyone. I knew this would involve my childhood favorite, Mickey Mouse pancakes. Sometimes just the head, other times the whole body, these were a staple of my childhood. I couldn't wait!

Then, it was all ruined. My brother's car got towed, and I don't have a car, so I was stuck in Indy. But, I still wanted my damn pancakes! Luckily for me, Joy the Baker (have I mentioned how much I love her?) posted her dad's recipe for buttermilk pancakes. I cut the recipe in half, and added more buttermilk so I could get a good Mickey shape. They were delicious! Not quite like Nana's, but yummy nonetheless. Now go make some pancakes!

Buttermilk Pancakes

Makes about 5 Mickey Mouse or 10 small pancakes

  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1 egg
  • 1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1/2 stick unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons light brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
Whisk together milk, eggs and vegetable oil in a medium bowl, then whisk in the butter.

Stir together flour, baking powder, sugar and salt in another medium bowl. Whisk in egg mixture until combined.

Once combined, let the batter sit for 10 minutes while griddle preheats.

Spray a griddle or skillet with nonstick vegetable spray over medium heat. Pour about 1/4 cup of batter onto skillet in a circle, then add two smaller circles for the ears. (You may need to add some more buttermilk if the batter is too thick to pour easily.) Cook until bubbles have formed on the top and sides of the pancakes and broken, about 2 minutes.

Flip pancakes with a spatula (a super thin metal spatula works great) and cook until undersides are golden, about 1 minute more. Lower heat if pancakes brown too quickly.

Serve with maple syrup. Don't forget the blueberries and bacon if you want to be super awesome like me!

Blueberry Oatmeal Muffins

Hullooooooo! (in that wonderful Julia Child/Mrs. Doubtfire sort of way)

Please forgive me for my extended absence. Yes, I know that it's been over a year since I last posted. Yes, I have baked a lot since then. Yes, I know that I am incredibly lazy and a procrastinator. But let's put that all behind us, and talk about some tasty muffins, mmkay?

I have been on a blueberry kick this summer. Hardly a day has gone by that I haven't had a blueberry in my fridge. Usually they just go in my yogurt or some pancakes (we'll get to that). But last time I went to the farmer's market, I bought an absurd amount. I was considering freezing them, but then I came across this recipe from Joy the Baker. It was truly destiny. I actually have buttermilk in my fridge, which I can never seem to use up before the expiration date. I had two little applesauce cups left to make one cup, and exactly half a cup of brown sugar. Perfect way to start a lazy Sunday, don't ya think?

Blueberry Oatmeal Muffins

Makes 12-15 muffins

* 1 1/4 cups whole wheat flour (I used white whole wheat flour)
* 1 1/4 cups oats
* 1 tsp baking powder
* 1/2 tsp baking soda
* 1/4 tsp salt
* 1/2 tsp cinnamon
* 1 cup unsweetened applesauce (two of the snack pack size)
* 1/2 cup low-fat buttermilk
* 1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
* 2 tbsp canola oil
* 1 large egg, lightly beaten
* 3/4 cup blueberries (fresh or frozen)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Line a 12 cup muffin tin with paper cases or spray with nonstick cooking spray. I used the Crisco baking spray, which is great for muffins!

In a large bowl combine flour, oats, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. In a medium bowl combine applesauce, buttermilk, sugar, oil and egg. Make a well in dry ingredients and add applesauce mixture. Stir until just moist. Fold in blueberries. Fill muffin cups 2/3 full. (I use a 1/4 cup measuring cup and it seems to fill them perfectly) If you have extra berries, it's always nice to put a few on top of the muffins.

Bake for 16-18 minutes, or until golden brown and delicious.

These go very well with a mug of coffee and Meet the Press, in my opinion.

Happy Sunday! :)

Saturday, November 1, 2008

A Halloween Wedding

Long, long ago, on a college campus far, far away, in Indianapolis, two freshmen at the University of Indianapolis decided to attend a "Christian" event (I can't remember the name of it, nor could I find it via google.) that allowed them to move on campus several days early. Woo!
Well not long into this event these two freshmen realized that both sarcasm and wit seemed to be wasted on the vast majority of people at this event. Thus, a bond occurred. The two freshmen were friends through all of the angst ridden drama that comes during the first year of college and some of it that comes from living in an all girls residence hall. Alas! At the end of their freshmen year, one of these two returned to Wisconsin while the other remained in Indiana.

And...roughly five years later, I finally made it to Wisconsin to see Nicki...for her wedding! on Halloween!

Meet the bride and groom: Nicki and Andy. They had a fabulous Halloween themed wedding, how could you do anything else for a wedding on Oct. 31. The seven hour drive was well worth it for me to finally meet Andy and to be there for their wedding. They had fabulous hand carved pumpkins lining the way into the reception. Each table had a Halloween centerpiece and the table numbers were small pumpkins with the number carved into them. The seat assignments were amazing toe tags hand made by Nicki. Not to mention all of the extra Halloween touches and the mini caskets filled with candy at each seat.

All of it was fabulous, but man you should have seen the cake they picked out, three layers, with each layer a different cake/filling combination. Yummmmmm...I was on my way out the door to head back to Indiana right while they were cutting the cake when Nicki's grandma brought me a piece of the delicious cake. She even psychically knew not to give me the cheesecake layer! I held off until about Chicago when I finally broke down and ate every delicious bite:-) Would you like to see the cake?

Isn't it pretty!? Just like them!

Thanks for inviting me Nicki, I was so happy to be there for your special day and to see how happy Andy makes you. The wedding was perfect. Right down to the sounds of trick-or-treating outside the church during the ceremony. Love you!

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Happy Birthday to Katie!

While Katie and Jason traveled to Ohio for a DEVO Concert/Obama Fundraiser I traveled to their house to let their dog out and to make some stealthy birthday baked goods. Yes, I baked in their kitchen while neither of them were home. I'm creepy like that.

First up I tried my hand at making my first ever apple pie. I cannot reveal the recipe as it is a shhhh! family secret of some sort that is not mine to reveal, but it is pretty freaking tasty, I can tell you that much. And, hey...not bad for my first attempt at from scratch pie.

Next up is one of the best things I have ever baked and one of the worst photos. When I was at Katie's I forgot to take a picture of the cake, so a week later we took this one, the cake had sank some while in the fridge and a week had not done much to improve its looks or probably its taste either.

The original recipe comes from Sky High: Irresistible Triple Layer Cakes, but I found it via Life in a Peanut Shell. The original recipe included a sour cream triple layer chocolate cake, peanut butter cream cheese frosting (don't judge until you have tried it..Yum.), and a chocolate-peanut butter glaze that I opted out of.

Sour Cream-Chocolate Cake with Peanut Butter Frosting
Sky High: Irresistible Triple-Layer Cakes

Makes an 8-inch triple-layer cake

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 cups sugar
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, preferably Dutch process
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup neutral vegetable oil, such as canola, soybean or vegetable blend
1 cup sour cream
1 1/2 cups water
2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs


1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter the bottoms and sides of three 8-inch round cake pans. Line the bottom of each pan with a round of parchment or waxed paper and butter the paper.

2. Sift the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt into a large bowl. Whisk to combine them well. Add the oil and sour cream and whisk to blend. Gradually beat in the water. Blend in the vinegar and vanilla. Whisk in the eggs and beat until well blended. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and be sure the batter is well mixed. Divide among the 3 prepared cake pans.

3. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until a cake tester or wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out almost clean. Let cool in the pans for about 20 minutes. Invert onto wire racks, carefully peel off the paper liners, and let cool completely. Then freeze for 15-20 minutes while you prepare the frosting.

4. To frost the cake, place one layer, flat side up, on a cake stand or large serving plate. Spread 2/3 cup cup of the Peanut Butter Frosting evenly over the top. Repeat with the next layer. Place the last layer on top and frost the top and sides of the cake with the remaining frosting.

Peanut Butter Frosting
Makes about 5 cups

10 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
5 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
2/3 cup smooth peanut butter

1. In a large bowl with an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese and butter until light and fluffy. Gradually add the confectioners’ sugar 1 cup at a time, mixing thoroughly after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl often. Continue to beat on medium speed until light and fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes.

2. Add the peanut butter and beat until thoroughly blended.

The surprise didn't work out very well, but we did have a tasty if slow dinner with Katie, Rich, Rob, Susan, Jason, Tracy, Jillian and Allen and then cake and pie at Katie's. Mmm...pie.