Holiday Treats

With the holidays right around the corner, I've got some cute treats for you today!  I've got tutorials for melting snowmen cookies, as well as nativity scene fondant topper for the cupcakes.

First up is the melting snowmen cookies. I used to always wish for a white Christmas every year.  I remember one year when I was little there was no snow predicted. I still wished for snow and was determined it would on Christmas day.  We were done opening presents and suddenly it started snowing.  I was pretty sure it had snowed just for me!  Now that I don't get snow days and have to drive in it, I'm not as big of a fan of snow.  But, I do still secretly wish for a white Christmas each year! It doesn't look like we will have one this year, but we did get some snow last night.

These melting snowmen cookies are as enjoyable to make as they are to eat.  So grab your favorite holiday movie (mine is Elf), pour some hot cocoa, and enjoy these snowman sugar cookies!

Melting Snowman Sugar Cookies ingredients (yields 1 dozen):
  • 12 sugar cookies (I cheated and used ready to bake cookies so no recipe for the cookies!)
  • 12 marshmallows
  • Can of icing (royal or cookie icing will harden and can be used 
  • sprinkles
  • Tubes of icing or icing in piping bag with #12 tip (brown for arms, chosen color for scarf/buttons)
  • Edible markers
Melting Snowman Sugar Cookies directions:
  1. Bake your favorite cookie.
  2. Cover cookies with icing while they are still warm, allowing it to melt and run down the side of the cookies.
  3. Decorate marshmallow with eyes, nose, and mouth using edible markers.
  4. Place marshmallow on side of cookie while the icing is still warm.
  5. Let cookies cool completely.
  6. Using piping bag, or icing tubes, draw scarf, buttons, and branch arms. 
Next up is a cute topper for cupcakes.  I created these nativity toppers loosely based on an idea I found on Flickr. I didn't have any cookie cutters to create the shapes and was having trouble free handing the toppers.  I decided to use the idea online as a template to create the shapes.  I modified it slightly by removing the stars, and adding the manger silhouette.  The manger background piece created a base for the other pieces to be glued to.

Nativity fondant items needed:
  • Blue, white, peach (copper and white combined with slight amount of yellow), copper, and dark brown fondant
  • Edible markers
  • Gum glue (water with pieces of gum paste or fondant)
  • Fondant roller
  • Exacto knife
  • Paint brush
  • Print out 6 copies of fondant scene
Nativity fondant directions:
  1. Color fondant and keep it covered until needed.
  2. Cut out shape of Mary, Joseph, arms, and Jesus from different copies.
  3. Start with the dark brown fondant and roll out to around 1/8 inch.
  4. Cut out fondant into pentagon shape about 1.5 inches wide and 1.5 inches tall.
  5. Roll out the blue fondant to 1/16 inch.
  6. Place the shape of Mary over the fondant, and cut out the shape using the Exacto knife.
  7. Attach to the fondant nativity using the gum glue.
  8. Continue the process with the Joseph using the copper fondant.
  9. Cut out the arms for Mary and Joseph using the blue and copper fondant respectively. Roll the fondant to just under 1/16 inch. Attach with gum glue.
  10. Cut out the main shape of Jesus using white fondant and attach with gum glue.
  11. Roll out the peach fondant to just under 1/16 inch.
  12. Cut out three circles for each piece (two larger and one small).
  13. Attach the circles for faces to Mary, Joseph, and Jesus.  
  14. Draw on eyes and mouth using the edible markers.
  15. Cut out small squares for hand for Mary and one for Joseph.  Round out the side to look like a hand.
  16. Attach hands with fondant.
Enjoy these holiday treats and I hope everyone has a very Merry Christmas and a happy holidays! I'll be taking a few days off, but still have some more holiday treats coming up.  Check back for an Italian Cream cake and a New Years cake.

Red Velvet White Chocolate cookies

It's been a while since I've posted, as I haven't been baking as much lately. I've tried a few healthy dessert recipes, but haven't found a new one that I really enjoyed other than the 140 calorie cupcake.  But, now that the holidays are here I have several new projects and treats I'm working on. In the next few days I have some holiday cookie recipes, decor ideas, and a cupcake topper tutorial!

Cookies are a great holiday treat to share with family and friends, and of course to leave for Santa!  Today's cookie recipe combines two of my favorite sweets - red velvet cake and white chocolate.  I decided to combine those two into one cookie. This recipe is simple and creates a beautifully delicious cookie. The worst part is trying to eat just one!  The recipe is based on a Duncan Hines recipe.  I have altered the recipe to include white chocolate chips in the batter.

Red Velvet White Chocolate Chip Cookie ingredients (yields 24):
  • Duncan Hines Red Velvet cake mix
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup white chocolate chips
  • Powdered sugar (optional)

Red Velvet White Chocolate Chip Cookie directions:
  1. Preheat over to 375F.
  2. Put cake mix, oil, and 2 eggs in a mixing bowl.
  3. Combine with wire whisk or beaters.
  4. Fold in white chocolate chips.
  5. Cover cookie sheet with parchment paper.
  6. Form into tablespoon size balls and place on parchment paper.
  7. Bake for approximately 10 minutes.
  8. You can finish the cookies, if desired, by dusting with powdered sugar.

140 Calorie Chocolate Cupcake

I'm excited to start a couple new series of posts on my blog.  First, is one coming up this weekend.  I'm starting a "Savory Saturdays" feature to my blog.  Almost all my posts have been desserts, but I've been experimenting some with savory dishes as well.  So check out my blog on Saturdays for new dinner ideas, and twists on traditional ones.  I just tried out my recipe last night for this Saturday's post, and it was a hit with my husband.

My other new feature is one I'm starting today. Can you believe Thanksgiving is just two weeks away?! If you are like most people, the start of the Holiday season can be a time when weight gain becomes hard to fight. Not only are there fattening desserts and treats around every corner, but its also cold and harder to stay active.  Thats why between now and New Years Eve, I am periodically posting some healthy alternatives to your favorite desserts.  These treats make it easier to not completely cut out all desserts (for anyone like me with a major sweet tooth), but also don't pack on the pounds.  I've found recipes for a variety of desserts including chocolate cake, banana pudding and a cinnamon apple crumble.

Today's recipe is for a reduced fat, low calorie chocolate cupcake. This cupcake doesn't have quite the same level of flavor or taste as my favorite cupcake recipe, but it contains a fraction of the calories.  A traditional chocolate cupcake with buttercream icing can have 450-500 calories, or more. This revised recipe only has around 140 calories per cupcake.

The reduction in calories doesn't come with a reduction in size.  The cupcake is a traditional size, but has considerable less fat and calories by replacing milk and butter with low fat sour cream, replacing icing with a powdered sugar dusting, and reducing the amount of egg, cocoa powder, and sugar. The cake is light, almost like a sponge cake.  It is good alone, but can be enhanced with strawberries, raspberries, or fresh fruit to give added flavor.  A low fat yogurt would be another great compliment to this cake, without racking up the calories.

This recipe may not be what you enjoy best and want to use for special occasions, but it is a great way to satisfy a sweet tooth during the week, without the extra calories.  The cake is as light as it is guilt free!

The recipe originally comes from a website, CDKitchen.  You will notice it calls out a slightly higher calorie amount.  The recipe baked it as a cake with 9 servings.  I decided to make it as cupcakes, and was able to stretch the batter to 12 cupcakes.  So I found the new amount of calories, which is just around 140!

Cupcake Ingredients

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup reduced fat sour cream
  • egg
  • 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Cupcake Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350F.
  2. Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl.
  3. Beat on low until fully combined.
  4. Place 12 liners in cupcake pan.
  5. Bake for around 18-20 minutes.
Hope you enjoy this healthier alternative to chocolate cake!  Check back soon for a mouth watering easy apple crumble dessert that is not only healthy, but cooks in the crock pot!

Jaxson's 3rd Birthday Party

If you are planning a party for someone who likes Disney's Cars, then you will want to check out today's tutorials!  This past weekend, my sweet nephew turned 3 and we had a party to celebrate.  Jaxson loves playing with cars, and especially likes Lightning McQueen and Tow Mater from the Disney's Cars movie.  We wanted to have a big celebration this year, as it was his first birthday with us!  Last year we celebrated his birthday, as they had received the adoption match, but we hadn't gotten to meet this special boy yet! 

My sister definitely has a knack for decorating and planning parties.  From ideas of her own, and some from Pinterest, she created a very cute space for the party.  Here's a few pics of the party area.


I was in charge of all things sweet which included a cake, smash cake, and cupcake favors.  I scoured the internet searching for cute Cars themed cakes for months in advance. In the end I used some of the ideas I found online, mixed with some of my own. The amount of baking and decorating was no small task, as there were a lot of people wanting to help celebrate his big day!  I ended up spending almost the entire day before baking and decorating, but the smile on Jaxson's face when he saw the cake definitely made it worth it!

I had been looking forward to making the cake, but was also nervous as I wanted it to be perfect for him!  My day of baking got off to a rough start...  My goal was to make a checkerboard cake so when you cut into it, it would look like the racing flag. I bought a checkerboard pan a couple months ago, but with my recent move I never got the chance to try it out.  Let me offer this advice to anyone trying a checkerboard cake - you need very thick batters!  I wanted to use my go-to recipes for chocolate and vanilla, as I knew my family liked them.  I knew my chocolate recipe was very thin, but I assumed the thicker vanilla would help hold the shape.  It didn't...

I poured the batter into the slots of the pan and it seemed to hold its shape.  But as it started baking the chocolate settled to the bottom and it didn't work. In the end, though, I had a "mess-up" cake my family enjoyed eating for dinner. If anyone has had success with the checkerboard cake, I'd love to hear your recipes! 

I can be a little bit of a perfectionist when it comes to the cakes, so I was extremely disappointed I couldn't make it work. Within the next 15 minutes I managed to dump a full bottle of vanilla extract, spill batter on the floor, and mess up the batter for another cake.  Finally I calmed down, refocused, and started hitting my stride again.

So here are the treats I made, along with some explanations.  As I had a LOT of work to do, I didn't take the time to take a lot of pictures along the way. So I hope my explanations will suffice.  As always, feel free to email, Facebook or comment on the blog with any questions!  

Main Cake

The cake I made first was the two tiered main cake.  This design was based off one I found on Pinterest, with some changes along the way.  This was my first attempt at a tiered cake and I was very nervous!  My husband read with me online to get an idea of what all was needed to support the cake.  We chose the more dense cake for the bottom, but still used dowel rods for the support system. You can read more about stacking cakes on Wilton's website (or other cake decorating sites).

Here are the steps I used to create the cake!
  • Bake and ice both an 8 in and 11 in cake (or whatever sizes you are needing).  I like the look of a 2-3 in difference in size for stacked cakes.  I was going for 3 in tall cakes.  Mine are slightly less, but close.  You can always fill the cakes with buttercream to create a taller look.
  • Make sure both cakes are on cake boards.  I choose a decorative thick one for the bottom layer and thin one for top layer.  You don't want to notice the top one, it is just there for support.  I cut it just slightly larger than the cake, to make it easier to pick up.  The border covers any part showing. A dab of icing can be placed between cake and board to "glue" it onto board.
  • Create fondant pieces for the cake.  All of these, except the road, can be made in advance. As shown, the cake has 5 main fondant components:
  1. Road
  2. Traffic cone
  3. Fondant character heads
  4. "Jaxson" logo
  5. Checkerboard "Happy Birthday"
Road - 

  • For the road, I started with a package of black fondant.  I usually buy white fondant and tint it, but black is very difficult, and time consuming, to create.  Since I needed a lot of black, I decided to buy it.  
  • Next I rolled it out to be thin (<1/16 in). I have the Wilton Roll-N-Cut Mat which made this process very easy.  It is a large mat that has a grid and markings so you know the length, width, and even diameter of the fondant you are rolling out.  
  • I then simply used two round objects to cut out the shape. I actually found a pot lid that was just slightly smaller than the top of the cake. This became a perfect fondant cutter as it had an edge around it.  I also found a bowl that worked of the inside of the road. It is ok if it is slightly smaller than the cake, as the border will cover the gap.
  • When I was ready to put the road on, the icing was still somewhat sticky and hadn't crusted fully.  I was able to attach the road without using additional icing or gum glue.  If the road doesn't seem to stick, though, use one of the edible adhesives to attach it.
Traffic Cone -
  • Tint small amount of fondant (approx large marble size) orange.  If you are using Wilton gels, just use equal red and yellow, as there is no orange.
  • Roll out a thin layer of fondant and cut out a 1/4 in - 1/2 in square piece.  Use your finger, or a spatula, to round out the edges. 
  • Create a cone shape out of the rest of the orange fondant.  I usually start with a ball shape and then pinch and roll one end to get the cone point.  I hold the other end against my hand to keep it flat.  You can also create a cone shape by inserting into one of your decorating tips.  Just make sure it has been sprinkled with some cornstarch inside, so the fondant will not stick in it.
  • Roll out white fondant paper thin.
  • Cut two long, thin strips of the fondant to create the lines on the traffic cone.
  • Attach the strips using gum glue (water with small balls of gum paste or fondant).
Fondant Character Faces - You may recognize these from my previous tutorial.  See that post for step by step instructions (including lots of pics).

Jaxson Logo - Any Disney Cars fans will probably recognize this as the logo for the movie, with "Cars" replaced with "Jaxson."  

  • Create gray fondant by tinting the white fondant with the black gel. 
  • Roll out the approx 1/8 in and cut out a v-shape.  You want the two edges to be thinner on the ends than in the middle.  I just used a spatula to create the cuts and shape the piece.
  • Tint fondant red for the next component.  I have trouble getting a real red shape with the Wilton gels, for some reason.  I've found that the Duff food coloring seems to get a more vibrant red.  You can also purchase that at Michaels.  It is more of a traditional food coloring, so it affects the consistency more in icing, but it works well for the fondant.
  • Cut out a banner shape for the main portion of the red.  I rolled this to just under 1/8 in.
  • Attach the red piece to the gray "V" using gum glue.
  • Roll out small pieces of fondant between fingers and shape into letters of the name or word you are creating. This size will depend on how long of a word you are creating.
  • CAREFULLY attach the letters using gum glue.  Don't worry it you get a lot of excess gum glue on the red portion. When dried, you will not notice it.
"Happy Birthday" and "3" -  
  • Roll out white fondant to 1/8 in.
  • Cut out "Happy Birthday" using cookie cutters.  If you don't have alphabet cookie cutters, they are a great investment!  If not, though, you can free hand.  Another option would be printing out bubble letters and placing the page over the fondant.  You could then use an Exacto knife to cut out the letters in the paper and the fondant.
  • You could cut out small pieces of black fondant to create the checkerboard look.  But to make it easier, use a black edible marker to create the squares on the shape.  I started by drawing out horizontal and vertical lines to make the grid shape.  I then colored in the appropriate squares.
  • The 3 was cut out using a cookie cutter and 1/4 in thick red fondant.
Back to the cake now...
  • Attach the road to the top tier cake.
  • Place toy cars on the road 
  • Attach traffic cone, fondant "3", and checker board flags to the center area of the cake.  Use your imagination to create additional pieces for this area.
  • Attach character faces and "Jaxson" logo
  • Prep pastry bag with coupler and tip 234 (grass tip).
  • Fill pastry bag with leftover green buttercream (leaving some in bowl for later).
  • Pipe grass along the outer and inside edge of the road.  Hold bag at 45 degree angle and apply pressure and then pull away from cake as you gradually let go of pressure.
  • Pipe grass around any other pieces in the center of the cake.
  • DON'T pipe the bottom edge of either cake yet - this will come after assembling.
  • Pipe grass around the top edge of the bottom tier cake.
  • Assemble the "Happy Birthday" letters around cake.  Attach with gum glue, if needed.
  • Deliver cake to final location before stacking - if at all possible.
  • Cut 5 dowel rods down to the height of the lower tier.  Make sure not to cut the rods on or over cake, as you don't want shavings in icing! If the cake is not the same thickness throughout, cut to the lowest point.  Make sure ALL pieces are the same height to ensure the top tier is level.
  • Insert four rods in a square shape on the bottom tier, just inside the location of the edge of the top cake.  I found this edge by slightly pressing the cake board and top tier onto the icing.
  • Place fifth rod in center of the cake for extra support.
  • Place top tier on the bottom tier and make sure it seems stable.
  • Finish piping border along the bottom of both cakes. I actually didn't use it on bottom tier, but you could add it there.

I know, that's a lot of work!  But that is the hardest part of all the tutorials, and definitely worth it!!  The next cake is MUCH easier.  

I wanted my nephew to have a smash cake just for him.  It also needed to have dairy free icing so I altered my buttercream recipe.  I used all shortening (instead of 1/2 shortening, 1/2 butter).  I replaced milk with a mixture of non-dairy creamer powder and water.

Lightning McQueen smash cake -

  • Bake a 6 in round cake that is about 1 in tall. Once cooled, place on cake board.
  • Tint buttercream red using coloring gels and small amount of liquid food coloring, if needed.  I was having trouble getting it to tint with just gel, and had to use some food coloring drops as well.  
  • Ice the cake with the red buttercream.
  • Cut out a shape for the mouth and eyes with white fondant rolled paper thin.
  • If icing hasn't fully hardened, place the fondant on the icing and it should stick.  If not, use gum glue to attach them.
  • Cut out two circles from black fondant and place on the eye shape to complete the eye look.
  • Roll out small balls of black and white fondant to create the border for the cake.
  • Put some gum glue on each piece with a paintbrush and attach to the bottom edge of cake.  This creates a cute border and pulls in the checkerboard details from other cake and decor.
Party favors - 

  • Bake cupcakes and let completely cool. I used mainly shiny foil wrappers to not draw attention away from toppers, and add to the car feel.
  • You can pipe, or just ice a small amount of icing to the top of the cupcake.  
  • Attach characters to the top of the cupcake.  Again these faces are all shown in my previous tutorial.  I created the traffic cone with a black fondant rectangle and three colored circles.  These are again attached with gum glue.
  • Place party favors in bag or box with see-through top for a cute touch!  I found these boxes on Amazon and they were the perfect size for the favors.  My sister added some Cars stickers to the sides of the boxes to finish out the look.

As you can see, a LOT of work went into the decor and treats for the party.  But, it was well worth it to see the birthday boy enjoy his day!!  Hope you found some ideas to make your next Cars party extra special! Feel free to share this post with friends on Pinterest, Facebook, or however you like! 


Halloween Recap

Hope everyone had a great Halloween yesterday!  My husband and I went with some friends to a get together last night and I made some cupcakes.  I have never been a big fan of Halloween, as I am a bit of a wimp when it comes to scary movies and haunted houses.  But last night we had a great time with a few families, and got to enjoy seeing some kids get dressed up and get excited over the best part of Halloween - candy!

I decided to go for three different looks for the Halloween cupcakes.  I made some Jack 'O Lantern, candy corn, and witch cupcakes - all of which were chocolate.  You can find the chocolate cupcake recipe in the Andes mint post (just the cupcake part). For the icing I used a traditional buttercream recipe.  I didn't take a lot of pictures as I was rushing to get them done, but here's a brief tutorial on how to create it.

It may be too late for this Halloween (unless you are having a belated get together), but hope you keep these in mind for next year! The pumpkin cupcakes could even be made for a Thanksgiving get together if you leave off the face and make them simply pumpkins.  They would be especially cute on a pumpkin spice cupcake!

Jack 'o Lantern cupcake ingredient:s

  • Cupcakes
  • Buttercream icing
  • Red and yellow food coloring
  • Black and brown food coloring
  • White fondant
  • Wilton tip #12
Jack 'o Lantern cupcake directions:
  1. Start by tinting the buttercream icing with a mixture of red and yellow Wilton food coloring. 
  2. Using the Wilton #12 tip, pipes lines on the cupcake to create the look for the pumpkin.  Pipe a straight line down the middle, and then more curved lines along the sides.
  3. Using the black food coloring, tint the fondant.
  4. Cut out three triangles as well as a shape for the mouth.
  5. Tint some fondant brown and cut out a rectangle.
  6. Assemble the eyes, nose, mouth, and brown stem onto the cupcake. If needed, use gum glue to ensure the pieces stick. (Gum glue - water with small pieces of gum paste or fondant in it.)

Candy corn cupcake ingredient:s
  • Cupcakes
  • Buttercream icing
  • Red and yellow food coloring
  • Wilton 1M tip

Candy corn cupcake directions:
  1. For this cupcake start by separating the icing into three unequal parts.  The largest quantity should be tinted orange, the next largest yellow, and the smallest amount white.
  2. Using the Wilton 1M tip, pipe a layer of orange onto each cupcake.
  3. Add a layer on top of yellow buttercream.
  4. Finish them off with a small amount of white buttercream.

Witch cupcake ingredient:s
  • Cupcakes
  • Buttercream icing
  • Left over icing from candy corn (or red and yellow food coloring)
  • Wilton 1M tip
  • Fondant
  • Black food coloring
  • Brown food coloring
Witch cupcake directions:
  1. For this cupcake I started by using the left over icing from the candy corn.  I mixed it all together and got a light orange shade.   If you don't have any left over, just create some new orange icing.
  2. Using the Wilton 1M tip, pipe the icing onto the cupcake.
  3. Tint the fondant with the black food coloring.
  4. Roll the fondant out thin (<1/4 in).
  5. Cut out a small circle using the larger end of one of the tips.
  6. Cut out a rectangle of fondant and shape it around a tip to create the cone shape for the top of the witches hat. Use gum glue to secure the side where it meets and cut off any remaining fondant. This creates a hollow top to the hat, you could also just create a solid cone out of fondant.
  7. Pinch down the top of the cone of fondant to create the witches hat look.
  8. Use gum glue to attach the top of the witches hat to the base.  For the hollow cone, you can use a fondant tool to pinch down some of the cone and press into the hat.
  9. Roll out some black fondant and cut to the length you want from the broom stick.
  10. Tint some fondant brown.
  11. Roll out and cut out a rectangle of the brown fondant.  Curve up the top of the portion and add lines with a fondant tool or tooth pick.
  12. Use gum glue to attach the brown portion of the broom to the broom stick.
  13. Finish the cupcake by placing the witches hat and broom onto the piped icing.  If the icing has crusted or is hardened, put a little gum glue on the pieces so they won't fall off.

I've got a LOT of baking to do this weekend for my nephew's birthday party, and I'm very excited!  Check back in a few days for Disney Cars themed treats and tutorials!  I will be making a tiered cake, smash cake, and cupcakes - each complete with special fondant details.  I've gotten a jump start on the cupcake toppers, but still have a lot to do! Hope you check it out and get some ideas for your favorite Lightning McQueen or Tow Mater fan!

Cinnamon Roll - In a Drink!

If you read my last blog post, then you know my husband and I just moved.  We've had a whirlwind past couple days, but have started settling into our new place.  It's taking some creativity to fit everything from our house into our town house, but we are getting there. I've been looking around on Pinterest for storage ideas and making use of baskets everywhere!

The day after we moved in, the temperature dropped dramatically.  Unfortunately, all our warm clothes were still packed. My husband was starting to get some looks walking around in short sleeves. &nbsp We finally found them, but have yet to locate our coats...

With the cooler weather, chili sounded great for our first dinner in our new place.  I decided to also make a warm treat for dessert. I had stumbled across a delicious cinnamon bun white hot chocolate recipe, and decided to give it a try. I found this recipe, through Pinterest, on the Crock Pot Recipe Exchange site. They have all kinds of great crock pot recipes, definitely a site I want to check out again!

This delicious, rich dessert takes several hours to cook in the crock pot. It feels your home with a wonderful cinnamon smell though! Make sure you follow the first step, for the full length of time. This step infuses the milk with the cinnamon.

Cinnamon Roll Hot Chocolate Ingredients:
  • 1/2 gallon milk
  • 8 Cinnamon sticks
  • 2 1/4 cup white chocolate chips
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 4 tsp vanilla extract
  • 4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • pinch of sea salt
  • Optional garnishing: marshmallow fluff or whipped cream, pecans, caramel
Cinnamon Roll Hot Chocolate Directions:
  • Pour the milk in a 3 or 4 quart slow cooker
  • Add in cinnamon sticks
  • Cook covered on low for 1 1/2 to 2 hours 
  • Remove cinnamon sticks (I used scoop to get them as it is warm)
  • Mix in the white chocolate chips, brown sugar, vanilla, and ground cinnamon.
  • Cook for 30-45 minutes covered.
  • Whisk in the white chocolate as they have melted.
  • Cook for an additional 30 minutes covered.
  • Whisk again.
  • Ladle into heatproof mug and garnish (I just used whipped topping and caramel)

As an added treat, I paired my drink with some mini Vanilla Wafers.  I wanted a simple snack that would compliment the flavor, but not overtake it.  The drink has a LOT of flavor, so the Vanilla wafers made for a great pairing.  I even dipped some in the drink.  

Hope you enjoy this wonderful treat, which is perfect for a cool, autumn day!  This makes a lot of hot chocolate, so it's great to share with family and friends!  If you have a 6 quart slow cooker, you can double the recipe.  This would be great for a party!

Art Imitates Life - Change and Red Velvet Cake

My goal today was to make a Red Velvet cake with a kick of spice. This cake was important to me as it symbolized my last cake in my beautiful kitchen (more on that in a minute).  I love my kitchen and have made so many of these treats in it.  I envisioned a beautiful red velvet cake with a surprise kick of cinnamon and pepper.  I got the inspiration for this from a candy bar my father-in-law enjoys. It is a chocolate candy bar with a hint of spice and pepper. I thought this would be a great addition to a red velvet cake, with the cream cheese serving to cool down the heat.  The spice to the cake was going to be further masked by soft, pretty decorations.  I wanted to mimic a cake I had recently seen with layers of beautiful ruffles.  Every detail of the cake, and corresponding blog post, had been planned for weeks in my head.  I wanted this cake to be exactly as I pictured. It was a celebration of the end of a wonderful time in our lovely home.  In reality?  Everything seemed to go wrong...

The cake I envisioned was a tall, full cake. But I didn't have enough ingredients to make a full batch, and had to half it.  The flavor of the pepper didn't come out as well as I envisioned.  I was so worried about being heavy handed, that I didn't put a lot in.  Somehow in my rushing, I also didn't get enough spray in and a major portion of the bottom of the cake stuck when I tried to get it out.  

To make matters worse, I had made these rows of beautiful ruffles similar to what I planned.  But since the cake wasn't tall enough, they wouldn't work.  I couldn't even level the cake as it had begun to crack.  Even the icing had its problems! The cream cheese icing wasn't as sweet as I wanted, and did not set as well as my buttercream, so it was not smooth and uneven. I was getting very frustrated, and about to just give up.  After a few minutes, I calmed down and decided to change my plan on what the cake should look and taste like.  

Instead of the soft, beautiful ruffles, I decided to cut them apart and make a scaled ruffle look for around the edge of the cake.  I used a strip of fondant to cover the top edge of the cake and help it hold its shape and even out.  The imperfections and cracks on top were masked by some small flowers I cut out.  I also created a large fondant daisy to tie it all in and cover up the crease of the fondant.  When I stepped back and looked at it, I kind of liked it.  It was so far from what I envisioned, but it had its own style. The cake has a very 1920's, almost flapper feel to it.  It is definitely not what I expected, or imagined, but in the end it is a beautiful cake.  Even the flavor was better than I originally thought.  True the flavor isn't a pop of heat, but there is an essence of the pepper and a bit of an aftertaste that lets you know its there. The icing wasn't as sweet as canned cream cheese frosting, but it was a perfect pairing to the red velvet recipe.  I have a hard time finding red velvet recipes I like, and as I tasted it all together I knew I would definitely make this again!

As I set there eating my piece of cake, I couldn't help but smile at how art was imitating life.  Right now my husband and I are going through an unexpected transition in our lives.  Just five short months ago, we bought a beautiful house.  It was the first home for both of us and we talked for hours about making it a home and how our lives would play out.  We envisioned spending years in this wonderful home. He loved his job and we both loved the area, so we saw no reason to leave. That is until my husband was laid off from his job unexpectedly.  Having just gotten married and bought a house, we felt like a rug had been pulled out from underneath us.  All our plans and dreams for the future seemed to become unraveled. I understood we still had a lot to be thankful for, and knew so many people going through so much more painful and serious situations.  But for us, it was a rough period of time.  We were shocked, disappointed, and uncertain about the future.  Could he find a job he enjoyed as well?  Would we have to leave the area?

Eventually though, things have turned around and we are now about to embark on a new journey.  My husband and I are selling our house and moving to a new state, as he has found a great new job that he is truly excited about.  It's amazing how after many sleepless nights and tons of prayers and tears, things have worked out better than we could have imagined.  There are still a lot of uncertainties, including what job I will be able to get. But, we are excited about these new opportunities. Just like with the cake, things somehow have turned out better than expected.  It's not necessarily better/worse than before - just different. That cake seemed to be a total mess, but with a change of attitude and vision I was able to make something beautiful. This new situation might not be what we envisioned, but I have faith that God has a plan for us in this new chapter. 

Here's my recipe for my red velvet with a kick.  This recipe is an altered version of one found on the site, Moms Who Think.  I added the pepper/cinnamon and changed the amount of food coloring.

Red Velvet Ingredients:

  •  1 stick butter
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 oz red food coloring (add more if you want a more vibrant red)
  • 2 tbs cocoa
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 2 1/4 cups cake flour
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (if you want to be adventurous, you may kick this up to a larger amount for more heat)
Red Velvet Directions:
  1. Preheat oven to 350F.
  2. In a large bowl, beat together the butter (softened) and sugar.
  3. Continue beating mixture as you add eggs, one at a time.
  4. In a separate bowl, mix together the cocoa and red food coloring.
  5. Add the cocoa mixture and beat until blended.
  6. Alternately mix in portions of the buttermilk and flour.
  7. Beat in the vanilla, baking soda, cinnamon, and pepper.
  8. Pour into greased or sprayed pan.
  9. Depending on pan size, bake for around 25-35 minutes.  Check out this chart by Wilton which gives cups of batter, baking time and baking temperatures for various pan sizes. 
Cream Cheese frosting ingredients:
  • 8 oz cream cheese
  • 1 stick butter
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2-3 cups powdered sugar
Cream Cheese frosting directions:
  1. Beat together cream cheese and butter (both at room temperature) until creamy.
  2. Add vanilla and mix well.
  3. Beat in small portions of the powdered sugar at a time.  
  4. After about 2 cups, taste the frosting. Continue adding powdered sugar until achieving the sweetness you want.
Thanks for reading this post, it is definitely one that means a lot to me.  I hope you enjoy this recipe!

Elvis Cookies

Apparently I'm on a banana kick!  Now that I have the banana extract, I'm trying to think of lots of uses for it.  You may remember a few months ago I did the peanut butter banana bread "Elvis Muffins."  For those of you unfamiliar with the connection, Elvis enjoyed banana slices in his peanut butter sandwich. I decided to do another Elvis spin on a familiar treat - the peanut butter cookie! Wasn't sure how a peanut butter banana cookie would taste, but I decided to give it a try.

You may have noticed that I hadn't done any cookies yet!  I've made cakes, cupcakes, pies, and all kinds of treats, but no cookies.  Well, last night I tried out my first batch in a long time of cookies by scratch.  They don't look very pretty, but they tasted great!  I decided to look up a peanut butter cookie recipe, but not look around for a peanut butter banana cookie recipe.  I wanted to try to experiment and see if I could get a good flavor and texture on my own.  I decided to use both banana extract and some bananas. The cookies look just like peanut butter, so it's a surprise when you get the banana taste.  If anything, it might have a bit stronger banana flavor than peanut butter.  I've adjusted it for the recipe today.  Overall, though, I think it's a scrumptious flavor that you will enjoy. Even with the banana addition, it has a very similar texture as a regular peanut butter cookie. I would say if anything, its more moist than the regular cookie.

Cookie ingredients:
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup mashed banana (use slightly less)
1 egg
3/8 tsp banana extract
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/4 sifted flour
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt

Cookie directions:
Mix together all sugar, peanut butter, banana, eggs, vanilla, and banana extract.
Beat until mixed well.
Mix in all other ingredients.
Beat until combined.
Make approximately 1 in balls with batter and place on cookie sheet.
Use fork coated in flour to flatten out the cookies.
Bake around 10 minutes.
Let cool on rack.

Strawberry Banana Cupcakes

I have a delicious cupcake recipe for you today, but first I want to share something that happened to me. I think it will be an encouragement to all bloggers out there.

I think most bloggers probably wonder, at one point or another, if anyone really reads what they are writing or gets anything from it. It's easy to compare your blog to others with much larger followings. Today, I happened to be on a site I frequently visit to get cupcake ideas and network with other cupcake enthusiasts. I noticed someone asking for a cannoli cupcake recipe. I was about to share mine, when I looked at the previous links for recipes that were posted. One of them was for my recipe and blog!! It made my day to know someone I've never even met, had tested out and enjoyed something I posted!

So thanks to all you readers for continuing to look at my page and test out my recipes. And to any bloggers out there - keep on posting! You never know who is reading and getting ideas, advice, or inspiration from your posts! To me, it doesn't matter if 100 people see our blogs or 10,000. As long as someone enjoys or learns something from what we write, I consider it worth the effort!

For you readers, I've just added a couple new features. Along the top, I have a banner which contains links to new pages I've created. Check out my "Recipe Index" and "Decor Tutorial" tabs for a complete list of all items on my blog. This way you can easily find the recipe or tutorial you are looking for.

I also started a Twitter account for updates. I will be sharing my ideas there, as well as on my Facebook and Pinterest sites.  I'd love for you to check out these sites as well! I try to always follow back anyone that's following me, especially if you are a blogger.

Ok, now to the real reason you are reading. Here's the cupcake recipe of the day!

Straw-nana... Bana-berry... I have been struggling to come up with a cute name for this flavorful power couple, but perhaps I should just let the flavors speak for themselves. Like a lot of people, I enjoy the sweet combination of strawberry and bananas! I love to take fresh slices and use them to enhance yogurt or angel food cake. They are both great on their own, but the combination of the two together makes for a refreshing and scrumptious treat! Being such a fan, I decided I wanted to try out mixing these two flavors in a cupcake.

I wasn't sure which way I wanted to go with the recipe. I knew I loved strawberry cupcakes, and I also enjoyed the banana split cupcakes that combined the two flavors, among others. But, I really wanted to try something different. I'd made banana split cupcakes and banana peanut butter muffins, but never banana cupcakes. So I decided it was time to experiment!

I was in the grocery searching around for ideas and found banana extract, I did not know they made that! I wanted to use real bananas too, but would use the banana extract in place of vanilla extract in my recipe.

I also decided to use strawberry ice cream with real strawberry chunks to flavor the buttercream. Fresh strawberries would be preferred, but since they are out of season, the ones in the store were really pricey and didn't look great. So, I just improvised and used the ice cream. These were just an experiment anyway. I could have used a little stronger strawberry taste, but it had a rich, creamy flavor I enjoyed!

Banana cupcake ingredients:
  • 1 box white cake mix
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup flour
  • 3 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 2 tsp banana extract
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1 cup mashed banana (approx 2-3 bananas)
Cupcake directions:
  1. Preheat oven to 350F
  2. Mix sugar and flour into cake mix on large mixing bowl.
  3. Add in banana extract, eggs, sour cream, oil, and mashed bananas.
  4. Beat on low for 30 sec.
  5. Beat on medium for 1-2 minutes, until no lumps appear.
  6. Line cupcake pan with liners.
  7. Fill liners 3/4 full.
  8. Bake 18-22 minutes and then let cool.

Strawberry buttercream ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup butter (softened)
  • 1/2 cup Crisco
  • 8-10 tsp of pulverized strawberries or strawberry ice cream
  • 1 lb Powdered sugar

Strawberry buttercream directions:

  1. Beat butter, Crisco, and 10 tsps of strawberry in large mixing bowl.
  2. Beat in powdered sugar, adding around 1/2 lb at a time.
  3. Fold in small chunks of strawberry until you achieve the desired flavor.
  4. Once cupcakes are cooled, pipe buttercream onto cupcake using piping bag and Wilton 1M tip.