Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Ladybug Birthday Cake

My little gal turned one in April, and we opted for a "Laineybug" theme. Looking around the interweb for inspiration, I was pretty surprised to see how popular ladybug parties are this year. I got the idea for this cake from this photo.

This is my first fondant covered cake, mostly because I'm not a huge fan of the taste of fondant. Also, everything I've read over the years indicates that it's not the easiest thing to use. But I really wanted the smooth finish for this cake, so I didn't have any other options.

As if using fondant for the first time wasn't a big enough challenge, I also decided to make my own! Foolish, I know, but luckily it turned out alright. The recipe I used was a mixture of melted marshmallows, icing sugar and water, with gel food colouring added.

To make the black spots, I rolled out fondant and used cookie cutters to get the round shape. I also used a heart-shaped cookie cutter for the antennae. The antennae are held in place with bamboo skewers that I painted black with edible food pens.

The cake itself was a yummy chocolate, with whipped vanilla buttercream. This is my all-time favourite frosting as it is very light and so tasty. I used the frosting to fill between the two layers of cake, and to frost the whole cake so the fondant would adhere easily.

Overall, my first experience with fondant was favourable enough for me to want to try it again. I achieved a relatively smooth appearance, and was pretty happy with the result. But I found this fondant even more sickeningly sweet than the other stuff I've tried. Needless to say, I just pulled it all off and ate  the cake and frosting underneath. Making homemade fondant is a lot of work, so I think I'll save myself the time and just buy it next time.

The most important thing was that we had a good time and my little girl had fun. I hope to make many more birthday cakes for her, and celebrate together!

Happy Birthday, Lainey!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Chocolate Heart Cookie Pops for Valentine's Day

I've been away from the blog for the past few weeks because I've gone back to work. To say that the transition has been tough is an understatement. Ultimately, from the moment I wake up and go to work, and the moment I get home from work and go to bed, my thoughts and time are totally consumed with caring for, and playing with, my little girl. 

But as the weeks pass, I'm slowly finding a balance again between work, parenting and personal pursuits. Which means that it was time for me to pull out the spatulas and mixing bowls again, and get baking... and what better way to pair my love of sweet treats than with the holiday of love - Valentine's Day!

I've been meaning to try out the Chocolate Cookie Cutouts recipe of Martha Stewart's for some time. For some reason, when it comes to cutout cookies, I only think vanilla sugar cookies, and have never considered chocolate. But chocolate and Valentine's Day are pretty much synonymous, so I opted for chocolate this time, and was not disappointed. This is the easiest cutout dough I've ever worked with! You don't need to wait for the dough to set (although I did, and it was probably easier to work with because of that) and the scraps can be rolled and re-rolled many times without causing the dough to toughen up. And it tastes awesome. The addition of cinnamon definitely intensifies the chocolate flavour.

I baked large, heart-shaped cookies with some of the dough, and made smaller heart cookies to use as cookie pops. Making cookie pops is another baking to-do that I've had on my list for awhile, and it is super-easy!  Just cut out your dough, gently insert a paper candy stick into the bottom of the shape until it's halfway through the cookie, and then place on a baking sheet and bake as you would with the other cookies. 

To decorate, I used a royal icing that I tinted pink, using Wilton gel colouring, and then dotted the wet icing with edible silver candy balls. 

After the icing had set, I packaged them in small, clear bags and tied the ends with a twist-tie. Those adorable gift tags you see in the second photo were found at Janna Wilson Design - I simply printed them off, glued the two sides together, cut the shape out, punched holes in either end and slid the tag over the stick of the wrapped cookie pop.

Voila! Instant Valentine. Well, not instant. Quite a bit of work, actually. But totally worth it! If you don't get a chance to try making cookie pops for Valentine's Day, there's always St. Patrick's Day in a few weeks!

Happy Valentine's Day!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Banana-Nutella Muffins

I love banana muffins. I love Nutella. So putting the two together just makes sense to me.

The addition of Nutella makes these moist muffins special enough to serve as a casual dessert. But the bran gives them a healthier boost than your average muffin. These are perfect to take along as a snack or make a wonderful on-the-go breakfast option. And now that I'm back to work from maternity leave, quick breakfast options are absolutely essential!


Banana-Nutella Muffins

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup bran
1 tbsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
2 ripe bananas, peeled and mashed
2 eggs
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 tsp. vanilla
6 tbsps. Nutella

1. Preheat oven to 375F. Line muffin tins with paper liners, or spray with non-stick spray.
2. Whisk together the flour, bran, baking powder and salt.
3. Stir in the mashed bananas, eggs, brown sugar, oil and vanilla.
4. Spoon 2 tbsps. of batter into each muffin tin and gently spread it out with the back of a spoon.
5. Add 1/2 tbsp. Nutella into each tin. Do not spread out.
6. Divide remaining batter among the tins, covering the Nutella. Do not spread out.
7. Bake until the tops are golden brown, about 12 - 15 minutes. Enjoy right from the oven, or allow to cool.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Eggnog Ice Cream

Happy New Year!

I've been pretty busy over the past few weeks visiting with friends, family and celebrating the holidays, which is why I haven't posted anything new.

Also, I've never felt as sick of sweets after the holidays as I did this year. Clearly, I overdid it and now have (almost) zero interest in eating anything dessert-like.

However, I did have a nearly-full carton of eggnog sitting in my fridge, and I hated to simply pour it down the drain. Instead, I opted to make something cold and creamy to keep in the freezer until the sweet craving strikes again.

I adapted this recipe slightly from Alton Brown's Eggnog Ice Cream recipe, and this Eggnog Ice Cream recipe from Allrecipes.com (I read the reviews and used the comments to help with my final recipe). It's very easy to make and tastes delicious.

If you've got an excess of eggnog, and an ice cream maker, then this is the recipe for you! Here's another link to recipes that incorporate eggnog if you're looking for something less chilly.


Eggnog Ice Cream

1 1/2 cups eggnog, chilled
1 1/2 cups heavy cream, chilled
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
Pinch of salt

1. In a large bowl, stir all of the ingredients together with a whisk.
2. Process the mixture in an ice cream maker, according to the manufacturer's instructions.
3. Eat as is for a soft-serve style ice cream or store in an airtight container and freezer for 2 - 4 hours for a more solid ice cream.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Chocolate Peanut Butter Balls

Everyone has holiday traditions. For me, Christmas isn't Christmas without eggnog, decorating the Christmas tree, Anne Murray holiday tunes in the background, and baking.

Oh, and Chocolate Peanut Butter Balls.

This is my mom's recipe, and she always and only made these at Christmas. When we were little, my sisters used to help her by rolling the peanut butter mixture and dipping them in chocolate. Now that I'm older, I try to make them every year. Both of my sisters also make a batch each year.

A very similar version to this recipe is popular in the United States, called Buckeyes. Whatever they're called, these are easy to make and showcase the much-loved combo of peanut butter and chocolate. The addition of shredded coconut adds more texture and flavour. Yummy!


Chocolate Peanut Butter Balls

1 cup peanut butter
2 cups icing sugar
2 tbsps. butter
1 cup coconut
1 ½ cups semi-sweet chocolate
2 tbsps. vegetable shortening

1. Mix all ingredients together except chocolate and shortening.
2. Place mixture in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to make rolling easier.
3. Roll into balls and place in freezer to set - about 15 minutes.
4. Melt chocolate and shortening together over a double boiler.
5. Dip balls in melted chocolate, and place on a baking sheet covered in waxed paper. 
6. Place tray in the freezer for one hour, then transfer balls to a covered container and return to the freezer.