Birthday Wishes… Shopkins

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My little girl just had a birthday; and of course no birthday celebration is complete without a cake topped with birthday candles to wish on before they are extinguished in one (or a few) puffs, which concurrently blankets the cake with tiny droplets of birthday girl germs.  But we digress… let them eat cake.  Germs are everywhere.  Besides, this cake is bulletproof!  It’s covered with homemade marshmallow fondant which no one likes to eat anyway.  I just peel mine right off and get to the good stuff: 4-layers of moist chocolate cake, devil’s frosting, and french vanilla frosting just under the peel, err… fondant.

I’m definitely not a fondant fan, but I must admit that certain cake requests (like this Shopkins cake) does require edible modeling clay to achieve that smooth, plastic look of a toy.  Most of my cakes are covered in buttercream or whipped cream, but I made an exception for this one since I didn’t think tinted buttercream would look as nice as fondant would.

My little princess got 2 birthday parties!  One on her actual birthday with family, including grandma who was in town, and her second party with a little group of friends at our humble home for a night of pizza, “Snow White” the movie, popcorn, and cake, followed by a spontaneous game of balloon war; organized chaos at it’s best!

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Of course I used Ina Garten’s Cheesecake recipe but without the jam, just topped with fresh raspberries.

So lucky mommy (yes, that’d be me) got to bake a cheesecake for her family party and this cute Shopkins cake for her party with her friends and I’m going to share my Shopkins cake construction process.

Little princess wanted a chocolate cake, so little princess got a chocolate cake for her special day.  I used Toba Garrett’s chocolate cake recipe from her book “The Well-decorated Cake” and I promise it’s the BEST chocolate cake you will ever taste!  She claims it’s good to the last crumb, and believe me, it is!  For the filling, I made a HUGE mistake and accidentally  made chocolate icing!!!  Like the kind that you drizzle over desserts for the nice chocolate-spilling-over-the-edge look, and that doesn’t work for a cake filling unless you want a “Sleeping Beauty” type of cake look with all the layers sliding and frosting dripping and the whole cake leaning like the Tower of Pisa.  That’s why, my friends, we should stick to tried and true recipes when attempting a special cake for a special occasion.  Lesson learned.  SO, instead of dumping the chocolate icing, I just doctored it by adding more butter and powdered sugar and it was fixed!  Now, I had delicious devil’s chocolate icing buttercream that was perfect layered with the chocolate cake.

After that detour, I decided I didn’t want to risk the dark brown color of chocolate frosting possibly showing through the light yellow fondant so whipped up a batch of our favorite vanilla frosting, which is also found in Toba Garrett’s book (see above link) called French Vanilla Buttercream.  This buttercream tastes like vanilla ice cream and has a texture that’s lighter and in between a buttercream and whipped cream.  Definitely one of my go-to recipes and have used it in many of my past cakes.

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I made 2 batches of marshmallow fondant and colored one batch yellow then left a larger part of the 2nd batch white and colored some pink and a little black.

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I wanted a taller, cake but I didn’t want to bake a 3rd cake, so I cheated and used my inverted cake pan as my 3rd cake layer to give the cake more height.

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I was in a rush and wasn’t careful removing my 2nd cake from the pan and it broke in several places!

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see how much of the outside broke off?!?!

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But it’s okay!  Just take those broken cake crumbs and mix it with your frosting and now you have chocolate cement to fill in the cracks.  (This is also how you can make cake pops.  crumble cake, mix in frosting, shape, and stick onto sticks)

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Whew, there. Now the cake is good as new 😉

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I split my 2 cakes in half so I got 4 layers.  Put some frosting on my “fake” cake layer then stack cake, frost, stack cake, frost… you get the picture.  I purposely left the top layer rounded since I wanted to keep the rounded look for the Shopkins Wishes cake.  Refrigerate your stacked cake for about 30 mins so it’s easier to cover with frosting and doesn’t shift.

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Smooth on your vanilla buttercream frosting with an offset spatula and refrigerate again while you work on rolling out some fondant. Notice how I frosted my cake pan, the bottom layer of my “cake”.

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After you work your fondant with your hands to get it pliable again, roll it out as big as you can.  I wasn’t able to get it big enough to drape over the entire cake, so I just cut out two 6″ strips (height of the side of cake) and stuck it on.  Get a wet paper towel and run it over your fondant so it will stick to the cake. (dampen only the side that will be touching the cake)

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Carefully smooth it out with your hands or a fondant smoother tool.

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I used two strips to cover the sides of the cake. (you can see the small seam on the left)  It’s okay, I’m going to add the arms there later.

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Roll our your white fondant, then use an 8″ cake base (cheese board from Dollar tree) as a guide to cut out a circle.  You want enough of the white fondant to come over the side of the cake.

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Use a sharp knife to cut around the fondant like above to achieve the look of icing drips.

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Again, dab a wet paper towel over the fondant, then carefully position over the top of the cake.

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Now for the pink band around Wishes.   Roll and cut out an appropriate sized band

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Stick it on with some water then use a blunt knife or I used a wooden skewer to make the slanted indent patterns on the pink band.

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Now make your eyes, nose, arms, and lips and attach with some water!  It already looks so cute!

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Make 3 white snakes then coil into these little swirls

 

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Attach the swirls and make some white “sprinkles” and the cake is complete!  She wanted a “6” on her cake and didn’t want just green candles (which is what Wishes has).

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She loved her little party and was so excited she kept hugging me and telling me ‘thank you’.  That’s what makes my Saturday spent on a birthday cake, all worth it!

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Eating a slice or two of cake helps, too.

Chocolate Fudge Cake

adapted from Toba Garrett’s “The Well Decorated Cake”

Ingredients

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 1  1/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup dark brown sugar, packed
  • 2  1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup Dutch processed cocoa powder
  • 2  1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1  1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 large eggs, room temp.
  • 1  1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 2  1/4 cups buttermilk
  • 6 oz. melted semisweet chocolate (good quality), melted

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.  Grease and parchment line two 8″ cake pans (2″ high).  Melt chocolate, set aside.
  2. Beat butter and sugars together on med- low speed until fluffy.
  3. Mix together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt together in a separate bowl, set aside
  4. Add eggs into the butter mixture, scraping bowl as needed.  Add vanilla.
  5. Add in a third of the flour mixture, mix. then a half of the buttermilk.  Mix and scrape bowl. Repeat until you have ended with the rest of your flour mixture.  Scrape bowl.
  6. Add in your melted chocolate and beat on med-high until well mixed.  Scraping bowl as needed.
  7. Pour into your prepared cake pans and bake in preheated oven for about 50 mins or until toothpick comes out clean.
  8. Cool in pan for 10 mins then remove carefully onto cooling rack.
  9. Frost cake after completely cool.
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Her friends got to go home with these cute Shopkins keychains from the supplies I had left from a past party where I had bottlecap necklaces.

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I found that printable for free on pinterest and taped them onto pink craft bags.  My girl is into word searches so they got a word search booklet and mechanical pencil (from Dollar Tree) and a pretzel rod dipped in white chocolate w/ sprinkles, plus the keychains.

 

Good luck with your baking adventure!  Thank you for reading and please subscribe!

-Flora

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“Thunder Cake” Happened…

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I borrowed this book ,”Thunder Cake”, from the library a couple weeks ago to read to my children when it was raining nonstop here in the bay area and we had some hail and thunder (but alas, we saw no lightning, much to my son’s dismay).  Maybe because of the hills, trees, and homes that block our view of the sky…  But as my High School Chemistry teacher always used to say, “we digress”!

This book is a story about a little girl who is afraid of everything, especially thunder, and how her grandmother “distracts” her into overcoming her fears as they gather the ingredients to make this special ‘thunder cake’ that needs to go into the oven right when the thunderstorm is above them.  Much to my children’s delight, there was a recipe at the end of the book for this special thunder cake which uses a surprising secret ingredient in the chocolate cake that (I must admit) made me giddy with excitement to try.

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We did our own “gathering” of ingredients for the cake, most of which I already had stocked in my pantry, but we ran to the store to buy the ‘secret’ ingredient and some strawberries.   Our run to the store could have been spared since we didn’t end up baking the cake until today and only because the strawberries wouldn’t last any longer if we didn’t bake it and I didn’t want to make another run to the store for one ingredient.

So what is the ‘secret’ ingredient you ask?  Well, it’s pureed tomatoes!  Isn’t that something?  I was skeptical but hopeful that it would turn out into a delicious chocolate cake and BOY, did it turn out into a scrumptious chocolate cake! And dare I say, it may be the best tasting chocolate cake EVER, especially paired with some light, fluffy chocolate frosting and fresh strawberries.  My kids are funny.  They start with the strawberries and then they eat the cake.  Every morning, I give them their fruit after their ‘main’ otherwise, they won’t finish their food and only eat the fruit.

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*SEE BELOW for UPDATED METHOD!!! Some pointers about making the cake.  The recipe really doesn’t give the step-by-step directions I’m used to in a recipe, but having baked enough cakes in my life, I started off creaming the butter (I substituted the shortening for unsalted butter) then added the sugar, vanilla, and egg yolks.  Then I transferred the butter mixture to a large bowl, thoroughly cleaned and dried my stand mixing bowl to whip the egg whites until stiff peaks form.  I sifted the dry ingredients together and set it aside.  But here is where I panicked!  I added the water and pureed tomatoes to the butter mixture and of course with that much water, the butter is NOT going to incorporate it and looked like a curdled mess with the tomato puree and water mix.  But I just kept going, putting trust in the recipe (and crossing my fingers that it would turn out).  I started adding the flour mixture into the butter mixture then folded in some of the egg whites and repeated until I had cake batter!  It looked lumpy with butter still not incorporated in the liquid, but I still baked it according to the recipe and the cake turned out great!  It really tastes SO soft and moist!

*1/14/2016  So, I had to make this cake again and found a much better way to make this cake batter come together without lumps of butter.  

  1. Preheat oven to 350F . Grease and flour two 8-inch cake pans
  2. Cream together butter, sugar, vanilla, and the egg yolks.
  3. Sift together the dry ingredients and set aside.
  4. Measure out the cold water and pureed tomatoes. (I strained it so no seeds or tomato skin pieces) 
  5. With the mixer on low speed, add a third of the dry mix to the butter mixture, next add half of the tomato/water mixture, then another third of the flour mixture, the rest of the tomato/water mixture, and finally the remaining third of the flour mixture.  (So basically dry, wet, dry, wet, dry into the butter mixture.)
  6. In a clean, dry mixing bowl, whip the egg whites until stiff peaks form w/ whip attachment.  
  7. Carefully fold the egg whites into the cake batter.
  8. Divide the cake batter evenly into the two cake pans and bake about 30- 35 mins (toothpick test)

P.S.  I used fresh pureed tomatoes (and my son drank the rest and wanted more 🙂

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Oftentimes, I find butter cakes to be not as moist and soft as cake mixes, but this cake is so soft like a cake mix and tastes delicious!  I could only slightly taste a hint of the tomato (maybe because I knew there was tomato in it… the hubby couldn’t tell), but it was very good and even gives the cake a slightly red-velvet cake-ish hue.  I’m curious how the tomato helps the cake taste so good!

Now, the recipe in the book only says to frost the cake with a chocolate butter frosting.  SO, I used this chocolate frosting recipe:

Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

  • 6 oz semisweet chocolate (melted)
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • pinch of salt

I melt the chocolate carefully in the microwave at 50% power in 30 sec increments or you can melt using the double boiler method.  Beat the butter until light, then add the powdered sugar, vanilla, and salt until light and fluffy.  Then add the melted chocolate (shouldn’t be hot).

After tasting the frosting, I decided I wanted to lighten up the frosting and whipped about a cup of whipping heavy cream added a bit of powdered sugar then folded it into the buttercream frosting.  It made the creamy, intense chocolate frosting, into more of a chocolate mousse-like lighter frosting that I think paired perfectly with this cake and the strawberries.

So, there.

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Who knew pureed tomatoes could make the best chocolate cake, ever!!!

My 7 yrs. old has already requested that I make a copy of the recipe and save it so he can have it for his birthday (which is not ’til Sept).  Then his 5 yrs old sister chimed in and said she wanted the same!  It’s really that good!  Don’t believe me?  You’ve got to try it yourself!

Daddy came home while we were enjoying dessert so he got to read the book “Thunder Cake” to them while they ate their ‘thunder cake’!  Nothing grand going on here, but they were all so happy.  It’s the little things that count.  🙂  I love my family.

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Thanks for reading!

 

Love,

Flora

For Birthdays September Is…

September is the most exciting, busy, and tiring month of the year.  It beats even the holiday frenzy of Thanksgiving and Christmas in our family with the number of birthdays we have along with all the back-to-school shenanigans.  My birthday is also guilty of being in September along with my now, 7 yrs old son, who we just finished throwing a themed party for last weekend.  My son has always had something he was obsessed with since he was a baby, starting with airplanes, dinosaurs, etc, and now we’re at Star Wars, so you can probably guess the theme of his party.  I always start off saying I’m going to make the party as simple as possible, then I start adding things here and there until I find myself staring at the ceiling with about a gazillion things running through my head at 3am and wondering what I got myself into.  We ended up having his party at our local park with about 2 dozen 1st grade boys after inviting school friends, church friends, and his soccer team.  Let’s just say I’m glad that this park is usually empty so we had the place mostly to ourselves and so relieved that there were no injuries aside from a rope burn.

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So I am kicking myself in the butt for not taking more pictures at the party, but I was more concerned at that time in making sure I didn’t lose anybody’s kid and that they were safe than try to document the setup/party.  Just imagine I posted pretty pictures of the “Yoda Soda” made from green Gatorade powder in a large, glass, drink dispenser and a beautiful spread (who am I kidding? ha ha) of a huge bowl of our own hodgepodge trail mix ranging from a “seasonal” Star Wars Lucky Charms type cereal, Star Wars Honey Maid grahams, M&M’s, pretzel sticks, Chex cereal, to Rocket Ship Crackers (Trader Joe’s).

In preparation for the party, I wanted to make those lightsabers from pool noodles, but after some research, I was disappointed that the pool noodles were actually quite expensive.  But I found a pinterest image of one made from pipe insulation and duct tape to make the lightsabers which I thought was perfect; especially the price.  I got the 6 ft. insulation at OSH for $1.29 (Home Depot was cheaper but further from me) and I was able to cut them into 3 pieces.  I got red, blue, green, and gray duct tape to cover the pipe insulation and later added thin black duct tape to add a finishing touch to the handles.

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This is also an after-the-party picture (if you can’t tell by the slight warp to the lightsaber).  It was pretty crazy when I handed out the lightsabers to the boys to play with… had to take them back after 2 kids started crying because someone hit them on the head and they didn’t like it… so hand them out at the END of the party.  -__-

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I used my go-to Soft Sugar Cookie recipe to make the cookies and got the Star Wars stencils from this Etsy shop.  I used store-bought black cookie icing (the kind that hardens, aka. royal icing) to “scrape” the Star Wars stencil designs onto the cookies.  See the step-by-step pictures below.  You could do that really with any stencils.  I did have to wipe down the stencils carefully after each cookie so the edges and lines would stay neat and not get smeared from leftover icing.  Sort of a tedious task, so I used buttercream to frost some of the cookies 🙂

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Obviously, I made a huge black mess on my first try with the icing and stencils , but the key is to make sure the stencil doesn’t move and scrape carefully so that the icing doesn’t seep through the cracks and “muddy” the lines and edges.

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Since the party was at the park, I didn’t want to cut a cake there and in order to “simplify”, I did cupcakes with these Star Wars cupcake rings to top them off.  Silver cupcake liners and silver sprinkles for the R2D2 rings, gold liners and gold sprinkles for the C3PO rings, and silver liners with Chocolate sprinkles for the Darth Vader rings.  I didn’t get a chance to get close-up pictures of the actual cupcakes from the party on the Star wars Cupcake stand, but I had leftovers with one C3PO ring on it, so I was able to take those pictures at home.  See below for the recipes I used for the cupcakes.  The yellow cake recipe is by far my favorite vanilla cake recipe and it’s the moistest homemade butter cake you will every try!  I have “The Well Decorated Cake” book by Toba Garrett and her recipes are fantastic.  I usually use her French Vanilla Frosting recipe which tastes like Vanilla ice cream, but I tried this other buttercream this time.

Yellow Cake Recipe (I made cupcakes instead and reduced baking time to 20 mins)

Special Buttercream Frosting (I replaced half of the shortening w/ unsalted butter)

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So imagine all of those cupcakes had a cupcake ring on it 🙂

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My favorite purchase from putting together this party were these $1 cupcake carriers!!!  Yes, you heard me, $1 from the Dollar Tree!  They fit 9 cupcakes, and the lid is high enough not to squash the frosting if I had decided to go crazy on the frosting or decoration.  We were able to stack them to carry, and they even have handles (although I wouldn’t recommend carrying them by the handles since they are just a dollar and I wouldn’t want the bottom to fall off and the cupcakes…)

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We ended the party with the Darth Vader Pinata which was actually a pull-string pinata but my son wanted to whack it so I just cut the strings off and called it good.  Note to self: forego a pinata with 7 yr old boys… they stampede and trample…  Good thing my little 3 yr old (pictured above taking a whack at the pinata) was used to having a rambunctious 7 yr old brother and was fine when they all swarmed around for candy.

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If you’re contemplating putting together an all boys birthday party of 6-7 yr olds… may the force be with you.  🙂  My son loved it and I think they had fun; that’s what counts for me, but would I do it again?  Ask me next year.

Thanks for reading~

-Flora

Castella Cake + Whipped Cream = Korean Bakery Cake

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My youngest just had a birthday and the baby in our family has turned a whopping 3 years old!  It’s hard to believe that this spunky little “baby” is already a little human-in-training: walking, running, eating like there’s no tomorrow, talking, and asking the most annoying question in the cutest little voice, “why?” on repeat, constantly, like a broken record. I love this little person so much and enjoyed a little moment of nostalgia this morning as I held her asleep in my arms; her warm, snuggle-y little body resting against my chest in a deep, sweet slumber.  I didn’t want to move until I finally accepted the reality that it was time to pick up my #2 from preschool and hoped that I might be successful in transferring my sleeping “baby” to her carseat without waking her so it could count for her nap for the day.  She has always been pretty good at transferring and continued to sleep until we got to big sis’s school, so thankfully, we didn’t have a cranky 3 yr old throwing tantrums left and right due to an inadequate nap tonight.

Months before my little C’s birthday, her two older siblings had already started planning her birthday party, including the theme, colors, cake, and friends to invite, when I hadn’t the tiniest inkling of throwing a big party for my 3 year old.  Perhaps it’s her fateful lineup as the youngest of the three children in the family, because I do recall throwing a big party for my first on his 3rd birthday, and a smaller party for my second on her 3rd as well… This time with my third child, I thought, I’ll invite a few of her friends over for a little playdate and make a special day for her, which I hope to accomplish this week…I hope. But rest assured, we did have a family birthday party for my little pup with a special dinner, cake, presents, and even invited grandma, her favorite person!

Now on to the cake!  Korean bakery cakes with their light, sponge cake layers frosted with fresh whipped cream and decorated with a variety of colorful fruit nestled into more mounds of cream all covered with a little shaving of chocolate, are one of my favorite cakes.  It might top a deep dark chocolate cake with dark chocolate frosting on certain days.  When I got into baking, one of my first recipe quests was to find that right sponge cake to make one of those Asian bakery copycat cakes.  I’ve tried a variety of sponge cakes, with and without soaking cake layers in sugar syrup, and none of them made the cut… until I figured out I could use this Castella recipe to make my fresh cream cake.  And it is perfect!  You don’t need any sugar syrup to soak the cake layers and you don’t get dry cake when you don’t use the sugar syrup.  What you do get is a beautiful, soft, moist, yet well structured sponge cake that tastes just right with the fresh whipped cream I like to slather on to turn it into a cake.  Castella is normally a popular Japanese cake (with Portuguese roots); it’s not frosted but is baked in a square or rectangle, chilled, sliced, and eaten with a cup of tea or milk.  You can use this recipe to do just that by baking it in a square pan OR you can bake it in two 8″ round cake pans to make a layered cake even better than the ones at the Korean bakeries!

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Prep: Grease and line your cake pans, sift your cake flour, microwave the milk, mirin, and butter.

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Separate your eggs, place 8 yolks in mixer bowl and set the whites aside.

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Whisk the yolks with sugar, honey, and salt until pale yellow and ribbons fall when you lift the whisk. Set aside.

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Whisk the only 1/2 cup of the egg whites in a clean and dry mixer bowl with clean and dry whisk attachment

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Add sugar when it starts to foam.

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Whisk the egg whites until soft peaks form. Lift your whisk and the peak should gently fall over.

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Add a third of the whites into the yolk mixture, gently fold in, fold in half of the cake flour, gently fold in, then repeat ending with the remaining egg whites.

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Add a big dollop of the cake batter into the melted milk, mirin, and butter mixture and mix. Pour it into the cake batter and gently fold in.

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Pour batter into prepared cake pans and drop onto the counter several times.

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Bake 350°F for 10 mins then lower heat to 335°F and bake for another 15 mins

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Whip your cream and add sugar and vanilla. Whip until soft peaks form

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To make lemon whipped cream filling, fold 1/2 cup of lemon curd to 1½ cups of the whipped cream in a separate bowl

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I got that glass round from the dollar store and it’s a perfect 8″! I think it’s actually a cutting board. And using a nonskid mat works wonders when decorating a cake.

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Once you cake is completely cool, slice each cake in half to make a 4 layered cake.

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Smear a dollop of cream to the cake round so the cake will stick

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Add a layer of cake. I should have had the cut side facing up…

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Make a little dam by piping an edge around the perimeter of the cake then spread the lemon filling into the middle. You can use just regular whipped cream for the filling as well.

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I added raspberries that I split in half.

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Repeat the process for two more layers

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Add the last layer then you will frost the entire cake.

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Place a generous scoop of whipped cream to the top and let it fall over the edge

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carefully cover the sides of the cake. Use lots of frosting and don’t let the spatula touch the cake or you will introduce cake crumbs into the pretty frosting.

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Use a spatula to smooth out the top and the sides. I like to use a handheld pastry scraper to hold it along the side of the cake while I turn the cake turntable. Using a hot spatula also creates a smooth finish.

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Decorate it any way you want!

Castella Cake
  • 2½ TB milk
  • 2 TB mirin
  • 1½ TB unsalted butter
  • 1 cup + 1 TB cake flour, sifted 2-3 times
  • 8 eggs, separated
  • 1 cup sugar, separated (see directions)
  • 2 TB honey
  • pinch of salt
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Prepare cake pans by greasing and lining all sides with parchment paper. (I just line the bottom and use a sharp knife to run around the sides for the cake since I’ll be covering it with frosting)
  2. Combine milk, mirin, and butter in a microwave-safe bowl and melt in microwave for 40 secs (until melted) then set aside to cool.  Sift the cake flour 2-3 times onto a piece of wax paper and set aside.
  3. In a clean mixing bowl, place all 8 egg yolks, 1/3-1/2 cup sugar (more or less depending on your sweetness preference), honey, and a pinch of salt and mix on medium to high speed until it turns a very pale yellow and starts to show peaks. If you don’t have another mixing bowl, then transfer the yolk mixture to a large bowl and wash this mixing bowl and dry it very well (also the whisk attachment).
  4. Place only 1/2 cup of egg whites into clean and dry mixer bowl (save the rest of the whites for another use), and beat with whisk attachment until it starts to foam.  Then slowly add 1/3 cup of sugar and beat only until SOFT peaks form.  The peak should fall over when you lift the whisk upright and not stand stiff and straight, so watch your whites carefully.
  5. Add a third of the egg whites meringue to the yolk mixture and quickly but gently, fold it in.  Then add half of the sifted cake flour and also quickly but gently fold in.  Repeat with another third of the meringue and the rest of the cake flour then end with the remaining meringue.
  6. Add a large dollop of the cake batter to the melted milk, mirin, butter mixture and mix it together.  Then add the milk mixture back to the cake batter and gently fold it in.
  7. Pour the cake batter into the prepared pans then drop the pans down onto the counter a few times.
  8. Bake the cake at 350°F for 10 mins then lower the heat to 335°F and bake for another 15 mins.  The cake should be done when it’s golden brown and springs back up when gently pressed.
  9. Allow cake to cool in the pan for 10 mins then gently remove from pan to finish cooling on a cooling rack.
Whipped Cream
  • 3 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 1/3 cup powdered sugar, sifted
  • 1 ½ tsp vanilla extract
  • ½ cup lemon curd (optional for filling)
  1. Whip the cream until it foams then add the powdered sugar and vanilla and whip until soft peaks form.  Don’t overwhip or it’ll curdle.
  2. To make the Lemon curd cream, add 1½ cups of the above whipped cream to a bowl and fold in ½ cup lemon curd. Use this cream to fill your layered cake.
  3. Use the rest of the whipped cream to frost the outside of your cake.
  4. Decorate ! Conjure up your creative side~

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Oh, and did I mention that refrigeration does wonders for this cake?  No more hard cake straight out of the fridge!  I used to have a strawberry flavor oil? and when I added it to the whipped cream after whipping it, it tasted SO good when I made this cake with strawberries instead of raspberries and no lemon curd, just whipped cream filling.

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We are a bookworm family so please excuse all the books scattered on the table. They were some of the gifts little C received for her bday. 🙂

Pink Pillows of Nostalgia

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Boy, was this last week a blur of running around from morning til evening every day carting my older two kids to their respective schools, carting them back, errands, work, carting them to their activities, making multiple trips to almost every store within a 15 mile radius, planning a picnic, and feeling guilty for dragging my 2 (almost 3) yr old everywhere, so taking her to our local library for storytime.  This week should slow down a bit and I’m really looking forward to that. My daughter’s preschool had a Spring Social this past Saturday where current and new, incoming families join together for a little picnic and fun.  We had a great time with snow-cones, face painting, food, friends, and chicks hatching!  Yes, you read that right! Baby Chicks!  The preschoolers got to watch one of the chicks actually hatch out of it’s shell!  I must say, what impeccable timing, chicks!  The chicks’ due date had come and gone last Wednesday, so we were afraid they wouldn’t hatch and the kids would be disappointed.  At least they would get a heavy lesson on the ways life out of the experience, but the chicks decided to come so we were able to save that heavy life lesson for another day.  Not all chicks are fluffy and yellow as I had believed them to be, for these were black and cute and amazing to watch.

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peep peep!

When I was at BYU for college (not so long ago… okay… it was many years back), I would oftentimes indulge in those soft, fluffy, melt-in-your-mouth sugar cookies heaped with a generous slathering of pink (artificial) icing, topped with cute little sprinkles, and I must admit those indulges happened a little too often.  I still see copycat versions of these pink pillows of nostalgia at my local grocery store, and perhaps my taste buds have grown up, but now these cookies taste… *blah* to me.  That could also be the effect of actually looking at the list of ingredients and wondering ‘What in the world did I put in my body all those years? No wonder I’m…’

I’m not sure what they put into their cookies to make them so soft because I don’t think it’s possible to achieve that kind of softness without adding “other” ingredients into your dough.  But I’m ready with my go-to sugar cookies recipe whenever I catch myself eyeing those pink, frosted cookies made from “others” at the grocery store and this is one of the recipes I made for my daughter’s preschool’s Spring Picnic last Saturday.  This recipe uses regular all-purpose flour with no dough refrigeration time and the other one I like to use calls for cake flour and refrigeration time, which I don’t always have the patience for when I’m baking in a hurry; which is quite almost, always. So this recipe is my all-time go-to for pink, frosted, cut-out sugar cookies, and can’t forget the sprinkles to complete the look.  😉

The dough comes together beautifully for this recipe and, as I already mentioned, you don’t need to refrigerate the dough to roll-out and cut shapes.  Also, the dough doesn’t stick when you roll it out and the cookies actually hold their shape after being baked!  And did I mention that they taste delicious!  Let them sit overnight in an airtight container and you’ll get an entirely soft cookie.  They are great right out of the oven too.  What is there not to love about this recipe?!

Soft Cut-out Sugar COokies
  • 1 cup butter, room temp
  • 1 ¾ cups granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 5½ cups all-purpose flour
  1. Preheat oven to 375ºF
  2. In a large bowl, combine flour with salt and baking soda and mix, set aside.
  3. Cream the butter and sugar together in a stand mixer with beater attachment until light and fluffy.
  4. Add eggs one at a time and beat to incorporate.
  5. Add vanilla and sour cream and beat to mix.
  6. Add the flour mixture and carefully mix on lowest speed.  Add more flour (a tablespoon) at a time if sticky, but don’t add too much!
  7. Roll out dough to 1/4″-1/3″ thickness and cut out in desired shapes
  8. GREASE parchment paper on cookie sheets and bake 6-7 mins.
  9. Let cool for 5 mins before transferring to cooling rack.
Fluffy Buttercream
  • 1 cup butter, room temp
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • generous pinch of fine grain salt
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  1. Beat butter until light and fluffy
  2. Add powdered sugar and vanilla and beat
  3. Add salt and heavy cream and beat.
  4. Tint to desired color and frost cooled cookies.
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After you make your dough, lightly dust a piece of parchment paper with flour and get a hunk of dough ready to roll.

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Press it down and slightly flatten with your hands to make it easier to roll out.

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I like to place another sheet of parchment paper over the dough to roll it out. That way, it definitely doesn’t stick to my rolling pin.

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Peel off the top parchment (if you used one), then cut out into desired shapes. I stuck with circles this time.

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My little pretties ready to go into the oven.

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See how nicely they retained their shape (it’s easier to tell with other shapes, I suppose).

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Close-up of my pretty cookie 😉

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I baked these for 6 mins at 375 F

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While your cookies cool, whip up your buttercream and tint to desired color.

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Frost your cookies and top with colorful sprinkles

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Then eat, enjoy, and leave the grocery store pink “others” alone!

Thank you for reading and have another wonderful week, hopefully with some homemade sweetness along the way~

-Flora

Weekend Mashup: Cherry Blossoms, Cupcakes & Egg Hunt

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Spring and Easter season have the best colors!  The pretty pastels in pink, yellow, blue, the cute little bunnies, eggs, and chicks; flowers blooming, and the world waking from a winter slumber.  It’s definitely one of my favorite time of year.  I had heard there were pretty cherry blossoms at the Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park during March and April and I had been wanting to see them.  So our family took a trip out to see some pretty cherry blossoms Saturday morning, but I was disappointed.  I saw one fully bloomed, beautiful cherry blossom tree at the entrance of the garden and didn’t see any more inside.  The garden is really beautifully landscaped and we still had a good time taking photos, walking around the garden and watching the Koi in the pond, but I had envisioned paths strewn with cherry blossom petals that fluttered down from the branches throughout the garden.  Perhaps I need to go later in April or take a trip out to Japan!  (or a reality check)

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I had the privilege of taking dessert to a friend’s Easter egg hunt at her beautiful home over the weekend.  Her home had the perfect layout for hiding eggs and a nice size grass lot for the kids to run off all their sugar and play games like egg toss, egg-on-a-spoon-race, and more.  I know my kids had a blast and my youngest, C, who is not yet 3, participated in all the games.  It was fun watching her balance an egg on her spoon.

As you probably know, I enjoy baking and constructing layered cakes (eating them too!) but there’s something about pretty cupcakes, frosted and decorated in soft pastels that really make me happy.  I can’t look at one without eating them, which is why I get into trouble whenever I bake these little morsels of heaven.  I had been wanting to eat coconut cake, given it’s Easter season, so of course I thought I would make coconut cupcakes!  I love coconut, but I know not everyone is a fan, like my daughter A, who can’t stand anything coconut and banana.  Still can’t figure out why… they’re so tasty.  To make her happy, I added sprinkles on some cupcakes and only added shredded coconut on half of the batch.  I tried to make bunny ears with marshmallows like I’d seen on Pinterest, but they looked a bit awkward on the mini cupcakes.  I had recruited help from B and A to make the marshmallow bunny ears, but I didn’t use most of them.  Now they’re sitting in a container on my counter and getting snacked on every time I enter the kitchen.  I should probably move them to the back of my highest cabinet.

IMG_0221 Awkward on the mini cupcakes…

I used my go-to yellow cupcake recipe which uses cake flour and sour cream and replaces half of the vanilla extract called for in the original recipe with almond extract.  I did the same to the cream cheese frosting recipe and added almond extract so it would compliment the coconut nicely.  Perhaps it’s the cake flour or perhaps it’s the sour cream, but this recipe produces soft, moist, almost melt in your mouth cupcakes.

Yield: a dozen regular cupcakes or 40+ mini cupcakes

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Vanilla Almond Cupcakes
  • 2 cups cake flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temp
  • 1 cup sugar (I usually add 2/3 cup)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp almond extract
  • 2/3 cup sour cream
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.  Prepare a mini muffin pan by greasing the cavities or inserting cupcake liners. (You may also use regular size muffin pans, see below for longer baking time)
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.  In a separate bowl, beat together butter and sugar until light.  Add one egg at a time and then add vanilla and almond extract.
  3. Add half of the dry ingredients into the butter mixture, then half of the sour cream and repeat with the remaining dry ingredients and sour cream.
  4. Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin cups and bake mini cupcakes for 12-14 mins.  Bake regular size cupcakes for 20-25 mins.
  5. Let cool completely before frosting.
Cream Cheese Almond Frosting
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temp
  • 8 oz cream cheese, room temp
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp almond extract
  1. Beat the butter and cream cheese together in a stand mixer  or a handheld mixer until smooth.
  2. Add the sugar, vanilla, and almond extracts and beat until smooth.
  • Sweetened shredded coconut
  • pastel colored sprinkles

After the cupcakes have cooled, use a butter knife or a small spatula to frost the cupcakes (or you can pipe) then top with shredded coconut or sprinkles.  I like using the shredded coconut for this rather than the flaked ones.  (They look better)

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Happy Baking and thank you for reading!

-Flora