Tuesday, October 27, 2009

It's a Boy!

Not for me... My sister-in-law is having a little boy in December. I really can't express how excited I am for her because it has truly been a long and difficult road for her and her husband along the way. I won't go into too many details to respect her privacy, but I can't think of any more deserving parents. So, with a lot of help from fellow family, we threw her a surprise baby shower on Friday. Now I love, love, love to cook, but luckily the only thing I ended up being in charge of was hosting the shower at my house and making favors. With two little ones, it can be really difficult to cook for a crowd, and my dad and trusty co-conspirator in the kitchen was away on a fishing trip so I didn't have a whole lot of help to fall back on. So I was kind of relieved to know I wouldn't be in charge of food.

I thought long and hard about what to make for shower favors and decided an edible treat was my best bet. Lets be honest ladies, where do shower favors go- in the trash. So instead of pouring my heart and soul into something destined for the landfill, I went the cookie route. I remembered Lorelei of Mermaid Sweets had made sugar cookie cut-outs with a onesie cookie cutter a couple months back and took my inspiration from her. She was even kind enough to provide me with a recipe for the cookie dough and icing (I really like my sugar cookie recipe but they tend to rise a little which can make decorating them tricky). I hit the internet in search of a onesie cookie cutter and found this really cute site called Karen's Cookies. Not only did they have the onesie cookie cutter, but also ones in the shape of a baby carriage and bib. Best yet, they had a set shaped like feet. My brother-in-law is a podiatrist so these were perfect! And what is cuter than little baby feet?

I baked the cookies early in the week and set out to decorate them Thursday night after my girls went to bed. Just a note, probably not the best idea to start decorating cookies at nine o'clock at night. By the time I made the icing and colored it, it was pushing ten o'clock and I ended up staying up a little past midnight decorating them! But it was well worth it... I had never decorated with flood icing before and was amazed at how easy it was. The icing looks just like what you would find in a bakery. Even though they weren't perfect, I was very pleased with the end result. The only thing I would do different next time is do all the flood icing early in the day, let them dry, and then pipe on the details. Some of the piped icing was kind of absorbed into the flood icing because the flood icing was still wet, but I really didn't have much a choice considering the time!

Everybody loved these cookies. They loved the taste, they loved the icing (I flavored with lemon juice), and the loved how they were decorated. And I was satisfied knowing all my hard work would be enjoyed instead of tossed aside... And my sister-in-law loved them which was the most important part! Unfortunately, I didn't get a chance to decorate the feet because I ran out of pastry bags and didn't have any ziploc bags, but the kids at the shower loved them!

I thought I would also share some of our pumpkin creations my daughter and I made as well. Not food, but food related! If you're looking for a safe alternative to carved pumpkins, I love this idea I saw to make candy pumpkins. My daughter picked out which candy to use and I glued the pieces onto the pumpkin using a hot glue gun. Obviously, you have to pick candy that won't melt when the glue hits it and will stay relatively intact once exposed for any length of time (candy corn, M&M's, tootsie rolls, life savers, etc.). We had a really fun time decorating these and I thought they turned out super cute.

Then I decided to get ambitious and wanted to carve the baby's name into a pumpkin for a center piece on the dining room table. I printed out his name on computer paper and then copied the design onto the pumpkin. I had picked up one of those pumpkin carving kits at Michael's and used the little saw to carve the pumpkin. About an hour later and after much deliberation as to how I was going to carve the a's, I finished. Not perfect but still very cute. Later in the day I couln't quite figure out why my hands where aching so bad when it dawned on me that it was from carving the pumpkin! Oh well, small price to pay, right?! At least everything looked nice and everyone had a great time!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Devil's Food Cake with Peanut Butter Frosting

This week's recipe for Sweet Melissa Sundays was chosen by Holly of Phe/mom/enon- devil's food cake with peanut butter frosting. What an appropriate Halloween recipe! Any other week and I would be jumping up and down to try this recipe because I love me some peanut butter, but I threw a baby shower for my sister-in-law on Friday evening, went to a surprise birthday party Saturday night, and to a 1st birthday party this afternoon. I am CAKED-OUT!

I whipped up the batter this morning. Very easy except I am not a coffee drinker. Don't laugh at me, but I wouldn't even know how to make a pot of it. So I subbed in hot water for coffee and added a tablespoon of espresso powder. I also decided to make cupcakes instead of a layer cake because I knew we wouldn't be eating any of them. Cupcakes are much easier to give away! And a word about the icing... the recipe calls for a LOT of butter. One of our fellow bakes suggested cutting back on the butter and increasing the peanut butter. I ended up using six tablespoons of butter (its what I had left of a stick), a half cup of peanut butter, and about two cups powdered sugar. It was a little stiff so I ended up thinning it a little with some milk. The resulting icing was perfect, IF you like peanut butter.

I have to be honest, I'm not really sure how the cupcakes turned out. The batter was delicious, but I haven't had a chance to taste the finished product. I am not a big cake person to start with and after the three parties, I couldn't really stomach another bite of cake. But my cupcake carrier is loaded up and ready to go so my husband can take them in to work tomorrow. I'll take them into my work if he forgets! I'll keep you updated and let you know what they think.

Thanks Holly for picking such a yummy sounding recipe! Maybe I'll hold one of the cupcakes back so I can try them tomorrow. Be sure to see what Holly and all of the other Sweet Melissa Bakers thought of this recipe.

Monday, October 19, 2009

KA Cinnamon Swirl Pumpkin Rolls

I hear a lot about KA flours when reading everyone else's blogs, and I always knew they were a source for a vast array of flours. For years, my dad had a hard time getting his hands on graham flour to use in an old family recipe until he finally stumbled upon it on the KA website. But I buy flour in the store and don't really venture too far beyond AP and whole wheat flour, so I never had much of a reason to visit their website. Then I was reading a post by Jessica of A Singleton in the Kitchen for a soup recipe which she served with Garlic Knots. They looked so yummy in the picture and I knew I would be making soup this weekend with the impending Nor'easter, so I followed the link to the KA website. And boy was I surprised- so many different baking products, baking utensils, gadgets, cookbooks... They have EVERYTHING there!

While I was perusing the website, I saw this pan that looked really neat. It was a stoneware dish that was made especially for cinnamon buns and below it they had a link to their recipe for cinnamon swirl pumpkin rolls. Oh my gosh- seriously?! They sounded amazing. So I quickly printed out the recipe and decided to make them for our Saturday breakfast.

The dough could not be any easier. You literally dump everything into a bowl and turn on the mixer with the dough hook. The only thing that makes me a little nervous about recipes like this is you don't proof the yeast. To me there is nothing worse that putting forth all the effort to make bread only to find out it won't rise. But it slowly began to puff up in my oven- phew! The dough was incredibly easy to work and rolled out without sticking to the counter or the rolling pin. I did not have the cinnamon mix it called for so I just brushed melted butter on the dough and sprinkled with a generous portion of cinnamon sugar. I cut into 11 rolls which was much more than the eight the recipe said it yielded (these would be some seriously huge rolls) and refrigerated overnight. I took them out in the morning for the final rise which took about an hour and then popped them in the oven. Oh boy did these smell wonderful when they were baking! The smell of the pumpkin and spices were just what we needed to warm us up on a cold and blustery day. I mixed up the cream cheese icing from the Sweet Melissa Baking Book we used for last week's sticky buns and waited for the buns to finish up.

I was so excited to taste these and had been building them up in my mind all week! Unfortunately, I was a little disappointed with the end result. I probably shouldn't have made these on the heels of last week's sticky bun recipe because I think I had really high expectations for them. The rolls seemed a little too dry, which could have been a result of the whole wheat flour the recipe calls for. I was also expecting a much more pronounced pumpkin flavor. To be honest, if it weren't for the orange hue of the buns, I would not have known there was pumpkin in them. In all fairness, they were still pretty decent cinnamon buns, just not what I expected. In my opinion, if I am going to go through the effort of making a recipe like this, I want it to knock my socks off.

I still like the idea of pumpkin cinnamon rolls and have not given up on them yet! I think I may try to play around with one of my other favorite cinnamon roll recipes or try to tweak this one. You can find the recipe on the KA website here. Oh! And sorry about the picture... its very dark at 6:30 in the morning...

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Spiced Pumpkin Cookie Cakes

So I have to admit I was kind of lukewarm about the recipe this week. Debbie of Everyday Blessings of the Five Dees chose Pumpkin Spiced Cookie Cakes for this week's Sweet Melissa Sundays. Now I love, love, love pumpkin desserts but am not a big fan of cake like cookies. I like chocolate chip cookies, oatmeal raisin cookies, peanut butter cookies. Cookies that have a slight crunch when you bite into them with a soft chewy center. I knew these cookies would not fall into that category. They seemed more like tea cakes to me, of which I am not a big fan. But Melissa Murphy gave them such an amazing write-up in the preface to the recipe, I had to try them anyway.

I was a little concerned when I checked the P&Q section of the SMS blog and saw that some people were having a hard time getting their hands on pumpkin. Rumor had it there was a pumpkin shortage this year. I thought this a little coincedental because I was buying mums last weekend and the woman at the nursery said almost everyone she talked to about pumpkins said they had a failed crop this year (my dad included). I wasted no time getting to the grocery store to see if I could stock up for the holidays- I think I would break down in tears if there was no pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving- and sure enough, a sign below the pumpkin said there would be a limited supply due to a crop shortage this year. I felt kind of selfish doing this, but I bought ten cans. Yes, ten cans. I spent twenty dollars on pumpkin. My excuse is, I will be the pumpkin fairy come the holidays when they run out and my mom, sister, and aunts all need it. Can't you see me in a pumpkin costume with glittery wings and a sparkling wand? Probably not because you most likely have no idea what I look like, but its a nice thought, right (can you tell we like fairies and princesses in our house?)!

In any case, on to the recipe... The cookie batter comes together very easily. The recipe calls to pipe the batter onto the cookie sheet using a pastry bag, which I did do, but I think you could drop by teaspoonfuls just as easily. After piping out the first sheet of cookies I popped them in the oven. Boy did these smell wonderful baking in the oven! Exactly what I think a cool fall day should smell like. While the cookies were finishing baking, I mixed up the icing. At first I considered leaving the orange zest out because I wasn't sure how it would taste with the pumpkin, but decided to leave it in. When we were growing up my mom used to simmer fresh orange peel with cinnamon sticks and whole cloves on the stove to make the house smell good and thought if the orange worked well with those spices, it would probably taste great with these cookies. And boy am I glad I did! The flavor combination was incredible!

After I finished assembling the cookies, I plated about 3/4 of them and brought them to the fire house in town where my husband was volunteering at an open house. Everbody loved them. When I came home, I gave one to my mom and sister who came for a visit and they loved them. I brought a couple to my in-laws for dessert and everybody loved them. Do you notice a trend here? These cookies are awesome! They are just like pumpkin whoopie pies and who doesn't like whoopie pies? I would highly recommed this recipe. Even though it is a little time consuming due to the assembly process, they are well worth the effort!

Thank you Debbie for picking such a wonderful recipe! It has been very cold and rainy here on the east coast, and this was a great recipe to warm up the weekend a little. Be sure to check out Debbie's blog and to see what all the other Sweet Melissa Sunday bakers thought.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Cinnamon Chocolate Chip Coffee Cake

So I wanted to make something special for our neighbor up the street because they were there when our dog was hit two weeks ago and held her while she was passing. I really wasn't sure what to make. I mean what can you make for a person that says thank you for loving my dog in her last moments when I couldn't be there? It killed me to think of our little Lola lying on the side of the road by herself after she was hit, so I was incredibly relieved to learn they were there with her. Honestly, there aren't any words kind enough or a baked good scrumptious enough to show them how appreciative I am, but after much deliberation, I decided to make a coffee cake I had seen on The Food Librarian several weeks back.

The recipe was very easy to put together. The only reason you couldn't throw it together in less than ten minutes is you have to separate the eggs and whip the egg whites to fold into the batter. But not to do so would be a shame because the resulting cake is substantial like a coffee cake should be, but it has a delicate touch to it. The recipe calls to layer the batter with cinnamon sugar and chocolate chips, which may I add is an outstanding flavor combination! The only mistake I made was using a store bought aluminum cake pan. I deliberated between the deeper pan and the "cake pan", and went with the shallower cake pan. LUCKILY, the batter didn't pour over the sides when baking, but trust me, it was touch and go for a while there. It did puff up enough that I couldn't put the plastic lid on top which was actually a good thing, because I brought the cake up to the neighbor while it was still warm and used the plastic lid to insulate the heat from my hands.

I did make two small mini coffee cakes in a ramekin so I could have a taste before bringing it up to them (I just can't make a new recipe and not taste it before I give it away!). Just one word- DELICIOUS! Like I said, substantial but light and I loved the chocolate and cinnamon flavors. Next time, I may throw a little cinnamon into the batter as well. I would highly recommend this recipe next time you need to bring something to a brunch or get together.

And the one good thing that has come from this heartbreak is I got to meet two wonderful people whom I hope to have a longstanding relationship. Because they were several doors up, we had never met their family, but what warm and caring people. I feel blessed that they have come into our lives.

Here is the original recipe Mary got from The Smitten Kitchen.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Birthday Cake

So I'm finally getting around to posting about my daughter's first birthday cake. I wanted it to be something special, and after making the zebra cake earlier in the week and seeing a post for a rainbow cake on Cookies with Boys, I thought it could be fun to make the rainbow cake. In hindsight, I probably should have gone with flavor for Little H's first birthday, but if anything my three year old and my four year old niece would appreciate it.

I used the basic yellow cake recipe I made for the vanilla oreo cupcakes I baked for her classroom and used food dye to make the colored layers. Warning... making a rainbow cake is messy and uses a LOT of bowls (but well worth it). After carefully mixing all the colors, my daughter and I were ready to assemble. I was very careful in pouring the different layers so one layer of batter didn't mix in with the one beneath it. Instead of pouring the batter into the pan, I kind of drizzled it in. After about fifteen minutes of carefully drizzling, I realized this cake was going to be more of a rainbow swirl than a cake with perfectly layered colors because the rising agent kicked in and the batter was starting to bubble. I hoped for the best and threw the cake into the oven.

The cake rose beautifully, but the one was a little lop-sided so I sliced the domes off each layer. I just used a basic white icing for the frosting. I would have loved to get a little more creative, but time was not on my side. Our errands ran a little longer than expected before the company came and I was left icing the cake at the last minute. So what do you do when you're short on time and you're trying to please kids? Sprinkles of course! On they went...

Like I said, the whole appearance thing is kind of lost on a one year old, but she did manage to get a hand in the icing after we sang happy birthday. I was anxious as I cut into the cake to see what it turned out to look like, and even though it wasn't perfectly layered, it was still cute. Next time, I may use a little more food color to make the colors more intense, but the pastel effect was nice for a baby. I have also come to the conclusion that if you want a layered rainbow cake, the only way to make one is to bake seven different layers. You just can't fight chemistry and physics! Overall, a cute recipe but a lot of work. But my babies are worth it!!!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Sticky Buns with Toasted Almonds

This week's Sweet Melissa Sundays' recipe was chosen by Jen of Not Microwave Safe, Sticky Buns with Toasted Almonds. Now let me first begin by saying that sticky buns are HUGE in my husband's family and my mother-in-law makes awesome sticky buns. Over the past several years, she has been gracious enough to bestow her sticky bun making skills on me and I have always used her recipe. So I was a little nervous about this one... the recipe has a lot to live up to in our house.

I was hoping to make this for breakfast on Saturday morning, so I threw the dough together on Friday after I came home from work. My first and only issue with the recipe came with kneading the dough. It seemed very sticky to me, but I didn't want to add too much flour otherwise the buns can turn out super tough. Luckily, I remembered the group ran into the same issue when they made Bee Stings a couple months ago and I believe it was Wendy of Pink Stripes who suggested continuing to knead the dough to release the gluten in the flour. So I decided to let the mixer do its magic and walked away. About fifteen minutes later I came back to perfect dough. Yeah!

The dough rose beautifully. I had just pulled dinner out of the oven as the dough was finishing so I left the door open for a few minutes and then popped the dough in to rise. About two hours later, it had started to rise above the bowl, so I tightly wrapped it with plastic wrap until I had my girls in bed and I could assemble the buns. When I did get around to putting them together, they assembled very easily. My big alteration to the recipe was I covered the bottom of the casserole dish with chopped pecans and raisins before I put the buns in. I guess this is the more traditional approach to making sticky buns (at least in every bakery around here). I would have loved to try the almonds, but knew my husband would not be a big fan.

I woke up Saturday morning and started the second rise for the buns. After about an hour in the oven with the hot water bath, they were ready to bake. And did they ever smell wonderful in the oven! They baked much faster than the suggested baking time- mine were finished in a little under twenty-five minutes (this is my one criticism of the Sweet Melissa Baking Book- the cooking time always seems to be overstated)- so if you decide to try this recipe, be sure to keep a careful eye on them after the twenty minute mark.

So I know I said I was nervous about this recipe because of how wonderful my mother-in-law's recipe is, but oh were these good! They were different, very tender, but oh so delicious. Full of butter and cinnamon, and I loved the flavor the maple syrup gave to the sauce. I will definitely be making this recipe again! In fact, and don't tell anyone in my husband's family, I think I like this recipe a littler better than the one I had been using.

Great pick Jen- this recipe was a huge hit in our house! If you would like the recipe, be sure to wander on over to Jen's blog. And be sure to check out what all the other Sweet Melissa Sunday bakers thought!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Apple Orchard Pecan Crumble

I always seem to be late these days. I never used to be late! I was the one who was always a half hour early for work in the morning... I would get there just as the doors to the party were opening... I would have to wait ten minutes at the bar for a friend to arrive at a restaurant... And then I had kids. Don't get me wrong, I love my two little girls more than anything in this world, but I am always late now! And very late posting Sweet Melissa Sundays this week.

The recipe for this week was chosen by Christine of Christine Cooks, Apple Orchard Pecan Crumble! There is nothing like a good apple dessert in the fall and I have been looking forward to making this ever since I saw it posted on the Sweet Melissa page. I never got around to making it earlier in the week because I didn't have the apples, and then I was making cupcakes for my daughter's birthday party at school, then the cake for her birthday party with our family, and then we had cake for my niece's birthday party on Sunday... I'm sure you get the idea! But this recipe was not going to escape me! So I stopped at the produce stand on the way to dinner at my parents' house last night and picked up some apples so I could throw it together there.

I would say this recipe is super easy to throw together at the last minute, but it took me about an hour to prep everything before I could get it into the oven. My littlest one was entertained with the tupperware cabinet just long enough for me to peel the apples and then I had to stop what I was doing every couple minutes to chase her away from the steps going upstairs. And then my older one had an accident and I had to give her a bath... And then my niece tripped and took a header into the doorframe...

I only made half the recipe for the filling and used a Stayman Winesap, a Jonagold, and a Macoun apple. Per the suggestion of the other bakers, I made the entire recipe for the crumble. I am so glad I did because the crumb to filling ratio was perfect! I also cut the sugar in half and agree with Sarah of Blue Ridge Baker that you could eliminate the sugar all together if you wanted. I baked the entire thing for a little over an hour or just until the filling started to bubble up around the edges. I didn't want to bake for too long because I like the apples to still be intact after baking.

This crumble was a huge hit in my parents' house. My mom, dad, and I all split a small casserole dish and I sent a medium sized dish into my husband's work. If anyone read my last post, you would know that although my husband loves my cooking, he isn't overly expressive when complementing me. But even he gave it rave reviews last night- twice! This recipe will definitely be a repeat in my house.

Thanks Christine for picking such a wonderful recipe to welcome the fall season! Be sure to check out her page if you would like the recipe. And don't forget to check out what all the other Sweet Melissa Sunday bakers thought.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Mongolian Beef

I had starred this in Google Reader several weeks ago after Christine of Cooking with Christine posted it. We are huge fans of Asian food in our house, but we don't normally eat it because A) Making it at home normally requires a lot of prep work, B) Take-out Chinese is incredibly bad for you, and C) there is a severe shortage of Asian food in our area outside of your standard Chinese. I am a huge fan of Thai, Vietnamese, and Japanese, but we just don't have it around here. So when I saw this recipe, I had to make it. Its very simple, has only a few ingredients, and uses flank steak which I just recently discovered and love. Granted, its a PF Chang recipe which probably isn't overly authentic Asian food, but like I said, its easy to prepare.

The recipe comes together fairly ease. The sauce was very simple to make and the beef cooks very quickly because it is sliced pretty thin. I served it with rice and broccoli. Normally, I would cook brown rice, but I completely forgot about a starchy side until I was ready to cook the meat. Brown rice normally takes around 40 minutes, so there was no way I was going to have time to make it.

I really liked the flavor of the dish- it has a lot of sugar in it, but it was very tasty. The only thing I would change next time it to use fresh ginger instead of powder. But I forgot to pick it up at the store and the meat had already been defrosted for two days, so I really couldn't wait for another trip to the store. I think my husband liked it. He's kind of hard to get any sort of reaction out of except for going back for seconds. Here is how it normally goes down at the table.

"What do you think?"

"It's good."

"Should I make it again sometime?"

"Yeah- I would"

Sometimes he will say "This is a definite repeat" and then he'll go back for seconds. But he didn't go back for seconds last night which makes me suspicious. Don't get me wrong, I love my husband dearly, he's just not expressive about food. That is unless its about his mom's baked rigatoni recipe. Everytime I make that he says "I love this dinner. And you do such a great job with it!" And then my heart melts...

Here is the recipe if you would like to give it a try...

P. F. Chang's® Mongolian Beef
Recipe from Meemo's Kitchen


2 teaspoons vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon minced ginger
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup water
3/4 cup dark brown sugar

1 cup vegetable oil
1 pound flank steak (to make slicing easier, put the beef in the freezer for 30-45 minutes to freeze slightly)
1/4 cup cornstarch
4-6 large green onions

For the sauce:

Heat 2 teaspoons of vegetable oil in a saucepan over medium-low heat. Add ginger and garlic to the pan. Quickly add the soy sauce and water before the garlic scorches. If your oil is too hot, this may splatter, so be careful. Dissolve the brown sugar in the sauce, then bring the heat up to medium heat and allow the sauce to boil for 2-3 minutes or until the sauce thickens. Remove from heat.

Slice the slightly frozen flank steak against the grain into 1/4-inch thick slices. Tilt the blade of your knife at about a forty five degree angle to the top of the steak so that you get wider cuts.Coat the steak pieces with a very thin coating of the cornstarch on both sides of each piece of beef. Let the beef sit for about 10 minutes so that the cornstarch sticks.

Heat one cup of oil in a wok or skillet over medium heat until it's hot, but not smoking. Add the beef to the oil and sauté for two minutes, or until the beef just begins to darken on the edges. Stir the meat so that it cooks evenly. After a couple minutes, use a large slotted spoon or a spider to take the meat out and onto paper towels.

Pour the oil out of the wok or skillet. Put the pan back over the heat, add the meat back into the wok or skillet and simmer for one minute. Add the sauce, cook for one minute while stirring. Add the green onions. Cook for one more minute, then remove the beef and onions with tongs or a slotted spoon to a serving plate. Leave the excess sauce behind in the pan.

*NOTE I used much less oil for frying the beef. It was probably about 1/4 cup and I used a nonstick frying pan.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Birthday Cupcakes!

So yesterday was my daughter's first birthday. We're celebrating with our family this weekend, but I wanted to do something special for her at daycare. I remembered Tracey of Tracey's Culinary Adventures had posted a recipe for Martha Stewart's one bowl chocolate cupcakes and thought they would be perfect- less bowls to clean after baking! As I was looking for the recipe on her site, I also came across these adorable oreo cupcakes and thought they would be perfect for kids!

Now, we're talking about one year olds, so these were definitely going to have to get scaled down a bit. I thought I remembered seeing the 100 calorie snack packs of oreos in the store, so I figured I could make mini cupcakes and top them with the snack size cookies. When I went to the store, I found out they make whole bags of the bite size cookies which was great because the snack packs tend to be a little expensive. Even better, they now have golden oreo bite size cookies too, so I picked up a bag of those and bag of the chocolate figuring I could make a chocolate and vanilla version. You never know what kids are going to want!

After sorting through all the cupcake recipes on Tracey's site and reading that she wasn't thrilled with the cake in the oreo cupcakes, I settled on the MS chocolate cupcakes and a yellow cupcake recipe while using the theory behind the oreo cupcakes. Both recipes were one bowl cupcakes and I have to say I LOVED them. They were so easy to throw together and there was not a lot of clean-up. The only problem was I had 72 mini cupcakes in the oven and a ton of cake batter leftover! More on this later...

The cupcakes smelled sooooo good in the oven- since they were minis, they only took about 12-15 minutes. After they had cooled and the kids went to bed, I whipped the cream for the topping and piped away. And if I may say so, I think they turned out super cute! My only suggestion here is wait to put the cookies on until the last minute. Obviously, I wasn't too keen on finishing the cupcakes in the morning (I am at least 15 minutes late for work everyday), so I went ahead and assembled everything the night before. When I checked on them this morning, the cookies were a little soft as they must have absorbed some of the moisture from the whipped cream. I don't think the little ones will mind though! I ended up sending in two dozen to the one year old classroom and two dozen to my other daughter's three year old classroom. Certainly too many for both, but figured the staff could have a nice treat this afternoon!

So now for the leftover batter... I remembered seeing a recipe for a zebra cake on The Food Librarian's site and thought what better way to use up the rest of the batter! This way we would have some sort of dessert for my daughter's actual birthday. The zebra cake is assembled by making concentric circles with vanilla and chocolate cake batter. I double checked the baking times on each cake and they were very similar, so I decided to give it a try. Defeinitely check out Mary's post about this because she has detailed photographs about how to pour the batter I didn't have time to take.

When I poured the batter, it kind of favored one side of the pan, but I thought the final pre-baked product looked pretty good anyway. Unfortunately, I didn't preheat the bottom oven, so I had to put the cake on the bottom rack until the cupcakes were done. I think because the heat was uneven at the bottom, the chocolate and vanilla layers on the edge of the cake kind of melted togother. I also should have poured smaller amounts of the batter each time (the original recipe states to pour 1/4 cup at at time but I think I grabbed the 1/2 cup instead). Regardless, the cake was awesome. We served the zebra cake with vanilla ice cream and our kids loved it! I would highly recommend both recipes.

Stay tuned for my daughter's real birthday cake. Hopefully it will turn out the way I envision it! And be sure to check out Tracey's and Mary's sites if you would like the recipes from above.

Questions or Comments?

I would love to hear from you! E-mail me at sugarspicekitchen@yahoo.com.