Monday, October 27, 2014

Banana Choco Hazelnut cake

I've been in a bit of a baking slump lately. I made a New Year's resolution to bake more cakes than the previous year and I've fallen really short. I've only made two and both were birthday cakes for my boys. No "just because" cakes and the year is almost over. Like everyone else, life just sort of gets in the way.

Luckily, inspiration hit yesterday when I was browsing Pinterest. I saw a cake that I had almost all the ingredients for on hand and the mix of flavors sounded interesting. Bananas, chocolate ganache, Nutella and caramel. Bananas are pretty meh to me but they definitely had me at ganache. And Nutella. And caramel.

So the one thing I didn't have on hand was Nutella. Would you believe that I've never bought this stuff before? It's not that it isn't great. I've had a lot of Nutella flavored stuff that I like, it's just one of those weird things that I don't know what to eat it with. Kinda like Cookie Butter. Maybe it's best that the stuff not be in my cupboards anyway...

Buuuuut, since it is, I made Banana Choco Hazelnut Cake. Lots of things went a bit wrong with this cake. First, I had to cook the layers for about 50 minutes. The recipe calls for 22-25 for the 6 inch pans. I checked 3 times to make sure I read it right and just kept cooking. The layers were still pretty moist afterward, but I was tired of waiting :)

I also decided to make a different frosting recipe because something terrifies me about a frosting recipe that requires the use of your stove and a thermometer. I used this recipe from Add a Pinch. It's SO delicious, but I did wonder if it was part of the reason for another of my fails. The frosting was so fluffy, it kept getting smooshed out from between them. Maybe I'll get brave and try that cooked frosting one day.

To top it off, I stuck with what I knew and made this recipe for salted caramel sauce. This stuff is delicious, I just want to throw it on everything. Or nothing. I ate some right off of my spoon. Don't judge.

For such a little cake, it's a lot of process. But that's part of the fun. Cut the layers, slap on ganache. If I'd listened to the blogger, I probably wouldn't have lost so much of it from squishing out.

The Nutella frosting on top of ganache. At this point, I was ready to eat.

I did like how it turned out. I didn't go pretty like the original blog post. Since I'm no good at clean decorating, I decided to leave it messy. It's a lot less stressful that way, not too sure why I don't do it more often. 

It'll probably take me a while to fall back into a baking rhythm, it's not like riding a bike. There's a lot wrong with this effort, but there's a lot that was so right. 

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Sugar Filled Skeleton Cupcakes

You know those annoying people who complain on Facebook about aspects of their life they have some control over, but repeatedly do things to make the situation worse? So yeah, that's me. I am tired pretty much all the time. It's not worse than any other parent. I'm just Mom Tired. Busy Tired. Just plain tired. Buuuuuttttt, I also really miss baking. I complained about that too. Then proceeded to spend the next 5 hours on cupcakes. Totally logical.

Weeks prior, I'd scheduled a competition at work that I called "Spooky Food Day" where the only prize was bragging rights. And I had picked my entry. I knew the moment I saw them that I needed to make them. Skeleton cupcakes from Cookies and Cups. Things had been hectic and by the end of business that day, I knew I didn't have time to do them. Naturally, I went ahead and did them anyway. Here's how the eve of Halloween Eve went down.

I'm alone with a 3.5 year old and 6 month old while my husband is at a conference. This means I am making cupcakes from a box. While the toddler eats dinner (he requested marshmallows and we negotiated and landed on a Lunchable) I put the baby in a wrap and whip up the boxed cake mix. Don't judge. 

The husband returns home and sees me dipping pretzels in white chocolate. He offers to go to the store for me to buy pre-dipped pretzels. I decide to be lazy on this front too and let him go. I was 11 in and already sick of it.
Plus they were really ugly.

While the husband is at the store, I start putting marshmallow heads on sticks. Since I had the white chocolate out anyway, I dipped the stick tips in it first, as though that's what I actually planned to use it for. It made me feel slightly more organized.

The husband calls from the store. They don't have white chocolate dipped pretzels but they do have dark chocolate. Or white star shaped pretzels with peppermint flakes. I debate whether I would like to have disgusting cupcakes by mixing peppermint with red velvet or weird looking brown skeletons. I opt for the brown skeletons. 
A little later, I'm making buttercream frosting and run out of powdered sugar. I call the husband but he doesn't answer, so I text him. Around this time, I decide that dipping the cupcakes in sprinkles would be easier than shaking them out of the container, so I try to pop the lid off and end up doing this: 

Husband returns from the store with the brown chocolate pretzels. I get mad and ask why he didn't answer his phone because I still need powdered sugar, but then he hands me a McFlurry, so I shut up and head off to WalMart. I think about how much I hate that place and this is the second time it's saved me in a late night baking emergency. I take a look and find 2 small bags of white chocolate covered pretzels left on the shelf, so the night starts looking up a bit. I have no pictures of the WalMart trip, but you might check out People of WalMart if you're interested.

I return from WalMart, start piecing things together, find it's a huge pain in the ass and curse myself for deciding on this project. Sometime around 11pm I decide that the skeletons don't need arms all that badly.

I'm finally done

And here are the "rejects". I had run out of sprinkles (see 9:22pm) and white chocolate pretzels, so I had to finish out with chocolate.

It slipped my mind, so I don't have pictures of the competition, but there were some really creative entries in there. Someone on my team won, so I was pretty happy about that. 

So that's that. I hope you're now inspired to bite off more than you can chew. I'm off to bed :)

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Corn Flake Peanut Butter Bars

You wouldn't think that those two things go together, but add what basically amounts to a bunch of sugar and you've got yourself a tasty treat. Not to mention, it comes together fairly quickly. Here's what it ends up looking like. It's much better looking in person than in these iPhone shots. I can no longer blame not knowing where the camera is due to moving, I'm just being lazy and don't want to mess with the camera right now.

Here's what you do. Measure out 2.5 Cups of Peanut Butter. It's not essential that you do this first, but I get nervous when I have sugar boiling and I'm struggling to measure out a ton of peanut butter. Two and a half cups is a lot more peanut butter than one might think, so if you don't shop at Costco and buy in bulk, you may want to have 2 normal sized jars on hand. In case you were wondering, this is a 3 lb jar and it took over half of it. That's a giant ass jar of peanut butter. Enjoy.

Then, bring 1.5 Cups each of sugar and light Karo syrup to a boil. <- that is the bunch of sugar I was talking about. It will look like this:

And now that you have your peanut butter all prepared, remove the pan from heat and dump it in there with a shot of vanilla. Stir till it looks smooth like this:

From here, dump in a box of corn flakes. Don't go cheap, use Kelloggs. Just trust me on this. Stir it up. I did it right in the pan and I think that prevented me from getting it all mixed well. It still tastes alright, I just have a preference for things being well mixed. If I had more time while I was prepping it, I would have alternated the corn flakes and peanut butter mixture in a very large bowl instead of trying to stir it in a too small pan. 

I sprayed a 9x13 pan with Pam and pressed the cornflakes in. No baking, no refrigeration, just let it cool/set overnight and serve the next day. We have a small team at work and that was a large pan. We (and by we I mean I) ate it 3 days in a row.

I got the recipe 10 years ago from a manager I had while I was an intern. I don't measure the corn flakes or vanilla or butter the pan, so if you like a little more measurement than I gave, the recipe is below. Thanks Tami!

Corn Flake Peanut Butter Bars

1 1/2 C Sugar
1 1/2 C Karo Syrup (light)
2 1/2 C Peanut Butter
1 Tbsp Vanilla
9 C Corn Flakes

Bring the sugar and syrup to a boil in a large pan. Remove from heat and add peanut butter and vanilla. Stir until peanut butter is melted and creamy. Stir in corn flakes. Stir until nicely coated. Press mixture into a buttered cake pan. 
Eat and Enjoy!

Monday, June 24, 2013

Covering the Assets - DIY Nursing Gear

I had a minor nursing in public (NIP) "incident" a few weeks ago. We were taking our toddler to the park and the baby needed to eat. You gotta do what you gotta do, so if you're a nursing mom who doesn't want to or can't be home all the time, you need to NIP. I fully support NIP and the way the mom chooses to do it, covered or not. But I'm shy, man. I have GOT to be covered.

To illustrate my point, while my husband took the toddler to the park, I was across the street facing a water tower, hidden from park view behind a large tree AND covered with a nursing cover. NOBODY was seeing these boobies. However, it was extremely windy and as I was holding down my cover on the left side, a huge gust of wind blew the right side right off. And there it was. A boob in the open. 

Since I was behind the tree, I felt pretty safe from view but I looked up anyway to make sure nobody saw my little mishap. I saw a truck driving right by me on the way out of the park. There was no way the driver didn't see. I drew attention just by being a person sitting up against a tree, facing away from the park. I looked away as quickly as possible, not making eye contact with the driver. I totally wanted to die of embarrassment. 

I'm still going to have to NIP from time to time so I wanted to make sure that I don't have any more of these boob sightings occurring. Before little O was born, I found a few things on Pinterest that might help, so I went ahead and made them. 

The first was this nursing shawl. I was taken in by two things. First, the beauty of the model. Man, I love red hair and she is gorgeous. Surely, I would look JUST like her if I wore one ;) Second was the simplicity of the project. Cut, pin, sew a short line. That's it! Knit fabric doesn't fray so you don't have to worry about finishing the edges so the project goes quickly. 

Needless to say, I do not look like the lady modeling the shawl in the tutorial, but it's going to do the job. Mine ended up a little shorter than I would have liked, but I didn't have the full 30 inches as recommended in the tutorial, I was working with 27. It's still functional and I think it looks good enough anyway. Gotta work with what you have! And my toddler wanted to know what was going on under there. That's proof of good coverage :)

So that took care of the boob coverage, now I needed some for the gut. I'm not just embarrassed of the boobs :) I also found this tutorial to make your own nursing cami. I can't believe they charge 25 bucks for those! I got 2 cami's at Old Navy for $3.50 a piece, so I'm saving some serious cash here. You wouldn't think so, but normally, sewing doesn't really save you all that much money on things. My husband is always shocked at how much I spend on fabric, so I'm glad these projects were such money savers. The knit was on sale at 

The cami's were also quick to put together, but since the area being sewn was so small, I made a huge mess of it. It doesn't look anywhere near as good as the tutorial, but I'm covering that part with the shawl, so who cares?

Below is an "action shot". You're welcome for not being in this one :)

Now I'm all covered for my adventures in NIP. I can lower the cami and the post baby gut is still under wraps and the boob is all covered up by the shawl. Easy peasy projects, money saving, boobs and gut covered. Loving it! Try them out and go get your NIP on! Or go uncovered if you like!

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Baby Got...Pie

It's been a crazy few weeks around here. We put our house on the market and bought a new one. With all the fixing and cleaning required to put our house for sale, my husband's 34th birthday quietly came and went. No big deal he said, we can celebrate a few days later when the craziness dies down. So a Father's Day/Birthday celebration it would be. I was getting excited because since the baby was born 8 weeks ago, I've completely neglected my other blog, Baby Got Cake. Without being at work and having people to eat it for me, I needed a real reason (other than something like, "It's Tuesday! Yay!") to make a cake.

But my husband decided to break my heart. He's told me this before, but no matter how many times he says it, it just doesn't compute. "I don't really care for cake." Every cake making occasion that rolls around for him, I ask because I really can't comprehend someone NOT liking cake. What's wrong with you? But it's the man's birthday and he's a great father, so I say give him what he wants. French silk pie it is.

Please don't mind the bad pictures. They are (gasp) cell phone pics. The real camera is packed away. Oh, and for that matter, so are my piping bags so excuse my Ziploc decorating. This moving stuff is really cramping my style...

Anyway, it's not quite your typical french silk pie. It's a graham cracker crust (not homemade per my husband's request and I was happy to oblige). Most of the time, these are made with a nice flaky pastry crust. You may also notice that the whipped cream is chocolate. More on that later. 

The base recipe is from the Pioneer Woman. She NEVER lets me down. But in my typical fashion, I managed to screw up a very simple recipe. I used some leftover Ghirardelli baking chocolate I had in the cabinet, but it was missing the wrapper. I figured that each square was an ounce like the other brand I normally use. I figured out later, I was wrong. I gave the beater to Nate to taste and he asked, "What flavor is this?" It's a French silk pie, so it's obviously chocolate flavored. This was his way of telling me he couldn't taste it. I got all offended and stormed off to continue to make my pie. How dare he question my baking ability?!

But then I put it in the crust and noticed it looked a little...light colored? I had thrown out the label on my baking chocolate so I looked it up online and sure enough, each square was only a half ounce. It had half the chocolate flavor it needed. Don't tell my husband he was right, he still doesn't know.

I had to fix it somehow because I didn't have extra ingredients and was already invested time-wise. I thought maybe I'd put chocolate shavings on the top and bottom of the whipped cream and make the whipped cream chocolate instead of white. As usual, I asked my Baby Got Cake blogging partner for advice and she concurred so that's what I did. I swear, if I had my own baking show, it would be called "J Saves the Day".

So there it is with the shavings on top. I meant to do curls, but the bar was too frozen at the time. No matter, this worked out better anyway. I'm learning :) The chocolate whipped cream recipe comes from  The Joy of Baking. This stuff is good enough to eat with a spoon. Not saying I did. But I might have. 

So, I hope my cake hating husband loves it. If I remember later, I'll take another lovely cell phone picture of a piece and update. Happy Father's Day!

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Homemade Zebra Cakes

I think Kristan from Confessions of a Cookbook Queen is my hero. I was checking out Pinterest the other day and came across a pin containing a recipe for homemade Zebra Cakes. I'm pretty sure I audibly gasped. The post is a few years old, but it was my first time hearing of such a thing and newborn baby or not, I was going to find time to make it happen.

When I was in high school (and could eat more than I can now with less negative consequence), they used to sell single Zebra Cakes in the cafeteria. Don't be fooled, it wasn't any less calories than the 2 pack, this was a massive single cake. I used to get them more than I'd like to admit. But once I was an adult, it just no longer felt appropriate to be eating Little Debbie's for some reason, so I just didn't buy them. Plus, if you open a package only wanting one, you are forced to eat the other one, right?

I was totally craving them during my pregnancy, but never bought them. I have since had the baby but seeing that post brought back the cravings and I knew it wouldn't go away until I made them. So here it is.

They ended up a little bigger than I expected. I think my jelly roll pan was slightly smaller in dimensions than the recipe calls for so the cake rose more. I didn't figure out until the end that I should have cut each piece in half (from top to bottom) instead of stacking two pieces. No big deal. A giant zebra cake never hurt anyone.

I only made 3 deviations from the recipe. First was the use of white cake instead of yellow. I don't think yellow is a good description of a cake flavor so it weirds me out. I also doubled the recipe for the filling. Because I am a fatty and I like filling. Don't judge. Finally, I didn't cut circles because I didn't want to waste a bit of cake. That's just crazy.

Let me tell ya, these things were every bit as good (down to that weird, slick feeling on your tongue after you eat it), dare I say even better than Zebra Cakes and the effort level to make them is quite minimal. That's a dangerous combo, so I'm going to have to forget I ever found this recipe.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Craft Room Curtains - Take 2

I put things off a lot. Like A LOT. Back in January, I posted about my craft room curtain fail. FOUR months ago, I bombed the curtains and I'm just now getting around to fixing them. Want to know how long they were without curtains before that fail? According to my notes about all the things I wanted to add to my new craft room... about a year. Guess how many of those other things I've done. You're correct if you said none :)

Anyway, we are about to put our house on the market (really easy to do with a newborn by the way) and I needed to fix the single/too short curtain issue. Another thing I was concerned about was that the green and white chevrons might be too bold for a perspective buyer. From what I hear, chevrons are sooo 2011. I don't care, I still love them. But I needed to get with the times. Here's a reminder of what the one panel looked like. I never made a second one as I originally intended. I was too defeated from bombing sewing 101 with that curtain.

After the first curtain fail, I was perusing Pinterest and found some beautiful curtains on Apartment Therapy. I figured I could do them on a smaller scale for the craft room. I also wanted to go easy on myself. I don't have a whole lot of time with a one month old so I wanted to use the drapery rings like last time. These little things are handy. I've also used them for other fun projects like this one..

These came together easily, but the trickiest part for me was piecing it together. No matter what I do, I can't seem to cut or sew a straight line. But I made do. Top to bottom, the window was 3 feet, which made for nice, even stripes. I wasn't too sure how wide to make it so I just added 8 extra inches to half of the window width measurement. I didn't put too much thought into it, but it worked out. I didn't add black out backing or clean up the back that faces the neighbor's house. Why put all that effort in for someone else? When I moved in here, the first thing I did was take down all their hideous window treatments. If I'm to suffer the same fate, I would rather not waste my time with the extras, ya know? And the neighbors probably won't even see since it's lower level. Look at their view.

Despite my inability to cut or sew straight (and being in a rush hoping to get done before the baby woke) the pieces came together pretty well.

It took a total of 8 hours to get it finished. It was done between 3 feedings, 3 naps and dinner. I estimate about 2 hours without the non project related activities. I actually like it better than the Chevrons. I hope a buyer will feel the same. I'm starting to really love what this room has become. I may not want to move away :)