Mouthwatering Carrot Cake

Birthdays are really important to me and my family.  In our opinion, when it is your birthday, you get all of your favorite things, including food of course.  That means a special birthday dinner and whatever kind of cake you choose.
So when my friend Nichole’s’ birthday was coming up I knew I had to make her favorite cake. Carrot cake.  I will admit that I was a little nervous.  I had never made carrot cake before so it was a little intimidating, but with a little help from my good friend Martha Stewart, I was able to make an amazing carrot cake.  I did tweak the recipe slightly but it did derive from her recipe.
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You will need:
For cake:
•2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pans
•1 teaspoon baking powder
•1 teaspoon baking soda
•1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
•3/4 teaspoon coarse salt
•3/4 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
•3 sticks (12 ounces) unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pans
•1 cup packed light-brown sugar
•1/2 cup granulated sugar
•3 large eggs
•2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
•1/2 cup water
•1 pound carrots (8 to 10 medium carrots), peeled and shredded on a box grater or in a food processor (about 2 3/4 cups)
•1 cups pecans (1/2 cup finely chopped for batter, 1/2 cup coarsely chopped for decorating sides of cake)028
1. Preheat oven 350.  Spray 3 pans with cooking spray and flour or use Baking Joy spray.  I actually used one pan and just filled it with batter as I went.  Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, salt, and pumpkin pie spice.
2. Beat butter and sugars with mixer until light and fluffy.  Add eggs one at a time, making sure that each egg is incorporated before mixing in the next.  Beat for 3 minutes.  Add vanilla, water and carrots and make sure it is well combined, mixing for about 2 minutes.  Make sure the speed is on low and mix in flour mixture  and half of pecans.
3. Divide batter into 3 parts and bake one at a time or all at once, depending on how big your oven is and what you prefer.  Bake for 30 minutes, remove and let cool for 15 minutes.  Once cooled,  run a knife around the edges and remove carefully.  Make sure cake has completely cooled before you begin icing.038
4. Place one cake on a plate.  Top with icing, followed by the second piece, more icing and the last piece.  Ice entire cake and then press pecan pieces on the outside of the cake.137
5. I used some food dye to make carrots on my cake.  I put a small amount of the icing in two separate bowls and added green to one and yellow + red to another to make orange.  I then used two Ziploc bags and cut a corner off each bag to carefully create the carrots on the cake.138For icing:
•1 pound (16 ounces) cream cheese, room temperature
•2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
•1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into pieces, room temperature
•2 pounds confectioners’ sugar, sifted
1. Using a mixer, combine cream cheese and vanilla until light and creamy.  Gradually add butter until well combined.
2. Reduce speed to slow and add sugar slowly.
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The cake turned out being perfectly moist and smooth.  Topped with the sweet, creamy icing and crunchy pecans, it was the perfect birthday cake.  I was so glad that it not only turned out, but turned out well!  So well that when others tried it they asked if  they could place an order.  My first carrot cake attempt was a success Smile

Turn Strawberries into Shortcakes

My only complaint about having fresh fruits and veggies a plenty is that sometimes I don’t have a chance to eat them before they go bad.  So my goal is always to come up with a list of recipes and search for those items that are involved.  But if you do decide to randomly grab some produce, coming up with your own recipes can be fun too!  And if worse comes to worst… just throw everything into a salad!
One thing I knew I had to make with the strawberries I picked at Duffield’s was…

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Strawberry Shortcakes – Recipe from Mary Nolan of Chic & Easy
Preheat oven to 400
You will need:
  • 1 1/2 pounds strawberries, stemmed and quartered
  • 5 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
For whipped cream:
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream, chilled
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest
1.) Mix strawberries and 3 TBS sugar and refrigerate for at least a half hour.  This will get everything nice and sweet and create juices from the berries.
2.) Combine ingredients for whipped cream in a mixer and beat until soft peaks form.  I suggest refrigerating for a bit to make sure it is cold and more firm.
3.) Sift flour, baking powder, baking soda and 2 TBS sugar and salt in a bowl.  Add heavy cream and mix well.  Place mixture in a greased pan and bake 18-20 minutes until golden.  I actually used a larger pan than suggested (8  inch) because I wanted to make thinner shortcakes so I could make smaller pieces.
4.) Remove pan from oven and allow to cool.  If you are making regular sized shortcakes you will slice the shortcake in 6 pieces and slice in half.  I searched for something small enough to make mini shortcakes  and wound up using a champagne glass!  It was perfect and the right size I was looking for.  But a cookie cutter would work just as well Smile
5.) Assemble!  Top one piece of shortcake with the berries, then the cream and then the other shortcake piece.

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I loved the mini version because it was a just right bite!  Also, knowing that I picked these berries and actually worked for them, made them taste that much better.  Strawberries are one fruit that I know will never go to waste, especially with recipes such as this one.  And the flavors – the warm, cake-like shortcake, the creamy, sweet, whipped cream and the melt-in-your-mouth strawberries – well I just don’t think anything screams summer more than that!

Mousse expertise, so good you’ll want meese.

If you asked me what my favorite dessert was I think I’d have to respond by saying, “Anything chocolate!!!”  Anything? You might wonder.  Hmm, yes.  I’ve had all kinds of chocolate, even spicy chocolate.  And I’ve had different things dipped  in chocolate, like potato chips.  And I still haven’t found chocolate that I didn’t like.

But if I really had to pick…it would be chocolate mousse.  There is something about chocolate mousse.  It is creamy, rich, airy, deep, sweet and dare I say, heavenly.
I will be honest that the only bad part is that it isn’t the easiest thing to make.  It involves some steps that may be a little discouraging but I promise it will be worth it in the end.

You will need:
•8 oz. dark chocolate ( I used Dove chocolate squares)
•¼ cup of water
•2 TBS butter
•3 egg yolks
•2 TBS sugar
•¼ cup water
•1 ¼ cup whipping cream
1.)    Begin by  putting chocolate in a food processor until it is chopped  into little pieces.  Then, microwave the chocolate, first ¼ cup water and butter in a microwave safe bowl.  I would suggest microwaving on low increments of time so that you can check on the mix and make sure it isn’t burning.  Once everything is melted, stir and allow to completely cool.

2.)    In a saucepan combine egg yolks, sugar and remaining water and heat to 160°.  I would suggest using a candy thermometer to do this so it reaches the appropriate temperature.

3.)    Remove from heat and whisk in chocolate mixture in a bowl.  Set the bowl in another bowl filled with ice and stir until cooled.  Lastly, fold in whipped cream and portion into bowls.

I suggest you sit down and take a moment to eat this mousse in a quiet place where you can just acknowledge how amazingly tasty it is.  And realize that is doesn’t get more decadent than this…unless of course you decide to dip some chocolate covered chips in the mousse.  I promise I won’t judge you!

Easter Lemon Pastel Pound Cake

Happy Easter!  If you’re anything like my family, you’ve already begun preparing.  In my family, each family member brings a different dish and then everything comes together perfectly as we sit down to dinner together.  When I was at the grocery store on Wednesday people were already buzzing around buying things in preparation!  I think everyone just likes the thought of it finally being nice outside and everything becoming so beautiful during spring.
So in honor of Easter I decided to make a colorful pastel pound cake.  This recipe is pretty easy and will have everyone asking how you made it look so pretty!  It is the same technique used for the  rainbow cake but it can be whipped up a lot faster.
Easter Lemon Pastel Pound Cake
Preheat oven to 350°
You will need:
∙1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
∙1 1/2 cups white sugar
∙1/2 cup butter
∙1/2 cup sour cream
∙3 eggs
∙1 pinch baking soda
∙1 lemon, you need zest and juice
∙food coloring
1.)    Begin by creaming the butter and sugar together until fluffy.  Next, mix in sour cream, lemon zest and eggs until well blended.

2.)    Meanwhile, mix flour and a pinch of baking soda together, then slowly mix this into wet mixture.

3.)    Next, divide the mixture into 4 bowls, or however many colors you will be making.  You can use whatever colors you like but I used 4 colors: pink, green, yellow and purple.  I used the new gel food coloring which made things even easier!  I love these so much because the colors are so vibrant.

4.)    Then you grease and flour a pound cake pan.  I also found this awesome spray that has the oil and flour in the can!! How cool is that!?  It is a lot faster and worked SO well.  Then layer the batter one at a time, smoothing the layers out but making sure not to mix them.  Bake for 1 hour.

5.)    As the cake is baking mix the juice of the lemon and 1 cup of confectioners sugar for the glaze.
6.)    Remove cake, allow to cool and glaze!  Don’t worry if it doesn’t look exactly like my cake because it will obviously vary greatly due to how it bakes and how you layered the batter.

I hope you enjoyed this fun recipe and share it with your family!  Can’t wait to see how everyone is going to celebrate :)
P.S. Be sure to check out other Easter treats at Sweet As Sugar Cookies.