Monthly Archives: March 2011

Lavender Tea Cakes

I first started cooking with lavender when I made a lavender and white chocolate cake as per request for my Mom’s birthday two years ago. Once you learn how to infuse lavender into liquid ingredients, you can add it to just about any recipe. You can usually find it at health food or gourmet shops, and it is relatively inexpensive. It is a complex flavour, and adds sophistication to the most basic ingredients. These bite sized treats are delicately scented with lavender and topped with smooth honey cream cheese frosting. I made 48 tea cakes (mini cupcakes), but you can make full-sized cupcakes if you prefer. The miniature versions would be the perfect addition to an afternoon tea party. You’ll need:

  • 1/2 cup cooking lavender
  • 1 box Duncan Hines moist white cake mix (you can use any mix that adds egg white, water, and oil)
  • 3 egg whites
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla (optional)
  • concentrated purple gel food colouring (optional)
  • cupcake liners (optional)
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 8 oz. softened cream cheese
  • 2 tbsp softened butter
  • 3-4 cups icing sugar

This recipe is based on a cake mix that calls for 1 1/3 cups of water. If the recipe on your box calls for a different quantity, use that amount to measure your milk. I added a bit extra to compensate for the milk that you lose when the lavender absorbs some. If your mix calls for whole eggs or different quantities of oil, follow those directions instead.

In a small saucepan, pour your milk, and 1/4 cup of lavender. Cover and heat on low until milk is scalding (not quite a boil). Let cool, and strain out the lavender flowers. You should be left with about 1 1/3 cups of lavender infused milk, which you will need for your cake mix. Discard the used lavender.

In a large bowl, pour your cake mix, and add the extra ingredients according to the package. You will be substituting your lavender milk for the water in the box recipe. Beat together the mix, milk, eggs and oil on medium speed, scraping the sides of the bowl as you go. Add your vanilla, and food colouring if you wish. I added colour to overpower the slightly grey cast that the lavender leaves behind.

If you have a mini muffin pan, place your liners inside. Otherwise, place your liners on a flat baking sheet. Fill them about 2/3 full with batter, and bake according to the directions on your mix. Your baking time will probably be less than indicated for standard cupcakes, so keep an eye on them if you are making minis.

While your tea cakes are cooling, you can make your frosting. Cream together butter, cream cheese, and honey in a large bowl on medium-low speed. Add the icing sugar about 1/2 cup at a time, scraping down your bowl as you go. Continue adding until you reach a thick but workable consistency.

To frost your tea cakes, you can either spread or pipe on your icing. I filled a piping bag, and used a round tip to cover my cakes with a generous dollop of frosting. They will look cute either way; the honey gives the icing a nice shiny look. Now sprinkle your cakes with a few lavender flowers to finish them off. If you are making these in advance, keep them refrigerated until about an hour before serving.

As I said earlier, these little mini cupcakes would be adorable at a fancy tea party or lunch. Enjoy them with friends who share your adventurous appetite for new flavour combinations!

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Peanut Butter and Jam Sandwich Cookies

At 22 years old, I only recently tasted my first peanut butter and jam sandwich, and I hate to admit that I wasn’t blown away by everyone’s favourite brown bag standby. I definitely enjoyed the salty-sweet combo, but the consistency of soft on soft left my mouth all gummy. So I set out to replicate the best parts of pb & j, while improving on its textural short comings. These cookies will remind everyone of their childhood lunch box favourite, and are especially tasty with a cold glass of milk.

You’ll need:

  • ½ pound (2 sticks) softened butter
  • 1 ½ cups sugar
  • 1 egg
  • ¼ cup natural peanut butter
  • 1 ¼ cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 ½ cups white flour
  • ¾ cup peanut butter chips
  • 1 cup jam (preferably seedless, I used raspberry)
  • Cookie cutter
  • Parchment paper

Start by creaming your butter and sugar in a large bowl. Once fluffy, add the egg and peanut butter. The peanut butter doesn’t need to be natural, but since it’s more liquidy it incorporates better into the dough. Slowly add your flour, beating the mixture on low. If you prefer you can  substitute all white flour. This will make for a sweeter cookie, with a less earthy taste. Finally, incorporate your peanut butter chips. Now, form your dough into a ball, throw it in a ziploc, and refrigerate if for about an hour.

Once your dough is chilled, preheat your oven to 350. Remove your dough from the fridge, and roll it out on a floured surface. If you don’t have a rolling pin handy, use a wine bottle or something similar. It will take a minute for your dough to warm up to a workable temperature. Keep rolling until it is about ¼ “ thick, and free of cracks. Cut out as many cookies as you can with your cookie cutter (I used a square one to look like sliced bread), and place them about an inch apart on a parchment lined baking sheet. Bake for 12-15 minutes, or until the edges are just golden.

Set your cookies aside to cool. Match up pairs of equal size, and spread about a teaspoon of jam onto the bottom side of one cookie. Squish the second cookie, bottom down, onto the jam so you can just start to see it oozing out. Let your cookies set for about an hour before eating, so the jam sinks in and the layers stick together firmly. Now sit back with a cookie, a glass of milk, and an old yearbook, and reminisce about the days of yore.

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Coconut Cupcakes with Lime Filling and White Chocolate Buttercream Icing

The tropical flavours in these cupcakes make a delectable combination. The super sweet coconut cake gets a tangy punch when you bite into the gooey lime centre. And, depending on your kitchen know-how and free time, you can adapt the recipe to include homemade or store-bought ingredients. The recipe yields about 36 generously iced cupcakes.

You’ll need:

  • 36 cupcake liners (optional)
  • 2 pkgs white cake mix (or 2 batches of your favourite recipe)
  • 3 tbsp coconut extract
  • 1 tbsp almond extract
  • 5 cups sweetened shredded coconut
  • 2 1/2 cups lime curd (I used one batch of this recipe: http://allrecipes.com//Recipe/fresh-lime-curd/Detail.aspx, but you can buy it  if you prefer)
  • 2 cups white chocolate chips
  • 1 pound butter softened
  • about 5 cups icing sugar
  • piping bag and decorating tip #230 (Wilton)
  • 5 limes, sliced
  • 1/2 cup toasted, shaved coconut

If you plan to make your own lime curd, do this first. You will want it to cool fully before filling your cupcakes.

Preheat your oven and prepare your cake mixes as directed, adding 2 cups of your shredded coconut, and both extracts. Fill your cupcake liners about 2/3 full, and bake according to your recipe. When your cupcakes are golden brown, remove them from the oven, and set them aside to cool.

Now, I mentioned earlier that you can substitute store-bought ingredients for parts of this recipe, but I don’t recommend skimping on time with the icing. Real buttercream icing is too good to pass on, and even if you flavour canned frosting, it won’t measure up.  Therefore, I suggest that you go for the gusto with the icing, and save time using a cake mix. In my opinion, cake mixes are just as delicious as most homemade cake recipes, and sometimes even better. You can also shave off time by buying your lime curd in a jar. You will find it in some grocery stores, and most specialty shops. Look for an option with lots of real lime for the most flavourful filling.

To make your icing, cream your butter with a  hand mixer until it is soft and fluffy. Don’t whip it too much or it will get air bubbles that will ruin the look of your icing. Now, melt your white chocolate, and slowly beat it into the butter. Be careful not to overheat the chocolate, or it will get crumbly, and once again, ruin the look of your icing. Add about 2 cups of icing sugar to the mixture, and cream it in with a wooden spoon. Doing this by hand will prevent over mixing  and will give your icing a nice smooth look. Continue adding icing sugar about 1/2 cup at a time, until your icing is a workable consistency. It should be a bit thicker than mashed potatoes. Set aside your icing while you fill your cupcakes with lime curd.

To fill your cupcakes, place your decorating tip into an icing bag, and fill the bag with your curd. Insert the tip about 3/4 of the way into the centre of each cupcake and squeeze out roughly 1 tbsp of curd. If the top of your cupcake cracks, it is probably too full, but don’t worry because you will be covering any imperfections with icing anyway. A bit of filling will probably seep out of the hole in the top of your cupcakes, but will also be hidden under the icing.

Once your cupcakes are filled, frost them generously by either piping or spreading on icing. Scatter your remaining coconut onto a large dish, and roll your iced cupcakes in it to cover them. After coating your cupcakes in shredded coconut, decorate half of the batch with a thin slice of lime, and the other half with a sprinkling of toasted coconut. Add the lime slices just before serving so your icing doesn’t get all slimey from lime juice.

One bite of these cupcakes will transport you straight to the tropics, but enjoy with caution, I accidentally ate five in one day.

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Lime Jello Shooters

Hosting parties, particularly theme parties, is one of my favourite pastimes. I can spend hours thinking of creative ways to incorporate a theme into every aspect of an event. So you can imagine that when my roommate announced her intention to celebrate her 23rd birthday coconut-lime style, my mind was reeling. Oh the possibilities! These next two posts are a couple of the ways we infused the party with her favourite flavours. These shooters are super easy to make and look totally cute. You’ll need:

  • 15 limes
  • 2 boxes of lime jello (we used sugar-free)
  • a mickey of vodka (we used lime flavour)
  • egg cartons

First, cut your limes in half, and then cut around the inside edge between the pulp and the pith. Now is the time to squeeze out any juice if you plan to save it (it will come in handy if you plan to make the lime curd in my next post).

Then, take a spoon, and scrape around the cut you made. You can be fairly aggressive without harming your precious limes. Try to get out as much pulp as possible. Then rinse your empty limes, and settle them into an egg carton. You can use the egg shelf in your fridge door like we did, but be super careful when you open/close it.

Now to make the jello. Follow the recipe on the box, substituting your vodka for 1.5 of the 2 cups of cold water. Pour the liquid jello into your limes very slowly until it just reaches the rim, and put them in the fridge to set.

Once the jello has set, it will be firm enough to move your limes around without too much difficulty. Be sure to give the jello enough time to set before your party, but don’t make them too far in advance or the jello will take on the bitterness of the rind.Keep them refrigerated right up until you serve them.

The limes will stay a bit squishy, so you can slurp the jello right out of them. You can also make a kid-friendly version without the vodka for a fun party snack. Yum! Now that’s what I call lime jello!

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Simpsons Cake Pops

If you’re active in the food blogging universe, then you’ve probably heard of Bakerella and her famous Cakepops. The bitesize treats that she invented are essentially candy coated cake on a stick, and have been adapted by Bakerella and her followers to look like everything from Reindeer to Robots. They have become so popular that Bakerella  published a Cakepops book full of recipes and decorating ideas. Even Starbucks is on board, and recently started selling the snacks as part of the Starbucks Petits line. I took my first shot at Cakepoppery this past November in honour of my friend Lisa’s birthday. She is also a fan of Bakerella, and an even bigger fan of The Simpsons. As part of her Simpsons theme party, I constructed these pops to resemble each of the five main Simpsons characters. Here’s how:

Follow the basic Cakepop recipe at this link, using white cake and icing so it doesn’t show through the yellow coating: http://www.bakerella.com/hope-these-put-a-smile-on-your-face/

You will also need:

  • yellow gel food colouring
  • 1 pkg white chocolate chips
  • 1 cup sunflower seeds (preferably candy coated, but regular will do)
  • 3 mini candy soothers
  • 1/4 cup red and green coated mini chocolate chips
  • 1 piece black string licorice
  • 1 small pkg marzipan
  • black edible marker or non-toxic marker
  • blue gel food colouring
  • 3 mini icecream cones
  • 1 can white icing
  • white royal icing (or candy eyes if you can find them)

So, I only made 15 of these guys, because they were really finicky and time consuming. If you want to make more, you will likely have enough ingredients, but you may have to eyeball it. First, make your pops according to Bakerella’s recipe, but before dipping in your candy coating, follow these instructions.  You may find it helpful to add a bit of melted chocolate to your decorations before adding them to make them stick.

Homer (x3) : roll your pop out to elongate it into a more oval shape. Stick a sunflower seed, pointy side in, into the middle of the head for a nose. Stick two more on either side of the head for ears.

Marge (x3) : Elongate the head into an oval, and sculpt the jaw into the classic Simpson overbite. Stick a sunflower seed just above the upper lip for her nose, and two more on either side of the head for ears.

Bart (x3) : Repeat what you just did for Marge. Then, flatten his crown and stick sunflower seeds, pointy side out in a circle around the top of his head.

Maggie (x3) : Keep the head round, and stick white chocolate chips all over the back of her head up to her hairline to create a spiky effect. Add a sunflower seed nose, and ears.

Lisa (x3) : Keeping her head round, create an overbite by sculpting her upper lip. Add a sunflower seed nose and ears, and repeat what you did with Maggie’s hair to get the same effect.

When you are done creating the structure for your characters, chill them in the freezer for 1/2 hour. Prepare your candy melts as directed by Bakerella, and add yellow gel food colouring until you achieve the desired shade. It is essential that you use gel, because liquid colouring can affect your chocolate. I found it helpful to add a few teaspoons of vegetable oil to my chocolate to thin it out for dipping, but this is up to your discretion. If you thin your chocolate too much, the cake underneath will show through. Dip your characters, and set them upright to dry in a block of styrafoam, or something similar. Once the chocolate has hardened, you’re ready to decorate.

Homer (x3) : Shape an oval out of marzipan, and adhere it to his mouth area using yellow chocolate. Draw on a smile , and add a zigzag line around the back of his head for hair. Cut little bits of hair for the top of his head from your black licorice, and stick them on using yellow chocolate.  Pipe on white royal icing for eyes, and once it is dry, colour in black pupils using your marker. If you were able to find premade eyes, just stick them on with a dab of yellow chocolate.

Marge (x3) : Draw on a smile  with black marker. Adhere red coated chocolate chips around the base of her head for her necklace. Mix blue gel colouring into your canned frosting until it reaches the desired colour, and use a bit to stick an upturned mini cone onto her head. Using a round tip, pipe the cone liberally with blue icing. Be careful to keep the cone upright until the icing  hardens, or it will slide.  Pipe on white royal icing for eyes, and once it is dry, colour in black pupils using your marker.

Bart (x3) : Draw on a smile with black marker.  Pipe on white royal icing for eyes, and once it is dry, colour in black pupils using your marker.

Maggie (x3) : Stick a candy pacifier onto her mouth area using yellow chocolate.  Pipe on white royal icing for eyes, and once it is dry, colour in black pupils using your marker.

Lisa (x3) : Draw on a smile with black marker. Adhere green candy coated chips around the base of her head with yellow chocolate to create a necklace.  Pipe on white royal icing for eyes, and once it is dry, colour in black pupils using your marker.

Tips:

  • when dipping Maggie and Lisa, be extra careful to shake off excess around their spiky hair to add definition
  • if your noses aren’t defined enough because there is too much chocolate coating around them, you can outline the bottom with marker to add definition
  • If you are using candy coated sunflower seeds, try to use light colours like yellow or orange, so they don’t show through the chocolate
  • if you can’t find an edible marker, just use a regular non-toxic marker, but be aware that it will probably get ruined in the sugar
  • piping the eyes can be difficult, so keep your eyes (haha)  peeled for sugar eyes which can occasionally be found at Michael’s or Bulkbarn. You can also find them online if you really want to.
  • feel free to play around with the colours of your accessories depending on what you can find, your pops don’t have to match the characters identically

Have fun making these treats! Make sure you set aside a good chunk of time before you start, because it is a long process. If you have any questions, leave a comment, and I’ll try to answer them to the best of my knowlege.

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Chocolate Covered Caramallow Pops

These treats are the ultimate in decadence. They are relatively easy, and make the perfect handheld party food. You’ll need:

  • 20 wooden lollipop sticks
  • parchment paper
  • 1 bag of large marshmallows
  • 1 1/2 cups of white sugar and 3/4 cup heavy cream OR 4 cups of chewy caramels
  • 6 cups of milk chocolate (chunks, chips, or discs)
  • toppings of your choice: sprinkles, skor bits, white chocolate and peanut butter chips

In a deep, thick bottomed skillet heat your sugar over medium until it liquifies and turns a golden caramel brown. Turn the heat to low and add the cream little by little, stirring as you go. If you aren’t comfortable working with sugar, you can melt down chewy caramels instead. Pour the mixture into a small, deep vessel (I used a measuring cup) and set aside to cool for a few minutes.

While the mixture is cooling, skewer three marshmallows onto each of your sticks. I found that the marshmallow stuck well to the wooden sticks, but you can use whatever you have around.

Once your caramel has cooled slightly, dip your pops and let any excess drip off. As you use up your caramel you may have to tilt your bowl in order to fully coat the marshmallows. Place the dipped pops on parchment to set. The caramel will not completely harden, but the chocolate will seal in any moisture.

Now you can let your caramel coated pops sit as you melt your chocolate. Follow these easy instructions for tempering chocolate in the microwave to avoid that gross dusty look: http://www.ehow.com/how_2128206_temper-chocolate-using-microwave.html. Repeat the dipping process with your melted chocolate. Make sure to tap off as much excess as you can. I found that as my chocolate cooled, it started to pull away from the caramel, so work quickly.

If you are adding solid toppings, like skor bits, you can sprinkle them on to the chocolate before it cools, and then lay your finished pop on a fresh sheet of parchment to harden.

I also made some pops with melted white chocolate and peanut butter chips drizzled over them. For these, set your pops down on parchment to let the milk chocolate harden while you melt your toppings. Place about 1/2 cup of each topping in a ziploc bag and microwave for 20 seconds. Take the bags out, squish around the chips, and put them back in for another 10 seconds. Continue this until most of the chips are melted, the unmelted chips will melt when you squeeze them around in the bag.

Cut a small hole in the corner of each bag and drizzle the topping back and forth across your pops. Carefully move them to a fresh sheet of parchment to cool.

Once the chocolate has completely hardened, your pops are ready to serve! You can also wrap them up individually for cute little favours. You can keep them in a cool, dry place for a few days until they are eaten.

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Butterbeer Cupcakes

After visiting the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal, my friends and I are always on the hunt for magical treats, so when my roommate stumbled on a recipe for butterbeer cupcakes on http://amybites.com/?p=623, we had to make them. There are several steps to the process, so it took a while for us muggles to whip them up, but the instructions are easy enough to follow. They are so buttery and delicious; before you know it they’ll have vanished!

 

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