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Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Random Desserts of 2012

It seems whenever I'm pregnant, I slow down on blogging. Much of it is due to morning sickness but then that wears off and I have no exact excuse. Everyone is pretty busy and I do try to take pictures of things to blog about later, but seem to always be behind. Now that some Pecan Bars in are in the works and the kiddo is sleeping and The Husband is out, I have some me time, so I have decided to use it on blogging. Looking back through my pictures this year, I can see a bunch of desserts I've made and I vaguely remember what recipe they were, so I think it is best to just call this post "Random Desserts of 2012."
First on my list was a classroom treat for Valentine's day for the kiddo. Look at what a cute Valentine's day card he made The Husband and myself? Okay so maybe I helped him out a little bit... ?

Sure, the kiddo is only 1 and doesn't know what's going on with V-day but I felt he deserved some tasty cut out heart jam sandwich cookies for his Valentine's day classroom party. Unfortunately, I did not save what recipe I used for this but I know for a fact I used a recipe with no nuts, just because it was for school. I remember it only called for a few ingredients, flour, salt, butter, etc.

 I used raspberry jam for the filling, dusted the tops with powdered sugar, and I had some leftover pink buttercream from something - maybe Maria's cake? I used that as a filling on a few cookies as well. Rolling out and cutting cookies takes time but it was fun and the cookies were enjoyed by all.

Next on my random list of desserts, ah yes - some kind of random apple / pie crust recipe I saw on pinterest. You know how pinterest goes, the caption always says "easiest and best tasting recipe EVER!! OMG!!! you won't believe it!!!" and as it turns out, apples with store bought pie crust and some sugar and cinnamon taste like... apples with crust and sugar and cinnamon. This was OK but no 4 star dessert or anything. I like Pinterest and all, but it's basically a showcase of "good photography".. if you can take a good picture in good lighting, then it will be popular on Pinterest whether or not it is a good idea or tasty or not.

Okay, moving on, let's see what is next in my camera queue. Ah - yes - what can only be my favorite banana bread recipe, but this time with a glaze. Actually, there is a chance it is some other kind of spice bread but I'm pretty sure it's spiced banana bread. See top photo of post also - I made a bundt cake to welcome little Shiloh home and give her mom a belated present (a cake holder/tote) and I knew Shiloh loved spice and bananas. I made the loaf above for The Husband and I, because, you can't just make this bread and give it all away - you must have some for yourself!

Okay, let's keep moving because we are only up through March 10th! Ah yes, there was some other kind of party at "school" for the kiddo so I was happy to sign up to make a treat. I wanted it to use some kid-friendly ingredients like applesauce and apples and came across a Dorie Greenspan recipe that was popular on other blogs and decided to give her Applesauce Spice Bars a go. They were totally delicious and I will have to put her cookbook on my wish list!

They were hard to get a "clean cut" on but I cut them into bite sized 1-year old treat pieces and I heard that the class loved them. I'd definitely make these again, especially in the fall time. I had totally forgotten what recipe this was and was recently looking through my pictures and thought "oh yeah those were so good, what recipe was that????" and I'm so happy I finally remembered it was Dorie's.

Okay, what's next? Brookies! Apparently I finally made these cookie bars in April. I had heard about them from Martha Stewart's show, which I don't watch but my mom does, and I thought - what's not to like? A brookie is a brownie/chocolate chip cookie combo. I think on Martha, they had brownies inside chocolate chip cookies, however I did the easy bar-cookie style and I'm 99% sure I used a ghiradelli brownie box mix for the bottom, pressed it in, and then made the Tollhouse cookie recipe for the top layer and pressed that on top for a 9x13. I remember reading this blog, for the recipe but I certainly did not "drop cookie dough by spoonfuls" so maybe I found another method somewhere else or just winged it. Anyhoo, I feel really bad about this but I can't remember the reason for making them. I feel like there must have been an event or place that I took them --- let me know if anyone thinks these look familiar! It was around Easter time. Oh - one more thing - I also like to call them "Crownies" just for fun.

Next, I have lots of pictures of The Husband's birthday cake that he brought into work. I made the mistake years ago by showing him a photo of this law book cake that some one else had done, and he said "why don't I get a cake like that???" and so I thought this year he should finally have it. I spend hours and hours and hours on cakes for other people and some years he does not even get one from me, with it being around Easter and lent or being sick or this or that. Anyhow, this cake deserves a whole blog post in itself to go through all the details, so that's all I will say for now.

Next, I will mention these since they do count, but only briefly because I actually blogged about my mango desserts I made during "mango season."

We had a mango crisp and also this fantastically delicious recipe from Dorie Greenspan for mango bread. I made it 2 or 3 times and gave some loaves away, it was so delicious and moist.

Next in my camera stream is.. another mystery dessert. This looks like a crumble topped pie with fruit in it - I am guessing strawberry rhubarb? I can vaguely remember that I knew The Husband liked these pies and since I had never made one before, perhaps it was time. It looks a little soupy but I'm sure it did not go to waste. The Husband just took a peek at the photo and he agrees that he assumes it was strawberry rhubarb. I can tell you I used a store bought crust because I suck at homemade pie crusts, and I don't know what recipe I used for the filling. If I recall correctly, it was good but it's a little tangy with that tart rhubarb. I'm more of an all-sweet person I think.

We're finally to June - perhaps I have been baking more that I thought. I was thinking "I hardly bake anymore" ... perhaps, the truth is I hardly blog anymore but the cooking and baking continues! This dessert is easy to remember - it was to celebrate the homecoming of my sister-in-law and her family from having lived in London for two years. We had a homecoming party with The Husband's family and it was a great celebration. Minus that whole morning sickness thing I was experiencing!

I used Ina's flag cake recipe except I opted out of cream cheese frosting and just used regular buttercream frosting, so The Husband would eat some. I made a special effort to look up how many grams are in each cup of flour since Ina did not use weights for her cake recipe and I measured everything exactly. I felt the cake was flat and dense and not what I wanted at all, I would have just preferred some cake boxes personally, so - I'd not use that recipe again. I can make cakes from scratch and I know when they work and taste good, just so you know.

Next, a delicious chilled dessert - another ice cream cake! This one was for my mother-in-law's birthday which we were celebrating at our house. I didn't have time (or the energy with morning sickness) for a more elaborate cake and The Husband was excited for an ice cream cake so I went with that idea. It's a tasty option for a quick dessert that you don't have to travel with, perfect for summer. This time I wanted to try something different so I baked a disc of brownies in the cake pan prior to assembly. I think I used a 10in cake pan. I lined the floor of the pan in oreos, put a layer of french vanilla Hudsonville ice cream, then the brownie disc, then I believe some Sanders hot fudge, and then more vanilla ice cream. I used cool whip to decorate and "frost" the cake and popped it in the freezer. It's best if you freeze ice cream cakes overnight, then they are solid as rocks and don't squish apart when you try to cut them into slices. Serve with more Sanders hot fudge! I also put maraschino cherries on top for some color and for the kiddos.

Next, we fast forward to August because apparently there was no baking in July. We were traveling a lot so that makes sense. My nephew Liam's 1st birthday celebration was a great party and the theme was dinosaurs so I was happy to be able to make a dino themed cake. I found an example online that was reasonably do-able and I am pleased with the results. I used fondant for the dinosaur and balloon and letters,   which were cut out with my new letter cutters.

The letter cutters took more time than I expected, I finally figured out using cornstarch between each letter on the cutter was key for keeping the fondant from sticking inside the cutter. It was not a time saver but at least the finished product looks a lot better than my hand writing!

A few weeks later in August, we had the marriage of our dear friends Sal and Rog! I was very excited to be able to participate by making some mini cupcakes for their wedding celebration in Chicago. We stayed with some friends and I baked all the mini cupcakes and made the frostings  and decorations ahead of time and everything made the trip OK. Then the morning of the wedding I began decorating and decorating for several hours. It went by pretty fast and then we had about an hour drive out to the reception location. I packaged them in some cake boxes I bought and only a few rolled around so it went OK, next time I would try to pack in even more to make it a tighter fit, as the papers were not good spacers like I thought they would be. When we got to the reception hall I was expecting the other lady with the other half of mini cupcakes to be there and setting up but there was nothing. I didn't know if there was a particular design or not but all I knew was there would not be enough space on the plates for the cupcakes!

Eventually the reception was about to begin and no sign of the other lady so I began setting up the cupcakes with the help of The Husband. I found the other lady's cupcakes.. full size ones and not the right flavors.... not the proper decorating style....strange... in the cooler in the back and I tried to put some of those out, also. Anyhow, the normal sized cupcakes are not mine but I think the display turned out pretty good. The Husband did the left side and I did the right side!

The flavors were exactly what Sal ordered - yellow cupcake with regular white vanilla/almond buttercream which I made a yellow double fondant yellow flower for, chocolate chip chocolate cupcakes with delicious chocolate buttercream on top, which received the cut out white fondant hearts with green sanding sugar on top, and finally the german chocolate mocha cupcakes with browned butter salted caramel buttercream with a chocolate covered espresso bean on top (I purchased those from Caribou coffee). This was pretty fun and a great event, we were happy to celebrate with Rog and Sal!

Next, the kiddo and I had an impromptu evening out at an outdoor Beatles cover band concert with our dear friends Andrea and Jan and their little kiddo. I had really wanted to try a cookie recipe that I saw on an episode of the Pioneer Woman - a fabulous food blogger who got her own show on Food Network! I did not have milk chocolate chips but I think otherwise I followed her recipe pretty closely. Unfortunately I could not taste the malt and I love malted desserts, but these were delicious chocolate chip cookies nonetheless. I'll have to find another recipe where there's more of a malted milk flavor - perhaps adding malted milk balls or maybe the milk chocolate vs semi sweet makes the difference. I brought these cookies to the outdoor concert to share with my friends, which was good that I didn't get stuck at home with the whole tray to myself!

The next dessert brings us up through early September for my mom's birthday. I thought I would try to make a special lemon flavored cake with the special bakery-style frosting that she likes (though she likes the American super sweet kind also). She asked all week what cake she was getting for her birthday and also her typical "well don't make me anything, just buy me a nice cake from the bakery" blah blah and then the typical "oh you don't have to come over for my birthday, I don't need anything for my birthday, we don't have to celebrate at all" kind of thing that moms do but they truly don't mean it. So I kept the homemade cake a surprise upon our arrival.

I have used Rose Levy Beranbaum's Mousseline whipped icing before but I wanted to try Sweetapolita's Swiss Meringue Buttercream this time. I spent hours trying to get this recipe to work. I know how to whip eggwhites but these ones would just not come to stiff peaks. I had a clean bowl and cold eggwhites and proper sugar syrup and I don't know what happened. I ended up giving up and just adding the butter anyway and lo and behold, it still came together in the icing. Too bad I waited hours and stayed up until midnight trying to get the eggwhites right, since it apparently didn't matter. I am wondering if my kitchenaid is not up to par anymore, even since we used the meat grinder attachment and it fizzled on me. I added a lemon pudding mix into the cake batter and it was not overly lemony. I was exhausted but managed to make some cut out fondant flowers for decorations. When I decorated the cake the next day, I had trouble getting the handwriting right so don't judge me on the redone and redone again "h" for Happy Birthday. I should have just left the first one on there.

I'm still looking for the light and airy buttercream recipe that bakeries use - these two seem to be heavy on the butter flavor and not quite the right one, though they seem like the obvious choices. Anyhow, when I showed up at my mom's I hid the fact that we had gifts and cake so that it could be a surprise and she looked around and said "oh I see you didn't bring anything for my birthday" and then was in a real bad mood the whole day. She was not very thankful for the cake when she did see it, and told me I should have just bought one. So maybe next time I will, but from Meijer or Kroger. That's two times in a row she has had a real bad attitude after I did a whole bunch of work to pull off a nice birthday cake. There's no pleasing some people.

Next, our first fall dessert installation. Our dear friends Diana and Tim were having a fall party so I was happy to bring a few desserts. I decided on pumpkin cupcakes (a delicious Martha Stewart Recipe) and what's pretty much the best buttercream frosting recipe ever, caramel brown butter buttercream. Some candy corn made for an easy but festive decoration and I made a double batch so I had some extras for work. These turned out delicious and I would not hesitate to make a whole cake like this and slather that frosting on.

I could not stop with one dessert so I made a large batch of these babies that I've been eyeing in Martha Stewart's Cupcakes cookbook - Mini Oreo Cheesecakes. They were pretty easy but the only thing is they need to be chilled so it's not a great "leave it out at a party all day" dessert. I still got this recipe in my head and had to make them. These are best when eaten within the next day or two, by day 3 they get a little soggy of course. They were still tasty.

 In the bottom of each cupcake liner, a whole oreo was placed which posed as the "crust" and when you peeled the paper off, the cheesecakes held up very nicely and they were not messy to eat at all.

Lastly, that brings us up to what I popped into the oven when I started this post - some pecan bars for a work group lunch. Some days have passed since I started this post and I had made a double batch, and not a single pecan bar went to waste. I have made this Martha Stewart recipe before  (so this is an old photo) but this is a delicious fall recipe

Well it is mid-October so there's plenty of time for more baking this year, especially with the holidays coming up! Maybe I will get back to single posts on each recipe but for now I am glad to at least have these items represented and recipes logged before I forget any further. Hope you enjoyed!


  1. I found the other lady's cupcakes.. full size ones and not the right flavors.... not the proper decorating style....strange.

    HAHAHAHA the minis were perfect. the rest was good, but I'll repeat...the minis were PERFECT.

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