Sparkle Birthday Cake

It is Stella’s 5th birthday today and she wanted a horse cake.  Hmm.  A horse cake?  Well, Hayley found a photo to work with, and I found an amazing cake recipe on “smittenkitchen”, so we were off to the races.  A few hours later and I think we are all really happy with the results!

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Our original inspiration photo had more of a smooth finish, but we wanted this to look like the horse Stella rides – Artie.  Pretty confetti sprinkles inside and it’s a perfect 5 year old birthday cake for a very special grand daughter.

If you haven’t been to the Smitten Kitchen website yet, do yourself a favour and hop on over for a visit.  Deb Perelman has great recipes, both her own and sourced from other cookbooks, they never fail.  She calls this one confetti birthday cake, and it is easy to see why.  Those little bursts of colour just make the cake look like a party already!

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So hard to believe Stella is 5 already!

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Even the bridle turned out really well!

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We were suitably impressed with how well Hayley created the mane.

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It’s working, this is looking pretty good!

 

All right, sorry, enough of the horse cake photos, you are no doubt looking for the recipe! We just had so much fun creating it.  One of the joys with this recipe is that you only use one bowl, and it takes about 5 minutes to put together.

 

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This time, I used 1 whole egg instead of egg whites, and used the batter for filling ice cream cone cups, they bake up perfectly into 9 hand held cake cones.  Gently fold in the sprinkles.

CAKE
  • 1/2 cup (115 grams or 4 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2/3 cups (130 grams) granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 large egg whites
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup (120 ml) buttermilk
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 tablespoons (16 grams) cornstarch
  • 1 cup (130 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup rainbow sprinkles

Preheat oven: To 350 degrees F. Line the bottom of an 8×8-inch square or 9-inch round cake pan with parchment paper and coat the bottom and sides with nonstick spray or butter.

Make cake: Beat butter, sugar, and salt together in a medium bowl. Add egg whites, one at a time, beating until combined and slightly fluffy. Add vanilla and buttermilk and beat to combine. The mixture will instantly look like cottage cheese and you will be sure it’s ruined but I promise it is not. Add baking powder and cornstarch and beat very well to combine. Scrape down sides of bowl and beat one second more. Add flour and mix just until it disappears. Use a rubber scraper to gently fold in sprinkles.

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It’s definitely a help to have a baker as cute as this 5 year old.

 

Bake cake: Spread batter in prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake for 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out batter-free. Let cool in pan on cooling rack for 5 minutes, then run a knife around the side to loosen the cake, flip it out onto the cooling rack, and slide the cooling rack into the freezer until cake is cool, about 10 to 15 minutes.

(If you don’t have buttermilk, just put 1 tsp lemon juice or vinegar into a 1/2 cup measuring vessel and fill to that mark with milk – allow to sit for 10 min and gently stir.)

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I used a whole egg for these instead of egg white, just because I wasn’t really concerned about pure white batter.  Simply stand the empty cones in a muffin tin and scoop in the batter.  Bake for 18-20 minutes at 350.

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Look at them puffing up so nicely in the cones – kids love these and they are perfect for a birthday party.

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All baked up and ready to be topped with either icing or ice cream, a hit with the kids either way.

 

 

 

 

Mini Lemon Cheesecake

Easter means brighter, fresher desserts, and this fits that description perfectly.  Ideal for brunch, lunch or dinner, these are a real treat.  I found the recipe on “Live Well Bake Often”, and, unusually for me ….. I didn’t change a thing!

Mini Lemon Cheesecake

When spring is peaking around the corner, I immediately think of lighter, fresher desserts …. and usually lemon figures in there somewhere!  These light, lemony cheesecakes topped with fresh whipped cream and berries are an ideal way to finish off dinner.

Cheesecake graham crumb

If you have a mini cheesecake pan, that would be ideal, but this straight sided silicone muffin tin I had worked perfectly.

For the crust:
  • 6 full-sheets (90 grams) graham crackers (or ¾ cup graham cracker crumbs)
  • 3 tablespoons (45 grams) butter, melted
  • 2 tablespoons (25 grams) granulated sugar
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It’s important to get the crumbs settled smoothly into the bottom of the tin, and I used the bottom of a small glass to get it all flattened out.

To make the crust:
  1. Preheat oven to 325°F. Spray each cavity of a 12-count mini cheesecake pan well with nonstick cooking spray and set aside. (or silicone muffin pan).  If you want to use a traditional muffin tin I would recommend using liners for easier removal.
  2. Add the graham crackers to a blender or food processor and process until you have fine crumbs. Scoop the crumbs into a mixing bowl, add the melted butter and sugar, and mix until everything is well combined. Evenly distribute the mixture between all 12 cavities in the mini cheesecake pan, making sure to press each one down firmly into one even layer. Bake at 325°F for 5 minutes, remove from the oven, and set aside to cool. Keep oven temperature at 325°F.
Mini cheesecake

These muffin tins used 1/4 cup of the cheesecake batter to make the perfect little mini cheesecake.

For the lemon cheesecake filling:
  • 12-ounces brick-style cream cheese, softened to room temperature
  • ½ cup (100 grams) granulated sugar
  • 3 tablespoons (45 ml) fresh lemon juice
  • Zest of one lemon
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg, room temperature
  • 1 large egg yolk, room temperature
To make the cheesecake filling:
  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or in a large mixing bowl using an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese until smooth. Add in the granulated sugar and mix until well combined. Add the lemon juice, lemon zest, and vanilla extract until well combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl if needed, then mix in the egg and egg yolk on low speed until just combined.
  2. Evenly distribute the cheesecake filling between all 12 cavities of the mini cheesecake pan (or muffin pan) and return to the oven. Bake at 325°F for 17-20 minutes or until the tops of the cheesecakes are set.
  3. Remove from the oven and allow to cool at room temperature for at least 1 hour. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and transfer to the refrigerator to chill for at least 3-4 hours or overnight. Once the cheesecakes are chilled, remove them from the pan. Top with whipped cream and fresh berries if desired, serve, and enjoy!

 

Fresh Cranberry Lemon Drop Cookies

These buttery little morsels are a great combination of shortbread richness with the tart hint of cranberry and lemon.  When I had the first one I thought …. Hmmmm, okay, they are good but maybe not my favourite cookie  –  however, next thing I knew I was reaching for a second cookie and now I just can’t stop.

Cranberry Lemon cookies 1

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 2 Tbsp lemon zest
  • 1 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup fresh cranberries, diced finely

LEMON GLAZE

  • 1/3 cup powdered icing sugar
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice

In a medium size bowl combine the flour, baking powder and salt.  Set aside.

In a large bowl rub the lemon zest into the sugar until moist and fragrant.  Add the butter to the lemon sugar and beat until light and fluffy, go for at least 3-5 minutes.  Add the egg and vanilla, mixing until smooth and creamy.

Add the flour mixture, mixing until just incorporated.  Fold in the cranberries by hand.

Cover and chill for at least 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 F.  Gently form the dough into small balls and bake for 13-15 minutes on parchment lined cookie sheets.  They spread out a little but not too much so you can put quite a few on each cookie sheet.

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Diced fresh cranberries give these little lemon balls a pretty pop of colour.

Let cookies cool slightly before moving them to a rack to cool completely.

To make the glaze, mix the powdered sugar and lemon juice together and drizzle over completely cooled cookies.  I used a pastry brush for this step to allow the whole top to get a shiny finish.  Watch your glaze mixture carefully, you just want it loose enough to brush or drizzle with either clumping or just running off the cookie.

Apple Pie Cookie Bars

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Combine an apple pie with shortbread bars and you have this winner!  I found this recipe in my latest Food Network magazine, from Ina Garden, and I’ve already made it twice.  The first time without the nuts so that the kids can take it in school lunches.

  • For the Crust
  • 1 pound (4 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • ¾ cup granulated sugar
  • ½ cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1½ teaspoons kosher salt
  • ½ cup chopped walnuts
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
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Make sure your little helper has fun!  Stella loves working in the kitchen with Nana…

  • For the Apple Filling
  • 1½ pounds Granny Smith apples, peeled, quartered, cored, and sliced 1/8 inch thick (3 large)
  • 1½ pounds Golden Delicious apples, peeled, quartered, cored, and sliced 1/8 inch thick (3 large)
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 4 tablespoons (½ stick) unsalted butter

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Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

For the crust, place the butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar, and vanilla in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat on medium speed for 2 minutes, until light and creamy. Sift the flour and salt together and, with the mixer on low, slowly add to the butter-sugar mixture, beating until combined. Scatter two-thirds of the dough in clumps in a 9 × 13-inch baking pan and press it lightly with floured hands on the bottom and ½ inch up the sides. Refrigerate for 20 minutes. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes, until the crust is golden brown, and set aside to cool.

Meanwhile, put the mixing bowl with the remaining dough back on the mixer, add the walnuts and cinnamon, and mix on low speed to combine. Set aside.

Reduce the oven to 350 degrees.

For the filling, combine the Granny Smith and Golden Delicious apples and lemon juice in a very large bowl. Add the granulated sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg and mix well. Melt the butter in a large (10-inch-diameter) pot, add the apples, and simmer over medium to medium-low heat, stirring often, for 12 to 15 minutes, until the apples are tender and the liquid has mostly evaporated. Spread the apples evenly over the crust, leaving a ½-inch border.

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Pinch medium pieces of the remaining dough with your fingers and drop them evenly on top of the apples (they will not be covered).

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Make sure you taste …….. Stella already knows this, here she decided to add a few oats and more cinnamon to the topping mix ….. it was a hit!

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until the topping is browned. Cool completely and cut into bars.

Fruit Tart with Lemon Cookie Crust

Summer fruit is here, and we have the best of it right out our door.  Fresh cherries, peaches and blueberries all ready at the same time inspired this dessert for Sunday dinner ……  Don’t you just love Sunday Family Dinners??  We sure do.

Fresh Fruit Tart with Lemon Cookie Crust

The best of the seasonal cherries, peaches and blueberries retain their fresh bright flavour in this dessert – no cooked fruit here!

COOKIE CRUST

  • 1/4 cup butter, softened
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • teaspoon finely grated lemon peel
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder 
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 1/4 cup all purpose flour

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. For crust, in a medium bowl beat butter with an electric mixer on medium speed for 30 seconds. Add granulated sugar, 1 teaspoon lemon peel, the baking powder, vanilla, and salt; beat until combined. Add egg; beat until combined. Beat in as much of the flour as you can with the mixer. Using a wooden spoon, stir in any remaining flour (or knead gently until combined).

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Press dough onto the bottom and up the sides of a 9-inch round tart pan with removable bottom.

tart shell

If you don’t have a tart pan with removable base, use your springform pan.  It worked just fine …. at least until I get myself some tart pans with removable bottoms!

Line crust with a double thickness of foil. Bake crust for 6 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for 6 to 7 minutes more or until crust is lightly browned. Cool crust on a wire rack.

CREAMY VANILLA CUSTARD

  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 2 cups milk

Whisk all ingredients together in sauce pan, and stir over medium heat until mixture bubbles and thickens.  Remove from heat and stir in:

1 tsp vanilla

Cover surface of the custard with a layer of plastic wrap and allow to cool completely.

GLAZE

  • 1 1/2 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup juice (something that works well with whatever fruit you are using)
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice

In a small saucepan, stir together cornstarch and sugar.  Add the rest of the ingredients and bring to a boil, stirring often to prevent clumps.  Allow to boil long enough for the liquid to lose the cloudy look of cornstarch.  Set aside to cool slightly.

ASSEMBLY

Leave cookie crust in tart pan, and spread the custard in an even layer.  Make sure the custard is cool at this point, you don’t want your fruit to get cooked!  The beauty of this dessert is that it really showcases the mouthwatering flavour of fruit that is in season, and you don’t want to lose that.

Arrange fruit over custard layer.

Brush glaze over fruit, just enough to set the fruit and keep the vibrant colours.

Cool completely before serving.

Amazing Angel Food Cake …. & strawberries!

When the kids were little, we always had birthday “season” with cousin Sara, Shane, Meghan and Hayley all having a birthday within a month (ish).  Their all time favourite was angel food cake, and I’ve done a lot with it …. layered with lemon curd, whipping cream and berries being one of the favourites.  I think this one hit it out of the park with all those yummy tastes, but in a beautiful presentation.  I finally got around to doing it for Fathers Day this year, and it was AMAZING!!

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1 box Angel Food Cake mix

1 1/2 cup diced strawberries

vanilla

raw sugar

confectioners sugar (icing sugar)

2 cups whipping cream

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Make an angel food cake mix according to the package directions.  (total admittance here, I’ve rarely made the cake from scratch – not knowing what to do with all the egg yolks given that we aren’t egg lovers).  Once you’ve mixed up the batter, line a baking sheet (17″ x 11″ ish) with parchment paper.  Pour the batter out onto this, and smooth with an offset spatula.

Bake for 17 min – check …. it should be just springy to the touch.  If not, give it an extra minute or two but be careful not to overcook.

Remove from oven, and turn out onto a tea towel that has been liberally dusted with icing (powdered) sugar.

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Roll the tea town up (I started with the long side because I had a lot of people to feed), and yes, keep the tea towel within the rolls.

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Allow to cool on a rack for about 20 minutes.

While that is happening: chop up 1 cup fresh berries. Add a dash of vanilla and a sprinkle of raw sugar.

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Whip up whipping cream.  Fold the berries with 1 – 1/2 cups whipping cream.

Gently unfold cake, and spread cream/berry mixture over.  Gently, re-roll and finish with seam side down.  Place in/on serving dish.  Use remaining whipping cream to mound on top, and garnish with fresh berries and a bit of mint if desired.

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I love the way the dusting of icing sugar makes the angel food cake look!  Sprinkle extra berries around the cake for serving, and if desired add a few sprigs of fresh mint.

Best Chocolate Oat Cupcakes

Chocolate Oat Cupcakes

If you call these a muffin, and focus on the oat flakes you could even consider this a breakfast item ….but I don’t know if you’d get away with that in my house.  Putting oat flakes into these chocolate muffins may make them a healthier snack, but they are still a treat!

  • 1 cup quick cooking oats (not rolled oats)
  • 1 3/4 cup very hot strong coffee (use decaf if you like)
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup melted butter
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten and best at room temperature
  • 1 3/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 TBSP real cocoa powder (unsweetened)
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 3/4 cup semi sweet chocolate chips (mini ones melt best, but if you like a bit of a chunk of chocolate in there use the larger ones)

Preheat oven to 350.  Line muffin tins and set aside.

In a bowl, combine quick oats with VERY hot coffee.  Stir well and set aside, covering to keep warm.

In separate bowl, whisk flour, baking soda, salt cocoa powder and cinnamon.

In stand mixer cream butter with both sugars, using paddle attachment.  Beat until light and creamy.  Add vanilla and eggs.  Mix well.

Add dry ingredients and mix just until incorporated.  Add hot oat/coffee mixture and chocolate chips, mixing it in by hand.  If you used mini chocolate chips and your oat mixture was warm enough they will melt, however if you used larger ones you will still have mini bits which I thought was perfect …

Spoon (or use ice cream scoop) mixture into paper liners, filling about 2/3-3/4 full.

Bake for 18-20 minutes, just until an inserted toothpick comes out almost clean.

Allow to cool in muffin tins.

These are great with pretty much any topping, or even left alone.  Today I made them with a raspberry buttercream icing and they were a real hit.