Sunday, August 18, 2013

Celebration Cakes: Sesame Street Party!

Earlier this summer, I had the pleasure of making some goodies for a Sesame Street-themed birthday party for a cute little 2-year old girl. A personalized cake, monster cupcakes, and colorful cake pops were on the menu for this special day. The cake was funfetti with a chocolate ganache layer and a vanilla custard layer, frosted with chocolate American buttercream and decorated with fondant.


I had such a fun time designing and creating the cake as well as piping the Elmo, Oscar, Big Bird, and Cookie Monster cupcakes. The cupcakes were chocolate and vanilla with colored vanilla American buttercream frosting and fondant accents.

This last picture, above, was taken by the birthday girl's mother - cake, cupcakes, and pops as part of her fun, adorable Sesame Street-themed display.
This project was one of my favorite, yet!

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Gluten-free, Grain-free, Flourless Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

About a month ago, I posted about the most amazing grain-free Chocolate Chip Cookies made with almond meal rather than the traditional flour. Well, today, I've got another one for you.

This cookie is made, not unlike the other, with nuts as the primary ingredient. This time, it's peanuts, or rather, peanut butter, that takes center stage. I've thrown in flax meal to further healthify this cookie and it works so well. It's undetectable in the final product. When baked, this mixture of peanut butter, sugar, eggs, and flax becomes a chewy, toothsome chocolate chip cookie that is out of this world. It's really magical what baking does to peanut butter.

This cookie is gluten-free. It's the most delicious peanut butter cookie I have ever had. The ingredients come together within minutes with no kitchen gadgets needed except a wooden spoon and a bowl.

Bake time is minimal, as well. Studded with chocolate chips, this cookie is a great alternative to traditional chocolate chip cookies for a fun, quick summer snack that you can feel good about eating or giving to your kids!

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies
Recipe by: Leelabean

(Yield: about 30 2" cookies)

1 c peanut butter (not the natural kind)
1 large egg
1 large egg white
1/4 c flax meal
3/4 c granulated sugar
1 t vanilla
1/2 t baking soda
1/4 t salt
3/4 c mini chocolate chips (bittersweet or semisweet)

Preheat your oven to 350F. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

In a bowl, combine the peanut butter, egg, and egg white. Add the flax meal and granulated sugar, followed by the vanilla and baking soda and salt. Mix well to combine. Fold in the mini chocolate chips.

Scoop spoonfuls of dough onto a parchment-lined cookie sheet and bake for 11-13 minutes or until the cookies puff up and they oh-so lightly begin to brown around the edges.

Take the cookie sheet out of the oven and let the cookies cool on the sheet for 10 minutes. Then transfer them to a cooling tray until they are completely cooled. Store the cookies in an airtight container for up to 1 week. This cookie will stay chewy and just get yummier as the days pass.


Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Mario Kart Cake!

I was so excited when I recently was given the opportunity to made a Mario Kart-themed cake for some family friends of ours. Super Mario Bros. have been a favorite of mine since I was a little kid, and I've wanted to do a cake inspired by Mario and his pals for quite some time.

This cake was 2 tiers, each with a 3-layer vanilla funfetti cake inside. The fillings were custard and ganache, and the entire cake was frosted in a vanilla-flavored American buttercream.

This cake was covered in blue fondant and topped with a 3-D Mario figure in his kart just crossing the finish line.

This cake was loads of fun to do and I was thrilled to see the many little happy faces when they saw this cake at the party!

Accompanying the cake were vanilla funfetti and chocolate cupcakes frosted with vanilla-flavored American buttercream and topped with an "M" or "L" fondant medallion for Mario and Luigi.

Confirmation Cake & Cupcakes

It's been quite a busy month for me in my kitchen. Lots of birthdays and celebrations call for lots of cake! This cake and cupcakes were made for a confirmation.

The cake was vanilla with a strawberries-and-cream filling, frosted with a vanilla-flavored American buttercream and topped in a layer of fondant. The quilted design was simple and elegant for this special event.

Chocolate and vanilla cupcakes with vanilla-flavored American buttercream were made for this party as well, coordinating in design with the quilted cake.

Friday, April 19, 2013

The Most Amazing Grain-Free Chocolate Chip Cookies!

I kid you not, guys. As you may or may not know, I happen to be one of those people who follows a low-carb diet. But how, do you ask, is it possible to have two baking blogs (not one, but two!), which naturally means twice the baking, and strive for low-carbohydrate happiness?
Well, the answer is in recipes like the one I am about to share with you, today. I am a dessert freak, so I need to be satiated with some form of sugary (preferably, chocolatey) indulgence fairly constantly. But I don't like to compromise taste for a healthier diet and I don't believe I have to do so. I am constantly on the lookout for recipes that get high marks for both taste and healthfulness. Unfortunately, these recipes are tough to find, but when I do find them, they become regulars in my low-carb menu.

This chocolate chip cookie is unlike any I have tasted. It is completely flourless, owing its structure and impressive flavor to almond flour. The texture of this cookie is so spot-on, you'll be amazed and want to use almond flour to replace flour in all your baking recipes! It's chewy with a bite! You must try this asap! It requires only a few minutes of prep time and then you can bake immediately, refrigerate the dough, or freeze the dough and bake it later. It's so versatile!

Almond flour can be quite expensive, but here's a tip. Try to buy specialty flours (nut flours, rice flours, sorghum, potato starch, etc) at ethnic grocery stores. They generally carry these items for much less than your local grocery stores.
The original recipe called for coconut oil, but the batter was not as thick as I'd have liked it to be. I also thought I'd grind some whole almonds and use that instead of the almond flour in my fridge, which was already taken for another purpose. My ground almonds were quite coarse, chunky, even. When I baked them, the dough spread so much that they were flat by the time I pulled them out of the oven. This was not a bad thing - a flat, large round nutty cookie studded with chocolate chips baring a crunchy exterior and a chewy interior is hardly anything to complain about. But they fell apart a bit due to the coarse grind of the almonds. They were absolutely delicious, but didn't hold up and were not like a traditional chocolate chip cookie. In subsequent tries with this recipe, I used almond flour and eliminated the coconut oil, using only the butter. I am interested to see how the cookies would turn out if I replaced all or some of the butter with coconut oil, as well. Seeing as I've been making these twice already in one week, that shouldn't be a problem.. :-)
Here is a picture of my first attempt (coarse grind, aside, this recipe was followed as written)
This time around, I used pre-ground almond flour made from blanched almonds, which is finer and more consistent - a closer likeness to real flour - and the results are amazing. Not just amazing, this is fast becoming my go-to chocolate chip cookie recipe at my house. Everyone loves these cookies, devours them within seconds, and can't seem to tell that there is no flour in them!

If you are on the lookout for a low-carb absolutely delicious chocolate chip cookie regardless of the health benefits, please do make these cookies. You will not be sorry, I promise! This cookie is low-sugar, low-carb, and easy enough to make gluten-free by using chocolate that is gluten-free. This is a chocolatey, chewy, chocolate chip cookie recipe to rival any other.

Almond Chocolate Chip Cookies (Grain-Free)
Adapted from: Meaningful Eats Blog

(Yields: 22-24 cookies)

3 cups almond flour
2 eggs, room temperature
1 stick (4 oz) unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 c brown sugar
2 t vanilla extract
1 t baking soda
1/2 t salt
1 1/2 c chocolate chips

Preheat your oven to 350F, if you are planning on baking the cookies immediately. Mix the butter and sugar with an electric beater or using a stand mixer for about 2 minutes. Add the vanilla, followed by the eggs (one at a time).
In a separate bowl, combine the almond flour, baking soda, and salt and whisk until mixed. Add this to the egg & sugar mixture and blend well to create a homogeneous dough. Fold or mix in the chocolate chips. You can bake the cookies immediately. This dough can also be refrigerated for up to 24 hours before baking. If freezing, the dough will be good for up to 3 months.

When you are ready to bake, line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and place 1-tablespoon scoopfuls about 2-3" apart and bake for 11-13 minutes. They will begin to brown on the tops when they are ready to come out.

Take the cookie sheet out of the oven and let the cookies cool on the sheet for about 5 minutes. Then, using a spatula, place the cookies on a cooling rack and let them come to room temperature.

Store them in a cookie jar for up to a week. These cookies are AMAZING!