Wednesday, August 31, 2011

German Chocolate Cake

Last week one of Josh's friends at work asked me to make a German Chocolate cake for his mother-in-law's birthday party. While this cake is one of my most favorites, I had never actually made one myself. So obviously, the most responsible thing to do would be to use my profits to make my own personal cake. I couldn't be charging someone for something I hadn't even tasted! And some people have an issue with receiving a cake with a slice missing (the really high-maintenance kind of people). Josh, of course, completely agreed this was a wise choice. (This is not technically true.) I have had many a slices of German Chocolate cake from the grocery store bakery, and many a spoonfuls of frosting from the Betty Crocker tubs. But I am here to tell you, friends and neighbors: that stuff tastes like plastic with hair in it compared to the homemade version. If you're a fan of German Chocolate, you really haven't lived until you try it.

German Chocolate Cake
Serves 12
(The cake I have pictured above is the gigantic cake I made for the party that is double the amount listed here. It would probably serve more like 20.)

For the cake:
1 box german chocolate cake mix
1 cup sour cream
1 small box instant chocolate pudding
4 eggs
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup water

For the filling:
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup sugar
3 egg yolks
6 Tblsp. butter, cut into small pieces
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup pecans, toasted* and chopped
1 1/3 cups shredded coconut

*To toast the pecans: preheat oven to 350 degrees, spread pecans in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake until fragrant, about 10 minutes.

For the chocolate ganache frosting:
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1/4 tsp. corn syrup


It's a good idea to make the chocolate ganache frosting first, because it cools in the refrigerator for a couple hours. In a saucepan, combine the chocolate, cream and corn syrup. Heat over medium low heat until melted and completely smooth. Pour into a metal bowl, cover, and put in the fridge. Cool 2 hours, or until chill-whisking periodically. When the ganache is completely chilled and you are ready to assemble the cake, thicken it to frosting texture by beating with an electric mixer until thick and creamy.

For the cake:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour (or spray with baking spray) two 9 inch cake rounds. Mix together all the ingredients for the cake and until completely combined. Divide batter between the rounds and bake 25-30 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean.

While the cake is baking, make the filling:
In a medium saucepan, combine the sugar, cream and egg yolks. Cook, stirring, over medium heat until mixture thickens and coats the back of a spoon (170 degrees on a candy thermometer). Remove from heat, and add the butter, salt, pecans and coconut. Stir to combine and cool to room temp.

When the cake layers have cooled, get them ready to assemble by leveling off the tops, if needed and cutting them in half horizontally to create 4 layers. Layer them with the cooled filling, including the very top. 

Frost the sides of the cake with the whipped chocolate ganache frosting, and pipe some dollops around the top, if desired.

*Frosting tip: this frosting is deliciously rich and creamy, but it melts SUPER easy. So if it's hot out, and you're not planning on serving it right away, store the cake in the fridge.

This slice is the regular-sized cake made with the recipe; plenty big for an after-dinner cake. Or small breakfast.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Fresh Peach Drop Cookies

In one of the unfortunate side effects of a new school year, I woke up Saturday morning at 6:30 a.m., wide awake. Josh and I had plans to take the kids hiking that morning, so I decided to make something for breakfast that would give everyone plenty of energy for the brutal less-than-one-mile-round-trip hike we would be undertaking. Cookies were the obvious choice. And since these contain fresh peaches, I can attest to you they are very healthful-I had 3 before the hike, and I felt very energized the entire mile.

Fresh Peach Drop Cookies
Makes 2 dozen

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, plus 2 tablespoons
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 large ripe peaches, peeled, pitted, and cut into 1/4-inch dice (about 1 3/4 cups)
  • 1/3 cup peach jam or preserves
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon

  1. Preheat oven to 375. Whisk together flour, salt, and baking soda.
  2. Beat butter and granulated sugar with a mixer on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Reduce speed to low. Beat in egg and vanilla. Add flour mixture, and beat until just combined. Add peaches and jam, and beat until just combined.
  3. Using a 1 1/2-inch ice cream scoop or a tablespoon, drop dough onto baking sheets lined with parchment, spacing about 2 inches apart. (If not baking all of the cookies at once, refrigerate dough between batches; dough can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 2 days.) Combine sanding sugar and cinnamon. Sprinkle each cookie with 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon-sugar mixture.
  4. Bake cookies, rotating sheets halfway through, until golden brown and just set, 11 to 13 minutes (with these cookies, it's important to make sure they're really done-I underbaked my first batch, and they were pretty gooey.) Let cool on sheets for 5 minutes, and then transfer cookies to wire racks to cool completely.
    Josh had the unpleasant task of carrying Carson, who happens to carry the title of The Individual with the Stinkiest Feet in the United States.  (The Individual with the Second Stinkiest Feet happens to be his brother-just the other day I was having Owen try on some shoes at Old Navy, and I hadn't had his shoes off for 30 seconds before I could hear customers around the corner expressing concern over the smell)

    Dylan, Owen, and Owen's bear he has named "TINA" at the top of Ensign Peak.

    Me with my tiny head, and Carso.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Cookies and Cream Cupcakes and an account of The Cupcake Tragedy of 2011

It's happened, friends. My precious baby girl is gone all the day long. I had a fairly major 36 hour breakdown, but I'm improving with each day. (Other than the times when I have such realizations that she will likely miss wedding dress shopping with my mom and sister and I, or if I happen to drive by the park. Or the library. Or McDonalds. Or if I walk by her empty bedroom.)

The first day of school I decided to make her (me) something special for an after-school snack. I had been thinking a great deal about some Cookies and Cream Cupcakes I had seen on a great food blog, Since Dylan and I are both quite fanatical about Oreos, I decided on those.
I spent the afternoon baking them up, and when she got home we tried them. The first bite was completely delicious...followed by a strange aftertaste. I wondered if maybe the Oreo didn't really go with cream cheese, until Dylan said, "Uh...these are gross. I think it's the frosting." I tried several tastes of the frosting alone, and realized it was indeed the source of the slight grossness. I couldn't come to terms with what I knew to be true, until Josh came home and sampled the frosting and declared, "Um, that's MOLD. IT'S MOLDY!" I have since come to the conclusion that the cream cheese I used was most likely leftover from a wedding cake I did several days ago, and I probably left it out too long while I was working. So I was left with 22 perfect-looking moldy frosting cupcakes. Perhaps the most sad part of the story is that I kept trying to eat them throughout the next day, hoping I might not notice the taste. I've never claimed to be normal.
I was desperate to make them again, but I kept telling myself I really had no business baking 2 dozen cupcakes in my state of pant size, but I was eventually able to compromise with myself on just 1 dozen-a half batch. After all, I've just lost my best girl to days full of school work and potentially mean children.

Cookies and Cream Cupcakes
Makes 24

For the cupcakes:
24 Oreo halves, with cream filling attached (use a knife instead of twisting them)
2¼ cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
8 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 2/3 cup sugar
3 large egg whites, at room temperature
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup milk
20 Oreo cookies, coarsely chopped (I quarter them)

For the frosting:
8 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
2 sticks butter, at room temperature
1 tsp. vanilla extract
6 cups powdered sugar
For garnish:
Oreo cookie crumbs
24 Oreo cookie halves (optional)
Preheat the oven to 350˚ F.  Line the wells of two cupcake pans with 24 paper liners.  Place an Oreo halve in the bottom of each liner, cream side up.  In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt; stir together with a fork to blend and set aside.  In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the butter and sugar and beat together on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.  Blend in the egg whites one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Blend in the vanilla extract.  With the mixer on low speed, beat in half of the dry ingredients just until incorporated.  Add the milk and beat just until combined, then mix in the remaining dry ingredients.  Gently fold in the chopped Oreos with a rubber spatula until evenly incorporated, being careful not to over-mix.
Evenly divide the batter between the prepared cupcake liners.  Bake for 18-20 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through baking, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Allow to cool in the pans 5-10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
To make the frosting, combine the cream cheese and butter in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat on medium-high speed until smooth, about 1 minute.  Blend in the vanilla extract.  Beat in the confectioners’ sugar until incorporated and smooth, 1-2 minutes.  Whip frosting for 4 minutes until light and fluffy, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.
Frost the cooled cupcakes as desired.  Sprinkle with Oreo crumbs and garnish with Oreo halves.

Thursday, August 18, 2011


I first had bruschetta on a trip to Italy Josh and I took when we were in college. As an architecture major, Josh was totally into all the buildings and art, and as a beginning foodie, I was in heaven with the food-it was a great trip (and it's a good thing-because we used student loans to go, and are likely still paying for it). 
We backpacked to several different cities-Rome, Florence, Siena, Pisa, Venice, Verona, and Cinque Terre-and I ate my way through all of them. In Rome, we stayed with an  older woman named Rosanna who ran a bed and breakfast out of her apartment. She would serve bruschetta for breakfast along with the most unprecedentedly delish fresh pastries she would pick up every morning. I told Josh to take my picture at her breakfast table because it was my most favorite place in Italy. Although we had been married for a year, this was probably a turning point to him realizing just how abnormal his wife really is.

Ever since coming home from Italy, bruschetta has been one of our favorite foods, and we make it all summer long. But it wasn't until I saw the movie Julie and Julia, that I realized I had really been missing out. I went to see it in the theater with my sister-in-law, Michelle-and during the part when Julie is frying bread over the stove to make bruschetta, Michelle and I looked at each other with a, "WHAT THE....!" Here I had been, unexcitingly toasting my slices of bread under the broiler with a drizzle of olive oil, when obviously the flavor would be 100 times better fried. I got up at 6 am the next morning to try it (I should note that I was pregnant at the time), and I've never made them another way since.


6 medium slices crusty bread
4 Tablespoons olive oil
4 Tablespoons butter
4 medium sized ripe tomatoes
6 basil leaves
Salt to taste

For the bread:
Heat 2 Tablespoons each of the olive oil and butter in a large frying pan over medium low heat. When the butter sizzles, it's ready for the bread. Fry slices 3 at a time until golden brown, 1-3 minutes per side. Repeat with the second batch.

For the topping:
Dice tomatoes into small pieces, and put into a small mixing bowl. To julienne the basil leaves, stack them together, then roll them up, and slice thinly down the roll. Add to the tomatoes, and mix together. Add salt to taste.

When ready to serve, top the bread slices with the tomato mixture.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Rainbow Birthday Cake

My baby girl turned 6 yesterday. I had been planning a surprise party for her for months, and when she walked into the party room at the Pizza Factory and all her friends yelled "Surprise!", I cried. It should not come as a shock to anyone who knows me that I am not a normal person-but it was a very exciting moment. Although, not really for her-she was a little too shocked, and hid behind my mom.

We had a great time eating pizza, opening presents, having cake, and playing a few arcade games- but I didn't have a chance to take any spectacular photos of the cake, due to the fact I was constantly fielding such inquiries as:

"Do you know I have the loosest tooth in history?"
"Will you tell Owen to stop?"
"Did you know Belle stuck her hand in the cake?"

Dylan and I saw this cake online (originally created by food blogger, and featured on Martha Stewart). Dylan decided she just had to have it (mainly, because I thought it was the shiznit and I told her she just had to have it), and it turned out amazing (there was shrieking from every guest when I cut into it!), and it is really pretty simple to do when you have a plan. 

Rainbow Birthday Cake

2 boxes vanilla cake mix
2 small boxes vanilla pudding
8 eggs
2 cups sour cream
1 cup vegetable oil
1 cup water
1/2 tsp. each of: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple food coloring

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour 6 9-inch cake pans (If you don't have six, just bake however many at a time and keep the rest of the batter in the fridge.)
In a large mixing bowl, combine all ingredients but the food coloring. Mix until smooth. Measure out
1 1/3 cups of batter into 6 small bowls. Stir in one color of food coloring into each. 
Pour the batter into the prepared pans, and bake 20 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean.

For the frosting I went with a less-rich recipe since there are six cake layers. I didn't want anyone going into a coma. This recipe is adapted from my Magnolia Bakery cookbook, and while the method is a little different, the frosting is super creamy and light. (Not to be confused in any way with "lite".)

Creamy Vanilla Frosting

1 cup plus 2 Tablespoons flour
3 cups milk
6 (It's true.) sticks butter, softened
3 cups granulated sugar
3 tsp. vanilla extract

In a medium sized saucepan, whisk the flour into the milk until smooth. Place over medium heat and, stirring constantly, cook until the mixture becomes very thick-like a custard. Cover with plastic wrap directly onto the surface and cool to room temperature, about 30 minutes. (I made the mistake of putting mine in the freezer, causing the mixture to get too cold-and I ended up with some lumpies. So make sure to bring it just to room temp.)
In a large bowl, on the medium high speed of an electric mixer, beat the butter until smooth and creamy, about 3 minutes. Gradually add the sugar, beating continuously for 3 minutes until fluffy. Add the vanilla and beat well.
Add the cooled milk mixture, and continue to beat on the medium high speed for 5 minutes (longer if it hasn't come together-it will), until very smooth and noticeably whiter in color. Cover and refrigerate for 15 minutes, and use immediately. 

For the assembly:
I am going to recommend you go with the scientifical pattern of rainbows, which scientists remember by this simple rhyme: Rabbits (red) Often (orange) Yodel (yellow) in a Great (green) Big (blue) Voice (violet). Apparently I have retained something from the 4th grade.

A frosting tip: since you'll have some dark colored cake crumbs, it's a good idea to do a crumb-coat. First, frost between each layer, then do a thin coat of frosting on the entire outside. Refrigerate until firm. Then, frost the outside with a thicker layer. The crumbs will stay trapped in the cooled frosting, and you'll be able to get a pure white outside. 

My offspring.

6 year olds + arcade games = plenty of yelling

I found these funny rainbow glasses along with rainbow slap bracelets and rings (and the favor boxes) on the website I also ordered some little canvas coin purses from them for the girls to keep their arcade tokens in-that way they didn't lose them, and everybody knew how many they had. Their website has all kinds of great party favors for super cheap. (Oriental Trading has no idea who I am, but they will be receiving a bill for my mention.)

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Homemade Oreo Cookies

Last weekend we took our annual weekend trip to Bear Lake. Josh's Aunt and Uncle have a lakeside cabin, and every year are kind enough to invite everyone over for a family reunion the first weekend in August. And since I'm a freak for traditions, I take these cookies up every year.

A new tradition: Running into the lake fully clothed immediately upon arrival.
Dylan, Owen and their cousin Scarlett

This year I taught Josh's young cousin Lydia (who was an adorable flower girl at our wedding 8 years ago) how to make them, and she did a great job. Unfortunately, I did not get any photos of the ones she made due to the fact I was keeping Carson away from the garbage, toilet, road, fire pit, and the neighbor's garage. So I was obligated to make more at home yesterday. I was of course really annoyed.

Homemade Oreo Cookies
Makes 2 dozen sandwich cookies

For the cookies:
2 boxes chocolate cake mix-any kind
2 eggs
1/2 cup oil
1/2 cup water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees, and lightly grease a cookie sheet.
In a mixing bowl (you don't need a mixer for these-you can do them by hand), combine the cake mixes, eggs, oil, and water. Roll into uniform balls, and place on prepared cookie sheet. Bake 10-12 minutes.

For the filling:
6 oz. cream cheese
6 Tablespoons butter
4 cups powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla

In a mixing bowl with an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese and butter until smooth. Add the powdered sugar and vanilla and beat until smooth and creamy.

A few lake highlights for those interested:
My kids became expert frog catchers-Owen especially. I may or may not have pushed away a few children in order to catch some myself.

The two individuals responsible for causing a giant flood in the bathroom and the deaths of 4 amphibeans while "giving the frogs a bath".
Cousin Lydia's fish she caught right off shore after only one lesson from Uncle Dirk! I was unaware such creatures were lurking this close to shore, and it is knowledge I would not care to have.
Carson expressing his displeasure at his restricted fire-pit privileges. 
My hot sister and her hot boyfriend came over to hang out for a couple hours. Dylan and Scarlett were quite pleased-in fact, Dylan just saw me posting this picture and commented, "I just LOVE that picture!" I have a feeling Brittany is not the reason.
My two future pyromaniacs watching the fire.
Till next year when we meet again, Frogs!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Lime Butter Cookies with Coconut Buttercream

I'm guest posting (don't I sound professional?) this recipe at my friend Dee Dee's blog She writes a really fun blog about fashion finds, design, crafts, fun ideas for moms to do with kids, and her adorable son Brody Chopper (his middle name for reals-the coolest I have ever heard!)

I happen to have a remarkable memory for all things food. It is a blessing (and according to my pant size, also a curse). In 2006, I attended a church function where everybody brought a plate of treats to share. My neighbor (and fabulous cook) Stacy brought some little cookies topped with coconut frosting that I went NUTS over. It was difficult for me to show restraint after my 5th-but I had to consider the public setting. I tried googling the recipe, but couldn't find one with the unique moist and crumbly texture.
Last year, while teaching my children to read from the scriptures, it came to me how I should make them (what I may have actually been doing is: sitting at the computer reading food blogs by myself while my children were in time out-when one of my favorite food bloggers, Sayuri posted her recipe for these beauties.) I realized immediately due to my perfectly accurate treat memory these were the same cookies-with the addition of lime. Which, in my opinion only makes them yummier, and more perfect for summer. 

Lime Butter Cookies with Coconut Buttercream
Makes 2 dozen

Butter Cookie Dough
2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1-2 teaspoon grated lime zest, plus extra for decorating
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
16 tablespoons unsalted butter (2 sticks), cut into
sixteen 1/2-inch pieces, room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 tablespoons cream cheese , room temperature

Coconut Buttercream
1 stick butter, softened
2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 tsp. coconut flavoring
1-2 Tablespoons milk, as needed
Shredded sweetened coconut and extra lime zest for decorating

For the cookies:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
In bowl of standing mixer fitted with flat beater, mix flour, lime zest, sugar, and salt on low speed until combined. With mixer running on low, add butter 1 piece at a time; continue to mix until mixture looks crumbly and slightly wet, about 1 minute longer. Add vanilla and cream cheese and mix on low until dough just begins to form large clumps, about 30 seconds.
Roll dough into 1-inch balls. Place on parchment-lined baking sheets, spacing about 1 1/2
inches apart. Bake until lightly browned, about 10-12 minutes. Cool.

For the buttercream:
Cream the butter, sugar, and coconut flavoring until smooth. Add milk as needed until desired consistency is reached. 
After frosting the cooled cookies, top with shredded coconut and reserved lime zest.