Monday, December 24, 2012

"These Are Freakin Great!" Truffles

I'm not a frequent play-goer, but in the holiday spirit I managed to plan trips to NYC two nights in the past week.  A Christmas Story came to broadway this winter so it was absolutely necessary that my family go see it, and let me tell you it was just as fantastic as the movie! Then Thursday was a gift from my best friend to go see Wicked, which I have been DYING to see.  It was perfectly casted, wildly entertaining and put a whole new perspective on the Wizard of Oz. Bravo! And of course we got these awesome souvenir cups and crazy socks, but a picture just wouldn't do those justice.
Needless to say, when Friday rolled around I was exhausted {and yayy the world didn't end!}. It was time to bake for our holiday party we had Saturday, and after all the cake pop-ing I did the past 2 weeks I wasn't sure I could handle another batch.  Then I remembered  I had made Oreo truffles a few times in the past which were delicious and just as adorable as cake balls, but 100x easier.  And easy is definitely what I was in the mood for after a long week.  It was verified that these are a perfect addition to any party when I got dad's "these are freakin great!" approval on Saturday!

Oreo Truffles
1 package Oreos
8oz cream cheese
Chocolate
sprinkles {optional}

Crush up the Oreos {including the cream} in a food processor or the primitive ziplock bag method like I used. 
 Once they are completely crushed, mix in the 8oz of cream cheese until completely combined.
 Roll the Oreo mixture into balls and place on a parchment paper lined tray. Chill in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes or until the balls hold shape.

Melt Candy Melts or Chocolate in a microwave safe bowl.  Coat the oreo balls in chocolate and place back on the tray. Decorate as desired {I used simple sprinkles because once again I was doing easy}.

Decorating suggestions: sprinkles, crushed Oreos, or drizzled with colored chocolate :)

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Snickerdoodle Dandy

Now if you haven't already caught on, this is my absolutely favorite time of year.  With all the cookies, cakes and cake ball rolling that has occurred in the past 2 weeks you would think my hands would've fallen off by now! And having an excuse to buy excessive amounts of presents for family and friends to fuel my shopping habits is definitely a plus.  But beyond all the physical gifts, I find true happiness in the deeper meaning of the holiday season.  The kindness, sincere joy and love exchanged among even the farthest of strangers make me all tingly inside.  Just yesterday I joined a group of carolers at work who set out to visit patients throughout the hospital and spread the Christmas spirit.  To see their genuine smiles and outward gratitude for having us visit, although brief, was the most fulfilling gift I could ask for this Christmas season.  

Although the emotional aspect of the season means more to me than any purchasable item, it's still imbedded somewhere deep inside me and the holiday spirit that I must have some gifts for my family to rip open at 8am when my sister wakes us up. Yes, still.  As I was last minute Christmas shopping last night {mainly for myself}, I couldn't help but stop in Francesca's.  For anyone who doesn't know Francesca's it's an adorable boutique chain with the an eclectic selection of clothing, jewelry, purses, wall decor, and endless other fashion accessories.  Aside from all that, my main attraction is all the fun nicknacks and gadgets they sell.  Anything from cute wine corks, to kitchen supplies, to quirky books, and fun games, it is IMPOSSIBLE to leave without purchasing something.  And it just so happens I found the perfect gift for myself..I seem to be finding a lot of them this year woops! 
Since I don't exactly bake with wine, I make up for it by drinking it!  After all, a long night of baking is best accompanied by a nice glass of red. Malbec to be exact.  If you're a red wine lover like myself, and have yet to try Malbec, I highly recommend you do. Like now :) 

Now onto the heavenly creation that was mixed from a combination of my absolute favorite recipe and those 12 sips of wine..

Growing up it was nearly impossible for me to walk passed Gloria Jeans in my local mall without stopping in for a Snickerdoodle.  They were soft, chewy, puffy, cinnamon-sugary, gigantically perfect and undeniably the best cookie I've ever had.  Now I wouldn't dare try to replicate something so divinely irreplaceable, but I do haven my own version that is hands down my favorite and definitely a must for the holidays. I'm going to warn you its nearly impossible to have just one, so you might as well put your sweatpants on now! 
Snickerdoodle Cookies
1 cup butter, room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs
2 3/4 cups flour
2 tsp cream of tartar
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt

Topping:
2 Tbs sugar
2 Tbs cinnamon {you can do less, I like my ratio even}

In a medium bowl, combine flour, cream of tartar, baking soda and salt and set aside.

Cream together butter, sugar, and eggs in the large bowl of a mixer. Add in dry ingredients and mix until well combined.
Place the dough in the refrigerator to chill for 30 minutes to 1 hour. 
While you're waiting, preheat the oven to 350 and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Combine cinammon and sugar and mix well to create topping.
Remove the dough from the refrigerator and roll into small balls.  Coat the balls in the cinnamon sugar and place on the lined baking sheet.
Bake for 12-14 minutes, until puffy and the edges begin to lightly brown.  Place on a cooling rack until fully cool. 
Makes about 30-36 cookies.
 You might want to double the batch, because the first one might not make it to Christmas morning ;)



Wednesday, December 19, 2012

A Christmas Black Hole

With the holidays falling at the start of next week, I had to get a head start on baking this weekend so I could bring some sweet treats to work! I made the mistake of taking a trip to the Christmas Tree Store, leading to the demise of my bank account and all self control.  I am absolutely OBSESSED. If you have plans for the rest of the day you might as well cancel them, because  you will literally be sucked in and trapped for hours.  No joke. In fact that was probably the last time my mom will agree to take that trip with me.

So after I was done filling the cart with cute wine glasses, standing elves, ribbon, candy bowls, and absolutely ADORABLE reindeer bottle holders to give as gifts {all of which I definitely needed}...

I proceeded to the real reason I took a quick stop in.  I wanted cute boxes to bring cookies to my bosses and coworkers for the holidays, and I managed to find this cute set in all sizes!


Now as for the cookie selection- I decided to keep it pretty simple with your classic chocolate chunk, sugar cookies, oatmeal raison, maybe throw in a few chocolate covered Oreos to spice it up.  But I also wanted something a little extra to put in there, something different.  And then it hit me.

If I were to ask my brother what to bake for Christmas the answer would require no thought. Rainbow Cookies. In fact I think all of my cousins would answer the same way.  I'm not sure if they were brainwashed from childhood visits to my grandmothers or all have this innate passionate love for these colorful chocolate-covered almondy squares, but regardless they are a classic hit in my family.


These are the one thing I have to wait to make until Christmas morning or they won't make it to see the dessert table.  The kid could eat a while batch in one sitting if I wasn't there to slap his hand away {at least it's safe to assume I have his approval}.  These cookies are much easier to make than expected, and they're sure to be gone in under 5 minutes.  I think this year I'll have to double or triple the batch.

Italian Tri- Color Cookies
7 oz almond paste
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp almond extract
3/4 cup butter, room temperature
3 eggs
1 cup flour, sifted
1/4 tsp salt
green food coloring
red food coloring
apricot preserves
1/3 cup chocolate chips {more or less depending on your preference}
1 tsp shortening or vegetable oil
 
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line three 8-inch square pans with parchment paper {or wax paper greased and coated with flour}.

Beat almond paste, sugar, almond extract and butter together in a large bowl until well blended, about two minutes.  On medium speed, beat in eggs one at a time until incorporated.

Reduce the speed to low and add flour and salt. Mix until well combined.

Evenly divide the batter among 3 bowls {shown above}.  Mix the red and green food coloring into two of the bowls, leaving the third its original color. Spread the batter into the lined pans and bake for 10-12 minutes or until thoroughly cooked {they're thin so keep an eye on them!}.

Let stand until cool. Starting with the green layer, spread a layer of apricot preserves on top, then stack the yellow layer and repeat with the apricot preserves. Lastly place the final red layer on top and press down gently.

Melt chocolate and shortening in a microwave safe bowl. Spread an even layer on top of the cookies. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour until chocolate is hard before cutting into desired bite sized squares.


VIOLA! :)

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Talk About A Mess..

As promised: sharing my messiest of messes with you..and that's not even the half of it. You should've seen the floor!
Now as for my explanation, I have a recent obsession with cake in the form of pops or balls.  They're tiny, bite size, and SO CUTE! I started out pretty simple the first few times, with sprinkles and drizzled chocolate.  I stepped my game up a bit for thanksgiving and I was pleasantly surprised with the way the Turkey balls came out {shown in my flashback post}.  This Christmas I decided to do some festive cake pops for work, and ended up getting a few orders from friends as well!

 I decided to go with reindeers and snowmen, and then some simple colored sugar, M&M and chocolate drizzle assortment.  These got easier once I got in the groove, but they definitely take time and patients. 

Now I am gonig to preface this post by saying that these aren't always easy, and some troubles will arise along the way, no matter how experienced you are. I will try to give you some tips that I have learned to try to avoid these problems as best you can.
  • Chocolate is too think and lumpy- you can add a little vegetable oil or shortening to the chocolate when melting to try and thin it out.  This should make it smooth and easier to dip. {I have also heard of using Paramount Crystals, but have yet to try them}
  • Cracking!!- Key Tip: The cake should be room temperature! This is a major issue I continue to see, even with the most experienced cake-poppers. I find the crack mainly occurs based on the temperature of both the chocolate and the cake.  There are many different methods to making the pops, depending on preference and what works for you.  Once I dip the sticks and insert them in the cake, I place them in the freezer to make sure they are secure and expedite the process a bit.  The problem I find with this is that once you take them out, you need to allow them to warm up to almost room temperate. IF the cake is too cold when dipped into the chocolate, it is likely that it will result in a crack as the shell hardens.
  • Falling off the stick- I've had this happen to me a few times. When I would dip the pop into the melted chocolate, I'd come out with just a stick in hand and a mess of cake in the chocolate.  That I believe also has to do with the temperate, as well as tightness of rolling.  If the chocolate is hot, and the cake is overly warm/mushy, it will cause the stick to loosen and fall off into the melted chocolate and ruin the whole bowl full!
These tips are just what I've experienced and believe is the cause, but if you have any other possible solutions feel free to share! :)

What you need :

Red Velvet cake {or whatever flavor you want to make}
1 Cup of Frosting { I used half of the buttercream recipe from the Funfetti post}
Lollipop sticks
Treat Bags
Dark chocolate Candy Melts
White Chocolate Candy melts
Pretzels
Red M&Ms
Candy Button Eyes
Red Sour Straws
Green Sour Straws
Orange Candy Nose {I used cut Jujubees}
Mini chocolate Chips
Mini Baking M&Ms {optional}
Colored Sugar and Fun Sprinkles


Crumble up the cake in a large mixing bowl and add in the frosting.  Mix the cake around until the frosting is evenly encorporated.  Begin to roll the cake into balls {about meatball size} and place in a tray.
Dip the end of the sticks in melted chocolate and insert into the cake. Allow the chocolate to harden fully, to secure them to the stick {you can place them in the fridge or freezer briefly to speed up the process}.  Take the cake pops and dip them in whichever color chocolate you would like to use, and decorate accordingly.


*You may want to purchase a piece of stryofoam or a cheap pop stand from your local craft store, to hold the pops up and steady while they harden.

Using the dark chocolate candy melts, M&M's, candy eyes, and pieces of pretzels{stick in before dipping} the Reindeer come out looking like this:
Adorable right?
Now the snowmen require two cake balls, the top one slightly smaller than the bottom.  Dip them in the white candy melts and using mini M&M's, sour straws, orange candy nose and mini chocolate chips, they'll come out just like this :

Ah, the sweet and beautiful simplicity of sugar and sprinkles <3 Okay so I might have a bit of a sprinkle buying obsession. But even just covered in sprinkles or mini M&M's, these treats are fun and adorable!
I even got the chance to make a few for Hanukkah this weekend! All in all, with a little practice, these pops are a great easy gift and delicious none-the-less. I will definitely try to out do myself with fun festive ideas each holiday!

 
Happy Holidays from Messy Little Baker! :)

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

For the Love of All Things Sprinkled...

Simple rainbow ball sprinkles are, and always have been, the apple of my eye <3 I mean come on, how could anyone resist this colorful sugar heaven!?

Let's just say my nice and easy vision for this birthday cake resulted in a wake up text to my roommate saying, "Sorry, if it feels like you're walking on sprinkles in the kitchen..it's because you are."  I was in a sprinkle state of mind. I was hosting a get together for my best friend's birthday, and the cake choice was a no brainer. We lived together for 4 years in college, and if I wasted my time making anything other than Funfetti I would've deserved a smack in the face.

Now I can't knock the boxed version, it was a childhood staple and is definitely a last minute default if there was no time to bake from scratch. Not to mention I was a little hesitant to attempt a homemade version, afraid that it wouldn't meet her standards. But after this year of experimenting and adjusting recipes, I had to give it a shot.

This is the gorgeous birthday girl.  She looks pretty happy with the cake to me, don't you think? :)
Now let's get down to business with the recipe!

 Funfetti Cake
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 cup {2 sticks} of butter
2 cups sugar
4 large egg whites
2 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
Sprinkles {as little or many as you'd like}

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease the bottoms and sides of two 9" round pans.
In a large bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  Set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream together butter and sugar on medium speed until smooth and fluffy.

Add in vanilla and egg whites. Beat on medium speed until well combined.
With the mixer on low, add 1/3 of the flour mixture and beat until combined.  Alternate adding 1/2 of the buttermilk with the remainder of the flour mixture, ending with the dry ingredients. Mix until just combined, be sure not to overwork the batter.

Now as for the sprinkles, I have no measurements for you. In fact I had a bit of a heavy hand when it came to this pour {like I said I love sprinkles}. That just means more FUN in the Funfetti!  

Stir in the sprinkles until evenly distributed. Separate the batter evenly among the two greased cake pans. 

Bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Let cakes cool in the pans for about 15 minutes, then remove and place on a rack to fully cool.

Vanilla Buttercream Frosting
2 sticks of butter {room temperature}
3 cups powder sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp salt
2-4 Tbs whipping cream {add until desired consistency}


Beat butter on low speed to begin to cream.  Slowly begin to add the powder sugar on the lowest speed {*actually follow this tip so you don't end up like me, looking like a powdered donut when you try to be superwoman using medium speed}. Once the sugar has begun to be incorporated, increase the speed to medium and continue to blend.  Add in the salt, vanilla and whipping cream and continue to beat on medium speed. Add more cream until desired consistency is reached.  If the frosting is too thin, add more powder sugar.
Spread a layer of frosting between the two cakes and stack them evenly atop one another.  Frost the entire cake evenly with a generous amount of frosting {just my personal opinion}.
Now this was the hard part. And if you dare take a stab at it, the best and only advice I have for you is to lay down a tarp or wrap your whole table in saran wrap. There has to be some better strategy than "pour and watch them roll off", and I definitely learned that the hard way.  It takes time. And patients {something I have very little of}. The best and only tactic I could think of was attacking very small patches at a time-- but it IS possible as you can see from the end result {just don't look too close I may have missed a few spots in the rush}. 
This cake is perfect for any party, just change it up with different sprinkle colors and shapes!

This is about as FUN as any cake gets..so grab a slice ;)





Monday, December 10, 2012

2012: The Start of Something Good :)

Welcome to Messy Little Baker! Over the past year or so I have gotten heavily into baking, and I figure the best way to start off my blog would be to take a trip down memory lane of a few past creation.  Now that I've mastered a bunch of recipes and developed some decorating skills, I promise to focus on taking some cooler pictures as well! I will hopefully get posts up for these recipes along the way just bare with me :)

One of my very first cakes was for my best friend, who just so happens to be born on St. Patty's day {hence the green frosting}.  She might be the biggest chocoholic I know, so this cake combination was sure to rock her world. I had no choice but to go with a two layer, heavenly chocolate overload cake. Iced with an Oreo buttercream. Topped with crushed Oreos. And of course drizzled with copious amounts of chocolate. Yup that's sure to put you in a choco-coma.

At this point I was hooked. I didn't even need a reason, I just wanted to bake. Anything. Everything. Just my luck Easter was around the corner so I decided to step my game up.  Colors, sprinkles, decorations, ideas started flowing.  My first thought was "why keep a vanilla cake boring and white when I can make it any cute color I want?" In fact, I took it one step further and the next thing I knew tye-dye was happening. Pink, Blue, Green..things just got crazy in that kitchen.  Shortly after- thanks to my constant supply of marshmallows, sprinkle addiction, and a few last minute holiday candy purchases- I found myself left with these adorable bunny cupcakes! With just a touch of coconut to give the illusion of fur, these are super easy and sure to be a hit at your next Easter, give them a try!

          


From there things just got out of hand. I jumped at the opportunity for every birthday or holiday event.  Next birthday was around the corner. And I'm pretty sure theres not one person I know who doesn't love some good chocolate chip cookie dough. Heck, living with 20 girls in a sorority house taught me dough will barely ever make it to the cookie stage if someone gets their hands on a spoon first.  So I decided on a vanilla cake with vanilla buttercream and cookie dough filling (eggless), topped with chocolate ganache and cookies for decoration.
May continued with a special day for a woman, without who I wouldn't be who I am today. Or here at all for that matter. MOTHER'S DAY! Another holiday at my house spent with family which, simply put, means a day revolving around food. Not only did I take charge of the baking, but today I took charge of the cooking as well {yeah I have a few tricks up my sleeve}.  But lets get to the important stuff and the reason you're reading this post- dessert. Now I'm usually not a brownie kid, but MY OH MY. I made the most delicious fudgey chocolatey brownies..and took them to a whole new level when I decided to throw in a few {okay a whole bag} of chopped up Twix and drizzled them with caramel perfection.  Now if you read my About Me you'd know that dad loves cheesecake.  And my sister, shes got a thing for Cheesecake Factory's  White Chocolate Raspberry Cheesecake. So I decided to take a stab at it, adding an oreo crust and substituting Splenda to be a little more diabetic friendly.


Memorial day rolled around and we were headed down to my beach house with the gang, so obivously sweets were required. The cookie dough cake was such a hit I thought why not make a mini version.  So cupcakes it was, with cookie dough filling, buttercream icing and topped with a mini cookie. Perfection.
This birthday I switched it up. For a chocolate lover friend, we have a chocolate explosion cake! Rich chocolate cake, iced with chocolate butter cream and an excessive topping of just about every chocolate bar I could find {extra reese around the edges cause that's her favorite :D}. Talk about a sugar rush!
Next up was our birthday, as in me and my other half.  We're easy when it comes to dessert. We LOVE rice crispy treats { i know not a toughie but a classic}. A heavenly combination of chewy and crunchy *gluten free* snack any kid is sure to enjoy..or in our case any 23 year old. Now I had to make something for my sweet tooth friends and what is a birthday without a cake or cupcakes? When it comes to the question of vanilla or chocolate cake my answer is a no brainer- I'm a vanilla kid.  With an Oreo cookie baked inside, and an Oreo buttercream,  can't go wrong!
Halloween.  My first big holiday since I've gotten some new skills. Chocolate covered pretzels and Oreos are always a go-to sweet treat.  Chocolate, Colors, Sprinkles. I even managed to pick up a few cute pretzel molds at Joann's and made an adorable Frankenstein, Dracula, witches and ghosts :) and a cute skull mold which I used as cupcake toppers with some bone sprinkles!  And of course every party I have once again includes rice crispy treats, and I put a twist on them making s'mores bars as well {using golden grahams, chocolate chips and marshmallows}!

With the effects of Hurricane Sandy and getting back in the groove of things, Thanksgiving was right around the corner.  I wanted to make something for the kids and work friends, but I didn't know what.  Cupcakes can sometimes be too much or messy to eat, and since I've been such a huge fan of cake balls/pops the past few months it was the obvious choice.  Red velvet was my cake of choice.  What cuter way to decorate them than to make then into holiday appropriate turkeys!
 And a carrot cake from heaven. Seriously.  This recipe was passed down a few years ago, and it is hands down the best carrot cake I have ever had {and I'm not a huge cake fan}.  I will be sure to blog this recipe next time around!