Dino’s 24 Karrot Cake Company

In case you don’t live in the Ozarks or anywhere near Branson, MO you might not be familiar with an entertainer named Dino but he is actually fairly well-known for his musical abilities in these neck of the woods.  He is also known for his carrot cake.  Yes, carrot cake.  Supposedly it’s an old family recipe that had been passed down and he decided to open up a bakery featuring the carrot cake as it’s star and of course added a few more tasty cake options.

I had been hearing about this carrot cake from family members who lived around that area but never made it in to Hollister, where his first bakery is located.  So a couple of weeks ago when Jeremy and I were in Branson, I discovered he had opened up a second location at The Landing.  I was so excited!  I’d finally get to try his famous carrot cake!

He didn’t have a ton of options on the menu (which is probably a good thing for me since I can be so indecisive) but what was available all looked so delicious it was hard to decide.  And it’s not like we could order 12 different things…these were cake slices, not little cupcakes, so it was all a bit more pricey.  I think the slices were around $5 and the cupcakes were $2.50.

I decided I wanted to try the 24Karrot Cake (obviously) along with a Pumpkin Cupcake.  The carrot cake, was really good and very rich.  It was super moist and had chunks of walnuts, coconut and pineapple all through it.  It didn’t have quite as much spice as I normally like in carrot cake and it actually tasted a bit buttery to me, but I still thoroughly enjoyed it.

The pumpkin cupcake was another story…it was absolutely horrible.  We both took one bite and had to throw it away.  The cake was very dry and hardly tasted like pumpkin and the icing was just bland and hardly had any cinnamon in it at all.  It was very odd and I honestly just wondered if something went wrong with that batch.

Jeremy chose the Chocolate Fudge Cake and I have to say it was both our favorite choice by far.  The chocolate cake was divine and it was filled with layers of light chocolate buttercream and the whole thing was covered in chocolate ganache.  It was awesome.   Somehow Jeremy’s choice always ends up being our favorite!

Oh and the cinnamon rolls looked AMAZING and I noticed lots of people buying those and I so wanted to get one but didn’t.  I will definitely try one next time.  If you’re down at The Landing to do some holiday shopping, be sure to stop in and try Dino’s bakery!

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GiGi’s Cupcakes

Last Friday night Jeremy and I visited one of the two new cupcakes places (yes TWO) that opened up this week in Springfield, MO.  GiGi’s is a franchise based out of Nashville, TN and I had heard good things about them so I was pretty excited to visit.  The place is cute, simple and clean inside.  No frills.  And quite frankly they don’t need frills because the cupcakes are gorgeous!  At three dollars apiece, they are good-sized and well worth the money.  And the frosting…OMG don’t even get me started on the frosting on top of these cupcakes.  The minute we stepped inside the doors and my eyes fell upon the mountain of frosting piped on top of the cupcakes, I was mesmerized and drooling.  I’m a frosting girl all the way!

Since it was their opening night and they had been giving away free cupcakes all day to all their fans on Facebook, they were down to some basic flavors but still a good variety.   I would have LOVED to have tried the Tiramisu or Red Velvet but they were out of those so we went with Wedding Cake (my choice), Midnight Magic (Jeremy’s choice) and Chocolate Salted Caramel.

The Chocolate Salted Caramel consisted of a yummy super dark chocolate cake with caramel buttercream topped with chocolate ganache and a sprinkle of sea salt.  It was very good and I loved the salt and chocolate combination but the caramel buttercream was just a tad too sweet for both of us.  Somehow we still managed to eat most of it though…how did that happen?!

My choice, the Wedding Cake, was vanilla cake topped with vanilla buttercream.   The cake was on the denser side and not so light and fluffy and the buttercream was very thick, creamy and smooth, not greasy at all and had a wonderful vanilla flavor.  I really enjoyed it, especially the frosting.

Jeremy’s choice, the Midnight Magic, was our favorite.  It was a rich chocolate cake topped with an absolutely delicious cream cheese frosting and mini chocolate chips.  We ate the whole thing and loved every bite.

I’m really looking forward to going back and trying more cupcakes.  And I will go back!  I can’t stop thinking about the frosting…and the Tiramisu cupcake…and the Miss Princess (strawberry) cupcake…and the Red Velvet cupcake..and the frosting..and the Kentucky Bourbon Pie cupcake…and the…

P.S. Check out all GiGi’s offerings here!

P.S.S.  After linking to her page, I read her story of how she started and it is totally inspiring!  Check it out!

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Lola’s Pastries and Eatery

Jeremy and I recently had the chance to visit a restaurant, Lola’s Pastries and Eatery, in Nixa that I’ve been meaning to try out for awhile. I had heard that they have delicious, made-from-scratch desserts and that the food is quite good too so I was curious. On our way back from Branson a couple of weekends ago, we finally stopped in to see if the desserts lived up to expectations.

Lola’s is actually a former house that was converted into a restaurant and has a nice tea room feel to it. They have a pretty good breakfast and lunch menu and of course lots of desserts to choose from. We hadn’t had hardly anything to eat that day so we decided to split a BLT sandwich in hopes of curbing the inevitable sugar rush. The sandwich wasn’t bad but it was shockingly void of key BLT players…one half of the sandwich had ZERO bacon and the other had maybe 1 1/2 pieces. Like they forgot to put it on! It came with chips and we added a side salad which was small but tasty. We probably should have said something about the sandwich since it wasn’t cheap (about $7) but didn’t want to mess with it. I will say that the other sandwiches everyone else had looked quite “meaty” and tasty so I’m not sure what happened with ours. Anyway, enough of that, on to the main event–dessert!

There were alot of choices…strawberry cake, chocolate cake, coconut cream cake, key lime pie, carrot cake, Oreo cheesecake, no-bake cookies, monster cookies, cupcakes and more! It all looked mouth-watering but I knew for sure I wanted to try the strawberry cake since that’s kind of what they’re known for. Jeremy chose the carrot cake and we also got a piece of the Oreo cheesecake.

The Oreo cheesecake was really good, very smooth and creamy and not an overly sweet cheesecake at all. I didn’t think the Oreos were that noticeable though. The graham cracker crust was probably my favorite part, it was a little on the thicker side and had the perfect amount of saltiness to it to contrast with the cheesecake.

The strawberry cake was also very good and definitely made from scratch–no nasty strawberry Jell-O in this cake, just real strawberries! It was three (yes, three!) layers high with strawberry buttercream sandwiched between each layer and all over the top and sides. It was indeed delicious, just as people said. However, the strawberry buttercream was a tad too sweet for our taste. I think we prefer cream cheese frosting on our strawberry cake. But still a seriously delicious strawberry cake!

Jeremy’s choice, the carrot cake, ended up being our favorite. It was a massive three layer cake with vanilla cream cheese frosting between each layer and on the top and sides. The cake was super moist and very straightforward, no pineapple pieces or chunks of pecans or walnuts in the batter, just a moist, dense, perfectly spiced carrot cake. It did have chopped walnuts sprinkled on top which I thought were a nice touch. We loved it and will definitely be going back for more.

If you are in or around Nixa, check this place out!  The desserts do not disappoint!

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Black Forest Cake

A couple of weeks ago the sun was shining, birds were singing and people were cruising around with their windows down and hair blowing in the wind.  Naturally, this kind of weather called for grilling!  So we headed over to my in-laws house to chow down on some grilled hamburgers and hot dogs.  Our contribution to the meal was a cake and not just any cake but a Black Forest Cake!  My aunt Tammy used to make this cake years ago and someone mentioned it the other day which sparked the memory of cakes past and got my mouth watering.  So since I had never made one I decided it was time.  Here are a few pics of it all coming together.

Cherries

Chopped chocolate

Cherries and chocolate…these are a few of my most favorite things.

Cakes coming out of oven

All the yummy layers.

2 Layers

More 2 layers

4 layers

Attempting to frost with the whipped cream–quite the challenge.

Frosting

More frosting

And the finished product!

Finished close up

Finished

So, a few things I learned.

1. This cake requires a great deal of patience.  While not difficult, it is time consuming to make all of the components and put it all  together.

2.  Whipped cream doesn’t make the best frosting.  Don’t get me wrong it looks pretty and tastes amazing but what a pain in the butt to put on!  I will probably frost the sides with a dark chocolate frosting next time and leave the whipped cream for the layers and the top of the cake.

3.  Never throw an almost completed cake in the trash no matter how badly you want to!  I had just a few issues with the cake (little lopsided, some “juicing” out the bottom, difficulty frosting, etc) and I really thought it was just no good but thankfully my husband talked me off the ledge and boy am I glad he did!  The cake was soooo good!

I haven’t made a lot of cakes in my time (this was probably the third?) but it’s always a learning experience and the finished product is definitely worth the effort!

Black Forest Cake

Ingredients

2 1/8 c All-Purpose Flour
2 c White Sugar
3/4 c Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
1 1/2 t Baking Powder
3/4 t Baking Soda
3/4 t Salt
3 Eggs
1 c Milk
1/2 c Vegetable Oil
1 T Pure Vanilla Extract
3, 14.5 oz Cans Pitted Sour Cherries, drained with juice reserved
1 c White Sugar
1/4 c. Cornstarch
1/4-1/2 c Kirsch

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease and flour two, 9 in. round cake pans and line with parchment paper.

In a mixing bowl, combine flour, 2 cups sugar, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  Add eggs, milk, oil and vanilla; beat until well blended.  Divide batter evenly into two pans and bake for 35 minutes or until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean.  Cool layers in pans on wire racks 10 minutes.  Loosen edges and remove to racks to cool completely.

Combine 1/2 c. reserved juice, cherries, 1 c sugar and cornstarch in a 2 quart saucepan.  Cook over low heat until thickened, stirring frequently.  (Be patient, it will take awhile)  Stir in vanilla and cool.  Move to fridge to speed up cooling.  Stir in kirsch.

(While cake and cherries are cooling, make simple syrup, ganache and whipped cream.  See recipes below.)

Split each cake layer horizontally.  Place one cake layer on cake plate/stand.  Brush on simple syrup with a pastry brush.  Spread on thin layer of ganache.  Cover with layer of whipped cream and then cherries.  Repeat with next three layers, but instead of spreading cherries on top layer, first frost the whole cake with the whipped cream and let firm up in freezer.  Apply final frosting of whipped cream and then spread the cherries into center of the top of cake and pipe whipped cream around the edges.  Decorate sides with chopped chocolate.  Or frost sides with chocolate buttercream instead of whipped cream.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Simple Syrup

1/2 c Juice (from drained cherries)
1/2 c White Sugar
1/4 c. Kirsch

Simmer juice and sugar until sugar is dissolved.  Add kirsch after syrup has cooled.

Ganache

12 oz. Semi-Sweet Chocolate, chopped
1 1/2 c Heavy Whipping Cream

Place chocolate in a medium bowl.  Heat the cream in a small saucepan over medium heat.  Bring just to a boil.  Pour over the chopped chocolate.  Let sit for one minute and then whisk until smooth.  Let cool completely.

Whipped Cream

5 c Heavy Whipping Cream
1 c Powder Sugar
3 T. Pure Vanilla Extract

Chill mixing bowl and whisk in freezer for 30 minutes.  Remove and place heavy whipping cream in mixing bowl.  Whip on high speed until cream thickens.  Add powder sugar and vanilla extract.

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