Bakery Review – Stacey’s Sweets in Ozark

 

This past weekend Jeremy and I went on a cupcake tasting roadtrip to some new bakeries in Ozark and Nixa.  I had been following Stacey’s Sweets on Facebook and every picture she would post looked sooo good and I was so excited to finally get a chance to taste everything!  Her shop is located in the corner of an older building on the square in Ozark and even though it was tiny, it was packed with cuteness.  She even had a couple of small tables and chairs to eat at, which we took full advantage of.

I went ahead and ordered one of each cupcake she had in the case (eight total!) because at $1.75 apiece they were VERY affordable (if not somewhat underpriced!) and also got a brownie because they looked delicious.  I passed on the cake pops, but they were covered in sparkly red, pink and purple sanding sugar and totally adorable…very tempting.  We started tasting with the brownie and wow, it was SO good.  Very fudgy, loaded with chocolate chips and had that nice thin crackle “crust” on the top.  We had a hard time not eating the whole thing.

Cake Pops
Fudge Brownie

Next up, cupcake tasting!  The flavors were Red Velvet, Wedding Cake, Cookie Dough, Pretty Princess Strawberry, Double Chocolate, Peanut Butter Cup, Honeybee and Cherry Bomb (see photo captions for descriptions).  I can honestly say that these cupcakes not only looked pretty but were so yummy!  Her cakes were light and fluffy and the frosting was not overly sweet but somewhat airy and not heavy or greasy, which was nice.  It’s one of the better cupcake tasting experiences I’ve had in a loooong time!  I could definitely see myself making a special trip to Ozark just for these cupcakes (or the brownie!) and would strongly advise you to do the same–you will NOT be disappointed!

Red Velvet--Red Velvet Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting topped with a Heart Gummy Candy
Pretty Princess Strawberry--Strawberry Cake with Strawberry Buttercream
Peanut Butter Cup--Chocolate Cake with Peanut Butter Frosting and Mini Peanut Butter Cup
Honeybee--Banana Cake with Peanut Butter Frosting, Honey Drizzle, Chopped Peanuts and Banana Chip
Double Chocolate--Dark Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Buttercream and Mini Chocolate Chips
Cookie Dough--Chocolate Chip Cake filled with Cookie Dough, topped with Brown Sugar Buttercream and Mini Chocolate Chips
Cherry Bomb--Cherry Cake with Cherry Filling, Cherry Buttercream, dipped in Ganache and topped with a Cherry
Wedding Cake--White Cake, Vanilla Buttercream, Candy Pearls
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Homemade Christmas Candy

This past weekend I made homemade candy, which is probably my favorite thing to make in the kitchen.  I tried a couple of old recipes and a couple of new ones.  One of the new ones was out of a candy book that I have and unfortunately it was a total disaster.  It was supposed to be similar to a 3 Musketeers but was more like chocolate taffy.  The taste was great because I used my super delicious Mexican cocoa powder but the texture was way off.  I was soooo disappointed in the recipe but I’m not going to give up!  I think that is what I like about candy making, it can be a challenge and it’s fun to figure out why recipes went wrong and what to do right or change the next time.

Here is a small collection of candy recipes that I’d love to try this Christmas, from simple to a little bit more complicated.  The homemade Snickers bar and Coffee Toffee are totally calling my name…actually they ALL look good!  Which one would you like to try??

Chubby Hubby Truffles

Gumdrops

Coffee Toffee

Honey Vanilla Bean Marshmallows

Cherry Cordials

Pumpkin Spice Truffles

Peanut Brittle

Eggnog Fudge with White Chocolate and Walnuts

Chocolate Cheesecake Truffles

Chocolate Dipped Caramels

Oreo Truffles

Divinity

Homemade Snickers

Peanut Butter Cups

Candy Cane Marshmallows

Salt Water Taffy

Chocolate Covered Coffee Crackle Crunch

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Star Cakes: Cups of Cake

Jeremy and I recently had the chance to sample another new cupcake place in Springfield, MO called Star Cakes: Cups of Cakes that opened just this past September (one of MANY that we have now…although not quite as many as all the self-serve fro yo places…I’ll do a post on that another day).  Their store ran a special deal for buy a dozen cupcakes at half-price so we got to taste a good variety of their cupcakes the day we went.  They also had chocolate chip and peanut butter cookies so I went ahead and got a chocolate chip cookie to go with our DOZEN cupcakes.  It’s a hard job I tell ya.

Anyway, we gathered our bounty and headed home.  The chocolate chip cookie didn’t quite make it to the house…it was a really good, thick, chewy cookie and Jeremy and I both liked it alot!  As for the cupcakes, I chose nine different flavors:  Star Cake a La Mode, Fudge Star, Red Star Velvet, Chocolate PB Star, Strawberry, Hawaiian Star, Pumpkin, Carrot Cake and Milky Way.  You can check out the descriptions of each on their menu here.

Pumpkin
Milky Way
Fudge

Unfortunately, I didn’t really have a favorite out of the group and but you really can’t go wrong with pumpkin and that was probably the one I liked the most, moist and very fall-appropriate with a yummy cream cheese frosting.  The rest, to me at least, didn’t taste quite as from-scratch that I’m used to and it seemed like a lot of artificial flavors were used.  My least favorite was a toss-up between the Hawaiian Star and Strawberry…too much artificial going on for me.

Star Cakes a La Mode

Overall, I think it will be interesting to see who survives the cupcake wars going on in Springfield right now…and I’m sure we haven’t seen the last of new cupcake places to come to town!  Just more research I *have* to do!  😉

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Cancun Eats

Just one week ago I was digging my toes into soft, white sand, reading non-stop on my Kindle under a palm tree and eating waaaaayyyyyy too much food.  It was a good five days in Cancun.

Here are some photos of the most important part of our trip…dessert!  (Forgive the photo quality..taken with a phone…bad lighting..etc etc etc)

These are some of the gorgeous dessert buffets.  I honestly can’t tell you what 1/4 of the stuff is and there wasn’t much that I liked, believe it or not.  Oh, but I tried it ALL.  Most of the choices were either way too sugary sweet coconut candy type things or bland.  And the “cake”-like options were very dry.  I did find a chocolate cheesecake wrapped in a chocolate purse-type shell (in first pic below, bottom right) that was good and another plain vanilla cheesecake thing (at least I THINK that’s what it was..hard to tell because the top half was green and it was shaped like an oval) that I liked also.  I did find these little chocolate cube-like things that I LOVED and I actually found them in the shop at the resort.  Turns out they were made of toasted amaranth and chocolate.  Yep, totally going to try making them.

There were two little gems that I found on our shopping day.  One is an amazing chocolate shop called Ah Cacao.  They sold all kinds of chocolate, coffee, every form of vanilla, cookies and some of THE BEST brownies I have ever had.  Oh and their chocolate covered espresso beans…AH-MAZING.  They were dipped in dark chocolate and then had a crunchy outer shell, like an M&M.  I wish I had bought more than one package.

This was a lovely little gelato place called Aldo’s.  There’s actually alot of gelato places in Cancun, which surprised me.  They pretty much started shoveling gelato samples into our mouthes the minute we walked up to the counter.  But I’m not complaining!  It was delicious!  I ended up getting a waffle cone with Almond gelato–heaven!

And this is us on our last day of living like beach bums, soaking up the sun.  Let me tell you, it was SWEET.

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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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Side by Side Dessert Lounge

Jeremy and I had a little date night this past Friday night in downtown Springfield, MO.  We started out by getting dinner at Grad School (AWESOME wings and burgers) and then went directly across the street to grab dessert before seeing Another Earth at The Moxie.  For dessert, we went to a new place called Side by Side Dessert Lounge.  It’s actually connected to a restaurant called Blu Sesame and I think the idea is you eat dinner there and then go immediately next door and get dessert.

The place was small and had a fairly modern design.  The desserts were displayed beautifully in a bakery case, everything from eclairs to cheesecake, creme brulee and black and white cookies.  They even had hand-dipped ice cream.  We stood there for a looooong time trying to decide what to get before choosing a whoopie pie, tiramisu, a strawberry macaron and a cupcake.  Everything was reasonably priced and we ended up spending only $13 for all our goodies.

Our least favorite item was the Tiramisu.  It was not at all traditional tiramisu; instead of ladyfingers it was layered with cake that had been soaked in coffee (at least I think it was coffee…it wasn’t strong enough at all).  Between the cake layers was something like a basic vanilla custard or pudding, not the usual mascarpone or even cream cheese type filling.  And there was not one hint of rum, which is one of my most favorite parts, so that was disappointing.

Next was the Strawberry Macaron which was crumbling the minute we picked it up to take a bite.  It had a very hard, brittle outer shell and was a little bit difficult to bite into.  The strawberry buttercream inside was squirting out everywhere because it was so hard to bite!  Definitely not the slightly crisp and chewy macaron I have experienced in the past.   Another bummer.  Moving on….

We decided the White-on-White Whoopie Pie (yes, it is as massive as it looks!) was runner-up to our favorite, only because of the buttercream.  The cookie or cake or whatever it was on the outside, was seriously odd.  It was tough and not even close to having a cake-like texture and was not soft enough to be a cookie.  Very strange.  Jeremy and I sat there trying to figure it out and finally gave up.  But like I said, the buttercream was the only redemptive part of the whole thing…very light, airy and delicious.

Finally, the one thing we actually liked (sort of) was the Original Vanilla Yogurt Cupcake.  The girl that was working told us that their cupcakes were made with yogurt (hence the name), which gave it a super moist texture.  And it was very moist.  It was also kind of pound-cake like.  Again, unlike any cupcake I’ve ever had.  It was topped with a homemade whipped creamed, strawberry chocolate curls and white chocolate.

Overall, everything was honestly kind of odd and I can’t say that I want to go back anytime soon.  Maybe for a cupcake since we did like that.  And the ice cream sandwiches looked good also.  Let me know if you’ve been or if you plan on going…I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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Anna Sova Food Paint

I’ll bet you  didn’t know you could paint your walls with food, did ya?  Well, I didn’t either until a friend recently told me she had read about it in a magazine. Sure enough there is a company called Anna Sova that is making specially formulated “food” paint.  The ingredients are the same ones found in milkshakes, powdered donuts and chocolate.

The paint is supposed to be free of the many dangerous chemicals that are found in a typical can of paint and is instead made up of more healthy food ingredients.  Not only that, it also makes your walls smell like a vanilla milkshake!  Which I think is divine, but Jeremy says it’s gross.  Whatever.  Unfortunately (or fortunately if you’re like my husband) the aroma fades after several days.

The foodie paint comes with quiet the price tag however.  At nearly $70 per gallon, yours walls should not only smell like a vanilla milkshake FOREVER, you should be able to LICK your walls and TASTE a milkshake.  Now that would be awesome…but also gross.  Yeah, never mind.

So what do you think?  Cool?  Weird?  Delicious?  Hmmm?

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Peach Pile

Never heard of a Peach Pile?  That might be because I made it up.  Yep.  See, this weekend  for my mom’s birthday I made a very special, ooey gooey, deep dish peach pie that was topped with a buttery, sugary, cinnamony oat topping.  It smelled delicious, it looked delicious and I just knew it was going to taste delicious.  But there was only one problem–it DID NOT want to come out of its pan.  Nuh uh.  Wasn’t having it.  Absolutely refused to be eaten.  Unfortunately we had to get a little rough with the pie and ended up with what I could only think of in my mind as a big ‘ole pile of peaches and crust.  See below.

I think part of the problem was that in my haste I didn’t wait for the pie to cool down enough (as in all the way), in fact, it was still slightly hot.  So while we didn’t have the massively tall, delicously perfect slices of pie I had imagined in my mind, we still had an amazingly good pile of peaches, buttery crust and oatmeal topping that was everything I imagined it would taste like along with some cold, creamy vanilla ice cream.  Oh yes, and I did use a store-bought crust only because I think they are quite good and didn’t want to take the 4.5 HOURS to make the pie that a homemade crust would have required.

I will say that not one person cared about what the pie looked like once they started eating it.  We were licking our plates clean with this one.

Enjoy!

See original recipe here.

Peach Pile
 
Ingredients
  • 1, 9-inch Deep Dish Pie Crust (I used store bought)
Peach Filling
  • 8 Large Firm, Fresh, Ripe Peaches
  • ¼ c. AP Flour
  • ½ c. Firmly Packed Light Brown Sugar
  • ⅓ c. Granulated Sugar
  • 1 t. Cinnamon
  • ⅛ t. Salt
  • 2 T. Cold Butter, diced
Oatmeal Brown Sugar Topping
  • ½ c. Oats
  • ½ c. AP Flour
  • ½ c. Firmly Packed Light Brown Sugar
  • ¼ c. (1/2 stick) Unsalted Butter, melted
  • ½ t. Cinnamon
Instructions
For the peach filling:
  1. Peel peaches and then cut into ½-inch thick chunks and place in a large bowl. Whisk together flour, sugars, cinnamon and salt and then add to the peaches, stirring to coat. Immediately spoon into the pie crust and dot with the two tablespoons of diced butter. Place in the freezer for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 425 and make the oatmeal topping.
For the Oatmeal Brown Sugar Topping:
  1. Thoroughly stir together the oats, brown sugar, flour, cinnamon and melted butter until well combined. Remove the pie for the freezer and carefully press the oatmeal topping onto the pie.
Baking:
  1. Line a cookie sheet with foil and place the pie on top of the cookie sheet. Bake at 425 degrees for 15 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 375 degrees and bake 40 minutes. Cover loosely with aluminum foil to prevent excessive browning and bake 25 more minutes or until juices are thick and bubbly. Transfer to a wire rack and cool two hours before serving or until completely cool.
Notes
Serves 8 *I found that for peeling the peaches, a potato peeler worked perfectly. Also, the recipe calls to bake the pie on the lower rack of the oven, but I accidentally baked mine on the middle rack and it turned out fine.

 

 

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Oreo Cheesecake Cupcakes

For the past year or two I’ve had a minor obsession with what I call “cheesecake cakes” and it all started when I made Jeremy this Red Velvet Cheesecake for his birthday.  He first had Red Velvet Cheesecake at The Cheesecake Factory and absolutely loved it.  I have to admit, it was awesome.  When his birthday came around I did my best to imitate their version and think I got pretty darn close.

After that, my brain couldn’t help but imagine all the possibilities of cheesecake cakes…I did a vanilla cheesecake and strawberry cake combo, a neapolitan with chocolate cake, vanilla cheesecake and strawberry cake…you get the picture.   While they are delicious to make, they can be somewhat labor intensive and difficult to transport.  So I finally had the bright idea to make it into a cheesecake CUPCAKE.  Brilliant, right?  So much simpler!  And that idea led to the glorious recipe offering I give you today…Oreo Cheesecake Cupcakes.

I don’t think I need to say too much about these other than they are good ABSOLUTELY AMAZING.  The chocolate cake is a recipe I borrowed from My Baking Addiction and the cheesecake is a recipe from a friend.  I was a little skeptical about the cake since it used a cake mix, but it was actually quite good.  It had a more spongy texture than I was used to but was still very moist and had a rich chocolate flavor.  And the Oreos…I mean, how can you NOT put Oreos in these?  They just send them over the top and transport you directly into chocolate/cheesecake/Oreo heaven.

Make these and share them with the people you love.  They will love you back.  Promise.

Oreo Cheesecake Cupcakes
Author: 
Category: Dessert
36
 
Ingredients
Chocolate Cake
  • 1 (18.25 ounce) package Devil’s Food Cake Mix
  • 1 (5.9 ounce) package Instant Chocolate Pudding Mix
  • 1 c. Sour Cream
  • 1 c. Vegetable Oil
  • 4 Large Eggs, lightly beaten
  • ½ c. Warm Water
  • 1 T. Pure Vanilla Extract
Cheesecake
  • 1 (8 ounce) package Cream Cheese, softened
  • ½ c. Granulated Sugar
  • 2 t. Pure Vanilla Extract
  • 1 Large Egg
  • 1 (18 ounce) package Regular Oreos
Buttercream Dream Frosting
  • 2 sticks Unsalted Butter, softened
  • 1 c. Shortening
  • ⅛ t. Salt
  • 2 T. Pure Vanilla Extract
  • 2 lbs. (7.5 cups) Powdered Sugar, sifted
  • 4 T. Very Cold Heavy Whipping Cream (or milk)
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a regular size muffin pan with paper liners or spray with nonstick cooking spray.
  2. For the Chocolate Cake: In an electric mixer, beat together the cake and pudding mixes, sour cream, oil, beaten eggs, water and vanilla until well combined and smooth. Set aside.
  3. For the Vanilla Cheesecake: In an electric mixer beat the cream cheese until fluffy. Add the sugar and vanilla, beating well. Beat in the egg and set aside.
  4. For the Buttercream Dream Frosting: In an electric mixer, cream the butter and shortening until fluffy, about three minutes. Add the salt and vanilla and combine well. Begin adding the sugar, one cup at a time and mix thoroughly after each addition. After all the sugar has been added and mixed thoroughly, begin adding the very cold heavy whipping cream one tablespoon at a time, combining well after each addition. Beat on medium-high speed for three minutes to reach desired consistency.
  5. To assemble: Use a scant tablespoon full of chocolate cake mix and smooth into the bottom of the muffin tin (I actually used my (very clean) finger to do this). Spoon in just enough cheesecake to cover the chocolate cake. Press an Oreo into the cheesecake and cover the Oreo with cheesecake mixture–just enough to cover the cookie. Top with another tablespoon of chocolate cake and gently spread until even in the tin. (Be careful to do no more than a tablespoon each time otherwise your muffin tin will be too full and the cupcake batter will rise above the muffin tin and “mushroom”) Repeat with remaining muffin tins. Bake for 18-22 minutes, or until top is springy to the touch. Place on wire rack and cool completely. Pipe frosting onto cooled cupcakes and store in an air-tight container in the refrigerator.

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Cherry Crumble Cake

Every time I walk into the grocery store lately, the piles upon piles of dark red, sweet Bing cherries call my name. And I ignore them. Not that I don’t like them. Oh, I love them. But they are too dang expensive! Until a couple of days ago that is. I walked in and behold, they were half the normal cost! Hello! I immediately bagged some up and high-tailed it home to bake. Naturally.

I already had a recipe in mind:  Cherry Crumble Cake.  Does that not sound divine?  Sweet, juicy cherries mixed into a moist cake, topped with a brown sugar and butter crumb topping…mmmm mmm mmm!  And it was very, very good.  There were cherries in every bite and their flavor really came through the mild and not overly-sweet cake.  Reminded me of my mom’s apple cake that I absolutely love.  One thing I didn’t care for was how crumbly the crumble topping was.  It just kind of fell off the cake whenever it was cut so next time I think I’ll do a whole stick of butter instead of a half and that should take care of it.  I also whipped up some almond whipped cream to go with it, but some good quality vanilla ice cream would be just as good.

If you’ve been wanting to bake with some of those beautiful cherries but not sure what to do, give this recipe a try.  Delicious!

(See original recipe here.)

Cherry Crumble Cake
Author: 
Category: Dessert
12-15
 
Ingredients
  • Crumble Topping
  • 1 c. AP Flour
  • 2 T. Dark Brown Sugar, packed
  • 1 T. Granulated Sugar
  • 1 t. Cinnamon
  • ¼ t. Salt
  • ½ Stick Unsalted Butter, chilled and diced
  • 1 c. Chopped Pecans, toasted
  • Cake
  • 1 c. AP Flour
  • 1 t. Baking Powder
  • ¼ t. Baking Soda
  • ½ t. Salt
  • ½ c. Sour Cream, room temperature
  • 2 t. Pure Vanilla Extract
  • 1 t. Almond Extract
  • ½ Stick Unsalted Butter, room temperature
  • ¾ c. Granulated Sugar
  • 2 T. Packed Dark Brown Sugar
  • 1 Large Egg, room termperature
  • 1¼ lb. Whole Bing Cherries, stemmed, pitted and quartered
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Grease a 9-inch round, springform pan (or 9-inch square).
  3. For the crumble topping, in a small bowl whisk together the dry ingredients. With a pastry blender or fork (or your fingers--that's what I find easiest), blend in butter until it has the consistency of crumbs. Set aside.
  4. For the cake, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a bowl.
  5. In another small bowl, combine the sour cream, vanilla extract and almond extract. Set aside.
  6. In an electric mixer, cream the butter and both sugars on high speed until light and fluffy. Add egg and beat just until combined.
  7. Reduce speed to low, add dry ingredients alternately with the sour cream mixture, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients and mix until just combined.
  8. Gently fold cherries into the batter.
  9. Spoon batter into the pan and smooth the top. Spread half of the crumble topping evenly over the batter. Bake for 25 minutes.
  10. Stir pecans into remaining crumble topping and spread over the cake. Bake until a wooden toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 25-30 minutes more.
  11. Allow to cool 20-30 minutes and serve.

 

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Homemade Whipped Cream

Did you know that before there was Cool Whip people actually made homemade whipped cream in their very own homes?  It’s true.  And although you may think that there is no reason to ever make your own homemade whipped cream when you can simply wander down an aisle in the freezer section of your grocery store, pick out a tub and purchase it for mere dollars, you are wrong my friend.  So very, very wrong.  You see, there are many things that are mass produced and sold in grocery aisles that are simply an impostor of the real thing.   Whipped cream is one of those things. In it’s homemade form it is creamy, thick, sweet and void of all the artificial junk in Cool Whip.  It is simply divine and way too easy to eat buy the spoonful.

And let me tell you it is EASY to make.  I am not kidding.  I don’t know why people automatically assume things like this are hard, but they are not.  And once you try it, you’ll never go back to store bought.  Below I’ve given you my recipe for homemade whipped cream and a few suggestions for uses and how to take it to the next level, beyond vanilla.

Enjoy!

Homemade Whipped Cream

1 c. Heavy Whipping Cream

3 1/2 T. Powder Sugar

2 t. Pure Vanilla Extract

Directions

Place your mixer bowl and whip into the freezer for 30 minutes to an hour.  You want it to be as cold as possible when you whip your cream.  Place the heavy whipping cream in your mixer and whip it on high until it is thick and stiff. Add sugar and vanilla and mix thoroughly.

Makes about 2 cups whipped cream.

Tips and Uses

-Feel free to add more or less sugar depending on how sweet your prefer your whipped cream.  Just remember, you can always add more of something but you can’t take away, so add in small increments whether sugar, flavorings, spices, etc.

-You can use homemade whipped cream in any recipe that calls for Cool Whip.  Top pies with it, use it for dipping fruit, cookies, etc.  Also makes a yummy frosting for cupcakes and cakes.

Variations

-I made a chocolate amaretto whipped cream by simply adding a bit of cocoa powder and almond extract.  SO good.

-Cinnamon, Nutmeg, other spices

-Oils and Extracts (LorAnn Oils is great–find them in craft stores or buy online)

-Lemon, Lime or Orange Zest

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BitterSweet Bakery – St. Louis Bakeries, Pt. 1

Last weekend, Jeremy and I headed to St. Louis to see Jimmy Eat World Saturday night.  The concert didn’t start until 8 p.m. so we had plenty of time to go at a somewhat leisurely pace and make some stops along the way.  We managed to hit up three vintage stores that we came across while driving and then proceeded into St. Louis to check out a couple of bakeries that had pretty decent reviews online.

I’ll start with the second bakery we visited that day, Bittersweet Bakery.  First, the space itself was really cool, one of those refurbished old brick warehouse buildings.  Inside were hardwood floors, exposed ductwork and modern chandeliers.   The bakery case was full of cakes and the countertops displayed quite the assortment of jumbo muffins, breakfast breads, biscotti and jumbo cookies.  I was a little surprised at the lack of selection just judging by what I’d seen on their website.  They did have a small display with a couple of whoopie pies that looked awesome, an amaretti cookie and a couple macaroons.

My first two selections they were out of, a whoopie pie and a mini peanut butter pie.  Apparently they were out of a lot.  So I finally settled on a Chocolate Chunk Cookie and Vanilla Bean Buttermilk Cake.  Jeremy chose Chocolate Buttermilk Cake.  The cakes themselves were very good, dense and probably some of the most moist cake I’ve ever had.  Inside they had chocolate mousse/vanilla pastry cream fillings and they were topped with a huge swirl of what I thought was Swiss buttercream but apparently it was Italian.  Not sure what the difference is but either way, I loved the frosting.  Jeremy, not so much.  He’s used to the American style of buttercream.  I also loved the fact that you could really see and taste the vanilla bean in mine.  At $5 each they were enough for two to share so we could only eat about half.

The cookie was allright, nothing special.  The texture was pretty good, very chewy but the flavor was somewhat lacking and a teensy bit on the salty side.  I kind of liked it but Jeremy didn’t like it at all.  It was somewhere around $3 and most of it went into the trash, unfortunately.

So, our overall experience here was ok.  We got there around 4 p.m. so I guess it was a little late in the day for them to have much left.  That was really disappointing to me because I would have really liked to have tried some other things.  But I will say their cake was absolutely delicious!  So if you are in the area, get there early for the best selection and definitely split one of the cakes with someone–you won’t be disappointed!

I will have Part 2 of our St. Louis bakery adventures next week–I’ve saved the best for last!  Oh and in case you were wondering, the concert was AWESOME.

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Perfect Party Cupcakes

I’ve not had very good luck with cupcakes in the past.  I mean, really, cupcakes?!?  Five-year-olds can make them!  I’ve filled the pans too full and had the batter overflow as they baked.  I’ve tried rotating the pans and ended up dumping half-baked cupcakes all over my oven door.  I’ve baked them perfectly (or so I thought) only to find out they were as hard as rocks when I removed them from the pan.  I mean, I’ve cried over cupcakes.  It’s bad.

So this past weekend I had a request for cupcakes.   “This is it”, I thought,  “time to get over my fear.  Time to conquer the cupcake!”  A little melodramatic, I suppose but I literally felt like I was going into a baking battle and I was determined to win.  I got to researching and found what I hoped to be the best white cake ever.

So, guess what?  I didn’t ruin them!  Yay!  And just like the name says, this truly is a perfect white cake.  Super moist, tender and a fine crumb.  All the good qualities you would want in a cake.  Dorie Greenspan knows her stuff and this cake recipe (with my tiny modifications) proves it.

Oh and please forgive my decorating skills.  I’m used to doing things that taste awesome and don’t have to look pretty so I was poorly equipped to make these resemble anything close to a Sprinkles cupcake.  But hey, I tried.

Perfect Party Cupcakes

1 1/2 c. Sugar

1 Stick Unsalted Butter

2 1/4 c. Cake Flour

1 T. Baking Powder

1/2 t. Salt

1 1/4 c. Whole Milk

4 Large Egg Whites

1 T. Pure Vanilla Extract

Buttercream (recipe below)

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line a regular muffin tin with cupcake liners.

In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and salt.  In another bowl, whisk together the milk and egg whites.  In a mixer, beat sugar and butter on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.  Beat the vanilla into the sugar and butter mixture.

Add one-third of the flour mixture to the sugar and butter, still beating on medium speed.  Beat in half of the milk-egg mixture, then beat in half of the remaining dry ingredients until incorporated.  Add the rest of the milk and eggs, beating until fully incorporated then add the last of the dry ingredients.

Finally, give the batter a good 2-minute beating to ensure that it is thoroughly mixed and well aerated.  Spoon 3-4 tablespoons of the batter into the lined muffin tins or until they are 2/3 full.  Bake for 18 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Cool completely in the pan on a wire rack.

Makes 24.

Buttercream Dream Frosting

2 Sticks Unsalted Butter

1 c. Shortening

1/8 t. Salt

2 T. Pure Vanilla Extract

2 pounds (7.5 c.) Powdered Sugar, sifted

4 T. Very Cold Heavy Whipping Cream (or milk)

Pink Dye (optional)

Directions

Cream the butter and shortening in the bowl of an electric mixer until fluffy.  Add the salt and vanilla extract and combine well.  Begin adding in the sugar, one cup at a time and mix thoroughly after each addition.  After all of the sugar has been added and mixed thoroughly, begin adding the the very cold heavy whipping cream one tablespoon at a time, combining well after each addition.  Beat on medium-high speed for 3 minutes to reach desired consistency.  Color with dye, if using, and frost cupcakes.

 

 

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