icebox cake (for the non baker)

cookies & cream icebox cake
I made an icebox cake not long ago. It was my first & was super easy & pretty tasty. I will try it again sometime with different cookies-maybe even homemade ones, gasp! For this particular cake, I used those Nabisco “famous chocolate wafers” that come in a single row package. The recipe is on the package. But from memory (I think it’s still pretty sharp,) this is what I did.

It’s pretty simple. Make some whipped cream. Please do this from scratch, it’s super simple, really.

2 pints heavy whipping cream
2 tablespoons of sugar (or more if you’re like me!)
1 tablespoon good vanilla

Whip it up so that it’s really thick.

Open up your wafers package, *you can also use oreos, chocolate chip cookies, graham crackers, whatever kind of cookie tickles your fancy. I imagine you can even add a little liquer to the mix if you feel so inclined.

Spread the whipped cream on each wafer & make a row of wafers glued to each other with the cream.

icebox cake

I made two cakes, one for work & a small one for home. I can’t let my boys down.

mini icebox cake

Use the remaining whipped cream to cover the wafers completely & make it look cake-like.

finishediceboxsq.

smibcake

Cover & put in the freezer. Leave it there overnight.

This is when the magic happens. The cookies soften up & it becomes this moist cake & in this case, a cookies & cream flavored cake. Easy peasy.

Enjoy.

baking for dummies 101

a lesson of what not to do in making a cake and caramel frosting
I am a big dummy.

Yesterday I slaved in the kitchen made a special cake for a coworker’s birthday. I saw a recipe for salted caramel frosting on Pinterest & knew immediately that I was going to make it. My coworker’s birthday was the excuse. Secretly, it was more about me making the cake than her getting a cake. Either way it worked out to everyone’s advantage.

You can find the salted caramel frosting recipe here.

I bought some Ghiradelli cocoa powder & it had a chocolate cake recipe on the back. I had all those ingredients in my house already so that was easy. I whipped it up pretty quick in my awesome orange KitchenAid mixer. Simply the best gift anyone has every given me! Thank you Mom!! The chocolate batter is pretty basic & oh so much better than the stuff you buy in the store. I am glad I made it from scratch. It was thick & rich with 2 sticks of butter & couldn’t spread out in the pans on it’s own. It taste yummy too. I think I like batter more before it’s cooked than after. That’s just me.

at school I won’t be able to lick this stuff up after I put it in pans–boo

choclate batter

batterinpans

I waited 30 minutes for it to cook. I literally just sat there. I was tired yesterday after running 6 & walking 1.75 miles that morning. I was also waiting for it to finish because I needed to go to the store to buy the ingredients for the salted caramel frosting. Speaking of which, do you say cara-mel or car-mel? I prefer to say cara-mel, but sometimes it doesn’t sound right so I use car-mel. Which is right? I think the latter is correct, but whatever. When I got back from the store, I set up to make the frosting. Whoopsie… um, recipe calls for cream cheese. Cream cheese? Where in the world in “salted caramel frosting” does it indicate that cream cheese is a part of that? Here in lies lesson #1. The most important one. Make sure you have ALL the ingredients before you start. Back to the store I went. (((sigh)))

5 times bigger than the easy bake oven ones I used to make

cookedcake

I have only made caramel once before. It was delish. This time it was a little different process. The first time I used brown sugar & this time it was white. I was waiting for it to turn a nice amber color & was texting a little as I waited. I waited  a couple beats too long. I removed it from the stove & it was super hot still cooking & then turned a reddish orange. As it sat there it became even more reddish and I knew I had blown it. Lesson #2. Never, ever, ever take your eyes off the caramel. I paid for my distraction. Cleaning the pan was a nightmare.

I had no idea it could look like this

burntcaramel

I set off to make it again. But, I was low on white sugar. I was about an eighth of a cup short. I was not going back to the store a third time! No. I decided to use brown sugar to make it up. This would be fine, but now, not super confident in my baking skills (yep, I will be attending the Culinary Institute of America in a couple months— what am I thinking???) I was worried I was going to burn it again. To top that off, I was using some brown sugar & now how am I supposed to tell when it’s an amber color when it starts off that way? Lesson #3. Don’t stray from the recipe unless you are a pro. I am not. Yet. Super cautious, I removed it a tad too early. Poured in the heavy cream & realized I needed to heat it up more. Somehow, by the grace of God, I was able to pull off a decent caramel.

goodcaramel

Time to let it cool & make the rest of the frosting. Which if you’ve read the first few of my posts, you know it’s probably my favorite sugary item in the world! It was just a beautiful whipped up icing.

simply gorgeous, I could eat the entire bowl

perfectfrosting

I was apprehensive to add the caramel. I wasn’t sure what would happen. I poured it all in thinking it was probably more than the cup the recipe called for (remember lesson #3?) The consistency was not as perfect as it just had been minutes earlier. It was way looser. Not stiff enough to frost my cake. I added more & more powdered sugar until I liked the consistency. A ton of it really, equaling a total of 5 cups for the bowl.

As I went to assemble the cake, I ran into another problem. All this time had passed since I had taken the cakes out to cool. Too much time. They were stuck on the bottom of the pan. Needless to say, with a bit of swearing added to it, I had to sacrifice a thin layer of the cake bottom & deal with a slew of cake crumbs. Lesson #4. Take the cakes out of pans sooner and cool on a rack. Or even better, line the bottom of the cake pan with parchment paper. I know this. Dumb mistakes. I was not happy with my baking endeavor thus far.

crumbs–does anyone really care?

crumbs

In the end, as I hope this tale isn’t boring you, the cake turned out – a little lopsided – as I did my best to pretty it up with a decorative frosting design & get it into the refrigerator to set up before the top slid off. After it firmed up, I sprinkled some dark chocolate shavings on top. An added disguise in my book.

drooping in back–again, does anyone care?

finishedcake

I brought it to work today & it was found delicious by everyone. I think it tasted like da bomb! Super yummy.The frosting was to die for. The cake was super moist. Packed with butter & sugar, so how can one really go wrong? Still, there is much to learn for me & I know I can do a better job the next time by preparing better.

seriously, da bomb!

sliced cake

you better believe I ate that whole piece-I worked hard for it!

eatenslice

The most important lesson for you is to MAKE THIS CAKE! You will not be disappointed with the end result, regardless of any minor mistakes. I wasn’t. The best part is, I have leftover frosting. You know what I will do with that–eat it! No cake needed!!

the land of sugar

a bit like willy wonka’s (I’d like to imagine it anyways)
This past weekend I went for an overnight sail with my sailor captain boyfriend. We set sail out of Tiburon in the San Franicsco Bay & headed north inside the bay to the tiny town of Benicia. In the car this trip would take roughly 45 minutes. But by boat… a tad longer… like 4 HOURS to get there.

On the way to Benicia, it was a sunny warm day. I had no idea that this scrumptious facility was just nearby. C&H SUGAR!

I think I need a tour. No really.

C&Hshinning

It was a lovely sail & stay. We dined that night at Sailor Jack’s & spent the night on the boat. The Benicia marina is really nice & the people were friendly.

Coming home yesterday was… crazy windy. I knew it would be a different trip from the one on the way over, no relaxing-lounging type-of-sail. BUT, windy makes for good sailing. Fighting fierce winds & having to tack a million times makes for a long sail. The last 45 minutes I manned the helm. It was hard work with the wind gusting up to 20 knots, but hovering around 14-15. I can’t imagine doing that for the other 5 hours like my captain did. The trip took roughly 6 hours, maybe even longer. I was tired when I went to bed. My legs were tired. I suppose this will be good exercise for when I start pastry school (In January.) There will be a lot of standing for sure.

My maiden overnighter. I survived, & it was really fun. Now I need a sugar tour & some samples! Only this time I’ll drive there, thank you. 😉

big fat announcement

follow your dreams
This past Friday morning towards the end of my four & a half mile run (cough cough, walk… whatever) my phone rang. The name read Jessica. I knew I had to answer this call. Jessica works for the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone, the real CIA, and I’d been bugging her about when I would hear if the admissions folks were going to accept me as a student this winter in the baking & pastry arts program. It’s a 21 month program & I’ve been on pins & needles waiting for some word.

I stopped my run, unplugged my headphones & said hello.

“Hi, Michele. I just wanted to let you know that you’ve been accepted into the program, AND, we are giving you a $4500 scholarship.”

“Are you serious?” I asked. Of course they were.

I told her she made my day, well, actually, my weekend… my life! I can’t begin to tell you how exciting this is for me. To be able to pursue my passion of baking & become a pastry chef… I’m beyond words. So excited!!!

the culinary institute of america, greystone, st. helena (in the beautiful napa valley)

Greystone

recycled frosting

frosting
I can’t think of any better combination than butter & sugar. Frosting is the epitome of that combo. I always make my own frosting now. It is so much better than anything you are going to buy in the stores  & it’s super easy to make.

I recently made some cupcakes for fun. It’s always for fun. I like to spoil my kids & coworkers & it satisfies my need to create in the kitchen. I sort of don’t care about the cupcakes themselves. I’m more excited to make the frosting. Why? So I can lick the bowl. Um… can you spot the crazed sugar-rushed nut in the kitchen?
That’s me!

Recently I made some cream cheese frosting.

frosting

I know. This does not look like cream cheese frosting. But it is. I just used the jar from the talenti gelato, which in case you’ve never tried, I highly recommend you do.  You can find it at regular supermarkets & they are less expensive than the specialty stores that sell them. The Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup is the bomb. Frankly you can’t go wrong with any of their flavors. I’ll even forgive you for eating straight out of the container & consuming at least half if not more. It’s hard to stop. The jars are great for reusing & for storing leftover frosting. I take a hit just about everyday.

♥ Get the recipe from Martha Stewart here.

 

 

it’s gettin’ sticky

rice krispie treats
My most favorite, super easy treat to make, is rice krispie treats. Simple and delicious. I don’t need to tell you the recipe. We all know it, some of us by heart. But I will share with you the secret to the best-tasting-krispie-treats ever. Yes, mine. I bet you can guess—it’s the butter! I use a full cube. That is one half cup of butter. I have always thought the 3 tablespoons the recipe requires was kinda chintzy. I think I use even more marshmallows than the recommended amount. I just use the whole bag, no measuring needed. That’s why this is so simple to make.

Melted butter & marshmallows…mmm, that’s sugar you know. Butter & sugar — the perfect combination.

melted marshmallows

Okay, you can go ahead & throw in the cereal, if you really have to. Kinda delish all on its own though.

The way I like to eat them?… straight out of the pan, still kinda warm & buttery.
Tastes totally different than when they are cool, marshmallowy & sugary.

krispietreat in hand

So now you know how to make the best tasting rice krispie treats EVER. You’re welcome.

treats

 

did someone say brown butter & sugar?

brown butter salted mocha cookies
I just have to share this recipe with you all… I found it on pinterest (please follow me if you’d like—I’m new on there and just getting up to speed) and it was amazing. My pictures don’t look nearly as good as the ones kevinandamanda.com posted (& this is where you will find the recipe—thank you kevin & amanda), probably because I used teeny scoops, the smallest ice cream scoop size, to make mine. But the best part of these cookies, (which by the way, everyone in my office loved), was making the first part, the brown butter & sugar.

Let me stop right here and tell you, if you’ve never made a cookie with brown butter & sugar, DROP what you are doing and go make some. Now.

I had never made brown butter & sugar before and it tastes out-of-this-world! I seriously would have halted all production & eaten the whole thing right out of the pot. This is something that has also happened when I made caramel for the first time.

these are mine… go make ’em!

Salted cookies2