Thursday, May 26, 2011

Vanilla Swiss Meringue Buttercream

I've recently discovered a new talent of mine in making delicious cakes and decorating them in fondant.  I recently made one for my BFF's baby shower and tried out a new icing recipe as I'm not a huge fan of American buttercreams.  A fellow baker friend of mine recommended I try a Swiss Meringue buttercream and boy was she spot on.  While this icing does take a little extra time to make, it is worth the effort and then some.  It came out so creamy and smooth I couldn't stop taste testing and licking the spoon!  Enjoy. :)

Recipe courtesy of Annie's Eats blog.

Vanilla Swiss Meringue Buttercream
5 large egg whites
1 cup plus 2 tbsp sugar
pinch of salt
1 lb (4 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 tsp. vanilla extract

1. To make the frosting, combine the egg whites, sugar, and salt in a heatproof bowl set over a pot of simmering water. Heat whisking frequently, until the mixture reaches 160F and the sugar has dissolved.

2. Transfer the mixture to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment.  Beat on medium-high speed until stiff peaks form and the mixture has cooled to room temperature, about 8 minutes.

3. Reduce the speed to medium and add the butter, 2 tablespoons at a time, adding more once each addition has been incorporated.  If the frosting looks soupy or curdled, continue to beat on medium-high speed until thick and smooth again, about 3-5 minutes more. 

4. Stir in the vanilla extract and mix just until incorporated.  Tint with gel icing color as desired.

Makes about 5 cups of frosting.

Mmmm, enjoy licking the spoon!
Yankee Noodle

Cupcakes are my favorite!

I threw a baby shower at work for two coworkers. It went great! I made cupcakes and thought I would share.
The actual cake part was just out of the box butter recipe or chocolate fudge. I had to save time as I made 4 batches!
However, the icing is my mom's buttercream icing which I love.
For one batch ingredients:
1 and 1/2 boxes of 10X sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1/4 cup vegetable shortening (I'm guessing, I eye bawl it. It is like a heaping spoon glob really.)
1/2 cup butter or margarine (Again this is a guess, I use 2 "globs" of tub margarine.)
1-2 tablespoons of milk (eye bawl for the consistency that you want.)

If it is too sweet add a little shortening, if it is too think, add butter or milk. Play with it and keep taking it until it is the sweetness you want. If you get it too runny, then add a little sugar or shortening. It usually tastes good no matter what!

Add color or not.

I use one of the Wilton's cupcake tips to ice them. It makes them pretty and so easy!

Here are the cupcakes I made for the shower!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Vanilla Buttermilk Cake with Italian Meringue Buttercream

I made this for a wedding cake I made this weekend, everyone loved it. This might be one of the best yellow cakes I've ever tried, it light, buttery and moist.
Vanilla Buttermilk Cake 
Makes one three-layer 9-inch round cake 

3 3/4 cups cake flour
2 1/2 cups sugar
1 tablespoon plus 2 3/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 sticks (10 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/4 cups plus 1/3 cup buttermilk
5 whole eggs
2 egg yolks
2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1. Preheat the oven to 325°F. Butter three 9-inch round cake pans. Line the bottom of each pan with a round of parchment or waxed paper and butter the paper.
2. Combine the cake flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large mixer bowl. With the mixer on low speed, blend for 30 seconds. Add the butter and 1 1/4 cup of the buttermilk. Mix on low speed briefly to blend; then raise the speed to medium and beat until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes.
3. In a smaller bowl, whisk together the whole eggs, egg yolks, vanilla, and the remaining 1/3 cup buttermilk until well blended. Pour one-third of the egg mixture into the cake batter at a time, folding it in completely after each addition. There will be 9 cups of batter; our 3 cups batter into each pan.
4. Bake for 26 to 28 minutes, or until a cake tester or wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
5. Turn the layers out onto wire racks by placing a rack on top of a pan, inverting it, and lifting off the pan. Peel off the paper liners and let cool completely.
While cake is baking, you can start preparing the buttercream. I love using Italian Meringue Buttercream because it light & fluffy, has less sugar then traditional (american) buttercream and decorator frosting. I am not going to lie, at first I was intimidated by the thought of making meringue and adding hot sugar but if you have a standmixer it's so easy!

Italian Meringue Buttercream
5 eggs whites (large)
10 ounces (1 1/4 cups) extra-fine granulated sugar, divided
1/4 cup water
1 pound (4 sticks) unsalted butter, soften
-candy thermometer & standmixer with whisk attachment would be helpful

1. Separate the eggs and place the whites in the bowl of the standing mixer fitted with a wire whip attachment. Reserve the yolks for another use.
2. Measure 1 cup of the sugar into a heavy-bottomed 1-quart saucepan with 1/4 cup water. Gently stir to combine; I use the candy thermometer for this. Leave the candy thermometer in the saucepan, numbers facing down to balance the thermometer.
3. Measure the 1/4 cup sugar into a small bowl and set aside.
4. Cut the butter into tablespoon-size pieces and set aside in a medium bowl.
5. Begin making the sugar syrup. Place the saucepan with the sugar and water over medium-high heat. Partially cover with a lid to capture the evaporating water -- this helps to moisten the sides of the saucepan to prevent sugar crystals separating from the syrup.
6. Begin whipping the egg whites to stiff peak in a standing mixer fitted with the wire whip attachment set to high speed. When the whites are at stiff peak you have a meringue. Keep the mixer running and pour the 1/4 cup of sugar into the meringue.
7. Raise the heat to bring the syrup to 245 degrees if it is not there already. When the syrup is at 245 degrees, remove the thermometer.
8. Slowly pour the syrup into the meringue when pouring, keep your eye on the bowl. Aim for the space between the mixer bowl and the revolving wire whip. To maintain the same rate of pouring, pour slowly and raise the saucepan from your shoulder. Twisting at the wrist or elbow tends to throw off my aim.
9. After 1 to 2 minutes reduce the speed to medium for about 3 to 4 minutes or until the meringue is cooled.
10. Add the butter one tablespoon at a time. Increase the speed to high for one to two minutes to fully combine the butter with the meringue.
11. At this point, flavorings can be added to the base recipe for Italian meringue buttercream, below is an example of the amount of flavoring to add to the buttercream.
-1 teaspoon vanilla extract or any extract (almond, orange, etc.)
-1/2 cup bittersweet chocolate, melted
-2 to 4 tablespoons (to taste) dark rum
-2 to 4 tablespoons (to taste) amaretto/coffee
-1/4 to 1/2 cup raspberry puree

-2 tablespoons lemon liqueur (lemoncello)
-1 teaspoon orange oil
-1 teaspoon lime oil

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cookies


2 Cups all purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup unsalted, butter
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 tbsp vanilla
1 egg
1 egg yolk
2 cups semi-sweet choc. chips


Preheat to 325 degrees and prepare cookie sheets. In a small bowl, combine flour, baking soda, and salt. In a larger bowl, combine butter, sugars, and vanilla. Beat in egg and egg  yolk until creamy. Add dry ingredients until blended and stir in chocolate chips by hand. Drop cookie dough 1/4 cup at a time onto prepped cookie sheets. Use only about 3/4 of the prepared dough. They should be dropped at least 3 inches apart. Bake for 10 minutes and remove. Add remaining dough to the center of each half baked cookie and put back in oven. Bake for another 5-6 minutes or until edges are lightly browned. Cool on baking sheet and transfer to wire rack.

Source: All (but modified to my taste)

Tasty Blessings!
Heaven & Honey

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Cannoli Cake

This cake was absolute heaven!  Since my daughter's first birthday I have become a cake making enthusiast.  I love to bake and design things and found working with fondant was rather fun.  I made my daughter's 1st birthday cake and after it turned out so well, I decided to try my hand at making more cakes for practice.  When my friend told me she was having a baby I offered to make her baby shower cake to practice my new hobby and she was ecstatic.  She is Italian and requested cannoli filling in her cake if I could manage it.  Well, I did even better and found a whole cake flavored like a cannoli!  Due to all the cream and ricotta in the filling and whipped frosting, I stored this cake in the fridge and I have to say that it tasted even better after a day in the fridge. 
My daughter's cake- my 1st attempt at fondant!
I'll be making her formal baby shower cake this weekend in the shape of a puppy.  The pictures here are of the test cake complete with brown dye fail on the top of the cake.  This whipped frosting disintegrated when mixed with food color gel, so I will be using a Swiss buttercream on the outside of the cake before covering in fondant.  If you don't need to tint the frosting the whipped frosting in this recipe was absolute heaven! 
Recipe is courtesy of

  • 4 eggs (it's best if eggs are at room temp before adding sugar)
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter or margarine, melted and cooled
  • 1/4 cup chopped semisweet chocolate
  • 1 recipe Ricotta Filling
  • 1 recipe Whipped Cream Frosting
  • Fresh berries or candied cherries, for garnish

Ricotta Filling:

  • 2 cups (15 oz.) Sargento® Part-Skim Ricotta Cheese
  • 3 Tbsp. sugar (I actually added double the sugar to get the filling a bit sweeter, but I have a huge sweet tooth!)
  • 1-1/2 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 cup whipping cream, whipped
  • 1 cup semisweet mini chocolate chips

Whipped Cream Frosting:

  • 2 cups whipping cream
  • 2 Tbsp. confectioners sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla
  1. Beat eggs and sugar on medium speed in bowl with an electric mixer 5 minutes or until thick. Gently fold in flour and butter; pour into greased and floured 8-inch round cake pan. Bake in preheated 350°F oven 40 minutes or until cake feels firm when touched in center. Cool in pan 5 minutes. Remove from pan and cool completely on wire rack.
  2. To make Ricotta Filling: Beat Ricotta cheese, sugar and vanilla on medium speed in bowl with electric mixer 3 minutes. Fold in whipped cream and chocolate chips.
  3. To make Whipped Cream Frosting: Beat cream on high speed in bowl with electric mixer until soft peaks form. Beat in sugar and vanilla.
  4. Cut cake in half horizontally using sharp serrated knife. Cut each layer in half again horizontally. Place 1 layer on serving platter; spread with one-third Ricotta filling. Repeat procedure, ending with cake layer. No sooner than 6 hours before serving, frost sides and top of cake with all but 1 cup frosting. Decorate with remaining frosting, chopped chocolate and fruit. Refrigerate until serving time.  

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

BBQ Chicken Cobb Salad

Cobb salad??? Easy peasy, who doesn't know how to make a cobb salad??? Well, apparently some people need a recipe. I got this recipe in my weekly e-mail from and it made my mouth water just looking at the colorful picture. I'm happy to report... mine came out looking equally as yummy :) Hope you enjoy!

  • 6 slices of bacon
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 head iceberg lettuce
  • 3 cups cooked, chopped chicken {we BBQ'd two boneless skinless breasts}
  • 2 tomatoes
  • 3/4 cup blue cheese, crumbled {I just used plain cheddar cause I didn't want to go to the store}
  • 1 avocado
  • 3 green onions, chopped {and... I subbed a few slices of red onion}
  • Ranch dressing
  1. Place eggs in a saucepan and cover completely with cold water. Bring water to a boil. Cover, remove from heat, and let eggs stand in hot water for 10 to 12 minutes. Remove from hot water, cool, peel and chop.
  2. Place bacon in a large, deep skillet. Cook over medium high heat until evenly brown. Drain, crumble and set aside.
  3. Divide shredded lettuce among individual plates.
  4. Evenly divide and arrange chicken, eggs, tomatoes, blue cheese, bacon, avocado and green onions in a row on top of the lettuce.       
  5. Drizzle with ranch dressing {or your other favorite} and enjoy.  
Tonight I wasn't feeling wine {weird right?!} but I am enjoying a sweet tea vodka... did you know they make sweet tea flavored vodka? Paired with some sweet tea and a splash of lemonade... deeeelish! :)

~Vino Vixen~

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Panera's Cream Cheese Potato Soup

This is seriously an awesome knockoff of the real thing.  I originally got the recipe from  The first time I made it, I happened to go to Panera that very weekend and have their soup.  The only difference was that mine had a little more spicy kick to it due to a few more crushed red pepper flakes.  Other then that, this one is like the real thing.

Panera's Cream Cheese Potato Soup


  • 4 cups of low fat/low sodium chicken broth
  • 4 cups of peeled and cubed red potatoes
  • 1/4 cup of minced red onion
  • 1/2 tsp of seasoning salt
  • 1/4 tsp white or black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp of crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 (8oz) package of Neufchatel cheese or light cream cheese

  1. Combine broth, potatoes, onion and spices.  Boil on medium-high heat until potatoes are tender. 
  2. Smash a few potatoes to release their starch for thickening.
  3. Reduce to low heat and slow add cubed cheese.  Stir until melted. 
  4. Serve it up while it's hot with any toppings you wish!

~Chef Val

Monday, May 9, 2011

BBQ'd Kebabs

Everyone knows how to make kebabs right? I dunno about that. I love me some grilled veggies though and throw in some pineapple? 


These are pretty easy and straightforward - the hardest/most tedious part is skewing them but they are so worth it! Hope you enjoy!!!

  • 1-2 lbs sirloin or cut of your choice
  • 1 green bell pepper
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 1/2 red onion
  • 1/2 yellow onion
  • 1 package whole mushrooms
  • 1/4 fresh pineapple
  • Teriyaki marinade of your choice (I use Soy Vay Hoisin Garlic Asian Glaze & Marinade)
  • 1/4 cup A-1 Steak sauce
  • dash Tabasco
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  1. If using wood skewers, soak them in water while preparing your ingredients.
  2. Cube all fresh ingredients (except mushrooms) to the desired size - I prefer mine rather large so I use 1-2 inch pieces.
  3. Place fresh ingredients in a large bowl - cover with marinade, A-1, Tabasco and garlic.
  4. Mix well and let sit for at least 1 hr. 
  5. Place all ingredients on the skewers, alternating until all ingredients have been used. 
  6. Grill over medium heat until cooked through - rotating and basting with remaining marinade frequently as to not burn. 
These Kebabs are fabulous paired with a glass of this:

~Vino Vixen~

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Sesame Tilapia

I'm always on the hunt for quick and easy dinner ideas, that don't break the bank.  This one is originally from Allrecipes.  Tilapia is usually about $3/lb at Costco, and when paired with some minute rice, or even Steamfresh veggies, this can be a tasty dinner for 2 people, for about $4 total.  Not bad!  I like to top the fish with sesame seeds before putting it in the oven.  I also remove the remaining sauce (once the fish is cooked), and reduce it down a bit to create a nice thick sauce for veggies or rice.

  • 2 tablespoons orange juice
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons sesame oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon white sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 2 Tilapia filets
  1. Stir the orange juice, soy sauce, sesame oil, sugar, garlic, and ginger in a 9x13 inch baking dish until combined. Add the tilapia fillets, turning once to evenly coat. Cover the dish with plastic wrap, and marinate in the refrigerator at least 30 minutes.
  2. Preheat an oven to 425 degrees F (220 degrees C).
  3. Remove the plastic wrap, and bake in the preheated oven until the fish flakes easily with a fork, 9 to 11 minutes.

- Pastry Princess

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Root Beer Float Ice Cream

The base of this ice cream is Alton Brown's recipe, I just added the root beer concentrate.  It is super easy to make, delicious, and tastes just like a root beer float!  We always make this for BBQs in the Summer.

  • 9 ounces sugar
  • 8 egg yolks
  • 3 cups 1/2 & 1/2
  • 1 Tbsp root beer concentrate
  • 1 cup heavy cream
1. Over medium heat, bring the cream and 1/2 & 1/2 just barely to a simmer.

2. Meanwhile, whisk the egg yolks until they're light and creamy. Slowly whisk in the sugar until light and THICK. You want the mixture to fall from the whisk slowly and sort of clump when it reaches the bowl. If it's runny, keep whisking. It takes a while to get it to the right consistency.

3. Slowly add 1/3 of the cream into the eggs while whisking constantly. Once that's mixed and the eggs are tempered, slowly add the remaining cream into the eggs and whisk to combine. Add in the root beer concentrate and stir until thoroughly mixed.

4. Return cream/egg mixture to the heat, and stir on medium low until it reaches 170 degrees. Move mixture to a metal bowl and cool in sink filled with cold water. Once mixture reaches room temperature, refrigerate to 40 degrees.

5. Add mixture to ice cream machine and follow manufacturer's directions.

- Pastry Princess

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Black Bottom Cupcakes

These are the cupcakes that caught my husband. Shortly after we started dating, he took me to hear the National Symphony Orchestra play in the amphitheater in Rock Creek Park. I made these to take with us and that was all she wrote. My husband shared the leftover cupcakes with his sister and brother-in-law, and they told him not to let me get away.

Black Bottom Cupcakes

1 2/3 c. flour
1 c. sugar
1/4 c. cocoa powder
1 t. soda
1 t. salt
1 c. water
1 T. vinegar
1/2 c. oil
1 t. vanilla

8 oz. cream cheese
1 egg
1/3 c. plus 2 T. sugar
1/8 t. salt
6 oz. chocolate chips

In a medium sized bowl, combine all the ingredients for the batter and mix until combined.

In a smaller bowl, combine all the ingredients for the filling, except the chocolate chips. Beat until smooth. Fold in chips.
For regular sized cupcakes, add 1/4 to 1/3 cup of batter to each cup. Then add a heaping tablespoon of the filling to each cup. Do not overfill, or you will never get them out of the muffin tin. You can also make minis with a tablespoon of batter and a teaspoon of filling.

Bake at 350 degrees for 18 to 20 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.