Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Raspberry cake with white chocolate raspberry mousse filling

This week I had the pleasure of making a cake for one of the most special people in my life- my Mom. She turned 60 years young earlier this month and I organized a little surprise party in her honor on Sunday. Of course, I just had to make the cake myself! :) And since mama likes moist cakes only, and frosting that is not too sweet, I had to think of something extra special, for a special lady like her. This is how the raspberry cake with white chocolate raspberry mousse filling and whipped cream cream cheese frosting was born. The whole process did take three days to complete, as there were quite a few steps to it, but it was quite worth the effort. The decorations were buttercream frosting borders and writing and an assortment of fresh flowers in the corners. It turned out feminine, delicate and pretty, just like my mama (or "baba" as my kids call her :)).

Raspberry cake

2 cups white sugar
1 (3oz) package raspberry flavored Jell-o
1 cup butter, at room temperature
4 eggs, at room temperature
2 3/4 cups sifted cake flour
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 cup whole milk, at room temperature
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup raspberry puree made from frozen, thawed raspberries


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease and flour two 9 inch round cake pans.
  2. In a large bowl, cream together the butter, sugar and dry raspberry gelatin until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs one at a time, mixing well after each. Combine the flour and baking powder; stir into the batter alternately with the milk. Blend in vanilla and rasberry puree. Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans.
  3. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes in the preheated oven, or until a small knife inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Allow cakes to cool in their pans over a wire rack for at least 10 minutes, before tapping out to cool completely.
I made my cake in two 9x13 inch pans and baked for 27-30 minutes. Cooled and filled with white chocolate raspberry mousse.

White Chocolate Raspberry Mousse


1 (10 oz) package frozen raspberries, thawed
2 tbsp white sugar
2 tbsp orange liqueur
1 3/4 cups heavy whipping cream
6 oz white chocolate, chopped
1 drop red food coloring

  1. Process berries in a blender or food processor until smooth. Strain mixture into a small bowl, and discard seeds. Add the sugar and liqueur, and stir until sugar dissolves. Makes 1 cup of sauce.
  2. In a heavy saucepan on low heat, warm 1/4 cup of the cream and the white chocolate, stirring constantly until chocolate melts. Let mixture cool until it is lukewarm. Stir in 1 tablespoon of raspberry sauce, and the food coloring. Transfer to a large bowl.
  3. In a medium bowl, whip remaining 1 1/2 cup cream to soft peaks. Fold into melted chocolate mixture, one-third at a time, until no streaks remain.
  4. Fill or ice a cake (or serve in parfait cups layered with the rest of the raspberry sauce for a delicious dessert in its own right).

    Since I had extra raspberry sauce, I mixed the remainder with 1 tsp unflavored gelatin dissolved in 1-2 tbsp boiling water and used that to put between the layers of the cake, before I put the mousse. This way, some of the raspberry sauce seeped in the cake and made it even more flavorful and moist. It looked pretty when cut too. :)

Whipped cream cream cheese frosting: 


1 (8oz) package cream cheese
1 cup white sugar
1/8 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream

  1. In a small bowl beat whipping cream until stiff peaks form; set aside.
  2. In a large bowl combine cream cheese, sugar, salt and vanilla. Beat until smooth, then fold in whipped cream.
  3. Since I was concerned about the frosting not being stiff enough to hold its shape, I followed a suggestion given by one of the reviewers of this recipe. I dissolved 1 tsp unflavored gelatin in 1-2 tbsp boiling water. I strained out any lumps. While beating the finished frosting very fast with mixer, I poured in the hot gelatin mixture. I kept beating for a minute or two until it was well mixed (if not there will be lumps of gelatin). The frosting held its shape for a few days but was still not stiff enough for me to pipe the borders with (as you can see in the picture below, it was hard to make it smooth when frosting too). For the borders and the writing, I ended up making a small batch of my tried-and-true buttercream frosting standby which is too sweet to frost the entire cake with, but which works beautifully for decorating.

Buttercream Frosting


1 cup (2 sticks) butter, room temperature
4 cups confectioners' sugar
1/8 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
4-5 tbsp heavy whipping cream

  1. In a mixing bowl, cream butter until fluffy. Gradually add sugar, and continue creaming until well blended.
  2. Add salt, vanilla, and 3-4 tbsp whipping cream. Blend on low speed until moistened. Add an additional 1-2 tbsp whipping cream if necessary. Beat at high speed until frosting is fluffy.

Recipe links:

Raspberry cake:

White chocolate raspberry mousse:

Whipped cream cream cheese frosting:


Thursday, February 21, 2013

Mint Chocolate Cupcakes

These cupcakes have quite a story behind them... Where do I begin!? As you know, I am a floral designer, so the week of Valentine's Day is one of the craziest weeks in the year for me. At the end of the day- Feb 14 that is- I went home totally and thoroughly exhausted after 11 hours of non-stop running (for everybody out there who thinks flower arranging is all fun and games, try doing it on Valentine's Day please:))). Anyway, I get home and I am thinking my looong and exhausting day- and week- is finally over only to find out that actually, there was a lot more drama happening at home while I was completely unawares. Our little 3 year-old independent daughter decided to disappear on her father and grandmother! The day turned into a frantic search, involving the police from two towns, half the neighborhood up in arms looking for the little missing girl, the pastor from our church searching along with my husband, our whole house being turned upside down by the police officers and so on, and so forth. My mother and husband must have been out of their minds, and I can only thank God that they didn't call me at work to tell me what was going on, because I am pretty sure I would have had a nervous break down... Most importantly, after what seemed an eternity to my family but was only about 45 minutes in real time, the little wanderer was discovered in a neighbors' back yard three houses over playing in dirt and mud but realizing she was in trouble (after she saw all the police gathered around). All is well that ends well, they say! Now we have to figure out how to install a low jack on her I guess, in case she decides to take off again like that (I sure hope not!!).

So, these cupcakes were made especially for the police department in our town as a big thank-you for their quick response and invaluable help in finding our roving daughter. My husband delivered them this morning, after I promptly took my pictures for this blog. :)

And after you've heard the dramatic story behind these cupcakes, here is the recipe...

Mint Chocolate Cupcakes
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 3/4 cups sugar
  • 3/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 cup buttermilk, shaken
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 eggs, room temperature
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp mint extract or 1 to 2 tsp creme de menthe
  • 1 cup hot water

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line muffin tins with about 30 cupcake liners (I used green for mine :).

1. Sift the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and mix on low speed until combined.
2. In another bowl or large measuring cup, combine the buttermilk, oil, eggs, and vanilla. Gently whisk.
3. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry. With mixer still on low, add the hot water and stir just to combine – scrape up from the bottom to make sure all the flour is incorporated. Batter will be very thin.
4. Pour the batter into the prepared muffin tins and bake for 18-19 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in the tins for about 5 minutes, then take them out onto a cooling rack to complete cooling.

To carry on with the mint chocolate flavor, I made a chocolate mint ganache in which I dipped the cupcakes after they were cool enough to handle.

Chocolate Mint Ganache

6 oz Andes baking chips
1 cup heavy cream

Bring the whipping cream to a boil in a little saucepan. Watch it carefully, because it may boil over. Put the Andes baking chips in a heat-proof bowl. Pour the hot whipping cream over the Andes chips. Stir a little until the chocolate melts.Dip tops of cupcakes in ganache while it is still melted.

For the frosting, I used my new favorite "magical" frosting, but with a cream cheese and mint twist. It turned out pretty ah-mazing!

Magical Mint Cream Cheese Frosting


1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups milk
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 sticks butter, cut into 16 pieces and softened at room temperature
8 oz cream cheese, at room temperature, cut in pieces
1 tsp mint extract or 2 tsp Creme de Menthe
green food coloring


In a medium bowl, combine the sugar, flour, cornstarch and salt. Slowly whisk in the milk until the mixture is smooth. Place a fine-mesh strainer over a medium saucepan and pour the milk mixture through the strainer into the saucepan. Cook the mixture over medium heat, whisking constantly, until the mixture boils and is thick enough that it starts to become difficult to easily whisk. This could take anywhere between 5-10 minutes, for me it is usually ready in exactly 7 minutes. It should bubble quite a bit at the end (be careful of the splatters) and thicken considerably.

Transfer the mixture to the bowl of your stand mixer and cool to room temperature – this is extremely important! If it is even slightly warm, the frosting won’t beat up properly. (It took my mixture a good 2 hours to come to room temperature and it was smooth sailing from there.) You can also refrigerate the mixture overnight. If you do this, make sure to pull it out in time to let it warm back up to room temperature. If you try to proceed with the rest of the recipe and the mixture is too cold, the butter won’t absorb into the frosting properly.

Once the frosting is completely cooled to room temperature (it should have no hint of warmth at all!), pop the bowl on your stand mixer and beat the mixture with the vanilla and mint extracts on low speed until it is well combined, about 30 seconds. Add the butter and cream cheese, one piece at a time, and beat the frosting until all the butter and cream cheese have been fully incorporated, about 2 minutes. Increase the speed to medium-high and let the mixer work its magic. Beat the frosting for 5 minutes, until it is light and fluffy. Let the frosting sit at room temperature until it is a bit more stiff, about 1 hour, or chill if you want a stiffer consistency for piping. I piped mine without chilling it and it was stiff enough.

And since my cupcakes were made specifically for thank-you gifts, I made little chocolate Thank-you molds from more Andes baking chips and placed on top of the frosting at the end.  And there you have it: Mint Chocolate Cupcakes! It took a few steps to make them, but the end result was soo worth it! I think they will be a great choice for the upcoming St. Patrick's Day too. :)

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Pineapple-rum cupcakes

One could say that these pineapple-rum cupcakes were born out of necessity. The necessity to use up a huge bottle of rum that has been "burning a hole in my pocket" so to speak. :))) You see, we are not really big drinkers in my family. So, ever since I asked my husband to buy me a bottle of rum at Christmas time, in order to make the rum balls everybody at work raves about, and he brought home the biggest bottle of Bacardi the liquor store carried, I have been somewhat unsettled. My search for a recipe that requires rum was on! I considered rum cake. I am still considering it. Seriously considering it. But in the mean time, I came across a recipe that grabbed my attention because the star ingredient there were pineapples. And I looove pineapples. As I was studying the recipe, I noticed something else that grabbed my attention. It said you could also add rum, optionally, but in my mind there was nothing optional about this suggestion. That is when I fully embraced the idea and I ran with it. I not only put rum in the batter, I also made a pineapple filling to which I added rum, and a whipped cream cheese frosting which I "spiked" with some rum extract. :) Rum was officially the common thread between all three components these cupcakes were made of: cake, filling and frosting! 

To comment on the actual cake part, it was the first time I made this recipe, also known as "Preacher's cake" and I was blown away by how light, soft, spongy, tender and fluffy it was. Like a cloud of pineapple bliss! I did not add the coconut to it, as my husband is not a fan, but I think it will actually be awesome here and will definitely be making it again, next time with the coconut (sorry, honey :)). Another great thing about the recipe: super easy!

Pineapple Cupcakes, aka Preacher’s Cake 

2 eggs (3.6 oz)
1 1/4 cups sugar (8.3 oz) or more, I used 1 1/2 cup
2 teaspoons vanilla (or rum/rum extract)
2 tablespoons canola oil
20 oz crushed pineapple, undrained (about 2 ¾ cups)
½ cup walnuts (2 oz), medium ground
2 cups flour (10 oz)
2 tablespoons coconut  (optional)
2 teaspoons baking soda
½ teaspoon salt

In a medium sized bowl add the eggs, sugar, vanilla (or rum/rum extract), oil and crushed pineapple. Sift the flour, salt and baking soda and add that into the bowl and mix well. Lastly add the walnuts and the coconut and mix until well incorporated. Grease and line your pans or put cupcake liners in muffins tins, pour in the batter and bake at 350°F- for cupcakes 18-19 minutes (for 8 inch pan about 30 minutes) until the cake is golden brown on top and springs back when touched in the center. Using a tester will not work here, because the cake is very moist and may appear under cooked.  Allow the cake to cool completely, then invert onto your serving dish and either serve it plain dusted with a little powdered sugar or top it with cream cheese frosting. You can also bake this in an oven proof pyrex dish and serve it directly out of the dish without the need for a separate platter.

Makes 30 cupcakes or a two-layer 8 inch cake, or a single 9x13 inch pan.

Special thanks for this terrific recipe goes to: Good Food Gourmet

As you see from my pictures, I baked the cake in cupcake liners. The cupcakes turned out phenomenal. Baked to perfection in exactly 18-19 minutes! I decided to fill them with a pineapple-rum filling, to carry the idea one step further.

Pineapple Filling

  • 2 (8-oz.) cans crushed pineapple in juice, undrained
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1-2 tsps rum 
  1. 1. Stir together first 3 ingredients in a small saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, 5 minutes or until a pudding-like thickness.
  2. 2. Remove from heat, and stir in butter, vanilla and rum; pour mixture into a bowl. Place heavy-duty plastic wrap directly on warm filling (to prevent a film from forming); chill 2 to 24 hours.
 Pineapple filling recipe was inspired from , APRIL 2012

After I filled my cupcakes with the chilled filling, I made a delectable, luscious whipped cream cheese frosting to top things off. It was the perfect finish to this pineapple-rum extravaganza. :) Finally, I sprinkled the piped swirls with some pink sugar sprinkles, for good measure.

Whipped Cream Cheese Frosting

8oz cream cheese, room temperature
2 sticks butter, room temperature
4-5 cups powdered sugar, sifted
6 tbsps heavy whipping cream
2 tsp vanilla extract (and in my case, I added 1/2 tsp rum extract too)

Add the cream cheese to the bowl of your stand mixer and using the paddle attachment begin creaming it, then slowly add the softened butter until it has all been incorporated. Sift the powdered sugar and add a little at a time until it has all been incorporated. Next, add heavy cream, one tablespoon at a time, beating after each addition to incorporate. Lastly, add the vanilla (and/or rum extract). You may want to use less or more powdered sugar depending on your preference. I like to use as little as possible but still have a consistency stiff enough to pipe. The above ration worked for me. It wasn't sure stiff but it wasn't super sweet either. Feel free to play around to adjust to your personal taste and needs.


I have to say, these cupcakes were very well received at my work place where I took them today, as well as in my home. I personally love them too. And now that I have used 3-4 teaspoons of my huge bottle of rum, I will have to quickly whip up another several hundred batches of these cupcakes in order to finish it off and settle the issue that started this whole thing in the first place. :)

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Chocolate dipped pretzels for Valentine's Day

This was another joint project between my daughter Anna and me: chocolate dipped pretzels for Valentine's Day!

We made them to give out to her classmates and teachers next week, and for her brother's and sister's friends at school too. We made a lot! :) A whole big box of pretzel rods, to be precise. :) And we used 24oz of chocolate and a whole box of sprinkles too. :) I did all the dipping and Anna did all the sprinkles. It worked out great! We had already had a "practice run" of doing this at Christmas time, so we knew "the drill". :) We used both dark and white chocolate and we were both pleased with the end results. Don't they look pretty? :) Hopefully, their school friends and teachers will like them too. :)

  • 16 oz semi-sweet chocolate chips or chopped chocolate
  • 1 to 1 1/2 tbsp shortening
  • 5 dozen pretzel rods or large pretzel twists
  • Assorted sprinkles, small candies or chopped nuts (optional)
  • 8oz white chocolate chip (optional)
1. Prepare a couple of baking sheets by lining them with aluminum foil/parchment paper/wax paper or just use a silicone mat.

2. Combine the chocolate chips or chopped chocolate and the shortening in a large microwave-safe bowl, and microwave until the chocolate is melted, stirring after every 30 seconds (for 16 oz of chocolate, it takes about 1 minute and a half in total). When chocolate gets overheated it thickens and becomes unworkable, so watch your chocolate carefully! Take it out of the microwave when there are still unmelted chips remaining, and stir until the final chips melt. Alternatively, you can put the bowl with chocolate chips on top of a simmering pot of water and stir the chocolate until it melts- this way your chances of seizing the chocolate are not as high as if using the microwave (at least from personal experience), you just have to be careful not to get burned by the steam of the simmering water. Make sure the burner is set on LOW- you want a low simmer, not a boil.

3. If dipping pretzel rods, hold a rod by one end and dip in the chocolate, leaving an inch or two uncovered. Tap off the excess chocolate until the pretzel looks nice and smooth. If you are dipping pretzel twists, drop the whole pretzel in the chocolate and submerge it slightly. Use a fork to pull the pretzel out of the chocolate. Shake the chocolate-dipped pretzels several times to remove excess chocolate, and place it on the prepared baking sheet. If you are using sprinkles or small candies, sprinkle them on when the chocolate is still wet. Repeat with remaining chocolate and pretzels.

4. Place the pretzels in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes to set the chocolate (or just leave out for a couple of hours or overnight- this is what I do).

5. If desired, melt the white chocolate and drizzle it over the pretzels for a decorative look, or do the reverse, for fun). Leave to set.

And here are our ready pretzels, all individually packaged for gift giving: 

Recipe courtesy:

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Anna's talent show cupcakes

This week, Anna had a talent show at church, with the Girl Missionettes. She chose to do artwork and baking. For her baking project she decided to make pink vanilla cupcakes with strawberry "magical" cream cheese frosting. She worked so hard on them! She chose to make my original vanilla cupcake recipe with some pink food gel coloring and our new favorite "magical" frosting with 1/2 tsp of strawberry extract and pink food gel coloring added. We also substituted one of the sticks of butter with 8oz of cream cheese at room temperature in the frosting- it turned out delicious. And the cupcakes looked so pretty too! She insisted on doing all the mixing, baking and piping herself! (Mommy only supervised and held her hand while piping a few times. :)) She is only 8 years old and already so independent and a pastry chef in her own right! :) I am very proud of her!

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Healthy and Delicious Granola

A co-worker of mine brought some yummy granola to work a couple of weeks ago and I knew right away I had to make it for my family! It was delicious and oh so healthy and wholesome! She graciously shared not only the granola with me but also her recipe and I have already made it twice in the last two weeks! The first batch was literally gone in a few days! What I love about making my own granola is that I know exactly what goes into it and I can adjust the sweetness to my liking. So many of the granola mixes and granola bars out on the market are way too sweet or full of "fillers" I would not necessarily want to feed my family with. So, this recipe fits all my requirements for good granola. And you can improvise to your heart's content- according to your mood that day, or what you have in the pantry, or what your family "puts an order for". :)The first time I made the granola, I followed the recipe pretty closely. The second time, I used a tropical dried fruit mix- with dried papaya, pineapple, etc and it was awesome. You could add coconut flakes too for another touch of the tropics... Any way your fancy takes you, you will be glad you made this granola. I promise.


3 cups rolled oats
3 cups quick oats
1/4 cup psyllium (optional- I don't use it)
1/2 cup sesame seeds
1/2 cup flax seeds (or flax meal)
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
1 cup rice crispies (optional- I don't use them)
1 cup oat bran
1/2 cup or more chopped almonds
1/2 cup or more chopped walnuts or pecans or any other nuts
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup dried apricots or any other dried fruit such as cherries, blueberries, dates, etc
1 tsp ground cinnamon (optional)
3/4 cup olive oil or vegetable oil
1 cup honey


Mix oats, seeds, nuts and dried fruit in a large bowl.

In a large glass measuring cup or bowl microwave the honey and oil for 30 to 60 seconds until just warm. With fork or whisk, blend until thick. Pour over dry oats, seeds, nuts and dried fruit. With rubber spatula mix thoroughly until evenly distributed.

Spray a large cookie sheet or two 9x13 inch baking pans. Pat mixture into pans- about 1 inch thick- and bake at 325 F for about 35-40 minutes, stirring once or twice, until tops are golden brown.

Let cool completely. Store in jars. Enjoy!

The granola mix, right out of the oven: 

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