thursday things – my birthday and some other things

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Sunday was my birthday – the big ol’ 2-9. I can’t believe this is going to be my last year that I can say I’m “In my 20’s” (although, it just occurred to me that I can totally keep SAYING I’m in my 20’s… it just won’t be true anymore. A minor difference.)

Anyway, you’re only in your twenties once (for 10 years) so I’ve gotta make sure I spend my last year really “living it up” as they say…

First step of “living it up”? Making myself two cakes for my birthday.

TWO!

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I was torn over whether to do Faygie’s fluffernutter cake or the Baked Sweet & Salty cake when Shannon offered up a novel idea – “Why not make both?”

Genius. Pure genius. Or evil genius. I’m not completely sure which type of genius, but there is some sort of genius involved.

The unforseen consequence of having two cakes was that every time I decided to have a piece of cake, I couldn’t decide what kind I wanted to have, so I ended up having a piece of each cake, thus doubling my cake consumption.

Naturally, I mashed them into a hybrid cake to see how they would taste… and they were amazing together.

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Salted caramel chocolate fluffernutter cake. Yes….

Birthday Things…

This is the part where i tell you about my gifts, if you don’t want to read about my gifts, scroll down to the next part where I talk about other stuff.

Future Husband hit it out of the park this year with a FitBit, some fancy make-up, and a 90-minute massage.  He even decorated while I was at my massage! (See that birthday banner up there? All him.)

The FitBit, for those of you who don’t know, tracks your activity and sleep. So it tells me things like how many steps I’ve taken (which is dismally low on workdays, btw), and even tracks my sleep.

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See all those light blue-green lines? Those are all the times my jerk cat wakes me up to pet her.

Jerk.

Oh, and I almost forgot, FH also got me another owl. He is a cookie jar (which is currently holding candy) and his name is Owlbert.

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I feel like this whole owl thing may be getting out of hand…

Meanwhile my BFF traveled all the way to Paris JUST to ship authentic Laudree and Pierre Herme macarons halfway across the world for my birthday!

Ok, that may not have been the motivation for going, but it was still a by-product of going.

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And Shannon sent me some of the best chocolate in THE WHOLE WIDE WORLD – from Askinosie Chocolate.

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Seriously, guys, if you haven’t had Askinosie chocolate. It’s life changing.

Life. Changing.

Then, my grandma who is probably the sweetest grandma in the whole world (she totally rocks your grandma, trust me) sent me my own taste of home in the form of our famous Tony Packo’s hot dog chili sauce and pickles. If, for some god-forsaken reason, you ever find yourself in Toledo, Ohio, you must go to Tony Packo’s. Then you can go to Rudy’s and pick a side.

It’s like a war. People have died defending their side.

Ok, maybe that’s a slight exaggeration. I happen to think they are both delicious.

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The universe also got me a gift – When I logged into Instagram the morning of March 16th, my instagram account had hit 1,200 followers!

I remember when I was excited about 100 followers and now I’m at 1,200! I love each and every one of you (and them) so much!

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And then, my gift to myself, more cake.

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So much cake.

Other things…

St. Patrick’s Day came and went, we were super Irish this year with soda bread and corned beef.

Movita Beaucoup announced this year’s “Bake My Cake” competition and the theme, as only Movita could possibly have thought of, is crappy cakes. In her words, “The crappier the better.” Which means I might stand a chance this year!

Adam Roberts wrote a great post about how food blogs aren’t really food blogs anymore…  It’s definitely worth a read.

Writer’s block seems to be a common thing amongst my blog friends and I as of late. Not only is it the topic of Shannon (A Periodic Table)’s next “Just One Question” project, but Ms. Jennifer Farley (of Savory Simple) wrote about it (and how some people think it’s not a thing)  earlier this week.

Someone finally created an app that I can truly appreciate – where was this app back in college when I needed it?

The video below gets off to a slow start but trust me, if you stick with it, you will be handsomely rewarded.

Things I want to eat…

These peanut butter cup stuffed chocolate chip cookies from Love & Olive Oil

These garlicky avocado grilled cheese sandwiches from FoodieCrush.

These sweet potato straws from Edible Perspective.

These almond honey squaresfrom David Lebowitz.

Brownie Swirl Cake

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I’m going to tell you all that I had high hopes for March.  I know that Spring is right around the corner and I was all excited to share some “healthy” (well, more healthy than usual) recipes with you so that you didn’t have to swear off the website while you readied yourself for Spring Break or whatever it is that you have looming around the corner that may require you to wear some less-skin-covering clothing items.

Much to absolutely no one’s surprise, that ended quickly.  I promise that I’ve been making juices and salads for you, but in between all of those green and healthful things there is cake.  So.  Much.  Cake.

Well, since March is my birthday month and I’m always in search of the perfect cake for my birthday anyway, I decided to embrace my cake madness and MAKE ALL THE CAKE!  Followed by eating all the cake, and posting all the cake.

all the cake

Last year I made pretty much the best cake ever – a three layer rich chocolate cake with peanut butter frosting and finished off with a dark chocolate ganache.  It was heavenly.  It’s going to be really hard to top.

But not everyone has hours to dedicate to cake-making.

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So, what if you have a birthday say, tomorrow, and you want to do something a little more special than just a box cake mix and you don’t know what to do because you have a job and a life and not enough hours in the day?

That’s where this comes in.

You get the ease of a box mix but with super fancy sprinkles and swirls that make it look like you worked really hard.  And the weirdest part?  Somehow you use brownie mix and a cake mix and it magically turns into this fun and pretty marbled sensation.

Not too shabby, huh?

So in honor of March, I’m going to say IT’S MY BIRTHDAY MONTH AND I CAN EAT CAKE EVERY FRICKIN’ DAY IF I WANT TO AND NO ONE CAN STOP ME.  And if you feel the need to celebrate March (officially renamed “Cake Month”) with me, then more power to you!  We’ll save all that healthy stuff for next month or something (or I’m sure I can sneak a recipe or two in between the cake).

For now, I’ll take another piece of cake please.

Brownie Swirl Cake

Yield: One 9- by 13-inch cake

Ingredients

  • *1 (15.25 oz) box cake mix
  • *1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • *1 egg
  • *1/2 cup milk
  • *1 "Family Size" box Brownie mix
  • *1 recipe frosting (or just a large can of frosting, I won't tell)
  • *Sprinkles, if desired

Instructions

  1. 1. Preheat oven to 350°F and spray 9x13 pan with cooking spray or line with foil/parchment.
  2. 2. In a medium mixing bowl combine cake mix, oil, egg and milk. Beat together for about 1 minute, until ingredients are incorporated.
  3. 3. Spread batter in the bottom of the prepared pan (it will be thick). I find the easiest way to do this is to wet my hands with water and use them to press and spread the mix until it covers the bottom of the pan.
  4. 4. Make your brownie batter according to the directions on the box. Pour the brownie batter on top of the cake layer.
  5. 5. Bake approx 25-30 minutes until center is set, err on the side of slightly underbaking than overbaking. What I ended up with was delicious brownie outsides (I like the dry brownie outside) and a nice, cakey inside. Surprisingly tasty.
  6. 6. Frost and top with sprinkles, if desired.
http://wee-eats.com/2013/03/03/brownie-swirl-cake/

 

[ Adapted from Cookies N Cups ]

happy birthday to me

choco pb bday cake

Friday is my birthday… I don’t even want to talk about how old I’m going to be. Being a grown up sucks. Let’s just leave it at that. I had promised myself that I would make my own birthday cake this year. Chocolate and peanut butter, of course. Because what is better than chocolate and peanut butter? (Nothing, that’s what).

I surprised even myself with this one. Very rarely does something that I make really blow me out of the water. I mean, of course it’s good or else I wouldn’t post it, but it’s just silly to think that every single recipe I make is going to be mind-blowingly good.

This recipe, though… Mind = Blown.

It was so good that I even froze a piece to save for my actual birthday on Friday. It was so good I didn’t want to send it to work with the Boyfriend. I just wanted to keep it at home all to myself. The cake was so incredibly moist, the peanut butter frosting was perfect in flavor and texture, and yeah I technically “messed up” the ganache layer (aesthetically speaking), but flavor wise… my god. So good.
It was totally worth the extra trip to Sur La Table for a third cake pan. So worthy of being the first cake to be displayed on my brand new cake stand (which, by the way, was a steal at Homegoods). It was so good that I think I found my new go-to chocolate cake recipe.

On top of all of that… it’s so easy to make the cake layer that you don’t even need a mixer. Yep, you read that right, NO MIXER REQUIRED.

I don’t know if that piece in the freezer will make it to my birthday……. I mean, just look at that thing. I’m drooling just thinking about it.

Chocolate Cake with Peanut Butter Frosting

[ Printable Recipe ]

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/2 cups sugar
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, preferably Dutch process
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup neutral vegetable oil
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and prepare three 8-inch cake pans with butter and parchment

2. Sift the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt into a large bowl and whisk to combine. Add the oil and sour cream and whisk to blend. Gradually beat in the water. Once the water is incorporated, add the vinegar and vanilla. Whisk in the eggs and continue to beat until well blended. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl to make sure there are no flour bombs lurking in there. Divide the batter evenly among the 3 prepared cake pans.

3. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until a cake tester or wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out almost clean. I was able to fit all three on one rack in the middle of my oven. If you can’t, just put two on the bottom 1/3 and one on the top 1/3 and rotate about 20 minutes into baking… but be careful or they might fall!

4. Let cool in the pans for about 20 minutes. Invert onto wire racks, carefully peel off the paper liners, and let cool completely. The cakes are very soft – chill the cooled cakes in the freezer for 30 minutes (or overnight if you don’t want to do it all in one day) before continuing.

5. To frost the cake, place one layer, flat side up, on a cake stand or large serving plate. Spread 2/3 cups of the peanut butter frosting evenly over the top. Repeat with the next layer. Place the last layer on top and frost the top and sides of the cake with the remaining frosting.

Smitten Kitchen Recommends:

1: Making a crumb coat of frosting–a thin layer that binds the dark crumbs to the cake so they don’t show up in the final outer frosting layer–is a great idea for this cake, or any with a dark cake and lighter-colored frosting. Once you “mask” your cake, let it chill for 15 to 30 minutes until firm, then use the remainder of the frosting to create a smooth final coating.

2: Once the cake is fully frosted, it helps to chill it again and let it firm up. The cooler and more set the peanut butter frosting is, the better drip effect you’ll get from the Chocolate-Peanut Butter Glaze.)

6. To decorate with the Chocolate–Peanut Butter Glaze, put the cake plate on a large baking sheet to catch any drips. Simply pour the glaze over the top of the cake, and using an offset spatula, spread it evenly over the top just to the edges so that it runs down the sides of the cake in long drips. Refrigerate, uncovered, for at least 30 minutes to allow the glaze and frosting to set completely. Remove about 1 hour before serving.

This is where I failed – my glaze did not want to drip in a pretty fashion, so I just went for it and used it to cover the entire cake. Honestly, I can’t imagine not having the chocolate ganache all over the cake. I think it was a good move, but if you want it to look fancier, go ahead and try the drippy method.

Peanut Butter Frosting
Makes about 5 cups

  • 10 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature* (I used 8, because I only had one package of cream cheese and I wasn’t going to run to the store again)
  • 1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 5 cups powdered sugar
  • 2/3 cup smooth peanut butter

1. In a large bowl with an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese and butter until light and fluffy. Beat in vanilla. Gradually add the confectioners’ sugar 1 cup at a time, mixing thoroughly after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl often. Continue to beat on medium speed until light and fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes.

2. Add the peanut butter and beat until thoroughly blended. Taste it…. you know, for quality control

Chocolate-Peanut Butter Glaze
Makes about 1 1/2 cups

  • 8 ounces semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons smooth peanut butter
  • 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • 1/2 cup half-and-half

1. In the top of a double boiler or in a bowl set over simmering water, combine the chocolate, peanut butter, and corn syrup. Cook, whisking often, until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth.

2. Remove from the heat and whisk in the half-and-half, beating until smooth. Use while still warm.

Once the cake is fully frosted, it helps to chill it again and let it firm up. The cooler and more set the peanut butter frosting is, the better drip effect you’ll get from the Chocolate-Peanut Butter Glaze.)

 To decorate with the Chocolate–Peanut Butter Glaze, put the cake plate on a large baking sheet to catch any drips. Simply pour the glaze over the top of the cake, and using an offset spatula, spread it evenly over the top just to the edges so that it runs down the sides of the cake in long drips. Refrigerate, uncovered, for at least 30 minutes to allow the glaze and frosting to set completely. Remove about 1 hour before serving.

This is where I failed – my glaze did not want to drip in a pretty fashion, so I just went for it and used it to cover the entire cake. Honestly, I can’t imagine not having the chocolate ganache all over the cake. I think it was a good move, but if you want it to look fancier, go ahead and try the drippy method.

[ adapted from Smitten Kitchen ]

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