Tuesday, December 10, 2013

C'ville Sweets Holiday Gift Guide 2013

There are many products out there that have made my life so much easier as a baking enthusiast! I thought it would be fun to share some items that I really can't live without, and would make great gifts! I have linked to Amazon directly. Full disclosure: If you purchase these through that link then I get a measly percentage in gift cards to try out more fun stuff to share. thanks :)

1. This spatula edge cleans the bowl as it mixes, no breaks to scrape the sides. Keeps you from over-mixing the flour.  Once done, use it to scrape the bowl!
2. No more burnt crusts and no more cursing trying to adjust foil, that's silly.
3. This scoop helps you measure the perfect amount of cupcake batter and load your cups in ligthning speed!
4. Best way to make my mini chocolate cookies, mmm
5. The best tips for fancy cupcake icing.
6. The best bags for cupcake icing: holds your whole batch and you throw it away in the end. WOO
7. I love this thing for glossing my cakes or pie crusts. Throw it in the dishwasher.
8. Nothing makes you feel happier than rainbow non pareils!
9. I have 2 of these and LOVE THEM. You can place the cupcakes right in the tray to ice, then use the handles to lower into the container. Air tight too for freshness.
10. Nothing better than a thermometer you can clip to the edge of your bowl for the more delicate recipes.
11. This is on my wishlist. You could put it in the oven, microwave, straight to your mixer. And use it to measure. Brillant.
12. You have to own one of these if you want to ice a cake properly!
13. Again on my wishlist. Would sure make large custom orders much quicker.
14. Wishlist, her website is the best!
15. My wishlist.
16. My wishlist.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Lithuanian Anise Cookies

I wrote this about 3 years ago on my personal blog and wanted to share it here as it is one of the Christmas cookies I try to make every year. My mother's side is Lithuanian and I grew up LOVING these cookies. Hope you enjoy them as much as my family has throughout the years!

Anise Cookies

The first thing you need is a bottle of Anise Oil. Not easy to find. We had to special order it from a family run pharmacy in Downtown Charlottesville. It came in the very next day, most impressive!

Then next thing you need is some inspiration and motivation. Enter the first snow of the year:

This was the view from my kitchen:

And finally you need a small army of strong women. I gathered everyone in the family I could:


6 eggs
3 cups sugar
2 cups mazola (corn) oil
14 cups flour sifted (yes you read that right)
1 tsp. salt
2.5 tsp baking soda
2.5 tsp baking powder
2 cups sour milk or buttermilk (*I will keep you updated if I can find a dairy-free option!)
3/4 tsp anise oil

And the directions verbatim from "Aunt Nell:"
1. Beat eggs well. Add sugar and mix well. Add oil and beat well. Add milk and anise oil.
2. Sift 4 cups flour and to this add baking soda, baking powder, and salt.
3. Add dry ingredients (#2) to step #1 liquid mixture. (Just the 4 cups flour to start)

4. Add more flour to make a soft dough (about 10 more cups). 1 cup of this should be used on board to knead at the end. Use beater until it becomes too thick: (I got 7 cups of flour in. You know it is too thick because your red Kitchen aid mixer will start to smell like burning and will be hot to the touch! eek!)
...then use heavy spoon. (This lasted for one more cup of flour =8 then I gave up)...

...then knead it as a dough. Becomes heavier as your progress. Knead it well. (This is where the army of strong women starts to pay off. Thank God I have had a baby to carry around as an upper arm workout.)

5. Take about the size of a walnut and roll in had into string and put together in a circle. Make hole rather big as it closes up when baked. (This was very time intensive, really wishing I had army of women at this point)

6. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes on greased cookie sheet. Turn pan in oven after 8 min. (I don't know why but I'm sure they wrote that for a reason so I did it)

Then you get this, but you aren't done yet!

Icing for Anise Cookies:

1/2 box powdered sugar (AKA 2 cups)
1 tablespoon butter melted
boiling water
a couple drops of anise oil (to taste)
You will use about 1 box powdered sugar for whole recipe. It is best to start with this 1/2 recipe or it becomes hard until you ice all the cookies (true that).

Leave icing in bowl and dip cookies one at a time. Dip upside down and blow hole so it opens then take spoon and remove whatever runs down on sides.

Now here is the thing. They don't specify how much boiling water. Or what to do with ingredients. Basically you get a small bowl and melt the butter then add the powdered sugar. Then you add the boiling water and mix until it is not too thick or too thin. I topped it off with 2 drops of anise oil at the end. You just have to get a feel for it. You want some transparency but not too much...so here are what mine looked like:

I got a little fancy and added some extra flair by flinging extra frosting all over:

Is it worth the work? YES. Husband and friend approved. Makes enough to mail to family for Christmas, and take to 2 Christmas parties, and eat some everyday for a week. :) Now all you need is a shot of Veritas and you are a true Lithuanian!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Dairy Free Pumpkin Pie and Whipped Cream Topping

Happy Thanksgiving!!!
This is the first holiday I have been dairy free, and I was determined to enjoy some pumpkin pie. Something like, "you can have your pie and eat it too?" heh Anyway...

Love Trader Joes!
  • Your favorite dairy free crust (Pillsbury roll out crusts and Harris Teeter Brand crusts are my fav and yes, dairy free!)
  • 1 can of pumpkin
  • 1 can coconut cream
  • 1/2 cup dairy-free milk (I used almond)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 3 Tbs powdered sugar
Separated cream set aside
  1. Lay your crust out to come to room temperature
  2. Preheat oven to 375 degrees
  3. Do not shake your can of coconut cream!!!
  4. Remove thick cream from top of can of coconut cream and set aside in small bowl.
  5. Use remainder of coconut milk/water mixture and add in thick separated cream by spoonful until it measures to 1 cup. Keep the rest of cream separated and put in fridge to chill.
  6.  Place this cup of coconut cream/milk and add to mixing bowl. Add in can of pumpkin, 1/2 cup milk, eggs, sugar, spice and salt. Mix on high until combined evenly. 
  7. While mixing, prepare your crust in a pie pan.
  8. Pour mixture into unbaked crust and place in oven.
  9. Cover edges of crust to prevent burning.
  10. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes.

Whipped Cream:
  1. While pie is baking and once cream has chilled, place cream in mixing bowl with whisk attachment. 
  2. Whisk coconut cream on highest setting for 2 minutes. 
  3. Add in powdered sugar and mix again on highest setting until fluffy.
  4. Serve on pie!!!
  5. ENJOY :)

 I am reveling in this season of Thanksgiving and the gratitude I have for my family, friends, faith, and blessings. Enjoy the season!

My biggest blessings.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Chocolate Chip Cookie Cake

Chocolate Chip Cookie Cake is a guilty pleasure of mine. One of my favorite memories of a cookie cake was back in college during graduation week. My friend and I devoured a cookie cake slathered in Orange and Blue icing. Go HOOS! We were both mortified the next few days when our poo was colored bright green. Finally one of us broke the silence and mentioned it. We were so relieved we weren't dying of some strange green-poo illness.

Now that I compltely grossed you out (I am a nurse after all), lets talk dairy-free cookie cake.

To get the best results, here is my go-to recipe:

 Dairy-Free Chocolate Chip Cookie Cake
2 1/4 Cup flour
1tsp salt
1tsp baking soda
1 Cup packed brown sugar
1/2 Cup sugar
1 Cup Earth's Best Butter Alternative
1tsp vanilla
2 eggs
1 package of Chocolate Chips: dairy free. (I recommend Enjoy Life or Trader Joe's Semi Sweet brands)

I was hungry for a cookie :)
1. Preheat oven to 375.
2. Set out butter and eggs.
3. Combine flour, salt, and baking soda in a separate, small bowl.
4. Combine sugars, butter, and vanilla in a mixing bowl. Mix on high for a few minutes.
5. Add eggs and mix to combine.
6. Add in flour mixture and mix only enough to combine.
7. Spread on large, greased pizza tray. Using spatula, make a big blob in center and work your way out to almost the very edge.
8. Bake at 375 for 17 mins.

Once cooled, you can ice it!

 Dairy-Free Cream Cheese Icing Recipe
8oz Dairy-Free Cream Cheese Alternative (Tofutti Brand, is the BEST)
1/4 lb Dairy-Free Butter Alternative (Earth Balance Brand is the BEST)
2 tsp bourbon vanilla paste
1 lb = 4 cups powdered sugar (give or take)

Make sure cream cheese and butter are the same temperature. Beat on high speed in mixer until combined. Add vanilla and sugar until desired consistency is reached. Increase speed of mixer to high until combined.Pipe onto cooled cookie using tip of your choice.

**If you have kids or are kid-like at heart, add sprinkles to the icing!**

Monday, November 18, 2013

Genuine German Chocolate Black Forest Cake

AKA Schwarzwälder Kirsch Torte
(My husband would be able to say this correctly)

Let me tell you a little story. It is about my husband and his birthday. It happens to fall on January 9th. Every year, I survive working motherhood and create memorable hoidays for us. I get through Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas planning, Christmas, and then New Years. Then, every year, right after New Years, my husband has a birthday. Two things always happen: I am out of breath and money. So every year he gets a lame birthday. Add onto that this year my horrible PPD (I'm a  survivor!) and I basically asked him to reschedule his birthday. We literally re-scheduled his birthday.

So come July, I was ready for action. I surprised him with an ipad and planned an evening at Veritas Winery with some friends to enjoy the stars, wine, live band, and dancing.

I asked him what kind of birthday cake he wanted and he said: "Schwarzwälder Kirsch Torte."
So I took this request pretty seriously because he has been to Germany and tasted genuine German cake. I hunted down some Kirsch from the sole ABC store in town that carried it, and paid $55 for the bottle too. Then I headed over to Whole Foods to find the right cherries and chocolate. Then I grabbed all the other essentials at the Teeter. I almost made it completely dairy-free but my whipped frosting didn't quite come out as i had hoped. Alas. To the whipping cream I returned.

German Chocolate Black Forest Cake

Here is the thing about this recipe: It was foreign to me and took a few attempts. The cake is mainly egg-based, which really threw me for a loop. The cakes didn't rise quite like I was expecting either.

A late night and lots of cursing later, I had 3 cakes prepared and set for the morning.

Did I follow my instructor's complete directions to build a perfect birthday cake? No, I didn't have time for that. So the cake was a bit uneven but it was quite delicious. The husband was pleased. My culinary friend's dad was pleased. I was pleased. Mission accomplished.


If you feel so inclined to attempt the most expensive and time consuming cake I've done yet, recipe here.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Happy Anniversary to Us: The Wedding Cake

In honor of my 6th wedding anniversary, I want to post a picture of our wedding cake! I had a pretty traditional, church wedding. It had themes of lace, faith, fall and Old Virginia. But when it came to the cake, I wanted to do something out of the ordinary. And I wanted chocolate icing. So this is what I came up with thanks to Chandler's Bakery.

Chocolate bottom and vanilla cake with raspberry and buttercream filling, topped with chocolate buttercream. Chocolate mosaics and fresh berries for decoration.
The cake cutting
Started off prim and proper
Then I went in for the kill.
I love my groom. Muahahaha
And we lived happily ever after. The end :)

Friday, August 16, 2013

Too many posts, too little time

Life has been a little crazy recently. Our parked car got totaled by a hit and run and we bought our first minivan this week. Here is a fun video of Eloise that my brother made while we were negotiating with the car salesman and woman. Hope to post all my recent baking adventures soon!!

Monday, June 10, 2013

Jumbo Sugar-Crusted Blueberry Muffins

Necessity breeds invention.
Lets just say I get paid on Thursday and until then, I am eating my fridge and pantry clean.
I needed something for breakfast tomorrow, and I had 1 egg and a cup of blueberries about to go bad.
Enter: blueberry muffins, dairy-free style. Did I mention I have a new, jumbo muffin tin from my dear friends Mike and Robin? Woo!

Nice and fluffy and not too sweet.
They came out amazingly well, and the sanding sugar adds a professional bakery touch.  The 1 egg dilemma forced me to experiment with the flax seeds.  I think I am going to sneak this into everything. Did you know that you can replace an egg with 1 TBS ground flax seed and 3 TBS water? You're welcome.

  • 3 cups flour
  • 4 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 Tbs ground flax seeds
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil
  • 3 Tbs water
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1 cup milk (of any variety, I use almond)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 to 1 and 1/2 cups blueberries (AKA whatever's left!)
  • Coarse sprinkling sugar

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Oil your jumbo muffin tin.
  2. Measure and mix dry ingredients in a bowl and set aside.
  3. In mixer, on medium speed, mix egg, flax seed, sugar, and coconut oil until well blended.
  4. Add water, oil, milk, and vanilla and mix on low until combined. 
  5. Add your dry ingredients in 2 parts and ONLY mix enough to combine. Make sure you wipe down sides of bowl with a spatula too.
  6. Fold in the blueberries.
  7. Fill your jumbo muffin tins almost to the top.
  8. The best part: Sprinkle with coarse sanding sugar. 
  9. Bake at 425 degrees for 5 min.
  10. Reduce oven temperature to 375 degrees and bake for 25-27 minutes* until part of the tops get slightly browned and they appear set. Let cool in the tins.
  11. Serve warm with dairy-free butter. One will fill you right up. Mmmmmm
*If you only have traditional muffin/cupcake tins this recipe makes 18, bake for 16-17 minutes or until toothpick or knife comes out clean.
p.s. I think I join a multitude of other moms when I say, I blog when my children are sleeping :)

Friday, May 17, 2013

Dairy-Free Mini Chocolate Chip Cookies

I have been craving these classics in a major way. Even more so, the delicious cookie dough right out of the bowl. I decided to try out some dairy and soy free chocolate chips from the Enjoy Life brand, and they came out ever so well!

They are husband and friend approved as well. Again, no one noticed a difference. Success. Sorry for the cell-phone photo!

  • 1 bag Enjoy Life Mini Semi Sweet Chips*
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup dairy-free (or dairy-soy free) Earth's Balance Butter Alternative
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 and 1/4 cup flour sifted
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda 
  1. Preheat oven to 375
  2. Beat butter, sugars, and vanilla until creamy in mixing bowl.
  3. Meanwhile combine dry ingredients in separate bowl
  4. Add eggs and beat
  5. Add dry ingredients and mix on low only until combined well.
  6. Add chocolate chips and mix on low until combined.
  7. Using a small cookie scoop, make balls of dough about an inch apart on greased cookie sheets.
  8. Bake for 7-9 min until just slightly browning on edges
  9. Let rest for a few mins on cookie trays then transfer to cooling rack.
  10. Enjoy!!!
*Trader Joes also makes dairy-free chocolate chips, but they contain soy.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Dairy-Free Carrot Cake Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Icing

Yeah, that's right. I said dairy-free cream cheese icing. It can be done and you won't know the difference!

The BEST Carrot Cake Recipe EVER can be found over here at Pinch of Yum. I followed the instructions for the cupcake version. I also mixed the wet and sugar ingredients first, then saved the dry ingredients for last. Tip for success: always sift your flour and after you add the dry ingredients, only mix enough to combine, on low speed.

 Dairy-Free Cream Cheese Icing Recipe

8oz Dairy-Free Cream Cheese Alternative (I used Tofutti Brand, but it is soy based)
1/4 lb Dairy-Free Butter Alternative (I use Earth Balance Brand)
2 tsp bourbon vanilla paste
1 lb = 4 cups powdered sugar (give or take)

Make sure cream cheese and butter are the same temperature. Beat on high speed in mixer until combined. Add vanilla and sugar until desired consistency is reached. Increase speed of mixer to high until combined. (I like a thicker icing so that the form holds on cupcakes. If I were icing a cake, would go softer.)

Using pastry bag, pipe onto cupcakes, starting from exterior perimeter moving inward and spiraling up. The key is more squeeze, less movement.

Decorations on top are by Wilton.

I made these for my dear friend Libby's going away party. She is a fellow dairy avoider ;) I will miss you friend!

Vegan Vanilla-Mint Chocolate Whoopie Pies!

I knew I was making progress when my husband tasted one and said, "I can't even tell there is no dairy in these!"

The key to success in dairy-free baking with icing is fake butter. I am currently using Earth Balance products. They do make a soy-free version as well. Found it at Whole Foods, it has red on the label. While I was there, I also found baking sticks, which makes it MUCH easier to measure (but has soy). So far, I have substituted it for butter in some of my favorite icing recipes and no one can tell the difference!

I needed to go to the store the other day, but was craving sweets in a major way. So I browsed my cupboard, and looked up some recipes on Go Dairy Free. I came across these Fudgy Chip Vegan Cookies and made them immediately! I had everything but the chocolate chips and nuts. So, I made a basic chocolate cookie. Scooped them out in a mini scoop, pressed down before baking with a spatula, and baked for 12 min. Key to a successful, moist cookie? Fight every urge inside of you and pull them out before they look done!

From there I decided they were too plain, so why not make them into mini whoopie pies? Lets take it up a notch and make some vanilla mint buttercream icing!

Dairy-Free Vanilla-Mint Whoopie Pie Frosting:
2 cups powdered sugar
1/3 cup dairy-free butter alternative
1 tsp mint extract
1 tsp bourbon vanilla paste
2 tbs almond milk (or other dairy-free milk substitute)

Mix all ingredients except for the almond milk together and beat until creamy. Add milk until you reach desired consistency.

Add a dollop of icing to cooled cookies and make sandwiches! Remember, it takes 2 cookies for one whoopie pie so don't be disappointed when your numbers are cut in half. Make a double recipe of cookies if needed!

Bucket List: Cake Baking Class

We housed our dear friend Nate while he was transitioning his family to C'ville this winter, and in return, he and his wonderful wife Marge signed me up for a local cake baking class. I think I had a bit of a girl crush on our instructor, as she lives out in the mountains and raises her own chickens for fresh eggs. She got down to the nitty gritty science of baking, and I picked up a TON of great tricks. I was taking notes like a mad woman.
And at the end, when I created an even, meticulous cake structure, that did not self implode, I cried a bit. Yup, real tears of joy in my eyes. Could also have been that it was my first time away from these two partners in crime!

Here is the result! I spent a lot of time on the structure and not enough time on the decorating, but I'll eventually work on it. Practice makes perfect! Happy Birthday John!

Best tip from the class: Put your baking soda and baking powder in mason jars. This way they stay fresh and don't absorb moisture or smells around the kitchen.
Wishlist items added: Quality cake knife, cake spinner.