Monday, October 5, 2009

White Pumpkin Cake

I made this cake for a surprise party this past weekend. The cake was a yellow cake with Swiss Vanilla Bean Meringue Buttercream frosting... my new favorite! The white pumpkins are made from marshmallow fondant, while the rest is just regular fondant. We were very inspired by the amazing dessert table Amy Atlas put together recently {here}. A friend's husband chopped the tree stump pedestal that really tied the theme together perfectly. I love cherry blossoms on cakes, and so I wanted to do an autumn variation that was very organic & free flowing.

More pictures & treats when I get back!

Monday, September 28, 2009

Monster Balls

I mentioned in the last post that I had wanted to start this blog last year, but never really followed through with it. I made these Monster Balls for a kids' Halloween party with the intention of sharing them on this platform. A year late but oh well. Happy Halloween baking ;]

I used chocolate Rice Krispies and followed the traditional recipe. Before I let them set, I formed them into balls. Then I cut fondant circles with a small fondant cutter & piped the details.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Margarita Cupcakes with {Fluffy} Margarita Buttercream Frosting

I am dreaming & scheming of fabulous fall recipes to share {I promise}, but I love summer & margaritas! The great thing about these cupcakes is that the lime makes them taste so fresh {and smells so delicious in your kitchen}, that you could make them in the middle of winter and still taste the aroma of summer.

I love & adore Vegan Cupacakes Take Over the World, even though I'm not vegan. I will definitely be trying more of their recipes {they have some great fall flavors}. Great pictures & it's a hilarious read. Trust me. One more thing... I love how the vegan cupcakes look in cupcake liners! They don't have any eggs, so they really allow the color of the liner to shine! Speaking of, I found some adorable Halloween cupcake liners I can't wait to share!

You can find the Mucho Margarita Cupcake recipe on

Their cupcake recipe tastes great, but the icing does come out as more of a glaze than a true buttercream. I have to say that piping big fluffy swirls is part of what makes a cupcake a cupcake for me. I altered the recipe a little to make it taste like a margarita and have the thicker consistency I like. I omitted some of the lime juice and substituted lime zest. It makes for thicker frosting but still punches a lot of flavor. I also took out the milk, because Margaritas don't have milk in them! I also thickened my frosting with piping gel and a bit more shortening. As a bonus, I made a quick Lime Tequila Glaze to intensify the flavor of margarita on the cupcakes!

My Original {Fluffy} Margarita Buttercream Icing

1 stick of butter, softened
3 tbsp shortening
1 tbsp lime zest
1 tsp lime juice
1 1/2 tbsp tequila
3/4 + cup fine sugar
1 tsp piping gel {I use the Wilton brand that you can find at craft stores & cake suppliers}
1 1/2 tsp meringue powder mixed with 1 1/2 tsp water {let sit for about half an hour}

Cream together butter, shortening, lime zest, lime juice, tequila, & sugar. I found that this can take a few minutes and looks weird. Don't be discouraged, keep mixing! Add piping gel and meringue powder and continue to beat until fluffy. Add in more sugar as needed to make frosting thicker {more liquid makes it thinner}. Cooling the icing & cupcakes tastes delicious!

Lime Tequila Glaze

2 tbs sugar
3 tbs tequila
1 tsp lime zest
1 tsp corn starch

Heat ingredients over medium heat, be sure not to burn the sugar. Stir constantly while mixture warms and thickens. Remove from heat when it reaches a jam consistency. Poke holes in cupcakes and use a pastry brush to spread glaze over warm cupcakes. I prefer to use a silicone brush because it's easy to clean. Allow cupcakes to cool before icing with Fluffy Margarita Buttercream Icing.

I think I got most of my summer fix out of my system, I'm so excited for Fall recipes. It's hard to believe that last year at this time my husband had just left to his first deployment. I had wanted to start a cooking blog very much, but ended up losing enthusiasm & inspiration for multiple reasons. I feel so thankful to have him home this fall and there is a part of me that can not wait to include him in everything this year. I will make sure to keep updating this so that when you come I have something to share with you as well ;]

Next up: Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Buttercream w/ my oh so awesome cupcake liners!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Strawberry Lemonade Cupcakes

I know I just said that I have a post about Margarita Cupcakes coming next, but these babies snuck into my weekend. They were such a lovely late summer surprise...

I used Martha Stewart's Lemon Cupcake Recipe from her fabulous book, Martha Stewart's Cupcakes. This cupcake book is fabulous! There are a ton of flavors & her staff was good about describing the recipes and making them easy to follow. Gorgeous pictures too!

Martha Stewart's Lemon Cupcakes
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 large eggs, room temperature
  • Finely grated zest of 3 lemons (about 3 tablespoons), plus 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup buttermilk
Directions for Cupcakes:
  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line standard muffin tins with paper liners. Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt.
  2. With an electric mixer on medium-high speed, cream butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until each is until incorporated, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Beat in zest and vanilla. Add flour mixture in three batches, alternating with two additions of buttermilk and lemon juice, and beating until just combined after each.
  3. Divide batter evenly among lined cups, filling each three-quarters full. Bake, rotating tins halfway through, until golden brown and a cake tester inserted in centers comes out clean, about 25 minutes. Transfer tins to wire racks to cool completely before removing cupcakes. Cupcakes can be stored overnight at room temperature, or frozen up to 2 months, in airtight containers.

Martha Stewart's recipe does include a lemon curd topping {and Meringue}. Trader Joe's sells a delicious lemon curd for around $2.99!

My original inspiration for the frosting was from the blog Love and Olive Oil.

Strawberry Lemonade Buttercream Frosting

  • 2 ounces of fresh strawberries
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large egg whites
  • 6 ounces unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice (approximately 1 large lemon)
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Directions for Frosting:
  1. To make frosting, first wash and hull strawberries and toss them into a food processor. Puree strawberries and set aside. {I just chop them with my Pampered Chef Food Chopper}.
  2. Add sugar and egg whites into a mixer bowl or another large heatproof bowl, fit the bowl over a plan of simmering water and whisk constantly, keeping the mixture over the heat, until it feels hot to the touch, about 3 minutes. The sugar should be dissolved, and the mixture will look like shiny marshmallow cream. Remove the bowl from the heat.
  3. Using the whisk attachment on a stand mixer or with a hand mixer, beat the meringue on medium speed until it is cool, about 5 minutes.
  4. Switch to the paddle attachment if you have one, and add the butter a tablespoon at a time, beating until smooth. Once all the butter is in, beat in the buttercream on medium-high speed until it is thick and very smooth, 6-10 minutes. Don’t freak out if your buttercream curdles or separates, keep beating and it will come together again.
  5. Once the buttercream is thick and smooth, gradually beat in the lemon juice on medium speed, waiting until each addition is absorbed before adding more, and then the vanilla. By this point you should have a shiny smooth, velvety, pristine white buttercream. You can stop at this point if you want to stick with lemon buttercream. For strawberry buttercream, gradually add in strawberry puree, beating on medium speed until well incorporated.

There are a few things I have learned about frosting this year.
I aim for the right flavor and consistency by keeping the ingredients balanced. If you follow a recipe but find your frosting is too stiff or too soft, then change it carefully.
  • Usually, in fruit frostings, the trouble is that mine is too runny. Fresh juices from the berries or lemon make for a lot of great flavor, but can make for thin {un-pipeable} frosting.

  • Powdered sugar is the Wilton method "fix all" for running frosting, making it thicker. I do not enjoy frostings that are too sweet. I try to use extra powdered sugar sparingly.

  • Butter will overwhelm the mixture and make it taste like... well, butter.

  • So when I followed these directions for the frosting above and had runny frosting, I added about a cup of powdered sugar, a half cup of crisco, and a teaspoon and a half of corn starch {and blended well after each addition}. Then refrigerated the icing for about half an hour in a metal mixing bow to help stiffen it up. Worked fine & tasted delicious!

  • Crisco is not my flavor of choice, but it helps to thicken runny frosting without adding sweetness.
    It's my secret weapon.

  • I enjoyed using fresh lemons to juice, allow some of the pulp to get into the frosting and it gives you tangy bursts of lemon flavor. {Remember to squeeze lemons over a sieve so you don't get seeds in the mix}.

The aroma of the lemon zest in my kitchen is almost motivation enough to make these again. These cupcakes are light, bright, and taste best served the same day. I highly recommend making the frosting a day or two ahead of time, then save the cupcakes for the day you will be serving them.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Vanilla Bean Buttercream Recipe [Anniversary Cake]

My husband, in his infinite wisdom, forbade me to bake my own wedding cake. I am so thankful he knew better than me, because it's a lot of work to go about baking cakes. Especially for a perfectionist who wants them to taste delicious and look like a piece of art.

Rock joined the Air Force the summer before our first anniversary. I moved to Texas days before August 29, and sadly, our wedding cake did not survive that summer transition.
For our fifth wedding anniversary, I made a six inch baby cake for just the two of us [this size is perfect for personal birthday cakes as well]. I made the gumpaste flower inspired by my favorite brown headband in the hotel room. Unfortunately, I forgot to bring food coloring so it was more beige than the deep brown I envisioned.

When it came to the flavor I wanted something simple and elegant. I love homemade yellow cake, especially when I use half cake flour and half regular all purpose flour. The crumb is delicate but not too soft. I've made a lot of coffee and chocolate icings this summer, so I opted for vanilla bean icing. It's light, but packs in a lot of flavor that doesn't come off as too sweet.

My original recipe came from Beautiful Cakes Irresistible Cakes and Cookies by Peggy Porschen. I bought it in the bargain section of Barnes & Noble. I refer to this book very often, it's one of my favorites! If you ever see it, buy it. Trust me.

Vanilla Bean Buttercream Frosting
Makes 2 1/2 cups

2 1/2 Sticks Unsalted Butter, softened

1 1/2 Cups Confectioners Sugar, sifted

Pinch of salt

Seeds of one Vanilla Bean

Use the paddle attachment to blend all the ingredients on low until combined, then medium until the icing is light and fluffy.

* In addition to her recipe, I add 1 teaspoon or more of Pure Vanilla Extract, depending on the consistency I need. Her recipe omits it, but I like a strong vanilla flavor so I add it. If you need to stiffen the icing for piping, slowly add more powdered sugar.

I like how Ina Garten always says to find the best vanilla you can afford. I save this recipe for special occasions and am never disappointed. The Vanilla Bean Buttercream is reminiscent of ice cream, especially when you refrigerate the cake before serving!

***** If you live in the Dayton area, I make Baby Cakes for $20- $40 depending on flavor choice and design. *****

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

First Gumpaste Roses

I am trying to configure this blog and learn about how that process works, so I can update my other blog with all my official photography work. Hopefully soon this jumbled page will find rest!

These are the gumpaste roses I made for the Ballerina Bear Cake from the last post. I had intended to make some gumpaste roses for a cake last spring, but made daisies instead. These were a learning experience, but I enjoyed it more than I thought I would. I used a pink rose from my rosebush as a model. Finding inspiration from a real, live, fragrant rose was pretty sweet... I'm glad our rosebush was still in bloom during this project.
I love making flowers with gumpaste more than drawing or painting them... it's easier, faster, and they look more realistic. Can't wait to figure out how to do more.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Ballerina Bear Cake

I have spent a lot of time this summer designing my official website. I still bake though, and had a fun opportunity to make a special birthday cake for a family friend's mother. My first fondant sculpture [Bob Marley] had some technical problems, so I was determined to make this one work.

My son, Kevin, is an ever present helper and critic. At one point he told me there were cracks in my gum paste bear! I made the gum paste flowers [first time for roses] a week ahead of time.

I did a lot of online research on how other people have made teddy bear fur. I knew from the beginning that piping it on [Wilton Style] was something I would not do. Finally, I found a few blurbs about a Williams Sonoma Build a Bear Cake Pan that came with a kit to decorate the bear. I saw that it included some sort of glaze and assortment of brown sugars. I made my own glaze by mixing Karo Syrup and brown food coloring. Then I sprinkled brown sugar mixed with crushed golden sprinkles [I crushed them with my Pampered Chef Onion Chopper to get smaller flakes].

I was very happy that my technique worked! I experimented on a piece of extra fondant before I actually did it to the bear.

The finished Ballerina Bear Cake...

I did the small rose petal by petal too, tiniest one I've made so far. I've been drawing butterflies since I was in middle school, so I cut them by hand without the help of a template. This cake was a lot of fun for me and I can't wait to start baking again :]

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Cinco de Mayo Tortilla Soup

Cinco de Mayo is my mother's birthday, so Happy Birthday Mom! Her parents both share a Mexican heritage, so I guess that we have always felt a bit more pride in the holiday than we should. We've grown up getting the best Mexican dishes straight from her kitchen, so any excuse to eat it always works for us.

My husband is currently TDY, but we'll have to have our own little fiesta when he gets back. I do have a current recipe to share. Last week we got a large dose of Spring rain and I couldn't think of a better dish to warm us all up than Tortilla Soup.

Tortilla Soup

1 1/2 cup - 2 cups Boneless Skinless Chicken Breast

1 Large Can of Tomato Sauce

1 Small Can Tomato Paste

2 cups Water

2 Cans Cream of Chicken

1 cup Minute Rice

1 Bell Pepper, chopped

Half an Onion, minced

2 Cloves of Minced Garlic
2 Packages of Sazon Goya

1 teaspoon Cumin 1 JalapeƱo finely chopped
or 1 Teaspoon Pampered Chef Southwest Seasoning

1 cup Frozen Corn Fresh Cilantro

2 Tortillas

Bring the Water, Tomato Sauce, Tomato Paste, Cream of Chicken, Bell Pepper, Onion, Garlic, JalapeƱo, Rice, and all seasonings to a boil. Reduce heat, and let simmer for about an hour (or more) stirring occasionally. Then take out a cup of the soup and put it in another skillet and cook the chopped chicken in it. Then add the fully cooked Chicken (and any remains of the cup of soup) back to the big mixture. Add the Corn and Cilantro and cook for another half hour. For thicker soup, let the mixture reduce longer. To thin, add a little more water. Garnish with Cilantro, Crunchy Tortilla Strips, and a bit of Cumin.

For the Tortilla Strips: Cut Tortillas lengthwise into strips, and either bake or fry them until just golden brown. I have done white and wheat tortillas, both taste delicious with the soup!

*I thought it would be a good idea to add a bit of Velveeta and Chicken Broth instead of water. The soup was so salty (and I didn't add any of my own salt) that I had to add water to it in order to eat it. I wouldn't recommend the Chicken Broth, but 1/3 cup Velveeta seemed to work okay. The rice helps to thicken the soup. I have used Minute Rice in the past, but last time used a whole wheat rice. It never did "cook" and ended up being crunchy. So I don't recommend that kind unless it's pre-cooked! In a pinch, it's always nice to have some salsa on hand to thicken up the soup or subsitute it for the peppers and onions ;]

Thursday, March 5, 2009

[Simple] Guacamole

One of the things that I love about food is that it can remind us of special people in our lives. Despite my mother's Mexican background, I never ate guacamole as a kid. I tried it with another newly married couple who raved about it. Then another good friend taught me how to make it myself. Through the years I can't help but think of them when I make this!

I love guacamole because of its simplicity but fresh flavor. Our recipe is usually a loose interpretation of the original, depending on what we have in the fridge. My husband loves this dip and volunteers to pick up the avocados. If you are making it that day, make sure they are soft when you squeeze but not mushy. For preparing it later in the week, firmer avocados work because they will continue to ripen.

[Simple] Guacamole

4 Haas avocados
1 Roma tomato or 1 third cup salsa
1/2 medium onion
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro
1/2 clove garlic
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 lime or 1 tablespoon of lime juice

Cut the avocados in half, then scoop out the pulp and discard the seeds. A little lime juice will help prevent it from discoloring as fast. There is a rumor that if you leave a few seeds in the dip and seal it tightly, it will discolor slower. To be honest, it usually goes so fast we have not had an opportunity to test that theory!

Fold in the other ingredients and taste the flavors. I usually go light on the salt and lime juice and try it with a chip. We tend to buy different types of tortilla chips and they affect how the dip tastes and how much salt you will need.

If you prefer a smooth texture, I would recommend using a food processor. The processor tends to blend it so well you get a uniform taste in every bite. We prefer not to use it and get a little variation in the flavor and more texture in the dip.
The great thing about dips is that you can flavor them according to your tastes, ours tends to be heavy on the onions with a little extra cilantro!

* We've been trying to eat a little healthier, and leftover guacamole is great as a spread on a whole wheat tortilla for lunch.
Easy, delicious, and nutritious.

Monday, February 23, 2009

[Irresistible] Chocolate Cupcakes

I can't refuse these cupcakes.
No matter what "diet" I am on, I always make an exception. They are labeled as a Can't Refuse Food! because they are the best t
hat I've ever had. Every time I make them, I alter either the recipe or presentation slightly to get the best results. I will share step by step how to achieve the perfect [Irresistible] Chocolate Cupcakes with hints that I have found help tremendously.

They start with a chocolate coffee cake, then they get a homemade dark chocolate ganache filling, and then are topped with a puff of chocolate whipped cream. The flavors don't overwhelm with sweetness like most chocolate cakes, they all work together to create the perfect combination of flavors. I like to eat mine warm with the cool topping... I admit I've burned my mouth on them!

The original batter is complicated and uses a lot of ingredients.
I found in the last batch I made, that it saves a great deal of time [and money] to use a good boxed chocolate cake mix and substitute a cup of the water for a cup of room temperature coffee [I believe in most cake mixes, there is about a 1 cup and 1/3 water, so for instance, add one cup coffee and 1/3 cup water]. It deepens the flavor and even the batter tastes delicious.
However, I forgot I added the coffee then let my two year old son have a bit of the batter with me after we filled the cupcake pans. He was in a really good mood after the chocolate/coffee combination! Lesson learned!

[Irresistible] Chocolate Cupcakes

I box Chocolate Cake
1 cup coffee at room temperature substituted for one cup of water

Combine ingredients
[add coffee at the same time as you would normally add the water]. Then divide batter into 24 cupcakes and bake as directed on package. I have found that using a 1/4 measuring cup to pour the batter into the cupcake tins ensures that they will be the same size and bake evenly.

Chocolate Ganache

2 Tablespoons Unsalted Butter cut into small pieces
[to make it easy to melt]
3/4 cup of Heavy Cream
8 oz of Semi Sweet Chocolate finely chopped
[or 8 baking squares when each one equals an oz]

1 Teaspoon Vanilla

While the cupcakes are baking, let the butter melt in a warm, but not boiling, saucepan [turned to medium low o
r low, depending on your stove]. Add the other ingredients and continue mixing until the chocolate melts [the finer the cut, the quicker it will melt] and the entire mixture thickens and unifies in color. Turn off heat and move the saucepan away from the burner, you don't want the chocolate to burn or dry out.

I have found that there are a couple ways to add the ganache t
o the cupcakes. You can cut a hole out of the top of the cupcake with a melon baller, and add a teaspoon of ganache, then put the cake back and cover with whipped cream.
The method I prefer, is when the ganache cools slightly [so it's not so hot it will melt the bag], pipe the ganache directly into the cupcakes. I just put the tip right into the cupcakes from the top of the cake, and squeeze in filling about five times for each cupcake [think of it like filling Twinkies]. Then I
use the remaining chocolate to cover the top of the cupcakes [this also hides the holes from piping the chocolate into the cupcakes and helps pull off a cleaner presentation]. The delicious filling makes the cupcakes similar to molten cakes when they are served warm.

Chocolate Whipped Cream Topping

2 1/2 cups Heavy Cream [cold]
1/2 cup Powdered Sugar [sifted]
2 Tablespoons unsweetened Cocoa Powder [sifted]
1 Teaspoon Vanilla

Strawberries [optional]

The Whipped Cream Topping is easy to make, but it takes a small amount of planning ahead. I freeze the bowl and whisk that I will be using about 15 minutes to a half hour before I plan to make it. The longer the better. That way, you are working with materials that will help the cream thicken. This is important especially in the summer, when everything is melting. Pour in the cream. Then add the sifted powdered sugar and cocoa powder. Turn on mixer to low to allow them to combine. Then turn it to high, add the vanilla, and let it mix until you can see it thicken and when you lift the whisk, the cream has stiff peaks. If you're using cold utensils and ingredients, this should only take a couple minutes.

Before I add the whipped cream, [when I am not serving these c a kes right away], I prefer to warm them up either in the microwave or oven, so that the ganache inside warms up and the cake is warm. Be warned that although it is my favorite way to eat them, the
whipped cream will slide right off the cupcake, so I serve it on the side. Otherwise, take the cooled cake with ganache inside and put a dollup of whipped cream on top and a bit of sprinkled cocoa powder. If you have leftover ganache, you can melt it a bit and drizzle it over top. Strawberries also taste perfect.... make it yours! Enjoy!

Welcome to Military Spice!

I have been wanting to launch this site for a long time so this is exciting! Soon, this will move to I bought the domain last summer, but this project was postponed due to some technical difficulties with my computer. It's taken care of, but I am new to the html and logistics of blogging, so I kept waiting until I had time to get a better grasp of it.
Finally, I just decided to go for it
now and update and refine the layout later.

I am a military wife, my husband serves in the Air Force. Prior to my marriage, I had never cooked anything besides desserts. And I use the word, cooked, loosely. For the first week after we got married, Hamburger Helper seemed like a delicious idea. We didn't have a microwave or a refrigerator that first month, so saving food and heating it up was a problem. Less of a problem than you would think though. We were young and beginning our dream in our first house together. We took pride that it was ours, and didn't mind that there was little inside of it besides... us. Eventually we got the appliances and I began to explore recipes as a complete novice. We retired every flavor of Hamburger Helper from our house, it was no longer so delicious.

My husband didn't join the Air Force until we had been married for almost a year. Our first duty station was Sheppard AFB in Wichita Falls, Texas. Prior to our thousand mile move, I had been in school for graphic design. I quit in a heartbeat to follow my husband, but was a little disappointed that there weren't any design schools near our base. I discovered a connection with cooking because there was little else to do and it was a way to take care of my husband. My family was no longer close, so it was up to me to learn how to make what I loved to eat. I was pregnant, so whenever I had a craving I knew I had to make it for myself.

When we got stationed to WPAFB, I completed my graphic design degree and there was a strong influence of cooking and items in my kitchen in most of my new projects. I enjoyed making food look artistic through photography, but it was also convenient for me since I am a stay at home mom.

I love to write.
I love computers.
I love photography.
I love to cook.
I LOVE to eat.
A cooking blog only makes sense and I am so excited to get started ;]