Chocolate Almond Cake with Almond Buttercream

Chocolate Almond Cake

It’s official. I’ve hit my mid-twenties. And ya know what?… 25 looks good on me. I feel responsible and sexy; more adult but with a wild/silly side. I LOVE IT :D

LOVE Earrings

…those LOVE earrings seem familiar? I gave my mom the very same pair for her birthday (Suzanne’s Lemon Thyme), and since I was SO freakin excited when I purchased them, Elizabeth got me the very same pair for my birthday!

I was able to celebrate a little early with one of the BEST weekends ever! I roadtripped with Caitlyn and Larissa to Nashville and New Orleans. UN-BUH-LEEEVABLE! With the live country music, cowboy boots, Southern gentlemen ASKING me (and thanking me) for a dance, and the Jack poured as the go-to whiskey, Nashville was my Mecca! I felt home :)  And New Orleans was just…just great. I loved every minute. Beignets, a bachelor party in flannel onesies, shrimp and grits, live music, beads, a mechanical bull, and the best country dancing I’ve ever seen! Oh, I do love the south. <3

Nashville

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Chocolate Peanut Butter Mousse Tart

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Every Christmas I love to make a show-stopping dessert for our Christmas Day feast. (Last year was a champagne layer cake!) My problem is that it’s always a new recipe…clearly leaving some room for error – some more forgivable than others. For example, this year I planned on making Joy the Baker’s Honey Almond Butter Chocolate Tart …only problem was that I should have checked that jar of almond butter perched on our pantry self, because it was solid – definitely past its prime. Sooooo, peanut butter it is! And the problem when I up and move to DC like the crazy daughter I am is that my mom’s and my kitchens are better together. No tart pan in California now :( sooooo, spring form pan it is!

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Coffee Chiffon Birthday Cake with a Fudgey Ganache

Alternate titles for this post: “Can we just have cake for dinner?”/ “I is a burrito.”/ “If this is what a quarter-life crisis looks like, I like it!”

You see, this past Saturday, our beautiful Caitlyn turned 25. Now, minus the misplacing items frequently and difficulty hearing, she really doesn’t seem any older :)  She carried the weekend in true style and grace. We celebrated in DC with many friends and then headed out to West Virginia where we rented a cabin for a little fun in the countryside! We saw a truly breathtaking sky full of stars, hiked, made a big family dinner, and just had a wonderful time celebrating. It was the perfect way to celebrate one of the best ladies I know.

If she wished for a delicious birthday cake, she was in luck ;)

After discussing this CRUCIAL decision with the birthday girl, I settled on a coffee chiffon cake with a fudgey chocolate ganache. The cake was a very light sponge with strong coffee and a hint of cinnamon. Each layer was  soaked in a coffee-rum glaze and then iced with a thick layer of rich ganache icing. I know that that’s not really a thing (don’t tell Caitlyn cause she doesn’t like icing), but I’d probably realistically call it a dark chocolate fudge frosting. Hair-splitting aside, the cake was delightfully moist and light while the ganache was a wonderful, rich dark chocolate contrast. And I took some step-by-step photos for you, cause I was super together on this one!

Start with your dry ingredients in a large bowl: cake flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, some instant coffee, and cinnamon.

In a separate bowl, mix up the wet ingredients: egg yolks, vegetable oil, coffee, vanilla.

Then whip up your egg whites with some sugar until they form soft peaks.

Pour the coffee egg mixture into the dry ingredients, and fold them together until just mixed. Then fold in a quarter of the egg whites.

Then add the rest of the egg whites being careful not to deflate that delicate bowl of beauty. You want to slowly cut the spatula down the middle, pull some over the top, turn the bowl a little and repeat.  When you’re almost done, it will look like this:

Then divide the batter into two 8 inch rounds (while trying to take a perfect picture)

Soooo I didn’t do step-by-step of the ganache because it was made in a mad dash while prepping the apartment for our party and prettying myself. But lemme tell ya, it was mostly a ton of melted dark chocolate with some cream, a little suga and butta, and some mo’ instant coffee. It was ridiculous. Oh. Boy. I mean, oh, wow. Silly.

Once the cakes are cooled, you cut each one in half with a large bread knife, and douse each layer in a “simple syrup” of coffee, rum, and sugar. Ice it and decorate it! Boom! You’ve got yourself a birthday cake fit for a princess! :)

*Here’s the recipe:

Coffee Chiffon Birthday Cake with a Fudgey Ganache

Preheat the oven to 350.

Whisk together in  a large bowl:

-1 1/3c. cake flour
-1 c. sugar
-1 t. baking powder
-1/2 t. cinnamon
-1/2 t. salt
-1 T. instant coffee

In another bowl, whisk together:

-1/4c. vegetable oil
-6 egg yolks (save the whites)
-6 T. strong, freshly brewed coffee (cooled to room temp)
-2 t. vanilla extract

Whisk the remaining 6 egg whites on medium, until foamy. Then slowly add in:

-1/2c. sugar

Whisk the sugar and eggs on medium-high until the whites form soft peaks. (They’ll droop off the edge of the mixer when you pull it out, but still keep their shape.)

Fold the coffee/egg mixture into the dry ingredients until just blended. Then stir in a quarter of the egg whites. Fold in the rest of the whites being careful not to deflate them – be gentle here. (Like I mentioned, you want to slowly cut the spatula down the middle, pull some over the top, turn the bowl a little and repeat.)

Pour the batter into two 8 inch round cake pans lined with parchment paper. Bake for about 12-15 minutes, or until the edges are golden and a toothpick comes out clean.

While the cakes are cooling, make the glaze. In a small saucepan, combine:

-1/3c. strong coffee
-1/3c. rum
-1/3c. sugar

Simmer until all the sugar is dissolved.

**For the Fudgey Ganache

Melt all together in a saucepan over low-medium heat:

-1 pound dark chocolate, chopped
-1 c. heavy cream
-2 T. light corn syrup
-1/2 stick (1/4c.) salted butter

Once everything is just melted, transfer the melted chocolate mixture to the bowl of a large stand mixer, and whip the ganache, slowly adding:

-1 c. powdered sugar
-2 T. instant coffee

**To assemble:

 

Using a long bread knife, carefully cut the cakes in half, so you’ll have 4 layers. Then, using a spoon, lightly drizzle the glaze over the bottom cake layer. Ice the layer, and stack the next cake layer on top and repeat. Then ice the whole darned thing, and decorate it if you you have a special occasion – like a birthday! :)

Cut into it and this is what you’ll get…

 

**French phrase for fun

J’aime un souhait d’anniversaire qui devient réalité :)

I love a birthday wish that comes true.

Aubrey’s Birthday Cupcakes!

“Cupcakes involving chocolate and cream cheese frosting,” the birthday girl demanded! Jokes, of course, but seriously I had to just straight-up ask her what she’d die to have on her birthday…how does one sneakily ask what someone’s favorite kind of cake is when it’s only a couple of days before their birthday?! This is something I frequently struggle with. I’m a HUGE surprises person. Maybe this is girly, but I really do love to give thoughtful surprise presents, or in this case, surprise birthday dessert!

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Chocolate Fudge White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Cookies

Occasionally (albeit rarely) I have a day where I just need to run something out. Maybe for you it’s blasting music or crafting pj pants or paintballing (even though you may not have medical insurance)…hopefully it doesn’t come to punching a wall, but you get the idea. Well here’s a handy suggestion next time this day hits you in the face…BAKE IT OUT, BABY. Turn on some tunes, and just bake. Zone out, eat several spoonfuls of cookie dough, then look at this FANTASTIC website (click here, now!) while you’re waiting for your yummy goodness to emerge from the oven, and then enjoy the chocolately, fudgey, creamy, nutty cookies you just made!

These little gems you see here are Chocolate Fudge White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Cookies!!! I adapted the recipe from Joy the Baker’s cookbook, and they were pretty frickin goooood, you might even say soul-curing :)

**French phrase for fun…

“And now I say unto you in the words of my uncle…ALLER CUISINE!”

GET COOKIN!

I Dream in Macarons

Don’t be fooled…I left the extra “o” out of there on purpose. These are not the coconut cookies that so many people either hate or love. After a long time comin, dreaming in macarons, I finally stepped it up to create this delicate French treat. Macarons are those fabulous little cookie sandwiches that look like they’re dancing out of their pastry case…like these on Tartelette! They’re made with almond flour, powdered sugar, and egg whites. People make quite the fuss over them, so I was kind of nervous to make them – hence why it’s been almost a year since I set my sights on them :/

Buuuuuuuuuuuuuut, this happened…

I made a chocolate macaron cookie with three different combos: one with a salted caramel filling, one with a chocolate ganache filling, and finally a salted caramel filling dipped in chocolate ganache. Oh. My.

The inspiration all started with a surprise in the mail! I thought I had a small little something arriving from a friend, but NO! It was a HUGE box marked with perhaps four of the best words ever combined, “KITCHEN AID STAND MIXER.” AND IT’S YELLOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! :D Best surprise ever, Mom and Dad! So the inaugural recipe had to be epic. And epic it was, my friends, epic it was.

And then I meticulously went through the recipe in my fancy black and white apron :)

They were met with open arms, and divine praise. I think the salted caramel dipped in chocolate ganache was my fave.

**French phrase for fun!

Il s’avère que les macarons ne font pas peur, après tout.

It turns out that macarons aren’t scary after all.

I basically used the cookie recipe from the LA Times here: http://www.latimes.com/features/food/la-fo-macaronrecb-20100401,0,6389216.story

And I used the salted caramel recipe from Baking Equals Love here: http://www.bakingequalslove.com/2011/10/caramel-latte-macarons-coffee-macs-with.html

And a basic chocolate ganache like this one from David Lebovitz: http://www.davidlebovitz.com/2005/10/french-chocolat/

Milky Way Cake & The Little Things in Life :)

CAKE!!! You know that saying, “I love you like a Katie loves cake”? Wait… :) Well, I’m making it a thing. I do love cake, and you know how much I love to show my love and enthusiasm for all (especially silly) things. So little exciting highlights of the week (my joie de vivre at its finest!):

Yesterday, I’m not kidding you here, I saw a woman with a buzzed head that had a spider web design shaved into it! It was WILD! WILD! I also got my business cards this week!!!!! Got pretty excited about that too. Too much? Nah, I’m a legit working lady now! And I got to go salsa dancing – something about moving my hips like I’m not white as a marshmallow just makes me happy :)

Aaaand it was my lovely roommate’s birthday this week, I gave her some cake options, and she chose (oh so wisely) the Milky Way Cake! Nom nom nommm! Here it is for you to feast your eyes on! I melted the Milky Ways into the cake batter and made a chocolate pecan buttercream frosting! “Oooooo!”…is what I’m imagining you’re saying ;) The Milky Ways made it super dense and moist, and I mean buttercream is dih-viiine. I would eat it by the spoonfull if I didn’t have a birthday cake that needed frosting! :)

**French phrase for fun:

Profitez de gâteau d’anniversaire = c’est la joie de vivre :)

Enjoy birthday cake = it’s the joy of living

Peanut Butter Birthday Cake

5 outstanding things I highly recommend you do this weekend:

  1. Try to work “angst” into a sentence.
  2. Try to just be whelmed – don’t go over, don’t go under.
  3. Go! Go for that kick-ass workout!!!
  4. …Then sleep in the next morning and make yourself a fabulous breakfast.
  5. Most importantly, combine peanut butter and chocolate in a delicious creation.

For example, you could whip up a PEANUT BUTTER BIRTHDAY CAKE!!! Wiiiiiiith chocolate buttercream frosting. :D

Of course I brought my cake decorating tools in the move- I mean why wouldn’t I?! A girl needs to treat the birthday girl/boy, and I may or may not be helping someone make a wedding cake soon, so that’s REALLY gonna pay off! :)

This cake was quite the magical combination of peanut butter and chocolate – the only thing missing was the Reese’s garnish that I forgot at the store :(  but it was still divine.

**French phrase for fun!

Dit “Joyeux anniversaire” avec un gâteau au beurre de cacahuètes!

Say “Happy birthday” with peanut butter cake!

Coffee’s Favorite Biscotti

(ya see what I did there?! …clever, I know. That’s why they pay me the big bucks.)

So I’m fully aware that I have a slight coffee addiction, but I’m really ok with it (especially because of the reported health benefits, seriously, check it out.) As soon as my new boss mentioned, “And we have a coffee club if you’d like to—” me, “Absolutely! I’m in.” And praise the Lord, they do nice, freshly ground coffee – the good stuff! Soooooo exciting!

You may think I’m a little over the top, but it’s really the little things in life that I get excited about. Like that great cup of coffee, or the fact that I saw a 60 year-old man in… JEANS. SHORTS. OVERALLS. Fact. It was ridiculous. I loved it. I also get excited about that guy you pass on the street with a handlebar mustache- he must spend so much time on that! Really, wow. I also LOVE perfectly painted nails and this delicious biscotti!

They’re Dark Chocolate Anise Biscotti from the new Joy the Baker cookbook! They have a very subtle licorice flavor from just 1 1/2 teaspoons of crushed anise seeds, and the dark chocolate is the perfect match for these crunchy delights! Add a good, hot cup of coffee into the equation, and you’ve got yourself a beautiful breakfast or an awesome afternoon treat. You deserve it! :)

These biscotti from Joy the Baker would also be delicious!

**French phrase for fun!

Enthousiasmez-vous pour quelque chose de petite ce week-end!

Get excited about something little this weekend! :)


A Little Something to Make Huge Sweeping Changes Less Scary

So I’m in the process of moving. Now that I officially got a job (yay!), it’s REAL. IT’S ACTUALLY HAPPENING! I’m very excited, but it’s also crazy! And my first major concern about the whole matter- a place to live?…nah. A second job to pay the rent?…meh. A one-way plane ticket?…(a close second). But my NUMBER ONE concern…do I bring all of my beautiful dijon Le Creuset cast iron cookware, my Cuisinart food processor, my Kitchen Aid?!!??!!

It’s obviously all stuff that I can’t reeeaaally live without, buuuuuuut they’re all BIG ticket items, and this is a pretty far move. I don’t really see myself packing all of that up in the two suitcases I’ll be bringing back with me…I would DIE. I’ll figure it out though.

And it’s rare I can’t fall asleep within a minute of my red head hitting the pillow, but these kinds of questions dancing in my head (sadly, not the same as sugar plums) have kept me up. But never fear, the Cocoa Cafe Delight is here to help sweeten and relax any evening!

I concocted this simple cocktail last week, and yum. It’s exactly what the ladies and I needed. It’s:

-2 parts strong coffee

-1 part milk

-1 part vodka (missing from the photo above, I know)

-1 part creme de cocoa

-2 spoonfuls of chocolate syrup

Stir with ice, and drizzle a little extra syrup on top for fun! :) Santé!

**My day in French:

J’ai eu l’entretien, obtenu le poste, et célébré avec un bon verre!

I had the interview, got the job, and celebrated with a nice drink!