Vanilla Malt Buttercream Birthday Cake

Literally a few days before Casper’s 1st Birthday, he took his first (unassisted) steps! I am both horrified and delighted by this new skill. I mean, he’s still crawling a lot–it’s more efficient–but, he’s definitely walking even if it’s more of a Tommy Pickles stumble. It’s pretty cute but, it takes all of me to not scoop him up immediately every time he stumbles.

We celebrated his first year with some family and friends with a BBQ over the weekend. Sean smoked ribs–they are seriously delicious and he deserves major props for perfecting his method– I made a nectarine and tomato salad that I’ll post here soon, and my deviled egg potato salad that I’ve been trying to perfect (and I think is just about there). I also made this cake, obvs. The cake itself is just my chocolate cupcake recipe, baked as 2 6-inch cake layers. I split each layer, so I had a total of 4 layers because I like a tall party cake. This recipe makes sturdy, stackable, easy to split layers. There’s just something about all those layers that shout “CELEBRATION!” to me. I wanted a classic cake combo and after vacillating for days I decided on a chocolate cake with basic, sugary, vanilla buttercream. I knew Casper would only have a little, so I just kind of threw caution (or mom-crazy) to the wind and went all out with his cake. Even though I wanted a basic buttercream, I had to bump up the flavor a teeny bit more and add malt powder. I love the flavor of malt in sweet, vanilla desserts and it paired so nicely with the deep, chocolatey cake. I also used my homemade vanilla extract–vanilla beans + vodka + time–I actually used the last of my batch that I’ve had for years. Literally, years. Like, 5. It was a kindergartener. So the flavor was very vanilla-y and had specks of vanilla bean, which I love seeing in frostings but any good quality (aka pure) vanilla extract would be perfect. I iced it in what I’m calling a “water color stripe”–basically I followed the method for making an ombré cake, but alternated white and colored frostings instead. It turned out pretty cute, I think, and it was easy to do. This style of frosting is totally fine if it’s imperfect, leaving plenty of room for error. I appreciate that in a frosting technique. I sprinkled the edges of the cake with little star sprinkles to make it extra festive. For the cupcakes, I piped all the remaning colors–plus some pink, since it didn’t end up on the cake itself–into another piping bag and piped it onto the cupcakes using a star tip. I sprinkled those with some star spinkles plus some disco dust (aka edible glitter) and they turned out crazy but fun. I call them “space unicorn” cupcakes.

Anyway, then I made a little paper Totoro cake topper because Casper has a “Tototo” (as he says) plush toy that he LOVES (as well as a pillow and a print in his room). Sean is a huge Studio Ghibli fan, and it’s definitely getting passed on to Casper. He hugs and kisses Tototo and it’s so cute! It kills me. Initially I wanted to make a cake like this one from Lyndsay. I was feeling overwhelmed by the idea of trying to pipe a Totoro likeness, but I can put together a paper cut-out version, so I went with that. I also stuck some super cute sparkler candles in the top–thank goodness the didn’t catch Totoro on fire! It was a concern, but he remains unscathed and cake was had by all.

 

PS, You can see the lit sparklers and the rest of the food on my Instagram feed.

Print Recipe

Vanilla Malt Buttercream

Adapted from Glorious Treats

Makes about 3 cups.

I did 2 1/2 times (using 5 sticks of butter) this recipe to frost and fill a 4-layer, 6-inch cake and generously frost 9 cupcakes. For the cake, I used this recipe and doubled it–which gave me the 2, 6-inch, cakes and 9 cupcakes.

2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter, softened

dash of salt

4 cups sifted powdered sugar

2 tablespoons malt powder

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

2 tablespoons heavy cream

Beat the butter with an electric mixer or stand mixer until smooth and creamy. Beat in the salt. Add the powdered sugar, beating on low speed 1 cup at a time, until completely incorporated. Beat in the malt powder, vanilla, and heavy cream (1 tablespoon at a time, to reach desire consistency). Continue to beat the buttercream until it is smooth, creamy, and spreadable. Add more cream or powdered sugar to get your desired consistency. Tint with gel color, if you’d like. Pipe or spread onto the cake layers and cupcakes.

Popsicle Week: Frozen Lime Pie Beach Pops

I’m SO GLAD IT”S POPSICLE WEEK, guys!!! The last week I’ve been feeling, meh…for lack of a better description. The sweet distraction is much more than welcome, it’s needed. My brain is just a little weary and emotional–in part due to that fact that my sweet baby turns 1 in a few short weeks and I am just so not ready. I tried thinking about his birthday party–which I’ve been thinking about since before he was born–only to be overwhelmed with all the feels about it.  I made these Lime Beach Pie inspired popsicles which felt like a balm for all my weird feelings. Again, thank goodness for popsicle week. Amen.

If you’ve never had Beach Pie (sometimes called Atlantic Beach Pie), it’s a creamy-tart pie–not too far off from a key lime as far as the filling goes–but with a crazy, genius saltine cracker crust. It’s seriously amazing. I first heard about this pie via NPR and tasted a lemon curd version on my birthday at the pie bakery Lauretta Jean’s, here in Portland. The filling is tart, creamy, and sweet, while the crust hits you with a crunchy-saltiness that just makes this pie over the top addictive. I’m guessing the crust is what makes the pie a pie of the beach–a nod to sand and sea in a buttery, crackery crust. Obvs, I had to make it into a frozen treat on a stick. The ingredients in the pops are pretty similar to those found in the pie, but a little simpler–condensed milk (dreamy), lime juice and zest, and whipped cream. There are also caramelized, crunchy, little saltine bits glued on with white chocolate shell to mimic the crust of the pie. Plus a dusting of sea salt and even more lime zest, because we’re into gilding lilies around here. These popsicles are seriously so good. I would even venture to say that they’d be the best I’ve made, yet.

This is my 3rd (THIRD) year participating in Billy’s POPSICLE WEEK. It’s been amazing and grown larger each year. I mean, there are fewer things better than gathering with a bunch of other popsicle-crazed bloggers to hold hands and drum-circle-kumbaya about frozen treats together on the internet. Check out the page for all of the other participants this year and to peep the last few years, as well. Cool-dude-sunglasses-emoji.

PS: My previous contributions were these 4-Ingredients Strawberry Ice Cream Pops & Chocolate Dipped Coconut Rum Pops

PS: I use THIS mold.

[recipe]

Print Recipe

Frozen Lime Beach Pie Pops

Make about 9 popsicles.

3/4 cups fresh lime juice

zest of 1 lime, plus more for garnishing

1, 14 ounce, can sweetened condensed milk

1 cup heavy cream

Saltine Brittle:

1 cup crushed saltine crackers

2 tablespoons melted butter

1 cup sugar

White Chocolate Shell:

1 cup chopped white chocolate

1/4 cup coconut oil

sea salt

In a bowl, whisk together the lime juice, zest, and condensed milk. Whip the cream to a stiff peak in another bowl and fold into the condensed milk mixture. Divide the mixture between your popsicle molds and freeze for 1 hour before inserting the popsicle sticks. Freeze for several hours until solid.

for the saltine brittle:

Mix together the crushed crackers and melted butter to coat. Spread the saltines on a parchment lined baking sheet in an even layer. In a saucepan melt the sugar and water together and bring to a boil. Continue boiling until the sugar becomes a deep, golden amber color. Remove from the heat and pour over the saltines. Set aside to cool completely. Once cooled, either chop finely with a knife or blitz in a food processor to get crumbs of brittle. Can be made a day or two ahead.

for the white chocolate shell:

Melt the white chocolate and coconut oil together in a measuring cup in the microwave in 30 second increments, stirring between each, until the white chocolate is completely melted and smooth.

to finish the popsicles:

Prepare a baking sheet by lining it with parchment and placing it in the freezer for at least 10 minutes to chill. Set out the melted white chocolate shell (if you used a bowl instead of measuring glass to melt it, I suggest pouring it into a wide-mouthed glass for easy dipping), crushed saltine brittle, zest, and salt. Remove the popsicles from their molds and quickly dip each in the white chocolate shell, sprinkle with the crushed saltine brittle, a little zest, and salt. Set on the chilled baking sheet and repeat. Place the baking sheet in the freezer to set up (about 10 minutes) before eating or placing into a zip-top bag and storing in the freezer. [/recipe]

 

 

 

 

Super Easy Strawberries & Cream with Sherry Vinegar

I’m writing this on the morning of my 31st birthday and it feels CRAZY but, not for the obvious reasons–wrinkles where there were none before, my new found obsession with moisturizing creams, those persistent gray hairs–but, because I barely registered my 30th birthday. I was deep into pregnancy and house hunting. I had curly fries for dinner from Jack in the Box. To be fair, there was a lot happening. This year seems to be barreling by at warp speed, too. Where do these days go?! They just kind of crept up, leapfrogging over one another. It’s good, though. These super speedy days remind me to keep my eyes wide open and that sometimes simple is the order of the day. It means more time for rosé on the patio, some good conversation, and extra moments with my dudes.

This recipe for Strawberries with Sherry Vinegar, Graham Crumbs, and Brown Sugar Whipped Cream answers that call for easy-living. The elements are super simple, but still special: ripe strawberries, lush sherry vinegar, deep brown sugar, crunchy grahams, velvety whipped cream, and buttery…well, butter. I pair sherry vinegar with the berries instead of the classic balsamic because I’m having a moment with sherry vinegar and I don’t like the muddy color that happens when using balsamic. I’m also having a moment with dark brown sugar. It’s just so deep and delicious with all those dark, caramelly, molasses notes. It makes the whipped cream a little extra special and adds a pleasing sandiness to the graham crumbs. Speaking of the grahams, it’s basically the things you’d use to make a graham cracker crust–just not pressed into a pan. It’s my go-to, dead-easy, dessert these warmer months. I’ve already made it several times with good reception, plus it makes me feel like that effortless entertainer I’ve always wanted to be, instead of a frazzled weirdo. #fakeittillyoumakeit

Strawberry with Sherry Vinegar, Graham Crumbs, and Brown Sugar Whip

I also made my first, ever, GIF! I kind of feel like a dinosaur because the tutorial I watched was basically made by an infant and I had to watch it several more times than I’d like to admit. But, here it is. I did it. It’s just a little animation of the nit-picky adjustments I made trying to style one of the shots. I mean it’s no sexy syrup-pour-shot or oozing-yolk, but maybe I’ll get there? I’m 31, I made my first GIF, and am figuring out this mom thing (or at least trying). I’m still learning things and that’s GOOD.

[recipe]

Print Recipe

Strawberries with Sherry Vinegar, Graham Crumbs, and Brown Sugar Whipped Cream

Serves 4-6

Everything in this recipe can be made in advance–making it that much easier to pull together. I wouldn’t whip the cream in advance, but you can combine the cream and brown sugar in a jar and whip just before serving.

for the berries:

1 lb. ripe, fresh strawberries stemmed and hulled

2 tablespoons sherry vinegar

3 tablespoons (more or less) dark brown sugar

for the graham crumbs:

1 sleeve graham crackers (about 9 crackers)

1 tablespoon melted, unsalted butter

1 tablespoon dark brown sugar

pinch of salt

for the whipped cream:

1 cup heavy whipping cream

1-2 tablespoons dark brown sugar

Slice the strawberries and toss them in a bowl with the sherry vinegar and brown sugar, to coat. Set aside.

Crush the graham crackers into fine crumbs (I like to use a mini food processor for this, but a bag and rolling pin will work in a pinch). Place the crumbs in a bowl and stir in the melted butter, brown sugar, and salt, until well combined.

Using electric beaters or an immersion blender (or your guns and a whisk) beat the cream until it begins to thicken. Add the brown sugar and continue to beat until you get a soft peak.

Spoon the berries into bowls, top with the whipped cream, and a generous sprinkle of graham crumbs. You will probably have extra crumbs, they store well in a jar with a tight lid for several days. Use them for topping yogurt, sundaes, or more strawberries and cream! [/recipe]