Saturday, November 29, 2008

Daring Bakers November Challenge: Caramel Cake with Carmelized Butter Frosting

Our Daring Bakers Recipe this month was chosen by Dolores of Culinary Curiosity, Alex of Blondie and Brownie, Jenny of Foray into Food, and Natalie of Gluten-a-Go-Go The recipe was developed by Shuna Fish Lydon and can be found at … he-recipe/

I was very excited about this month's choice because A) I love sweets, and B) it sounded delicious and challenging without requiring a written-out plan, a detailed schedule, or lots of fancy equipment. I planned to make the cake for dessert the evening before Thanksgiving as a little appetizer, but that didn't end up panning out. I missed the Daring Bakers November 29th deadline by a few days and ended up making the cake for our December 1st celebration. It was delicious! Seriously! It tasted like Tasty Cakes Butterscotch Crimpets, which I don't think you can find anywhere anymore. And it truly was easy to make. I plan on making it again soon!
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Thursday, November 20, 2008

Attention! Attention! GIVE-AWAY!!!

THE MAX AND ELLIE GIVE-AWAY WINNER IS...NICOLE RADKE!!! Congrats Nicole. Please let me know which of the two prizes you would like. And to everyone who played our little game--all 8 of you :)--a big, big thank you. If you didn't win but would still like a Max and Ellie item, please stop by our store at!

I have a special treat for all of my devoted readers out there (ie, Margaret)...a give-away! I love give-aways. I never win anything, but just the possibility of winning free stuff is so fun! My sister Emily and I just opened an Etsy shop last week, and to help celebrate, we're giving away an item from our shop!

If you win, you get to choose one of the following from Max and Ellie:
A sweet little Blanket in either Orange Dahlia or Aquatic


A Little Artist Crayon Kit, your choice of colors. On the crayon kits, we have tons of colors to choose from, so if you win and choose that as your prize, I will email you a list of colors and you can choose what you want.

Here's how you enter our little give-away: Visit our Etsy shop, Max and Ellie, at (or click on the link here). Then leave a comment on THIS POST telling me what your favorite item is. It's that simple! Comments can be entered until 8 AM on Sunday, November 23rd. At 8:00, I'll randomly choose a comment and that commenter will win one of our fabulous items! Check back here on Sunday morning to find out if you are the lucky winner!

If you'd like to post about this give-away on your blog--which we would love you forever for--feel free to use the button below as a link. And thanks for helping to spread the word about our shop!

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The Cake Slice Bakers, Challenge #2: Sweet Potato Cake with Chocolate Cream Frosting

I was very excited for November's cake for the Cake Slice Bakers: a sweet potato spice cake with chocolate frosting. The name of the cake just oozed autumnality (if that's not a word, it should be). I've had so many other things going on, however, that I put off making this cake until almost the last minute. When I finally got around to making it, it was pretty easy and tasted delicious! It was a new combination of flavors for sure; I would have put chocolate with a spice cake, and I would have put orange with a spice cake, and I would have put chocolate with orange, but I would never have thought of putting all three flavors together. But it really worked. Very tasty, and perfect for the season! I stuck to the exact recipe we were given except I used pumpkin instead of sweet potato. Our grocery store only ever has white sweet potatoes, and I wanted that lovely orange color. To see how other bakers fared with this recipe, click here. And ignore the crazy way this post looks. I couldn't get it right!

Sweet Potato Cakefrom Sky High: Irresistible Triple-Layer Cakes by Alisa Huntsman, Peter Wynne, and Tina Rupp

Cake:2 medium or 1 large sweet potato (12 ounces)3 cups of cake flour3 teaspoons of baking powder1 and 1/2 teaspoons of ground cinnamon3/4 teaspoon of ground nutmeg1/4 teaspoon of cloves5 eggs, separated2 and 1/4 cups of sugar1 stick plus 2 tablespoons of butter, at room temperature1 and 1/2 teaspoons of vanilla1 and 1/4 cups of milkMakes a 9-inch triple layer cake, serves 16-20 people
1. Preheat the oven to 400F degrees. Prick the sweet potatoes in 2-3 places, place on a small baking dish and bake for 1 hour or until the potatoes are very soft. Remove from the oven and cool slightly.2. Reduce the oven temperature to 350F degrees. Butter the bottoms and the sides of the pans and line with parchment paper. Butter the parchment paper also.3. When the sweet potatoes are cool peel off the skin and remove any dark spots. Cut the potatoes into chunks and puree in a food processors. Puree until smooth. Measure out one cup of potato puree and set aside.4. Sift the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ground cloves. Set aside.5. In the bowl of electric mixer add the egg whites and attach whip attachment. Beat on medium speed until egg whites are frothy. raise the speed to high and gradually beat in 1/4 cup of sugar. Continue to beat until the egg whites are moderately stiff.6. In another large bowl with the paddle attachment, combine the sweet potato, butter, vanilla, and remaining sugar. Beat until light and fluffy. Add the egg yolks one at a time. Make sure to scrape the sides of the bowl after each egg yolk is added. With the mixer on low speed, add the dry ingredients and milk in alternately in 2-3 additions. making sure to begin and end with the dry ingredients.7. With a large spatula, fold in one fourth of the egg whites into the batter to lighten. Then fold in the remaining egg whites until no streaks remain. Making sure to not over mix or this will deflate the batter. Divide the batter among of the three pans.8. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean. Let the cake layers cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Then turn out the cake layers onto a wire rack and cool completely at least 1 hour.9. To assemble the cake, place one layer flat side up on to a cake stand. With a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2 inch round tip and filled with chocolate cream cheese icing, pipe border around the edge of the cake. Fill the center with the orange cream filling smoothing it to the edge of the border. Place the second layer on top and repeat the process.Place the third layer on top and use all the chocolate cream cheese frosting to cover the top and sides of the cake.

Chocolate Cream Frosting:makes 3 cups10 ounces cream cheese at room temperature1 stick of butter at room temperature16 ounces of powdered sugar; sifted1 and 1/2 ounces of unsweetened chocolate melted and slightly cooled
1. In a large mixing bowl, beat together the cream cheese and butter until fluffy. Slowly add the powdered sugar to cream cheese butter mixture. Making sure to scrape down the sides the sides of the bowl. Then beat until light fluffy 2-3 minutes.2. Measure out 1 cup of frosting and set aside.3. Add the melted chocolate to the remaining icing in the bowl and beat until well combined.

Orange Cream Filling:
1 cup of reserved cream cheese icing from above.2 tablespoons of frozen orange juice concentrate, thawed1/4 teaspoon of orange extract
1. Stir together all the ingredients until well mixed.
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Saturday, November 15, 2008

Blogging By Mail: Really Fun and Surprisingly Stressful!

So, way back in September I signed up for this thing, Blogging By Mail, hosted by The Happy Sorceress of Dispensing Happiness fame. Here's the gist of BBM:
  • After you sign up, you wait until the organizer sends you the name and address of your person.
  • You put together a package with fun little things in it and send it to your assigned individual.
  • You patiently wait until they receive it, then wait even more patiently for them to blog about how much they lurved what you sent them. (I'm still waiting for this one.)
  • You wait on pins and needles for your mysterious package to arrive from some far corner of the world, and you begin to think you are one of the handful of unlucky ones whose partner forgot them.
  • Your husband walks in one day--a day just like any other day--after getting the mail and hands you a big, fat package from...AUSTRALIA!!!
So I finally got my package from the lovely Fiona of Ms. Fifikins all the way from the land down undah (can't you hear, can't you hear the thundah). I've never gotten a package from Australia before, so that alone was quite exciting. And what was inside was even better:

  • Gondwana Chocolates--These look a little like Whoppers (the candy, not the burger), and they have something in them called "cinnamon myrtle," which I'm completely unfamiliar with. They taste really good, kind of herby and strangely reminiscent of chocolate covered orange sticks, which I love and my husband thinks are disgusting.
  • Outback Spirit Wild Herb & Roasted Garlic Seasoning Sprinkle--Smells fantastic and looks like it would be good on some chicken grilled on the barbie.
  • Something called Pendleton Estate Almond Dukkah--Having NO idea what Dukkah was, I looked it up on Wikipedia. It is a ground nut and spice mixture from Egypt that you dip bread in after you've dipped the bread in olive oil. Or it can be used as a crust for meats. It smells heavenly!
  • Native Bush Spice Salt!
  • Tropic Star Green Leaf Tea--We shared this lovely tea with some friends and it was loved by all.
I love spices, so this package was perfect for me. And when I say I love spices, I mean I love spices so much I read the Penzeys spice catalog cover to cover and then SAVE it until I get the next one. Thanks Fiona for such a fun package!
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Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Crafting for a Cause

I've been quite addicted to sewing lately. Appliqued onesies, aprons, felt projects, festive pillowcases, Trick-or-Treating bags my child later refused to name it, I want to sew it! So I was really excited when I found an easy, rewarding humanitarian aide project that involved sewing. Amanda of the delightful SouleMama blog started an amazing website ( that sponsors craft projects to help communitites in need. The first project is these cute little newborn caps made from old t-shirts.

They're going to be sent to babies in Haiti, a country with the highest infant mortality rate in the western hemisphere. How exciting to get to be part of something so small that can have such a big impact. If you'd like to be involved, details can be found by clicking on the button below.

And you don't need anything special to make these caps, just old cotton shirts, a simple sewing machine, and a little bit of time.
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Saturday, November 8, 2008

Martha's Chocolate Cupcakes

We had an exciting election and a family birthday this week, so I made chocolate cupcakes to celebrate. As soon as I decided on cupcakes, I knew exactly which recipe I wanted to make. I hadn't actually seen it in a few years, but I could still picture the photograph in my head: a blue background, dark, chocolatey buttermilk cupcakes, and creamy white frosting. They were delicious! I only wish the recipe had made more than a dozen!

Frosted Chocolate-Buttermilk Cupcakes
from the January/February 2005 issue of Martha Stewart Everyday Foods

3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder, preferably Dutch-process
3 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
6 Tablespoons buttermilk
1 large egg
1 large egg white

Preheat oven to 350. Line a 12-cup muffin tin with paper liners. In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt; set aside. With an electric mixer, combine cocoa and 3 Tablespoons hot water until a thick paste forms. Add butter, buttermilk, egg, and egg white; beat until combined. Whisk in flour mixture until smooth. Scoop batter into prepared tin. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of a cupcake comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Cool completely before frosting.
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Monday, November 3, 2008

Bodaciously Wicked Truffles (aka, Delicious Blobs of Oreo Goo)

My dad's side of the family puts together a family cookbook every three years, and this year's cookbook had some particularly wonderful recipes in it. One of them was for Bodaciously Wicked Truffles from my cousin Wendy. These babies were soooo good, and very aptly named. A few warnings: don't try to substitute vanilla candy bark for the chocolate bark. The darkness of the chocolate bark hides all of the oreo bits that find their way into the candy coating. If you use vanilla, you'll end up with a muddy mess, albeit, a tasty muddy mess. Also, apparently, adding food coloring to vanilla bark makes it seize up and get clumpy! Just follow the directions and don't try to get creative!

Bodaciously Wicked Truffles

1 package Oreo cookies
1 8-oz brick cream cheese, softened
1 lb chocolate bark

Take 9 oreos out of the package, grind them up in a food processor, and set aside. Grind the remaining oreos up, add the cream cheese, and process until you have a dark, tar-like goo. Chill until fairly firm. I put mine in the fridge for an hour, but you could also stick it in the freezer for 15 minutes. Scoop out about a Tablespoon of oreo filling, roll it into a ball, and place it on a cookie sheet lined with waxed paper. Repeat until all of your filling is gone. Return to freezer for another 15 minutes. Meanwhile, melt chocolate bark according to package directions. When oreo balls are firm, dip each one in melted chocolate bark, return to lined cookie sheet, and top with reserved oreo crumbs. The easiest way I've found to dunk the oreo balls in the chocolate bark is to throw one in, use a spoon to coat it on all sides, and then gently scoop it out (DON'T STAB IT!) with a fork. Allow to dry before eating. They actually taste best if you refrigerate them. Supposedly this recipe makes 40-50 oreo truffles, but I think I only got 30.
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