Frozen Birthday Cake

Frozen…the movie that literally every mom knows.  In fact, I bet every mom knows every single word to the song “Let It Go.”  Backwards.  Maybe even in Chinese.  I’ve gone as far as getting the sheet music and downloading background music to play it on my flute.  The things we do for our children.

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Our daughter turned 5, and she’s been talking about her Frozen birthday cake and party for the last several months, so I knew it had to be something good.

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“Frozen” is a frozen buttercream transfer.  The snowflakes are made out of fondant, a variety of different shades of blue and cut out with a snowflake cutter.  I rolled out the fondant and cut the snowflakes out several days before putting the cake together so the snowflakes could harden.  I watched this video to learn how to do a frozen buttercream transfer.

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The 5 is made out of chocolate using a chocolate mold.  The “ice” is made out of hard candy (see recipe below), and the cake toppers were purchased from Amazon.  In all honesty, you can use any figurines you please for placing items on a cake for decoration, just make sure they’re nice and clean before placing them on the cake.  Nobody wants cooties.

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The cake was a 10 inch 4 layer white almond cake with buttercream icing…and I’ll have to say it was a big hit.  There’s nothing like having a Frozen birthday pool party in August.

Hard Candy Recipe

3/4 cup white sugar

1 1/2 cups corn syrup

1 cup water

1 tablespoon extract (or candy flavoring)

food coloring (takes very little, 1 drop of sky blue recommended for this)

In a medium sauce pan, combine sugar, corn syrup and water, cook on medium heat, stirring until sugar is dissolved.  Turn heat to high, do not stir, and wait until mixture reaches between 300-310 degrees.  Candy thermometer (digital thermometer is fine) is a must for this.  When mixture reaches desired temperature, remove from heat and stir in flavoring and coloring.  Spray a cookie sheet with butter spray, spread candy mixture out into a thin layer.  Let set to cool and harden, break into shards and place on cake.

Brownie Truffle Pie

Flipping through recipe books when you’re hungry is like begging someone to hold a chocolate bar in front of your face while dieting.  It’s cruel and unusual punishment, yet I find myself doing this on a regular basis.  Too many times I’ve slammed the book shut and fussed at myself for the self-inflicted torture.  Sometimes I wonder if that’s the real dessert in the pictures though, because it looks like an oasis in a desert since I want to eat the page itself.

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The picture of this particular dessert took up an entire page, and I stared at it.  My daughter comes up and says, “Mommy, I want you to make THAT!”  Yes, kiddo, me too.

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I made a few modifications on this to make it a little easier, but the result was out of this world.  The pirouettes are more of a fancy garnish, adding a “wow” factor to the presentation…along with added deliciousness.  This is a rich, velvety dessert with a moist and creamy texture, so even a small slice goes a long way.  Excuse me while I slip into a chocolate coma.

Brownie Truffle Pie

1 box brownie mix (plus eggs, oil and water for baking directions)

3 cups semisweet chocolate chips

1 cup heavy cream

4 tablespoons butter

1 tablespoon vanilla

2 tablespoons coffee liquor (use cooled coffee if you’d prefer not to use liquor)

4 oz. frozen whipped topping, thawed

14-16 Pirouette cookies, cut into 1 1/2 inch pieces

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line 8 inch round baking pan with foil, spray with cooking spray.  Mix brownie batter together, spread in pan.  Bake for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean.  Cool on a wire rack.

In a microwave safe bowl, combine heavy cream and butter.  Microwave on high for 1-1 1/2 minutes or until butter is melted and mixture is boiling, stir until smooth.  Add cream mixture to chocolate and whisk until chocolate melts.  Stir in vanilla and coffee liquor.

Set aside 1/4 cup chocolate mixture for garnish.  Transfer remaining chocolate mixture to a large bowl.  Place brownie on serving plate.  Spread half of the remaining chocolate mixture over brownie layer, spreading evenly over the top.  Stir in whipped topping with chocolate mixture until well combined.  Spread over chocolate layer, also around the sides.  Gently press cookies into side of dessert.  Pipe reserved chocolate mixture on top.  Refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight.  Remove from fridge 5 minutes before cutting.

**Spreading the top layer is easier if the ganache layer is already set….to do so, place brownie and ganache layer in refrigerator for 20-30 minutes for layer to harden before spreading mousse layer on top.**

Caramel Trail Mix Bars

When I’m on the go and hungry, trail mix is usually my favorite snack.  It’s the perfect combination of protein, fat and carbs, yet it also contains that wonderful sweet and salty taste that curbs cravings, and it holds me over for a couple hours.  We have a big jar of it sitting on the counter that tends to get smaller and smaller, yet sometimes I get in denial when realizing it’s me who is the only person eating it.

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I like the combination so much that it had to be made into something more…like a bar with added caramel and chocolate.  Let’s keep the nutritional value but add a lot more deliciousness to it, shall we?

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Nilla Wafers are a snack that I could eat all by themselves (or even better when smothered with peanut butter), so I loved the idea of making it into a crust.  The chocolate ganache melting into the crunchy sweet caramel and finished with the buttery vanilla crust is sure to satisfy all of your taste buds with one bite…but the research is more thorough with a bunch of bites.  It’s all about conducting accurate research.

Caramel Trail Mix Bars

2 cups Nilla wafers crumbs

4 tablespoons butter, melted

20 soft caramel candies

16 Rolos

1/2 cup heavy cream

1/2 cup caramel sauce (caramel ice cream topping)

2 1/2 cups trail mix (or 1/2 cup of each: cashews, almonds, peanuts, M&M’s and raisins)

1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Combine crumbs with melted butter, tossing until well combined.  Line a square 10 inch pan with foil, coat with cooking spray.  Press crumbs evenly into pan to form crust, bake for 8-10 minutes.  In a small saucepan, combine caramel candies, Rolos, 1/4 cup heavy cream, and caramel sauce.  Cook on low, stirring occasionally until melted.  Remove saucepan from heat, stir in trail mix and stir until combined, spoon evenly on top of crust.  In a microwave safe container, heat remaining heavy cream until just boiling, about 1 minute.  Pour over chocolate chips in bowl, whisk together until chocolate is melted.  Spoon evenly over caramel mixture.  Set in refrigerator for at least one hour.  Remove by pulling out the foil, cut into squares.  Store in airtight container at room temperature.

Peach Cobbler Ice Cream Cake

The first time I saw the original version of this cake, it was in a magazine.  It was a gorgeous, elaborate cake with fresh peaches, ice cream, pound cake and whipped cream.  It seemed like such a perfect summer treat.  Who doesn’t want ice cream cake on a regular basis, but especially during the summer?

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After going over all the ingredients and process of the recipe, I decided to revise it to make it easier.  Pureeing a can of peach pie filling is much faster, especially when little ones could be tugging at your clothes wanting yet another snack…because the first 5 things they ate weren’t enough.

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Combining the graham cracker mixture with the peach puree gave it more texture, and the added crunch in the cake just added a little more appeal to it.  It was such an incredibly creamy blend of the peach flavor with the softened ice cream, with that added crunch and the pound cake with whipped cream.  My mom was disappointed that we didn’t pack it up in the car the next day and bring it with us to the beach, but I honestly can’t think of how it would have survived a 3 hour trip.

Peach Cobbler Ice Cream Cake

1 peach, cut into 1/4 inch slices (optional for garnish)

1 can peach pie filling

1 sleeve graham crackers

1/2 cup chopped pecans

4 tablespoons butter, melted

2 tablespoons brown sugar

3 pints vanilla (or peach) ice cream, softened

cooking spray

1 box pound cake mix (plus ingredients to make cake)

8 oz. frozen whipped topping, thawed

Bake the pound cake according to directions on the box in two 9 inch round cake pans.  Cool in pans on cooling rack for 10-15 minutes, turn cakes out on cooling rack to cool completely.  Puree the peach pie filling in a blender, transfer to a bowl and freeze until thick, about 1 hour.  Lightly crush graham crackers, place in a bowl.  Add melted butter, pecans, and brown sugar, toss to coat.  Spread on a cookie sheet and bake at 350 degrees for 5-7 minutes.  Coat a 9 inch springform pan with cooking spray and line the bottom and sides with plastic wrap, leaving a two inch overhang.  Place 1 cake in pan, then spread softened ice cream on top of cake into a smooth layer.  Sprinkle graham cracker and pecan mixture on top, reserve a small amount for garnish on top of cake.  Top evenly with the peach puree.  Place other cake layer on top, cover with plastic wrap and place in freezer to set at least 6 hours or overnight.  Uncover the cake and invert onto a plate, remove the springform ring and the plastic wrap.  Cover the top and sides with the whipped topping, top with sliced peaches and chopped pecans as a garnish.  Freeze until firm, about 1 hour.

Chocolate Chip Scones

It’s amazing how much peoples’ lives change after having kids.  For example, our movie selections.  Do you remember watching movies with adult humor without giving it a second thought?  Those days are gone…for now.  As a reward for good behavior, my daughter received the movie “High School Musical.”  She is hooked on movies with singing and dancing, and she even has her first celebrity crush on Zac Efron.  Who could blame her?

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During a scene in the movie, one of the guys on the basketball team confesses to have a passion for baking, which included scones.  It hit me.  “I’ve never made scones, let alone even tasted one before.”  My husband looked at me like I had crabs crawling out of my ears.  It was time to fix this problem.

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After making these, I became hooked.  Once the flood gates are opened, I might as well grab a life boat because the ideas start flowing like the Amazon River.  Yes, a river of fluffy, buttery scones drenched with chocolate ganache and vanilla glaze.  I can hardly wait to throw myself into that river of sweet goodness.

Chocolate Chip Scones

2 cups all purpose flour

1/2 cup sugar

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

8 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut up and very cold

1/2 cup mini chocolate chips

1/2 cup sour cream

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 large egg

Chocolate Glaze

1/2 cup powdered sugar

2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1-2 tablespoons milk (you determine desired consistency of glaze to drizzle on top)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  In a medium bowlwhisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Cut the butter into the flour mixture using a pastry tool; then use your fingers to continue to work in butter (mixture should resemble coarse meal), then toss in chocolate chips.  In a small bowl, whisk sour cream and egg until smooth.  Using a fork, stir sour cream mixture into flour mixture until large dough clumps form. Use your hands to press the dough against the bowl into a ball. (The dough will be sticky in places, and there may not seem to be enough liquid at first, but as you press, the dough will come together.)  Place on a lightly floured surface and pat into a 7- to 8-inch circle about 3/4-inch thick.  Use a sharp knife to cut into 8 triangles; place on a cookie sheet (preferably lined with parchment paper) or baking stone, about 1 inch apart. Bake until light golden, about 15 to 17 minutes. Cool for 5 minutes and serve warm or at room temperature.  In a small bowl, stir together powdered sugar, cocoa, vanilla and milk.  Drizzle over scones.  Store scones in airtight container at room temperature.

**If they have already cooled, pop one in the microwave for 15 seconds to add a little warmth…makes a big difference!**

White Chocolate Raspberry Cheesecake

Have you ever found yourself staring at the dessert menu in a restaurant, unable to decide on just one item?  It’s a true crisis at times, especially when you want to order everything you see, but clearly your waistline doesn’t agree.  Your best option is to go out to eat with several people who have a weak spot for desserts so you can all share one, or everyone get something different to sample each one.  Numerous times I’ve been out with people who claim they don’t want dessert, but as soon as it hits the table, they’ve eaten more than I have.  How does that happen?

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I was caught in this exact situation while looking over the dessert menu at a small restaurant in St. Petersburg that brings their desserts in from a bakery.  We ended up each getting our own dessert, rotating them around the table like it was a professional taste-testing event, nodding and making noises with each bite.  I couldn’t believe the amazing flavor of white chocolate with swirled raspberry filling throughout this cheesecake and an Oreo cookie crust.  We even took chunks out of my friend’s husband’s carrot cake that was so nicely packed in a to-go box.  Acting as damage control, we were preventing him from feeling guilty over eating such a large piece of cake.  Now that’s heartfelt consideration.

White Chocolate Raspberry Cheesecake (modified from allrecipes.com)

20 Oreo cookies

3 tablespoons butter, melted

10 oz. package frozen raspberries, thawed

2 tablespoons sugar

2 teaspoons cornstarch

1/2 cup water

2 cups white chocolate chips

1/2 cup heavy cream

3 (8 oz.) packages cream cheese, softened

1/2 cup sugar

3 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

frozen whipped topping, thawed (optional for serving)

In a food chopper or food processor, chop cookies into fine crumbs.  In a medium bowl, mix together cookie crumbs and melted butter. Press mixture into the bottom of a 9 inch springform pan.  In a small saucepan, combine raspberries, 2 tablespoons sugar, cornstarch, and water. Bring to boil, and continue boiling 5 minutes, or until sauce is thick. Strain sauce through a mesh strainer to remove seeds.  Preheat oven to 325 degrees. In a microwave safe bowl, heat cream just until boiling, pour over chocolate chips in a small bowl, stirring together until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth.  Let cool.  In a large bowl, mix together cream cheese and 1/2 cup sugar  with electric mixer until smooth. Beat in eggs one at a time. Blend in vanilla and melted white chocolate.

Pour half of batter over crust. Spoon 3 tablespoons raspberry sauce over batter. Pour remaining cheesecake batter into pan, and again spoon 3 tablespoons raspberry sauce over the top. Swirl batter with the tip of a knife to create a marbled effect.  Bake for 60-70 minutes, or until filling is set. Cool, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 8 hours before removing from pan. Serve with remaining raspberry sauce and whipped topping.  Store in refrigerator.

Boston Creme Mini Tarts

Have you ever been sucked into the bakery section of a grocery store?  When you go into a good one, it’s like being stuck in a black hole of desserts that you don’t want to escape from without at least a souvenir from your traumatic experience.  The mini tarts are included in some of these stores, and it’s the variety of colors that draw you in.  I tend to linger a little longer than I should, and always feel like it’s a trick question when someone behind the counter asks, “Can I help you?”  Ugh.  There is no help for me at this point, and I hate you for asking.  I’ll take a dozen, please.

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One day, I stumbled across some Boston Crème Mini Tarts.  A mini tart shell filled with vanilla pastry crème, topped with chocolate ganache and whipped topping.  The black hole suddenly got deeper and more violent.  I felt like I was swimming in a sea of vanilla pastry crème and chocolate ganache, eating my way out of it.  Don’t even bother throwing me a life jacket because I’d rather drown.  Unfortunately, they were made specifically for a private party that had ordered them as a specialty, and they weren’t sold in the store.  I wanted to punch the lady when she told me I couldn’t have them.  Fine then, I’ll just go home and make them myself…that’ll show her.  Although if that happens again, I should call Ronda Rousey for some help.

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There is a shortcut way of making these, but after I made a tart shell from scratch in culinary school, I was hooked on the buttery sweetness.  Even though it’s more time consuming and cuts into my Pinterest stalking, the taste is definitely worth the effort.  Sorry, Pinterest.  You lose.

**SHORTCUT RECIPE**

Not everyone wants or can take the time and effort to make mini tart shells from scratch, and I don’t blame them!  It is more time consuming…  But have no fear…  You can purchase pre-made mini tart shells!  You may have to do some research online to see what stores in your area sells them, or you can purchase them online and have them shipped to your house.  Bam.  Or, you can use mini phyllo shells, found in the freezer section of most grocery stores, just follow the baking instructions.  Just keep in mind that it’s MUCH cheaper to make the shells yourself…and tastier, too.

Imitation “Pastry Crème”

1 box instant vanilla pudding mix

1 cup milk

1 teaspoon vanilla

4 oz. frozen whipped topping (thawed)

Whisk together milk, vanilla and pudding mix, cover, set in refrigerator for 5 minutes.  Stir in whipped topping, store in refrigerator.

Chocolate Ganache

1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

3/4 cup heavy whipping cream

In a small saucepan, bring cream to a boil.  Pour over chocolate chips in bowl, whisk together until chocolate is melted.

Whipped Topping

Frozen Whipped Topping, thawed

Putting It All Together

Here’s the fun part (well, besides shoving these little bad boys into your mouth).  Using a pastry bag (or ziplock bag, or a spoon), pipe the pastry crème into the cooled tart shells.  Don’t pile it up too high though, you still gotta save room for that chocolate ganache.  It’s not Boston Crème without the chocolate ganache.  Don’t cheat yourself out of that.

**FROM SCRATCH RECIPE**

Sweet Tartlet Shell Recipe (modified from epicurious.com)

2 1/4 sticks cold unsalted butter

3 cups all purpose flour

3/4 cups confectioners’ sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

3 large egg yolks

6 tablespoons ice water

1 teaspoon vanilla

Cut butter into small chunks, place in a small mixing bowl and back in the refrigerator. In a large mixing bowl (or food processor), whisk together the flour, sugar and salt.  Add cold butter.  Using a pastry tool (or pulsing if in food processor),cut butter into flour mixture until it resembles a coarse meal. In a small bowl whisk together yolks, ice water, and vanilla until combined well and add to flour mixture, tossing with a fork or pulsing until incorporated. Form dough into a ball and divide into 2 pieces. Form each piece into a ball and flatten to form disks. Wrap each disk separately in plastic wrap, chill for at least 1 hour and up to 1 week.

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Form 1 dough disk into twenty-four 1-inch balls, keeping remaining disk wrapped and chilled. Press dough balls into bottoms and up sides of mini muffin pan (about 1 3/4 inches across top and 1 inch deep) using a tart press. Prick bottoms of shells with a wooden pick. Chill shells 15 minutes, or until firm. Bake shells in middle of oven 12 minutes, or until golden, and cool in cups on cooling racks.

Pastry Crème Recipe (modified from allrecipes.com)

2 cups milk

1/4 cup white sugar

2 egg yolks

1 egg

1/4 cup cornstarch

1/3 cup white sugar

2 tablespoons butter

1 teaspoon vanilla

In a small saucepan, stir together the milk and 1/2 cup sugar.  Bring to a boil over medium heat.  In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and egg.  Stir together the remaining sugar and cornstarch, then whisk them into the egg until smooth.  When the milk comes to a boil, drizzle 1/2 cup into the bowl in a thin stream while whisking constantly so that you do not cook the eggs.  Return the mixture to the saucepan, and slowly bring to a bowl, stirring constantly so the eggs don’t curdle or scorch on the bottom.  When the mixture comes to a boil and thickens, remove from the heat.  Stir in the butter and vanilla, mixing until the butter is completely blended in.  Pour into a heat-proof container and place a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface to prevent a skin from forming.  Refrigerate until chilled before using.

Chocolate Ganache Recipe

1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

3/4 cup heavy whipping cream

In a small saucepan, bring cream to a boil.  Pour over chocolate chips in bowl, whisk together until chocolate is melted.

Whipped Cream (modified from food.com)

1 cup heavy cream

2 tablespoons sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

In a large bowl, whip cream until stiff peaks are just about to form, using electric mixer.  Beat in vanilla and sugar until peaks form.  Make sure not to over-beat, cream will become lumpy.  People don’t like cellulite on their bodies, so they certainly won’t want it in their pastries.

Putting It All Together

Here’s the fun part (well, besides shoving these little bad boys into your mouth).  Using a pastry bag (or ziplock bag, or a spoon), pipe the pastry crème into the cooled tart shells.  Don’t pile it up too high though, you still gotta save room for that chocolate ganache.