TARDIS cake – happy 50th!

Let me preface this by saying that I have the coolest roommates ever.

Phillips, being the perfect person she is, threw a Doctor Who 50th Anniversary viewing shindig, in which all guests dressed up and came over for Doctor Who-themed snacks like Adipose marshmallows…

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…and, of course, to actually watch the new episode and collectively freak out.

Kaitlyn, being the perfect person she is, used her artistic powers for good and turned our door into a TARDIS.

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What? It’s bigger on the inside, you say?

Why, yes, it is.

Sam, being the perfect person she is, sat through several episodes and a crash-course powerpoint presentation (courtesy of Phillips) so that she wouldn’t be lost during the party, and even dressed up as Sally Sparrow.

Sadly, I don’t have a photo of this.

My contribution for the night was a TARDIS cake, inspired by this wonderful tutorial by the Artisan Cake Company.

The results (with a borrowed sonic screwdriver):

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Ooooooh.

Of course, I’m terribly nitpicky, so it kills me to compare my cake to the tutorial. I’m already looking for an excuse to make another one and perfect the design. Probably a bad idea, considering how long this one took me, but I’m not going to think about that.

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This cake was…quite an ordeal. It began on Friday night with the cake itself, the frosting, and the modeling chocolate. The frosting started out as a Swiss meringue buttercream, but I evidently haven’t mastered that yet, because it quickly turned into a regular buttercream. Thankfully, nobody I know is opposed to regular ol’ buttercream. 😉

The cake–well–it was definitely the easiest part of the whole process. I used my go-to chocolate cake recipe from foodess. It’s darker than most chocolate cakes without being overwhelmingly rich, it’s moist, and it has a soft crumble that’s hard to stop eating.

The modeling chocolate, made using this video’s recipe (also referenced by the tutorial), turned out way greasier than the instructions suggested it would. I ended up draining the excess water/grease as I mixed the corn syrup and melted chocolate. I was a little nervous that it would turn the chocolate into a crumbly mess (as threatened by the video), but after sitting wrapped up overnight, it was just as perfectly malleable as I’d hoped. Phew.

Which prompts me to say: if you’re using Wilton candy melts, you’re going to end up with alarming amounts of liquid as you’re mixing. Don’t panic. Drain the excess, wrap the chocolate in plastic wrap, and go to sleep. It’ll be fine. Really.

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There are few situations I could’ve imagined in which I’d be molding a cake using a paring knife. This is what happens when there’s no way you can get your hands on an exacto knife.

Several layers of modeling chocolate later, I had a vaguely shaped blue box. Hooray!

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Windows, decals, and a lot of coaxing later, I had turned my blue box into a TARDIS-shaped blue box. Double hooray! 🙂

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In the interest of keeping this cake as cheap as possible–and actually finishing it in time for the party, which was a struggle as it was–I passed on the white fondant and the intricate painting of windows, using leftover buttercream and a bit of black gel food coloring to finish the decorations.

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I also used a tiny balled up piece of aluminum foil instead of an actual floral light.

I’m a college student; what am I supposed to do with an entire pack of floral lights?

Topped that with leftover modeling chocolate painted black, and I had a “light” for my TARDIS.

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At some point during this process, I switched from apron-clad apartment baker to a femme eleventh Doctor putting the finishing touches on her precious ship.

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The suspenders and blazer showed up later.

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All in all, definitely a successful project. It was painful finally cutting into the cake–but also beyond worth it when everyone actually got to enjoy it.

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The support straws got sliced in the process and looked rather silly.

Also dang, look at those slabs of modeling chocolate. I didn’t even realize how much frosting and chocolate had been layered on there until I cut the thing open.

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Overall: 10/10, would definitely try something this out there again. Too much fun!

For progress photos & many more detail shots, head over to my flickr. Most of these are courtesy of Kaitlyn, who is responsible for the majority of the party documentation.

Thank you, Kaitlyn!

Next time, we’ll return to our regularly scheduled programming that includes far less time-consuming recipes.

To my UChicago friends: happy 10th week! And to all, happy December! Let the season of peppermint and huge sweaters begin 🙂 x

vegan key lime pie [blogilates]

As the weeks fly by and my blog continues to be neglected, I realize more and more that I am probably doing too many things for my own good. For those of you still reading: thanks for sticking around. I’ll figure this out eventually.

On to pie!

Well…sort of.

With the holidays coming up quickly, my favorite food sites have been flooded with fall spices, apple crumble, and pecan and pumpkin pies. But while my stomach says hot damn yes, my jeans say NO, and I find myself looking for healthy alternatives to eating a different kind of pie every week.

Enter the vegan key lime pie, courtesy of Cassey Ho at Blogilates. While it looks like pie and feels like pie, it doesn’t quite taste like pie–but it is still absolutely delicious, and good for satisfying a sweet tooth.

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The wonderful part: this deceptive “pie” is made from wholesome ingredients that will actually make it good for your health to be eating a slice. What?! I know. There’s also no actual baking involved–just a freezer.

The less wonderful part: the prep requires a food processor. If you’re like me, that means digging around on the top shelves of cabinets and sorting through all the kitchen appliances your mom owns but doesn’t actually use. Which then leads to extra cleanup. This dish also doesn’t keep for very long, and some people will be incredibly disappointed at the lack of actual pie. But we don’t need to worry about those people.

The ingredient list is short and simple: avocados, dates, walnuts, limes, and sugar. You can add tapioca flour, but that’s not something I have handy, so I ground two tablespoons of rolled oats instead. (Feel free to omit the flour altogether, though.)

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After soaking the dates in water for an hour, blend them with the walnuts to make the pie crust.

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Slice up your avocados and throw them into a food processor with the sugar and (optional) oats/tapioca, blend it all, and pour it over your crust.

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Garnish with coconut flakes, lime slices, and whole walnuts–and you’re done! Just pop it into the freezer until it’s firm.

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My family and I worked our way through this pretty quickly. I felt no guilt whatsoever. 😉

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Avocados aren’t in season anymore, but let me know if you find some good ones and try this recipe out!

And to anyone who is less than thrilled about a healthy vegan dessert: fear not. Butter, sugar, and chocolate will return soon.

Happy Sunday! 🙂

snickerdoodle muffins [tasty kitchen]

…aaaaaaand I’m back!

To those of you still reading: thank you for sticking around through the past few months of sporadic posts–and utter lack of posts. This is an experiment and a learning experience for me, and as it turns out, I’m terrible at updating regularly when I don’t have a structured schedule for the rest of my life. In other words, summer completely whacked out my posting schedule.

But now I’m back at school! And things can go back to normal again: weekly updates, lots of photos, and cupcake orders! Yes, I am back in business, and very happy to be so. I’m hoping that this quarter will mean some serious growth for tlc–assuming I can handle it on top of school. Eep.

Alright, enough chatter. On to the main attraction: these muffins.

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Cinnamon sugar, melt-in-your-mouth, cookie muffins.

Do you hear that?

Cookie muffins.

That is literally what these are.
And with the sheer amount of butter and sugary goodness in these muffins, how could they be anything less than delicious?

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As the weather gets cooler–though it’s debatable whether or not it’s actually cooling down in Chicago–I find it too easy to fall in love with the cinnamon and spice craze that seems to sweep up everyone when sweater weather rolls around.

Perhaps this has something to do with the fact that half of my wardrobe was made for autumn. I am not ashamed.

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I first made these in high school for an English class breakfast, and I’ve made them probably a half dozen times since. The most recent iteration was for a visit to my best friend. There’s something about snickerdoodles that tastes like childhood and home.

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I also get a silly amount of joy from dolloping sticky balls of vanilla batter into a bowl full of cinnamon sugar and rolling them around.

Warning: you will want to lick your fingers afterward.

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The base is actually just a simple, buttery vanilla muffin that I imagine would also make a wonderful fruity muffin, like blueberry. And as if the cup of butter weren’t enough, there’s also a cup of sour cream to make every bite rich and moist.

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Bright, warm colors, spicy and sweet cinnamon, and thick vanilla flavor will have you finding excuses to eat these muffins for breakfast, as a snack, and as dessert.

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If you’re confused, there’s a great step-by-step photo series here, also on Tasty Kitchen. You’re less than 30 minutes away from snickerdoodle happiness. Don’t let anything get in your way.

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For the record, I probably ate four of these snickerdoodle muffins in the two days before I left for Chicago. And they are nowhere close to the healthy streak I had going for a while over the summer.

Oh, well.

As I was saying earlier, yes, I’m open to cupcake orders once again! I’m still settling in and waiting on some supplies, so I may ask you to be a little flexible with your delivery dates, but oh man, I will be so happy to be baking regularly again. I got all these new baking toys and I am so excited to use them, you don’t even know.

And to all you new Crownies (or really anyone else) who wound up here after my speech 15-second rant tonight, heyhihello! Check out my old posts, order some cupcakes, knock on my door and ask me things–and tell your friends if you like what you see!

As always, comments/questions/cute animal photos are welcomed! See you next week 🙂

earl grey & poppy seed muffins

Let’s talk about tea.

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I’m a tea girl, through and through. Coffee is delicious, but its real time and place are at 11 pm in the library when I still have 7 pages of a paper left to write before class the next morning.

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Tea, on the other hand, comes in so many enticing varieties that it can be consumed at any time and for any occasion: English breakfast with a morning omelette, an iced berry tea to toast a warm afternoon, mango green tea for post-workout hydration, lavender or chamomile at night, and even something crazy like red velvet cake tea for dessert. Give me a time of day, and I can find you a cup of tea for it. (Unfortunately, this also makes me a bit of a tea snob. Forgive me, please. We all have our thing.)

Of course, if we’re sitting down with a steaming mug for a moment of peace, we might as well make an event out of it, snacks and all. And what better to pair with a cuppa than a piping hot Earl Grey & poppy seed muffin?

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This is one of those recipes I just keep coming back to, again and again, whenever the craving strikes me. They’re quick, easy to make in small batches, and perfect for breakfast or a snack, even on the go. Earl Grey is a pretty subtle flavor to begin with, so when I first made these muffins, I was worried that the tea flavor wouldn’t come out. As it turns out, I had absolutely no reason for concern. With no vanilla or other strong flavors to fight it, the milk-steeped Earl Grey peppered with poppy seeds is apparent in every bite. Steph over at raspberri cupcakes, if you’re reading this, you’re a genius with this flavoring.

And while we’re at it, I’d like to direct all of my readers to her blog, which is home to not only some fantastic recipes, but also some of the most aesthetically pleasing food photography ever. Everything is dainty and perfect and if you find yourself spending even a little bit of your life perusing food photos on Pinterest, you will enjoy her blog.

Now back to the muffins.

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You start very simply with all of your dry ingredients in a bowl. (Don’t you love that contrast?)

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Then steep some Earl Grey tea in milk. I halved the recipe this time, so I only used 2 tea bags and a 1/2 cup of milk. One day, when I actually have plain Earl Grey in the house, I’ll try making these with looseleaf. Or maybe with a different flavor of tea. Let me know if you’re experimenting and come up with any cool combinations! 🙂

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Add the tea, melted butter, and eggs to the dry ingredients. Mix away! I didn’t have to pull out my blender or even a second bowl. Everyone’s happy if we can avoid cluttering the sink.

This time, I also went with Steph’s cute idea of using parchment squares instead of paper liners. I definitely struggled a bit before getting the hang of fitting the paper in–what’s that they say about fitting a square into a circle?–but I think they still came out alright. Parchment is cheaper than using paper liners, looks fancier, and actually peels off the muffin more cleanly after baking. I might do this for all my muffins from now on, and save the shiny and colorful liners for cupcakes. 😉

While the tray was in the oven, I brewed my tea.

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Since the original recipe suggests apricot jam for the muffins, I like to pair them with the Alice in Wonderland Mad Tea Party Blend, a ginger-peach-apricot black tea that I picked up in Disneyworld last summer. (If you’re interested, you can find most of the Unbirthday Tea flavors on Amazon.) Any black/red tea would probably taste fantastic–especially more Earl Grey!

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Serve them hot and fresh, and you’ll never be disappointed. They’re soft and buttery and will just melt in your mouth, releasing all that great, milky tea flavor. 😀

For a long time, my problem with these muffins was the way that they would crumble after sitting out for a day. Even zapping them in the microwave wouldn’t help. As it turns out, the issue was not with the recipe but with how I was measuring my flour.

Heed this warning, friends: Measure your flour using the spoon and level method! This means that instead of scooping flour out of a container using the measuring cup, grab a spoon and use that to scoop flour from the bag to the measuring cup. Don’t shake the measuring cup! When it’s full, use a knife (or the other end of the spoon, or any level surface like that) to brush off the excess flour. This will give you a much more accurate measurement than scooping. My muffins were moist on days 2 and 3, and after a quick burst in the microwave, they were almost as good as the first day.

Honestly, this is why we should all use gram measurements for our dry ingredients. So many poor cookies and cupcakes and muffins would be saved a sad, dried-out fate. Alas, I have no kitchen scale either, so the spoon and level route is the best alternative.

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Regardless of flour issues, these muffins are undoubtedly the best when hot out of the oven. So treat them like scones: make small batches, make them often, and serve them fresh! 🙂
If you want some added stickiness and flavor, slather one with a fruity jam, like apricot, peach, or strawberry-rhubarb.

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These have been my snack for like three days now. I can’t help it.

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Even my dad enjoyed one with his staple third cup of tea for the day. 😀

Let me know if you’re a tea person, what kind of teas you like, if you enjoyed these muffins, if you want more healthy recipes like I’d been doing this month–any and all things!

Happy almost-Friday!

healthy banana berry crepes [blogilates]

I warned you guys about this health kick.

I’m super psyched about today’s recipe! I love brunch foods because 90% of the time, they can double as desserts. Crepes definitely fall firmly into the brunch/dessert category for me–especially if we’re talking about Nutella-and-fruit-stuffed crepes. Unfortunately, no human body can sustain itself on chocolatey crepes forever, so I turn to a less deadly alternative.

I’ve made these several times already, and they’re just so quick, and easy, and most importantly delicious. Yes, these banana berry crepes courtesy of Blogilates are my current favorite way to switch up breakfast with something fun–and a little bit fancy. 😉

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The ingredients are simple. All you need for the crepes themselves are rolled oats, milk (dairy or non-dairy), one egg, half a ripe banana, and some ground cinnamon.

Yes, I am aware that my cinnamon is not ground despite what the bottle says. My blender works really well at times like this. 😛

Feel free to fill the crepes with whatever you like. The original recipe calls for half a banana and a few strawberries, all sliced up. I decided to grab some Greek yogurt and a few raspberries that I froze earlier last week. (By the way, super handy way to take advantage of the awesome in-season berries: buy in bulk, wash and freeze, enjoy for ages.)

Blend the oats and cinnamon to form a fine flour, add the wet ingredients, blend once again, and heat up your pan!

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I made four medium-sized crepes, simply because they’re easier to flip than the large ones. But y’all do whatever floats your boat. I let my crepes brown far more than a French chef would find acceptable, but I like that slight crisp with the softer underside.

I definitely could’ve eaten these plain, but they taste better with a little extra moisture. If that means a healthy slathering of Nutella to you, by all means, go for it! I stuck with some honey Greek yogurt and the raspberries since I was going for a healthy breakfast. You can also just drizzle plain honey over them, or opt for whipped cream, blueberries, a layer of melted peanut butter inside, perhaps some butterscotch–anything you can think of.

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I felt like I was being so decadent with breakfast, but the whole process honestly takes under 15 minutes. And with minimal cleanup, too!

Which left me with plenty of time to sit down with this lovely plate and many, many reruns of The Office

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Such a pleasant morning. 🙂

Anyway, that’s all for today, folks! See you next week!

oatmeal & peanut butter cookies [jen-fit’s playground]

Today, I give you something…different. Something this blog has yet to see, yet something that is going to appear more and more often, especially over the summer.

Today, I give you something…healthy.

(Gasp! -cue threatening music-)

Okay, okay, all kidding aside: I tried a healthy cookie recipe! The original recipe comes from Jen-Fit’s Playground and is for oatmeal and peanut butter ricotta cookies. I went with a modification somewhere in between her original and Cassey Ho’s version on Blogilates.

Let me warn you up front: these have neither the texture nor the flavor of a standard cookie. If that’s what you’re looking for, just go eat a cookie. Seriously. It won’t kill you. But if what you’re looking for is a sweet, flavorful, healthy snack, this is a solid recipe.

So here’s how it happened:

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Well that looks deceptively unappetizing.

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Like breakfast, except it’s becoming COOKIES.

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Oatmeal & Peanut Butter Cookies
Adapted from Jen-Fit’s Playground and Blogilates
Makes 5 cookies

Ingredients
1/4 cup old-fashioned oats
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 cup low-fat cottage cheese
1 T peanut butter
1 egg white
3-4 pitted dates
a dash of cinnamon

Instructions

+Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease or line a small baking tray with parchment paper.
+Blend together cottage cheese, peanut butter, egg white, dates, and cinnamon. Chop the dates if your blender doesn’t break them up. Chunks are fine.
+Mix in oats and baking powder.
+Spoon 5 cookies onto prepared baking sheet.
+Bake for 12-15 minutes, or until firm and the tops begin browning.
+Cookies will keep for a few days in an air-tight container, but they’re best when eaten fresh.

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Ta-da! They have an interesting glossy finish to them. To be honest, I don’t know how Cassey and Jen got their cookies looking the way they did. I think next time, I’ll just mix with a fork like Jen recommends, to keep the texture.

Cassey…you just work magic in a kitchen, I’ll tell you that.

Also, use all-natural peanut butter like Jen says. Just do it. It’ll taste so much better. I wish I’d had some handy.

Anyway, they tasted pretty good, and I definitely didn’t feel bad eating them!

More healthy recipes are in your future–but I promise I’ll test them out a couple times before posting them! Don’t worry 🙂

Happy almost-4th-of-July!