A Lot of Cupcakes

When you choose to take a service trip to Uganda, it costs a lot of money. Even if the program you are going to travel with keeps their costs low, flights and food are generally going to stay pretty expensive. For a college kid the price tag on a trans-Atlantic tip can be pretty frightening, however there are things that can be done to help lower the cost.
Luckily I have a generous church family that quickly step up and offer financial support (I love that my church values international missions) and through them I have nearly 80% of the funds that I need. Of course I don’t have a lot of spare change floating around, so I have had to come up with ideas on how to fundraise the rest of this money. What on earth could I make and sell that would be enjoyable for me to do and people would actually want to buy?

Oh yeah. CUPCAKES.

Now, I love to bake and cook, and at school I did not get a lot of opportunities to do so. That made it a little scary when someone asked me to make 50 cupcakes for a children’s party that would happen two days after I returned. I hadn’t made cupcakes in like four months, I didn’t have a reliable chocolate cupcake recipe, and I had to do all these cupcakes and frost them in one day, because the party was in the morning. What was I going to do?

Yeah, I was going to plan. I was going to pre-measure my ingredients, I was going to wash dishes as I went and keep the space decently clean. And that’s what I did.
Because I needed 20 cupcakes of both chocolate and vanilla I did two batches of each (both of the recipes make anywhere between 12 and 14 cupcakes), and since the order included 10 strawberry cupcakes, I did one batch of those.

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It did take nearly all day to get through all five batches and two batches of frosting. What helped me was the pre-measuring, really.

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And knowing ahead of time what the plan was going to be. I knew that I did not want to make another batch of frosting after I made the second one, and since it was vanilla (and I knew I had more than twice what I needed for the two dozen cupcakes on my table), I just added some cocoa powder to it and all of a sudden it was chocolate frosting. Imagine that.

Part of what saved me was that I was listening to the radio while I was working. I knew that talk radio would keep me from getting bored with the repetitive task at hand, and so I was able to stay focused and chug right along. I was chugging so hard along the tracks of the cupcake-making train that I forgot to take pictures after I made the vanilla cupcakes. Such is life.

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I still have about 20% of my funds to raise in the next few weeks that I am home, so I’ll be baking some more. At least this time I know how to handle a large order with out a freak out.

These are the links to the recipes that I used. I find these recipes very effective, I have them printed out and have made each of them multiple times:
Vanilla
Strawberry
Chocolate 

PS
You may be wondering what happened to the extra cupcakes that were left over from the batches that weren’t sold for the Christmas party, and I can tell you that they went to a good place. The bellies of some firemen. There was a fire in town the same day as the party and so I gave the rest to the duty crew that responded.

PPS
MERRY CHRISTMAS!!

Freyja had a little too much fun while helping decorate the tree.

Freyja had a little too much fun while helping decorate the tree.

Ice Cream for Breakfast

It’s summer, we can do that, right?!?

Wait, no? Well I did it anyways. Kind of. It’s more like peanut butter-chocolate banana custard.

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You can eat it for breakfast without feeling guilty. To start, you should cut up a banana and put the pieces in an airtight container, a baggie is okay too, and then freeze it for at least 12 hours.

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They’ll look a little frosty, but that’s okay, we want them nice and cold. Next you want to put the banana hunks into a food processor and give it a couple of pulses to start the blending process. but before you get too far, you want to add a nice heading spoonful of creamy peanut butter (if you only have chunky, that’s a bummer but it will work fine).

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And a couple of table spoons of an instant shake mix in a chocolate flavor, like Slim-Fast or Carnation. If you don’t have this, again it’s okay, chocolate milk mix will be fine, but you’ll be missing some of the extra vitamins. Then again, this is kind of ice cream for breakfast.

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Blend that baby until it reaches the consistency of soft-serve ice cream or until all the chunks are gone. Serve it immediately, before it melts away.

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It’s nice and cool for a hot summer morning, but at the same time it has some great nutrition to start the day. You could eat it with some granola on top and keep it pretty simple. Maybe you should have some ice cream for breakfast this week!

It’s a Cookie in a Skillet

There’s a craze in the fine country of ours. It’s a craze of wonderfully gooey and chocolaty goodness. It is a craze of skillet cookies topped with ice cream and eaten with a group of loved ones, normally at a restaurant and for a special occasion. People gather around a table and the server brings out a cast iron skillet of some sort with the cookie inside and a nice big ball of vanilla ice cream on top (it’s already starting to melt by this time, bless its soul). the cookie is still hot, but y’all cannot wait to scoop it up and shove it in your face because it’s that good.

I attempted this yesterday, and I would have to say that it turned out pretty darn wonderful. I had a wonderful day a State Large Group Festival, with four events that all went well, and so we had something to celebrate, but it was only the three of us and we needed to not consume a huge ten inch cookie, so I did something a little different that what was described above, but stay tuned and you’ll hear what that difference was.IMG_7258

To start, preheat your oven to that magic number of 350 and mix up a batch of cookies, THIS recipe does wonders.

Then, take your wonderful friend of a cast iron skillet and put a good layer of cookie dough down and squish it around to make sure that it’s even and not awkward.

Now pop it in the oven until it’s just barely golden brown on the top and take it out of the oven to cool. If you can’t eat it all at once, let it go just a smidgen longer and it will look like this.IMG_7259

Now let it cool for just a couple of moments and then slice it up, serve it with some ice cream and then cry because you have finally witnessed beauty for the first time in your life ever (I’m kidding, that was when you heard music, but still this is also a wonderful experience).IMG_7265

I would like to take this time to remind you that you are a wonderful person and should be celebrated, as is your mother. You could make this for her for next weekend, I’m sure she would love it. I know my mom enjoyed it.

Chocolate Cake

I think I have told you before, but I’ll tell you again anyway. I really have not had success in the past with baking cakes from scratch. I can handle cookies, quick breads (banana bread anyone?), and even pretzels, but not cakes. That all changed yesterday, though! And I am so happy that it did.

I have been craving all of the junk food, like crazy, so it’s not really surprising that I gave in and had to find a chocolate cake recipe to make to get my chocolate fix. I searched WordPress and found this post from Not Just Steak and Potatoes with the recipe that I ended up using, but she got the recipe from thepaperseed.com, and they found the original recipe in the Portland Monthly. What a journey. I’m so happy I found at least one of the versions, though. And I am certain I will be making it again.

Another exciting thing about this is that I inherited some pans from my grandparents this week, and got to put them to the test for the first time!

To start you need some flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt._MG_7003

Mix it all together in a LARGE mixing bowl, making sure that there aren’t any clumps in it (especially the cocoa powder). I didn’t have the right sized bowl at first, I almost had and issue._MG_7002

Then add some oil, buttermilk, _MG_7005three eggs, _MG_7008some hot coffee,_MG_7012 vanilla. Mix it using a hand held mixer, at least that’s what I did._MG_7013

It’ll be thin.

Grease your pans and put some parchment paper in the bottom, trimming it to make sure it fits (practice your scissor handling)._MG_7020

Carefully pour the batter into the pans, making sure not to fill them too full.

Depending on your pan depth, the batter may be too much for two 9 inch rounds, so I supplemented with a couple mini pans. You can use some cupcake tins or whatever you want. Just watch those carefully when you bake everything._MG_7024

The 9 inch pans with bake about 35 minutes at 350, but it may take a little longer or may even be shorter than that, but WATCH It!! the mini pans were done really quick, so I don’t have an actual time on those._MG_7032

Once they are done, let them cool and make the ganache to frost the.IMG_7055

Melt some chocolate chips and heavy whipping cream in a double boiler.IMG_7061 Whisking until it is smooth.IMG_7062

Let the ganache cool. And trim the cakes down so that they are even on the top.IMG_7063

Set one layer down, trimmed side up, and place some ganache on it, spreading it around all the way to the edge.IMG_7066

Then place the other layer onto the first, trimmed side down. Then do a crumb coat on the entire thing.IMG_7067

IMG_7074Let that set up for about twenty minutes and finish icing it. Yeah, I switch to a cutting board for personal reasons, but that’s okay, you don’t have to do that.IMG_7078

I added some sliced strawberries around the top and whipped cream in the middle with an awkward trio of strawberry slices.IMG_7079

It was fantastic though, it was so moist and so wonderful. IMG_7083It was fantastic (I know i already said that. But it’s worth repeating!). IMG_7084I’ll be making it again for my mother’s birthday in six months, it was that good. Make it for yourself. You. Will. Love. It.IMG_7085

Here are the specs (follow the order above for the process):

3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 1/2 cups sugar
1 tbsp + 1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (sifted)*
1 1/3 cups canola oil
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
3 large eggs
1 1/2 cups freshly brewed, extra-strong hot coffee*
1 tsp pure vanilla extract

24 oz. semisweet chocolate chips
1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream

Chocolate Chip Cookies, Really

A while back I made this post about chocolate chip cookies. For whatever reason we used mini chocolarte chips and the cookies ended up a bit flat. They just weren’t what they normally are.

I had a half day a few days back and stirred up a storm in the kitchen with cooking, so I added just another thing to the to-do list, and made a batch that turned out far more photogenic than the others. You can get the recipe here (like I said in the other post, it’s not some secret recipe, the whole world is allowed to use it).

It’s just a single batch.

I am just taking this chance to remind you that it’s okay to do double batches, but be careful, it’s easier to mess them up when you are trying to make a double batch. That’s probably what happened with the other cookies.

Anyway, this is how they should look, beautiful and perfect. Now go make some, you deserve it!

My Caramel Apple Fell Apart

I didn’t make All Sate yesterday, it wasn’t a surprise, but I still wanted to do my best. It seemed to be a good experience, I mean I pushed myself to do something that was not at all required of me. However, doing an audition like that is pretty tiring, it’s short, but I had to get up early and it takes a lot of focus to stay calm enough to play like normal. It’s honestly a relief to be over with the preparation, though. Marching band is done as well, so now I have a lot more time to do the other things that I haven’t been able to do this fall, especially attempting to make different things to write about here.

I was thinking about what comes to mind when I think about fall treats and, other than pumpkin goodies, apples seemed to continue to come to mind. I didn’t want to have to do any crazy baking this weekend, so I went on an internet hunt for some ideas of what to do with some apples.

I went to some of the blogs I have been following for some inspiration, and the first one  I decided to head to was Iowa Girl Eats (I really like her blog, because she is from Iowa and so it’s relatable, but also if she buys something at Hy-Vee there is a really good chance that I’ll be able to find it at the one near me.) and I found this recipe right away.

I cheated, I went out and bought the chocolate and caramel, and not even the stuff that you have to put effort into melting. I bought a dipping chocolate, that you stick in the microwave for less than a minute, and a dipping caramel that didn’t even have to be heated up. The peanuts weren’t chopped, so we did them ourselves. That wasn’t hard.

I sliced the apple by hand, I didn’t cheat and use one of the weird wheel cutters. That’s for sissies. Actually, they won’t cut them thin enough and it would defeat the purpose to get a knife out and slice them thinner, just do it right the first time.

You lay the apples on a plate in a pretty pattern, so that they will all get a bit of the topping. Start with the chocolate, that way you can stick it in the fridge to set up, and it gives you a little time to chop the nuts if you didn’t buy them chopped. After you pull them out out of the fridge, drizzle or dollop the caramel on top and add the peanuts.

We didn’t use any Snickers, we had all the components on the apples already, that would have just been excessive. Also, I forgot to put the apples in the fridge before the caramel went down, so I put them into the freezer. The chocolate got really hard…

They were so yummy. I had a bit of a sweet tooth yesterday, it was really good. It was like a caramel apple that had fallen apart.

Disregard Dinner; Acquire S’mores

Sometimes, life throws you marshmallows, graham crackers, and chocolate. Most of the time, it doesn’t, but sometimes the opportunity arises and making s’mores is just the best possible thing.

Nights like these, where less than a week ago you could wear shorts and a t-shirt but now you have to wear long pants and a jacket, are the best. They are the right kind of nights to stand around a grill and roast marshmallows while chatting with your friends.

These friends don’t have to be your best friends, they can be the ones that you see only a couple of times a month, the ones that you know because of some obscure activity that you are involved with so you have something cool for college resumes.

The night and the s’mores, they both contribute the the mood. The mood is something odd, it’s chill and relaxed, but it’s cold out, so you’re still focused on what’s really happening.

I’ve had s’mores out of this setting, I’ve made them over a toaster (obviously be careful  about dropping them into the toaster, we don’t need house fires), I’ve had them in a restaurant and made them myself over a mini fire, and I’ve even attempted to make them in a microwave.

The treat, the warm, gooey, chocolaty thing called a s’more, is something magical. It can change the way your day is going, it can put you in a good place to start the week, it can help you become better friends with people.

S’mores are magical. There is no other way to put it. They are even worth missing dinner for.

Unless you have ever choked on a s’more, you probably don’t have any sort of bad memories surrounding them. In fact, you probably have fantastic memories of camp or bonfires with people you love.

They bring joy, they share happiness. They just made my night, so if you have any sort of sadness in your life, go eat a s’more, and see where that takes you.