Posts Tagged 'party'

So Totally Creative: A Lion King Skit + South African Fruit Pizza


We had this thing for work. It was a wine and cheese tasting event, and each department had a theme. I’d like to say it was this cookie cake that won us the ‘Most Creative’ award, but actually, it was likely the giant, homemade elephant that poured wine out of its trunk and the artful rendition of the christening of Simba that did it. I mean, it was complete with theme music.

It was kind of difficult to come up with truly South African things with which to theme our table. I mean, do you know anything that defines South Africa? Besides the innumerable spoiled princesses who live there vacationing off their diamond-mining fortunes (a fact I know because of five years of Alias storylines, no doubt). So we resorted to a Lion King skit (the most authentically African thing Americans know about) + a cookie pizza decorated with the South African flag.

Here’s the thing: If you’re going to make a South African flag, you might as well make it in the form of a classic Midwestern dessert. I mean, why not? The “fruit pizza” is an old classic in these parts due to its simple preparation and delicious consumption. It is highly transportable and a cinch to do for a crowd, so it shows up at grad parties and potlucks more often than Lil’ Smokies.

Here’s the procedure:



Slice up ya dough and press it into the bottom of a lined 9 x 13″ pan. Bake according to package directions. I didn’t even make my own sugar cookie dough. Woops. Nope, actually I feel fine about that.



Whip up your cream cheese with some sugar. This is the reason this dessert is so heart-stealing. Spread this on the cooled cookie just prior to serving.




Then, fruitify. You can use any fruit you want, and I would . Berries work nicely, kiwis add color. For some reason, I feel like people only use kiwis on this dessert. Where else do you see people use them? Maybe they do in South Africa.


May you be the winner of every creativity contest you enter into with every unoriginal idea you’ve ever had. This is dramatic. Go forth and enjoy!


Midwest Fruit Pizza

A word of mouth classic

1 16.5 ounce roll of refrigerated sugar cookie dough (though you could make your own, or use a box mix too)

8 ounces cream cheese, softened

1/4 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

assorted fruit (berries, mandarin oranges, kiwi, etc.)

Line a 9×13″ pan or a 12″ pizza pan with parchment paper. Slice up the sugar cookie dough, and press it into the pan, covering the bottom with an even layer of dough. Bake according to package directions, something like 11-13 minutes at 350 degrees F. Let cool.

While the cookie layer bakes, beat the cream cheese, sugar and vanilla together until well-blended. Spread the cream cheese over the cooled cookie layer and top with the desired fruit just before serving.

Pipe Dream #170: To Be Meant – Chai Tea Cakes

chai cakes 4
I like to make things that people like to eat. OBV statement of the century, but seriously, I’m always looking to entice people with something that they would really like. So when people suggest recipes to me, I’m all about it. My dad has figured out that suggesting recipes to me is practically a love language, so I will get random texts at work from him, like, “Pls make this for me? I’ll get the ingreds 4 u if you want,” and then he’ll link to a blog.
But sometimes, he just thinks of ideas on his own, which was the case with these cakes. The text in this case said, “If u are looking for a recipe idea for this weekend, I would like some kind of little cakes infused with chai tea or at least chai spices with a vanilla glaze.” Which I interpreted as Chai Tea Cupcakes.
Funnily enough, that same week, I received a message from a long lost friend that she was coming home for Christmas and wanted to bake with me. She suggested Chai Tea Cake! So I figured it was meant to happen, had a couple of friends over for a baking party like in the old days, and we had a grand old time.
chai cakes 6
The recipe I used was from the same book that this cake and this cake came from. It is a nice cake recipe, but if you make it, you might want to stick to layer cake form, as it was pretty delicate. This was especially bad because I didn’t line half of my muffin tins, because I am unindustrious and silly. I also overfilled the liners, and I knew it, so you see the picture above? Don’t do that when you make these.
chai cakes 1
Everyone decorated their own, a delightful thing to do at baking parties. Bust out the sprinks.
chai cakes 2
And the arils. Sew pritty.
chai cakes 3
Perhaps the best part of all the mistakes I made in this recipe was that I knew about all of them as I was making them and didn’t care. I meant to make them, and these cupcakes were meant to be made. There is a lot of meant-ing going on in this paragraph. I’m going to sleep now.
Chai Tea Cakes
2/3 cups of milk
3 chai tea bags, without added sweetener, such as Tazo
2 whole eggs
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 and 1/3 cups cake flour
1 cup sugar
2 and 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1.2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter at room temperature
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 12-cup muffin tin with cupcake liners.
In a microwave-safe bowl or measuring cup, heat the milk in the microwave until super hot. Add the tea bags, and let steep for at least 5 minutes. Remove the teabags and squeeze out the milk. Let the Chai milk cool completely.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, egg yolks, vanilla, and 1/3 cup of the Chai milk.
Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, cardamom, and salt in the bowl of a mixer. Beat on low for 30 seconds. Add the butter and the remaining chai milk, on medium-low speed.
Raise the speed to medium and beat until light and fluffy. Add the egg mixture in 3 additions on low, scraping dow. the bowl  between additions. Beat until just combined. Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin tin, filling each about 2/3 full. Don’t overfill! You will probably have a bit of extra batter.
Bake the cakes for about 18 minutes, or until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean. Allow the cakes to cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely. Frost as desired.
Honey Vanilla Frosting
8 ounces butter, room temperature
4 cups powdered sugar
pinch salt
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 tablespoons milk
Beat butter at high speed in the bowl of a stand mixer until light and fluffy, about five minutes. Add the powdered sugar, one cup at a time, on low speed until blended. Add honey, vanilla, salt and milk. Beat on high speed for another 5 minutes, scraping down the bowl at the halfway point. If the frosting is too thick, add some more milk or honey.

Pipe Dream #130: To Savor a Rich Evening – Bumble Berry Napoleons

This dessert came to me at a well-timed moment. It was one of those rare, glowing summer evenings.

Picture it! It’s a balmy July dusk; the sun is nearly below the horizon. You’ve just had a meal full of grill marks and witty conversation. You’re not wearing any blue clothing, so there are no mosquitoes pestering you (double bonus). As you pour yourself a glass of sweet red wine by the fire, a delightful concoction of flaky pastry, jumbled berries and creamy filling is presented. The flavors and textures contrast and meld together in a  creamy symphony of flavor, fulfilling all of your wildest dreams about how life should be.

It was ideal. But because nights like these are few and far between, I do my utmost to appreciate them to the full.

Thus, this dessert has stuck with me. This is the reincarnated version of the dessert my mum made a few years ago. Frozen puff pastry makes it easy-schmeasy. Because we were feeding a crowd, we cut the pastry into 12 parts, rather than six. It went further, and really, it was a better portion size than the original recipe suggests, I think. Unless you are feeding tha men. Size at your discretion. We also used cream cheese this time around, because I was too lazy to run to the store and get mascarpone. It was still, great, but hey, if you wanna be cheesy and elegant, you go for it, man.

P.S. I hope I haven’t been overwhelming you with berries. I mean, there was The Trifle, not to mention the various lessons in fake frugality I have been obligated to share, all of which include berries, fresh or otherwise. I think this speaks to the fact that I have been somewhat overwhelmed with berries this summer. Not that I’m complaining. These bright bulbs of goodness are in season, after all.

Enjoy these Havana nightttts,


Bumble Berry Napoleons

Adapted from Rachael Ray Magazine

1 sheet  frozen puff pastry, thawed and cut into 6 equal rectangles (or 12)
1 pint strawberries, hulled and sliced
2 cups fresh blueberries
2 cups fresh raspberries
1/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
3 tablespoons ruby port
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup (4 ounces) Mascarpone cheese (or cream cheese)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees . Arrange the puff pastry on a baking sheet and bake until golden, about 15 minutes. Let cool on a rack for 5 minutes; split each piece into 2 layers.
In a large bowl, combine the berries. In a large, nonreactive skillet, combine 3 cups berries, 1/4 cup sugar, the lemon juice and port over medium heat. Bring to a simmer and cook until thickened, about 8 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and refrigerate until cool.
Using an electric mixer, beat the heavy cream, mascarpone, vanilla and the remaining 3 tablespoons sugar until stiff, about 2 minutes. Fold in 3/4 cup berry compote.
Spread the remaining berry compote on the pastry bottoms. Top them with some berry cream, the remaining fresh berries and the pastry tops. Dollop with the remaining berry cream before serving.

Pipe Dream #129: To Psychiatrize Yeast – Brioche Hamburger Buns

My mum has this thing about yeast. They’re not friends. I mean, they’ve had a few interactions over the years, but it’s always been at arms’ length, really, and it hasn’t always been the most positive of experiences. I’m just an outside observer, so I don’t know all the emotional ins-and-outs and finger-pointing that has gone on, but I don’t really get it.

Since the day I made a brioche at age 12, we’ve gotten along fine. There have only been a couple of instances where yeast has flaked on me, but it was probably just a passive aggressive reaction to me putting the heat on. It takes two to tango, they say.

As it happens, my mother is a pretty competitive person, especially when it comes to burgers. She learned how to make them in the Old Country, er, Canada. When the neighbors announced that they were having a burger competition, she jumped at the chance to show off her skills.

But what to pair with a beautiful BLT turkey burger with homemade ranch? Heaven knows she wasn’t going to buy your average white hamburger buns from Cub, not with me in the house. So after wheedling her way into my affections (Our conversation: “Hey Lo, wanna make some hamburger buns for me?” “Sure!”), I became an enabler once more. That is, I enabled her to produce an outstanding burger while also enabling her to avoid her yeast pseudo-friend once again.

I’m calling it baby steps. Someday she will see that yeast is all right. It is not as high maintenance as she makes it out to be. Until then, you should make these. They are really tasty.

I’m being repressed,


Light Brioche Burger Buns

Adapted from Comme Ça restaurant in Los Angeles, via the New York Times via smitten kitchen

Makes 8 4 to 5-inch burger buns

3 tablespoons warm milk
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
2 1/2 tablespoons sugar
2 large eggs
3 cups bread flour
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
Sesame seeds, dried thyme, poppy seeds or sea salt, for garnish

1. In a glass measuring cup, combine one cup warm water, the milk, yeast and sugar. Let stand until foamy, about five minutes. Meanwhile, beat one egg.

2. In a large bowl, whisk flours with salt. Add butter and rub into flour between your fingers, making crumbs. Using a dough scraper, stir in yeast mixture and beaten egg until a dough forms. Scrape dough onto a floured surface and knead, scooping dough up, slapping it on counter and turning it, until smooth and elastic, 8 to 10 minutes. The dough will be sticky, but that is a good thing. Don’t want tough buns.

3. Shape dough into a ball and return it to bowl. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, one to two hours.

4. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Using dough scraper, divide dough into 8 equal parts. Gently roll each into a ball and arrange two to three inches apart on baking sheet. Cover loosely with a piece of plastic wrap lightly coated in nonstick spray and let buns rise in a warm place for one to two hours. (I needed about one hour, but I let it go a bit longer.)

5. Set a large shallow pan of water on oven floor. Preheat oven to 400 degrees with rack in center. Beat remaining egg with one tablespoon water and brush some on top of buns. Sprinkle with chosen garnish (I liked the thyme best), if using. Bake, turning sheet halfway through baking, until tops are golden brown, about 15 minutes. Transfer to a rack to cool completely.

Pipe Dream #128: To Care About Trifling Details – Gluten Free Berry Trifle

In college I had a few friends who were gluten intolerant, and I know it was the worst not being able to eat the carbs that everyone else did. It was a bit shocking to put myself in their shoes. I could never eat a cupcake again, and since probably 1/3 of my nutrition in college came directly from baked goods made with wheat flour, I would probably have died, not because I wasn’t eating enough, but because killing my sugar addiction would have killed me. Probably.

Since that time, I have been really careful about including gluten-free recipes in my repertoire. It gives me more joy to feed gluten-intolerant people because I know that they are really getting a treat and they know that I care about them. Not everyone remembers to provide a gluten-free option, and many gluten-free recipes are highly average. Not that awareness of the issue in the past few years hasn’t increased the standard of gluten-free baked goods. It definitely has. But still, when you find a gluten free pound cake recipe as good as this one, you’ve gotta share it.

And trust me. This pound cake recipe is a good one. I may never make a regular pound cake again. the edges were delightfully crisp, but not dry. In fact, the thing didn’t dry out, even when the leftover slices sat in the sun for two days.

However, the real reason for making this cake was not so we could all eat cake, bright opportunity though it may be. No, the real reason was so that I could make this berry trifle which had been floating around in my brain. I wanted cake, but gluten-free. I wanted cream cheese, but not frosting. I wanted fresh fruit, not chocolate (wait, what?).

Enter easiest, most impressive party dessert of the century. Pretty, delicious and functional. Functional meaning it stood up to the 100 degree heat. Serious prop-age.

And since I was going for the trifling details on this one, I figured I would dress to match. Why the heck not?

For more gluten free recipes, you can check out my gluten-free dark chocolate cherry cupcakes, or the host of meringues that infest this site.

Infesting in the best,


Gluten-Free Berry Trifle

For the pound cake:

Check out gluten free easily for the recipe.

A couple of additional notes:

-My flour blend was six parts Asian rice flour to 2 parts potato starch to 1 part tapioca starch. You can use whatever blend your heart desires. There are a lot of premixed ones that will work just fine.

-gluten free easily suggests using coconut milk, but I just used whole milk, so you just go ahead and use whatever you want.

For the whipped filling:

8 ounces cream cheese

2 cups (16 ounces) heavy whipping cream

8 tablespoons powdered sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla

Beat eight ounces of cream cheese until soft and workable. Add two cups of heavy whipping cream (I think I may have added a bit more than that), and beat until soft peaks form. Add two teaspoons vanilla extract and eight tablespoons of powdered sugar, and beat until stiff peaks form.

To make the trifle:

berry liqueur (I used some raspberry liqueur we had lying around)

berries (I used strawberries and blueberries)

Brush pound cake with berry liqueur and dice into 1 inch cubes. Wash berries. Slice strawberries vertically.

Cover the bottom of the trifle dish with a layer of the cream mixture. Add a single layer of pound cake cubes, followed by about 1/4 of the cream mixture. Add a layer of berries. Repeat these steps, continuing to layer with different berries, until the trifle dish is filled. Top with remaining cream mixture and decorate with berries.

Chill trifle for at least three hours before serving. It should last up to two days in the fridge before it begins to break down, but I didn’t test this theory, so if it breaks down, I’m really, really sorry. You can complain to me in the comments.

Pipe Dream #127: To Survive Recital – Vanilla Mango Cake

I think probably over 50 percent of American kids take music lessons. Completely made up statistic, but when you live with a piano teacher, you get skewed perceptions of the musical world. Anyway, I’ve found that a common experience among kids my age is “The Recital,” a dreaded cacophony of sweaty children who may or may not have been practicing the minimum amount so that they would scrape by with their gold star. That is, I they practiced enough to earn a candy bar every month, but not quite enough to approach The Recital with complete confidence that they wouldn’t freeze halfway through their piece.

As the scheduled start time approaches, the chosen sanctuary/gymnasium/Dunn Bros (yes, I once witnessed a guitar teacher’s 15 kids give a group recital in a crowded coffee shop–not pretty) fills with anxious eyes and Easter Sunday outfits. The crowd is hushed, tense with anticipation. The only sound to be heard is the careful flip, flip, flip of sweat-stained sheet music (unless you’re at my mom’s recital, in which case, you can hear me and my friends giggling and scraping away at some Haydn quartet from the front).

Once the music begins, however, the tension eases somewhat. Cameras start clicking; toddlers start fidgeting; the coffee beans start grinding. Besides the dreadful silence as the kid who completely biffs it all walks off the stage, there is a general feeling of resigned-ness. Like, “Well, at least I wasn’t as bad as that guy,” or “I survived. Until next year then.”

This was the basic idea of this cake. The after-party is always the best part of any recital. People are overly happy because their worst nightmares have been nullified in about 60 minutes. My mum usually gets a cake from a local store, but I thought I could make a cheaper/better one. I used a fabulous vanilla cake recipe topped with a no fail swiss buttercream. What you haven’t seen before is the mango curd I used to fill the cake. I had some random frozen mango puree to use up, so I put it to task. I found the curd itself to be a little runny. Heaven knows why, though. Probably curd is supposed to be that consistency and/or I just messed it up somehow. :] Ah well. It tasted like nectar.

Relishing the discord,


Mango Curd
Adapted from smitten kitchen

Makes 1 to 1.5 cups

1 15-ounce ripe mango, peeled, pitted, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/3 cup sugar
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice (I used key lime juice, expired)
Pinch of salt
4 large egg yolks
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

Puree mango, sugar, lime juice and salt in processor, scraping down sides of work bowl occasionally. Add yolks; puree 15 seconds longer. Strain through sieve set over large metal bowl, pressing on solids with back of spatula to release as much puree as possible. Discard solids in sieve.

Set metal bowl over saucepan of simmering water (do not allow bottom of bowl to touch water); whisk puree until thickened and thermometer registers 170°F., about 10 minutes. Remove from over water. Whisk in butter 1 piece at a time. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

I Got It Right (For Once): Summer Wedding Edition

I figured I should kick off August right. And what better way to seize the day than to post a wedding post? It is summer, after all. I did another cake for a friend’s wedding. And this wedding was pretty over-the-top for a number of reasons.

1) The couple is sweet awesome. (And when I say ‘sweet awesome,’ I mean that they are sweet in both senses of the word and that they love Jesus like whoa.)

2) They had a rad dance party. I mean, it was really something; even the mix was great. After weeks of planning this cake, I really let loose on the dance floor. (And when I say ‘let loose,’ I mean that I may have broken a sweat as I was breakin’ it down. But it was a really hot day too, so.)

3) The cake actually turned out so well. This is not even me bragging. I was astounded, given the number of mishaps I have had in the past. Like the time I flipped a whole box of cupcakes cruising down 94. Or that other time I drove two hours with a tiered and frosted cake. (Why, why did I think that would work?)

This time,  not a single thing went wrong. It was the best cake I have ever made. Ever. It was super moist. The frosting didn’t melt off. The portion sizes were perfect. I drove 50 minutes with all the cakes in a car that essentially has no shocks. (But it does get 50 miles to the gallon on average. Not that it helped me.) I was amazed. And after that, I had a really good time and was glad.

Kicking off August right,


P.S. Big big thank you to the girls who helped me cut the cake and to the staff that served it. You were all darlings.

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