dessert

nice cream, four ways

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I’ve got ice cream on the mind these days. The days are getting warmer, the local creameries are blowing up my Instagram feed, and Joe Biden is getting his own ice cream flavor at my alma mater this week!!! This (and, oh yea, also all the graduating smarty poos to whom Uncle Joe is speaking)(congrats, guys!) undoubtedly is cause for a celebratory cone!

However, in an effort to prevent myself from eating ice cream TOO often this summer, I’ve come up with some fun flavors for “nice cream,” which is a faux ice cream made with frozen bananas and milk as the base. It’s an imposter, for sure, but one that hits the spot when you want a frozen treat but can’t justify the calorie/sugar/fat bomb of real ice cream. I recommend stocking up on some batches of this lower-sugar, lower-fat version to satisfy those mid-week cravings, and saving the real stuff for the weekend :)

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nice cream

  • Servings: 3-4
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Ingredients:
2 small or 1 large banana, frozen
1/3-1/2 cup of milk or soymilk

Mix-ins:
Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip: 1 Tbsp peanut butter + 1/2 cup dark chocolate, roughly chopped
Matcha White Chocolate Pretzel: 2 Tbsp matcha powder + handful of white chocolate or yogurt covered pretzels
Orange Ginger Vanilla: 1/2 orange, peeled and cut into chunks + 1 tsp grated orange zest + 3 pieces crystallized ginger, roughly chopped + 1 tsp vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste. *For this flavor, I recommend decreasing the milk/soymilk to 1/4 cup or less, as the orange juice adds some extra liquid!
Blueberry Coconut Almond: 1/3 cup fresh blueberries + 1/4 cup coconut flakes + 1/4 cup sliced almonds

Directions:
1. Place frozen bananas and milk/soymilk in a food processor. Add peanut butter (for Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip) or matcha powder (for Match White Chocolate Pretzel). Puree until smooth.
2. Add additional mix-ins, and use “chop” feature on food processor to incorporate.
3. Place this completed nice cream into a container for storage in the freezer. If a “soft serve” consistency is desired, you can eat immediately!
4. Once frozen, you will need to let the nice cream thaw ~10-15 minutes on the counter before it is scoopable!

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raw almond joy bites

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Listen, you guys know that I love me a good slice of cake. I’m a firm believer that delicious food represents more than mere nourishment– it’s a means of provision and hospitality, a medium for creativity and skill, a backdrop for community and camaraderie, and it is one of the most universal sources of pleasure life has to offer.

But let’s talk facts. There are things we, as members of modern societies, eat regularly that need to be moved to the “eat occasionally” lists. I know you know that added sugar is one of those things. To give a little perspective– the American Heart Association recommends a daily intake of about 6 teaspoons a day of sugar (if you a lady) and about 9 teaspoons a day (if you a dude). The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines recommends that no more than 10% of your daily caloric intake comes from added sugars. An NPR article from 2016 has quoted that the average American takes in about 22 teaspoons of sugar daily- far above the recommended limit, no matter how you spin it. For some more stats and graphics on how we’re doing on our sugar consumption as a nation, go here (spoiler alert- we’re not doing well).

Why do we overeat sugar? The blame has been passed onto a lot of things, from individual factors such as evolutionary instinct and human response to stress, to the food environment which includes big food companies and even the “traditional” thinkings of health professionals and nutritionists (for shame!). Succinctly put, studies have affirmed the addictive nature of sugar and our instinctual drive to seek it out for energy, survival, and pleasure. On top of that, sugar sells, and food companies know this. The low-fat diet craze of the 1970’s and 80’s in the U.S. led to the replacement of fat with sugar as the major taste enhancer for “diet foods.” Now what we’ve got is a food landscape in which added sugar, often disguised on food packaging labels by one or more of its aliases (ever heard of high fructose corn syrup or maltodextrin?), has become a ubiquitous and an expected component.

Why is this a problem? Without going into too much biochemistry, when we eat more sugar than our body needs, an excess of the hormone insulin is produced; insulin acts to store sugar in the cells, including fat cells. Simple carbohydrates (think white, refined carbs) are digested and absorbed much quicker than a complex carb (think brown rice, quinoa, and other whole grains) and therefore lead to a faster rise and, subsequently, a faster crash of sugar in the blood. This leads to a roller coaster-like effect in which the body tells us to consume more food and more frequently. Over time, we end up with weight gain and a myriad of metabolic health issues like diabetes and heart disease.

What should we do about it? The simple answer is to eat less added sugar– something closer to the recommended limit of 10% of our daily calories, or 6-9 teaspoons per day. But we all know this is so much easier said than done, largely because many of the foods that are most convenient- and most appealing at times of stress, boredom and celebration- are processed foods high in added sugar. Knowing this, one practical way to reduce your daily sugar consumption is to stick as much as possible to a “real food,” or whole food, diet– one high in ingredients and foods that have had as little processing done to them as possible. This means whole grains, fresh (and as much as possible- local) fruits and vegetables, responsibly raised meat and animal products, raw or simply roasted nuts and seeds. You might find that, in an attempt to make fresh vegetables, legumes, whole grains, and meats taste good, you have to add things like condiments and dressings, which are common sources of hidden sugars. My professional recommendation? Make your own dressings and sauces! Home prepared foods are not only healthier and fresher, they also make eating so much more rewarding and satisfying. Worried about the sugar content in certain whole foods, like fruit? Well, the sugar in fruit does break down into the same components as those from sugar in, say, a candy bar. But with the fruit comes a whole host of other good nutrients- fiber, vitamins, minerals- which not only gives fruit more “bang for the buck,” but also helps to slow down its digestion and absorption into cells. Food in its natural state is designed for optimal breakdown in and nourishment to our bodies, guys. Is this not amazing???!?

My last little tidbit here is that I want to make clear that I have no interest in a completely sugar-free lifestyle. In fact, I would recommend against an overly strict avoidance of sweets for many reasons- one being that strict bans can often cause “rebounds” of overeating and bingeing. Also, I do believe that sweets eaten as treats for a special occasion are one way of simply enjoying life! If you’re going to eat a cookie, eat a damn good cookie– just don’t eat one every day! You should also know, my faithful readers, that I am preaching to myself here. We’re in this together, guys. There is a balance to be struck here, and I know that we can find it!

So here’s to taking back our health with a whole foods diet. I’ve made us some sweet little treats made with the most delicious of ingredients and no added sweeteners (trust me, the dates are so sweet that any added sweeteners would probably ruin these). These little guys are reminiscent of Lara bars, but they come packaged like cute little truffles. They are incredibly easy to make and serve as the perfect non-special occasion treat!

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raw almond joy bites

  • Servings: approximately 24
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Ingredients:
12-14 pitted dates
1 cup slivered almonds
1/2 cup cacao powder or cacao nibs (the nibs will give you a crunchier texture than the powder) + more cacao powder for dusting, if desired
1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut or coconut flakes (again, the difference is just in texture) + more shredded coconut for dusting, if desired
1-2 Tbsp unsweetened almond milk (I used Califia Farms‘ no-sugar-added toasted coconut flavor)
1/2 tsp almond extract, optional
1/2 tsp coconut extract, optional

Directions:
1. Pulse almonds, cacao nibs, and coconut flakes in a food processor until you get a coarse meal. *If using cacao powder and/or shredded coconut rather than the nibs/flakes, I would pulse the almonds alone first!
2. Add dates, and pulse until blended.
3. Add coconut milk and extracts, pulse until the mixture comes together and can be formed into shape.
4. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Roll out tablespoon-sized balls with your hands and place on the sheet. Roll the balls in cacao powder or shredded coconut.
5. Put the balls in a sealable container and refrigerate for at least an hour (you can eat them immediately, but I find that refrigerating leads to a more dense and satisfying texture!)

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lemon lavender mini bundt cakes + flower crown party!

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One year ago today, Britni- my good friend, dear roommate, and the floral genius behind Two Stems of Joy– told us about how a burst of purple from a flower arrangement she had put together for a work photoshoot had ignited in her a joy that led her to realize that, in her dreams and aspirations for life, there would be flowers.

Britni is one of the most dedicated and hardworking people I know, and it has been an inspiration and a huge honor to have seen her passions take root and start to bud. I have watched her thoughtfully and joyfully pour herself into every single set of arrangements she has done over the past year, whether it was flowers for an entire wedding (she’s done TWO all by herself in the past year!) or just a bouquet to give our dining room table a little extra sumthin’ sumthin’. My generally monochromatic life has gotten a healthy dose of color this past year, and I am certainly the better for it. How can you not be happy when a vase full of dahlias is staring you right in the face while you eat your morning yogurt??

The exciting thing is that this is just the beginning of the journey for Two Stems of Joy and for Britni’s pursuit of her floral dreams. I am incredibly proud to call this talented florist my friend, and think you should all hop on over to her site to see more pictures of our blogiversary celebration!!!! Britni made us these gorgeous flower crowns, I made some little lemon lavender cakes, and we problem-solved through afternoon lighting problems (aka so many shadows in our kitchen) to do a photo-shoot with our other roomie-friend, Megan! So fun!

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lemon lavender mini bundt cakes

  • Servings: 6
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Adapted from: I Bake He Shoots

Ingredients:
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup coconut sugar
1 1/2 cup all purpose flour
2 large eggs
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 1/4 tsp dried lavender
zest of 1 lemon
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice

For the glaze:
1 cup powdered sugar
2 tsp buttermilk
1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Spray a mini bundt pan (or a full-size bundt pan, if you plan on making one large cake) with cooking spray.
2. In a large bowl, mash the lemon zest with the back of a spoon into the sugar. Do this until the sugar is wet and fragrant. Cream the butter and lemon sugar until light and fluffy with a hand mixer or in a stand mixer. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, until incorporated.
3. In a measuring cup, combine the buttermilk, vanilla, and lemon juice.
4. In a medium/large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt. Then add the lavender and whisk to incorporate.
5. With the mixer on low for the bowl with the butter and sugar mixture, alternative adding the flour mixture and the buttermilk mixture, beginning and ending with the flour.
6. Pour the batter into the prepared pans and bake for approximately 30 minutes, or until a knife or toothpick inserted into the cakes comes out clean.
7. Remove from the oven and cool for about 10 minutes before carefully taking the cakes out and inverting them to cool on a wire rack. Cool completely before adding the glaze. Dust with powdered sugar at the end.

 

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coconut wedding cake (with chocolate ganache and coconut cream cheese buttercream)

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Wedding cake #2 is in the books, folks. This year’s project: an eight-layered, two-tiered coconutty beauty for a beautiful and only slightly nutty couple. Matt and Grace have been a part of my young adults group at church for a few years, and they are two of the most genuinely warm, selfless, passionate, and fun individuals I know. You can’t not be happy when you see either of them, honestly. Because Matt will give you a really big bear hug, and Grace will immediately start catching up with you and will sooner or later (but mostly sooner) burst into her signature “Grace laugh,” which is not only entertaining but also very very infectious. They are each amazing as individuals, and now they are a rockstar married couple! All the happiness, rolled into one giant bear hug. Congrats, Mr. and Mrs. Carey!!

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Another quick shout out to my roommate and good friend, Britni, of Two Stems of Joy, who did ALL OF THE FLOWERS for this wedding, on top of her bridesmaid duties. The flowers you see on the cake are just the tip of the iceberg of the work she did that day. Incredible. Well done, Brit!

*The recipe below is for a 2-layer 9-inch round cake. Scale up or down as needed!

coconut cake with chocolate ganache and coconut cream cheese buttercream

  • Servings: 8-10
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Coconut cake

Ingredients:
2 1/4 cup cake flour
1 cup room temperature milk (I used 2%)
6 egg whites, room temperature
1 tsp coconut extract
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp salt
4 tsp baking powder
3/4 stick of butter (unsalted)
6 Tbsp coconut oil

Directions:
1. Cut parchment paper into circles to line 2 9-inch cake pans. Grease parchment paper/bottom of pans and sides of pans.
2. In a medium bowl, mix milk, egg whites, and coconut and vanilla extracts.
3. Sift cake flour into the bowl of a stand mixer or into a large mixing bowl. Whisk in sugar, baking powder, and salt. Cut butter into cubes and add butter cubes + coconut oil to the bowl. Mix using stand mixer or electric hand mixer about 2 minutes until butter/oil is completely combined with flour mix.
4. Add the milk mixture and beat on medium speed until wet and dry ingredients are JUST combined.
5. Pour the batter evenly into the cake pans.
6. Bake at 350 degrees F for 25-27 minutes.
7. Cool cakes in the pans for 5 minutes, then turn out on plates and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Cool to room temperature before filling and frosting.

Chocolate Ganache

Ingredients:
2-4 ounces of good quality dark chocolate, chopped
2-4 ounces heavy cream

Directions:
1. Place chocolate and cream in a microwave safe bowl.
2. Microwave for 30 seconds, stir, then microwave another 30 seconds. Stir until smooth.
3. Cool completely until thickened.

Coconut cream cheese buttercream

Ingredients:
2 6oz packages of Neufchatel (low fat) cream cheese, room temperature
2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2-1 cup confectioner’s sugar
1-2 tsp coconut extract

Directions:
1. Mix cream cheese and butter with electric mixer (or in stand mixer) until completely smooth. This may take a while! Watch for little lumps of cream cheese; mix until the lumps are gone!
2. Add coconut extract and confectioner’s sugar, 1/4 cup at a time until desired sweetness is achieved.
3. Store in covered container in fridge.

Assembling Cake

1. Once cakes are cooled (ideally wrapped tightly in plastic wrap and chilled in freezer for easiest handling!), spread layer of buttercream on top of bottom layer, then spread layer of ganache on top of the buttercream.
2. Stack second cake layer on top. Spread thin layer of frosting over top and sides of cake, not worrying about crumbs getting mixed into the frosting. This is your “crumb coat.” Once crumb coat of frosting is applied, let frosting set by chilling cake in the fridge.
3. Once cake is chilled/crumb coat is set, add another layer of frosting. Design as desired!

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ginger pineapple carrot cake with cream cheese frosting

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Seems that there are some strong arguments out there for best, strongest, most beautiful mom in the world today. Let me make one for mine.

At first glance, Umma- a petite library technician who has a docile face and, no joke, got carded buying wine when she was in her forties- does not strike one as the formidable type. But behind those kind eyes and the sweet soprano voice is a force that has taken and continues to take her through a life that is not always so kind. She is a two-time survivor of cancer and a two-time survivor of the god-awful bratty/moody teenage daughter years (and, let’s be real, daughter brattiness/moodiness extends way beyond the teen years). An immigrant to the US, she’s worked her tail off in multiple jobs, learning new skills and making new friends everywhere life has taken her. I grew up watching her cook not only THE BEST Korean food but also the most beautiful and delicious cakes for church-members’ birthdays and other celebrations. She’s incredibly invested in community and relationships, and she has an unwavering faith in a good God that is childlike, yet so real, even in the hardest of times.

Umma always told my sister and I that everything, including vegetables and brown rice, would become sweet if we chewed long enough. This seemed to be particularly true of CARROTS, those unexciting little blocks of orange, lovingly cut into fun flower shapes to encourage consumption. Umma swore that carrots, when chewed diligently enough, were sweeter than candy. Granted, Umma has never been super into sweets (my sweet tooth comes from my dad’s side), so perhaps her standard of “candy” is different than that of others. Let’s strike a happy balance and put our carrots into a cake.

This is a no-sugar-added cake, recipe adapted from the fabulous Joanne Chang’s cookbook, Baking with Less Sugar. I got to take a baking class based on recipes from this book recently, and it was so much fun! I’m so excited to share this cake with my mom, the one who taught me to enjoy the natural sweetness of foods without need for a sugar coat. Love you, Umma! Thanks for inspiring me to chew diligently, extracting all the nourishment and sweetness out of food and life :)

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ginger pineapple carrot cake

  • Servings: 1 double layer 8-inch cake
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Adapted from Joanne Chang’s recipe

Ingredients:
1 cup currants
1 12-oz can frozen apple juice concentrate, thawed
1 8-oz can pineapple chunks, in their own juices
4 large eggs
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup milk
1 1/4 cups vegetable oil
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
2 1/4 cup all purpose flour
2 1/2 baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 kosher salt
1 Tbsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp ground ginger
1 1/2 tsp grated fresh ginger
1 cup tightly packed, peeled and shredded carrots
Toasted chopped walnuts, for topping

Directions:
1. Put the currants in a small bowl and pour hot water over to cover. Let sit for 30 minutes, then drain. Set aside.
2. In a medium saucepan, combine the apple juice and juice from the pineapple chunks. Chop the pineapple pieces into small pieces and set aside in a bowl. Bring the juices to a boil over medium-high heat, then decrease heat to medium-low and simmer for 25-30 minutes, or until the liquid reduces to 3/4 cup. It will thicken to a syrup consistency. Watch that it does not over-boil or burn; you may need to decrease the heat as it thickens. Once reduced, remove the liquid from heat (I poured it into a glass liquid measuring cup to ensure it had reduced down to 3/4 cup), and cool in the refrigerator until cool to the touch.
3. While the apple juice concentrate is cooling, stir together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, carrots, and raisins.
4. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and butter two 8-inch cake pans then line them with parchment paper. (For this post, I made a double layer 6-inch cake and a single layer 8-inch cake as “leftover”).
5. When apple juice concentrate is cooled, whisk together the concentrate, eggs, sour cream, milk, vegetable oil, vanilla, and reserved chopped pineapple chunks until well combined. Add the dry ingredient mixture and fold together with a rubber spatula until well combined.
6. Scrape the batter into the prepared pans, dividing equally. Bake for 35-45 minutes, or until the cakes are light brown (they won’t brown as much as a full-sugar cake) and spring back when you touch them. The cakes will not dome very much, if at all.
7. Remove the cakes from the oven and cool completely in the pans on a wire rack.
8. When totally cool, place one cake on a cake plate and spoon about 1 cup of cream cheese frosting (see recipe below) on top, spread the frosting evenly all the way to the edges of the cake. Place the second cake on top of the first cake and spoon about 1 cup of frosting on top. Spread frosting thinly to the edges and down the sides of the cake; this will serve as your “crumb coat” (keeps loose crumbs from showing up in the frosting on your finished cake). Refrigerate the cake for about 15 minutes to help set the crumb coat in place. After crumb coat has set, spoon another heaping cup of frosting on the cake and spread it evenly across the top and sides of the cake again. Top with toasted chopped walnuts, or any other desired toppings.
9. This cake can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for about 2 days. Remove the cake from the refrigerator about 2-3 hours before serving.

no-sugar-added cream cheese frosting

  • Servings: about 4 cups, frosts 1 double layer 8-inch cake
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Also adapted from Joanne Chang’s recipe

*Note: this frosting should be made at least 4 hours in advance of using. It can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Ingredients:
1 12-oz can frozen apple juice concentrate, thawed
8oz cream cheese, at room temperature
2 cups heavy cream
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/8 tsp kosher salt

Directions:
1. In a small saucepan, bring the apple juice concentrate to a boil; decrease the heat to medium-low and simmer for about 25-30 minutes, or until the juice reduces to 3/4 cup. It will thicken to a syrup consistency. Watch that it doesn’t over-boil or burn; you may need to decrease the heat as it reduces. Once reduced, remove from the heat (I poured it out into a liquid measuring cup to ensure that it had reduced to 3/4 cup; if it hasn’t, you can pour it back into the saucepan and continue simmering). Cool in the refrigerator until cool to the touch.
2. Using a stand or hand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the cream cheese and 1/2 cup of the reduced apple juice concentrate on medium speed until light and fluffy and until there are little to no cream cheese clumps. You can reserve the remaining apple juice concentrate for another use!
3. Slowly drizzle in the heavy cream and beat on medium speed until cream thickens and mixes with the cream cheese mixture. Add the cinnamon, vanilla, and salt, and mix until well combined.
4. Scrape the frosting into an airtight container and refrigerate at least 4 hours and up to 3 days. The frosting will need to firm up before use.

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Lemon Blackberry Yogurt Cake with Coconut Buttercream (and a Flower Crown!)

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“Think about yourself as a little seed planted in rich soil. All you have to do is stay there and trust that the soil contains everything you need to grow. This growth takes place when you do not feel it. Be quiet, acknowledge your powerlessness, and have faith that one day you will know how much you have received.” -Henri Nouwen, The Inner Voice of Love

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Spring’s here, guys. Do you know what that means?? It means longer days, more sun, shorter sleeves. It means lighter foods, fresher berries, more iced coffee. It means it’s been a year since I posted photos and recipes from this lemon ricotta pancake-filled morning and went live with Teaspoon of Ink. It means first glimmers of new life after the darkness (beautiful in its own right, though it is) of winter.

I don’t have much to say in reflection of Teaspoon of Ink’s first anniversary. I’m often mistaken in thinking that, as time goes by, I will automatically become a smarter person. In fact, as I reflect on the past year, I honestly feel more confused and have more questions about both blogging and life than I did a year ago. The thing is, I don’t feel like it’s regression. I think that, as much as it sucks, we need to be confused before we can really grow, and perhaps I have always settled for “getting by,” never letting myself face the deeper questions out of fear of not finding easy answers.  So here’s to another year of sticking it out through hard questions, knowing that seeds of truth are buried deep under the snow, and waiting for the springtime to come.

I’m excited to share these photos because Britni and I have once again joined forces for a collaboration of floury flowers/flowery flours (heh) and it was so much freakin fun and we both wish we could quit our day jobs so we could do this every day. Go to Britni’s blog for more flower goodness. Her post on this endeavor is coming soon, but in the meantime check out her other work! I mean, LOOK at that cascade of blooms. Girl is LEGIT.

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lemon blackberry yogurt cake

  • Servings: 1 3-layer 6
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Ingredients:
3 cups all purpose flour
1 cup plain yogurt
1 cup canola oil
1.5 cups coconut sugar
4 large eggs
4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
zest from 2 medium sized lemons
1/2 cup lemon juice
*Optional, for assembly: Handful of blackberries for filling/garnish

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease three 6″ cake pans
2. Sift flour, baking powder, and salt together with wire whisk in a medium bowl.
3. Whisk yogurt, sugar, and eggs together in large mixing bowl.
4. Add oil, lemon juice, and zest to large bowl with yogurt mixture. Whisk to form a frothy batter.
5. Fold the dry ingredients slowly into the wet ingredients with a wooden spoon. Mix until just incorporated into a smooth, lump-free batter.
6. Pour batter evenly into the prepared pans. Bake 30-35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into cakes comes out clean.
7. Cool cakes on a wire rack in the pans, then turn them out of pans onto rack to cool completely.
8. Optional: when assembling cake, smash blackberries with spoon and add to filling between layers.

coconut buttercream

  • Servings: coats 1 3-layer 6-inch naked cake
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Ingredients:
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
4oz fat free cream cheese, room temperature
1 tsp coconut extract
1-1.5 cups powdered sugar

Directions:
1. Mix butter and cream cheese with electric mixer until smooth and creamy.
2. Add coconut extract and powdered sugar, 1/4 cup at a time, until incorporated and at desired sweetness.
3. Store in air-tight container, refrigerated, for up to 1 week.

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wedding cake series part 2: assembly and decoration

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We’ve made it this far, friends. Our cakes have been baked, and our chocolate mousse filling and cream cheese frosting are chillin’ like villains in the fridge. (For recipes on these three components of the cake, see my previous post!). It’s 7am the morning of the wedding, and these babies are ready to be put together and made pretty!

In this post, I’ll give you a step-by-step for how the assembly/decoration process went down.

(Before the day-of) Freeze your cake layers, prep filling and frosting: First things first- preparation is extremely important for any big cake/food project. As I said, all of my components and tools were prepped and ready to go (mis en place, anyone?) so that I could enjoy putting the cake together without the stress of finding or making things as I went. So how did I store/transport all the cake layers, mousse, and frosting? Mousse and frosting were made the night before and stored in 2-gallon ziploc bags. The cake layers were baked, cooled, wrapped in 2-3 layers of cling wrap each, and frozen. (I made them 4 days before the wedding). To transport, I found the biggest box I could find, put some ice packs in the box, and drove them up to Vermont with the A/C on high the whole car ride (sorry, passengers).

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I would recommend taking your cake layers out of the freezer about 30-45 min before you’re ready to start, so they can thaw out a bit. On one of my test runs, I tried to level a cake layer while it was still rock solid frozen and ended up with my first ever kitchen knife wound (don’t worry, it was minor).

I placed all of the layers on cardboard cake circles, for ease of stacking later!

Level cake layers: If needed, use a big serrated knife to make cake layers level. Unfortunately I don’t have any good tricks on how to do this right now, other than eyeballing it…

Moisten cake layers: Handy trick for keeping the cake moist- dissolve 1-2 teaspoons of granulated sugar in about 1/2 cup of water, then use a pastry brush to brush the water over the cake.

Pipe filling on one half of the cake layers: As I mentioned, the mousse filling was stored in large ziploc bags. I simply cut a small hole in the corner of a bag and piped the mousse, as shown:

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After mousse filling has been piped onto one half of a tier, carefully stack the other half of the tier on top (I used my hands).

Crumb coat: A crumb coat is a preliminary coat of frosting whose purpose is to entrap all the crumbs that will come off the naked cake when you try to frost it. Frost the cake with a thin layer of frosting, then stick the cake in the fridge for about an hour. The crumb coat acts like a “sealant” for the cake, providing a smooth, crumb-free surface for frosting!

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Frosting: When the crumb coat is fairly solid, we are ready to frost! Use a frosting spreader to even spread the frosting over the tops and sides of the cake. I usually start with the top of the cake, smoothing it out as shown on one of my test cakes here:

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Then, spread frosting over the sides of the cake, going around in a smooth motion with the frosting spreader until you have an even layer all around. Smooth out the edges if they have overhangs of frosting, as needed.

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Stack the tiers: When making tiered cakes, it is important to consider structural integrity, so that the cake doesn’t collapse in on itself! (I had nightmares about this happening). I got plastic cake dowels from Michael’s- I assume you can get them in most stores that sell specialty baking equipment! Insert a plastic dowel into the cake, mark on the dowel where the top of the cake is, then take the dowel out and cut it where your mark is (I had to use a serrated knife to do this). For the bottom tier of the cake, I used five dowel pieces and for the second tier, I used four, as shown:

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Now, to stack, use your hands or two big sturdy spatulas to carefully place each tier on top of the other! Don’t worry about the gap between the tiers for now- we will fix that with frosting!

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Decorate!: Once the cake tiers are stacked, fill in the gaps between the tiers with frosting and touch up with whatever decorative frosting you desire! As I mentioned (and as you can see), I went for a textured look, achieved by simply spreading more frosting in an abstract-painter kind of way all over the cake sides. I then used some pretty flowers for garnish and added my cake topper to finish it all off!

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Whew! We made it. Assembly and decoration took me a good five hours; I went back to the house I was staying at with the bridesmaids, took a power nap, put on clothes that didn’t have frosting on them, and then went to enjoy a seriously beautiful wedding! Here are some bonus pictures from the venue in Chittendon, Vermont. Note- these pictures are completely unfiltered/unedited. God is just that good of an artiste.

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Congrats again, August and Christina!!!!

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