This past Father’s Day my daughter decided that she wanted to make something fun for dessert for her dad– and since she’s recently been obsessed with “food impostors,” we thought it would great to make cupcakes that looked like cheeseburgers– mini cheeseburger sliders, of course, since full-sized ones would be a bit too much for even my husband’s sweet tooth to handle!
We decided to keep things simple and use box mixes as our base ingredients– a box of french vanilla cake mix, and a box of fudge brownie mix (though to avoid having a gigantic plateful of cupcakes we only used half of the cake mix).
Given my love for fancy, multi-component desserts, it’s not surprising that someone gifted me a silicone mold perfect for making mirror-glazed mousse cakes. What’s surprising is that the mold has been sitting in my cabinet for months without ever having been used!
With all this extra time at home lately, I decided that it was time to take the plunge. Since we’re coming up on strawberry season I figured that I could use them as my base flavor, and when I found myself with a half-drunk bottle of prosecco I knew that I had a winning combination. After that it was just a matter of browsing recipes online to find components that I thought would work well together.
So what we have here is a strawberry-champagne mousse, encasing layers of white chocolate panna cotta, strawberry gelée, and genoise cake. It’s all topped off with a mirror glaze. The panna cotta turned out a bit bland on its own, but the mousse was delicious– the champagne flavor really came through– and the gelée was nice and fruity, providing a good contrast. While I was initially dubious about the sponge cake (it was a bit tough the first day), it softened up well and I’ve come to realize that a sturdy cake is necessary to keep its shape in a moisture-heavy dessert like this.
These adorable teacakes are one of the results of my foray into lilac/sugar recipes. They’re tiny vanilla/lemon cupcakes frosted with a glaze made from powdered sugar and lilac syrup, topped with candied lilac blossoms! So springy!
I will note, though, that my first attempt (involving pulverizing lilac blossoms into the sugar before using it in the batter) didn’t turn out all that well– honestly, I think the lilac flavor needs something to play off of to avoid tasting like soap. So I tweaked things a bit, and here’s an improved version:
It’s spring, and that means lilacs are in bloom! We’re lucky enough to have a bush in our backyard, and when the sweet scent started wafting through the air I knew I had to make something to take advantage of it!
It started so innocently– I had a branch of lilac blossoms and thought it would be nice to sugar them. It took a while to individually pluck and dip them in syrup, then in sugar, but they looked so pretty and tasted lovely!
Then I thought that it might be nice to use the leftover sugar syrup for something, but I thought of it too late– which made me think of lilac-flavored syrup, so I made a batch of that as well.
I love miniature versions of things, especially desserts. So when I decided one morning to whip up some sweet treats for a playdate, and saw that I had a whole bunch of mini chocolate chips (as opposed to regular-sized chocolate chips), I knew exactly what I wanted to make: bite-sized chocolate chip cookies!
Since I was a bit short on time I knew that I wouldn’t be able to soften butter to room temperature, so I found a recipe using melted butter instead. To keep things simple I mixed up the dough by hand rather than using any kind of mixer. The resulting dough was a bit too soft, so I popped the bowl into the freezer for 10 minutes to firm it up a bit (smearing the dough up the sides of the metal bowl to give it maximum surface area to chill).
The other day I was talking with my daughter about s’mores (she’d wanted to make them out of marshmallow peeps), when I mentioned that we could make our own marshmallows at home. She was immediately interested– it had never occurred to her that they could be made at home! Accordingly, the day before Easter we got out the gelatin and sugar and set to work.
The process was unsurprisingly sticky, made slightly more complicated by the fact that we made two different colors and tried (tried!) to swirl them together, but they turned out well– sweet, fluffy, and perfectly delicious when floated in a cup of hot chocolate. In my opinion, homemade marshmallows far surpass storebought– they’re fluffier and less dry/sticky in the mouth, and taste “fresher” than marshmallows that have been sitting in a bag for weeks.
With the warmer weather I’ve been craving ice cream– it can be tough to find it in stores these days, but who needs store-bought ice cream? I figured I’d make it no-churn to avoid having to sit through half an hour of the annoyingly loud noise of the ice cream machine. My standard recipe involves whipped cream and sweetened condensed milk, but I decided to liven it up with a big dollop of marmalade.
Of course, I never leave well enough alone, so I made some caramelized almonds to fold into the ice cream right before freezing. The almonds alone were amazing– so easy to make and addictively crunchy– and they added a nice layer of flavor to the bitter orange ice cream.
“Didn’t you already make peanut butter blondies?” you might ask. Why, yes… yes, I did. But I forgot about that until I’d already started melting the butter for these, and figured that you can never have too many peanut butter blondie recipes, so I proceeded on.
These blondies are slightly different from my previous recipe– you melt the butter and sugar instead of creaming it, there’s a bit less butter and sugar, and it doesn’t need the extra egg yolk. Plus there’s the added bonus of a peanut butter swirl right through the middle, which– come on– can only be a good thing!
I underbaked these, which made them very soft at room temperature but amazing when frozen, so I highly recommend that you do the same. And be generous with the sprinkling of salt on top– it really pops.
This cake (I call it my Un-Party Cake because I didn’t have a specific occasion to make it for) is the result of a bunch of different situations– first (of course), we’re stuck inside due to coronavirus, so grocery shopping isn’t as easy as it used to be.
Second, the other day I was making egg salad and realized that we were out of mayonnaise, so I made some from scratch (fun!). However, that left me with a bunch of extra mayo on hand that I had no immediate use for, and to keep it from going bad I decided to use it to make a cake. It had to be chocolate, because I’d used a touch of mustard in making the mayonnaise to help it emulsify, and I was worried that the flavor might come through in a vanilla cake.
Third, I had plenty of random stuff available to garnish this cake– half a can of chocolate frosting left in the refrigerator that I could use as the base for a larger batch, some seedless raspberry jam I wanted to use up (because I prefer the flavor of the seeded kind), and the dregs of various packages of cookies and candy that had been pushed to the back of our pantry over time. So we got to work.
Since we’ve been grocery shopping less often and trying to use pantry staples for meals lately, I’ve been eating more chickpeas. And what’s left when you use canned chickpeas in recipes? Chickpea brine– or, to use another term, aquafaba.
I’ve used aquafaba before to make macarons and they turned out well, so I thought I’d give it another try and make some meringues. However, since my chickpeas weren’t low-sodium (as is usually recommended for aquafaba recipes), I was wary of making a plain vanilla meringue recipe– I worried that the salt might come through too strongly. So instead I decided to add a few spoonfuls of raspberry Jell-o powder for flavor and color, figuring that the raspberry flavor would disguise any lingering salt.
The finished meringues were light and airy and delicious– they’re actually even more melt-in-your-mouth than meringues made with egg whites! Seriously, egg-white meringues still retain a slightly chewy quality at the very end as you crunch into them, but these literally just melt away on your tongue and disappear. The raspberry Jell-o came through nicely, and I can definitely see using other flavors in the future for a pastel rainbow of meringues. All in all, I like them!