Butterfly Birthday Cake


Claire's 4th Birthday Party 228We just got done celebrating another birthday – this time, with butterflies!

It’s about time, because I’ve been posting way too much green lately!

Honestly, when I first started working on this cake I was pumped.  I had tested cake recipes and decided on a winner, I baked the cake, wrapped it, froze it, and then. . .I started making the frosting.  Sigh.

The butter hit the warm meringue and shot three feet directly at me, over me, and under me.  And, I was supposed to be driving to school 5 minutes later to pick up a child for a doctor’s appointment.  That’s what I get for being impatient!

I was able changed my clothes, but I didn’t have time to wash the frosting out of my hair so I went with it.

That is my life.

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The birthday girl requested strawberry cake.  I haven’t made strawberry cake since a few birthdays ago, so (as I mentioned above) I had to do some recipe testing to make sure the strawberry cake was up to par.  This cake was my fourth attempt, and I knew the cake would be good because of all the testing, but I wasn’t sure how it would be put together with the filling and frosting.

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Well, let’s just say my nephew declared it “yummy awesome” and my husband requested it for his birthday.  So I think I can call it a sweet success!

Fresh Strawberry Buttermilk Cake Adapted from Family Circle and The Pastry Queen

3 cups cake flour

3/4 teaspoon baking soda

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

3/4 teaspoon Coarse Kosher salt

3 sticks butter, softened

2 1/3 cups sugar

3 large egg whites*

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 Tablespoons strawberry liqueur

1 1/2 cups buttermilk

2/3 cup rough chopped strawberries red parts only** (1 – 1 pound package)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Cut parchment circles for three 9 inch cake pans.  Set aside.

Whisk the cake flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in bowl – set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, beat the butter and sugar together for two minutes on medium speed.  Add the egg whites, vanilla, and strawberry liqueur and beat for 1 minute.

Scrape down the sides of the bowl.

Add 1/3 of the flour mixture.  Beat until almost combined and add 1/2 of the buttermilk and beat again.  Continue alternating the flour mixture and buttermilk – ending with the flour mixture.  Beat just until combined.  Add the rough chopped strawberries and beat just until incorporated.

Spray the pans with cooking spray and place the parchment in the center of each cake pan, and spray again.  Divide the batter between the pans, and bake for about 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cakes comes out clean.

Place cake pans on wire cooling racks for 10 minutes.  Then invert cakes onto plastic wrap (yes, they’ll still be hot) and carefully wrap them up and place them in the freezer until you’re ready to decorate.  I place each one on their own individual cutting board or cookie sheet.  You want to be sure that they remain flat.

For decorating the cake you’ll need:

A double batch of Italian Meringue Buttercream Frosting, tinting about 2 1/2 cups lemon yellow, the rest is white

A single recipe of Strawberry Topping (recipe below)

Butterflies made with melting chocolates from the stencil in Hello, Cupcake! - or you could create your own.  Simply draw your design on a piece of copy paper and place wax paper on top of the design and trace with melted candy coating (in a piping bag).

Strawberry Topping Adapted from Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book

3/4 cup sugar

2 Tablespoons cornstarch

dash of salt

1/3 cup water

4 cups fresh or frozen strawberries

Place the sugar and cornstarch in a medium saucepan and whisk together to break up any lumps.  Then add the water and stir well.  Add in the strawberries.

Over medium heat, cook and stir until the sauce is thick and just starting to boil.  Stir for 1 to 2 minutes more, then take off the heat and let cool.  Store in the refrigerator.

Assembling the Cake:

To assemble, place a cake layer on top of your serving plate, top with about 3/4 cup (more or less) of white frosting and spread out.  Fill a piping bag (or Ziploc) with 1 1/2 cups of white frosting, and make a circle around the perimeter of the cake layer (to make sure the strawberry topping doesn’t ooze out).  Then top with the next layer of cake, press down slightly, and repeat.  Top with the final layer of cake, and do a crumb coat of frosting – a thin layer to catch all the crumbs.

If you have remaining white frosting in the piping bag, just squeeze it back into your bowl of white frosting.

Place the cake in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes.  Then take it out and frost the chilled cake.  Make swirls or roses on the top of the cake in yellow buttercream, and top with the butterfly chocolate butterflies.  Use black giant M&M’s as needed to support the wings underneath.

*Use the leftover egg yolks to make Nilla Wafer Pudding Shots or Rustic Mini Chocolate Cream Pies

**I just wanted red flecks in my cake, not the white parts from the strawberry!

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I put the red parts of the strawberry in my mini chopper and pulsed it a few times.  This is what it should look like!

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Tomatillo (Green) Enchilada Sauce

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Claire's 4th Birthday Party 097Oh, yum!  These were so good – they’re filled with shredded chicken, refried beans, cheese, and sour cream, but the real star is the amazing green sauce.  The fact is, I’m not a huge fan of the red enchilada sauce, but this, I could eat it everyday!

The original recipe called for green bell peppers, but I love the sweetness and red pops of color from the red peppers.  You can serve it on scrambled eggs, enchiladas, and grilled chicken.

Tomatillo Enchilada Sauce Adapted from Our Best Bites

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 large onion, minced

6 garlic cloves, minced

4 – 5 mini sweet red peppers (you could also sub 2 regular red peppers)

2 – 3 jalapenos seeded

1 1/2 pounds tomatillos*, husked and cut into quarters

1 bunch of fresh cilantro, just lob off the top bunch of leaves

1 1/2 teaspoons Coarse Kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1 1/2 teaspoons cumin

4 cups chicken broth

1 Tablespoon sugar

In a large blender (or food processor) add the tomatillos, cilantro, and peppers with 1 cup of stock and puree.  Set aside.

In a large pot, sauté the onions and garlic in olive oil until translucent.  Add the pureed tomatillo mixture and add the salt, cumin, pepper, sugar, and the remaining stock - stir until combined.

Cook on medium heat for 30 minutes to 1 hour – until you have reached the consistency you prefer.

*I bought roughly a dozen tomatillos, but only used 10 because two were moldy when I husked them.  The lesson?  Buy a few extra!

Warm Spinach Parmesan Dip

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March 2014 080

My husband took me out to lunch at a restaurant called Houlihan’s for my birthday.  It was a blast.  And the food, it was great because it was different.  For instance, they serve a shredded lettuce salad with a confetti type arrangement of small bacon bits, yellow corn, and croutons.  And they have this delicious warm spinach dip that’s really addicting.

We sat there (a little too long) trying to dissect every ingredient so we could attempt to recreate it at home.  This my friends, is my attempt.  My husband claimed it didn’t quite have the exact sour note as the dip from the restaurant, but he said he liked mine better.  If you know my husband, then you know that he doesn’t feed anyone bull.

Give it a try and let me know what you think!

Warm Spinach Parmesan Dip

2 Tablespoons unsalted butter

2 Tablespoons sweet onion, minced

1/2 teaspoon white pepper

pinch of salt

3 ounces frozen spinach, slightly defrosted and wet*

1 cup water

1 teaspoon chicken base

1 1/2 teaspoons sugar

1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (I grated directly into the measuring cup without packing it down)

1 Tablespoon sour cream, full fat

1/2 cup cold water

1 Tablespoon cornstarch

In a medium saucepan, sauté the onion in the butter over medium heat.  When the onions become translucent, add the spinach, the chicken base, and the 1 cup of water.

Then add the sugar, white pepper, and the pinch of salt.  Stir and cook on medium heat until simmering.

Stir together 1/2 cup cold water and 1 Tablespoon cornstarch – whisk with a fork.

Add the cornstarch slurry to the spinach mixture.  Cook until slightly thickened.  Add the Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and sour cream and stir just until melted.

Serve with tortilla chips.

*I placed a block of frozen spinach in the microwave and defrosted it just until I was able to cut a section off, I then weighed it and added it directly to the pot.  Then I place the remainder of the spinach in a freezer bag and put it back in the freezer.

Summer Slaw

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August 2013 799My family affectionately calls this “Summer Slaw.”  I don’t know if it’s the fresh squeezed lime juice or the large bunch of herby cilantro, but it just fits.  We love eating this on sandwiches, with eggs, and on my Colorado Green Chili with Pork.

Below I have given you my best guess estimates, because this really is a dump and stir.  One of the other reasons I really love this dish is because the cabbage doesn’t wilt like lettuce does when doused with dressing.  However, after being in the refrigerator for 2 days the slaw can dry it out – just refresh with more lime juice and olive oil.

Summer Slaw Adapted from Perry’s Plate

1/4 - 1/2 cup Extra virgin olive oil, enough to coat the cabbage (it needs to be nice and shiny) – I just eyeball it

Fresh juice from 1 – 2 limes

½ of a small cabbage

4 – 5 green onions (green and white parts), chopped

1/4 cup of (lightly packed) grated carrot

1 bunch of fresh cilantro, roughly chopped

a sprinkle of salt, if desired

Wash the cabbage and slice it thinly.  Toss it in a large bowl with the remaining ingredients.  Refrigerate leftovers.

Roasted Garlic Bread


February 2014 182When I think of comfort food, I think of pasta.  Then I immediately think of garlic bread, because pasta just isn’t as good without it.  In fact, I’d wager most things are better with a nice slab of garlic bread.

If you’ve been making yours with butter and garlic powder, stop!  Well, at least for now and give this a whirl.  I’d say the most time consuming part is oven-roasting the garlic, but you have to let your butter come to room temperature, so you’d be waiting anyway!

Garlic Bread

1 loaf of Italian, or French bread (cut in half – lengthwise)

1 stick of salted butter, softened

¼ cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese

1 bulb of garlic, roasted (see below)

2 teaspoons dried parsley flakes

1/8 teaspoon sugar

Cut off the top of the garlic bulb to expose all of the garlic cloves, place in the center of a sheet of foil and drizzle with olive oil.  Wrap up and pop in the oven at 350 degrees for about 30-45 minutes.

Set the butter out to softened at room temperature.

When the garlic is squishy take it out of the oven to cool slightly.  When you are able to handle it without getting burned, squeeze the bulb of garlic (until all of the roasted cloves come out) into a small bowl to cool.

In a food processor, place the butter, the slightly cooled roasted garlic, and the remaining ingredients.  Pulse until everything is combined and smooth.

At this point the compound butter can be refrigerated in a covered container for 3-4 days (bring it back to room temperature before spreading), or you can slather it on bread and broil on high for 3-5 minutes.

Just a few notes: I used the entire butter mixture for 1 loaf of French bread.  I also occasionally opened my oven, while broiling, to keep the bread from browning too much on the edges.

Alternatively, you could slice the bread after slathering on the compound butter, so you are able to pull out slices as they brown.

Either way, serve warm and enjoy!

The Grasshopper

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January 2014 001

Oh, Grasshoppers.  What’s not to love?  Ice cream, mint, and chocolate all in a glass.  YUM!  The drink is not technically supposed to have whipped cream layers, but that’s what happens when you mess up and dump a finished glass head first into another glass.

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I used to order these in college at The Service Station.  I don’t think they’re on the menu, but the bartenders never seemed to mind, in fact once they decorated my drink with an Oreo on top – I loved that!

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Grasshoppers Adapted from Saveur Magazine

2 ounces crème de menthe

2 ounces crème de cacao

2 cups vanilla ice cream (any will do)

Combine all ingredients in the blender – blend!  Serve.  Makes 2 servings.

Glasses bought from here.

Creamy Vanilla Ice Cream


January 2014 181

This ice cream, well it’s become my new favorite vanilla ice cream.  Doesn’t it look amazing?!  It uses 9 egg yolks – thus the gorgeous light yellow color and amazing creamy texture.  And it’s the perfect thing to make with all those leftover egg yolks when you’re making an angel food cake or a gluten free angel food cake.

Also, despite the long-winded post, it’s actually quite easy – just read through once completely before starting!

And be sure to get your timer out for this recipe, especially if you’ve never made a base for ice cream before, as this will help you a great deal until you learn what it’s suppose to look like.  You’ll also need an ice cream machine for this particular recipe.

If you don’t have an ice cream machine, I strongly encourage you to make this anyway.  You can use it for an amazing warm (or cold) vanilla sauce to top fruit or cake.

Creamy Vanilla Ice Cream Adapted from The Busy Mom’s Cookbook

4 cups heavy cream

1 Tablespoon vanilla extract

9 egg yolks

1 1/2 cups sugar

Add-ins (optional): crushed Oreo cookies, M&M’s, frozen brownie chunks, etc.

In a large pot, heat the cream and vanilla on medium heat (I set my gas burner in between 5 & 6).  Whisk occasionally, for about 5 minutes just to heat it up.

In the meantime, whisk the egg yolks and sugar in a large heat-proof bowl for about 5 minutes, or until they’re lighter in color.

When the cream is steaming, but not boiling, pour a large ladle of heated cream into the egg yolk mixture and whisk immediately to temper the eggs (bringing them to the same temperature as the cream without scrambling them).  Add another large ladle of heated cream, and whisk immediately again.  Add one more large ladle and repeat.

Then pour the tempered egg yolk mixture into the pot of remaining heated heavy cream, whisking the entire time.  Grab a wooden spoon and continue to stir the custard for 5 minutes – set your timer!

The custard will go from watery and frothy to slightly thickened with no frothy bubbles in about 4 – 5 minutes.  As soon as it starts to slightly coat the back of your spoon (it will still be translucent) take it off the heat and pour it through a sieve (to catch all the chewy pieces) into a food storage container.

Let it cool on at room temperature for about 30 minutes to reduce sweating in the refrigerator.  Then set the container in the refrigerator with a paper towel over it, or a lid if you don’t mind any sweating.  Let set overnight before churning in an ice cream maker.

When ready, pour the base into an ice cream machine and turn on low for about 15 minutes, or follow the instructions given by your particular ice cream machine.

In the last few minutes, pour in any add-ins, if desired.  Scoop into a food storage container and place in the freezer.

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