June 15, 2011

Father's Day Easy Last Minute Photo Banner

Happy Father's Day to my wonderful Husband AND my amazing Dad. I am very lucky to have two great guys in my life. Ironically enough, they have a lot in common. Both snore loudly, both have been in the real estate business, both know how to fix cars, both are infuriating at times, and both love good food!
For Father's Day last year I made this super cute banner as a surprise for my husband (next year I need to add photos with the baby). I first saw this idea at my friend Ann's house a few years back and knew I wanted to make it, so cute! It took no time at all since I didn't make fancy letters and I had all of the stuff laying around. You could make it for any occasion...Happy Birthday, Congratulations, Welcome Home, etc.
Here is what you need:
  1. at least 8 1/2 x 11 inch paper in any color(s)
  2. black or dark marker, thick ones do best
  3. approximately 4 feet of ribbon, string or fishing line
  4. clothes pins (or tape in a pinch will work), one for each letter of your message
  5. camera
  6. kids
First draw out all of the letters in your message or print on the computer one letter to a page. Write down your message and mark them off so you don't forget something (like I did with my 'S).

Then get the kids in front of a simple monochromatic background and one by one have them hold up the letters. It doesn't matter if they are upside down or sideways, in fact it's cuter. Tell them they can make silly faces on some, that keeps them interested.

Take several shots because, hey it's digital and you never know which is going to be the best. Print out your photos at home or a photo kiosk on 4x6 sized paper. Then put your photos in order and hang them on your ribbon with the clothespins. Start with the middle letter so you can evenly space the letters. Hang your masterpiece in a great location for your recipient to enjoy!!

June 14, 2011

Happy Anniversary to Me

In honor of my darling husband, since we are celebrating nine wonderful married years together today, I have updated my "About Me" page with all of the delicious details he said I should share with you. I told him no one would be interested, but he assures me you want to know. After nine years I have learned sometimes he might be right.


June 13, 2011

Mocha Cake with Almond Buttercream Icing

A sweet friend of mine was turning 40 and I just HAD to bring her a cake. She loves coffee, so I decided to make a mocha cake. Since I decided all of this on the spur of the moment, I had to wing it on the recipe. She insisted I share the recipe, which I don't have since I made it up (which she doesn't believe, but it's the truth). So here is my best recollection.

Start with a chocolate cake: one from a box or my buttermilk chocolate recipe here. Bake the cake as directed and let cool. Make a simple syrup (basically liquid and water in some fashion). I used brewed espresso and regular sugar. Since I didn't measure I'm guessing about 1/8 c of espresso and 1/4 c sugar. You could use coffee and honey, strong kool aid, orange juice concentrate, even coke. Whatever you choose it should be thick and almost syrupy. This means you need to add enough sugar to make it thick or boil off some of the water (ie: put the liquid and sweetener in a pot and bring it to a boil. Let it continue boiling until the steam carries off enough of the water to thicken the liquid).

I poked some holes in the chocolate cake with a knife to let the syrup really sink in. Then poured a small amount of the super sweet espresso over the top of the chocolate cake. It's really important not to use too much of the liquid or you end up with more of a trifle or tres leches cake (ie. wet cake). You just want to flavor the cake, not drown it. If you pour too much, you can always mop some up with a paper towel (I learned this the hard way).

For this mocha birthday cake I frosted it with an almond buttercream. I always make my own icing because it is seriously way better than store bought. Do you know what is in canned icing or the kind that comes on grocery store cakes? It's shortening, solid vegetable oil, no taste only fat. I figure if you are going for a treat (and icing really is a treat) you might as well enjoy the taste. You could you only butter, but then you run the risk of a melted cake look, much like the Amazing Fresh Strawberry Cake. The best idea is to create an icing that doesn't melt in a warm room like butter tends to do. In my opinion, the best icing combines the wonderful taste of butter with the stability of shortening. This is the icing recipe I like most.

I didn't get a photo of this cake {I made it again and took a photo this time!} since I was driving the kids somewhere that night and barely finished frosting it in time. I love cramming in baking between real life. It's a little escape for me. If only there weren't so many calories to escape from!


1/2 c strong coffee
1/2 c cup sugar

Combine the two in a saucepan and heat in a low simmer for 15-20 minutes. Cool and then carefully spoon over the cake layers. I saved some of the syrup to sprinkle on the top of the cake. You could also garnish with coffee beans or chocolate shavings.



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