Wednesday, July 30, 2008

YouBar? No...that's MyBar! Get your own!

Is it really possible for a nutrition bar to be good for you & taste good too? Why yes, my friends, it is! The folks at YouBar are starting a nutrition bar choose everything that you want in a bar, & they'll make it exactly to your specifications. Kick ass right?! Right! I was lucky enough to receive 4 samples in the mail a couple of days ago, & I've successfully managed to consume every single one in a 2 day period. ('s all in the name of research. That's my story, & I'm sticking to it!) Each bar was a different flavor Honey Cashew, Great Date With Chocolate, Your Name Here, & even a bar! My absolute favorite was the Blake Makes was full of cinnamon, raisins, & apples. As soon as I finished it I wished that I had an entire box full of just that kind. They were GOOD! The others were good as well...Great Date With Chocolate reminded me of a very moist brownie. I definitely didn't feel guilty eatting these tasty treats; they were a great change from all the "bad for me" sweets I've been consuming lately. (Although if you waived a cupcake in my face right now, I certainly wouldn't turn it down!)

Please forgive the crappy photography. I forgot to take pictures until after I had already eaten 2 of the bars, & the only camera I had was the one on my iPhone. One of these days I'm going to figure out that I should at least keep my little digital camera in my purse at all times!

Thanks a million to BlakeMakes & YouBar for this awesome giveaway!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Operation Baking GALS - Shortbread Cookies

For the inaugural Operation Baking GALS event, I knew I needed to bake something that was durable enough to hold up to shipping overseas. After digging through all my recipes, I found exactly what I was looking for...Shortbread Cookies. This recipe is so easy to put together, & the cookies are delicious. I hope Susan's cousin enjoys eating them as much as I enjoyed baking them.

Shortbread Cookies

1/2 cup butter, cold
1/4 cup sugar
1 cup plus 1 1/2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
1 egg yolk, ice cold
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp lemon extract
1/4 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place all ingredients in bowl of food processor. Process until a ball forms. Take out & form together. Wrap in plastic wrap & chill at least 1 hour. Before rolling out, let set at room temperature until soft enough to roll. Roll to 1/4" thick and cut into shapes. Place on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake about 10 minutes.

Yields approx. 2 dozen (depending on size of cookies)

Operation Baking GALS

I wanted to spread the word about a genius idea that I read about today. Susan at She's Becoming DoughMessTic & My Kitchen, My World put a call out to a few of her food blogging friends asking for help sending homemade goodies to her cousin in Iraq. Well her idea has exploded (now appropriately titled "Operation Baking GALS"), & she's offering to anyone who like to help a chance to send their homemade goodies as well. I fell in love with the idea as soon as I read about it, & e-mailed Susan immediately. I'll be baking my sweet treats tonight so I can send them off tomorrow. Nothing makes me happier than knowing that something I made will bring a smile to a soldier's face. I'll post a couple of pictures tomorrow of what I'm baking, but until's a surprise!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Wordless Wednesday

I Actually Won Something!!

Okay...let me start this post by saying that I never win anything. I have the worst luck ever! Well that changed when I discovered a fantastic blog called Food Interviews. Stef (who has another fabulous blog that I LOVE called Cupcake Projects) interviews everyone from chocolate makers to food bloggers. I haven't read an interview yet where I haven't learned something new & interesting. You should definitely check it out! Anyway, back to my original thought, I won 3 bars of Amano chocolate from a recent interview she did with Amano's founder/owner Art Pollard. I am completely obsessed with all things chocolate, so I was as happy as if I had won Miss America! (Seriously folks, that's no exaggeration.) My chocolate arrived last week, & I excitedly tore into the box...which was quite a task because the folks at Amano do a wonderful of making sure your chocolate arrives to you in pristine condition.

This is what I discovered when I first opened the box...a foil-lined styrofoam box with, not 1, but 2 ice packs (in plastic bags to protect the chocolate from any condensation) & packing peanuts.

My delightful chocolate treasure!

Amano chocolate is handmade & comes in 3 variaties...Ocumare, Madagascar, & Cuyagua. All I have to say is that all 3 types are completely different & completely AMAZING! I loved them all & couldn't pick a favorite if you made me. I highly recommend checking out Amano's website. You can read about their processes & where their cacao comes from, & you can order some of this delectable sweetness for yourself!
A million thanks to Stef & definitely made this chocolate lover's day!

Monday, July 21, 2008

Crazy Week Wrap-Up

As part of my whirlwind cake/cupcake making last week, I not only had my cupcake of the month to make, but I also had a cake order & a cupcake order. I also made 2 dozen cupcakes using the leftover strawberry frosting I had made for these. We had a lunch at work for one of our coworkers, so cupcakes were my contribution. As for my orders...I had to make a strawberry lime cake for a coworker's birthday & strawberry lime mini cupcakes for another coworker. (As you can probably tell my coworkers keep me busy, & strawberry lime is now my signature recipe.) I tried to make a 9x13 cake using the strawberry lime recipe that I've used several other times, but I soon realized that it would have to be multiplied by about 3 to get enough batter for the cake. So I cheated...I took a box of strawberry cake mix & substituted half the water for lime juice. For the frosting on the cake, I used the regular lime frosting that my original recipe calls for. The cake wasn't as good as it would have been had it been homemade, but it actually turned out really good. One of the girls said that it tasted like Fruit Loops, & it kind of had that tart, sweet, fruity flavor going on.

The mini cupcakes were for a wedding rehearsal dinner, & they were just strawberry cake mix with the same lime frosting as what I used on the cake. They were the last thing I did that week, so I was completely exhausted by the time I was done!

Crazy week's over...I survived & made some tasty treats in the process.

Ashley's Monthly Bake Sale - July

Last week was utterly insane, so I'm just now getting around to posting about my July Cupcake of the Month. I choose Lime Pound Cake with Orange Cream Cheese frosting as posted by Laurie of quirky cupcake on Blake Bakes. I'm on a big citrus cupcake kick, so I knew I had to try these! I'm having major issues as of lately with all of my homemade cupcakes falling after they're taken out of the oven. (And they're full cooked, mind you.) All you cupcake pros out there...what am I doing wrong?! Anyway...they looked so sad all sunken in, but OH MY GOSH...these things were AMAZING! The cupcakes themselves were so tart & tangy & then the orange cream cheese frosting on top gave the perfect sweet balance. I will definitely try this recipe again, only next time I will actually make it a tube pan & see if that helps at all. I think the coworkers enjoyed them despite them not being very pretty, I think it was another taste success.

Here's a picture of the carnage that was created after I had to have a 1/2 cup of key lime juice. It's not a pretty sight. Poor little limes, they didn't know what they were getting into.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Could I please borrow another set of arms?

Oh my goodness gracious...this week has been crazy! I made cupcakes for a cookout at lunch today, tomorrow is July's Bake Sale, & I've got two orders for Friday (a cake & mini cupcakes). I think it's safe to say that Cakes By Ashley has officially taken off. Life is good though, so I definitely cannot complain. I promise to post lots of pictures & an update about the Bake Sale hopefully this weekend. I hope everyone's having a great week!

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Birthdays & Babies

I've been a busy little cake maker this week. I made a cake for my dad's birthday, & I had a cupcake order for a baby shower. Dad got a strawberry cake with vanilla buttercream, & it was tasty...nice & moist. I read the other day about letting the cake cool in the pan for about 10 minutes after you pull it out of the oven & then wrapping it in plastic wrap & putting it in the fridge. Pure brilliance I tell worked perfectly!

The baby shower cupcakes were a dozen & a half each of strawberry cupcakes & white chocolate macadamia nut cupcakes. As you may remember, the white chocolate cupcakes were from my first Cupcake of the Month. I did a little variation on the icing to make it thicker (last time it was a runny mess) so they'd look a little nicer for the shower.

Now for the strawberry cupcakes, I wanted to figure out a way to doctor up a boxed cake mix. I found a recipe that seemed pretty good, so I decided to give it a try. Since I didn't get to try the cupcakes, I'm not sure how they came out but they looked very moist. The icing was strawberry cream cheese made with fresh strawberries, & I can attest to the fact that it was fabulous.

Strawberry Cake

1 box strawberry cake mix
1 (11.5 oz) can strawberry nectar
3 eggs
1/4 cup vegetable oil

Mix & bake according to directions on box.

Strawberry Cream Cheese Frosting

1/4 cup butter (room temperature)
1 (8oz) package cream cheese (room temperature)
1/2 cup strawberries, mashed in food processor
3-4 cups powdered sugar

Cream butter & cream cheese. Mix in strawberries. Add powdered sugar to desired taste & consistency.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Bear Beach Cupcakes!!

I recently saw Bakerella's post where she made Bikini Beach Bears cupcakes, & I knew I just had to try them. They're so freaking cute!!! I also saw a recipe on her blog that I wanted to try, so I just combined the two & made these little babies for the 4th of July.

We had two places to go on the 4th, so I made two sets. These were so much fun to make that I hated to eat them. But eat them we did, & they were tasty! I think I need to find an excuse to make more Beach Bears!