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Food

Everything-Free Cake Balls

Made without dairy, sugar or gluten, these caramel-stuffed chocolate cake balls are a delicious, healthy treat. Get the full recipe at HomemadeBanana.com #glutenfree #sugarfree #dairyfree #healthy #dessertAs surprising as it might sound, baked goods are not really my vice. I love baking cakes and pies and cookies, but once I’ve had a few bites of my creation, I’m satisfied. That’s why it gives me such pleasure to bake for other people. Other chocolate-loving, dessert-devouring, sweet tooth-having people.

My boyfriend and I recently hosted a birthday party for his sister, who has some dietary restrictions: she doesn’t eat refined sugar, dairy or gluten. I firmly believe that birthdays should never be celebrated sans cake of some sort, so I took this occasion as a challenge to create something that was safe for Alex’s sister to eat and truly delicious for those of us who are used to eating “regular” cake.

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Food

Cornbread Cake with Homemade Honeycomb

Get the recipe for the perfect naked cake for fall: a cornbread cake topped with cinnamon buttercream and homemade honeycomb.I have all my best ideas when I’m lying in bed at night. After I’ve brushed my teeth and just before I nod off, things just come to me: outfit ideas, prospective DIY projects and, most recently, this cake. Maybe I hadn’t eaten a proper dinner and was subconsciously in need of a midnight snack or maybe the sweet tooth fairy just paid me a visit. Whatever the reason, this confection appeared fully formed in my head so I dashed off a quick iPhone note to myself and fell fast asleep.

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Food

Marshmallow Donuts + Iced Cocoa

sprinkle-donut-marshmallow-recipe-8Let’s talk about my sweet tooth. She will not be denied. She demands vanilla syrup in my morning lattes, she requires I keep my fridge stocked with a variety of sweets, from grapes and apples to pints of ice cream, and about once a year she compels me to whip up (and I do mean whip) a batch of soft, fluffy homemade marshmallows. Since the last time I made marshmallows was these red, white and blue marbled ones for the Fourth of July last summer, I was just about due.

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DIY, Food

DIY Chinese Paper Lantern Cupcake Toppers + Orange Cream Cupcakes

chinese-new-year-paper-lantern-cupcake-topper-4chinese-new-year-paper-lantern-cupcake-topper-7Gong Hey Fat Choy! Today is Chinese New Year, which officially marks the start of the Year of the Monkey. And while I, myself, am a rabbit, I’m still going to heartily celebrate and hopefully usher in some good fortune for the upcoming lunar year. With that in mind, I baked up some super-simple, semi-homemade orange cream cupcakes, since eating oranges at the beginning of the year is said to bring wealth and luck. According to Chowhound via the Chinese Culture Center of San Francisco, the tradition of eating oranges and tangerines for the new year, “stems from the way the Chinese words for gold and orange sound alike, while the word for tangerine echoes luck.” That’s good enough reason for me. And lest these cupcakes not look festive enough, I topped them off with mini Chinese lanterns crafted from bright red and pink paper and finished with sparkling gold designs and playful tassels.

chinese-new-year-paper-lantern-cupcake-topper-5For the paper lantern cupcake toppers, you’ll need the following:
• varying shades of red and pink cardstock
• gold wire
• gold beads
• metallic gold gel pen
• gold embroidery thread
• gold eye pins
• gold jump rings
• glue

1. Print out this template, making sure it stays to scale to make a 3/4″ cube. Trace the template on cardstock and cut out.

2. Using a gold gel pen, draw geometric designs on the outside of the paper.

3. Score along each corner, then add a small amount of glue to the three tabs and fold up the cube, holding each tab closed for about 30 seconds to ensure a good hold.

4. Once the glue dries, poke holes through the top and bottom with a needle, then thread an eye pin through the cube. Add a gold bead on top and close the pin with a loop.

5. Make a small tassel from gold embroidery thread using this method, then attach the tassel to the bottom of the eye pin using a jump ring.

6. Finally, cut a length of gold wire and bend it in the shape of a candy cane, looping the end so you can rest the little paper lantern on it. Stick it in an orange cream cupcake to celebrate the lunar new year in style!

chinese-new-year-paper-lantern-cupcake-topper-1chinese-new-year-paper-lantern-cupcake-topper-6 chinese-new-year-paper-lantern-cupcake-topper-12Orange Cream Cupcakes

Cake Ingredients:
• Betty Crocker SuperMoist Yellow Cake Mix
• 3 eggs
• 1/2 cup vegetable oil
• 1 cup orange juice (instead of water)
• 2 tsp orange zest

Frosting Ingredients:
• 1/4 cup butter, softened
• 2 cups powdered sugar
• 3/4 tsp vanilla extract
• 2 to 3 tsp of milk
• orange zest for garnish

Directions:
1. Follow the directions on the cake box, substituting orange juice for water and adding 2 teaspoons of orange zest to the batter. Bake cupcakes and let cool.

2. To make the frosting, cream the butter in a medium bowl then beat in the sugar and vanilla extract. Add milk bit by bit until you’ve achieved the right consistency.

3. Frost cupcakes and top with orange zest and a Chinese lantern topper!

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Food

Caramel Apple Hand Pies

caramel-apple-hand-pies-2caramel-apple-hand-pies-14caramel-apple-hand-pies-10Hand pies are my new favorite thing. They are self-contained and so are perfect for transporting to one’s office to share with one’s coworkers. They offer a blank canvas on which to express secret ambitions of pastry chef glory in the form of flaky dough appliqués and way too much sanding sugar. They can play host to any range of delicious fillings from the savory mushroom, sausage and potato breakfast hand pie to the perfectly sweet and tart caramel apple hand pie we have here—which is, in my opinion, the best way to use up all those apples you picked on your requisite fall trip to your local apple orchard.

But the very best part of baking a hand pie (other than eating it, of course) is the fact that they offer loads of baking cred with surprisingly minimal effort. I know many very capable and very intelligent people are intimidated at the prospect of making pies, dough and all, from scratch. But let me say it once and for all: it’s not that hard! The single most important thing to remember is that you want to keep your dough nice and cold so that those little chunks of butter don’t melt and mix in with the rest of the dough. If you can do that, you’ll end up with flaky, buttery, delicious crust every single time. And you can quote me on that.

I love a good apple pie as much as the next American girl, but I wanted add a little bit of ooey-gooey warmth to these bad boys, and the addition of some store-bought caramels into the filling does the trick quite nicely. A big scoop of vanilla ice cream and some more caramel sauce on top for good measure ensures the irresistible deliciousness of these fall treats. And if you were to toss said hand pie, ice cream and caramel sauce in a blender to make yourself a little pie milkshake action, I wouldn’t judge you. I wouldn’t judge you one bit.

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Caramel Apple Hand Pies
Pie dough recipe from Martha Stewart; filling recipe adapted from Freut Cake.

Dough Ingredients:
• 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
• 1 tsp salt
• 1 tsp sugar
• 1 cup (2 sticks) of butter, chilled and cut into cubes
• 1/2 cup ice water (you might not use all of it)
• 1 egg mixed with 1 Tbsp water (for egg wash)
• crystal sanding sugar

Filling Ingredients:
• 2 cups peeled apples, diced very small
• 2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
• 1 tsp cinnamon
• 1/4 cup sugar
• 10 store-bought soft caramels, cubed
• the juice of half a lemon

Directions:
1. To make the dough, combine flour, salt, and sugar in the bowl of a food processor. Add butter and blend until the mixture resembles coarse meal, about 8 to 10 seconds.

2. With the machine running, add ice water in a slow, steady stream through the feed tube. Pulse until the dough holds together without being wet or sticky; be careful not to blend more than 30 seconds. To test, squeeze a small amount together—if it’s crumbly, add more ice water 1 tablespoon at a time.

3. Divide the dough into two equal balls. Flatten each ball into a disc and wrap in plastic. Transfer to the refrigerator and chill for at least one hour.

4. Preheat the oven to 425ºF and line a baking sheet with Silpat or parchment paper. Set aside.

5. Now it’s time to make the filling! In a small bowl, combine the apples (diced nice and small!), lemon juice, cinnamon, sugar and flour. Mix until the apples are thoroughly coated. Set aside.

6. Roll out the pie dough to about 1/8″ thickness on a well-floured surface. Depending on how big you want your hand pies, find a cup or bowl that matches the diameter you’re going for and cut out as many circles as possible. For reference, mine were about 5″ to 6″ wide and I was able to make five hand pies (10 circles of dough).

7. Then, gather all your dough scraps (refrigerate intermittently if they start to get too soft), roll them out and use a festive cookie cutter like this leaf one to cut out decorative shapes to top your pies.

7. Spoon about two tablespoons of the apple filling into the center of half of the pie circles. Make sure to leave enough of a border around the filling to seal them shut.

8. Top the apple filling with a few pieces of caramel.

9. Brush around the edges of the dough with a pastry brush dipped in egg wash. This will be the glue that holds the pieces together.

10. Place a second dough circle on top each filled circle and use a fork to crimp the edges together.

11. Brush each pie with plenty of the egg wash so they get nice and brown, layer on your pieces of decorative dough and add more egg wash. We want a beautiful golden finis! Then cut two vents on the top of each pie with a sharp knife to prevent unsightly explosions. Sprinkle the pies with crystal sanding sugar and place on prepared sheet pan.

12. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

13. Bake the pies for 20 minutes, or until they’re golden brown. Enjoy!

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