Tuesday, November 29, 2011

How to Dress for the Holidays

Trying to figure out what to wear to a holiday get-together can sometimes be stressful, especially if you aren't sure what the dress code is. For my internship a few weeks ago, I got to model some clothes for my boss' monthly segment for WYFF 4, Schering Secrets. We headed over to Sassy on Augusta and starting styling some outfits. Check out some of these tips for some holiday fashion help. Here's the link for the video! Enjoy!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Sweet Potato Cake with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting

Hope you all had a great Thanksgiving! As if you haven't heard enough about food the past few days, I thought I would share a recipe I made for one of the Thanksgiving dinners I ate. I wanted to make a dessert that was somewhat seasonal, but I just wasn't feeling the typical pumpkin pie. After searching Pinterest for some inspiration, I came across a Martha Stewart recipe for Sweet Potato Cake. The recipe recommends a whipped white chocolate frosting, but I decided to modify my cream cheese icing recipe to make a maple cream cheese recipe. Everything was delicious. The cake was very moist and tastes similar to carrot cake or a spice cake, and the maple frosting complemented it nicely. I followed the cake recipe for the most part, except I left out the macadamia nuts completely and only made the cake a 2 layer cake instead of a 4 layer cake.


2 pounds (about 3) sweet potatoes
1 1/4 cups vegetable oil
Unsalted butter, for pans
2 cups cake flour, (not self-rising), plus more for pans
4 large eggs
2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3 tablespoons brandy
1 1/2 cups unsalted macadamia nuts, toasted, coarsely chopped

1. Heat oven to 400 degrees. Coat potatoes with 1/4 cup vegetable oil, and place on baking sheet. Bake until tender, 30 to 40 minutes. When cool enough to handle, remove skin, and mash flesh with a fork into coarse puree.

2. Lower oven temperature to 325 degrees. Butter two 8-by-1 1/2-inch round cake pans, dust with flour, and set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat eggs and sugar together on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add remaining 1 cup vegetable oil; beat on medium speed until well combined. Add the cooled sweet potatoes; mix until combined.

3. Sift together cake flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg; mix into sweet potato mixture. Mix in vanilla and brandy until combined. Remove batter from mixer; fold in 1 cup macadamia nuts by hand.

4. Evenly distribute cake batter into prepared pans, and transfer to the oven. Bake until a toothpick inserted into center comes out clean, 40 to 45 minutes. Let pans cool on a wire rack 10 minutes. Invert cakes onto rack; cool completely, about 1 1/4 hours.

5. Cut each cake layer in half horizontally, creating four layers. Spread 2/3 cup chocolate frosting on one layer, then stack next layer on top, and frost. Repeat frosting-and-stacking process until each layer is frosted. Spread remaining frosting on sides and top of cake. Arrange remaining 1/2 cup macadamia nuts on top of cake, and serve.

Here's a picture of mine.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Chocolate Caramel Cupcakes

Whenever I volunteer to bake something for a party/get-together/birthday, I always have so many recipes I could make. However, for some reason I always feel the need to try a new recipe instead of making something I've made before. I usually end up wasting an hour browsing the internet before I choose something to make.

Last week was no different. I volunteered to make a dessert for my small group get together. I could have made my tried and true chocolate cupcakes, but of course I wanted to try some new chocolate cupcakes. I found these Heath Bar Cupcakes from Your Cup of Cake and decided to try them.

Chocolate Buttercream Cake:
¾ cup buttermilk
½ cup oil
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup sour cream
Devil’s Food Cake Mix

Caramel Filling:
1/3 cup sweetened condensed milk
1/3 cup caramel (store bought or homemade)

Caramel Buttercream:
½ cup butter
8 oz cream cheese
2-4 tablespoons caramel
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1-2 tablespoons milk
3-4 cups powdered sugar

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line 2 muffin tins with 24 cupcake liners.
2. Combine buttermilk, oil, eggs and vanilla.
3. Slowly mix in cake mix and add sour cream.
4. Fill liners ¾ full and bake for 18-22 minutes or until an inserted knife comes out clean.
5. Caramel Filling: Whisk sweetened condensed milk and caramel together.  Pour into a squeeze bottle if one is available and insert tip into each warm cupcake fill as desired.  If you do not have a squeeze bottle, hollow out a little circle at the top of each cupcake and spoon the mixture into it.
*My caramel mixture was pretty thin and the cupcake soaked it up. I added the cake I spooned out back into the cupcake so I didn't have a big hole.
6. Buttercream: Beat butter and cream cheese until light and fluffy.  Add caramel, vanilla and powdered sugar.  Then adjust consistency using milk and powdered sugar.  Beat well.
7. Pipe onto cooled cupcakes and top with melted chocolate and a piece of a Heath Bar.

I didn't add the Heath Bar on top and instead just drizzled caramel. The picture on the blog I got the recipe from is beautiful and had really stiff icing. The icing I made wasn't stiff at all. It didn't hold my swirl when I piped in on the cupcake. I should have used my go-to cream cheese icing and just added a little caramel. However, the cake was pretty good. Not quite as rich or dense as my regular chocolate cupcake recipe, but it was really moist because of the caramel filling. I would make the cupcake recipe again, but definitely not the icing.

Here is a picture of my cupcake. You can see how the icing just kinda spread out over the cake.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Pumpkin Apple Pie

Ok so I cheated on the "21 Day No Junk Food Challenge." I just got a terrible baking itch last week. There was nothing I could do to get rid of it. I had to bake. After seeing all the pies at The Cafe at Williams Hardware, I knew I had to make one. I was in the mood for something pumpkin, but I also kinda wanted to make an apple pie. After searching a few recipes online, I decided to type in "Pumpkin Apple Pie." Several great-looking recipes popped up right away. My decision was made.

I found the original recipe at TasteofHome.com. I ended up changing a little bit from the original. Here is what I used.

1 sheet refrigerated pie pastry
2 cups thinly sliced peeled tart apples.
1/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1-1/2 cups canned pumpkin
1 cup evaporated milk
2 eggs
1/2 cup sugar
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/2 cup all-purpose flour
4 tablespoons sugar
4 tablespoons brown sugar
6 teaspoons cold butter

On a lightly floured surface, unroll pastry. Transfer pastry to a 9-in. deep-dish pie plate. Trim pastry to 1/2 in. beyond edge of plate; flute edges. In a large bowl, combine the apples, sugar, flour, lemon juice and cinnamon. Spoon into crust.

In another large bowl, whisk the pumpkin filling ingredients. Pour over apple mixture. Bake at 375° for 30 minutes.

For topping, combine flour and sugar. Cut in butter until crumbly; stir in walnuts. Sprinkle over pie.
Bake 25-30 minutes longer or until a knife inserted into pumpkin layer comes out clean (cover edges with foil during the last 15 minutes to prevent overbrowning).

This pie was super yummy! The perfect fall treat. I would definitely make this again.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Swamp Rabbit Trail

One of my favorite memories in college was a day trip I took with my roommates during my sophomore year. We road tripped to Damascus, VA one Saturday and rode the Virginia Creeper Trail, which is a 34 mile bike trail that follows the path of a former railroad. We only did half the trail, which actually isn't very hard at all. The trail is downward sloping the majority of the time, and the beautiful scenery provides great opportunities to stop and take pictures . Here are a a few pictures from that trip.

We tried to plan a trip this year, but it didn't work out where we all had an entire Saturday in the fall that we could dedicate to a road trip. However, we did make it up to Greenville this past Saturday to ride the Swamp Rabbit Trail. We rented some bikes in downtown Greenville and were on our way. We had a lot of fun, but it sure was cold and windy! Here are a few pictures from our trip.

We loved the bikes we rented! They were so cute and vintage looking - made me want to start biking a lot more so I can have an excuse to buy one :) The top two pictures are pictures with my roommates Lindsay and Rachel. The last picture is of my roommate Stephanie. She was struggling (i.e. she was exhausted after a mile and a half of our 12 mile ride). She was being very dramatic at the time and decided to lay down to rest. For those of you that know her, you might be laughing at this. For those of you who don't, just know she is one of those people who is impossible to truly describe and is unlike anyone else you will ever meet. We love her. 

We ended our ride by stopping at The Cafe at Williams Hardware on our way back to Clemson. I have been wanting to try this family-owned restaurant ever since I visited it this summer for a project I was working on for my internship. I had the grilled ham and gourmet pimento cheese sandwich with a side of tomato okra soup. It was so good and hit the spot after our cold morning ride. Everyone else was happy with their food too. Definitely recommend it if you're ever in the grand town of Travelers Rest, SC. They also had an impressive selection of desserts. I was so tempted to try one. But I didn't. 

Remember? I'm on the 21 day no junk food challenge.

While I promise I didn't get any dessert at lunch, looking at the desserts may or may not have started an irresistible baking itch deep inside of my soul. I may or may not have a recipe to share with you later this week....

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Am I Crazy?

I started this today and will be doing it for the next 21 days.
I found it on Pinterest. Of course. Am I little bit crazy for doing this? It's not like I currently have four different kinds of ice cream in my freezer. Or a huge stash of candy corn in my room. 

At least I waited until Halloween was over to start. Wish me luck and don't expect any yummy cupcake recipes anytime soon :)