Giant Samoa Girl Scout Cookie Birthday Cake

It’s that time of year again… my guy’s birthday! We sort of alternate between “boring” normal birthday cakes, and creative/challenging cakes. This year entailed the latter.

Choosing the cake was up to me this year – sometimes that’s dangerous, because I’ll always pick something I’ve never made before, and it usually requires literally hours’ worth of preparation. No matter, I’m always up for it! We’ve been on a Girl Scout Cookie kick this year (Samoas and Thin Mints, of COURSE) and I was inspired by this blog post about making a giant Samoa cake. She had a great idea, but I wanted to make some variations on her idea to include more “cookie” elements, and of course frosting.

The end result was this:

The bottom layer consists of shortbread cookie, topped with dark chocolate ganache and salted caramel sauce. Above that is vanilla/white cake, covered in caramel frosting, and coated with toasted coconut flakes, drizzled with melted dark chocolate. To say it was delicious would be an understatement!

I used a variety of recipes here – some online, some from actual cookbooks..yes, people still use those! I’ll do my best to include any actual recipe I used for this, but for some of the steps I just eyeballed it with no recipe or real measuring. (Sorry!) Here’s the step-by-step process I used to assemble, followed by some recipes:

Giant Girl Scout Cookie Cake

*Notes: I made this a two-day process since I had class on his actual birthday, and would need more time to finish the cake. The first day I made the shortbread crust, made the salted caramel sauce, and toasted the coconut. The second day I baked the cake, made the ganache, made the frosting, and assembled it all together. This seemed to work out fine, and you could do them all in one day, but you would need to leave adequate time for cooling each part (caramel especially) which can take some waiting time. I’m posting the photos in the order I prepared everything and assembled the cake.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here’s the recipes I used:

 

Shortbread

from Good Housekeeping Illustrated Cookbook 1980 ed.

Minutes to Cook: 35

Number of Servings: 18

 

Ingredients

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup butter, softened

1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon double-acting baking powder

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 tablespoons sugar

 

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

– in large bowl beat 1st 6 ingredients until well mixed, occasionally scraping the bowl

– pat down into 9 in round cake pan and with fork, prick well

– with spoon, sprinkle sugar over dough

Bake 30-35 minutes

– cut into wedges while warm, cool on wire rack, separate cookies

Serving Size: 18

 

***I used HALF of the shortbread recipe, since I just wanted a crust. I did not sprinkle with sugar, and I did not cut it into wedges.***

Caramel Sauce

Bon Appétit | April 2006

Mary Cech

Yield: Makes about 1 1/3 cupsIngredients3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup light corn syrup
3/4 cup whipping cream

Preparation

Combine sugar, 1/2 cup water, and corn syrup in heavy medium saucepan. Stir over medium heat until sugar dissolves. Increase heat and boil without stirring until mixture turns a deep amber color, occasionally brushing down sides of pan with wet pastry brush and swirling pan, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat. Carefully add cream (you may want to stand back — mixture will bubble vigorously). Stir sauce over low heat until any caramel bits dissolve and sauce is smooth. (Can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate. Rewarm over medium-low heat just until pourable, then let caramel sauce cool to room temperature.)

***After adding the cream and mixing the sauce, I removed it from the heat and stirred in about 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract and a dash of sea salt.***

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Toasted Coconut:

No recipe, but I wanted to mention I used unsweetened coconut, spread out on parchment over a cookie sheet.. baked it for about 10 mins at 350-F. Carefully watch and/or use less toasting time if you’re using sweetened coconut, as it burns faster than unsweetened.

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Dark Chocolate Ganache:

No recipe for this either, but I heated 1/4 Cup heavy cream over a double boiler, removed it from the heat and then stirred in about 1/3 Cup chocolate chips (Ghirardelli 60% cocoa) until they were melted and the mixture was smooth.

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Vanilla Cake:

Simple White Cake

by: SCOTTOSMAN (Allrecipes.com)

Prep Time:
20 Min

Cook Time:
30 Min

Ready In:
50 Min

Servings

Original Recipe Yield 12 cupcakes or 1- 9×9 inch pan

Ingredients

  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 3/4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 cup milk

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease and flour a 9×9 inch pan or line a muffin pan with paper liners.
  2. In a medium bowl, cream together the sugar and butter. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, then stir in the vanilla. Combine flour and baking powder, add to the creamed mixture and mix well. Finally stir in the milk until batter is smooth. Pour or spoon batter into the prepared pan.
  3. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes in the preheated oven. For cupcakes, bake 20 to 25 minutes. Cake is done when it springs back to the touch.

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Salted Caramel Frosting:

No real recipe for this either.. I softened 1 stick (1/2 Cup) unsalted butter, then beat it with the whisk attachment on my mixture until fluffy. Next I mixed in about 3/4 Cup of the salted caramel sauce until smooth. Then I gradually beat in confectioner’s sugar until the desired consistency. (About 2 1/2-cups. You may want more if you like a thicker frosting. I didn’t want the caramel taste overpowered by the sugar, so I kept it on the “less sugar” side.)

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And there you have it! The end result was a delicious combo of cookie and cake. I wouldn’t change a single thing! This is definitely not a healthy cake , and is best intended for special occasions.. like birthdays. 🙂

Halloween Witch’s Finger Cookies

One of the things that brings me joy in life is making seasonally themed treats – typically involving baked goods – and Fall is no exception! For the past seven or eight years, I make these Witch’s Finger Cookies just before Halloween. Essentially they’re a sugar cookie topped with an almond. Their slender “finger” shape makes them all too easy to grab and eat.  Typically I dye the nails red, but this year I went for green. You could choose any color you want, and I suppose you could also dye the dough, too!

 

witch's finger cookies

Pretty gross, right? But oh so delicious!

witch's finger cookies 2

They’re brushed with egg whites, adding a slight sheen and a sweeter flavor. We ran out of blanched almonds, so we had to substitute some peanuts for “nails.” Kinda gross. Perfect!

I made the green batch with a friend of mine on what happened to be an unusually warm fall day here in the Bay. We probably should have refrigerated the dough again after shaping, before baking, but we were too anxious to eat the finished product to wait any longer!

Below is a photo from a previous year with the red nails..I can’t decide which color I like better!

red nails witch's finger cookies

Wondering where to purchase or how to make blanched almonds? It’s easy! Boil a small pot of water, toss in the almonds, and boil them for a few minutes until the skins start to look wrinkled.  Drain the water and let the almonds cool slightly in a colander (they get REALLY hot and retain the heat.) Now you can pop the almond out of the skin: I usually hold it from the bottom with one hand, and cup my other hand around it – squeeze the almond gently from the base, and it should pop out of the skin. They tend to pop out quickly, thus the need for the cupped hand.. unless you’d like to send your almond flying across the room. Not that I’ve done that before. *cough.*  Ta-da! Blanched almonds.

Here’s the recipe for the cookies, courtesy of Martha Stewart:

Finger cookies

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons red food coloring
  • 30 blanched almonds
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 stick), room temperature
  • 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 5 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour

Directions

  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with Silpats (French nonstick baking mats) or parchment paper, and set aside.
  2. Place food coloring in a shallow bowl. Using a small paintbrush, color one rounded half of each almond. Set aside to dry.
  3. Separate 1 egg. Set aside the white. In a small bowl, whisk together yolk, remaining egg, and vanilla. Set aside.
  4. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine butter, confectioners’ sugar, granulated sugar, and salt. Beat on medium speed until well combined. Add egg mixture, and beat until smooth, about 2 minutes. Add the flour, and mix on low speed just until incorporated. Wrap the dough in plastic, and chill until firm, 20 to 30 minutes.
  5. Divide the dough in half. Work with one piece at a time, keeping remaining dough covered with plastic wrap and chilled. Divide the first half into 15 pieces. On a lightly floured surface, roll each piece back and forth with palms into finger shapes, 3 to 4 inches long. Pinch dough in two places to form knuckles. Score each knuckle lightly with the back of a small knife. Transfer fingers to prepared baking sheets. Repeat with remaining dough.
  6. When all fingers are formed, brush lightly with egg white. Position almond nails; push into dough to attach.
  7. Bake until lightly browned, about 12 minutes. Cool completely.

Banana Chocolate Chip Cinnamon Rolls

Today I realized that out of all the things I’ve made, cinnamon rolls never made it to the list. Shocking, since they are one of my favorite things to eat! I wanted something a little more adventurous than regular ‘ol cinnamon rolls, and noticed I had 2 very ripe bananas on the counter.. it was meant to be!

Given that I didn’t have a “go to” cinnamon roll recipe, I found one for pumpkin cinnamon rolls (which, by the way, looks delicious as well!) since it already had “extra” ingredients in the list and seemed like something I could work with if I wanted to add the banana, etc.

banana chocolate chip cinnamon rolls

They came out great! Hooray!

banana chocolate chip cinnamon rolls

I made a few changes to the recipe, but overall I used it as a guideline, and I did keep the delicious butter & brown sugar glaze!

Here’s the original recipe; I’ll note my changes next to the original text.

Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls with Caramel Frosting
1/3 cup milk
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup canned pumpkin (*I used 1/2 cup mashed banana)
2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg (*I did not add)
1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice (*I did not add)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 egg, beaten
1 (1/4 ounce) package dry yeast
2 cups bread flour [you can use regular all purpose flour but bread flour makes them lighter] (*I needed WAY more than this for some reason. At least a full cup more, just to get it to a consistency so that it was not sticking to absolutely everything! Even with the extra 1+ cup flour, the texture of the finished cinnamon rolls still turned out great!)
*1/3 cup chocolate chips (I added this in! I used Ghirardelli 60% cocoa chips)
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons melted butter
CARAMEL FROSTING
1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
2 tablespoons milk
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1 dash salt
3/4 cup sifted confectioners’ sugar
Directions
1. In small saucepan, heat milk and 2 tablespoons butter just until warm and butter is almost melted, stirring constantly. In large mixer bowl, combine pumpkin (*banana), sugar, nutmeg (*if using), pumpkin pie spice (*if using), and salt. Add milk mixture and beat with electric mixer until well mixed. Beat in egg and yeast.
2. Add half of the flour to pumpkin (*banana) mixture. Beat mixture on low speed 5 minutes, scraping sides of bowl frequently. Add remaining flour and mix thoroughly (dough will be very soft). Turn into lightly greased bowl, then grease surface of dough lightly.
3. Cover and let rise in warm place until doubled, about 1 hour. Punch dough down. Spray a surface with cooking spray or turn onto floured surface. Knead a few turns to form a smooth dough, sprinkling with enough additional flour to make dough easy enough to handle. Roll dough into 12×10 inch rectangle.
4. In small bowl, combine brown sugar and cinnamon. Brush surface of dough with melted butter. Sprinkle with brown sugar mixture *and chocolate chips (if using. I would recommend them for pumpkin or banana rolls! Yum!) Beginning with long side of dough, roll up jellyroll style. Pinch seam to seal. With sharp knife, cut roll into twelve 1- inch slices. Place rolls, cut side up, in greased 11X17 inch baking pan. Cover and let rise until nearly doubled, 30 to 45 minutes.
5. Bake rolls at 350 degrees about 15-20 minutes or until golden. Remove from pan to waxed paper-lined wire rack. Cool 10 to 15 minutes. Drizzle with Caramel frosting. Makes 12 rolls.
Caramel Frosting:
In small saucepan, heat butter until melted. Stir in brown sugar and milk.
Stir in brown sugar and milk. Cook over medium low heat 1 minute.
Transfer to small mixer bowl and cool mixture. Stir in vanilla, pumpkin pie spice, salt, and confectioners’ sugar. Beat with electric mixer until well blended. If necessary, add more confectioners’ sugar for desired consistency.

Fall Cranberry Apple Crisp

This is one of my all time favorite recipes for fall; it’s quick, easy, and surprisingly healthy! Aside from that, it’s delicious.. Sweet apples combined with tart cranberries, crunchy granola, and autumn spices make for a prefect introduction to fall.

Cranberry Apple CrispFresh out of the oven!

Cranberry Apple Crisp ServingThis is probably a serving size.. but, uh.. I probably eat two servings in a sitting.

This post wouldn’t be complete without the recipe, of course!

Cranberry Apple Crisp

Serves 8 to 10

Top this comforting autumn crisp with a scoop of vanilla ice cream of a dollop of yogurt before serving, if you like.

Ingredients

3 to 4 medium to large crisp red apples, peeled and sliced
1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries
1/2 cup apple juice
1 1/2 teaspoons all-purpose flour (I use whole wheat flour)
1 1/2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
2 cups granola

Method

Preheat oven to 350°F. Combine apples and cranberries and pour into an 8- or 9-inch square baking dish.

In a small bowl, whisk together apple juice, flour and pumpkin pie spice. Pour over the fruit. Sprinkle granola evenly over the fruit and lightly press down. Bake until hot and bubbly, 40 to 45 minutes. Serve warm, room temperature or cold.

Nutrition

Per serving: 100 calories (20 from fat), 2.5g total fat, 0g saturated fat, 0mg cholesterol, 10mg sodium, 19g total carbohydrate (2g dietary fiber, 10g sugar), 2g protein

(Recipe source: Wholefoods.com)

Summer Strawberry Cake

Designing collections essentially means that you’re always thinking at least a full season ahead..usually 6 months or more! This happens so often, that I sometimes forget to live at least a little bit in the season we’re in right this moment.

Not wanting summer to completely pass me by without notice, I took advantage of the beautiful weather and went strawberry picking with my guy. I’ve been wanting to do this since May; needless to say, it was long overdue! We packed a lunch and headed west towards Highway 1, to Swanton Berry Farm in Pescadero – a cute little town along the California coast.  Swanton’s has two strawberry fields to choose from. One field is north of the farmstand, and overlooks the ocean. The second field is adjacent to the farmstand itself. We chose the field overlooking the Pacific. Wouldn’t you?

Sadly, I didn’t remember to bring my camera, but we did get a couple of pics on the cell phone.

 

These berries have a pretty amazing view, don’t you think?

Swanton Berry Farm northern field

 

Pretty little strawberry blossoms..

Strawberry flowers

 

We ended up coming home with 6 pounds of strawberries! Not wasting any time, this weekend I made a batch of strawberry jam, strawberry butter, and strawberry cake. We’ll be having strawberries on our salad today, and will freeze the remaining berries for using later on. (Maybe strawberry rhubarb jam?)

The strawberry cake:

Slice of Strawberry CakeTopped with a dusting of powdered sugar..

Strawberry CakeFull cake!

Strawberry Cake close upClose-up – Yum!

My only regret is that we did not have any vanilla ice cream, or whipped cream. Darn. This recipe was ideal, because it only makes one pan of cake – perfect for two people! (Or four, if you feel like sharing…) Here’s the recipe, courtesy of Martha Stewart’s website:

Strawberry Cake

Martha Stewart Living, June 2005

  • Yield Makes one 10-inch cake

Ingredients

  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened, plus more for pie plate
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 pound strawberries, hulled and halved

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 10-inch pie plate. Sift flour, baking powder, and salt together into a medium bowl.
  2. Put butter and 1 cup sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Reduce speed to medium-low; mix in egg, milk, and vanilla.
  3. Reduce speed to low; gradually mix in flour mixture. Transfer batter to buttered pie plate. Arrange strawberries on top of batter, cut sides down and as close together as possible. Sprinkle remaining 2 tablespoons sugar over berries.
  4. Bake cake 10 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees. Bake until cake is golden brown and firm to the touch, about 1 hour. Let cool in pie plate on a wire rack. Cut into wedges. Cake can be stored at room temperature, loosely covered, up to 2 days.

Pumpkin Whoopie Pies and the Approaching Fall Season

Growing up in New England,  I became a pretty huge fan of the Fall season. It’s hard not to love the beautiful changing leaves, bright orange pumpkins, crisp apples, spicy cinnamon, fuzzy knit scarves and fall boots. Let’s not forget the pumpkin spice lattes! Mmm. Admittedly, I’m not a coffee drinker. I make an exception for those lattes!

Even though I no longer live in New England, I still crave everything that Fall has to offer and typically start looking forward to it as early as August.

I’ve recently become addicted to Pinterest, which has sparked my Fall passion just a little bit early this year, as I feverishly “pin” a billion seasonal decorations and recipes a full 9 weeks before October even arrives.

With that being said, I thought I should share one of my favorite Fall recipes. I can usually hold out until September before I make these tasty little treats, but I make no promises this year!

Pumpkin Whoopie Pies

Pumpkin Whoopie Pies

Decidedly more common on the east coast, I’ve been introducing whoopie pies to my friends here on the west coast.  These are so good, that I’ve had requests to make them every year for the past 9 years and counting. The spiced cream cheese filling is plentiful. Leftovers are also great used as a topping for banana bread, gingersnaps, etc..

Tip: Use a “cookie scoop” (or small ice cream scoop) if you’d prefer evenly sized, round cakes formed in the easiest way possible; Unless you’re a whiz with the double spoon action.. in that case, disregard the tip!

Cake Part:
1/2 can regular sized (14oz) pureed pumpkin (about 1 cup)
1/3 C softened unsalted butter
2 eggs
1 package spice cake mix [this is literally the only recipe I make that uses a box mix! I should convert it to a regular recipe at some point..]
1/2 C milk
Parchment paper for lining the baking sheet

In a large bowl, beat pumpkin and butter until smooth. Add spice cake mix, eggs, milk, and beat at a low speed until combined for 1 minute. Line baking sheets with parchment paper. Use a spoon or mini ice cream scoop to ladle scoops of batter, about 3 inches apart, on the lined cookie sheets. Bake at 375-F until lightly browned around the edges (about 15 minutes.) Cool the cakes on the parchment paper placed on a cooling rack so they do not become sticky.

Filling:
1/2 C softened unsalted butter (you could get away with using less if you want)
8oz package cream cheese, softened
2 cups sifted powdered sugar
1/2 of a 7oz jar marsmallow creme (you can use fluff if you don’t have creme. Just ‘melt’ it slightly in the microwave for a few seconds first to thicken it)
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg

Mix dry ingredients in small bowl. In mixing bowl, beat butter until smooth. Add cream cheese and marshmallow creme and continue beating. Add the dry ingredients, a little at a time, mixing until smooth and incorporated. The longer you mix it the fluffy it will become.

Once the cakes are cooled, spread filling on the flat half of one cake, and top with another cake to make a sandwich. Enjoy! (Don’t be surprised if you can’t eat just one!)