Wednesday, August 9, 2017

C'est la Lemon

There were a few blissful mornings last week when the humidity was below "tropical jungle" level and a nice chill swept the air on my early morning dog walks. Hocus Pocus and the Addams Family movies were playing on Freeform in the evenings, August had dawned upon us, and it finally felt like we might be moving into fall. After those lovely 48 hours, Florida punched me in the face with high temps, even higher humidity, and essentially sucked my will to live away from me--much like Winifred Sanderson sucking the soul out of a small child to live forever (I make a reference to Hocus Pocus at least once a day, so just deal with it). Summer still has me in its evil, sweaty clutches, and there's no end in sight. I decided that just to spite it (and because I like cupcakes), I was going to make the most summery dessert I could think of--lemon cream filled lemon cupcakes with Cool Whip and blueberries on top. I promised my husband to at least wait until September to unpack the Halloween decorations and start putting pumpkin into everything we eat. But know that I'm positively dying to put up my new Dia de los Muertos decorations while smelling the sumptuous scents of pumpkin and cinnamon wafting through my house. Summer, you will always be my least favorite season, but damned if I don't also love lemon as much as pumpkin spice.
It's just so zesty.










Since I want to be able to maintain my competitive eater level of appetite whilst still being able to rock a bikini year round (thanks, Florida), each lemon cream filled cupcake is only 100 calories a cupcake. In my head, this means I can eat three of them and still be eating fewer calories than a regular, sugar-laced cupcake. For people who don't have impulse control issues, this means you can eat a very lemony, very creamy, very delectable cupcake with literally no guilt. And dear sweet baby Jesus are these ever amazing. Try to eat just one...I dare you. I made a whole batch of 24 and froze half "for later." Later in this context probably means this weekend.
I'd like to thank the good folks at Coca-cola for making this possible.
To make the cupcakes, all you need is a box of lemon cake mix, 2 egg whites, and 10 ounces of Sprite Zero or other diet citrus soda. Preheat your oven to 350 and line a muffin tin with cupcake papers. Mix together the egg whites, soda, and cake mix for 2 minutes on medium-high. Take a cookie scoop or a tablespoon and plop the cupcake dough into your liners, filling 2/3 of the way full. Bake for 12-15 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean.
They will both look and smell lemony.
Fattest. Blueberries. Ever.
 Let your cupcakes rest in your pan for 5 minutes and then remove to a cooling rack to allow to fully cool. Meanwhile, you can gather up the filling ingredients:
  • 1 cup of skim milk
  • 1 box of sugar free vanilla pudding
  • 1 box of sugar free lemon Jello
  • 24 blueberries
  • 4-6 ounces of Cool Whip Free
I had to do some mad science because I couldn't find sugar free lemon pudding; if you can, omit the lemon Jello and make the pudding following box instructions and ingredients. But because I could not obtain lemon sugar free pudding, I had a hypothesis to test--can Jello and Jello pudding be mixed together? Differing temperatures, differing consistencies...it was risky, but ultimately, the answer is a resounding hell to the yes. Go, Science!
Not urine. Promise.
 I brought two cups of water to a boil and then turned off my burner. I stirred in the lemon Jello for 2 minutes with a whisk. I then placed this in a measuring cup and put it in the freezer to cool. You don't want the milk in your pudding mix to curdle, so definitely let this cool to a little above room temperature.
My whisk was working hard that day.
 Then I dumped my vanilla pudding mix and one cup of skim milk into a cold mixing bowl. I whisked until my arms almost fell off. I'm told by box instructions and a kitchen timer that 2 minutes of pure cardio whisking is about all my fragile, bird-like limbs can handle.
Worth it.
Once my Jello had cooled in the freezer, I poured a half a cup into my pudding mix, whisked until incorporated, and then poured another half a cup into the pudding mix, blending well again. You will have another cup of lemon Jello leftover, so pour this into a bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and enjoy the feeling of eating hospital food at home and have it with your lunch. Let your lemon Jello/vanilla pudding mix rest for about 10 minutes to firm up and then place into a piping bag or a Ziplock bag. Wait to snip the end off for right now.
Now, back to the baked goods.
 Once your cupcakes are completely cool, take a cupcake corer, apple corer, or be janky like me because I don't have these things and use a large round frosting tip to core out the middle of your cupcake and make room for that delicious science experiment we just successfully implemented in the previous steps. I wiggled my piping tip halfway into the cupcake and gently pulled it out of the cupcake to remove the center:
Excellent reservoir for pudding filling.
 Then I grabbed my piping bag of filling, snipped the end off, and filled each of my cupcakes to the brim!
And I was so, so happy there was leftover filling.
Much like the lemon Jello, you'll have some leftover filling. Works great after lunch with a dollop of Cool Whip Free, or straight out of the piping bag and into your mouth. I've tested both options out, and personally, I love it either way. Definitely classier to eat it out of the bowl. Place your filled cupcakes into the freezer for an hour to firm up.
No method to this madness, however.
 Once your cupcake centers have set, load up a piping bag with a piping tip and Cool Whip Free. If you can find the sugar free lemon pudding mix, you can always blend your Cool Whip Free with another 3.4 ounces of sugar free vanilla pudding and a bit of milk. I used a 2D tip to just randomly pipe stars, hydrangeas, whatever my little heart desired in the moment, and finished up with a blueberry on top of each cupcake. I really, really just wanted to see how my lemon cream filling turned out...
Mmm, lemony center...
Oh yes, it was the perfect consistency after these sat in the fridge for a half hour to thaw out from their trip to the freezer earlier. Thick, but still liquid in consistency. Like a Boston cream filled donut, but in lemon form. I'm not lying when I say I feel like something that rich should be way more than 100 calories a pop, but I'm so happy they aren't because I can shovel them away with reckless abandon. I love lemon flavoring, and these cupcakes are the best way for me to grin and bear the remaining days of summer. Hard to complain when you've got a mouth full of cupcake, after all. 'Til next time, my fellow eaters!
I could eat all six right now, just sayin'.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Must Love Pupcakes

Did you know that dog food gets taste tested by humans? I start this blog off with that particular tidbit of information because the recipe I'm about to show you is definitely for dogs, but it looks good enough for human consumption. I'm not gonna judge you if you make these for your beloved pooch and accidentally snag a bite. Your dog might though. I always make my dogs a special treat for their birthday, whether it's cookies, cakes, or pupcakes, Hank and Freyja probably get more decadent treats than most people do on their special day...considering my husband and I belong to the generation of Millennials that bought a house just to have dogs, this really isn't all that surprising. I love my dogs and spoil them accordingly. I will show you photo after photo of how adorable they are, clog up your news feed with said photos, and continue to remind you regularly that dogs are the best thing to ever exist. But no, in return, I really don't want to look at your actual baby's photos. Unless your baby has 4 legs. And cute snout. And is definitely a dog. Then we're good. Remember, your kids are only adorable to you and your immediate family, but dogs are adorable to everyone. I will, however, also accept photos of your kids with dogs; this is the one exception to the rule.
I just hope your child's ears aren't as big as my kiddos are.
Blueberry mini pupcakes--the dogs essentially told me these were a hit by devouring a few in under 15 seconds. I had them each try a blueberry before I made these to make sure they'd like them. Hank inhaled it. Freyja looked at me like I had betrayed her with this tiny sour ball that most definitely was not the peanut butter she was hoping for, but ultimately, she ate it. While I don't do calorie counting for dogs (yet...), I limit these to 1 and 1/2 pupcakes per dog, per day, mixed in with a little less kibble for dinner. The recipe yields 18 mini pupcakes total and is an absolute cinch to throw together for your four-legged companions (or yourself...).
I mean, minus the dog food, this is all good stuff to eat!
You only need a few staple pantry items and some blueberries to make these. I adapted this recipe. Round up:
  • 3 tbs crushed dog kibble
  • 1/3 cup plus 3 TBS whole wheat flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp honey
  • 1 egg
  • 1/3 cup skim milk
  • 2/3 cup fresh blueberries + 18 blueberries for garnish
Start by preheating your oven to 350 and line a mini muffin tin with mini cupcake papers. Lightly grease your cupcake papers. Alternatively, you could reaaaallly grease up your mini muffin tin and skip the liners all together.
Ensure you have a good buddy on hand to clean up any floor spills.
 Mix together the crushed kibble, flour, and baking powder in the bowl of your stand mixer. I turned around after doing this to see Hank (as pictured above) and knew in that moment he had figured out whatever I was making, it was definitely for him. He's smarter than most of the people I know, I swear. Dump in the milk, egg, honey, and blueberries to the dry mix and blend for a minute on medium high. You want the berries to break up a bit so the doggos can chew them easily.
Now, take a cookie scoop, and grease it well.
These don't bake up much, so fill a little over 2/3 full with the help of your cookie scoop or a tablespoon scoop.
Since these mini pupcakes are, well, mini, they only need to bake for about 10 minutes in the oven. Test with a toothpick--you shouldn't have any batter come out on a cooked pupcake. Avoid aiming for a blueberry cluster when you test though. Unless you like to lick blueberry juice off a toothpick. And I do. So I may have done this "test" a couple times.
Let rest on a cooling rack for 10 minutes.

Then remove and allow 30 minutes to fully cool, all the while marveling that these look like tiny blueberry muffins and definitely something you want to try a bite of.
These are definitely safe for your consumption.
 To frost your pupcakes, fit a piping bag with a 1M tip, and load the bag with a little bit of whipped cream cheese. I simply piped little stars on top of my pupcakes by holding the bag directly over the pupcake and piping a small mound on top:
And they were super tiny and super adorable. I could probably fit four of these in my mouth at one time. I know my dogs would double that.
Finish off by gently pressing a blueberry into each star.
"Mother, I am hungry."
 Once frosted, keep these in the fridge until ready to serve at your dog's birthday party, obedience school graduation, dog wedding, or whatever other ridiculous shindig we dog folk continue to come up with every year to celebrate our beloved canines. Be sure to unwrap these before serving to your pup. They definitely aren't discerning when it comes to eating paper...I mean, they kinda have a reputation for it. No one ever said their cat at their homework, after all. But I promise you they will love them, and they will show this love by burping in your face directly after eating them and then licking you to death with blueberry kibble breath. And it will be wonderful, because dogs just are.
It's blurry because he was wolfing them down like he hadn't eaten in days (it had literally been an hour since his last meal).
Hank turned six(ish..rescue dogs don't come with birth certificates!) today, and I just want to stop time. No matter how many years I get with this dog, it will never be enough. He is my soul mutt, and when he looks me in the eye, my icy cold heart turns into complete mush. There is nothing I wouldn't do for my dogs, including but not limited to: waking up at 5 a.m. to walk them 7 days a week, bake them fancy treats, brush their teeth every few days to recover from said treats, cuddle them with reckless abandon, let them sleep on me and refuse to move for fear of waking them, and basically give them more love than I ever knew I had in me. That's the great thing about dogs--they are steadfast in how much they love you. A crappy day is always ended quickly when wagging tails and cold noses are there to greet you at home. The least I can do in return is spoil my dogs to what may seem a borderline ridiculous amount to some, but not to me--or to Hank and Freyja. 'Til next time, my fellow eaters! Go cuddle your pups!

Sunday, July 16, 2017

A Piece of Cake the Size of My Head

When I was but a wee child, I had an insatiable sweet tooth. I realize the irony in typing that as at the age of 30, I sit here eating cinnamon Graham Crackers topped with peanut butter. If you had told me when I was five that I'd still be eating the same lunch over two decades later, I would've been thrilled considering both my love of peanut butter and hatred of change. But the only thing I loved more than routine was eating donuts the size of my head or pancake stacks taller than me. Come to think of it, this still applies. The only thing different now is that I'm familiar with the concepts of guilt and feelings-eating (oh, the parallels!). Ah, to be an innocent, gluttonous child once more. I may still have the metabolism of a hyperactive child in a sugar-fueled rampage, but I try my best to eat healthy. I have been craving a Boston cream donut to the point where I get a little drool-y when I drive by a Dunkin' Donuts, and I knew my sweet tooth/inner child was going to win out eventually. It was just a battle of wills between satisfying my donut lust while simultaneously still fitting comfortably into skinny jeans. In case you were wondering, yes, it is positively exhausting being this crazy. But the insanity sometimes results in pure genius--like this Boston cream angel food cake.
Even topped with chocolate glaze.
I love angel food cake, but it is a nightmare to make. I don't own a tube pan, so I have to make angel food cakes in my bundt pan. It is possible, and the experience will definitely make you believe in said angels when it turns out right, but sometimes, a quick trip through a bakery is all you're willing to put up with. If you're looking for the easiest thing you'll do in your kitchen all week that results in cake, buy a premade angel food cake for this recipe. The other great thing about angel food cake is that it is unabashedly low in calories. By swapping out a few other ingredients, this cake is only 160 calories a slice for 10 slices total. What donut in the world can say the same? I mean, a slice of this equates to a piece of cake the size of my head--thus satisfying my inner child. And unlike eating a donut the size of my head, a slice of this cake doesn't leave me praying for death or an unlimited supply of Tums after I eat it. What you might call a win, win.
Oh yeah, and only five ingredients to make! A lazy win, win.
The worst part about making this Boston cream angel food cake was having to step foot inside of a Walmart to get a premade angel food cake. Thankfully, having to avoid being touched and/or breathed on by anyone else inside of a Walmart only occurs about once a year instead of weekly now that we don't live in Clovis. Small sacrifices. To make this heavenly (see what I did there) angel food cake, you need:
  • 1 angel food cake
  • 1 package of sugar free Jello instant vanilla pudding
  • 1 1/2 cups skim milk
  • 1 cup of Cool Whip Free, divided
  • 2 ounces of Baker's Semi-Sweet Chocolate
And prepare for a photo montage!
 Mix the milk and pudding together with a whisk in a medium bowl for two minutes. I consider myself to be in really good shape, but my biceps were so, so happy after these two minutes were over. Mad props to my stand mixer for taking care of my dessert needs because if I had to whisk my desserts every week, I'd never eat any baked goods.
Whisk in half a cup of Cool Whip Free and set aside.
Ahh, the cake garotte wire returns.
 You will need to tort your cake into three layers. I use my cake leveler, but a long serrated knife would also work if you don't enjoy the feeling of using garotte wire to mutilate a cake. It's a lot more fun than it sounds, I promise.
Once torted, set the top two layers aside. Place the bottom layer on a large plate.

And then add a thick layer of the Boston cream filling on top of it. I used an angled spatula to even out and smooth. Not that it really matters, because you're just going to put the middle layer of the cake on top of this, and repeat with another layer of Boston cream filling.

Finish off by placing the top piece of cake on top of the last layer of Boston cream filling. You may have some oozing out of the sides, but you can achieve a cool "naked cake" look if you take your angled spatula and swipe it around the side of the cake:
It's messy, but in a really chic way. Gotta love trends.
 Now, take 2 ounces of the chocolate baking bar and hack it up into tiny pieces. Sorry, this blog is sounding way more murdery than I intended. Dump into a bowl with the other half a cup of Cool Whip Free. I cleaned out and reused the same bowl I used to mix my Boston cream filling (I wasn't kidding last week with that lazy but efficient business). Microwave on high for 30 seconds, and get ready to whisk those biceps back into shape, baby! You should be left with a nice, thick chocolate ganche. Dump small spoon-fulls on top of the cake and smooth out with a spatula:
Ohhh yeah, look at that little drip of chocolate glaze in the middle...mmmmmmm.
 Sorry, I may need a moment to recover from that photo. The glaze might run a little down the sides of your cake, but it's still going to look absolutely spectacular, like the world's largest donut:
Or what I imagine the world's largest donut would look like. I'd probably have to go to the Minnesota or Texas State Fair to figure it out for real.
...that's it. All you have to do now is let your cake set in the fridge for an hour, and then you're ready to serve it up. Do leave any leftovers in the fridge to keep the Boston cream layers firm. Y'all, seriously, this was so easy that I figured it would only be an "okay" substitute for my Boston Cream donut craving. I have dreams about how good this cake is. I stare at it longingly every time I open the fridge. The angel food cake is the perfect amount of sweetness to complement the Boston Cream layers, and the chocolate glaze is the perfect finishing touch. It's the classy, adultier version of a donut. My inner child also appreciates this because I was born feeling like a 45-year-old in most regards. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to go sit on my couch in scuffies and pj's for the rest of the day, because whether your 10 or 60, it's just a good way to spend a Sunday. 'Til next time, my fellow eaters!
Size. of. my. head.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Shockingly Simple Sweets

I'm an efficient person--organized, put together, "on the ball," you might say, so what I'm about to admit might come as a bit of a shock. I'm also extremely lazy. Like, I don't even waste the energy to turn my socks right-side-out before wearing them lazy. So lazy that even the mere idea of having to get off my couch and do anything on the weekend makes me a little grumpy. I've spent decades somehow calculating a way to live my life to maximize my productivity while also maintaining my optimum level of laziness. My credo most certainly is to work smarter and not harder. I'm the human version of a cat in a sunny spot--I can't be bothered with much unless movement ends in food or praise of some sort. Needless to say, after the harrowing adventure that was mirror glazing my husband's birthday cake, I wanted to make a dessert for a 4th of July cookout that was child's play to put together but still looked like a million bucks (I also follow this same pattern when it comes to hair and makeup--efficient, I tell you). I'm going to let you in on a great baking secret--you can throw together cookies that are so soft and stay so fresh forever in 30 minutes from start to finish. And that includes decoration! Because everything should be topped with a layer of chocolate and sprinkles. My friends, let me show you the path of least resistance--the lazy cake mix cookie.
The patriotic edition!
I know, usually my 4th of July creations range anywhere from extremely American to Abe Lincoln riding a bear level of patriotism, see: American flag cakes, American flag cake pops, and tie-dye American flag berry cakes. But these cookies are fun, festive, and so, so low in calories. At only 80 calories a cookie (for a total of 40 cookies), you can shove fistfuls into your mouth like the true American you are. Now, if you're an extreme American, I expect you'd dye these red and blue and top with white chocolate glaze and star sprinkles all year round. Otherwise, you can literally make these cake mix cookies with any flavor of cake mix and/or gel dye to achieve whatever coloring you'd like. The hardest part about these cake mix cookies is figuring out what flavor you want to eat.
Which, in all fairness, is a great problem to have.
I just so happened to have half a box of vanilla and half a box of strawberry cake mix leftover from said mirror glazed galaxy swirl cake from my husband's birthday. I told you--lazy, but systematically so. You can make the 40 cookies with a full box of cake mix and the combined amount of eggs and butter below if you're not trying to clean out your pantry. But here's how I made my red and blue cookies:
  • 1/2 box vanilla cake mix
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted and cooled
  • 1 egg
  • Blue gel dye
  • 1/2 box strawberry cake mix
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted and cooled
  • 1 egg
  • Red gel dye
  • 1/2 an 8 ounce bag of white chocolate melts
  • Star sprinkles and white sanding sugar
 Preheat your oven to 350. Mix the melted butter, egg, and white cake mix together for 2 minutes. Add several drops of blue food color to achieve a nice hue. **You must, must let this mix rest for about 10 minutes.** This allows the dough to firm up a bit so it is easier to handle and shape the cookies. Use a 1/2 tablespoon measuring spoon and scoop out 20 balls of dough. I spray my 1/2 tablespoon with cooking spray to help release them, and then give a quick swirl in my hands to round them out and flatten them a bit:
Like so.
Load up a cookie sheet with your rounds, and bake them for 10 minutes, tops. These cookies will be soft, but shouldn't look shiny when they're cooked through. Allow them to cool for a few minutes on the cookie sheet before moving to a cooling rack.
Temptation to eat raw cake batter at an all time high.
For my strawberry cookies, I followed the same process: mix butter, egg, and cake mix for 2 minutes, add red gel dye, mix, and let rest for 10. Scoop, shape, flatten, and bake for 10 minutes. Let cool on a cooling rack.
Your house will smell friggin' wonderful.
Like a cloud of vanilla topped with fresh strawberries.
It has taken me three years, but I've finally used the 10 tubes of star sprinkles I bought at Hobby Lobby (impulse buy gone sort of okay).
 Oh yes, remember last week when I told you I bought my weight in chocolate melts? Well, surprise, surprise, I also used chocolate melts to give my cookies an extra kick of sugary deliciousness. Melt half a bag of chocolate melts in a microwavable bowl for 30 seconds at a time on 50% power, stirring after each time until smooth. Prepare a piping bag with a small round tip. I used a Wilton #3 tip. You can also just get a plastic baggy ready and snip a corner; same thing, but even more efficiently lazy because you don't have to do any dishes to clean it up!
Tricks of the trade.
I always put my prepared piping bag in a glass and fold the plastic over the edges--easiest way to load up frosting and chocolate melts. Pour the melts into your bag and then let them cool for 2-3 minutes. Use this time to put Parchment paper down and place your cooling racks on top of this. Space your cookies out, and then grab the piping bag.
And get messssyyyy.
 There's no wrong way to do this, so with a ton of gusto, I drizzled my piping bag of chocolate melts back and forth over all my cookies. Work quickly; while the chocolate is still wet, you then need to add whatever sprinkles you want on top of your cookies so they will stick.
There will be chocolate everywhere. So don't forget the Parchment paper, or you're gonna go from lazy clean up to "I'm going to find sprinkles and chocolate in my kitchen until 4th of July 2030."

Which may still be worth it.




Because these cookies are soooooo gooooood. You might think 40 cookies are a lot of cookies. You may not be wrong. But when you bring 40 cookies to a 4th of July cookout, they reduce in number drastically faster than you can say, "Hold my beer and watch this," before shooting your best friend with a Roman Candle (accidentally, of course). I love that these cookies are so simple to make and taste like a cross between a cookie and a cupcake. They're soft, and they definitely melt on your tongue. I'm tempted to throw in M&M's or Reese's Pieces to chocolate cake mix cookies the next time I whip up a batch. The possibilities are endless--but they're also incredibly easy. Welcome to my world. A world where you look like you clearly know how to adult, but you really just excel at corner cutting. It's a great time to be alive and lazy, people. 'Til next time, my fellow eaters!
As easy to make as they are to eat--that's how I roll.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Some Cakes Are out of This World

I tend to go above and beyond when it comes to making my husband's birthday cakes. I try to outdo myself every year, which has helped me to come up with some gems like this zombie birthday cake, a Cookie Monster cake, this giant 3-0  birthday cake, and my personal favorite, this 8-bit Legend of Zelda birthday cake. But when we've taken to calling the week of his birthday "Derekpalooza," it's kind of a big deal to make a cake that is even half as awesome as the man himself. I knew this year was going to be the year--I was going to make a mirror cake. I'm sure you're familiar with this trend...a cake so shiny you can literally see your reflection in it as you inhale slice after slice. When I write it out, it seems like the kind of thing you'd actually want to avoid, but thankfully this didn't stop me. My husband not only tolerates but also embraces the entire crazy package that is me, so to celebrate his birthday (and extraordinarily high level of patience), I was determined to make this cake the most spectacular thing I've ever decorated. A cake that was out of this world...and thus, the galaxy swirl mirror cake was born amidst a Big Bang level of kitchen mess.
Worth it.
Do you see how unbelievably shiny that cake is?! And swirly? And downright friggin' awesome?! I've done a lot of things in my life that I've considered milestone moments--getting my Master's Degree, getting married, buying a Camaro, rescuing the world's cutest dogs, and this cake is officially added to the list. I literally almost cried when I was done with the mirror glazing because I was so happy it turned out and didn't end in a disaster and very quick trip to the nearest bakery for something I could stick a candle in and call it good. To say this mirror glaze process made me anxious is like saying Jupiter's a sorta big planet...a massive understatement on all accounts. But I did it. With tons of emotional bargaining, a lot of cursing, and so much breath holding I nearly fainted, but I did it. And you know what? It was so much easier than I thought it would be. So this pretty much means I'm going to mirror glaze everything from now until the end of time. But I'll let you in on my secrets and the whole process in a crappy photo montage bigger than planet Pluto (it will ALWAYS be a planet to me).
Yeah, I'm a rebel...rival cake mixes and all.
 I did want to cut as many calories as possible since this cake was getting topped with a layer of buttercream and an additional layer of mirror glaze. Since a lot of the glaze ends up dripping off the cake, two 6" rounds stacked with buttercream and glaze ended up being 400 calories a slice for 12 very tiny slices. It wasn't my birthday, so calories unfortunately and inevitably still counted. To make the galaxy swirl cake, you'll need:
  • 1 can of Sprite Zero, divided
  • 1/2 a strawberry cake mix
  • 1/2 a vanilla cake mix
  • 2 eggs, divided
  • Blue, turquoise, and purple gel dye (or whatever colors you want your cake to be)
Preheat your oven to 350 and grease your pans (this will make enough batter for two 8" rounds or two 6" rounds and two additional mini 4" rounds). Take half of the box of vanilla cake mix, one egg, and 5 ounces of Sprite Zero and blend well in a stand mixer for 2 minutes. Divide this into two large bowls. Dye one bowl of vanilla cake mix blue and the other bowl turquoise. Clean out the stand mixer bowl and then add half the box of the strawberry cake mix, one egg, and 5 ounces of Sprite Zero. Mix well for 2 minutes and add in the purple dye.
Things are about to get fun.
 Now, gather up three spoons. Take a spoonful of purple batter, plop it into each of your cake pans, grab another spoon, take a spoonful of turquoise batter, plop it into each of your cake pans, and finally take the last spoon and gather a spoonful of blue batter, and plop it into each of your cake pans. Continue plopping random spoonfuls of each color so they're overlapping and each color is getting distributed on top of another:
Will look like you've mixed Play-Doh.
 You'll have about half the purple/strawberry cake batter left if you're using 6" rounds.
But they work out great a single serving pieces! These only need to bake for 10 minutes.
Now, you can gently tap each pan on the counter to get out any air bubbles. To create an even trippier effect, take a knife and gently swirl (don't stir!) the batters to mix the colors in a swirling fashion. I meant to do this...and I promptly forgot because I was simultaneously making dinner, proving once again, there's not enough hours in the day for me to kick all the ass that I want to. Still, the cakes looked other-worldly after baking at 350 for 20 minutes and letting cool on a rack:
Definitely spacey. Like my head after a long day...
 Be sure to cut a cake board to the exact size of your cakes while they cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Then turn them out on a towel on top of the cooling rack to finish cooling.
Oh yeah, the good stuff...
I haven't had buttercream frosting in a very, very long time. I had long since forgotten that wonderful, make-your-teeth-rot sweetness that comes with a perfectly crafted buttercream. Dear God, did I miss it. To make my buttercream that works with the Viva paper towel trick, you'll need:
  • 1/2 cup of butter, softened
  • 1/4 cup of Crisco
  • 3 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 TBS vanilla extract
  • 3 TBS skim milk
Blend the butter and Crisco together, then add the vanilla extract, a tablespoon of milk, and two cups of powdered sugar. Slowly blend together, and then add the last cup and a half of sugar and last tablespoon of milk. Blend, and then scrape your frosting into a piping bag with a large open coupler or open round tip.
Like the world's coolest Oreo...
 Take the completely cooled cakes and place one round on your prepared cake board. Pipe a circle of frosting around the edges and a bit on the middle of the cake. Use an angled spatula to evenly distribute, then take the other cake round, and flip it upside down so the bottom of the cake is facing out (you want a smooth surface for your glaze later).
Admittedly, also been a long time since I smoothed a cake..
Use the piping bag to pipe up and down the sides of the cake and circle around the top. Use a large angled spatula to spread the frosting out and get it as smooth as possible. Place your cake in the freezer for 15 minutes, then take it out and use a textureless paper towel to smooth out any imperfections. The glaze will show any uneven spots, so work carefully to smooth out. You will want your frosting to be frozen before you pour molten hot chocolate on top of it, so place in the freezer for at least 4 hours.
I bought three bags of chocolate melts in case I screwed up. I'm now rich with chocolate melts.
So this glaze doesn't require anything out of the ordinary to make if you're close to a Hobby Lobby or Joann Fabric or Michaels. Guess who does not live close to any of these? Mhm. So I bought three bags of melts on my excursion to JoAnn's in case I ruined everything and had to start over or attempt to eat my weight in chocolate melts to cope. I found this tutorial (and aside from how annoyingly chipper the girl is) it is quite useful, but I like my instructions in the written form, so I'll walk you through how I made my glaze. To make, you need:
  • 8 ounces of white chocolate melts
  • 5 teaspoons of plain gelatin
  • 1/2 cup of water
  • A separate 1/4 cup of water
  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 1/2 cup of light corn syrup
  • 1/2 cup of fat free sweetened condensed milk
  • Gel dyes in black, blue, turquoise, bright electric blue, and purple 
  • Black edible disco dust
And every pan, bowl, and utensil you have.
 In a bowl, dump the 1/2 a cup of water and measure out and add 5 teaspoons of gelatin. Whisk together until it starts to thicken and bloom and look like the world's grossest applesauce. Set this aside. In a sauce pan, whisk the 1/4 cup of water, sugar, and corn syrup together and heat on medium to a low boil. Boil for 7 minutes, until the sugar is totally dissolved. Remove from heat and whisk in the bloomed gelatin followed by the sweetened condensed milk. Take a large bowl and dump in your chocolate melts. Pour the mixture you just made on top of the melts, and let this sit for 4 minutes.
Gather the rest of your entire kitchen at this point.
 While the chocolate melts...melt...get out 5 more bowls (one larger than the rest), 5 more spoons, the gel dyes, a strainer/sieve, and a hand mixer or whisk. Take the cake out of the freezer and place on a baking sheet covered with foil or Parchment paper. Elevate your cake using a vase, large mug, container, etc. so the chocolate mix can drip off the bottom. Now, mix the chocolate melts/gelatin goop together with the hand mixer until no lumps remain. Take the largest bowl you just set out, and place the strainer on top of it. Dump the chocolate melt mixture over the strainer to get rid of bubbles and any small clumps. Split the chocolate between the 5 bowls and work quickly to dye each bowl one of your colors of choice. I used:
  • In the largest bowl where I strained my chocolate, 5 drops black and 5 drops blue
  • 6 drops of electric blue and 2 drops of blue to another bowl
  • Several drops of turquoise to another bowl
  • Several drops of purple to another bowl
  • Several drops of just electric blue to another bowl
Yep, that's the bottom of my butter bell under my cake.
Shaky cam to show my rush and high level of anxiety best described as "human treed by a bear."
In the largest bowl that I dyed the darkest color of black and blue together, I dumped in the bowl that I had dyed electric blue mixed with a few drops of blue. DO NOT MIX, but gently swirl these two together in that large bowl. This creates a really cool two-toned effect. Hold you breath, pray to whatever deity you believe in, and dump this bowl on top of your frozen cake.
Things will be okay, I promise!
 The great thing about this mirror glaze is that you can see your entire life flash by in it while you hope it turns out alright. It will drip off and ooze, but the entire cake should be covered. To complete the galaxy look, drizzle spoonfuls of the remaining three colors on top randomly:
All the while making a glorious mess.

Like melting crayons.
 To meld the colors together, take a large angled spatula and very gently smooth in one direction. To finish, sprinkle the black disco dust on top:
Because nothing I make can be void of glittery sparkles.
But really, it the galactic sparkling cherry on top.
 Let your cake continue to ooze for 20 minutes. Prep whatever you're going to keep your cake on, and get ready hold your breath all over again.
Because now you have to move this without ruining the glaze. Like the world's stickiest game of hot potato.
Since I used 6" rounds, my cake fit on a large dinner plate. I very, very carefully and very, very aware of how uncoordinated I am, placed my fingers under the cake board to transfer the cake from the top of my butter bell to the plate it would call home. Moving it from one spot to the other felt to be about six light years long.
Stars were born in the time it took me to plate this.
 But I did it without ruining everything in the end. A cake so shiny, you can literally see the reflection from my flash bulb. I'm thrilled with how this turned out, but even more so, so was the birthday boy.
I think he was happy I didn't use any hot pink dye, too.
 I honestly wasn't sure how great the mirror glaze itself was going to taste. My doubts were met with what could best be described as pure tasty bliss when we each had a bite. This mirror glaze is like Magic Shell for cakes...it's a top layer of slightly hardened chocolate that tastes like a sugary sweet dream. Not to mention it has a full layer of vanilla buttercream to back it up. It's definitely a decadent and savory cake, and cutting into it was an insanely thrilling moment:
Kate, creator of (cake) worlds!
I've been too busy to really spend a lot of time baking lately. I managed to cram in baking and decorating this cake over two evenings, and although I was so, so tired, I was also so, so happy with how it turned out. It was a great reminder of why I started baking in the first place--to challenge myself to learn something new and find a way to express my creativity. And to boot, it bears tasty outcomes for me and my loved ones. Derek and I had a wonderful day in Pensacola for his birthday, eating delicious Irish pub food, sampling beers from a local brewery (him, not me, all those calories were saved for dessert!), and later having our cake and eating it, too. Thirty-one looks great on him, and hopefully this cake will fair as well on my hips, too. Totally worth it for an intergalactic dessert experience! When in doubt, you can make a mirror glaze cake without going completely mental--I mean, I was half mental when I started, and still just about as crazy when I finished, so anything's possible. There are worse ways to lose my sanity than trying to make my wonderful husband the best birthday cake ever. 'Til next time, my fellow eaters!