Sunday, November 22, 2015

Do the Dip

We live in a world where a lot of people disagree just for the sake of disagreeing. I believe that one of the only things everyone can truly agree on is that chips and dip are the perfect precursor to just about any meal. That's why we all fill up on a ridiculous amount of chips and salsa every time we go to a Mexican restaurant. It's why we stay near the snack table at every bbq to eat the host out of house and chip. We eat chips and dip with reckless abandon because hey, a few chips can't hurt, right? It's only until you demolish the whole bag and hate yourself a little that it's a problem. So this got me thinking...if people love chips and dip so much, would they love cookies and dessert dip, too? Could it be possible to bookend a meal with dips? Could I start a dessert revolution? Pure madness! So naturally, I had to try because I'm a crazy person who knows absolutely no limit when it comes to finding new ways to fill my body with a borderline stupid amount of sugar. If you cut me open, blood would not pour out...but chocolate cake might. Yesterday I prepared to attend a party and set my plans for dessert domination in play. Meet my dessert dips, and revel in my glory (I may or may not have delusions of grandeur, but I still think I'm pretty awesome either way).
When I dip, you dip, we dip.
Heellllooooo my pretties. Did you know Jello makes a cheesecake pudding? Because I did not, and it has officially changed my life. I was able to put together a turtle cheesecake dip centered solely around it, and for that the wonderful people of Jello will forever be in my good graces. The other cute little dish (literally, look at how cute my bowls are) is a toffee cookie dough dip. It is both a mouthful to say and eat! So how well did these dips go over at the party? I was told that these dips were some "Nobel Prize level stuff." Suffice it to say, everyone you know will love you twice as much if you bring one of these desserts to your Thanksgiving festivities. And this is also one of those wonderfully fortuitous moments when the dessert both looks and tastes insanely impressive but is amazingly easy to throw together.
Case in point.
The turtle cheesecake dip shall open your world to endless possibilities. Could it achieve world peace? It's a distinct possibility. No one can argue over a good dip. So gather up:
  • 1 box of Jello cheesecake pudding
  • 1 8 oz. container of Cool Whip
  • 1 8 oz. brick of room temp cream cheese (use the full fatty fat fat kind, or the dip will be weird and not the right consistency)
  • 1/3 cup of powdered sugar
  • Chopped pecans
  • Caramel sauce
  • Chocolate sauce (I used Hershey's chocolate spread)
Start by creaming together the powdered sugar, Cool Whip, pudding mix, and cream cheese. Once well blended, add in your desired amount of pecans. I used half of a small bag and saved the rest for topping.
Put that amazingness into a medium-sized bowl. Smooth it out with a spatula. Revel in your greatness.
Then eat a little of the chocolate sauce before you start to pipe it on your dip.
Then add a nice layer of caramel sauce. Feel free to eat some of that, too. Caramel is delicious.
And finish your layering with another pass of chocolate sauce.
Top with remaining crushed pecans and place in fridge to set!
That's it. You're done. This will take ten minutes of your life from start to finish, and people will praise your name for an entire party. Totally worth it. This was definitely the crowd favorite, but I am not a fan of nuts in food. I will eat every cashew, pecan, or peanut you can find me, just not if it's encased in another food. Nuts do not belong in brownies, can we all just finally come to terms with that? I want to bite into a warm, gooey brownie without fear that a crunchy nut is going to ruin the experience for me (this is also another reason why I bake--I call the brownie shots!). Since I am opposed to nutty foods, I also made the toffee cookie dough dip so I could enjoy dessert, too. If you're an anti-nut nut (see what I did there), this is the dip for you.
Not a nut in sight!
Can we talk about how underrated Heath bars and toffee are? Bless the soul who thought to mix butter and sugar together at a high heat. We need more innovators like that. For this dip, gather up:
  • 1 8 oz. block of room temp cream cheese
  • 1/2 cup of room temp butter
  • 2 teaspoons of vanilla
  • 3 heaping tablespoons of brown sugar
  • 1 cup of powdered sugar
  • 1 cup of chocolate chips
  • 1 cup of toffee bits
Hold on tight, people, this recipe is a wild ride, too. Mix together the cream cheese and butter until nice and fluffy. Then add in the vanilla, both sugars, and mix well. Finish up by adding in the chips and bits (new idea: open cookie store named chips and bits). 
Place into a medium-sized bowl. Smooth it out with a spatula. Continue to revel in greatness.
You could leave it at that, but I like to make everything pretty, so I topped my dip with some extra chocolate chips before placing in the fridge to set.
Yet another ten minutes of time for a night of ooh's and aah's directed your way. Even if you suck at baking, this is foolproof. And man alive, is it worth it. Each of these dips has something to offer. So much so that I have permanently placed these on the dessert rotation list, for sure. I will be dreaming of eating the minimal leftovers after we finish off the pumpkin cheesecake from last week. I have way too much dessert in this house. Not that it's a problem for anything other than my waistline, really. And this year we're not going on a cruise in the middle of December that I have to stay in super shape for, so I get to bust out stretchy pants and make the problem go away. Speaking of stretchy pants, I hope everyone has a fantastic Thanksgiving full of fried turkeys (the only way to eat turkey) and family. Don't fry your family though...draw the line at cannibalism, always. Good old Kate Bakes Cakes will be taking a Kate Bakes Break until mid December due to traveling and the end of the semester (so. much. grading.), so I will see you all back then with some delicious Christmas treats when the timing is finally appropriate for Christmas-themed posts. Because unlike everyone else in the world, I remembered that after Halloween there was another holiday before Christmas...looking at you, Hobby Lobby. 'Til next time, my fellow eaters!
I bid you a-dip.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Boozy Cheesecake? Don't Mind If I Do.

I have been a really bad basic white girl this fall. Until Friday, I had yet to add pumpkin spice to a single thing, and we're just blowing through November! I finally rectified the situation, so if I had Uggs and wore leggings as pants, I could be back in the basic club in no time. Let me preface this week's creation by divulging a secret: I hate pumpkin pie. The texture is...soupy, and the flavor is lacking in the required level of pie sweetness (this is a real thing). I'm told it is made more palatable with the addition of Cool Whip. However, I've seen my mom and sister put so much Cool Whip on top of their pumpkin pie every Thanksgiving that I'm not entirely certain they aren't just eating a plate full of whipped can the pie really be that good? I don't think so. And you know what else is missing from pumpkin pie? Booze. No one can be in a house full of extended family without a little buzz in their back pocket in case of awkward family emergencies. I desperately wanted to fix this, so I thought about what was pie adjacent but still tasted good with pumpkin flavor. The answer: pumpkin cheesecake. Where does the alcohol come in, you ask? Into my mouth, mostly. But in all seriousness, it is super easy to make whipped cream from scratch and add rum or any other preferred spirits into it. So when someone asks you if you have a little Captain in you, your answer can be an emphatic and slightly slurred, "Yarr."
Getting drunk off pie, what will she think of next?
What's actually pretty criminal is the fact that this cheesecake requires no baking and like five ingredients to put together, but it tastes like something you slaved away on for days. And unlike a soupy, bland pumpkin pie, this is light and airy with full flavor and decadence. And rum. Did I mention the rum? I swear I haven't had any today, I'm just really enthusiastic over the fact that I found a way to make whipped cream taste even better. It was a Holy Grail baking situation, so I'm going to go on about it for days because my ego is as inflated as the balloons at Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. Move over Snoopy, the Kateface balloon is taking center stage this year.
Crust from scratch is stress relief time.
You could make things even easier by using a premade crust, but I did some tweaking and came up with a crust that is absolutely basic white girl approved. You need:
  • 12 whole graham crackers
  • 6 TBS of melted butter
  • 1 TBS sugar
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • Optional: dash of pumpkin spice, chopped nuts, gingersnaps in place of graham crackers
This pie crust recipe can be pretty flexible depending on your needs, just be sure the cinnamon and sugar blend are present because they take things from boring to Autumn-in-your-mouth. Since fall is the undisputed champion of seasons, you just need to give in and let this crust happen. 
I want to frame this picture and reference it when my OCD tendencies flare up because hot damn is that a perfect crust.
Start by crushing the graham crackers in a baggy with a rolling pin. Or if you like wasting 30 bucks, buy and use a food processor. But nothing beats (literally) smashing away with the pin while you vent a day or two's worth of frustration out on some innocent graham crackers. Once the crackers are nice and fine, dump into a bowl with the butter, sugar, and cinnamon. Blend well and press into a 9-inch pie pan. Place your crust into the freezer while you make your filling so it can firm up.
I'm not sure if you can handle how complicated things are about to get...
Like I said, five ingredients to greatness!
  • 8 oz. of softened cream cheese
  • 1 cup of pumpkin
  • 1/2 cup of sugar
  • 1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 8 oz. room temp Cool Whip
You could honestly take the booze level up a notch and make your own rum-laced whipped cream for the cheesecake filling. I thought about it, but since I was already making a few tweaks from a Kraft recipe, I opted for regular Cool Whip to ensure I wasn't ruining my dessert (the shame spiral that would've occurred after that would've been depressing). Next time I will most certainly make rum whipped cream for this though.
I enjoyed licking the spatula clean.
Are you sure you're ready for this? I don't want you to get lost in the complexity of this recipe. I mean, you have to dump all five ingredients into a mixing bowl and blend for about three minutes. Then you have to turn your filling out into your pie crust. That's hard work, y'all...
I could've died.

Whew. I'll allow you a moment to catch your breath after all that hard work. Place your cheesecake into the fridge for 4 hours to set, or if you're impatient and want to try out whipped cream booze recipes, the freezer for 1 1/2 hours. Guess which route I took? Freezer for life, people.
If you're not getting your rum from Barbados, you're doing it wrong.
To make your own whipped cream, place a stainless steel mixing bowl into the freezer for about 20 minutes. You want things COLD. Cold like my heart kind of cold. Pour one cup of heavy whipping cream, 1 TBS of sugar, and 1/2 tsp of rum into the mixing bowl. Blend on HIGH. High like my mixer might break kind of high. Do this for one minute, and you have whipped cream! I ended up doubling this recipe so I could pipe decorations on my cheesecake and have rum whipped cream leftover to eat with some fruit (I know, I'm brilliant, AND I take the food pyramid seriously).
Your drooling is a perfectly acceptable reaction to this photo. This, my dear readers, is food porn.
You can top your cheesecake with the rum whipped cream any way you like. I used a 1M tip on a piping bag and just did little circular mounds. I finished up by dusting the cheesecake with pumpkin pie spice. This was a decision that was met with uproarious applause by my taste buds. The hardest part about making this cheesecake was not eating it all while waiting for my husband to come home from work. When we served up a slice that evening, I topped it with caramel sauce.
Again, my taste buds were quite satisfied with my culinary actions.
This cheesecake will change your Thanksgiving dessert menu. There is simply no time for pumpkin pie when pumpkin cheesecake is a thing that exists and wants you to experience pumpkin in the way it was meant to be experienced: topped with plenty of rum and caramel. Let's face it, pumpkin is like the nerdy little glasses-wearing girl that when dolled up with the proper accessories, turns into Laney Boggs from She's All That. Now that I've managed to compare a cheesecake to a cheesy late 90s film, I feel like my work here is done. Make the cheesecake. Embrace the cheesecake. Let the cheesecake take your Thanksgiving dessert table from sad and soupy to flavorful and rum-y. Because when Aunt Sally starts prying into your private life, you can shove a spoonful of pumpkin cheesecake into your mouth to prevent your ability to talk (table manners, y'all) while also getting a good buzz from the rum whipped cream to numb the annoyance. I just saved Thanksgiving!!! 'Til next time, my fellow eaters!

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Facing My Fears...with Cake.

Guys, I'm in rough shape. When gently knocking on the door of 30, it's probably not the best idea to stay up until 2 a.m. eating cake and candy. I'm suffering from massive post traumatic dessert disorder today. Seven-year-old me would be so utterly disappointed in my lost ability to shovel cake and candy into my mouth with nary a care or a tummy ache. I've spent most of the morning and afternoon curled into a tiny ball of suffering and regret. I had no idea a sugar hangover was worse than an actual adult hangover. Time has surely betrayed me (how Shakespearean)! As I pontificate on whether or not it was worth it, I'm reminded of how good the cake tasted and that no matter how old you get, a Kit Kat bar most definitely can solve most, if not all, your problems. Did I need to eat approximately ten mini Kit Kat bars? No. Did I anyway? Yes. Because chocolate pairs extremely well with beer. I was also celebrating due to the fact that I spent six hours working on said cake that somehow later turned into rocks in my gut. Although the cake took forever to bake and decorate, it was fueled by my childlike glee over Halloween and desire to celebrate the hell out of it. At least seven-year-old me would still be really proud of that. I had a blast making bloody brain cupcakes and a graveyard cake, but I wanted to get even creepier with my piece de resistance. I had to reach deep within the depths of my soul to decide what scares the absolute crap out of me the most...and surprisingly, running out of cake or wine was not at the top of the list. Spiders were. Spiders always win the creepy, make you want to shower seventy times lottery.
I'm not sure whether to run away screaming or eat you. My work here is done.
A couple weeks ago during another one of our usual 40-50 m.p.h. "windy" days, a bunch of spiders were blown into town. How do I know this? Because they left thick, sticky strands of spiderwebs on EVERYTHING. Street lights, signs, trees, mailboxes, EVERYTHING. In what was a horror movie concept turned reality, I was left covered in web every time I wanted to walk my dogs. Doesn't that make you want to visit the Land of Enchantment? To burn it down? Yes. Yes it does. Hell, I even wanted to light myself on fire a few times. Needless to say, I wanted to turn this terrifying experience into art to process my feelings on the matter like any good artist/weirdo. This is where the cake comes in. Why is it polka dotted you ask? Because I like polka dots. Polka dots are in no way terrifying or make me want to set things ablaze. I was balancing my fears with my loves, and it turned out so prettily! Step into my office and I will show you how to make your very own polka dot cake!
Dear Lord I'm cheating for the third week in a row. I'd fire me if I was actually paid for any of this.
Yeah, we're doing the cake jacking thing again. You need two cakes for a polka dot cake to work out, obvs. You're also going to need a cake pop mold. Start by mixing the cake flavor/color you want for your polka dots. I used Devil's Food cake dyed black.
The Purple People Eater makes a rare appearance!
Once your cake batter is made, you're going to want to load it into a piping bag or a frosting gun to make your life easier. Spray a ton of Pam into both sides of the cake pop mold and then fill with batter.
This in no way looks edible.
You want to fill some of the molds all the way up, some halfway, and some barely at all. This way you have dots of varying sizes. Place into the oven at 350 for about 10-15 minutes. Take out of the oven and leave the top on for 5 minutes. Remove the top and let cool on a cooling rack for another 5 minutes before removing the pops. I repeated this process 2 more times to give me 60 pops. You won't use all of them in the cake; some of them you will need to create bodies for the spiders later on, and some of them you will eat because you need to "test" the quality of your cake pops.
Suddenly craving an orange creamsicle.
Once you've made all the cake pops, make the second cake batter. I used yellow cake and added in orange dye for this. Take a small amount of batter and plop into two greased cake pans. Then take varying sizes of cake pops and place into the orange batter:
End results are worth all these steps, I promise.
Top these pops with the rest of the orange batter:
Like so.
Then add another layer of random dots. I stuck a few to the sides of the pan as well by just dabbing a little batter on them and smooshing them into the side.
Which was both fun and messy.
Bake at 350 for about 35 minutes or until the toothpick test works in your favor. It will take a bit longer than package directions because of the added density of the cake pops. The batter will puff up and around the pops, so they don't dry out either. Winning!
Yes, there's always some kind of vodka on my kitchen counter. It's like playing Where's Waldo with these photos but significantly easier.
Let cool on a cooling rack in the pans for 10 minutes before removing and letting chill in the fridge or freezer depending on how impatient you are.
It's buttercream time!!
I used my favorite full buttercream recipe for this cake since I didn't need the frosting to be totally smoothed out and perfect. Gather up:
  • 2 softened sticks of butter (1 cup)
  • 4 cups of powdered sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsps of vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp of almond extract
  • 4 TBS of milk
Cream the butter for a few minutes before adding in the vanilla, almond, and 2 cups of powdered sugar. Blend and then scrape down the bowl. Add in 2 TBS of milk and mix. Add in the remaining sugar and blend and scrape. Finish up by adding in the last 2 TBS of milk.
Set aside a tiny bit of frosting and dye it red; set aside a larger portion of frosting and dye it black. We need this for the spiders and the middle layer of frosting. You'll also need some chocolate melts for the spiders, too. More on that later.
Add a nice thick layer of the black frosting on top of the bottom cake. Place the second tier on top and frost with the plain white frosting. I knew I was going to cover the cake in "web," so I didn't crumb coat.
This is what rebellion looks like.
Once the cake is frosted, place into the freezer for about 30 minutes. You want to freeze the buttercream so that you have a solid work space for the webbing. To make the web, melt a bowl of marshmallows in the microwave for 30 seconds. Stir like hell for about another 30 seconds, and then prepare to get stupid messy.

All in the name of art.
Take the spatula or spoon you've been stirring with, and plop it in the middle of the bowl of melted 'mallows. Pull up and away slowly to create a really long, thin strand of marshmallow creme. Use your hands now and take the strand and drape it randomly over the cake. You want to make a messy web, so use varying thickness of webbing placed randomly on the cake. This was SO STICKY but surprisingly a ton of fun. My husband watched me do this part, and I swear he was thisclose to jumping in and trying to do some himself. Marshmallows: fun for the whole family.
This is what my finished webbing looked like.
Honestly, I thought about calling it a day there. This looked really cool and creepy. I loved it. But I still needed to face my hairy, eight-legged fears, so it was spider making time.
Melt a little bit of chocolate and place it into a piping bag fitted with a small #2 or #3 tip. Draw spider legs of various sizes by simply piping backwards sevens all over the place on a sheet of Parchment paper with a baking sheet under it. Put this tray into the fridge to harden.
Remember those leftover cake pops you've been snacking on? Take a HUGE one and place it on the cake. Spread a little black frosting on top of it to create a glue for the spider legs. Place the hardened chocolate gently onto the frosting and into the spider webbing.

Finish the giant-ass terror that haunts your life and dreams by taking a smaller cake pop and cutting it in half. Place this up against the body, and you've got a head! You can leave the spider plain, or you can take the red frosting and pipe little dots for eyes and an hour glass on the body to make it a Black Widow. I used a #2 tip to do this.
Add as many spiders as you like in various sizes. I made a medium-sized spider by using a smaller cake pop for the body and piped a head on to it with the leftover black frosting in a piping bag with a #12 tip.
For the smaller spiders, I simply piped little mounds of black frosting for the heads and bodies.
And you're done! I was dying to see how the inside of this cake turned out. I had no idea that I could somehow increase my anticipation of Halloween night, but I achieved this feat the second I made this cake. The six hours of nonstop standing really paid off:
Spooky insides, too? I've really outdone myself here.
Cute, polka dotted, and covered in spiders. This cake was a crowd pleaser for sure. I knew it was good because a room full of drunk people didn't even make a single peep while they were eating it. Moments like this remind me why I like baking so much. I just want to feed the masses and make people have the warm fuzzies on the inside because of my cake. Honestly, for being an evil genius, it's a pretty noble cause to have. Perhaps I'm not as dark and twisty as I make myself out to be. Well, my stomach is definitely still dark and twisty today; even coming with a foot of sugar sends it into stabby convulsions. I'm realizing now why people say you can't have your cake and eat it, too. Or in my case, have your cake, 17 Kit Kats, a handful of potato chips, some Red Bull and eat it, too. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go eat some celery and reminisce upon the days when I could eat like a human garbage can and go run around for miles with literally no negative consequences. 'Til next time, my fellow eaters!
Always look for an adventure! Lara Croft Tomb Raider and Nathan Drake of Uncharted hope you all had a fun, safe, and sugary Halloween and a wonderful day of remembrance this Dia de los Muertos.