Thursday, December 20, 2012

Spice Pumpkin Loaf

When I got home my baking pans and sheet trays were everywhere! Some where piled up in two separate cupboards, others were sitting on a tiny rack in the dining room. My pots for making candy were under our buffet server. I am honestly just lucky my older sister didn't try to run off with them. I did do a little Yay inside when I saw my bag of cookie cutters, and I can't wait to use them again. I saw my loaf pans, and thought, OMG I have to make a loaf !!! It's funny that I bought them at an estate sale, and have yet to use them until now. 

I got a few ideas after seeing a beautiful pumpkin loaf on Pinterest, and I had to recreate it. Luckily, I already had leftover puree from a marshmallow order. I still have two pumpkins sitting in a crate in my kitchen. I know this farmer that has more pumpkins at a great price, so it's safe to say Pumpkin Marshmallows will be around until this season is over.

It smelled so beautiful and fragrant as it was baking in the oven.I didn't taste a huge difference between normal cream cheese frosting and this brown sugar frosting. It was of course delicious and I couldn't stop ''test tasting it". As soon as the loaves were room temperature, I just spread frosting on top. I sprinkled some brown sugar on just for eye appeal.

I gave a half of the two loaves to my gran. As soon as I put it on the counter, she got a slice. She even hinted that she wouldn't be sharing it with my grandpa. Loafs would also make excellent gifts to relatives if you are on a budget.

Spice Pumpkin Loaf
Yield: 2 small loaves or 8 mini loaves
(adapted recipe via  Lauren's Latest)

1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs
1 cup pumpkin
2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon all spice

Preheat oven to 325° F.
Spray loaf pans with cooking spray and set aside.

In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar together with an electric mixer until light and fluffy.
Stir in eggs and vanilla.
Scrape sides and stir in pumpkin. (It might appear lumpy and not smooth, which is a-okay).
Slowly stir in remaining ingredients until just combined.
Scrape sides and mix again briefly.
Divide evenly in pans.
Bake for 30-40 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean after being inserted. (Decrease time by half if you are using mini loaf pans)
Cool for 10 minutes before transferring to cooling rack.

Brown Sugar Cream Cheese Frosting
(adapted recipe via Sunny Side Up)

4 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup (1 stick) salted butter, softened
2 heaping Tbsp brown sugar
2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
1 tsp vanilla

In a bowl, beat cream cheese and butter until creamy with an electric mixer.
Add brown sugar and beat until combined.
Gradually add powder sugar on low speed.
Increase mixer speed and continue to beat until combined.
Add vanilla and beat for 1 minute.

  What are you guys doing over the holiday?

Monday, November 26, 2012

Back Home

I am back in Georgia, my home, after a year living in Australia. I came back home on Thanksgiving Day! I did not tell my parents or grandparents, so they were quite shocked to see me. It was a great surprise filled with tears and laughter! I got to meet my adorable nephew, who is the happiest baby ever!

As excited as I am to be back home, I am extremely sad to have left my boyfriend and his parents. I had to leave my cat behind because he needs his shots updated. I'm not even sure if he can handle the travel. I miss him so much though and it makes me tear up just thinking about him :(

I will probably open my marshmallow store again soon. Right now everything is up in the air. I'm not sure how long I will be home, but most likely for a while. I just wanted to update you guys! I hope you are all enjoying the holiday!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Strawberry Cupcakes

Today is my birthday!! Woohoo

I had a birthday dinner Sunday with my beau and his family to help me celebrate. My beau's mum made me shrimp scampi, my choice. It was fantastic!! I can't believe I haven't had it in years. Surprisingly, his family never tried it before. It was a good night.

I also got an item that has been on my wishlist for a very long time, Curlformers. I already tried them last night and it was pretty uncomfortable sleeping with them in my hair. My hair is really thick so I could only do a side at a time. I'm sure I will post about my experience soon once I get the hang of them.

I made cupcakes! I made cupcakes last year for my birthday as well. This time they are a vanilla cupcake topped with strawberry cream cheese frosting.

The vanilla cupcakes turned out well, but they were a bit dry! Definitely not as moist as I would of liked, they were more dense like pound cake. I might have left them in the oven a tad bit long. I still loved these cupcakes though, and I devoured them with my beau. I loved how the frosting turned out, the flavour was perfect for me. I didn't want to use jam to get the strawberry flavor so I just made my own puree. The piping might look a bit odd because I only had Ziploc bags in the pantry.

Strawberry Cupcakes

Vanilla Cupcakes:
Yield: 12 cupcakes
(recipe via Brown Eyed Baker

 1½ cups all-purpose flour
1 cup granulated sugar
1½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon table salt
8 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 stick), room temperature
½ cup sour cream
1 large egg, room temperature
2 large egg yolks, room temperature
1½ teaspoons vanilla extract

Heat oven to 350F. Line a standard muffin/cupcake tin with cupcake liners.

Whisk together the dry ingredients: flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a mixing bowl. Add butter, sour cream, egg and egg yolks, and vanilla; beat at medium speed using an electric mixer until it appears smooth and satiny, 30 seconds. Scrape the sides of the bowl with a spatula, and mix by hand until there are no flour pockets visible.

Divide batter evenly in the cupcake liners. Bake for 20-24 minutes, or until they are pale gold and a toothpick/skewer comes out clean.

Strawberry Frosting:
(adapted recipe via Natasha's Kitchen)

4 ounces Cream Cheese, room temperature
3/4 cup powder sugar
3/4 cup cold heavy cream
3/4 teaspoons strawberry puree ( I used 2-4 strawberries in a blender)
Pink food dye (optional)

Whip heavy cream on high speed using an electric mixer till fluffy.

In a second bowl, beat cream cheese and sugar on low speed, then beat in strawberry puree (feel free to use more puree if you desire a stronger strawberry taste)

Fold in whipped cream in the cream cheese mixture. When the cupcake are cool pipe the frosting on the cupcakes.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Fudge. It's Halloween!!

I wish I was doing something exciting for Halloween like going to a party and picking out a clever costume. Instead I will be watching scary movies and snacking on popcorn & fudge. We didn't buy candy for trick-or-treaters because only one person knocked on the door the last Halloween I was in Australia.

I used Cadbury Dark Chocolate 70% and Cadbury Roast Almond Chocolate.

The recipe I used below is fabulous and it is really simple. There was hardly any prep involved, I just broke the chocolate up with my hands into squares so it would melt easier. The only thing I had to scale was butter...sweet!

Chocolate Fudge
(recipe via The Cake Mistress)

395 g Sweet Condensed Milk
50 g Unsalted Butter (cubed)
200 g Dark Chocolate
200 g Dark Chocolate (flavor of choice)

Coat square cake tin with cooking spray, line the cake tin with parchment paper. In a medium sauce pan, heat sweet condensed milk and butter on low heat until melted.
Continue to stir the mixture to avoid it from sticking to the bottom of the pan and burning.

While the mixture is warm stir in the chocolate until completely melted.
Immediately pour the fudge into the cake tin.
Smooth the top and refrigerate until firm (2-4 hours).
When it sets cut the fudge into squares. Store in a airtight container at room temperature.
After a few hours out my fudge was getting too warm so I had to store it in the fridge.

I always wanted to be Belle for Halloween but every year I was a witch  -_ - 
Is anyone dressing up Halloween this year???

Thursday, October 11, 2012


 I made pavlova!!

This is my first time making it, so I think I did a pretty solid job. I have made something similar in a cake class, but I cant even remember what it was for. There were noticeable sugar granules on the base, but it didn't effect the flavor. My beau loves pav, every birthday he has one for dessert. I'm happy to know that I can make it for him, whenever he visits me in the states. He's not too daring when it comes to fruit topping, so it's just topped it with strawberries and sprinkled cocoa powder on top. Next time, I'm going to go crazy and add everything I like!! The hardest part was waiting for it to cool, since I was really eager to take a bite.

meringue goodness

Pavlova Base
Yield: serves 8-10
(recipe via Donna Hay)
 150ml eggwhites (approximately 4 eggs)
 1 cup (220g) caster (superfine) sugar
 2 tablespoons cornstarch sifted
 2 teaspoons white vinegar
1 cup (250ml) heavy cream
250g strawberries

Preheat oven to 150°C/300°F.
Whisk eggwhites in a bowl with an electric mixer. Whisk until stiff peaks form.
Gradually whisk in the sugar, contine to mix until the mixture is stiff and glossy.
Add the cornflour and vinegar whisking until just combined.
Shape the mixture into a 18cm/7inch round on a baking tray lined with baking paper.
Reduce oven to 120°C/250°F and bake for 80 minutes.
Turn the oven off and allow the pavlova to cool completely in the oven.
Whisk the heavy cream until soft peaks form.
Spread over the pavlova, and top with strawberries.

Friday, October 5, 2012

About Me

 My sleep schedule has been really off this week. I go to sleep at 3:00 pm and wake up at 12:00 am. It's pretty annoying, especially yesterday when I had a tax appointment at 9:30, it felt like it was later in the afternoon.

I wanted to share more about myself, and hopefully you guys get to know me more. It's a truly random list. It's not a tag per se, but if anyone else does one please link back so I can read it :)

dress: forever21
50 Random Facts About Me
  1. I am 22.
  2. I have been a semi vegetarian for about 10 years. 
  3. I can't stand the smell of freshly cut grass. Yuck. 
  4. I love video games. (Mass Effect, Sims, Portal, Guild Wars 2) 
  5. I use to sell knitted scarves on etsy.  
  6. I love wearing uniforms. 
  7. My current boyfriend, is my first boyfriend ever! And I'm his first girlfriend. 
  8. Diet Coke gives me headaches. 
  9. I am always on Youtube browsing hair videos.
  10. Big Introvert. I can't keep friends. 
  11. My faith is important to me. 
  12. I collect glass bottles and cake pans.
  13. I am addicted to reality TV. 
  14. I wear glasses (sometimes).  
  15. My posture is horrendous, and now my spine is at a 18 degree curve.  
  16. I love period piece movies!! My favorite is Sense & Sensibility. 
  17. I am 5'3.  
  18. I only liked MySpace to do surveys.
  19. I prefer texting than talking on the phone.
  20. My hands were green when I was a babbie. 
  21. I always cry at the end of The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King. Always.
  22. I have two sisters. 
  23. My career goal is to own a bakery.
  24. I have mild ocd, but I keep a messy room.
  25. Went to university in Rhode Island. 
  26. The best thing about festivals/circus is coming home with a bag of cotton candy.
  27. I don't like rollercoasters.
  28. I use to write in my journal everyday after high school. 
  29. Love listening to Indie Rock.
  30. I can't whistle.
  31. I lived in Australia cumulatively for 2 yrs. And I still don't know the slang. 
  32. I have washed my mobile phone (twice). 
  33. I wanted to be a housewife growing up, and before that a judge 
  34. I love the smell of baked cookies. 
  35. My favorite color is yellow. 
  36. I can't sleep on my back.
  37. I had one cat during growing up.
  38. I am from Georgia, USA.
  39. I like going to the dentist. 
  40. My biggest pet peeve is bawled up paper. 
  41. I once played the violin & piano. 
  42. I am on a healthy hair journey.
  43. I like to dip my fries in ice-cream, but only when they have ketchup on top of them. 
  44. I am finally learning how to do makeup.
  45. I love staying up late. 
  46. When bugs fly around my head, I freak out! Really. 
  47. I live in flats, can't quite walk in heels. 
  48. Prefer online shopping than stores.
  49. Played golf during high school. 
  50. I silently freak out everytime I fly during takeoff. 

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Banana Whoopie Pies

My anniversary with my beau was this week. We have been dating for four years! I'm sure most of you guys don't know this, but we are in a long distance relationship (most of the time). Finally we are living together but at the end of the year I will have to go back home to America. It's funny but during our four year relationship, this was the second time we got to be together on our anniversary. So it was really special.

We ate at Oskars, in Burleigh. I should of took pictures, but I felt awkward whipping out my camera since it was a really swanky place. I made my beau a gift, and I'll try to take some pictures of it.

 I made banana whoppie pies. They are pretty fantastic. The first time I made these, I just used a spoon. The best way to get perfect whoopie is to use a cookie scoop. I believe the scoop makes large size whoopies.

Banana Whoopie Pies
(Recipe via Baking Bites)
Yield: 2 dozen cookies (1 dozen sandwich cookies)

2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 cup butter, room temperature
1 1/4 cups sugar
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cups mashed banana (2 medium)

Cream Cheese Filling
3 oz cream cheese, room temperature
4 tbsp butter, room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 – 2 cups confectioners sugar

Preheat oven to 350 F/ 176.
Line a baking tray with parchment paper.
In a bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt cinnamon.
In a large size bowl, cream the butter and the sugar with an electric mixer until light.
Beat in egg and vegetable oil, followed by vanilla extract and mashed bananas
Add flour mixture and stir with a wooden spoon until it is just incorporated.

Drop 2 tablespoon (1.5-inch balls)  balls on the parchment paper and bake for 12-14 minutes, or until cookies are lightly brown along the edges and set in the center. [Since I used my cookie scoop, I only did one scoop]

In a medium bowl, beat together the cream cheese and butter until smooth.
Blend in vanilla extract and confectioner sugar until mixture is smooth and thick.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Outing at the Ekka

So I tweeted I had such a good time at the Ekka, and I really did!

The Ekka is pretty much like a state's fair or a carnival. We went on Saturday, the final day, in the evening. It was definitely a last minute decision to go since it was late in the afternoon, but we ended up getting a better deal if we went after 5:00 pm!

I got to pet this dairy cow. It's really weird that I never have touched a cow before but that day I did.  There were so many animals that you could pet in the center of the facility. We decided against going in the petting zoo part because it was so busy, but now I wish I did.

It's so cute seeing baby lambs playing around. They kept running in circles trying to jump on each other. I really could of watched them play for hours and have a permant smile on my face.

The rides/attractions were pretty pricey, I couldn't imagine the cost of having an entire family there.

So we did a mirror maze! It was really silly. It wasn't what I expected either, I thought there were going to be mirrors everywhere, but sadly not. There were like five mirrors in the center of the maze. I might tweet pictures of how skinny my legs looked in the mirror and how much of a hobbit the next one had me looking. Oh and I got an awesome sticker, that certified me as a Maze Master.

Then we got on a Ferris wheel, it's been so long since I have been on one. Of course my beau had to remind me of Final Destination type movies.

Oh there were fireworks too. It was a really good show, and I wasn't expecting it to be as good. It was long and very well choreographed to the music played.
And.....The part I was anticipating the most was getting Showbags! They are sitting in the closet, which is good that they're not within arm's reach. We did go a little bit overboard! Maybe a lot! Then the tub of cotton candy. Gee whiz. Let's hope we can make it to October with candy to spare.
Right after we got home, we put all the candy on the floor and sorted them out. It really felt like Halloween excitement. I got an American Showbag, with Dr. Pepper and A&W Root Beer, my favorite soft drinks. I miss them so, also I forgot how good Reese's Pieces are.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Splendour In the Grass

I know. I know. I have been a bit MIA around my blog and twitter for that matter. But if you have been to my blog in the past, you will notice I have made some minor changes. I made a new banner, I actually made five, but I chose to go with the one above.

So besides that. I went to Splendour in the Grass! It was a couple of weeks ago in Byron Bay, NSW. It's a three day music festival. We ended up going only on Sunday, of course it would of been cool to see Bloc Party performing on Saturday, but not at the price.

Oh I should also note that this was my first festival experience. But if I could have done anything it would have been to wear rainboots, or wellies. They were selling them for $60, but they were ugly& cheap looking. I'm pretty sure Target has cuter ones than those. Luckily I took off my new pair of ASOS boots in the car and put on my loafers before walking over.

It was soo muddy! Really deep mud too. My loafers were getting sucked off my feet constantly so I walked like a snail, and by the end of the night mud was in my toes!!!

We saw FUN, Metric, The Kooks, The Smashing Pumpkins, and others...

Metric was amazing!! Smashing Pumpkins were the final act, and they stole the show.  I couldn't stop humming there songs weeks after, I'm still humming Metric, but that's normal.

Enjoy the pics! We took decent photos of Djanjo Django, and FUN, if anyone wants me to post those too.

But here's Metric & Smashing Pumpkins..

Hee hee, oh and why do giants stand in the the very very front at concerts? You can see over everyone! I'm 5'2, so I had to stand on my tip-toes a lot.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Pineapple-Coconut Bars

I made pineapple-coconut bars last weekend before my beau's parents jetted off to Bali. I am excited to see the souvenirs they bring back from the markets. Well anywho, I never made these kind of dessert bars before, but now I want to try out lemon & lime bars next. The recipe below is very simple, and easy to follow. I would love to actually use a fresh pineapple next time, because canned pineapple tastes like, well canned pineapple. Also, juices from the pineapple and pineapple juice left the crust softer than usual. But besides, those small things, I loved these little bars. They are perfect as a summer treat, they actually made me long for warmer weather.

Pineapple-Coconut Bars
(recipe from Sophistimom)

12 tablespoons butter, room temperature
1.5 cups granulated sugar
pinch salt
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 20 oz cans crushed pineapple (drained)
1 cup pineapple juice concentrate
2 cups shredded coconut

Preheat your oven to 350°F/176°C.

In a bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment (or hand-mixer), cream the butter, sugar, and salt. Add one egg at a time, making sure the mixture is incorporated well after each addition.
Mix on high for 3-5 minutes. Add in vanilla and flour, mixing until it is just combined.

Line your 13x9 inch pan with parchment paper and press the dough mixture into the pan.
In a medium size bowl, mix together the crushed pineapple and pineapple juice. Spread on top of the first layer. Bake for 20 minutes. Sprinkle on the shredded coconut, and bake for additional 20 minutes more or until the coconut begins to turn golden.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Glass House Mountains

 My beau & I went to the Glass House Mountains which are located in Sunshine Coast, Queensland. The peaks are cores of volcanoes that have since been eroded away by weather. Aboriginal people use to hold special ceremonies and meeting there, and is still considered a spiritual place.

The walking trails are a little distance past the Australian Zoo. Unfortunately, we had fast food during the drive up so my stomach was not happy when we arrived at the trail entrance. There was no way I was up for a long vigorous walk for hours, so we opted for a  shorter lookout trail.

I don't have any closed shoes here in Australia like sneakers, I just have flats and a pair of loafers. Hah how ever do I cope. Smiley The trail was filled with deep muddy puddles, so the hardest part was trying to maneuver around them to keep my feet somewhat dry.

The view was well worth it. I felt that I was looking at a painting, the trees looked so drawn and perfect. It was really hard to soak in all of the beauty, especially when the clouds were coming over the mountains.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Cosmic Brownies

I made brownies! My beau's favorite dessert, next time I should bribe him to put up this Ikea rack that has been laying against the wall for months in return for some cosmic brownies. How could anyone resist that offer? I love cosmic brownies, I remember having the Little Debbie cake snacks in my lunch during my school days. Since I can't find them here in Australia, I did one better by making my very own.

They tasted better than I could of imagined, I would even dare to say they were much better than the packaged treats. I would love to try a milk chocolate ganache on top of the brownies next time, I know it would be insanely sweet, but I must try it! I was unlucky that I only had half of the amount of bittersweet chocolate needed, so I did use milk chocolate to make up for the rest of the amount. I will definitely be using this recipe again and again.

I forgot to update you guys on my tapestry I ordered from Urban Outfitters. It looks great in the room, it really adds some color to the otherwise bland walls. I still haven't done anything to the wall facing my computer yet. We also added a television in the wardrobe, but the PS3 broke last night.

Cosmic Brownies
(recipe via Elle's New England Kitchen)
Yield:13x9 rectangle pan

1 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup (1.5 sticks) butter, melted
2 tablespoons water
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon instant coffee (optional)
1 1/3 cup all purpose flour
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup heavy cream
7 oz bittersweet chocolate
pinch of salt

M&M's Original (mini ones would be better, but I couldn't find them)

Preheat your oven to 350F. Line a 13 x 9 pan with aluminum foil, spray lightly with cooking spray.

In a large bowl, combine the two sugars, butter, and water with a whisk. Stir in the eggs, vanilla extract, and instant coffee.
In a medium size bowl, combine the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt. Stir the dry mixture into the the wet mixture, continue to stir to combine. Spread the batter into the prepared pan with a spatula. Bake for 18 minutes.

side-view of the madness

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Vertical Layer Cake

I'm sure most of you guys have seen this sort of cake on Pinterest but more perfect and incredible by the amazing i am baker. The tutorial looks a bit intimidating when it comes to carving through the cake.

So I went out to Wheel+Barrow, which is currently my favorite shop for baking equipment here in Australia. I purchased an 8'' cake pan just to make this particular cake. I really should of bought two pans, so it wouldn't of been so time consuming. I had to use the same pan four times, which is kind of ridiculous, but it got done!

I made two coconut cakes and two devil's food cakes.

The coconut was a breeze to cut through, no problems at all. I wanted more coconut flavor, but everyone could easily definitely distinguish the flavor easily. It wasn't my favorite of two cakes, but if you anyone wants the recipe it's here.

It was quite hard cutting through the devil's food cake because it was so moist and has such a tender crumb. Despite that, this will definitely be my go to chocolate cake recipe if I'm in need of one. It tasted fantastic, and was everything I was looking for in my cake. Next time I wont leave the cake out on the counter while I'm working on the carving the other one.

Stacked the two coconut cakes on top of each other. Toothpicks were really helpful in keeping my circle template from moving during carving through both cakes. You are suppose to keep your knife at a 90 degree angle, keeping the knife straight and going up and down.

After I was done carving the surface looked like this. I worked on carving the chocolate cake next. I definitely suggest making two duplicate templates, so it is as accurate as possible. I didn't, which is maybe why it was pretty off.

Next you slice from the outside of the cake to the center circle. Separate the cut layers gently into individual layers. Alternate each individual layer with the opposite flavor of cake. So if you have a chocolate center, you will use the next size coconut layer and...etc

The chocolate cake was much higher than the coconut so I had to give it a trim so the top would be nice and flat. Since some of the layers were different sizes we had to kind of squish it together, so it fit snugly. My beau put a Easter egg between the awkward space, which was fun as a surprise treat. He ended up getting it of course! I filled in the other gap, towards the outside, with my Swiss Buttercream recipe (doubled). It worked great, its fun when you have to get a bit inventive during blunders.

So this is the finish product. I toasted shredded coconut in the oven for color and flavor around the outside, it was a great addition. I piped a pink shell border on the outside and kept it relatively simple since there is so much going on inside.

Devil's Food Cake
(recipe via Cafe Fernando)
Yield: one 8", two layer cake

2/3 cup (150 grams) unsalted butter
2/3 cup (50 grams) cocoa powder
2/3 cup boiling water
1/3 cup whole milk, scalded
1.5 cups (210 grams) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1.5 cup (300 grams) granulated sugar
3 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350°F/175°C. Butter two 8-by 2-inch round cake pans and line the bottoms with parchment paper. Butter the parchment paper, dust with cocoa powder, tap out the excess cocoa powder.

Sift coco powder (50 grams) into a medium bowl, add the boiling water and whisk until the cocoa dissolves completely. Add milk and whisk to combine. Set aside and let cool.

Sift together the flour, baking soda, and salt into a medium bowl. In the bowl of an electric mixer or hand-mixer, cream butter on medium speed until light and fluffy. Add the sugar and bet on medium speed for 5 additional minutes. Be sure to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl, as needed.

Add the eggs, one at a time making sure each one is fully incorporated before adding next. Beat in vanilla extract.

With the mixer on low speed, add flour mixture in batches, alternating with the cocoa mixture. Divide batter evenly among the prepared pans. Smooth the tops.

Bake for 25-30 minutes, rotate pans halfway through baking. Allow to cool in pans for a few minutes, and then remove from pans and let cool on a wire rack.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Byron Bay, NSW

Eastern-most point in Australia

We took an unexpected day trip to Byron Bay. I didn't think we would do anything this week, due to my boyfriend having two assignments due at the end of the week. So it was a great surprise to finally get out of the house and go somewhere different.The drive was really fun, but driving south is always really scenic with gorgeous views of the mountainside.

I really love this tunnel!!

 It would be hard to describe Byron Bay without mentioning home, because it really reminded me of East Atlanta. Byron Bay is known for alternative culture and laid-back lifestyles. There are wellness shops offering acupuncture, tarot readings, and herbs.

I bought peppermint oil for my hair mix. If you guys didn't know I am kind of a mixtress at home when it comes to my hair. I make hair masks and hair oils, which are really conditioning and leave my hair feeling extremely soft.

Finding a restaurant to eat was the hard part but there were many places to eat for quick bites, like fish tacos for $4.00 and sandwiches/kebabs. We ended up eating at Wahoo's, a Mexican style restaurant. I ordered just a chicken soft taco. I wish I could say I fell in love with the dish but I was not impressed. I have been craving authentic Mexican food for months, I know I'm a long way from there but at least something close to it like fresh salsa, warm tortilla chips, and Mexican cheeses.

We briefly visited the lighthouse there. I have always seen it during night drives, so it was great to actually see it up close. The view from there was incredible and the sun was starting to set, making it a romantic spot for lovers. I can't wait to come back and see what else this hip town offers.

amazing sunset :)

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Homemade Soft Pretzels

Wheatley fell ill. I could tell he wasn't his normal self when he didn't bolt to his dinner bowl when I filled it up. Hours later he still didn't touch his food! He kept shaking and just wanted to sleep. So I put a water bottle under him and just wrapped him up on my lap. It really broke my heart! As suddenly as his sickness came, it was gone. I was actually relived to see him being a psycho the next day (jumping off everything, running into walls to chase his ping pong ball, dumpster diving).

Sleep-time on my lap
 I have been craving soft pretzels this week. I don't know a place here that sells them. In the states you can just go to the mall and there's typically a pretzel shop inside, with yummy sauces and toppings. I did not know were to find one around here in Australia. So I did the next best thing, I made my own. My beau helped me tremendously, especially during rolling them out. I just couldn't roll them on the kitchen bench as good as he could, so I left that to him.

sprinkled rosemary on some

Homemade Soft Pretzels
(recipe adapted via Two Peas & Their Pod )
yield: 8 large pretzels

1 1/2 cups warm water
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons dry active yeast
3 oz unsalted butter (melted)
2 1/2 teaspoons salt
4 1/2 to 5 cups all purpose flour

3 quarts water
2/3 cups baking soda
1 egg, beaten with 1 tablespoon cold water
Coarse sea salt (topping) *optional

Cheddar Pretzel Dip

2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup milk
1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
Salt and pepper, to taste


Combine water, sugar, yeast, and butter in a bowl. Stir until mixture is combined. Let sit for 5 minutes.

Add the salt and flour to the mixture. Mix with a wooden spoon until mixture forms a dough. Flour bench top lightly with all-purpose flour. Transfer dough to the bench, begin to knead to combine. Continue kneading until dough is smooth and not tacky. Roll dough into a ball.

Coat a large bowl with canola oil and place dough inside. Cover with plastic wrap and place in a dark damp-free spot until the dough doubles in size, 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 218C/425F. Bring water to a boil in a large pot.

Remove dough from the bowl and place on tabletop. Divide the dough into 8 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a long rope. To shape into pretzels, take right side and cross over to the left. Then take the left side and cross over the right side.

Slowly add baking soda to the boiling water. Boil the pretzels in the water solution, 2 at a time for 30 seconds. Remove with a slotted spatula. Place 4 pretzels on each baking sheet. Brush top with egg wash and season the pretzels with sea salt (optional topping).

Bake for 15-18 minutes or until golden brown. Mine were baked for 13 minutes, adjust time accordingly.

Remove from oven and let cool.

Cheddar Cheese Dip

Shred Cheddar cheese into a bowl, stand aside.
In a medium saucepan, melt butter and whisk in flour. Pour in the milk and whisk until mixture thickens. Stir in shredded cheese, stir until cheese is melted and smooth. Season with salt and pepper to taste. (I added paprika for a bit of a kick or mild heat.) Serve with pretzels.

just poured it right on

What type of pretzels do you crave more, soft or hard?