Saturday, December 22, 2012

Quick & Easy Carmel Popcorn

I don't think I have ever made carmel popcorn until recently.  And since discovering this method of cooking it, I have made it multiple times.  This recipe is nice because it tastes great, and instead of baking it for an hour and a half, it takes 4 minutes of cooking in the microwave (with some shaking in the middle of that time).  And then your clean-up is a snap!  Just throw away the paper bag!  Not only that, but it is delicious.  Perfectly carmel-y and crispy and so easy.  In fact, it was so easy that I made it for neighbor treats, teacher treats, and family treats!

Quick & Easy Carmel Popcorn
adapted from:

1/2 c. butter
2 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. corn syrup
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. vanilla
5 quarts popped popcorn

In a saucepan, over medium heat, melt butter.  Add the brown sugar, corn syrup and salt and stir it constantly until it starts boiling.  Reduce the heat to medium low (make sure it stays boiling) and let it boil for 4 minutes without stirring it.  Remove it from the heat and add the baking soda and vanilla.  Stir it until it is a pretty golden color (like carmel!).  Pour it over your popcorn and stir it gently to coat.  I found that using two bowls for the popcorn worked the best.  Don't worry if it isn't perfectly evenly coated on your popcorn.  It will all get coated well in the microwave.  Pour the popcorn into a large paper bag.  If your bag isn't really big (not all store paper bags are the same size), use two bags.  Cook it in the microwave for 4 minutes, shaking the bag every 30 seconds.  When it is done, lay the bag on the counter and using scissors, cut it open and lay it flat.  Spread the popcorn a little if you need to.  Let the popcorn cool and then break it up.  At this point, you can drizzle it with chocolate and then sprinkle it with peppermint, or sprinkles, or other fun things.  I sprinkled Christmas sprinkles on it right when it came out of the microwave to give it a little color.  Then I put it in little paper bags and tied them up with ribbon and a bow to look like a little gift!  Slap a tag on it and there is the easiest neighbor treats I've ever done!  

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Smooth & Creamy Coconut Cake

I made this for a Christmas party this weekend.  It is a delicious cake, even if you are not a huge coconut fan.  The coconut flavor is mild and creamy and by only lightly sweetening the topping, it is a great compliment to an already sweet enough cake.  Plus, it looks so snowy and festive with the coconut all over it!  It is a great Christmas-y cake.

Smooth & Creamy Coconut Cake
adapted from:

1 white cake mix
1 15 oz. can cream of coconut (not coconut milk-you find this in the mixer section of the grocery store)
2 c. heavy whipping cream
1 tsp. vanilla
1/4 c. powdered sugar (maybe a little more-to taste)
1-2 c. shredded sweetened coconut

Bake the white cake according to the package directions in the pan of your choice.  I used a 9X13 pan, lined with wax paper and sprayed with cooking spray.  While the cake is cooking (or cooling) pour the heavy whipping cream into a medium bowl and beat it on high speed with an electric mixer, for 3 minutes.  Add the vanilla and powdered sugar and beat it until stiff peaks form.  Put it in the fridge until you are ready for it.  When the cake is done, cool it completely, then slice it in half for a layered cake (or leave it as is, or if you have 2 round cake pans, ignore this instruction).  Place one layer, face down, on your serving platter.  Using a fork, gently poke holes all over the cake, but don't poke all the way to the bottom of the cake.  Pour 1/2 of the can of cream of coconut on the top of the cake, and using a knife, spread it and kind of work it into the holes.

Apply a thin layer of your prepared heavy cream.  Lay the other layer of cake on top of that one and poke holes all over it, also being careful not to go all the way through the layer.  Now do the same thing with the second half of the cream of coconut.  Spread the rest of the heavy cream on the top and sides of the cake.  Using your hands, gently press coconut all around the top and sides of the cake.  Store it in the fridge and serve it chilled.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

4-Layer Red Velvet Cake with Cream Cheese Whipped Cream Frosting

I had a birthday.  And I wanted to make my own cake.  I've never done that before, but it may be a new tradition that I've started.  I picked a cake that I thought sounded delicious, but that I knew none of my other family members would let me make for their birthdays.  And doesn't a 4-layer red velvet cake with cream cheese whipped cream frosting sound lovely?  It was lovely.  And, as a side note, not one of my children even tasted this cake on my birthday.

4-Layer Red Velvet Cake
adapted slightly from:

2 1/2 c. sifted cake flour (I used a little more than 2 c. flour and a little less than 1/2 c. cornstarch as a substitute)
1/2 tsp. salt
2 Tbsp. cocoa
1/2 c. unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 c. sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
1 c. buttermilk
2 Tbsp. red food coloring (I did not use this much)
1 tsp. vinegar
1 tsp. baking soda

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line two round pans with wax paper or parchment paper and spray with cooking spray.  I actually used my 9X13 pan and when the cake was done I cut it into fourths.  In a bowl, mix together the flour, salt and cocoa.  In another bowl, beat the butter for 1 to 2 minutes.  Then add the sugar and mix it for another 3 or 4 minutes.  Add each egg, mixing it well after each one.  Add the vanilla and beat it all until it is light and fluffy.  In a measuring cup, mix the buttermilk and the red food coloring.  Alternately add the flour mixture and buttermilk to the butter mixture in three additions (you better not make it four, or else! :).  In a small cup, stir together the vinegar and baking soda and let it fizz.  Then fold that into the batter.  Quickly pour the batter into your prepared pan(s) and bake it for 25 to 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  When the cake is done, cook it completely, then gently tip it upside down and dump it out of the pan.  Carefully peel the wax paper off, wrap the cake in plastic wrap and put it in the freezer for an hour.  This will make it easier to frost.  While that is in the freezer, make your cream cheese whipped cream frosting.

Cream Cheese Whipped Cream Frosting
adapted slightly from:

16 oz. softened cream cheese (pop it in the microwave for about 1 minute and it will soften)
1 tsp. vanilla
1 c. powdered sugar
1 1/2 c. cold heavy whipping cream

With a mixer, beat the cream cheese until it is smooth.  Add the vanilla and powdered sugar and beat that until it is smooth and creamy.  Gradually add the heavy cream and beat it on high speed until it thickens and is spreadable.  If needed, add more sugar or cream to get the right consistency.  I actually thought the frosting could have been slightly sweeter, so taste it and add a little more sugar if you think it needs it.

When the cake is sufficiently frozen, remove it from the plastic wrap and slice it in half, horizontally.  For the 9X13 pan I cut it in half lenthwise, then cut each half in half horizontally.  Place one layer upside down on your serving platter and frost the top with the frosting.  Continue to layer and frost each layer and then frost the tops and sides of the cake.  If it is a little lopsided (like mine was), don't worry too much.  It will have four pretty layers when you cut a piece. Just don't show anyone the whole cake. (You'll notice I have no whole cake pictures on here :).  Happy Birthday!