Posts Tagged ‘red velvet’

The BEST Valentine’s Day Recipes from Willow Bird Baking

The BEST Valentine's Day Recipes from Willow Bird Baking
Thanks, Foodie, for sponsoring this post showcasing the BEST Valentine’s Day Recipes from Willow Bird Baking.

Valentine’s Day is one of my favorite food holidays. Everything’s so CUTE and CHOCOLATE and CUTE and PINK. Since it’s my fave, I go all out on heart day recipes. See the caption under each recipe for a description and difficulty level.

Red Velvet CHEESECAKE-STUFFED Cake Balls
Red Velvet Cheesecake-Stuffed Cake Balls

That’s right. They’re STUFFED WITH CHEESECAKE. This was one of the best ideas I’ve ever had. You should pretend it was yours. Difficulty level: Intermediate.


Gooey Chocolate Coconut Cream Skillet Cake
Gooey Chocolate Coconut Cream Skillet Cake

Not all of the best Valentine’s desserts are red. This is a romantic favorite, eaten straight from the skillet! Difficulty Level: Easy.


Gooey Turtle Brownie Sticky Buns
Gooey Turtle Brownie Sticky Buns

Brownies + sticky Buns = Love. Difficulty Level: Intermediate.


Raspberry Cheesecake Morning Buns
Raspberry Cheesecake Morning Buns

Incredibly indulgent Raspberry Cheesecake buns that are perfect for breakfast or dessert! Difficulty Level: Intermediate.


Gooey Chocolate Skillet Cake Ice Cream Sundae
Gooey Chocolate Skillet Cake Ice Cream Sundae

Another incredible, chocolate skillet dessert that’s quick and simple to make. Difficulty Level: Easy.


Samoa Monkey Bread with Ganache Dipping Sauce
Samoa Monkey Bread with Ganache Dipping Sauce

So romantic. Trust me. Difficulty Level: Easy.


Sparkling Raspberry Lemonade
Sparkling Raspberry Lemonade

A sweet, puckery way to brighten your sweetheart’s day! Difficulty Level: Easy.


Spiked Mocha Mousse Bars
Spiked Mocha Mousse Bars

A little sassy, a little sultry, a lot delicious. Difficulty Level: Easy.


Lemon Cheesecake Morning Buns
Lemon Cheesecake Morning Buns

The absolute 100% perfect Valentine’s breakfast. Like, don’t even wake me up if these aren’t sittin’ in the kitchen. Difficulty Level: Intermediate.


The Ultimate Moist, Fluffy, Ridiculous Coconut Cake
The Ultimate Moist, Fluffy, Ridiculous Coconut Cake

Coconut is for lovers. Difficulty Level: Intermediate.


Deep Dish Pizza Cupfakes
Deep Dish Pizza Cupfakes

A fun dinner idea for your Valentine. It’ll look like you skipped right to dessert! Difficulty Level: Intermediate.


Heart-Shaped Palmiers
Heart-Shaped Palmiers

Another lovely savory treat for Valentine’s Day. Difficulty Level: Easy.


Chocolate & Coconut Cream Pie Bars
Chocolate & Coconut Cream Pie Bars

I would marry someone immediately if they made me these. And I weren’t already married or whatever. Difficulty level: Easy. (NOT ME, THE BARS.)


Gooey Carmelitas
Gooey Carmelitas

I don’t know if you should make these, actually. Your girlfriend might love them more than you. Difficulty level: Easy.


(Freshly Picked!) Strawberry Cream Pie
(Freshly Picked!) Strawberry Cream Pie

A stunning and indulgent pie. Difficulty level: Intermediate.


Strawberry Coconut Cream Pie
Strawberry Coconut Cream Pie

Mike likes this version with coconut cream even better. It’s nuts. Well, really it’s strawberries. Whatever. Difficulty level: Intermediate.


Itsy Bitsy Berry Cream Pies
Itsy Bitsy Berry Cream Pies

Teensy, adorable mini pies! Difficulty level: Intermediate.


Red Velvet Cheesecake
Red Velvet Cheesecake

This recipe is easy if you make it over a few days. It’s got some serious curb appeal! Difficulty Level: Intermediate.


Thick Chocolate Cake with a Big Red (Velvet!) Heart
Thick Chocolate Cake with a Big Red (Velvet!) Heart

LOOK AT THE HEART. Difficulty level: Easy with the right cake pan!


Chocolatey Red Velvet Pull-Apart Bread with Cream Cheese Glaze
Chocolatey Red Velvet Pull-Apart Bread with Cream Cheese Glaze

Another idea I’m unabashedly proud of. Difficulty level: Intermediate.


Gooey Butter Strawberry Shortcake
Gooey Butter Strawberry Shortcake

This is one of my favorite desserts everrrr and so easy to make! And so pretty! Difficulty Level: Easy.


Brownie-Bottom Coconut Chocolate Cream Cake
Brownie-Bottom Coconut Chocolate Cream Cake

This dessert seems fussy, but it’s incredibly easy and everyone loves it! Difficulty Level: Easy.


Want some amazing Valentine’s Day recipes from other blogs around the interwebz? I have you covered there, too. Here are some I collected:

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Valentine’s Day Dessert Recipes from Willow Bird Baking

It’s that time again: Valentine’s Day. You either love it or you hate it, but you have to admit . . . at least it’s an excuse to eat dessert? Here are a few that will definitely score you brownie points with your sweetheart (or your own solitary tummy as you sit on the couch and watch reruns of 30 Rock, thank you very much.)

By the way, I’ve included a difficulty rating after each recipe so you can pick one perfect for your skill level and schedule. And how much you love your partner. JUST KIDDING, just kidding.

1. Gooey Butter Strawberry Shortcake (very easy)
2. Thick Chocolate Cake with a Big Red (Velvet!) Heart (not hard, but probably easier as a 2-day process.)
3. Gooey Chocolate Skillet Cake Ice Cream Sundae (very easy)
4. Chocolatey Red Velvet Pull-Apart Bread with Cream Cheese Glaze (includes rising time; a 2-day process)


5. German Chocolate Cheesecake (not hard, but probably easier as a 2-day process.)
6. Red Velvet Cheesecake-Stuffed Cake Balls (advanced; easier as a multi-day process)
7. Heart-Shaped Palmiers (sweet or savory; very easy)
8. Red Velvet Cheesecake (not hard, but probably easier as a 2-day process.)


9. Boozy Icebox Cake (very easy)
10. Caramelized Banana Upside-Down Coconut Cake & Coconut Whipped Cream (intermediate)
11. Red Velvet and Oreo Kisses (advanced; easier as a multi-day process)
12. Valentine’s Truffle Heart (advanced; easier as a multi-day process)


13. Strawberry Sour Cream Pie (very easy)
14. (Freshly Picked!) Strawberry Cream Pie (intermediate; multi-step process)
15. Homemade Hot Chocolate & Marshmallows (easy)
16. Red Berry Pie (intermediate)


…and four more for the coconut lover like me:

1. Chocolate & Coconut Cream Pie Bars (easy, but do require 30-minutes of stirring)
2. Tres Leches Coconut Cake Trifle (intermediate; easier as a multi-day process)
3. Brownie-Bottom Coconut Chocolate Cream Cake (very easy)
4. Moist Fluffy Coconut Cake (intermediate; easier as a multi-day process)


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Willow Bird Baking’s Top 12 Recipes of 2012

Last year I tried to wax a little cheerful about 2011, but I was really ready to move on. I had no idea that 2012 would bring some of the happiest times and some of the hardest times of my life to date. To say I’m ready to move on from this year is an understatement, and yet I know there are friends and even strangers who have had a much harder year than I’ve had. I also know that even my hardest times are part of a story God is weaving around me, and I thank Him for His faithfulness and sovereignty over everything that has happened this year. Never once did I ever walk alone.

How can we make 2013 the best year of our lives so far? I wonder if I can persuade you, while making your New Year’s resolutions, to make living with empathy a goal. I’m going to try it: in everything I do and every way I interact with others, I’m going to try and make a sincere effort to see their point of view, to imagine myself in their shoes.

My other resolutions? Focusing on scripture each day, continuing my newfound enjoyment of exercise. But I think living with empathy is what actually has the potential to change me.

To conclude a wonderful year on Willow Bird Baking — a year in which I have so appreciated befriending you and all of our lovely discussions — here are the top 12 recipes from ’12.

12. Gooey Butter Strawberry Shortcake
11. “Magic” Chocolate, Coconut, and Pecan Pastry Braid
10. Caramelized Banana Upside-Down Coconut Cake & Coconut Whipped Cream
9. Buttery Coconut & Almond Morning Buns


8. German Chocolate Cheesecake
7. Milnot Cheesecake Cheesecake
6. Tres Leches Coconut Cake Trifle
5. Chocolatey Red Velvet Pull-Apart Bread with Cream Cheese Glaze


4. Chocolate & Coconut Cream Pie Bars
3. Red Velvet Cheesecake-Stuffed Cake Balls
2. Brownie-Bottom Coconut Chocolate Cream Cake


And the top Willow Bird Baking recipe of 2012 is . . .

1. Gooey Chocolate Skillet Cake Ice Cream Sundae!

Happy New Year!

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Chocolatey Red Velvet Pull-Apart Bread with Cream Cheese Glaze

“I changed my mind.”

My mom shifted the car into park and turned off the ignition before looking over at me. “What do you mean? You can’t change your mind now; we’re already here.”

I looked out the window at the hair salon and then turned back to my mom. “Can’t I just get a trim, though? I really don’t want short hair. Please.” My 5-year-old voice teetered on the border between whining and shouting.

My mom shook her head. “We already made the appointment and told her what we wanted done. We aren’t spending all this money for just a trim. It’s just hair; it’ll grow back. Come on.”

Before I knew it, I was seated in a pleathery chair in front of a giant mirror, looking at my long blonde locks. Jessica, our hair stylist, sensed my unease. “Let’s just get it over with all at once, okay?” she asked as she tugged it into a ponytail. I could barely nod. A few snips later, my ponytail dropped to the floor with a whisp of finality, and the newly free remnants of my hair fell around my face. They barely reached my ears.

Silent tears began rolling down my cheeks as I calculated how long I’d have to wait to have long hair again.

My hair was really only one facet of my style troubles. In addition to bowl cuts, my mom had a penchant for “hammer pants.” She made many of my outfits by hand, including a hammer-panted onesie (I couldn’t make this up) with candy-pink stripes and gigantic, ceramic ice cream cone buttons. I think it might’ve also had a big lace collar. I posed in it with my bowl cut and a reluctant smile for many a photograph.

Then there was the red-and-denim hammer-panted contraption with the ceramic cow buttons. God bless my mother for sewing clothes for me, seriously, but I considered running away.

At least I was loved? Indeed, my childhood style woes remind me of this quote from food writer Angie Mosier about red velvet cake: “It’s the Dolly Parton of cakes: a little bit tacky, but you love her.”

Incidentally, I think I would’ve rather dressed like Dolly Parton than M.C. Hammer, but that’s neither here nor there.

This red velvet pull-apart bread has all the fun, tacky redness of red velvet with some extra chocolatey goodness thrown in. It began life as a chocolate yeast bread recipe that I modified into a pull-apart loaf. It’s sweet, melty, gooey, and with a cream cheese glaze drizzled over the top, reminiscent of your favorite red velvet desserts. As a plus, there are no hammer pants or bowl cuts in sight.

Tell me about your tackiest fashion choices (or the tackiest fashion “choices” imposed upon you by parents).

Chocolatey Red Velvet Pull-Apart Bread with Cream Cheese Glaze


Recipe by: Willow Bird Baking, adapted from Chocolate Bread by Paula Oland of the Balthazar Bakery
Yield: 2 loaves

Pull-apart loaves are downright addictive. Each layer is crisp on the outside and soft on the inside. This loaf is made from yeast dough with a sweet chocolate flavor, hunks of melty chocolate throughout, and a bright red hue! The cream cheese glaze kicks it right over the top. Schedule out the recipe in advance to allow for the rising/resting times and enjoy!

Bread Starter Ingredients:
1/4 teaspoon active dry yeast
1 cup lukewarm water (100-110 degrees F)
1 cup all-purpose flour, plus 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

Red Velvet Yeast Bread Ingredients:
2 1/2 cups bread flour
1/4 cup cocoa powder
2 tablespoons (1 ounce) red food coloring plus 1 tablespoon water
1/3 cup sugar
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 cup minus 3 tablespoons lukewarm water (100-110 degrees F)
1 1/4 teaspoons table salt
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
vegetable oil for lightly oiling bowl

Filling Ingredients:
3/8 – 1/2 cup granulated sugar (depending on how sweet you like things)
2 tablespoons semisweet chocolate chips
2 tablespoons bittersweet chocolate chips (I use Ghirardelli’s 60% cacao)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Cream Cheese Glaze Ingredients:
2 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup powdered sugar
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
about 3 tablespoons milk as
mini chocolate chips for sprinkling

Directions:
Note: In recipes that call for hunks of rising/resting time like this one, I like to draw out my schedule with different size boxes representing “hands on” and “hands off” prep time to get a visual feel for how long it will take. If you’re a visual person like me, drawing out your schedule is a great technique to try! Otherwise, a good old fashion list of what you’re doing at what time would also be beneficial.

Make bread starter: Dissolve the yeast in the 100-110 degree water for about 10 minutes. Completely mix in the flour. Cover the bowl loosely and leave it at room temperature to proof for around 6 hours.

Make red velvet yeast bread: Mix the cocoa powder, red food coloring, and 1 tablespoon water into a paste in a small bowl. In a medium bowl, mix together the paste, flour, 1/3 cup sugar, yeast, water, and 1/4 cup of your bread starter (save the rest to use for other recipes). Let this mixture rest for 15 minutes.

Knead in the salt and butter and then knead for about 10 minutes by hand or about 4 minutes on a mixer fitted with a dough hook, or until smooth and elastic. Scoop dough out into a lightly oiled bowl and cover it with a dish cloth. Let it rise until doubled in size, about 1 1/2 hours. Leave the dough in the bowl at this point but fold it in thirds like you’d fold a letter. Recover it and let it rest for 30 more minutes.

Shape and bake pull-apart bread: Prepare two 7″x 3″ x2″ loaf pans by greasing them (I use Wilton’s Cake Release, but you could also butter and flour them). Flour a large work surface. Use a dough scraper or sharp knife to help you cut your dough into halves. Turn out half of the dough onto your floured surface, keeping the other half covered.

Roll your dough out to a 15 inch long and 12 inch wide rectangle, lifting corners periodically to make sure it’s not sticking. If it seems to be snapping back, cover it with your damp towel and let it rest for 5 minutes before continuing.

Spread the melted butter over the surface of the dough with a pastry brush and then sprinkle the sugar and chocolate chips over the top, patting them down to ensure they mostly stick. Some will inevitably fall out as you do the following steps — just stuff ‘em back in and don’t worry too much about perfection.

With the long edge of the rectangle toward you, cut it into 6 strips (do this by cutting the rectangle in half, then cutting each half into equal thirds. I used a pizza cutter). Stack these strips on top of one another and cut the resulting stack into 6 even portions (again, cut it in half, and then cut the halves into equal thirds). Place these portions one at a time into your greased loaf pan, pressing them up against each other to fit them all in. Cover the pan with your damp cloth and place it in a warm place for 45 minutes to an hour to double in size. Repeat the rolling and cutting process with the second half of dough.

While the dough rises, preheat oven to 350 degrees F (or 325 if you have a glass loaf dish instead of a metal pan). When it’s risen, place the loaf in the center of the oven and bake for 30-35 minutes until dark on top (if you take it out at light brown, it’s liable to be raw in the middle, so let it get good and dark). Cool until just warm on a cooling rack in the loaf pan while you make the glaze.

Make the cream cheese glaze: Beat the cream cheese until fluffy, and then add sugar and vanilla. Add the milk to thin it to drizzling consistency. Drizzle some of the glaze over the slightly warm bread (save the rest for drizzling over individual slices) and sprinkle it with mini chocolate chips. Serve immediately.

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Thick Chocolate Cake with a Big Red (Velvet!) Heart

Okay, confession: I’m actually starting this post on Thursday, February 8. At this moment, I haven’t taken any photos of this cake yet, because I haven’t even baked this cake yet. I’ve only just drafted the recipe. It could be a total cake flop (or another trifle?) But hopefully, by the time I’m finished with this post in a few days’ time, there’ll be a great big gorgeous cake staring at you from the photographs.


hi.

I also haven’t driven up to Raleigh for my Valentine’s weekend yet, so I may be totally off-base with the following mushiness (I’m a city girl, so I’m unfazed by your aphoristic “counting-unhatched-chickens” nonsense.)

I’m gonna take a stab at predicting the future and tell you (and hopefully confirm for you later): Mike is the best boyfriend ever.

See, Mike is planning (or, by the time you see this, planned — is this getting confusing?) our Valentine’s celebration this year.

I got him a few presents (this novel, and some astronaut ice cream, because who doesn’t want to eat weird space food?)

I also attempted to paint my toenails for the weekend, but if you follow Willow Bird Baking on Facebook, you know that I actually only managed to make my toes look like they’d been gnawed off by a possum. Romantic?

But other than those little details (and, okay, this gigantic cake), it’s all Mike.

Update, Friday, February 9: Mike just emailed me to tell me to bring something nice to wear to dinner, but that’s my only clue so far. I bought him Reese’s hearts to tuck into his present. And Scooby Doo valentines to hide around his apartment, because I am apparently 5 years old.

I finally baked the cake and filled it with red velvet goodness (spiking the cream cheese frosting with amaretto on the fly was a fantastic choice). Hopefully tomorrow morning will find me frosting, photographing, and hitting the road with Byrd (my smaller, fuzzier valentine).

Update, Saturday, February 10: My suspicions were correct — Mike wins at romantic Valentine’s dinners! He took me to fancy schmancy Coquette in Raleigh, where I had gnocci that tasted just like Thanksgiving (how’d they do that?) and he had a mind-blowing cassoulet. The wind chill might’ve been hovering around negative eleventy billion, but the cockles of my heart were as warm as a . . . well, as a cassoulet. Because I ate a bunch of it.

Update, Sunday, February 11: My suspicions were even more correct — Mike wins at awesome Valentine’s surprises! I’ve been wanting to see Hugo since it came out but haven’t gotten a chance. After Mike and I tried but failed to go see it last time he was in Charlotte, I figured I was going to miss it in theaters entirely. But after church today (and some fantastic pizza), Mike drove me to the movies! Hugo was amazing.

Actually, though, the best thing Mike gave me was a card. He knew it was good when I cried for five solid minutes after reading it (and I’ve read it 3 or 4 times since and cried every time.) The best part: “I love you with all my heart. I’m so glad we’re together this Valentine’s.”

If he thinks he’s glad . . . !

I can now happily report that the cake, also, was a smashing success. It turns out if you combine the best chocolate cake you’ve ever tasted, the best red velvet cake you’ve ever tasted, the best (amaretto!) cream cheese frosting you’ve ever tasted, and the best chocolate frosting you’ve ever tasted, the result will be pretty flippin’ awesome.

What are your Valentine’s plans?

Thick Chocolate Cake with a Big Red (Velvet!) Heart


Recipe by: Willow Bird Baking, using chocolate cake and chocolate frosting recipes adapted from Martha Stewart
Yield: 10-12 slices

This is a capital-D Delicious show-stopper of a fancy schmancy special occasion cake. It’s a labor of love; however, even though it’s a lot of steps, they’re all pretty easy to accomplish! To make this cake (and so many others — it’s been a great investment for me), I used a Wilton Heart Tasti-Fill Pan. You can find this pan online or at Hobby Lobby, Michael’s, and probably AC Moore, if you’re looking for one. Or you can also use this tutorial by Amanda at i am baker to create a heart inside your cake without the pan!

Chocolate Cake Ingredients:
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pans
2 1/4 cups granulated sugar
1 1/8 cups unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
2 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/8 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/8 teaspoons coarse salt
3 large eggs, room temperature
1 1/8 cups low-fat buttermilk
1/4 cup plus 3 1/2 tablespoons safflower oil
1 1/8 cups warm water
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Red Velvet Cake Filling Ingredients:
1/4 cup vegetable shortening
1 egg
1 tablespoon cocoa
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 1/4 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons white vinegar
1 ounce (about 2 tablespoons) red food coloring

Amaretto Cream Cheese Frosting Ingredients:
2 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 3/4 cups powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon amaretto or almond liqueur (optional)

Chocolate Frosting Ingredients:
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons Dutch-process cocoa powder
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons warm water
2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
Coarse salt
1 pound semisweet chocolate chips, melted and cooled
sprinkles

Directions:
NOTE: This cake has a lot of steps, but it’s easy to split up over several days. The cake layers can all be made days in advance (freeze the chocolate ones to make them easier to work with — no need to thaw before you assemble your cake — and stick the red velvet one in an airtight container in the fridge until you’re ready to use it). You can also assemble the cake and refrigerate it the night before you want to frost it (just cover it in the fridge).

Bake red velvet cake: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and grease a 9-inch square baking pan. Cream together shortening, sugar, and eggs. Mix the cocoa and food coloring to form a paste and add this to the shortening mixture. Add the salt and vanilla extract. Add the buttermilk alternately with the flour, beginning and ending with flour. Mix the vinegar and soda together in a small bowl and immediately fold it into the cake batter. Pour the batter into your prepared pan and bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with just a few moist crumbs. Cool completely. Keep the oven preheated for your chocolate cake.

Make the chocolate cake: Grease the Wilton Heart Tasti-Fill Pan well (You can find this pan at Hobby Lobby or Michael’s, if you’re looking for one, or you can also use this tutorial by Amanda at i am baker to create a heart inside your cake without the pan!). I use Wilton’s Cake Release to grease my pans, but you could also use butter and flour.

Sift the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and coarse salt together in a mixing bowl. Beat the dry ingredients on low until combined before increasing the speed to medium and adding eggs, buttermilk, warm water, oil, and vanilla. Beat about 3 minutes until the mixture is smooth. Divide it among your prepared pans.

Place the pans in the oven and bake until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out with just a few moist crumbs, about 30-35 minutes. Rotate the pans about halfway through so they’ll bake evenly. Let them cool on a wire rack for about 10 minutes before turning them out onto sheets of wax paper and leaving them to cool completely. Stick them in the freezer so they’ll be easier to work with.

Make the cream cheese frosting: Whip cream cheese and butter until fluffy. Mix in all other frosting ingredients and mix on medium-high speed until combined. When cake is cooled and crumbled, mix the cream cheese frosting in until the mixture has a dough-like consistency.

Make your chocolate frosting: In a small bowl, whisk together the cocoa and warm water. In a separate bowl, beat together butter, confectioners’ sugar, and a generous pinch of coarse salt until pale and fluffy. Gradually beat in the melted chocolate and the cocoa mixture. Let this sit for about 30 minutes before you use it to frost the outside of your cake. (You can assemble the cake while you wait.)

Assemble the cake: Take out your firm-from-the-freezer cake layers and stack them to see if you need to trim the sides with a serrated knife at all. Level them if they need it. Then place them cavity-side up on the counter. Knead your red velvet mixture a bit to make it soft and pliable and pack the cavities of both layers with it, making sure it gets down into the shape of the heart. I smoothed the red velvet mixture level with the back of a spoon.

Spread a touch of chocolate frosting on the middle and outside of the cake layer (not on the red velvet heart) as “glue” and then place the cake layers together (filled sides together, of course). Carefully align your heart. Smooth a very skimpy layer of chocolate frosting (the crumb coat) all over the outside of the cake, brushing away any crumbs, and place the cake in the fridge to harden the frosting and secure the crumbs. After chilling for about 20 minutes, remove the cake and frost completely. Decorate with fantastic sprinkles and lots of love. Serve immediately with ice cream or store, covered, in the fridge. If you store it, zap each slice for 20-30 seconds or let it sit out for 20 minutes or so to let the chocolate frosting soften.

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Red Velvet Cheesecake-Stuffed Cake Balls

What’s your favorite color?

Alex‘s answer is pink. He’s the son of fellow Charlotte food blogger Julie of Mommie Cooks, and he just celebrated his 6th birthday in style with a gorgeous rainbow cake. Things haven’t all been rainbows lately, though, because Alex was recently informed by some kids at school that boys aren’t supposed to wear pink.

Julie’s post beautifully captures the struggle of a mom trying to empower her kid to hold tight to his unique personality when the world is trying to tuck him into a bright blue mold. It’s hard to explain to a 6-year-old that pink wasn’t always considered “girly.” Or that part of the reason pink is a “girl color” now is so businesses can make more money. Maybe Riley can help explain?

I shared Julie’s post with my 7th grade students, who wrote a reflection on it before we discussed their thoughts. Middle school is a particularly difficult time for finding your own way, so we talk a lot about bullying and how to be ourselves and love others. Given this (and the fact that they’re sweethearts), I wasn’t surprised at all that they were touched by Alex’s story.

Their indignant and protective voices cried, “He can like whatever color he wants to like!” and “He’s just a little boy! Why does it matter what color he wears?” Then someone — I think it was Matt — raised their hand with an idea. “We should all wear pink tomorrow to support him!”

And just like that, a plan was born: the 7th grade “color swap.”

That’s how it came to pass that the 7th grade boys filed into my room this morning in every shade of pink and red. The 7th grade girls donned blues, grays, greens, and browns, complete with sneakers and baseball caps. One boy snazzed his outfit up with a pink tie. Another topped off his ensemble with a pink fedora. Yet another wore cute socks. Their message was clear: colors don’t belong to a certain gender, and you should always be able to be yourself.


The 7th grade. Be yourself, love others!

This Valentine’s Day, don’t limit yourself to celebrating romantic love. Why not celebrate pink for Alex? Find a way this week to be your unique self, or to show support for someone else’s individual choices. Maybe you can find a day to wear pink for all the Alexes of the world, who shouldn’t ever have to conform to an arbitrary idea of normal.

In the spirit of loving yourself and others, here are some Valentine’s Day Red Velvet Cheesecake-Stuffed Cake Balls. Nothing says I love you like cheesecake, red velvet, and chocolate, am I right? And I definitely got some I love yous from the folks who devoured these.

How can you be yourself and love others?

Red Velvet Cheesecake-Stuffed Cake Balls


Recipe by: Willow Bird Baking
Yield: 30+ cake balls

People will seriously swoon when you show up with these cake balls. SWOON, I tell you. Red velvet cake and cheesecake and chocolate?! They’re also, despite looking really fancy, surprisingly straightforward to make. That being said, cake balls and pops are always fiddly the first time you make them and they require a little trial and error (should I dip with a toothpick or a spoon? Should I dry them at room temperature or in the fridge?), but the great thing about them is that they always taste amazing. The “recipe” below is more of a technique than a recipe. I’ve included lots of hints and even have a video tutorial to help you make these cuties! Also be sure to check out Candiquik’s great post on Common Cake Pop Problems.

Cake Ball Ingredients:
Your favorite red velvet cake recipe*, prepared and cooled
Chocolate candy coating (I love Candiquik or candy melts)
sprinkles

Cheesecake Filling Ingredients:
1 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened
2 tablespoons sugar

Cream Cheese Frosting Ingredients:
2 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 3/4 cups powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions:
*Note: I used a half recipe for these red velvet whoopie pies for my cake balls. They’re delicious as whoopie pies but were too oily for the cake balls, so mine cracked if I didn’t keep them in the fridge. I’d recommend using the red velvet cake recipe I used for these cake balls, which has always worked well for me. It might be more red velvet than you need, so you could try halving it and baking it in a loaf pan, but I haven’t attempted this. What the heck is too much red velvet, anyway?

Make the cheesecake middles: While the cake you chose is baking and cooling, mix all the cheesecake filling ingredients for 3-4 minutes or until fluffy. Fill a plastic zip bag with the mixture and cut off the corner. Pipe the cheesecake mixture into small swirls on a silicone mat or wax paper. Freeze these until firm (mine only took about 45 minutes).

Make frosting: Whip cream cheese until fluffy. Mix in all other frosting ingredients and mix on medium-high speed until combined. When cake is cooled and crumbled, start mixing frosting in. Start with about 1/2 cup of frosting and mash/stir with your fingers, pressing together to feel the texture. You’re looking to reach a playdough-like consistency. I think I used about 3/4 cup of frosting total, but the amount you use will depend on how much cake you have crumbled in your bowl.

Make cake balls: Once your cake mixture is ready and your cheesecake middles are frozen firm, you’re ready to assemble your cake balls! Take a frozen cheesecake middle and pack some cake around it. Roll it into a ball and place it on a silicone mat or wax paper. Continue until all cake balls are rolled. Chill these in the refrigerator overnight. I don’t freeze mine like some sites suggest, because I find chilling them in the fridge instead reduces cracking after I dip them.

Dip cake balls: After cake balls have chilled overnight, melt your candy melts or candy coating according to the package directions. I keep my bowl of candy melts situated in a bigger bowl of hot water to keep them warm and fluid, but be careful no water gets into the melts or they’ll seize!

To dip cake balls, I insert a toothpick into the center and dip them in the candy coating, using a spoon to help coat them. I then hold my cake ball over the bowl, gently bouncing and turning it to drain the excess coating off (letting them drain a good long while — but not long enough to fall off the toothpick — is how I avoid having a huge chocolate “foot”). When well-drained, I gently wiggle the cake ball off my toothpick onto a sheet of wax paper and add any sprinkles. I noticed my cake balls cracking (because I used an oilier cake), so I stuck them in the fridge as soon as they were dry to prevent this (it always helps for some reason). Serve immediately or store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

VARIATIONS:
-You can leave the cheesecake middles out of this recipe and roll the cake into a solid ball if you want traditional cake pops.
-You can use any flavor of cake (or even a cake mix) for your cake.
-You can add chopped berries to your no-bake cheesecake mixture or even add in chocolate or other flavoring to produce different flavors of cheesecake in the center.
-You can use lollipop sticks or pretzel sticks to make these into cake pops.
-You can decorate with chocolate drizzle instead of (or in addition to) sprinkles.

Alex, this is for you. Be yourself! We think you’re awesome just the way you are.


Rainbows for Alex

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Celebrating Cheesecake — and a challenge for you!

Taylor from Taylor Takes a Taste tweeted me yesterday with a very, very important message: Today is National Cheesecake Day! Well, okay, it’s actually National White Chocolate Cheesecake Day, but I’ve never made a white chocolate cheesecake, so just ignore that part. I’ll add it to my to-do list.

In order to celebrate, I thought I’d compile Willow Bird Baking’s many cheesecake recipes and issue a challenge for you!

My goal is to inspire kitchen confidence in home cooks by encouraging them to tackle fun, challenging new recipes. So I’m challenging you this month! Here’s what you do:

- Choose one of the cheesecake recipes below that feels like a challenge to you and make it for friends, family, or coworkers.

- Take a photo and email it to me at juruble ‘at’ gmail ‘dot’ com with a few comments about how it went and a link to your blog (if you have one — if you don’t, that’s okay too!).

- Do this before April 5, 2011. In exactly a month, I’ll post all of your cheesecake masterpieces here on Willow Bird Baking!

- You can also grab the badge at the bottom of this post if you’d like to let your readers know that you’re participating in the Cheesecake Challenge, but it’s optional.

If you’d like to participate, leave me a comment below and let me know! If you’ve already made one of the recipes below, that counts too! Just send me a photo!

Willow Bird Baking’s Cheesecake Recipes:

1. Coffee Cookie Dough Fudge Cheesecake



2. Red Velvet Cheesecake



3. Caramel Fudge Brownie Cheesecake



4. Chocolate Peanut Butter Bliss Cheesecake



5. Blueberry Lemon Cheesecake Cupcakes



6. Chocolate Cheesecake-Stuffed Cupcakes with Ganache



7. Lemon Blueberry Cheesecake Squares with Shortbread Crust



8. Marbled Chocolate Cheesecake Brownies



9. Pumpkin Cheesecake Bread Pudding

And don’t forget to watch my (slightly embarrassing) cheesecake tutorial for great cheesecake pointers!

Finally, here’s the Cheesecake Challenge badge if you want to grab it:

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Red Velvet Cheesecake

Every year around this time, I get the urge to build a mailbox.

Don’t look at me like that. I blame my elementary school teachers. At the beginning of almost every February, my teachers would pull out construction paper, glue, stickers, markers, and paint, and we’d all set to work constructing mailboxes. Sure it wasn’t the most glamorous construction job I’ve ever been a part of, but I was very serious about it nonetheless, because this wasn’t just any mailbox — this was a Valentine’s Day mailbox.

On February 14, we’d all bring in our packets of valentines and circulate about the classroom uncomfortably, dropping one in each of the waiting mailboxes. We tried not to pause too long at anyone’s desk or — heaven forbid — make any accidental eye contact, lest it be misinterpreted during this socially charged process.

Secretly, though, I’d probably spent the night before carefully selecting the perfect Strawberry Shortcake Valentine for the boy I liked. One that could be interpreted as being totally casual — plausible deniability in case he had no interest in me whatsoever — but was also slightly on the mushy side, in case he was just waiting for a sign of my interest. If I was appending candy to my valentines that year, I probably spent another eternity choosing the candy heart or chocolate that I thought he’d like the very best.

(Yes, I now realize that the boy I liked, in contrast, had probably spent the night before Valentine’s Day being hounded by his mother to at least write his classmates’ names somewhere on the valentines she’d bought for him, eating most of his valentine candy before it got attached to anyone’s card, and playing a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles video game until bed.)

Anyway, when every valentine was passed out and the time had finally come to sit down and empty our mailboxes, I was always breathless with suspense. Imagine the possibilities! Forget bills and junk mail — these mailboxes were carefully crafted to hold L-O-V-E. Every year I fully expected to receive a long letter handwritten by the boy I liked (actually, any boy would’ve done. Or a secret admirer? Yes, please!) detailing the many, MANY reasons he was smitten with me. He might even include a phone number. Maybe a special conversation heart. Maybe an engagement ring! You never know.

Reality was a little disappointing. I’d dump out all the valentines and quickly shuffle through the boring ones — Scooby Doo holding a bunch of flowers and saying, “Rees are for Roo, Valentine!” or Power Rangers crying, “It’s Morphin’ Time, Valentine!” My eagle eyes were looking for two things: candy and handwritten messages. Candy because it would sustain me on my arduous journey toward discovering the love of my life, and handwritten messages from said love.

Was his heartfelt letter to me in this envelope? Nope, a smurf card. How about this one? Nope, an I Love Lucy valentine — you can tell Mom picked those out. How about the envelope with a heart drawn on the front? Nope, that was from my BFF. Thanks a lot for getting my hopes up, girl. Slowly but surely, my stack dwindled. One after another, the valentines were slapped down onto my “read” pile with barely more than a glance. Finally, the fateful moment came when I’d read and dismissed the very last card.

No proposal. No secret admirer. Not even a lousy paragraph about my eyes being like the sun or something. Nothin’. At this point I’d probably look at my crush across the classroom and sigh, appreciating the suave way in which he used his lollipop as a sword to launch attacks against his friend’s ear.

Childhood is rough. Adulthood is a lot better. Yes, there are bills and junk mail in my mailbox now. And unfortunately, I didn’t get to MAKE my mailbox. And, okay, I’m not going to get a pile of colorful valentines, some of which are boasting candy.

But here’s why adulthood rocks. This year, when Christof Van Snufterplucken (names changed to protect the innocent — or lame) doesn’t turn off his video game long enough to write me a love letter about how awesome I am, I can remedy my disappointment in a mature, adult way: by making and eating a ridiculous amount of cheesecake. Red Velvet Cheesecake, to be exact.

Reader Victoria first gave me the idea for a Red Velvet Cheesecake back in November and I thought it sounded fantastic! She made a beautiful layer-cake-like version, and I went the cheesecake-like route. This ultimate Valentine’s dessert includes an oreo crust filled with layers of ganache, creamy cheesecake, and moist red velvet cake decorated with ganache and cream cheese frosting. Perhaps this is obvious, but apart from being pretty (especially when served with chocolate-covered strawberries and white chocolate hearts), this thing is delicious, indulgent, and yes, romantic. So even if your crush loves radioactive reptilian ninjas more than you, you can have your own little slice o’ love.

Tell me about one of your elementary school crushes. Did you ever receive a fantastic valentine in school?

Red Velvet Cheesecake


Recipe by: Willow Bird Baking
Yield: 11-13 pieces

Crust Ingredients:
32 chocolate sandwich cookies, finely processed into crumbs (cream and all – it’ll disappear when you crush them up!)
5 1/3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
Small pinch of salt

Ganache Ingredients:
3/4 cups heavy cream
10 oz. bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, finely chopped (I used half semisweet and half bittersweet chocolate chips)

Cake Ingredients:
1/4 cup vegetable shortening
1 egg
1 tablespoon cocoa
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 1/4 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 tablespoon white vinegar
1 ounce red food coloring

Filling Ingredients:
3 (8 oz.) packages cream cheese, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
1½ tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 large eggs

Decorative Toppings (optional):
2 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
2 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
1 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted
white chocolate for drizzling
strawberries

Directions:
Note on cheesecake making: Cheesecakes are simple and super customizable. New to cheesecake making? Watch my 6 minute Cheesecake Video Tutorial for visual assistance!

Note on scheduling: This cake is easily separated into two days of preparation, and can be prepared ahead of time. On day one, prepare the red velvet cake, cool it, and freeze it. On day two, prepare the cheesecake. You can then assemble and decorate right away, or leave this for day three.

Make the cake: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line the bottom and the sides of an 9-inch round cake pan with parchment paper, leaving an overhang on two opposite sides to make it easier to lift the cake out of the pan when it’s done. Cream shortening, sugar, and eggs. Make a paste of the cocoa and coloring and add to the shortening mixture. Add salt and vanilla. Add buttermilk alternately with the flour, beginning and ending with flour. Mix vinegar and soda right before using and add to mixture by folding in. Pour batter into the cake pan and bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Cool completely, cover in wax paper, and freeze for 30 minutes or until firm.

Make the cheesecake: To make the crust, preheat the oven to 350˚ F. Butter a 9-inch springform pan and place it on a baking sheet. Combine the chocolate cookie crumbs, melted butter and salt in a small bowl. Toss with a fork to moisten all of the crumbs. Press into a thin layer covering the bottom and sides of the springform pan (at least 3 inches up the sides).

Bring the cream to a simmer in a medium saucepan. Place the chocolate in a medium bowl. Once the cream reaches a simmer, pour the cream over the chocolate and let stand 1-2 minutes. Whisk in small circles until a smooth ganache has formed. Pour 1 – 1.5 cups of the ganache over the bottom of the crust. Freeze until the ganache layer is firm, about 30 minutes. Reserve the remaining ganache; cover and let stand at room temperature for later decorating.

Preheat the oven to 350˚ F and position a rack in the middle of the oven. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese and sugar on medium-high speed until well blended. Beat in the flour. Add in the vanilla and beat until well incorporated, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Beat in the eggs one at a time, scraping down the bowl between each addition.

Pour the filling over the cold ganache in the crust. Place the springform pan on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake until the top is lightly browned, puffed and cracked at the edges, and the center moves only very slightly when the pan is lightly shaken, about 1 hour. Transfer to a wire cooling rack. Cool at room temperature for at least 30 minutes. Transfer to the refrigerator and let cool at least 3 hours, until completely chilled and set (it’ll sink as it cools).

Assemble topping: Whip room temperature ganache to create a fluffy texture perfect for piping. In a separate bowl, mix together cream cheese, butter, and confectioners’ sugar to make a small amount of cream cheese frosting for decorating.

Assemble the cheesecake: Wrap a warm towel around the outside of the springform pan to help loosen the crust from the sides. Carefully remove the springform. Transfer the cake to a serving platter. Here, you can schmear some ganache on the cheesecake to help the red velvet cake adhere. I didn’t, but it’s a good idea. Then place your red velvet cake layer on top of cheesecake (right side up). If for some reason you seem that your cake layer will stick up beyond your crust, you can use a long serrated knife to reduce its width (freezing it first makes it easier to cut). Decorate top of cake with drizzled white chocolate, piped cream cheese frosting, whipped ganache, and strawberries.

P.S. Who could this photographer be shooting my cheesecake? Find out this coming Wednesday!

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Valentine’s Truffle Heart

Sometimes I ask Mike to carry my dog down three flights of stairs only to have her patently refuse to piddle in the freezing cold. Sometimes I ask Mike if he will please clean the inevitable piddle on the carpet in the corner. Every now and then, I ask Mike if he will help scrub the pile of dirty dishes that have built up while I’ve been barricaded in my room grading. And periodically, I’ll admit, I ask Mike to do the acrobatics necessary to feed my handsome humblebee of a (sharp-clawed) turtle.

Mike’s a good guy. He’s a GREAT guy.

The least I can do is fuss over him a bit, especially on holidays. I love making a big impressive feast for his birthday, our anniversary . . . and Valentine’s Day. Oh, are you one of those Valentine’s Day haters? Eschewing the greeting card industry, scoffing at the idea of commercialized love, decrying the superficiality of a Necco®-hearts-based love-fest? I’m not. True, we don’t have a fancy celebration, but Mike and I do value the day for what it is: an excuse to love on each other through small gifts, thoughtful gestures, and food. That’s right . . . it’s an excuse to EAT. An excuse to eat cake truffles!

In case you’re hunting for sweet food ideas for your sweetheart, I thought I’d share with you the fun gift I made for Mike last year: a heart-shaped box filled not with candy, but with Red Velvet Cake Truffles and Oreo Truffles. Apart from being indulgent, rich, moist, and delicious, the truffles were a personal, handmade gift — always the best kind! This Valentine’s Day present was a sweet treat for my students, too, since they got to eat the original candy from the heart-shaped box.


Can you find Byrd in the background?

I have a few ideas jangling around for this Valentine’s Day, but they’re top secret for now! What about you? What fun meal or treat are you planning for the people you love?

Red Velvet Cake Truffles / Cake Balls


Recipe by:

-Bakerella (truffles)
– Mom (cake)
Paula Deen (frosting)

Yields: about 50 balls.

Cake Truffle Ingredients:
1 9 x 13 in. Red Velvet Cake (see recipe below)
About 1.5 – 2 cups cream cheese frosting (see recipe below)
White chocolate bark / White candy coating (not baker’s chocolate)

Cake Ingredients:
1/2 cup vegetable shortening
2 eggs
2 tablespoons cocoa
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup buttermilk
2 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon soda
1 tablespoon white vinegar
2 ounces red food coloring

Frosting Ingredients:
1 pound cream cheese, softened
2 sticks butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar

Directions:
For the cake: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Cream Crisco, sugar, and eggs. Make a paste of the cocoa and coloring and add to the Crisco mixture. Add salt and vanilla. Add buttermilk alternately with the flour, beginning and ending with flour. Mix vinegar and soda right before using and add to mixture by folding in. Pour batter into a 9 x 13 in. pan and bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes. Cool completely.

For the frosting: In a large mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese, butter and vanilla together until smooth. Add the sugar and on low speed, beat until incorporated. Increase the speed to high and mix until very light and fluffy.

For the cake balls:
1. After cake is cooked and cooled completely, crumble into large bowl.
2. Mix thoroughly with 1 can (or about 1-2 cups if you’re using homemade — add some and mix it, and continue adding a little and mixing it until it reaches a playdough like consistency) cream cheese frosting. (It may be easier to use fingers to mix together, but be warned it will get messy.)
3. Roll mixture into quarter size balls and lay on cookie sheet. (Should make 45-50. You can get even more if you use a mini ice cream scooper, but I like to hand roll them.)
4. Chill for several hours. (You can speed this up by putting in the freezer.)
5. Melt chocolate in microwave per directions on package.
6. Roll balls in chocolate and lay on wax paper until firm. (Use a spoon to dip and roll in chocolate and then tap off extra.)

The hardest part of this is definitely the dipping. If you use white candy coating like I did (Candyquik), be prepared to double dip them to get them nice and white. After heating the white coating, I sat its bowl in a larger bowl of hot water to keep it melted. I then held the cake ball on a toothpick and spooned the white coating over it. To prevent the cake ball from having a huge “foot” from puddling coating, you have to let the excess drip off for quite awhile before wiggling it off the toothpick onto the wax paper. You find a groove. Eventually. The chocolate drizzle was applied with a ziplock bag that had the tiniest bit of its bottom corner cut off.

I only used half of my red velvet cake for the cake balls. With the leftovers, I made a little heart-shaped cake. You could also freeze any you didn’t want to use immediately for future cake ball exploits!

Oreo Truffles


Recipe By: Bakerella
Yields: about 36 truffles.

Ingredients:
1 package oreo cookies (divided… use cookie including the cream center)
1 8oz. package cream cheese (softened)
white chocolate bark

Directions:

1. Finely crush 7 cookies in a food processor or place them in a ziploc bag and crush into a fine consistency. Reserve for later (Julie note: I skipped this part)
2. Crush remaining cookies and stir in softened cream cheese. Use the back of a large spoon to help mash the two together.
3. Roll the mixture into 1″ balls and place on wax paper covered cookie sheet.
4. Melt chocolate as directed on the package and then dip balls into chocolate, tap off extra and set aside on wax paper covered cookie sheet to dry. You can sprinkle the tops with the 7 crushed cookies for decoration. (I usually eat mine before they make it to this stage.)
5. Once dry, refrigerate and enjoy!

I used the chocolate candy coating (Candyquik) for this. Once again, the white drizzle was applied with a ziplock bag that had the tiniest bit of its bottom corner cut off.


Mixing and forming red velvet cake truffles.


Red velvet truffles dipped and drying; oreos being crushed (a food processor makes this even easier).


Forming oreo truffles.


The finished (personalized!) present.

Need some other Valentine’s Day ideas? How about Red Velvet and Oreo Kisses? Red Velvet Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting and Chocolate Hearts? Fancy French macarons? A dozen Mango Raspberry Rosecakes? Take a look at the Recipe Index for more ideas.


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Red Velvet and Oreo Kisses

Need a kiss? Everyone does sometimes, and these past few weeks, it was Mike. He’s been studying intensely for the math GRE this summer. He’s interested in stellar grad schools, so he needs to hit the ball (or the sphere, perhaps? or the open ball? or the unit circle? okay, enough with the bad math jokes) out of the park on this exam. I have complete faith in his ability to do so, but he needs some encouragement now and then. What’s better for encouragement than a little kiss? Well, maybe a BIG kiss!

I think I’ve mentioned before that Bakerella is one of my heroes. I love cuteness, and she’s the Queen of Cute. When I saw her Oreo Kisses, I knew they couldn’t wait until Valentine’s Day. They were the perfect surprise to lift Mike’s spirits.

In addition to Oreo, I decided to make some red velvet kisses. While the Oreo version is a no-bake combo of crushed cookies and cream cheese, the red velvet version is essentially a cake ball (or a cake cone in this case). You bake a cake, rip it up (heartbreaking, I know), add frosting, and form the mixture into balls (or cones, or hearts, or zebras) and dip into your candy coating (incidentally, if you try out the zebra shape, please do send a photo). Any flavor combination of cake and frosting will do. And don’t let the idea of baking a cake deter you; while I bake mine from scratch, cake mixes and canned frosting work just fine!


Oreo Kisses



Red Velvet Kisses

Dipping these kisses (or any cake ball) is always the most (ahem) interesting part of the process. I use Candiquik as my chocolate coating of choice, but you can use any chocolate bark or dipping chocolate. I don’t recommend baker’s chocolate or chocolate chips, however, as they don’t form the same hard shell. You should be able to find Candiquik at Lowes Food, SuperTarget, or (I recently discovered) Bloom.

Regarding the act of dipping itself, you’re going to have to get a little creative. Bakerella’s instructions (below) say to use a spoon to dip your kisses and then drain the excess chocolate against the side of the bowl. This hasn’t ever worked for me, though; I’ve used everything from forks to toothpicks to bamboo skewers to dip cake balls. I’ll go ahead and admit that I’ve had visions of standing on the counter lowering a cake ball into chocolate with dental floss (thankfully, I haven’t resorted to this just yet). For dipping these kisses, I used a two-tined grill fork to support the kiss while I spooned chocolate over it. I then let the excess drain off for a long while before sliding the kiss onto wax paper. When it was dry, I went back and re-dipped the bottom. You can try this technique, but the most important message to take home is this: experiment with your kitchen supplies. Necessity is the mother of invention and all that, so try any utensil that looks promising and keep your sense of humor!

One thing I love about these sweet kisses (apart from, oh, everything about them) is the messages you can attach. I used a word processing program (font: light blue, 14 point, Helvetica Neue Bold) to create the little strips of paper that sail out of each kiss. Get creative: you can label various kiss flavors; send encouragement, congratulations, and thank yous; or even say happy birthday. My wonderful Dad’s birthday is this coming Monday — the perfect occasion for a special message! Whether with Oreo kisses, cake kisses, or plain old hugs and kisses, tell someone you love them today!

Oreo Kisses


Recipe By: Bakerella (kisses decoration/assembly)
Yields: About 11 2-inch high kisses

Oreo Kisses Ingredients:
1 package oreo cookies (divided; use cookie including the cream center)
1 8-ounce package cream cheese (softened)
chocolate bark (chocolate candy coating)

Directions

1. Finely crush all but seven cookies in a food processor or place them in a ziploc bag and crush into a fine consistency. Note: As for the extra 7 cookies, just eat them. Or, if you have extra dipping chocolate, make some chocolate covered oreos.
2. Stir in softened cream cheese. Use the back of a large spoon to help mash the two together.
3. Roll the mixture into 1-2″ balls and place on wax paper covered cookie sheet.
4. Then, begin to form the shape of a kiss. Flattening the bottom and forming a point at the top. Note: mine ended up about 2 inches tall and 1.5 inches wide.
5. It helps to put the uncoated balls in the freezer for a few minutes to keep the mixture from starting to fall apart when you drop into the melted chocolate. Note: I refrigerated mine overnight and then froze for a couple of minutes before dipping.
6. Melt chocolate as directed on package and then dip “kisses” one at a time into chocolate, tap off extra and slide them off spoon onto wax paper covered cookie sheet to dry. Note: Dipping is often the most difficult part. These are Bakerella’s instructions, but find what works for you. Let your kitchen be your playground. Look through your utensils for useful tools, and be creative. I used a grill fork to hold my kisses while spooning chocolate over them, and then redipped the bottoms separately.

To decorate:
1. Handwrite your messages or create them on the computer. Cut out the strips (about 1/4″ tall and however wide you need).
2. Cut up some square sheets of aluminum foil (about 6″ square)
3. Place dry kiss in center and start wrapping the foil around the base. Insert message near top and secure it by pressing the foil together at top. Note: It really helps to use cheap foil here! The thinner and more malleable the better. Crush it a little first to make it more flexible.
4. Refrigerate in an airtight container.

Red Velvet Kisses


Recipe By:

-Bakerella (kisses decoration/assembly)
-Mom (red velvet cake)
-Paula Deen (cream cheese frosting)

Yields: About 28 2-inch high kisses

Red Velvet Cake Ingredients:
1/2 cup Crisco shortening
2 eggs
2 tablespoons cocoa
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup buttermilk
2 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon white vinegar
2 ounces red food coloring
chocolate bark (chocolate candy coating; for kisses)

Cream Cheese Frosting Ingredients:
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 stick butter, softened
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar

Directions

Make the cake: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cream Crisco, sugar, and eggs. Make a paste of the cocoa and coloring and add to the Crisco mixture. Add salt and vanilla. Add buttermilk alternately with the flour, beginning and ending with flour. Mix vinegar and soda right before using and add to mixture by folding in. Pour batter into a 9 x 13 in. pan and bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes (check periodically, and if the edges are getting too done, you might want to shield them with foil while the middle continues to bake). Cool completely.

Make the frosting: In a large mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese, butter and vanilla together until smooth. Add the sugar and on low speed, beat until incorporated. Increase the speed to high and mix until very light and fluffy.

Make the kisses:
1. After cake is cooked and cooled completely, crumble into large bowl.
2. Mix thoroughly with about 2 cups cream cheese frosting. (It may be easier to use fingers to mix together, but be warned it will get messy.)
3. Roll mixture into 1-2″ size balls and lay on cookie sheet.
4. Then, begin to form the shape of a kiss. Flattening the bottom and forming a point at the top. Note: mine ended up about 2 inches tall and 1.5 inches wide.
5. It helps to put the uncoated balls in the freezer for a few minutes to keep the mixture from starting to fall apart when you drop into the melted chocolate. Note: I refrigerated mine overnight and then froze for a couple of minutes before dipping.
6. Melt chocolate as directed on package and then dip “kisses” one at a time into chocolate, tap off extra and slide them off spoon onto wax paper covered cookie sheet to dry. Note: Dipping is often the most difficult part. These are Bakerella’s instructions, but find what works for you. Let your kitchen be your playground. Look through your utensils for useful tools, and be creative. I used a grill fork to hold my kisses while spooning chocolate over them, and then redipped the bottoms separately.

To decorate:
1. Handwrite your messages or create them on the computer. Cut out the strips (about 1/4″ tall and however wide you need).
2. Cut up some square sheets of aluminum foil (about 6″ square)
3. Place dry kiss in center and start wrapping the foil around the base. Insert message near top and secure it by pressing the foil together at top. Note: It really helps to use cheap foil here! The thinner and more malleable the better. Crush it a little first to make it more flexible.
4. Refrigerate in an airtight container.

Process Photos:


You may need to shield the sides of the red velvet cake if they’re done before the middle. I halved my cake recipe since I was making two kinds of kisses; if you do this, half the frosting too.


Shaped into cones and then dipping.


Cutting messages into strips.




Did I mention that they were giant?



XOXO


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