Strawberry Icebox Cake

I’ve never heard of icebox cake before. But it was a friend’s birthday and her husband told me she liked “fruit cakes” that are “not too sweet”. If you take a look at all the other dessert recipes I have on my blog, well, “fruit” and “not too sweet” are not my M.O. No, my style is usually heavy on chocolate and sugar. Out of the 27 dessert recipes I’ve posted (well, now 28), only 5 do not involve chocolate. And maybe 4 involve real fruit… and that’s if you count bananas. Personally I wouldn’t really consider banana nutella wontons as a “fruity” dessert.

Anyway, I was a little skeptical of the idea of softened graham crackers, but it looked really good and had strawberries and homemade whipped cream, so how bad could it be? It ended up being pretty good, but my guess is that it won’t keep for very long because the graham crackers will get progressively soggier. But all in all a really good, simply dessert.

Hm, what else has been going on in my life? Work has been fine… I carpool with a friend so that helps me strike a better work/life balance. I have weekly Bible studies through my church and the Intervarsity chapter I volunteer with. My roommate and I started having a weekly “roommate night”. This week we cooked dinner and watched the Joy Luck Club (I have mixed feelings about the movie). I’ve been playing drums again… I don’t know, nothing out of the ordinary. I’ve also been recently feeling the need to have alone time. Time to journal, reflect, pray, and just be… still.

Ok, enough of me. It’s 10:30 (I’m soooo old and tiredddd) so I should wrap up!

Recipe adapted from Let’s Dish

Ingredients
2 lbs strawberries, hulled and sliced
3 1/4 cups heavy whipping cream
1/3-2/3 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2-4 oz dark chocolate chips
18 graham crackers

In a large bowl, whip 3 cups heavy whipping cream with a stand or hand mixer. Add powdered sugar (1/3-2/3 cups, depending on how sweet you want it) and vanilla extract.

Spread a layer of whipped cream on the bottom of a 9×13 pan. Lay 6 graham crackers on top of that. Spread another layer of whipped cream, then a layer of strawberries. Repeat (whipped cream, graham crackers, strawberries) until you run out of graham crackers (3 layers). Garnish the top with strawberries. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours (I refrigerated overnight).

When you’re ready to serve, make the chocolate ganache. In a small saucepan, heat the remaining 1/4 cup of cream until bubbly. Whisk in chocolate and take off heat. Continue whisking/adding chocolate until it reaches the desired chocolatiness (this is not a word, but you know what I mean). Drizzle on top of the cake.

Bailey’s Cheesecake

Today was my friend/future roommate’s 22nd birthday. We did the obligatory trip to the Nitty Gritty, a restaurant that everyone goes to on their birthday. The food isn’t that great, but you get a free mug and free drinks on your birthday, so it’s a pretty popular spot. Sadly I was planning, so it was a small “party” (not really a party, just dinner)… I’m not good at planning things… and it really stresses me out to be in charge of planning things… I guess I should work on that.

Anyway, I’m not sure why, but I decided to make a cheesecake. Maybe it’s because another friend recently gave me his springform pan. I’m not generally a huge fan of cheesecake, and they’re definitely not my forte when it comes to desserts/baking, but I thought it’d be interesting to try and this recipe got great ratings and sounded pretty delicious.

I followed this recipe from Allrecipes.com and it turned out alright. Throughout the process I was kind of scared that it was going to turn out horribly. I don’t own a handmixer or a stand mixer (weird given that I cook a lot), so mixing all the ingredients was pretty difficult. It certainly didn’t seem “well-blended” or “smooth” to me.

I also went to rock out with the Urbana 12 worship team and hear Paul Tokunaga speak and in the middle of the evening, so after mixing everything I shoved the bowl in the fridge and ran off for a few hours.

When I came back, I put the cake in the oven, and put a large water bath on the rack below it. I was reading lots of comments on the recipe about how that was supposed to prevent cracks, but sadly when I opened the oven there was a GIANT crack right in the middle! 😦 To cover it up I stealthily spread Cool Whip* on top and drizzled some chocolate sauce. All in all I think it’s a pretty good recipe. I hope my friend thinks so too- happy birthday!

*Normally I never would use Cool Whip because making homemade whipped cream is so easy and delicious (just whip heavy cream, powdered sugar and vanilla extract together) but I was under a time contraint and as I mentioned before, I don’t have a handmixer or stand mixer, which would have made whipping the cream rather difficult.

Vanilla Cake with Chocolate Mousse Frosting

My church had a women’s brunch today, and my friend who was organizing it asked me to make a dessert. After spending hours searching through recipes and emailing with the aforementioned friend, I realized that our other friend’s birthday was this past Thursday but she hadn’t been in town to celebrate it. So I figured I would kill two birds with one stone and make a birthday cake.

This was quite the adventure. I’ve never made a layer cake before and I’ve never written on a cake with frosting, so this covered two firsts for me. A friend who is a crazy good baker/cook/is a food science major at UW Madison gave me some tips beforehand, so it turned out to not be that hard- or a piece of cake as my really punny high school teacher friend would say. Haha.

Anyway, while neither of those new experiences gave me much trouble, I did run into trouble with whipping cream by hand. I’ve made homemade whipped cream several times, and I’ve never run into this issue. Last night it happened TWICE in a row. It kind of freaked me out a bit. I always knew somewhere in the back of my head that when you whip heavy cream the cream has to be cold. I guess last night the cream was too warm, so when I whipped it, it separated out into butter and buttermilk! Finally the third time (I actually had to go out and get more heavy cream) I put the mixing bowl in the refrigerator and the whisk in the freezer and kept the cream cold and it came out fine.

All in all though this recipe was a success! Maybe next time I’ll be more adventurous and use hexagonal cake pans instead of boring old circular ones.

In other news I watched the Hunger Games movie tonight, let me know if you want to discuss!

Recipes from Joy of Baking and Allrecipes.com

Ingredients
For the cake:
3 cups flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
4 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup milk, room temperature

For the chocolate mousse frosting:
14 oz sweetened condensed milk
2 oz unsweetened chocolate
1/2 cup cold water
1 (3.9 oz) package of instant chocolate pudding mix
1 cup heavy cream, whipped

For the icing (optional):
1 cup powdered sugar
1/2 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
1/2-1 tbsp milk
food coloring (optional)

Other things that you’ll need:
1 ziplock bag, quart size
2 9″ cake pans
parchment paper
oil (for the pans)
stand mixer/hand mixer/whisk

Preheat the oven the 350 degrees.

In a mixing bowl mix together flour, baking powder, and salt.

Using the stand mixer/hand mixer/whisk beat the butter until soft and creamy. Gradually add the sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time and beat until well mixed. Add vanilla extract. On low speed, add 1/3 of the flour mix, then 1/2 of the milk, then another 1/3 of the flour mix, then the remaining 1/2 of the milk, then the final 1/3 of the flour mix.

Prepare your cake pans by oiling the bottom, lining the bottom with parchment paper, then oiling the parchment paper.

Evenly divide the batter between your two 9″ cake pans and bake for 27-40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out dry.

While the cake layers are baking, melt the unsweetened chocolate and mix with the sweetened condensed milk. While mixing, gradually add the water, then the pudding mix. When it’s well mixed, chill for around 30 min.

When the cake layers are done baking, remove from the oven and cool both layers. It is really important that the cakes are completely cooled before you frost them. I put mine in the freezer for 15-30 minutes.

When both layers have cooled, remove them carefully from the pans. Make sure to peel off the parchment paper (I almost forgot!). Place the bottom layer with the rounded side down (or cut off the rounded part off) and spread about 1-1 1/2 cups of the mousse frosting on top. Place the top layer flat side down on top and finish frosting the cake. Chill until ready to serve.

If you want to write/draw on top of the cake, make icing by first beating the butter until smooth. Add vanilla extract, then gradually add in the powdered sugar. Add milk in small increments until the icing reaches the desired tendency. Add food coloring (optional). Spoon the icing into a quart-sized ziplock bag. Cut off one of the corners of the bag to make a hole about 1-2 millimeters in diameter. Decorate your cake!