Apr 30, 2012

Pastel Tres Leches Cake with Grand Marnier

Cinco de Mayo is fast approaching, did you dust off your maracas yet?  

Before the big day we better get our facts straight.  Here is something that is going to shock you.  Ready?  The 5th of May (Cinco de Mayo) is not Mexico's Independence day.  Doh!  All those years of drinking margaritas after work with your colleagues on the 5th had nothing to do with liberating the Mexicans, ay caramba!

Actually Cinco de Mayo is a day of celebration to commemorate the victory of the Mexican militia over the French army at The Battle Of Puebla in 1862.  And another surprise, it's not even celebrated throughout the entire country of Mexico, only the state of Puebla.  Well, and I guess all over the US...mostly during happy hour.  Geeze. 

So if you have some close Mexican friends, no need to pat them on the back and say congratulations on the 5th of May...well, except if they're from Puebla, then it's probably okay.

And since we're on the topic of Hispanic heritage, let's talk Pastel Tres Leches (meaning '3 milk cake' in Spanish). 

Oh boy, here is another surprise you for, and somewhat of a disappointment for me.  I always imagined Tres Leches to be one of those recipes passed down from one Latin generation to the next.  You know, one your Abuela (Grandma) kept hand written on some torn, yellowed piece of scrap paper that's so old it's almost illegible.  It's the recipe you'd make together during the holidays and she'd tell you about how her Grandmother taught her to make Tres Leches and how her life is now complete because she's teaching you, ahh such a nice moment that would be. 

Wrong.  Guess who REALLY invented Tres Leches?  The flippin' makers of sweetened condensed milk that's who!  They invented the recipe to help boost sales, ugh we've been shammed!

Ok so it's origin is from Latin America, this is still a fact.  It's still an old recipe, dating back somewhere around the 1860's; fact, it is OLD.  But invented by some old, sweet Aubuela named Rosarita...I think not.

Anway, it doesn't matter.  This cake is damn good no matter who came up with it.

The recipe for Tres Leches is fairly simple and I promise you totally fool proof.  The cake itself is mearly a yellow sponge cake, easy enough.  But the magic of Tres Leches comes from the mixture you pour over the cake once it's cooled: milk, sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk, Grand Marnier, cinnamon, and orange zest. 

Allow the cake to marinate (get tipsy) overnight and in the morning you will wake up to a slightly soggy, sensationally sweet and deep in flavor (due to the Grand Marnier and orange zest), but still spongy cake.  Before we are off to the fiesta you must prepare the fresh whipped cream which is signature for any Tres Leches recipe.   

Lastly, this cake doesn't totally absorb all the liquid (which is how it's supposed to be!).  Every bite is saturated with the milk mixture and is sweet, creamy, and very delicate. 

I do not suggest keeping this cake any longer than two days as the liquid will eventually start to break down the cake and it will turn to mush.  This is best served for a party or big group of people where it will be devoured completely.

Tres Leches with Grand Marnier
for a printable version click here


For the cake:
5 eggs
1/2 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

For the milk mixture:
2 cups whole fat milk
1 (14 oz.) can sweetened condensed milk
1 (12 oz.) can evaporated milk
2 tablespoons Grand Marnier Liquor (I used Cointreau)
dash of cinnamon
dash of grated orange peel

For the whipped cream topping:
1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Grease and flour a 13 by 9 inch metal cake pan and set aside.  I use a sandwich baggie as a glove to thoroughly cover the pan.  Makes life easy.

 Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt.  Whisk to combine and set aside.

Cream butter and sugar together in a mixer until fluffy, about 1 minute.

Lower the speed to low and add the eggs one at a time, scraping the sides of the bowl often.  Add vanilla and mix to combine. 

Keeping the mixer on low speed, add flour mixture to the butter mixture 2 tablespoons at a time.  Mix until well blended.  Give the bowl a final mix with a rubber spatula to make sure there is no flour left unmixed at the very bottom of the bowl.

Pour into prepared pan and bake for 30 minutes or until the cake is lightly golden and a toothpick inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean.

Let cake cool completely before preparing the milk mixture.

Once the cake has cooled, pierce entire cake thoroughly with a fork.

Combine the whole milk, sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk, Grand Marnier, cinnamon, and orange peel in a large bowl.  Whisk to thoroughly combine.

 Pour milk mixture over the cake and refrigerate overnight.

To prepare the whipped cream, add heavy cream, sugar, and vanilla in the bowl of a stand up mixer using the whisk attachment.  Start on low speed and gradually increase to medium once the mixture thickens.  Continue to beat until peaks form.

Using an offset spatula, spread whipped cream over cake until smooth and even. 

 Keep cake refrigerated until ready to serve.


Tres Leches recipe adapted from Masa Assassin 

Cinco de Mayo reference courtesy of Mexonline 

Apr 29, 2012

Home Made Vanilla Marshmallows

Yes it is true.  Once you've tried a home-made marshmallow, the bagged kind will be a forgotten memory.  Well, maybe except during the holidays when Jet-Puffed makes the pumpkin ones.  Those are pretty darn good too.

Now I am not going to lie to you.  These are kind of a pain to make.  They were a bit of a tease actually.  The ingredients came together fairly easily and once you pour the mixture into the pan you are giving yourself lots of pats on the back, yay me!  Then you wait.  6 hours to be exact.  You've got to give them time to cool down and firm up.  6 long hours of staring at that pan thinking 'aren't you done yet?!?'

Then comes the time to cut.  There you stand with your sharp knife, powdered sugar, and goofy grin.  Then, it happens.  You stick the knife in and it doesn't come out.  *uck.  So you saw back and forth a bit to get the knife loose and then the marshmallow really gets fussy and start to stretch like Gumby.  Goofy grin fades, lower lip protrudes.  Not a good time.


I had to make two batches to be honest.  The first batch I rushed through and didn't convert the gelatin properly (the original recipe calls for sheets of gelatin, not the powdered like I was using).  So I ended up with WAY too much gelatin and the m.mallows jiggled like jello.  Icky white jello.

After doing a bit of research I sorted out what the problem was.  You should ALWAYS weigh gelatin.  Forget volume measurements, it's all about the weight here.

The second batch was better but still not puffy and thick like the picture in my cookbook.  By the way this recipe comes from my favorite bakery ever (and I haven't even visited them yet) Baked

Baked is located in Brooklyn and was founded in 2005 by two friends Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito. These guys know, understand, and appreciate 'Americana' baking. Every single recipe is something I would love to share with you.  If you live near Brooklyn, go pay their shop a visit. I can guarantee they will not disappoint. If you can't make it out, please pick up their cookbook...I'd love to test all their recipes but damn then I'd give it all away for free. Gotta show these boys some love.

aren't they so stinkin' cute.

Anyway, where were we? Baked & Boys threw me off.  Oh yeh, the puffyness.  They looked a bit deflated, almost like they were in desperate need of a marshmallow viagra...yikes.  I'm really not sure where I went wrong here.  If anyone out there is a marshmallow magician, please email me and let me know what you think?

For sure it's not the recipe so don't let that discourage you from giving these sweet puffs a try.  Although mine were a bit on the flat side they still tasted quite spectacular.  They have that very specific marshmallow sweetness but it's completely intensified compared to the store-bought kind.  I found they were much easier to handle the next day after they had time to rest and harden up a bit.

I'm not sure what one would do with a whole plate full of deflated marshmallows.  These were supposed to be a gift for a very ready-to-pop pregnant friend, but I'd feel a bit silly sharing them with anyone in their sad state.  I might use them in this popcorn cake recipe...makes rice krispy treats look so last season.

Vanilla Marshmallows
for a printable version click here

12 sheets of gelatin (or .75 ounces of powdered gelatin)
2 cups sugar
1 cup light corn syrup
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup sifted powdered sugar, plus more for dusting

Grease a 9 x 13 x 2 inch pan with vegetable shortening.  I used a sandwich baggie as a glove.  Be sure to coat the pan well and don't miss any of the edges or sides.  Set aside

If you are using the gelatin sheets, place them in a medium or large heatproof bowl.  Fill bowl with very cold water and set aside.  Add a few ice cubes to keep the water cold.

If you are using powdered gelatin, place about 1 cup of ice cold water in a medium sized heatproof bowl.  Lightly sprinkle the gelatin over the surface of the water.  Do this slowly and don't just dump it in as it could cause the gelatin to clump.

In a medium saucepan, gently stir together the sugar, 1/2 cup of the corn syrup, and 1/2 cup water.  Be careful not to splash the mixture around as it will harden up on the sides of your pan.  Put the saucepan over medium-high heat and clip a candy thermometer on the side of the pan.

Fill a medium size saucepan half way with water and place on the stove over medium-high heat (aka a double broiler).

Put the remaining 1/2 cup corn syrup in a bowl of a stand up mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and set aside.

Return to the saucepan of water and check the temperature.  When the temperature reaches 220 degrees F drain the water from the bowl of gelatin and gives the sheets of gelatin a quick wringing out.

If you are using the powdered gelatin, pout the entire bowl (ice water and gelatin) through a strainer with very very tiny holes.  Don't use a pasta or vegetable strainer otherwise you'll lose the gelatin down the drain.

Place the bowl of gelatin over the saucepan on simmering water and stir the gelatin with a heat safe spatula until it is completely melted.  Remove the bowl from the pan.

Turn the mixer on  low speed and slowly pour the melted gelatin into the corn syrup.  Keep mixer on low.

Bring the sugar mixture to the soft ball stage on the candy thermometer (235-240 degrees F), then remove from heat.  Remove the thermometer from the pan.  Turn up the mixer to medium for 1 minute, then slowly pour the sugar mixture into the gelatin mixture.  When all of the sugar has been added, turn up the mixer to medium-high and beat for about 5 minutes.

The marshmallow mixture will finally start to look like marshmallow and become white and fluffy. 

Add the vanilla and salt and turn the mixer up to its highest speed for another minute.  This was the first time I've ever used that speed.  I thought the mixer was going to take off.

Working very quickly, pour the marshmallow into the prepared pan.  Use an offset spatula to spread the mixture evenly.  Sprinkle with a bit of powdered sugar and let sit for about 6 hours. 

Lightly dust your kitchen counter with powdered sugar.  Use a knife to loosen the marshmallow from the edges of the pan and use your hands to pull the marshmallow (it will come out in one big piece) out of the pan onto your counter.

Place 1/2 cup of the powdered sugar into a bowl.  Use a chef's knife to cut the marshmallows into a 6 x 8 grid.  Roll each marshmallow in the powdered sugar.  I found that the best way to cut was to really chop down hard with a lot of powdered sugar sprinkled on top.  When I say a lot, I mean it.  You can't over-do it with the powdered sugar while you're cutting as it won't absorb into the marshmallow.  If you feel your knife sticking, sprinkle powdered sugar on top of it (even if it's stuck, this will help it loose).

Store in an air-tight container for up to 1 week.

Marshmallow recipe from the cookbook Baked: New Frontiers in Baking by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito

Apr 28, 2012

Whole Wheat Pizza Dough

This one is too damn good not to share, even if it's not a sweet.  It's dough and that's pastry-enough for me.  I originally found this recipe on Pinterest and after reading through the directions I decided to give it a go, it just sounded too simple.  And it was.

But don't let the simplicity fool you.  The crust was chewy and soft on the outside and crunchy on the bottom.  The aroma that comes from the oven is close to freshly baked bread.  You won't believe that smell is coming from your kitchen.  Or maybe that's just me.  Sometimes I am still in denial that I can cook.

The recipe makes about two medium pizzas, which was perfect for me and the hub's.  One veggie low-fat for me, one fatty-over-kill with a mountain of cheese and weirdo looking meat for him.  Everybody wins.  If you wanted to make 4 small pizzas that would definitely work too.  Or even freeze half the dough for later...but who doesn't like leftover pizza?  I just finished mine off cold and it was still delish.

Whole Wheat Pizza Dough
for a printable version click here

3 cups whole wheat bread flour (or 2 cups regular whole wheat flour and 2 cups all-purpose)
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon instant yeast
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons Italian seasoning
2 cups water
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons cornmeal

Combine the whole wheat bread flour, all purpose flour, yeast, salt, and Italian seasoning in a large bowl.  Use a whisk to thoroughly combine.

Add the water and use a wooden spoon to mix till combined.

Cover bowl with a kitchen towel and leave to sit for about 8 hours (overnight is fine).  The dough will rise and darken in color like this: 

Before preparing the toppings, remove the dough and transfer to a well floured counter.  Fold the dough over itself a few times just until the flour covers all the sticky surfaces.

Prepare two cookie sheets (or pizza pans) by dividing the olive oil between them.  Using a paper towel grease the pans with the oil, making sure they are covered thoroughly.  Sprinkle with cornmeal.

Divide the dough equally and stretch to fit the pans.  I am no pizza expert so I can't tell you how to properly do this but all I did was gently stretch the dough to somewhat fit the pans and made sure it was even.  Our dough was a bit thick, so stretch thinner if you prefer thin-crust.  Sprinkle a bit of flour on the dough as your stretching so it won't stick to your hands.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.  Let the dough rest on the pans while the oven heats up.  Once it's ready, bake the dough (without the toppings!) for 10 minutes.  It should no longer be doughy, but also shouldn't be browned yet either.

Top with your favorite pizza sauce and toppings and bake for an additional minutes or until the cheese is melted and slightly browned.  The original recipe I found online was for a BBQ Black Bean Pizza which was one of the best pizza's I've ever had in my life and I sincerely suggest you try it.  I know beans on a pizza sounds strange but you gotta trust me here.  For this pizza we added fresh veggies including onion, mushroom, artichoke, cherry tomato, asparagus, and olives.

Here's the cheesy-meaty-heart-attack version


Slice up and enjoy!

 Pizza dough recipe courtsey of Food Doodles

Apr 24, 2012

Bailey's & Butterscotch Fudge

If you're one of those people who have ever eaten a dessert and said 'oh that's too sweet I can't eat this' aka my husband, then this recipe is not for you.

This one is for the die-hards.  The serious-sweet-tooth fanatics.  You know come to think of it I have never eaten something so sweet I couldn't finish it...but that's not saying much since I've been known to eat brown sugar straight from the bag.

Anyway.  This recipe is g-r-e-a-t.  But in small doses. 

And you know I just LOVE to make anything that calls for booze as an ingredient.  Whoo-Freakin-Hoo.

Thank God my mom was here when I prepared this.  She is the Queen of Fudge.  She usually makes it every year at Christmas and gives it away as gifts.  Screw fruitcake!

She made sure I stirred...and stirred...and stirred.  Because the key to fudge is, yep you got it, stirring.  Oh and she also realized that I forgot to add the third cup of sugar.  She could tell the mixture was too thin and would never set.

Here is our conversation:

Mom: Gina this is not thick enough.

Me: Mom I'm following the recipe.

Mom: Gina this is not thick enough.

Me: ::sigh::

Mom: This is not thick enough and it won't set up.  

Me: Well I don't know I'm following the recipe.

Mom: (looking at the recipe) did you add all 3 cups of sugar?

Me: (silent) uhh...I think so (but really thinking damn it how could I miss that)

Moral of the story. Mother's are always right.  Always.  Go call your Mom and tell her you love her.

Bailey's & Butterscotch Fudge
for a printable version click here

3/4 cup butter
3 cups sugar
3/4 cup evaporated milk
1/3 cup Bailey's Irish Cream (any flavor, I used Coffee)
1 tablespoon instant coffee crystals or instant espresso
1 7oz. jar marshmallow fluff
1 bag butterscotch chips
1 teaspoon vanilla extract


In a small bowl combine the Bailey's and coffee/espresso granules.  Microwave for about 30 seconds or until melted and dissolved.  I had to stir and re-heat a few times until they were fully melted.  Don't go crazy waiting for it to dissolve, if you have a few small crystals that are being stubborn it's okay. 

In a medium saucepan over medium heat melt together the butter, evaporated milk, sugar, and marshmallow cream.

The marshmallow cream will take some time to break down, just keep stirring.

Slowly add the Bailey's mixture and whisk constantly for about 5 minutes.  The whisking helps melt the sugar so when you bite into the fudge later it won't have a grainy texture.

The mixture will thicken and bubble like this:

Remove from heat and add the butterscotch chips and vanilla.  Stir for about 3 minutes or until all the chips have melted and the mixture is smooth. 

Pour into a foil lined 8 x 8 pan. 

Chill until set.  Lift fudge from the pan using the foil, peel back and cut into squares.


recipe courtesy of Just a Pinch

Cookie Monster Cake

I'm so sorry it's been a few quiet weeks since my last post.  My son's 1st birthday kept me busier than expected!  The theme for his party was Sesame Street, with of course a Cookie Monster Cake.   

I bought the cake pan off eBay, dating back from 1982!  It was still brand new with all the packaging and instructions, very cool.  It sold back then for $8.99 (it still had the price tag) I paid $40!    Apparently the design of this specific pan was discontinued?  Either that or I got jibbed.  Anyway it doesn't matter, it was worth every penny.  I also made the little man a small cake just for him to destroy.  Saying we had a mess on our hands is putting it mildly.

But it was worth ever last little crumb, he's going to be the King of my Cakes that's for sure.

As for Cookie Monster (and all his damn fur) I sadly didn't photograph each and every step for you as I had hoped.  See, I started decorating the cake around 8pm the night before his party and didn't finish until about 2am.  It was either photograph the process or get it done before sunrise, I opted to get it done.

Thankfully my husband took a few shots along the way which I am extremely grateful for.  Guess he thought he should look busy otherwise I'd put him to work!

What you'll need to prepare the Cookie Monster Happy Birthday cake:

  • Wilton's decorating bags (I use the disposable ones, makes clean up SO much easier) and couplers
  • tips 4, 16, 225 (I couldn't find 225 only 224 which works pretty much the same), 233, and 352
  • serving plate or cake board
  • one 2-layer cake recipe (see below for the recipe or use your favorite)
  • 3 1/2 cups butter cream icing (see below for the recipe or use your favorite)
  • Wilton's food coloring gel in colors royal blue, lemon yellow, leaf green, pink, and brown

For the cake

For these types of molded pans, you can use pretty much use any cake recipe you prefer.  However it's probably wise to leave out any kind of nuts or chocolate chips though.  It's important to have a smooth surface to pipe on. 

More important than anything else throughout this entire process is to GREASE & FLOUR YOUR PAN EXTREMELY THOROUGHLY.  Sorry for the caps, but this is muy muy muy importante! 

As usual, use a sandwich baggie as a glove and grease the entire pan with Crisco (vegetable shortening).  Don't rush through this step, really take your time and get into every nook and cranny.  Even if a small piece of cake sticks to the pan when it's finished cooling, it won't show once you pipe.  But it's still important to have all those indentations to understand where and what to pipe.

Once you've greased the pan well, next add a few tablespoons of flour to the pan and coat evenly.  If you notice any blank spots, re-grease and dust over with flour.  Every bit of pan needs to be covered with flour.  It's a pain I know but trust me you will be so thankful when the cake slides easily out of the pan.

Prepare your cake recipe as per the directions and pour into the prepared pan.  BUT something very important!  Only fill the cake pan 1/2 of the way full.  I filled the pan almost 3/4 of the way and the cake rose, and rose, and rose.  Cookie Monster was overflowing and ridiculously puffy.  This really isn't so much of a problem, you'll just have a lot of trimming to do.  Let the cake cool completely on a wire rack.  I baked the cake the night before I frosted so it had plenty of time to cool. If you do the same be sure to tightly wrap in plastic wrap to avoid the cake from drying out.

Once the cake has cooled, you'll need to trim the top completely even so it will sit totally flat on your cake board.  Don't forget that the top is going to be flipped over and will be the bottom (so Cookie Monster's face, or whatever type of pan you use will be facing up).  You'll need to use a sharp knife (I used a bread knife) and gently even off the top of the cake.  Save the scraps to snack on as you frost.

Easy Peasy chocolate cake

2 cups water
1 cup cocoa powder
2 (4-ounce) sticks unsalted butter, cold
2 1/2 cups sugar
4 large eggs
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 3/4 cups unbleached all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  In a small saucepan, bring the water to a boil, turn off heat and whisk in the cocoa until smooth. Let cool to room temperature.

In the bowl of a standing mixer with the paddle attachment, add the cold butter, sugar, eggs and vanilla. Beat on slow to combine and raise to medium-high speed for 8 to 10 minutes until the butter is almost completely incorporated into the mixture.

Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, sift the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt.

With the mixer on low speed, alternately add the flour mixture and the cocoa liquid in 2 additions of each, stopping to scrape the bowl occasionally, mixing just until combined.
Pour batter into prepared cake pan (well greased and floured).  Remember to only fill about 1/2 full.  Use remaining batter for another small cake.   Bake for 45 to 55 minutes until the cake springs back when gently pressed and a toothpick in the center comes out clean. Cool in the pan 10 minutes, then place on wire racks to finish cooling completely.

Invert cake onto cake board and prepare the frosting.

For the butter cream frosting

There are a million and one butter cream frosting recipes out there, and maybe you've got your favorite one too, however when it comes to piping, consistency is KEY.  This recipe is from Wilton's and is specifically for piping.  Other butter cream recipes may taste heavenly and look beautiful but they can tend to be too soft.  You need to pipe with a frosting (especially when it comes to the fur) with a frosting that is tough and can hold it's shape well.  This one is perfect and pretty much foolproof.

1/2 cup Crisco (vegetable shortening)
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
5 cups sifted confectioners sugar (there are 4 cups in a pound)
3 tablespoons milk

In large bowl, cream shortening and butter with electric mixer on medium speed (#4 on a Kitchen Aid).  Beat until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add vanilla and gradually add sugar, one cup at a time, beating well on medium speed. Scrape sides and bottom of bowl often. When all sugar has been mixed in, icing will appear dry. Add milk and beat at medium speed until light and fluffy. Keep bowl covered with a damp cloth until ready to use.  For best results, keep icing bowl in refrigerator when not in use.

Tinting the frosting

Gather 6 bowls (5 small and one medium). 

Divide the frosting as follows:

In the medium bowl add 1 1/2 cup frosting.  Tint this with the Royal Blue.  Slowly add the food coloring gel with a toothpick until you reach the desired shade.

In the small bowls:
  • tint 1/4 cup leaf green
  • tint 1/4 cup pink
  • tint 1/4 cup brown
  • tint 1/2 cup yellow (thin with 1/2 teaspoon milk or 2 teaspoons light corn syrup)
  • reserve 3/4 cup white frosting

with pink & brown frosting:
use tip 225 with the pink frosting to make the flowers and tip 4 with the brown to make the centers of the flowers  

with the green frosting
use tip 352 to make the leaves for the flowers

*note I didn't make the flowers on the cake, just didn't have the energy. But if you decide to add them they should be located along the zig-zag garland. Here is an original picture of the cake pan with the label so you can see exactly where they should go:

with the yellow frosting
use a small spatula to frost the 'birthday cake' (the cake Cookie Monster is holding, not the whole cake!)

with the brown frosting
use tip 4 to outline the eyeballs, mouth, and folds in his hat

with the white frosting
use tip 4 to outline and fill in eyeballs
use tip 16 to make stars and cover the entire hat and on the cake plate Cookie Monster is holding
use tip 16 to make zig zag garland on the birthday cake
use tip 16 to make shells to edge the birthday cake top and base (just above the cake plate)

with the brown (again)
use tip 4 to add the pupils to the eyes

with the blue frosting
use tip 233 to create the fur to cover the face, arms, and body

You may notice here that Cookie Monster has something white in his mouth and also a second white smile under his mouth...a friend of mine decided he needed a tooth and something white there.  I don't know what that is actually.  Anyway, hubby tried to scrape it off before I had a melt down.  I know my friend who drew on my dear cake is going to read this...you are naughty.  Stay away from my cakes.  But I love you anyway.

Finally you can see my finished cake looks a lot different than the one done by Wilton's above...I chickened out on some of the piping. I couldn't get the shells right if my life depended on it. I also ended up coloring the top of the cake green since I thought it needed more color. Ok, and I hoped it would disatract that I didn't add the flowers. Really you don't need to follow the directions exactly, just go with it and see how things turn out. Trust me no one will notice, especially the kids. They will just be so excited that they are going to eat cake they'll love anything you make.

chocolate cake recipe courtsy of Food Network

frosting recipe courtesey of Wilton's

photography by Jo Nash (not the crappy ones of me decorating, but the beautiful ones of my Birthday Boy!)