featured, food

This One Takes the Cake

 

 

Cake. Its something pretty traditional; some may even go further to say boring.  If this dessert is boring to you, then you’re doing something wrong.  Done well, a basic cake has the potential to impress.  Ditch the mediocre box mix for this simple, but delicious recipe.  Traditional buttercream can be unimpressive.   I mean it’s pretty much just sugar and butter.  The addition of salt and cream cheese balances out the crazy amount of sugar in frosting.  I add a small amount of cream cheese, so you cannot tell its there, but the taste is richer.  The addition of jam is optional, but it adds a pretty light pink color and accompanies the cream cheese.  If you are looking for a go-to basic cake recipe, this one is it.  This recipe tastes exactly like that familiar “cake batter” flavor in ice cream, oreos, etc. (duh… its vanilla cake).   I have nothing thought-provoking or ground-breaking to say about this recipe; it’s just really damn good.

Vanilla Bean Cake:

  • Butter or nonstick cooking spray
  • 2 ¼ cups of cake flour (and more for the pan/pans)
  • 2 teaspoons of baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • *or … omit flour, salt, and baking powder with self rising cake flour
  • 1 ½ cups granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract or the seeds from a vanilla pod
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • To be fancy… add gold leaf to the edges of the cake once its frosted like I did

Secret Amazing Frosting Recipe:

  • 4 ½ cups confectioners sugar
  • 1 ½ cups room temperature butter
  • 3 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla
  • ¼ cup jam
  • ⅓ cup cream cheese
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Grease and flour as many or as little pans as you want.  This depends on whether you  want a layer cake. The cooking time will adjust based on how many layers you do. The more pans= shorter time.  If you are looking for a traditional layer cake, use four six-inch cake pans.

If you are not using self rising flour, sift flour, salt, and baking powder together and set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium speed until smooth.   Add the sugar and whichever vanilla you chose.  Mix on medium high until its fluffy for 3-4 minutes.  Stop the mixer and scrape down the bowl.

Turn the mixer to low and add the egg yolks one at a time. Stop it again, and scrape down the bowl.

Turn the mixer to low and add the flour mixture in a few batches, alternating with the milk.  Start and end with the dry ingredients.  Mix for no more than 30 seconds after the last addition.

Evenly divide the mixture among the pans.  I used one pan and baked it for 45 minutes.  If you are doing four pans, bake it for just 22-25 minutes.  It honestly does not matter, as long as you check every so often.  If a toothpick comes out mostly clean, its ready.  Its common sense that if it’s still soupy in the middle, it probably needs more time.  It is so important that you let the cake cool for an hour or so, before trying to get them out of the pans.  It will fall apart if you don’t wait or it you don’t coat the pans well enough.

Frosting:

With a paddle attachment on medium speed beat your butter sugar and vanilla until fluffy.

Add the rest of the ingredients and beat until well combined for 2 minutes.

You can adjust it to your liking with more heavy cream or sugar.

Putting it together:

If you are doing multiple layers, add a generous amount of frosting to the middle of the layers after leveling the cakes to your liking (leveling: evenly cutting off cake top for a flatter surface).

Spread those layers and assemble the cake.

Then you should do a crumb coat by adding just enough frosting to cover the outside of the cake, to prevent the crumbs from being visible in the end product.

Spread this evenly with the straight edge of a butter knife or leveling spatula.

Refrigerate the cake for 15 minutes.

Add the rest of the frosting and spread evenly, while rotating it on a cake stand.

 

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featured, Self-Help

Pimples are “In”

Whether you are a girl or a guy, the first hour of the day probably consists of prepping yourself to go out into the world.  Some care more about what people think when they see them than others.  There are also those who don’t give a damn what impression they bestow on others, and create a certain look just for their own confidence.  There is a whole scale ranging from those who roll out of bed and plunge right into their day, to the people who spend time making sure they have a balanced bronzer-highlighter ratio.  This article is for those who really do care and are questioning why that is.

Sometime ago, I woke up feeling pretty fed up with my pimples.  I came up with the idea of abandoning my makeup products for a month, with the hope that my skin would clear up.  I was going to run the idea by a friend, but before I did, the topic of self esteem came up in conversation.  Then the idea was born.  I decided to kill two birds with one stone by prohibiting myself from using makeup products and heat tools with the hope of ending up with improved hair, skin, and mentality.

Day 1

I am someone who from day one took pride in my appearance.  My mom has told me that I always wanted to pick my own outfits and dress myself as a kid.  One can imagine what could go wrong with a four year old dressing herself.  Nonetheless, mini-me was very opinionated and relentless.  Anyway, this attitude continued throughout my life and into my teenage years when the godsend of makeup and hair tools were introduced into the equation.  Like most people my age lacking confidence in my physical appearance, I latched onto these things and they became part of my routine that I did not question.  It felt good that my appearance was something that I was in control of.  Most people have fun trying out new looks, palettes, curls, etc. It sounds corny, but making yourself up provides the opportunity to express yourself.  I tried out the liners, the eyeshadows, the lipsticks, the curls, the waves, and whatever else seemed flattering.  Eventually, I found what suited my preferences and what I liked.  In all honesty, it was not until recently that I questioned why I spent this time doing this.

It seemed interesting to see what would happen, if me–the person who usually looks put together and enjoys it and all, just stopped caring.  The first day in public without makeup and my hair done, I felt pretty insecure and could feel myself walking with less confidence.  I began to realize that my confidence had become dependent on how I looked.  That revelation made my stomach drop.  Upon considering this habit, the gross feeling of vanity and self absorption almost made me sick, giving me more interest in completing the challenge.  I wondered, maybe it’s the generation that I have grown up in with the me me me attitude or if it was a normal teenage phenomena.  

Week Two

It just so happened that I ran out of contacts a few days after I started the challenge, so I was stuck wearing glasses. Contrary to what one may think, after not wearing makeup for a few days, my skin broke out.  I was blessed by the gods of complexion with oily skin and pimples–it was exactly what I needed then.

Here I was, my face full of pimples and my glasses completed the look.  At night I wear a retainer and recently started using an acne medication, so it was an interesting sight to see.  For some reason, I did not feel embarrassed; those feelings were present the first few days.  Maybe I was embracing my raw and unfiltered self.

I stopped doing these entries after the first week, but stayed committed to the challenge.  There were a couple days in the beginning that I did cheat, but then made up those days.  Why did I cheat?  One of those days was picture day for my team, so I convinced myself that I needed to look good for the sake of the yearbook.  At the end of the day though, quite literally, I remember looking in the mirror thinking, “I look exactly the same as I did without makeup” and that it was not worth messing up my little challenge.  The other day that I cheated, I had just gotten the most beautiful new mascara and I really wanted to try it out.  Distracted by the awesomeness of the mascara, I went to school with it on, and my best friend called me out.  To my surprise, she gasped and said “Sara you’re wearing makeup. Cheater!”.  Then she jokingly said, “You’re only hurting yourself.”

She was right. I was only lying to myself, and I desperately wanted to prove that I could go a month without makeup and heat.  From then on, I went on with my mission and business went on as usual for a seemingly long month.

Throughout the thirty day period, I  did get a few comments.  However, aside from my closer friends, no one really noticed that I stopped wearing makeup, so I rolled with it.  Most people just complimented my natural hair.  I came to the conclusion, that most of my insecurity is just in my head.  I asked my mom if I looked any different one day in a car ride home from track practice.  Looking at the road, she simply said “no, I mean you look pretty much the same.”   I asked “seriously, mom, you don’t notice any difference?”.  She proceeded to look at me with confusion, and the conversation switched to dinner.

I had written that I felt less confident at first.  After the first fifteen days, I was becoming pretty comfortable with how I looked.  My pimples disappeared, and whether anyone noticed or not, my skin looked better than it had in awhile.  I started to get used to my eyes being less defined and my hair not being in “perfect” curls.  One day someone even commented that they never noticed I had freckles, which may or may not have made my day.

If you care enough to wonder if I just rolled out of bed looking like a hobo everyday, the answer is a big no.  The challenge guidelines were no makeup and no heat.  I used neither, but I am guilty of some loopholes.  According to my friend’s justification, these loopholes did not fracture the integrity of the challenge.  I must confess; I did curl my lashes.  I also slept in braids, to keep my hair from becoming a frizzy mess.  I kept up with a skin routine with night cream, exfoliant, and my regular day moisturizer.  Other than that, I promise that I am innocent.  It is true, that by doing these things, I was still tending to my appearance.  Makeup and heat are things that you apply to yourself with the goal of changing your appearance.  What I did, just made myself look presentable and did not change my look as drastically.  Though I settled with that excuse, this point did make me doubt the purpose of those endeavors and whether doing so fractured the intention of the challenge.  The fact that I simply could not go without doing those things was something to reflect on.

What changed this month?

One thing for sure that I learned is that people don’t care as much as you think.  I was probably just blinded by a cloud of self absorption to realize that no one gives a fuck (excuse my language).  That’s the thing.  Everyone is caught up in their own problems and other important things to really analyze what you look like.  It was a combination of that and the fact that no matter what, I still have the same face. With or without makeup, I am the exact same person.  If nothing else, my skin looks healthier.

Major Takeaways

Everyone can relate to the great feeling that a great makeup look or perfectly composed outfit can bring.  It can truly transform how you approach your day.  One might say that it is vain to spend time tending to your appearance, but I say the opposite.  Look at it this way.  Your time is an investment.  It is valuable to spend your time on a routine that will make you feel confident and be the best version of yourself that you can be.  If spending an extra few minutes on your hair or choosing an ensemble will ultimately give you the boost you need to feel like a boss, then go on and do it!

It is okay to care about what you look like.  It is fine if you want to look a certain way.  What matters is that you are comfortable with yourself without those things so your confidence does not become dependent on it.  My intention is not to end this article with this lesson figuratively wrapped in a box tied with a bow.  In saying that, I mean that this month really was meaningful and is something that can truly be understood by doing the month without makeup.

When you go out into the world and feel comfortable, it truly shows in how you carry yourself and makes a difference in how you go about your day.   Do not abandon the eyeshadows and concealer.  Don’t throw out your irons and brushes.  Most certainly, do not trash the over priced foundations and highlighters.  As long as you are comfortable with yourself without those things, it is okay and healthy to want to enhance your features.  This experience was unexpectedly eye-opening for me, and I hope that it might encourage others to consider going on a beauty detox too.

featured, food

Marshmallow “Peeps”

DSC_1344.JPG

Right after Valentine’s day, stores are always quick to set out all the Spring and Easter themed candy, one of the most well-known and coveted treats being peeps.  A few years ago, I was trying to find something more interesting to make and stumbled upon a marshmallow recipe.  My first thought was “You can make those?”.  Marshmallows are a trivial thing that people usually just buy from the supermarket, so I never considered the possibility of making my own.  Surprisingly, they are relatively easy to make and require minimal ingredients.  This recipe is adapted to the upcoming holidays and general Spring theme, but you can make many varieties.  Cut into pretty shapes and packaged well, they make great gifts or party favors.  If you are too grown up to eat peeps, these are definitely a step up and a bit more sophisticated.

 

Ingredients:

3 packages unflavored gelatin

1 cup ice cold water, divided

12 ounces granulated sugar, approximately 1 1/2 cup

1 cup light corn syrup

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar

1/4 cup cornstarch

Nonstick spray

Lemon juice or Strawberry Flavoring

Directions:

  • Add the gelatin into the bowl of a stand mixer along with 1/2 cup of the water.  If you would like lemon flavored marshmallows make sure you have ¼ cup lemon juice and ¼ cup water included in this addition of water.  If you would like strawberry flavored ones, skip adding lemon juice and add strawberry flavoring to the sugar syrup later in the recipe.   Have a whisk attachment standing by.
  • In a small saucepan combine the remaining 1/2 cup water, granulated sugar, corn syrup and salt. Place over medium high heat, and let the mixture come to a rolling boil and let it boil for about 30 seconds. All the while, keep a watchful eye to make sure the sugar syrup doesn’t overflow.  Take it off the heat and immediately begin with the next step.
  • Turn the mixer on low speed and  slowly pour the sugar syrup down the side of the bowl into the gelatin mixture. Once you have added all of the syrup, increase the speed to high. Continue to whip until the mixture becomes very thick and fluffy; about 12 to 15 minutes. Add the vanilla during the last minute of whipping. While the mixture is whipping prepare the pans as follows.
  • Combine the confectioners’ sugar and cornstarch in a small bowl. Cover two sheet pans normally used for baking cookies with plastic wrap.  Then, lightly spray the two sheet pans with nonstick cooking spray By using sheet pans the marshmallow will be spread thinner so you can easily cut it into shapes.  Add the sugar and cornstarch mixture and move around over a sink to catch the powder, to completely coat the bottom. Return the remaining mixture to the bowl for later use.  It makes for very little mess and removal if you use plastic wrap.
  • Once the mixture is thick and fluffy and has been whipping for the allotted time, you can separate half of the marshmallow fluff into a bowl.  Put a very very small amount of red food coloring into one of the bowls of marshmallow and a small amount of yellow food coloring in the other.  Obviously, you can adjust to your color preferences, but I was going for Pastels.  Mix well to combine or leave a bit under-mixed for a marble effect.
  • When ready, pour the mixture into the prepared pans, using a spatula for spreading evenly into the pan. Dust the top with enough of the remaining sugar and cornstarch mixture to lightly cover. Reserve the rest of the powder for later use.  At this point, you could leave the marshmallows on the counter overnight to set, or leave them in the fridge for 3 hours.
  • Turn the marshmallows out onto a cutting board and cut into shapes using a cookie cutter dusted with the powder. Once cut, lightly dust all sides of each marshmallow by tossing them in a big bowl with the remaining mixture, using additional if necessary.  Put the marshmallows covered in the powder in sieve and toss to get rid of extra powder. You can store these in an airtight container for about 3 weeks.  They do get sticky, so I recommend layering parchment paper in between stacked marshmallows.DSC_1363DSC_1366

 

Beauty, featured

Give Your Makeup a Second Life

 

 

 

 

It is a fact of life that makeup is overpriced and does not last forever.  Most of us use makeup well past its expiration, so you might as well make the most of it.  For these recipes, all you need is old makeup, coconut oil, and water. Below I listed a few great things you can make from various makeup products that are either broken or “expired”.  I have made and tested out all of these as pictured above, and can tell you that they turn out awesome.


Lip Tint: blush
1. Crush the product into a fine powder in a small bowl.
2. In another bowl, microwave two tablespoons–give or take of coconut oil for 30 seconds (until it becomes a liquid fully).
3. Incorporate the oil into the blush powder and blend it with a fork.
4.  Clean your old blush container, and dry fully.  You can pour the mixture into this, or buy little containers especially made for homemade beauty products on amazon.
5. Close the container and put it into the fridge to set for half an hour.

I love this one because your lips will remain the color of the pigment you use–without having to reapply, but it comes off easily with makeup remover.


Cream Eyeshadow: old eyeshadow
1. Crush the makeup into a fine powder in a bowl.
2. Clean the container.
3. Add a normal spoonful of water (1/4 the amount of bronzer) to the powder.  Start with a small amount of water, and add more if needed.  Mix thoroughly.
4. Scoop the eyeshadow into your old container.

Adding more moisture to old eye shadow makes the pigment stronger, look cleaner, and stay longer–take my word for it.


Moisturizing concealer/ lip primer: face powders
1. Take an already broken face powder and add 1-2 tablespoons of melted coconut oil.  The mixture should be thicker than the consistency of the lip tint.
2.  Pour/ scoop into the previous container, and refrigerate for 30 minutes so it can become more solidified.

*Note: If you have very oily skin, this concealer might not work well for you.  As a primer, it is absolutely amazing, and if you have dry skin you can use it as you prefer on your face, skipping regular moisturizer.


Save your mascara:
1. Boil some water and pour it into a bowl.
2. Place the sealed mascara into the water, and let it sit for 10 minutes.