Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Birthday party!

Recently, I celebrated my dearest friend, Janet Mock's birthday.  She has been an inspiration to many people, of all walks of life.  I am so proud to call her one of my closest friends.  Janet has inspired me to take a leap and move to the Big Apple to pursue my career and leave the comforts of home.  Both of us are true island girls at heart.  When we get together not only do we share our love for trashy reality TV but we laugh till our stomach hurts.  We also share the same birthday month so we are similar in many ways. 
I wanted to create something special for her birthday celebration and since Janet loves German chocolate cake it was a no brainer for me.  I decide to make a cupcake version of her favorite dessert since it's portable and easier to eat (in my opinion).  I decide to use condensed milk instead of evaporated milk and brown sugar.   The result was a creamier and perfectly sweet topping! I also realized after making a few rounds of cakes and cupcakes that the addition of buttermilk helps with the moistness of the cake.  It truly makes a difference. 

Bake these cupcakes the next time you have a birthday party or any party! I'm sure they will be a huge hit! Enjoy! :)

German Chocolate Cupcakes
makes 24 cupcakes

3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
2 cups cake flour
1 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
1 1/3 cup granulated sugar
3 eggs, large room temperature
1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk
5 oz. semi sweet chocolate (melted)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line cupcake tins.
In a medium bowl, sift cake flour, baking soda, and salt.  Set aside.
Using your stand mixer with the paddle attachment, beat on medium speed, butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add eggs one at a time, scrape sides down with a rubber spatula in between eggs.  Add in vanilla, mix until incorporated.  Reduce speed and add flour in thirds, alternating with the buttermilk, with the flour as the last ingredient added.  Beat in chocolate and mix until all incorporated.  Scoop batter into cupcake liners 3/4 full.  Bake for 20 minutes.  Check if cake is ready when a toothpick is inserted in the center and comes out clean.  Cool on a cooling rack. 

Coconut and Pecan topping

1 cup toasted and chopped pecans
1 can sweetened condensed milk
3 egg yolks, large
1 stick unsalted butter (1/2 cup) cut in pieces
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 package of Bakers coconut flakes

In a medium saucepan, whisk condensed milk and egg yolks.  Add butter and cook on medium heat, stirring constantly.  Lower heat when mixture starts to come to a soft boil.  Continue to stir and simmer on low heat until mixture is thickened.  Remove from heat occasionally to prevent the mixture from burning.  Add vanilla, coconut and pecans into pan and continue to stir and cook for a minute or so.  Mixture is ready when it turns tan in color and is slightly translucent.  Transfer to a bowl to cool. 

Monday, March 12, 2012


I don't know about you but one of my favorite meal times is breakfast.  Literally, breakfast at any hour of the day is perfect for me.  Not only do I love the savory foods of breakfast but as a baker I love all the sweet stuff as well!
As of now, I haven't really tried baking anything breakfast related.  However, I recently made two of my favorite breakfast treats.  Pop tarts and coffee cake.
As a kid, my mom used to buy pop tarts as a convenient way of feeding me and my sister breakfast as we were hauled out the door to school.  I loved it! It was always warm, a little crisp and oh so sweet! Were pop tarts part of your childhood? Now as an adult, I don't have it in me to buy the boxed pop tarts at the store.  I just don't feel right about all the preservatives and artificial flavors.  So I decided why not make my own.  It turned out to be really easy and the crust came out WAY better than the boxed version.  Flaky, crispy and buttery.  I also wanted to use a jam that didn't have any additives as well and came across a local Brooklyn jam company called, The Jam Stand.  Their creations are funky, creative, and most importantly, all natural!  Just what I was looking for.  I chose two different spreads for my pop tarts, Blueberry Bourbon jam (blueberries,sugar and bourbon) and Drunken Monkey jam (bananas,rum,lime and sugar).  Each of them on its own is delightful but put them in a pop tart and you have the perfect breakfast treat!!

I didn't stop there.  I love coffee and eating cake with it, and in my opinion its the perfect combination. Whenever I go to Starbucks to pick up a coffee, I literally drool and stare at their coffee cake.  Part of me tells me to just go for it and another part of me says stop you don't need it.  So what better way then making it yourself! hahaa... That way I know exactly what I'm putting in it... Did I mention to you that I LOVE cinnamon.  The first time I made coffee cake the streudel part didn't come out even though I followed the recipe.  Second time around, it came out beautiful! I'm telling you the streudel is what makes the cake! Yes its sugary but the crumbles and the cinnamon makes it so yummy!!! I also added a cinnamon brown sugar swirl in the center of the cake which just elevates the cake to another level. It not only made me happy every morning but brought smiles to my boyfriend's as well... I'll just say the cake didn't last very long.

Thursday, February 9, 2012


Valentine's day is coming up and some women absolutely love this holiday and look forward to it.  Me on the other hand not so much.  This may come out cynical but I'm just being honest - it's rather a little over-rated.  What do you think? I personally don't think a day should be designated for the sole purpose of love.  I believe it should be everyday - whether you tell your parents, your friends, your children, your mentors, and of course your spouses.  Life is short as I have learned over the years and ones life can be taken away in a millisecond.  Therefore, telling someone who is important, someone very dear to your heart, that you love them whenever possible (even everyday) is truly paramount. 

With that said, I absolutely LOVE baking it has become my new passion in life. So I decided to create something that included my love for cheesecake.  Who doesn't love cheesecake?
I came up with creating bite size pieces to make it easier to eat and to give away and of course its prettier! 

The cheesecake I decide to create is a strawberry swirl cheesecake with a graham cracker crust. (Note: the strawberry swirl won't give the entire cake a powerful strawberry taste so if you're looking for a cake that has a predominant strawberry flavor this recipe is not it. Sorry!)  I decide to coat them with semi sweet chocolate so they look like truffles.  I topped them with mini hearts and put them in adorable pink & black mini liners.  I had some trouble with the chocolate and couldn't cover all of the bites, so I made some adjustments and left some of them as is. The cheesecake had the perfect tang and cheesiness to it with the right amount of strawberry. In the end, they all came out very pretty and I was happy with my results. I have to admit, this project was the most difficult.  It's very time consuming and very messy. (I had to make two batches) Chocolate can be difficult to work with, especially when it comes to dipping.  But if you have the tenacity and the patience I say go for it!

Celebrate this Valentine's day with this perfect bite size creation and I'm sure you'll receive lots of LOVE! xoxo

Strawberry Swirl Cheesecake
(8 x 8 x 1 square pan - yields about 24 mini squares)

3 packages of 8oz cream cheese, softened
3 large eggs, room temperature
1 1/2 cups of sour cream
1 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups of finely ground graham crackers
3 tablespoons of unsalted butter, melted
2 cups of strawberry puree (recipe below)

1 box of Bakers semi sweet chocolate bar
2-3 tablespoons of vegetable or canola oil

Strawberry Puree
1 lb of fresh strawberries (you may use frozen ones if you want)
1 tablespoon of sugar
1 tablespoon of water
Put all of the ingredients in a blender and blend on high until smooth.  Using a fine strainer, strain the puree into a bowl so the seeds don't come through.  You should be able to get at least 2 cups of the puree and if you want you can still use some of the chunks.  The strainer is to just help take some of the seeds out. 

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. 
Mix graham cracker crumbs and melted butter in a bowl.  Once the butter is incorporated with the crumbs, pour it into a greased square pan.  Using a rubber spatula, press down the crumbs until its flat and even across the pan, making sure some of the crumbs go up the sides.  Place pan in the oven for 10 minutes or until the crust has turned light brown.  Set aside. 
In a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, beat cream cheese and sugar until smooth and creamy.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Continue to beat until no lumps are seen.  Add sour cream and mix until all combined.  Add egg one at a time and scrape down sides of bowl after each addition.  Beat until all ingredients are incorporated.  Add vanilla and mix until all combined. 
Pour a little of the batter into the pan until it covers the crust.  Spoon a little of the strawberry puree onto the batter and using a paring knife cut through the batter to give it a swirl effect.  Continue this process until the pan is filled to the top.  Place the pan on a cookie sheet and place it in the oven for an 1 hour and 15 minutes or until the edges are set.  It's okay if the center is still liquidy - it will set as it cools and after you refrigerate the cake.  Once done, place pan on a cooling rack, for at least a couple of hours.  Place in refrigerator for at least 4 hours or overnight if you can wait. 
Once cooled, take the cake out of the pan and cut the edges off.  Cut the cake evenly into 1" squares.

In a glass bowl, melt chocolate (8 oz squares) 3 at a time for about 30 seconds in the microwave.  Stir.  If the chocolate doesn't melt as you stir, put in microwave for 10 seconds. Add another square and repeat process until all of the squares are used.  Stir and add the oil and continue to stir.  Using a fork dip each square into chocolate, you may need another spoon to help coat the bites.  Once coated put them on a cookie sheet lined with wax paper to set. Put them in freezer for a few minutes so they harden. 


Tuesday, January 24, 2012


When I moved to New York city nearly six years ago I knew it was the beginning of my life.  I had left the comforts of home, an island in the middle of the Pacific ocean, beautiful beaches and weather, my friends and family and everything that was second nature to me.  Immediately, when I arrived in the Big Apple, I became a small fish in a really big ocean.  My first impression of New York was nothing like my favorite tv show, Sex & the City.  However, the vibe and energy of the city was nothing I had ever felt before.  For some reason, it lit a fire within me and made me feel like I could accomplish anything.  I knew why I came here - to pursue my career in fashion and surround myself with the creativity and passion of fashion lovers around me.  I wanted to immerse myself in it and work hard to climb the "corporate ladder"....
Boy do things change in just a few years... They say if you can make it in New York city, you can make it anywhere.  I completely agree.  The city can suck the life out of you and it takes quite an individual to survive all the elements.  However, after all these years, I have discovered so many things about myself and about life.  New York city plays a small part of my self discovery.  It has led me to my new found passion of baking! 
This leads me to the creamy chocolate-y nutty spread called Nutella.  I discovered this delicious treat when I moved to NYC - I know, I'm a late bloomer.  Everyone always raved about it, when I asked what it was and how they ate it.  There was always something "nutella" at the bakeries and restaurants.  Nutella cupcakes, bars, cakes, crepes, the list goes on...  And when I first had my Nutella crepe - I died and went to dessert heaven.  I was bummed that I had not discovered this years ago but was so elated that I finally met Nutella in one of the greatest cities in the world.  Romantic right?
Some time has passed since my last post and I really wanted to create something personal.  And I think I got it right.... Banana chocolate chip cake with Nutella frosting.  I love bananas and chocolate and of course nutella.  So what better way then to combine all of it together! The result a dense but light tasting banana cake with just enough sprinkles of chocolate chips, topped off with a beautiful Nutella frosting that is not too rich but just right. 
Do you have any self-discoveries that has changed your life? Perhaps you can bake this cake and tell me your story! :)
Thanks for reading!

Banana chocolate chip cake w/ Nutella Frosting
serves 8-10 (2 8" round cake pans)

3 cups of unbleached all purpose flour - update: 2 cups of unbleached all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup dark brown sugar
1 1/2 sticks of unsalted butter (3/4 cup), softened
3 large eggs
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups of milk
1 1/2 cups of mashed bananas (about 3 large bananas)
1 cup semi sweet chocolate chips

Heat oven to 350 degrees F.  Grease and flour two 8" cake pans. 
Sift flour, baking soda and salt and set aside.  In a stand mixer, with paddle attachment, beat sugar and butter until light and fluffy.  Add one egg at a time, be sure to scrape sides down after each egg.  Beat until all combined, then add vanilla.  Mix the milk and mashed bananas in a bowl.  Add banana and flour mixture in thirds to the butter with the dry ingredient ending last. Add chocolate chips. Beat until all ingredients are incorporated.  
Pour batter evenly into the pans. Bake in oven for 45-50 minutes or until the center is set.  Test using a paring knife and if it comes out clean it's done! Cool pans on a wire rack.  

Nutella Frosting

2 sticks of unsalted butter, softened
1 cup of Nutella
2 tablespoons of milk
1 cup of confectioners sugar

Beat butter, nutella and milk until combined.  Then add sugar to thicken.  Beat until mixture becomes smooth and light in color.  

Happy Baking!!

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Hello to 2012!

I can't believe 2011 is about to end.  The year has come and gone so fast.  This new years I will be celebrating all that 2011 has given me and to celebrate what the upcoming new year may bring.  I am truly grateful for all the blessings in my life and I hope that 2012 will be an even better year.  What will you be doing this New Year's eve?

While many people are brainstorming on what dress to wear or what party to go to, I was thinking about baking something that I could take to a friend's New Year's party.  I came across a blog, Spoon fork bacon, and read about their Rose Water glitter cake in honor of New Year's.  I instantly got inspired and came up with a sexy cupcake perfect for a New Year's party.  Instead of baking a four layer cake, I opted to make cupcakes and tweaked some ingredients for my version of a Rose Water cupcake. I decide to add white chocolate ganache to the cupcake to add a rich and smooth flavor.  I kept things simple by using a vanilla buttercream frosting since I did not want to overpower the cake.  See below for pictures of my process...

I'm not sure if many of you know that rose water can be used in cooking.  I didn't.  Upon opening the bottle, I immediately thought wow this is really strong.  Rose water can be pretty intense so I highly recommend using it in small amounts.  If not, a dessert can come out tasting like perfume.  However, if used in the right proportions and with the right ingredients it can compliment any type of dessert!

Mixing the sugar and butter - this takes a few minutes since you want a fluffy texture.  
    Adding one egg at a time ....
 Added all the dry ingredients and mix until all smooth. Then add the rose water
              Cupcake liners - yes if you read my last post I used these liners before.  I had extra....
    Drizzle white chocolate ganache
  Rose flower frosting before the final touches...
        Voila! Presto - added some gold dust and if you want, a raspberry or any fruit just to give it a sexier look. 

Happy New Year to everyone and celebrate your butts off! Hope you all have a fun and safe night!
Thanks for reading! :) 

Rose Water Cupcake
makes 18-24 - adapted by Spoon fork bacon

2 cups of all purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 sticks of unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/2 cups of granulated sugar
4 eggs at room temperature
1 1/2 cup buttermilk
1 tablespoon rose water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Sift together flour, baking powder and salt.  Mix together the butter and sugar until fluffy in texture.  Add eggs one at a time, scrape down the sides of the mixing bowl when necessary.  Add flour mixture and buttermilk alternating in three and mix until all combined.  Add in rose water and mix until incorporated.  Fill cupcake liners 3/4 full.  Bake for 18 minutes or until center is set.

White Chocolate ganache
8 oz white chocolate chips
3/4 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons of unsalted butter

Place chocolate in a small stainless steel bow.  Heat butter and cream in a small sauce pan until a soft boil.  Pour mixture onto the chocolate.  DO NOT STIR.  Let the cream sit for a few minutes.  Then fold gently until chocolate is smooth and has a shine to it.

Vanilla Buttercream frosting
2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon cold milk
2-3 cups of confectioners sugar (adjust accordingly depending on how sweet you want it)

In a stand mixer, beat butter until creamy and smooth.  Add vanilla and milk.  Add sugar one cup at a time until all is combined and creamy.  

Sunday, December 18, 2011


It's the season for celebrating and many of us get together to enjoy great company and delicious food. With all the holiday parties, it's also a time to get decked out and look your absolute best.

I don't know about you ladies out there but I love sparkle.  Since I consider my style approach as fairly simple, I don't like to over do it.  Just a little bit to highlight your fabulous self.  I found some glitter nail polish by OPI for their "The Muppets" collection and immediately snatched a bottle so I can have them for the holidays. 
I'm sure many of you shoe lovers out there can agree with me that Louboutins are a girls dream - as I can't afford it, I can only drool from afar.  I saw these glitter pumps and almost died - they were not only glamorous but oh so sparkly and down right sexy! With a simple LBD or a tailored tuxedo suit, I believe this shoe can give your style that extra edge.  Wish I could have a pair, don't you??
With that said, I believe I can bring some sparkle to my baking as well.  I had an order for my boss' mother's 90th birthday.  The order entailed a double layer red velvet cake and 36 cupcakes.  Since this was such a special celebration and so close to the holidays, I came up with some ideas to make it a little more memorable.

 In the end, I decided to create my own buttercream roses to decorate the cake.  I still used cream cheese frosting for the cake but to make the roses, a stiffer base was needed.  For the cupcakes, instead of a basic swirl for the frosting, I used a tip that created a rose design and to top it off dusted edible red sparkles.  I also purchased red and white polka dot cupcake liners to use instead of a plain basic liner.

In the end, I was able to pull of something sparkle-y and something personal for a very special birthday! Happy Birthday, Mary hope you had an amazing time with your family and friends! Special thanks to Jason Nunan who believed and trusted me to make his mother's birthday cake! :)
Celebrate this holiday season with lots of sparkle and create your own memorable dessert with your loved ones! Cheers! :)

Red Velvet Cake
serves 8-10 
for cupcakes makes 24 

2 1/2 cups of unbleached all purpose flour
1 1/2 cups of granulated sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoon of unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
1 cup buttermilk, room temperature
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 teaspoon of red food coloring (gel based) 
1 teaspoon white distilled vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease and flour 8" round cake pans.  Sift flour, sugar, baking soda, salt and cocoa powder.  In another bowl, whisk together the oil and eggs until combined.  Add buttermilk and whisk together.  Add food coloring, vinegar and vanilla, whisk until all is incorporated.  In a stand mixer, add wet and dry ingredients together and beat until all combined.  
Divide the cake batter evenly between the two cake pans.  Bake in 350 degree oven for 30 minutes until center is set.  Use a paring knife to test the cake, if knife is clean then cake is done.  Place pans on a wire rack to cool.  

To make cupcakes use the same recipe but fill the liners half full and bake in 350 degree oven for 20 minutes. 

Cream Cheese frosting
2 packages (8 oz) cream cheese softened
2 sticks of unsalted butter
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups of confectioners sugar

Beat cream cheese and butter until smooth.  Add vanilla and beat until it is combined.  Add sugar one cup at a time until frosting is creamy and of medium consistency.  

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

A Stylish Twist

I love it when you can take something simple and traditional by putting a spin on it.  Just like in fashion, many people twist their own style so why not in baking.  I certainly think it can be done.

Since it's cold outside, my latest style twist is combining a simple wool sweater tunic and pairing it with printed tights - whether it's flowers, geometric shapes or an animal print. Pick what suits your personality! Look at some of your options below...


So this is where my baking twist comes in.... I've been wanting to bake a carrot cake but didn't want to make one that has canned crushed pineapple or one that is loaded with nuts and raisins.  Just not my style, lol... After doing a load of laundry, I came up with a fabulous idea of using pickled carrots.  I know some of you may be thinking I'm crazy but hey we all thought wide leg flare jeans should be left in the 70's but now are the hottest thing on the runway. 

My boyfriend has his own specialty food company, Donovan's Cellar, and they have one of the most delicious pickled orange cumin carrots I've ever tasted! I've had them on banh min sandwiches, in green salads, and on a cheese plate.  So I decide why not put them in a cake!

I don't like raisins and nuts in my carrot cake so the one I made here doesn't have any.  But that doesn't mean you have to omit them as well.  Have fun with it and pick something that you love and enjoy.  Whether it's walnuts, macadamia nuts or dried fruit.  What I've learned with baking is that you always have to try.  You'll never know what flavor profile works unless you test it out.

My twist on this carrot cake is using four different exotic spices.  Ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg and cardamom.  The combination of all these spices together give the cake an extra kick.  I used just a tiny bit of cardamom since a little goes a long way.  The cake had a great subtlety between all these spices, none of it over powered the other.  I love using butter in my baking however with this cake the recipe called for oil and buttermilk.  The result was a beautifully moist fluffy cake!  To top the cake off, I created an orange cream cheese frosting.  The pickled carrots had orange in the brine and I thought by creating an orange flavored frosting it could compliment the cake and bring out the flavors.  Lemme tell you not only did the frosting taste amazing by itself it was absolutely divine with the cake! And for aesthetic reasons because I wanted to make this cake look beautiful, I added toasted pecans to the outside rim.  It gives the cake a pretty texture and a nice crunch.

Are you ready to take on your own stylish twist? Bake this cake for your next holiday party and I'm sure you'll be the hit of the night!

Spiced Carrot Cake with Orange cream cheese frosting
adapted by Zoe Bakes

2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
3 large eggs, room temperature
2 cups granulated sugar
3/4 cups of vegetable oil
3/4 cups of buttermilk
2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups grated Donovan's Cellar Orange Cumin carrots 
1 cup nuts and fruits (optional) 

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.  Line two 8" round cake pans with wax paper.  Grease with oil and flour.  Set pans aside.
Whisk together flour, baking soda, salt, and the four spices.  Set aside.
Beat eggs, sugar, oil, buttermilk and vanilla at medium speed in a stand mixer until smooth.  Add the flour mixture and beat on low until all combined.  Remove from stand mixer and add in grated carrots.  Fold it all in with a rubber spatula.  Pour batter into the two cake pans.
Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes, use a paring knife to insert in center of cake and if clean cake is done.  Cool cakes in the pan on a wire rack.

Orange Cream cheese frosting
1 package (8 oz) cream cheese, softened
1 stick unsalted butter
Zest of one navel orange (yields about 2 tablespoons)
1 tablespoon of juice from the orange
1 tablespoon of pure vanilla extract
2 cups of confectioners sugar

Beat together cream cheese and butter until smooth.  Add zest, juice and vanilla, beat until combined.  Add sugar one cup at a time until all combined and frosting is of medium consistency.