gracefulleats is one! (plus Chocolate Cake with Vanilla Buttercream)

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I’m taking a break from my alphabets for today, because…

gracefulleats is one!

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It’s been exactly a year since I’ve started this thing, and I must say…it’s been a blessing. I know that term gets thrown around a lot, but I really mean it when I say it. It’s been a crazy year (both in and out of this blog), and I’ve learned so much about myself and about others along the way.

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In the past year, I’ve baked through over 60 recipes, made three birthday cakes, baked for a bridal shower, engagement party, and wedding, was featured on Welcome Home and on Rachael Ray magazine’s “#RRWhatchaCookin Featured Cook of the Week,” and made it to foodgawker (after 27 declines!). I’ve received so much support and encouragement from my family and friends, and I am thankful. But…

Soli Deo Gloria.

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Soli Deo Gloria means “glory to God alone.” I’ve been reading, researching, and racking my brain the past few days to find a concise way to explain this…but I can’t. It’s too difficult to define. The way I see it is this (with the help of John Piper and Mark Driscoll): the glory of God is the infinite beauty and worth of God publicly displayed. It is the “radiance of his holiness, the radiance of his manifold, infinitely worthy and valuable perfections (Piper).” It is His beauty and greatness, His infinite worth radiated for us to see. “God’s glory is the outward radiance of the intrinsic beauty and greatness of His manifold perfections (Piper).”

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You see, God deserves eternal praise. He should be our greatest joy and desire, and we should find hope and happiness in that fact that we have a God who loves us, knows us, and has sent His son Jesus to die on the cross for our sins. We should delight in our salvation in Christ and in the fact that we get to live for His glory. HIS glory, not ours, and not that we have to, but because we get to. “We get to finally do the singular cause for which we were made: to glorify God (Driscoll).” God created us for His glory; therefore, as His children, we should live for the glory of God.

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If you’ve noticed, I always end my posts with Soli Deo Gloria. I do that for two reasons: 1) As a reminder to myself that all glory be to God; 2) because all glory really does belong to God. And this is true because we are called to glorify God in all that we do, as it is commanded in 1 Corinthians 10:31: “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (ESV). I know that was an abnormally long introduction, but a) it’s my birthday (kindasortanotreally) and b) this is important to me, and I pray and hope that this may be an encouragement to you as it is to me. You can read more here, here, here, and here.

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I’m celebrating gracefulleats’s first birthday with my favorite chocolate cake and vanilla buttercream. I first made this for a birthday cake I had to do back in September, and it was the best chocolate cake I’d ever made–I haven’t gone to a different chocolate cake recipe yet! The cake has a strong chocolate flavor, is moist, and isn’t too sweet. It pairs perfectly with the vanilla buttercream which is sweet, fluffy, and creamy. It doesn’t have that greasy taste that a lot of other buttercreams have. The recipe below makes a two-layer 6-inch cake (I cut my two layers in half so I had four) and enough buttercream to frost and fill the cake generously.

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Chocolate Cake
Makes two 6-inch layers
From Whisk Kid

Ingredients:

1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
3/8 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, room temperature
1 1/2 cups brown sugar, lightly packed
2 eggs, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla
2/3 cup sour cream, room temperature
2/3 cup hot coffee

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and line with parchment paper two 6-inch pans. Set aside.

2. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt, and set aside.

3. In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar, until very light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, and beat well after each addition. Add the vanilla.Pour in a third of the dry ingredients, mix until just combined, then add half of the sour cream and mix until just combined. Repeat–add the rest of the dry ingredients, mix, then add the rest of the sour cream; mix until just combined. Gently stir in the hot coffee, and pour the batter into the prepared pans.

4. Bake the cakes for 35 to 40 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Cool the cakes in their pans on a cooling rack for 10 minutes, then remove the cakes from the pans and let them cool completely before frosting.

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Vanilla Buttercream
Makes enough to frost and fill a 6-inch layer cake

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
5 cups powdered sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
3-5 tablespoons heavy cream

1. In a large bowl, cream together the butter and the sugar. Stir in the vanilla. Add the heavy cream, and beat until fluffy. You can add more or less heavy cream depending on how thick you like your frosting.

For Assembly: The Whisk Kid has a really good tutorial on assembling a layer cake. You can find it here! I promise it’s super useful! I really enjoyed it, and it was helpful for me too.

Enjoy!

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With all that said and done…here’s to another year. Whatever comes my way, I’m ready! I’m ready for the opportunities, the learning experiences, and the baking adventures. Thank you all again for your support! And as always…

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Until next time,

SOLI. DEO. GLORIA. (and happy reading, eating, and baking!)

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Baking Through the Alphabet: F is for Flan Cupcakes

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There’s this one episode in Friends where they’re sitting around the dining table at the girls’ apartment planning Rachel’s surprise birthday party. Phoebe asks about the birthday cake, and Monica says she’s not making a birthday cake, but is making “birthday flan” instead. “It’s a traditional Mexican custard dessert!,” to which Joey responds with “Happy birthday, here’s some goo.”

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The reason why I mention this is because:

1) Friends is my favorite TV show! I don’t really agree with a lot of their morals, but I really do appreciate the friendship among the six of them. The show never fails to make me laugh, and my friends and I love quoting their lines for any and every situation. I own all 10 seasons, and it never gets old. Never.

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2) F is for Flan Cupcakes! I found these cupcakes while watching Food Network with a friend a few years back. It seemed like such a genius idea–vanilla cupcakes filled with flan, topped with cream cheese frosting. Yum!

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I know the recipe seems complicated, but it’s not too bad! Slow and steady wins the race. The cupcakes were moist and fluffy…and I’d have to say the best vanilla cupcakes I’ve made so far. The flan came out more like a really light and fluffy cheesecake, a bit like the Asian cheesecakes with a caramel flavor. For the cream cheese frosting, I ended up making half of what the original frosting recipe called for, and I was able to frost 18 out of the 24 cupcakes. I’m not a big fan of frosting and a little goes a long way for me, but if you are, feel free to double what’s called for below.

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As for the cupcake as a whole, I really wish the flan flavor shined more. With the cream cheese frosting and vanilla cupcake, the flan was kind of tucked away in the back. Regardless, I think this is the best cupcake I’ve made so far (which…isn’t THAT big of a deal since I don’t make cupcakes that often. BUT they usually fail–too dry, frosting too runny, too doughy, etc–so I’m glad this one turned out well).You don’t use all the flan in the cupcakes, but you can always use the extra as a side dessert. To be honest, I think I like the flan more on its own than with the cupcakes because it tastes like a light cheesecake. I like the combination and concept behind the flan cupcakes, which is why I’m sharing this with you all. Maybe you’ll like these more than my picky tastebuds did!

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Flan Cupcakes
Makes 24 cupcakes
From Food Network

Ingredients:

For the Flan Custard:
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
4 large eggs, at room temperature
One 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened
One 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
One 12-ounce can evaporated milk

For the Cupcakes:
2 1/2 cups cake flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon fine salt
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/4 cup milk

For the Cream Cheese Frosting:
One 8-ounce block cream cheese, softened
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. For the Flan Custard: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. In a medium pot over medium heat, cook the sugar and 1/2 cup water. Cook until the sugar caramelizes and turns into a nice, amber color, about 10 minutes, without stirring. Pour the caramelized sugar into an 8- by 10-inch pan or 10-inch cake pan. Let it cool.

2. In a blender, blend together the eggs, cream cheese, condensed milk, and evaporated milk. Blend for about 4 minutes.

3. Pour the egg mixture into the pan with the sugar. Put the pan inside an 11 x 14-inch pan. Pour water into the larger pan until almost full (water bath). Bake until it sets and has a slight uniform jiggle, about 1 hour. When done, take out the small pan and let it cool.

4. For the Cupcakes: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare cupcake tins by lining with paper liners. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

5. In another bowl, cream together the butter and granulated sugar until fluffy and light. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well between each addition. Add the vanilla; mix until fluffy. Fold in the flour mixture, alternating with the milk. Do not overmix. Portion the batter into the prepared tins. Bake for about 18-20 minutes, or just until set and a toothpick inserted into a cupcake comes out clean.

6. For the Frosting: Cream together the cream cheese, butter, powdered sugar, and vanilla in a large bowl until fluffy.

7. For Assembly: Cut a hole in the top of each cupcake. You can use an apple corer; I used a paring knife. Fill a pastry bag with the flan. Pipe in enough flan to fill the hole in the cupcake. Top each cupcake with frosting. Enjoy!

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So for all the January babies, happy birthday, here’s some goo. =)

Until next time,

Soli Deo Gloria, and Happy reading, eating, and baking!

Baking Through the Alphabet: E is for Earl Grey Donuts (baked) with a Blueberry Glaze

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HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!

I thought I would post another letter before the year ended…but obviously I didn’t. Winter break is over (insert sadface), but it was a good three weeks. I spent the first week plus some at work, a couple more days at a church retreat, and the remaining days with my family and friends. It’s always a joy to be at home, and it makes me happy to see old faces back home for the holidays.

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2014 is here, 2013 is gone (*whispers* foreverrrr. If anyone got that Friends reference…you make me proud), and winter quarter is here! I’m not going to go into too much detail, but 2013 was a good year. A bunch of trials and struggles, but I know that God is sovereign and has planned all things for a greater purpose.

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Something that comes with each new year is new year resolutions. I used to make resolutions, but stopped once I failed to keep up with them. As for this year…I’m not sure. I haven’t really sat down to think about my resolutions, but I do know one of them is be more consistent with my blog posts (sorry all!!). One for sure resolution is to glorify God in all that I do. And only through the grace of God may I do so.

One more thing before I get to the donuts (or doughnuts? what?): The Resolutions of Jonathan Edwards. Read it. It’s an encouragement. I’m reading it too.

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E is for earl grey (baked) donuts with a blueberry glaze. I had originally planned to do earl grey macarons for the letter E, but that one totally flopped. I tried a new recipe and the shells just looked like junk. I did tint it a pretty blueish/gray color though! But the shells didn’t come out right, and the filling was too runny. I’ll try them again eventually! You’ll find out when I do.

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But I finally caved and bought donut pans–they’re so cute! I love donuts, but I hate dealing with all the oil after you fry them, so I figured baking them would be the way to go. BUT DISCLAIMER: if you’re thinking baked donuts=yeasty, bready donuts, then you’re wrong, and this recipe may not be the right one for you. Baked donuts taste more like muffins instead of bread, but having them in a donut shape do make them much more fun.

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I added two earl grey tea bags to the donut batter–I steeped one bag in the hot milk, and another bag I tried crushing the tea leaves and then threw them in with the dry ingredients. I made a blueberry glaze to go on top, and I really do like the combination, but to be honest, the blueberry flavor overpowered the earl grey flavor. If I were to make this again, I’d probably try either a regular vanilla glaze, or an earl grey glaze. Regardless, the donuts were moist and the earl grey flavor was there. Again, they had a muffin texture to them rather than a bready texture, but I’m glad that I didn’t have to deal with leftover oil and all the excess fat if I were to fry them. I like how they turned out! The bits of blueberries look like sprinkles. And if you like The Simpsons, these donuts look like the infamous one on the show =)

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Baked Earl Grey Donuts with Blueberry Glaze
Makes 1 dozen (I made 6 regular and 24 mini ones)
Adapted from A Beautiful Mess

Ingredients:

For the Earl Grey Donuts:
1 1/4 cup flour
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 earl grey tea bags
2/3 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup milk, hot
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon white vinegar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the Blueberry Glaze:
1/4 cup fresh blueberries
2 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon lemon juice (optional)

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Prepare your donut pans by spraying with cooking spray.

2. For the donuts: Open one tea bag, and pour out the leaves into a small bowl. Using a spoon (or a mortar and pestle if you have it), crush up the big tea leaves by pushing the tea leaves against the sides of the bowl with the spoon. It’s okay if you can’t get it. I just wanted didn’t want big leaves in the donuts.

3. Steep the other tea bag in the hot milk for 5 minutes. Using a fork, poke at the bag to get as much flavor out of the leaves. It’s okay if you pop the bag because the leaves will just get mixed into the donut dough. Toss the tea bag.

4. In a medium bowl, combine all the dry ingredients (first five listed above). In another bowl, combine all the wet ingredients (the last five listed above, including the steeped milk–make sure it’s not too hot or it’ll cook the eggs).

5. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, and stir just until combined.

6. Fill the prepared donut pans 2/3 full with batter (don’t fill too much, or else they’ll come out looking like mini bundt cakes). You can spoon in the batter, but I poured the batter into a pastry bag and piped the batter into the pans for better control. Bake them for 10-13 minutes, until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. If you’re making mini donuts, bake them for 8-10 minutes. Let the donuts cool before dipping them in the glaze.

7. For the blueberry glaze: Place blueberries, powdered sugar, and lemon juice in a food processor, and pulse until smooth.

8. Dip the cooled donuts in the glaze, and let them set before serving. Enjoy!

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Until next time,

Soli Deo Gloria, and Happy reading, eating, and baking!