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!)

Fruit Tarts II

IMG_4088 Two weeks late, but…I’M 20!!! IMG_4086 I know I’m still young, but God has been faithful to me these past 20 years. It was a blessed birthday, and I’m thankful for everything!

I celebrated with my family:

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Celebrated my birthday at midnight with my roommates: IMG_4488 At work, my coworkers decorated my cubicle and gave me this AWESOME mini pie pan (which is perfect for this recipe):

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Then that night, I was surprised by J! I was under the impression that I was going to dinner with my roommates. I decided to nap between work and dinner, then I woke up to noise and someone poking my nose…and it was J! He drove to Irvine to surprise me =). We walked to the car, and found two more friends. Then we got into the car and they kept saying we were going to McDonald’s (totally didn’t fool me, by the way), but we ended up at an all you can eat KBBQ restaurant, where I was surprised again with more friends! Then during dinner, my sister and her boyfriend surprised me with a yummy strawberry tiramisu birthday cake =). Indeed a good surprise–good job J and thank you friends!!! =) :

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It was a very blessed birthday, and…I am thankful =). IMG_4097 Remember the fruit tarts I made last summer? Today, I bring to you all my new favorite fruit tart recipe. It’s pretty close to the one I made last time, but I think these are much better and a lot easier. This time around, I made a bunch of differently sized tarts. I like the crust because it’s so rich and buttery, and it goes great with the extra chocolate layer i spread on before I layer in the custard. The custard is AMAZING. I can eat it right off the spoon. And my favorite part? The entire custard is made in the microwave. Yup, no more having to worry about scrambled eggs, boiling the milk, or making sure the milk doesn’t burn or form a skin. You dump in all the ingredients, whisk it, and stick it in the microwave for a total of six minutes. It’s creamy, eggy, and perfect for these fruit tarts. And don’t worry, there’s a little more custard than needed for these tarts, so feel free to eat that with a spoon =).

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Fruit Tarts
Makes 13-14 mini tarts, or a large tart + a few smaller ones
Adapted from From Salad in a Jar

Ingredients:

For the Tart Crust:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup powdered sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter (1 stick), chilled
1 large egg yolk
1 tablespoon heavy cream (or milk)
1/4 cup chocolate chips, melted

For the Custard Filling:
2 3/4 cups whole milk
2/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/8 teaspoon salt
4 large egg yolks
2 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. For the crust: Combine the flour, sugar, and salt in a food processor. Add slices of the butter to the flour, and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Add the egg yolk mixed with milk, and pulse until all the ingredients are moistened. Continue to pulse until the dough starts to stick together. Add a little milk if the dough seems to be too dry. Wrap the dough in plastic and chill for 30 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, grease your molds with cooking spray. When the dough is chilled, roll pieces of the dough between two pieces of plastic wrap into a circle slightly larger than your tart molds. Press the dough into the molds, keeping the thickness consistent. Trip off the excess, and continue to do so for all molds until you have used up all the dough. You can use the extra scraps to make another tart if you have enough. Prick the bottom of the crust with a fork. Freeze for at least 30 minutes.

3. Place the frozen tart shells on a cookie sheet (the original instructions say to press a small piece of foil down into each crust. I got lazy and didn’t). Bake at 400F for 10-13 minutes, until golden brown. When done, prick the bottom again to release some steam. Some of the bottoms may have puffed up, and that’s ok. Spread a thin layer of the melted chocolate onto the crust and let harden.

4. For the Custard Filling: Whisk together the milk, sugar, cornstarch, salt, and egg yolks in a large microwave safe bowl. Microwave 6 minutes, whisk until smooth  after three minutes, then every minute after that. Add the butter and vanilla; whisk until smooth.

5. For Assembly: Fill each baked tart with the custard filling. Top and decorate with fruit of your choice. Enjoy!

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Until next time,

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

White Chocolate Raspberry Cheesecake

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I LOVE CHEESECAKES. So creamy, yummy, and fatty…Heh. Cheesecakes, in my opinion, are a pain to make, but the results are amazing. I don’t have very many cheesecake tips, so you’re better off googling it and reading different articles/blog posts on there. BUT I do have some:

1) water bath. I didn’t have a deep dish roasting pan, so I put it in a larger springform cake pan to bake (like the picture above). But then the larger springform pan started to leak, so I put it on top of a baking sheet, and filled that with water. I guess as long as it’s larger, you’ll be okay. Make sure to cover the bottom of your cake pan with foil so water doesn’t leak into the cheesecake.

2) Make sure your cream cheese is at room temperature, otherwise you’ll end up with some chunky cheesecake. And make sure it’s completely creamy/fluffy (but don’t overmix!) before you add in the eggs and whatnot. it’ll be hard to get those lumps out once you add in other ingredients.

3) I used graham crackers instead of Oreos, because I had a bunch of leftover s’mores ingredients in the apartment. The recipe uses Oreos–the reviews have suggested to omit the butter since the cream from the Oreo cookies will be enough to keep the crumbs together. Your call!

4) I made my own raspberry sauce, but you can definitely use raspberry preserves. The reviews say to just use 6 tablespoons and microwave it for 30 seconds. You can check out the reviews on the site for more suggestions.

5) This cheesecake is SO GOOD. I’m not lying–it’s super creamy and the swirls on the cheesecake make it so pretty (make sure you don’t over swirl!). And it’s not too sweet and has a perfect texture. Mmmmmm :)

Okay, I’m done. Here’s the recipe! Sorry it took me so long! :) Enjoy.

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White Chocolate Raspberry Cheesecake
Makes one 8- or 9-inch cheesecake
Adapted from All Recipes

Ingredients:

1 cup graham cracker crumbs
3 tablespoons white sugar
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, melted
1 (10 ounce) package frozen raspberries
2 tablespoons white sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 cup water
2 cups white chocolate chips
1/2 cup half-and-half cream
3 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup white sugar
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a medium bowl, mix together graham cracker crumbs, 3 tablespoons sugar, and melted butter. Press the mixture into the bottom of your springform pan; I greased it with Pam.

In a saucepan, combine raspberries, 2 tablespoons sugar, cornstarch, and water. Bring to a boil and continue boiling for another 5 minutes, or until the sauce is thick. Strain the sauce through a mesh strainer to remove the seeds. Keep the sauce, throw away the seeds.

Preheat the oven to 325˚F. In a metal bowl over a pan of simmering water (make sure the bowl doesn’t touch the water), melt the white chocolate chips with the half-and-half cream, stirring until smooth.

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In a large bowl, mix together the cream cheese and 1/2 cup sugar until smooth. Make sure the mixture is completely smooth, then add in the eggs, beating them in one at a time. Blend in the vanilla and melted white chocolate. Pour half the batter over the crust, then spoon 3 tablespoons of the raspberry sauce over the batter. Pour in the rest of the cheesecake batter, and spoon some raspberry sauce over the top (you will have leftover sauce). Swirl the batter with the tip of a knife to create a marbled effect.

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Wrap foil around the bottom of your pan, and place the pan into a larger baking pan with sids. Place into the oven, fill the outer pan with  hot water. Bake for 55 to 60 minutes, checking regularly after the 45-minute mark, or until the filling is set. You can click here if you need help with baking cheesecakes. Let the cheesecake cool on the counter, then refrigerate it for at least another 8 hours before serving. You can serve it with remaining raspberry sauce.

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Until next time (and until midterms are over),

Soli Deo Gloria, and Happy reading, eating, and baking! Have a blessed week!