I’m well again! No coughing, no sniffling, no congestion–and best of all–no wandering around the apartment like a mindless zombie.   After 2 months of wondering what it feels like to be normal again, I am indeed myself again. With renewed energy, I’ve been excited to head back into the kitchen and start up the baking again.  This post? Involves absolutely no baking–just a wonderfully fast and easy way to whip up some deliciousness.

Before I get into the Cheesecake stuffed strawberries–I just want to give you guys a look at THE BEST BIRTHDAY GIFT (EVER)!  Every so often, I tinker with the idea about getting a DSLR…but I always end up chickening out of making such a huge purchase.  But it was time…and I decided I was going to do it.  Leave it to  Mike (aka best fiance in the world) to rush out and get me one before my designated April 1st purchase.  So, I am now the proud owner of the Canon Rebel T1i (and a Canon Rebel T1i for Dummies book I’ve yet to read).  It’s beautiful!

Okay, onward with the recipe!  Mike’s cousin sent me a link to this recipe a few months back and now that we’re back in strawberry season, I was excited about giving it a try.  Strawberries stuffed with cheesecake? Ingenious!  I had a baby shower to attend this weekend, and I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to give these guys a shot.  And–they were DELICIOUS!  To top it off, they’re super easy!  And to answer your question–yes, they taste just as you’d expect them to.

Make them…make them now!

Cheesecake Stuffed Strawberries

Original Recipe from Indigo’s Sugar Spectrum

Good for about 20 servings ( 2 green baskets of strawberries)

INGREDIENTS

2 green baskets of Strawberries, washed and dried.
1 8oz package of Cream Cheese, softened
1 tsp of Vanilla Extract
¾ cup Powdered Sugar
6-8 Graham Crackers, crushed
Semisweet chocolate, melted (optional)

  1. Once the strawberries are dry, slice off a bit of one side.
  2. Take a melon baller and spoon out the center of the strawberry, being careful to keep the walls of the strawberry intact.
  3. To make the cheesecake filling: With a mixer, beat together the cream cheese, sugar, and vanilla extract until smooth and fluffy.
  4. Now, take the strawberry and fill the center with the cheesecake filling.
  5. Spoon the graham cracker crumbs over the stuffed strawberries.  Take a spoon and gently pat the graham crackers into the filling until crumbs “stick.”
  6. Drizzle strawberries with melted chocolate*.
  7. Place strawberries in refrigerator until ready to be enjoyed.

*Whenever I plan to drizzle desserts with melted chocolate/candy melts–I use Wilton squeeze bottles.  Fill the bottles with your choice of chocolate and carefully place bottle in a small pot with hot water to melt.  Super easy and a super neat way to enhance any dessert.  You can easily find them at your local Michael’s Craft Store.

 

 

I have mixed feelings about this one.  If you read my “About Me” section, you’ll know that I’m a bit a self-conscious baker…and I’m really hard on myself when I fail to impress, I take it very hard.  I have to come to the realization, that like all things in life, the outcome of our work can in fact be disappointing.  I know, I know…I’m talking about cupcakes.  But Mike will attest to this, if I make something I don’t like, I toss. I won’t serve it to a soul.

First off, let me just say that if you like out of the norm cupcakes, you will definitely like these.  The cupcake itself is great–perfectly tangy and lemony as promised.  The frosting is equally as good–very fragrant and creamy and you get the strawberry dead on.  Putting them together?  Well, to each their own.  These cupcakes got polarized reviews.  Mike loved them.  He found these cupcakes to be light and refreshing–he had 4 cupcakes in the first 2 days.  I brought them into work and the reviews were not so great.  While they liked the cupcake itself, they weren’t too fond of the combination.  One person said these cupcakes were simply “too complicated.”

Look how beautiful the fresh strawberries are in the cupcake!

D’oh.

I was hoping to serve these cupcakes to Test Group 2 during game night this weekend, but had a family emergency Friday night (all is well now, thank you).

So, let me give my honest review on this cupcake.  The cupcake is really moist and flavorful.  I love strawberry cream cheese frosting, so there you go.  I really do like this cupcake.  I think it’s refreshing and I think it’s fun.  But here’s the catch–I don’t know if I’d make this again.  Why?  Because it’s really not the kind of cupcake you can serve to a group and have it be a runaway hit.  I think you’re just going to have some people love them, some who are indifferent, and some who are just thrown off by the unique pairing of the flavors.  So, if you’re going to have an adventurous bunch over, by all means give it a shot.  These cupcakes are certainly fun and visually beautiful.  Just have a back-up dessert just in case 🙂

That or pair the cupcake with a simpler frosting.

Strawberry Lemonade Cupcakes

Yields about 24 cupcakes

For the cake:
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp. salt
3 tsp. lemon zest
12 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
3/4 cup whole  milk
2 cups fresh strawberries, chopped

For the lemonade syrup:
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar

For the frosting:
3/4 cup fresh strawberries, roughly chopped
8 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
10 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
2  cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
2 tsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.  Line muffin pans with paper liners.  In a bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, salt and lemon zest.  Whisk together and set aside.  In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter on medium speed until it is light and fluffy.  Add the sugar and beat until well combined.  Beat in the eggs one at a time, scraping down the bowl after each addition.  Add half of the flour mixture to the bowl and beat on low speed until just incorporated.  Add in the milk and vanilla and mix until smooth.  Add in the remaining flour mixture and mix on low speed until just blended.  Fold in the fresh strawberries with a spatula.

Divide the batter evenly between the paper liners, filling them about 3/4 full.  Bake about 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Allow to cool in the pan 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Once the cupcakes have cooled, whisk together the lemonade juice and confectioners’ sugar in a small bowl to make the lemonade syrup.  Poke several holes in the top of each cupcake with a skewer and brush the syrup over the cupcakes, allowing it to soak in.  I got a bit lazy in the end and just spooned the syrup onto the cupcakes.  It works, it’s just messy.

To make the frosting, puree the strawberries in a food processor or blender.  Beat the cream cheese and butter in the bowl of an electric mixer on medium speed for about 5 minutes until light and fluffy.  Add the powdered sugar and mix until smooth.  Add the lemon juice and vanilla extract and mix until incorporated.  Mix in strawberry puree, a little bit, until you achieve your desired texture and flavor of frosting. I added about 7-8 tablespoons.   You want to make sure that you don’t add so much that it’s runny.  As it was, it was still a tad runny and I had to refrigerate it before frosting.  Frost cupcakes as desired and garnish.

Adapted from Annie’s Eats

I think I’m going to have to take a break from desserts.  I can feel the sugar coursing through my veins and I’m pretty sure Mike’s eyes are glazed over on a daily basis.  While I haven’t made too many new desserts, I made peanut butter pie for a coworker’s birthday just last week and made some strawberry cheesecakes and s’more cupcakes for a graduation this weekend.  Needless to say, I’m a bit tired of sugar. And I’m kinda wiped out.

On a bright note, it’s been a very productive few weeks for me.  I had my first order for desserts last month.  And since then, things have kind of picked up a bit 🙂  I’m very grateful to those who thought of me for their events. That said,  I just finished desserts for a college graduation party this weekend, I have a birthday party in a week, and then an order for a 4th of July party.  So, I’m super excited and I’m having a wonderful time.  Though, I must admit, I feel terrible for my poor boyfriend.  I’m not exactly the the friendliest person under stress (especially, since I take my baking very seriously and I don’t deal too well with any type of mishap.  To boot, if you’ve read my “About me” section or if you know me well enough, then you’ll know that I’m very critical of myself and I obsess a bit over my work).   I totally acknowledge that I shot Mike one too many dirty looks and might have bit his head off after he asked me one too many questions about what I was doing.  I’m so sorry!  But I bought him some boba afterwards and all is good in Mangela world again.

I also just want to put it out there–Mike is the best boyfriend in the world.  After dropping off the goods, I could barely keep my eyes open.  Before dozing off,  he gave me a really nice massage.  I really, really like him 🙂

Anyway, back to the baking.  I’ve decided to keep it healthy and devoid of any excess sugar.  I found a great recipe for some strawberry banana muffins.  Keep in mind, these are healthy and they are definitely healthy tasting.  I know, I totally just unsold these little sluggers…but in all honesty, I really enjoyed them.  They’re not overly sweet and you can really taste the banana and the strawberry.  If you’re Vietnamese or familiar with some of the cuisine, the consistency of these muffins are similar to the Vietnamese Banana cakes wrapped in banana leaf.  Their chewy and dense.

Look, if you’re looking for a healthy muffin that tastes like a full fat muffin–you’re SOL.  But if you’re looking for a healthy muffin that’s rather tasting, by all means give it a go.  Mike had two and he had his fill.  Simply put, it’s too “healthy” for the genetically blessed boyfriend of mine who could eat like the world’s ending and gain only a few ounces.

Oh…and this might pique your interest a bit–each serving is less than 1 gram of fat and is only about 100 calories.

Healthy Strawberry Banana Muffins

Makes 6 muffins

1 cup chopped strawberries
2 tbsp agave
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
1 egg
1 ripe banana, mashed (I like to use spotted bananas)
2 tbsp applesauce (I used strawberry applesauce from Whole Foods)

Preheat oven to 350°.  Line 6 muffin tins with paper liners, spray the paper liners with non stick spray (trust me…without it, they stick like crazy).  In a small bowl combine the chopped strawberries with  agave nectar.  Mix thoroughly. Let that sit while you are making the rest of the dough. In a another bowl, combine the flour, baking soda and salt. In a third bowl combine the mashed banana, egg, applesauce and vanilla. Add the dry mixture to the banana mixture. Mix with a fork just until combined. Fold in the strawberries mixture.  Fill the muffin liners all the way to the top.  They rise just a bit, so you won’t have a problem with it overflowing.

Bake for 25-28 minutes.

Adapted from here

Sweets were hard to come by in my house growing up.  When we did have cake, my mom was strictly a Pillsbury kind of woman–and it was always one of her go to flavors:  Yellow, Strawberry, Vanilla, or Confetti (for a birthday).  No, I’m afraid we just weren’t a chocolate kind of family.  In fact, because of my mom’s aversion to chocolate, I didn’t truly enjoy chocolate until college.  Oh–pick up your jaws! 🙂  Trust me, I’ve had my fill of “What?!” and “How is that even possible?!”  Bring it up with my Vietnamese mother.  She deprived me of a normal childhood.

What a tangent, huh?  Well, with that story in mind, you should also know that as much as I LOVE chocolate now, I naturally gravitate towards fruit based desserts.  To this day, while many people automatically shut down all dessert possibilities when they see the molten chocolate cake on the menu, I’ll always look for the fruit tart (if it’s a la mode, there’s almost no other choice for me).

Fresh from the Farmer's Market

The batter was quite beautiful

So you can’t even imagine my joy when I found this recipe.  A simple, authentic strawberry cake–no artificial colors or flavors.  To be honest, I don’t think I’ve ever had such a thing.  This cake is absolutely delicious!  Oh-so-moist, rich, and the strawberries in the recipe are so refreshing!  Use the best strawberries you can find for this recipe–it really makes all the difference!  And let it be known–the strawberry frosting is out-of-this-world good!  This may be my favorite frosting of all time.  So good, I had a few spoonfuls as I was frosting the cake.

A note on the frosting:  I like a lot of strawberry puree in my frosting–it makes the frosting wonderfully light and it really cuts down on the sugary taste.  The more puree you use, the more fluid the frosting.  I would add the puree in batches.  That way you can adjust the taste as well as gauge the consistency of the frosting.  I personally found it easier to frost the cake when the frosting was in more liquid form, but I certainly had to refrigerate the cake afterward so that the frosting would set.  If you are making cupcakes, I’d definitely recommend letting the frosting harden a bit in the fridge before frosting.

Strawberry Cake (served with strawberry frosting)
Yield: 2 8-inch round pans
Cake Ingredients:
2 ½ cups cake flour *
1 tsp. baking soda
¼ tsp. salt
½ cup unsalted butter
1 ½ cups sugar
2 eggs
1/3 cup buttermilk
¼ cup oil (Canola)
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2½ cups finely chopped strawberries
Frosting:
¾  c. strawberries
8 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
1 ½ sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 ½ cups powdered sugar, sifted
½ tsp. lemon juice
1 tbsp. vanilla
Directions:
1.  Preheat the oven to 350°.  Grease cake pans.
2.  Sift flour, salt and baking soda into a medium bowl.  Set aside.
3.  In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
4.  Add eggs one at a time until combined.  Add buttermilk, oil and vanilla and beat until combined.
5.  Add flour mixture and stir until just combined.  Fold in chopped strawberries.  Fill cake pans wells ¾ full with batter.
6. Bake for 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool completely on a wire rack.
7.  For the frosting, puree strawberries in food processor.  You can certainly strain the strawberry puree to get rid of all the seeds.  I personally did not—and I didn’t have any problems with the taste or consistency.
8.   Beat the cream cheese and butter in the bowl of an electric mixer until smooth and fluffy, about 5   minutes.  Add powdered sugar half a cup at a time so that you can gauge how sweet you want your frosting. Make sure to have your strawberries in mind—if you have a basket of sweet, ripe strawberries, you won’t need as much sugar.  Mix until smooth.  Add lemon juice, vanilla and strawberry puree.  Adjust the amount of puree to achieve your desired consistency.
9.  Frost cupcakes when completely cool.
*I did not use cake flour simply because I didn’t have any on hand.  I opted for All purpose, but keep in mind that this is not an even exchange.  For every cup of APF, remove 2tablespoons.
Adapted from Annie’s Eats

My boy friend Michael turned 27 last week and I really wanted to do something special.  Not just because it was his birthday, but because he’s been inundated with so much school work.  For those of you who do not know, Mike decided to go back to school this year to get a Master’s in Computer Science.  I assure you, it’s no easy feat and my wonderful boyfriend has worked extraordinarily hard to keep his 4.0 (He would kill me for saying this–since this is only his first year…but I’m so proud and I can’t help it! I cough it up to his modesty).

We were all set to go out and grab some BBQ at Naples Rib Company in Belmont Shore with a handful of great friends and head back to our place for some drinks and general socializing.  And what says 27 like a dessert buffet?  If you say otherwise–you’re just crazy.

On the menu? I decided the birthday cake itself would be a fresh strawberry cake with strawberry frosting.  I would then finish up the dessert buffet-o-rama with: Banana cupcake with Maple Frosting, Red Velvet Cheesecake Cups, and S’more Cupcakes.

I started baking around 8pm Friday night and my friends–I was up until 6 in the morning.  Baking so many things in my tiny kitchen was such a fiasco!  I even doze off about 10 minutes around 3am–rendering my red velvet cheesecakes overcooked!  So I threw those out and started again from scratch.  By the end of the first night, I had finished all the banana cupcakes, strawberry cake, and red velvet cheesecake. After a 4 hour nap, I went back to work on the S’more cupcakes and all the different frostings.

I was insanely tired by dinnertime, but I’m happy to report that the evening was a success!

I’m posting some pictures and I’ll follow up this post of some recipes!