Celebrations, Parties, Recipes, Sweet

Cakes: Machine’s and Monkey’s for Max

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This weekend we celebrated my nephew’s 2nd birthday.  My sister and her husband just bought their first home so they have been very busy these past weeks moving in and working on home improvement projects.  She is also 7 months pregnant so I can only imagine how exhausted she is between chasing a 2 year old and unpacking.  Because of all this, and because I enjoy doing it, I offered to bake and decorate the cake for my nephew’s birthday party.

My sister has mentioned Max is into tractors and construction vehicles lately so I knew it would make a good theme for his cake.  I started with a 5 pack of small CAT toys I found at Target for $6 and decided to build a chocolately construction zone for them.  My cake decorating skills can still use some improving, so I loved that the mud and dirt on this cake didn’t require perfectly smooth icing to look good.

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Finishing details included green icing grass and small chocolate rocks.  The “dirt” was Oreo cookie crumbs.  For the final touches, I printed out some construction style signs with the birthday boy’s name and age  to stick into the cake with the “2” candle.

I am not sure the birthday boy ate much of his cake, but he sure did enjoy playing with the tractors and trucks on it so I would call that a success.

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The actual cake was from a mix and the icing was just a basic chocolate buttercream.  Inside was a delicious Oreo cheesecake filling.  I didn’t get a picture to show it in it’s full glory, but trust me it was tasty and definitely worth trying on your next cake.  I *may* have even eaten the leftover filling on it’s own by the spoonful.

Oreo Cheesecake Filling

  • 1 Package of cream cheese (8 oz)
  • 1 tub of Cool Whip
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 row of Oreo Cookies, crushed

To make filling, blend room temperature cream cheese.  Add in defrosted Cool Whip and vanilla extract, then mix until smooth.  Gently fold in crushed Oreo’s.

 

Max’s First Birthday Monkey Cake

I also had the priviledge of making the cake for Max’s first birthday last year.  I went with a monkey theme and ended up doing a large cake for the party guests and a small monkey just for the birthday boy.  To get the round cake shape, I baked the cake in my Pampered Chef batter bowl.  The cake was also baked from a mix and I used the same chocolate buttercream as the construction cake, with some banana flavored icing for the mouth and ears and melted chocolate for the mouth, hair and eye details.

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I do enjoy cake decorating and love that this gives me a chance to both practice my skills and give my nephew something special for his birthday.  I am afraid I may have started a trend and will now be asked to make the cakes for all upcoming birthdays, but I think I am okay with that!

 

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Recipes, Sweet

Carrot Cake Cheesecake Cupcakes

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If you are anything like me, you have all kinds of yummy stuff pinned on pinterest that you want to eventually try some day, but haven’t actually gotten around to making many of the recipes.  It is probably better that my pin boards continue to grow instead of my waistline, but once in a while there is a recipe I come across that I deem worthy of the extra effort and calories.

When I saw these Carrot Cake Cheesecake Cupcakes from Crazy for Crust, I knew it was one of those recipes.  Usually I tend towards all things chocolate, but the carrot and cream cheese combination appealed to me instantly and I knew it was something I had to make.  I have been waiting for an excuse to attempt them and this week I finally found my reason.

Tommorow, my good friend Linda from playgroup will be undergoing surgery on her knees to help with the back issues she has been having.  She will be missing out on the fun and treats for our Halloween party next week and won’t be back to playgroup for several weeks, so I wanted to do something special for her.  I recall a discussion where she told me of her love of cream cheese icing and how she has even gone so far as to eat it by the spoonful directly from the container.  Whipping up a batch of icing would have been much simpler, but I figured these carrot cake cheesecake cupcakes would make a pretty tasty vehicle for the cream cheese icing!  I was not disappointed.

Carrot Cake Cheesecake Cupcakes

Carrot Cake Layer:

  • 1 egg
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ cup flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • Pinch of salt
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ¾ cup shredded carrots
  1. Preheat oven to 350°. Line muffin pan with liners.
  2. Make the cake batter:  In a large bowl, beat together eggs, oil, sugar, and vanilla. Mix in flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon. Stir in carrots.
  3. Distribute evenly between 12 muffin liners. Set aside.

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Cheesecake Layer:

  • 1 pack (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 egg
  1. Make the cheesecake batter by mixing together the cream cheese, egg, sugar, and vanilla. Pour evenly on top of cake batter in muffin pan.
  2. Step over snoring bulldog at your feet to get to oven. *Optional
  3. Bake for about 25 minutes, until cheesecake is no longer runny.  Cool completely.

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Cream Cheese Frosting:
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • ½ cup butter, softened
  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  1. Make the frosting: Using a mixer, cream butter and cream cheese until smooth. Slowly add in powdered sugar and vanilla and blend.

Store in refrigerator.  Yield: 12 cupcakes

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I brought enough to share with the other ladies at playgroup, and packaged up a few extras for Linda to take home with her.

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The recipe has a few steps, but it is fairly simple and straightforward.  I doubled the quantities which meant it required 4 whole bricks of cream cheese between the cheesecake layer and the icing.  While I was happy to be able to buy my cream cheese in bulk at Costco, I am now at a loss about what to do with the remainder of my giant bag of Costco carrots.  At only $5 for the bag, dealing with 10 lbs of carrots seemed much easier then having to make a stop at a second grocery store with kids in tow.

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Please feel free to share your best carrot recipes in the comments below!