Sugar & Spice Delight Cake

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Well it seems that, somehow, between hours of mad baking, book writing, recipe testing and getting my cakelets back to school, it became autumn. I’m pretty sure it was summer last time I looked out the window, but nope–not so much! And when there are crisp winds, changing leaves and backpacks, my head and heart naturally say it’s time for sugary, spicy, pumpkiny baked delights . . .

And although I was certain that the Autumn Delight Cake from last year was my go-to for towering sugar and spice cravings, I decided to go for a true pumpkin version and then switch up the fillings and frostings. Tradition pumpkin pie is one of my favourite desserts of all time, and covered in real whipped cream and sprinkles of cinnamon and sugar is the ultimate. But to me, where there is cinnamon there should be gooey cinnamon buns. My heart is divided!

So this cake is an ode to my love for pumpkin pie, cinnamon buns and, well, cake.

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So what is the Sugar & Spice Delight Cake exactly?

Well, it’s 6 thin layers of moist pumpkin and crystallized-ginger cake topped with a layer of super-cinnamony and buttery Cinnamon Sugar Spread Filling (think the middle of a Cinnabon), which is then topped with fluffy-as-air Vanilla Bean Whipped Cream and then the layered cake is covered in that cream-cheesy, sugary frosting fluffiness that usually adorns those beloved Cinnabons. Oh and some cinnamon and sugar sprinkled whipped cream poofs on top never hurts either. So I guess what I’m trying to say it you must bake this cake! Bake it, eat it, share it, marry it. I’m certain you won’t regret any of those decisions.

I actually made this cake twice for this post. The first time I found it had too much pumpkin puree and too much crystallized ginger, so I did the whole thing again (while my husband shook his head with utter confusion), and that was that. Guys, honestly, it really came together in taste the way I hoped, and it is really is a sugar and spice delight. It is decadent, but the whipped cream filling is so light and airy that it really balances it out.

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Yep.

So more specifically, the pumpkin & ginger cake layers are essentially the sweet potato cake layers (minus the sweet potato and add the pumpkin) from my Autumn Delight Cake, the Fluffy Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting is from my Cinnabon-Style Gourmet Cinnamon Buns, and the Vanilla Bean Whipped Cream Filling is that found in many of my cakes (I love this stuff). The Cinnamon Sugar Spread, though, is something that is really simple yet goodness-me, so amazing. Who knew melted butter, sugar, cinnamon and vanilla could be so awesome? Actually, I think we all knew that, but I just never thought to spread it in my cakes until now. You can also smother it on pancakes, waffles, toast . . . spouses. Anything.

As a side note, I know some of you have had issues in the past with getting the Whipped Cream Filling recipe to come together, so I’ve modified it slightly for ease. You shouldn’t have any issues now! We add less confectioners’ sugar and sprinkle it in once the whipped cream begins to thicken, so basically we’re just whipping cream (in a super cold stainless bowl) before adding the confectioners’ sugar and stabilizing gelatine mixture.

Stabilized whipped cream makes the most amazing filling because, like I mentioned above, it’s light as air and not sweet at all. It can also stand the weight of the layers, which comes in handy! I turn to this often when I want to include other really sweet elements into the cake, and as much as I love sweet frosting, I find it too much when it’s both inside and outside the cake. You know? It’s also great when you want to pipe whipped cream on top of a cake, as it will remain stable for days (in the fridge, of course).

So, let’s make this cake!

November 28th, 2013 Note: I’ve increased the flour for the cake layers, to ensure the cake doesn’t get over-taken by the pumpkin’s moisture. There shouldn’t be any trouble with this issue now.

December 31st, 2013: I’ve also decreased the pumpkin puree, so the cake should bake up nicely and not be over-powered by the pumpkin.

Sugar & Spice Delight Cake

Yield: One 6-layer, 8-inch round cake

6 layers of moist pumpkin & ginger cake smothered in buttery cinnamon sugar and filled with vanilla bean whipped cream and frosted in Cinnabon-style cream cheese vanilla frosting.

Ingredients

    For the Pumpkin Ginger Cake:
  • 2 cups (400 g) sugar
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1-1/4 cups (315 ml) sunflower oil (or vegetable, safflower, canola oil)
  • 1 1/2 cups (375 ml) pure pumpkin puree (canned works well)
  • 3 cups (345 g) cake flour
  • 1 tablespoon (7 g) ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons (8 g) baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon (7 g) salt
  • 1 teaspoon (3 g) ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon (1.5 g) ground ginger
  • 2 tablespoons (30 ml) brandy or dark rum
  • 2 teaspoons (10 ml) pure vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup (60 g) chopped crystallized ginger
  • For the Cinnamon Sugar Spread Filling:
  • 1 cup (200 g) sugar
  • 1/4 cup (30 g) ground cinnamon (I love Vietnamese Cinnamon for its intensity)
  • 1/2 cup (115 g) unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml) pure vanilla extract
  • Pinch of salt
  • For the Vanilla Bean Whipped Cream Filling:
  • 3 tablespoons (45 ml) cold water
  • 1 packet (1 tablespoon) unflavoured gelatin (such as Knox brand)
  • 2 3/4 cups (660 ml) whipping cream (35-37% fat), cold, divided
  • 1/2 cup (65 g) confectioners' sugar
  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml) vanilla bean paste, or pure vanilla extract
  • Pinch of salt
  • For the Fluffy Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting:
  • 1 package (250 g) cream cheese, softened 30 mins
  • 1 cup (227 g) unsalted butter, softened 30 mins
  • 4 cups (500 g) confectioners' sugar, sifted
  • 2 teaspoon (5 ml) clear vanilla extract (or pure vanilla extract)
  • 1/8 teaspoon orange flavor oil (or 1/4 teaspoon orange extract), if possible

Instructions

    For the Pumpkin Ginger Cake:
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease three 8-inch round cake pans, dust with flour, tap out excess and set aside.
  2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the sugar and eggs together on medium-high speed (I use #6 on KitchenAid) until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add the oil and beat on medium until combined. Add the cooled pumpkin puree and mix until combined.
  3. Sift dry ingredients together (cake flour, cinnamon, baking powder, salt, nutmeg and ground ginger) and then add to pumpkin/egg mixture.
  4. Mix in brandy/dark rum (I used dark rum) and vanilla. Gently stir in crystallized ginger.
  5. Evenly distribute batter into the prepared pans (weigh them if possible with digital kitchen scale for 560 g per pan), smooth with a small offset palette knife and place in the center of the middle rack of the oven, about 2 inches apart. (Depending on your oven, you will likely need to bake 2 pans, followed by the third.) Bake until a knife or skewer inserted into the center comes out clean, about 25 minutes.
  6. Let pans cool on a wire rack 10 minutes. Invert cakes onto rack and cool them completely.
  7. For the Cinnamon Sugar Spread Filling:
  8. In a medium bowl, combine sugar and cinnamon. Stir in the melted butter, vanilla and salt.
  9. For the Vanilla Bean Whipped Cream Filling:
  10. In a small stainless steel bowl, place the cold water and sprinkle with the gelatin. Let sit for at least 10 minutes. In a small saucepan, bring 1/2 cup of the cream just to a simmer, then stir into the gelatin mixture until the gelatin has dissolved. Refrigerate, stirring frequently, until cool but not set, about 8 minutes. (Be careful to keep your eye on it, or you'll end up with Panna Cotta!)
  11. In a chilled stainless steel mixer bowl with a chilled whisk attachment, beat the remaining whipping cream until it thickens just slightly, and then add the confectioners' sugar, vanilla bean paste and salt until very soft peaks begin to form, about 1 minute. Very gradually add the gelatin mixture and continue beating until medium-firm peaks form (should be thick enough to spread, but not spongy). Keep covered and chilled until ready to use.
  12. For the Fluffy Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting:
  13. In an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, blend the cream cheese and butter for 6 minutes on low speed (#2 on KitchenAid Mixer).
  14. Add 2 cups (250 g) of the confectioners' sugar and mix for 1 minute on low speed. Add the remaining icing sugar and mix for an additional 2 minutes. Add the flavors and mix for 1 minute on medium-high speed.
  15. Transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate.
  16. Assembly of the Sugar & Spice Delight Cake:
  17. Chill cake layers until cold and firm. Slice all three cake layers in half horizontally, so you have 6 cake layers total.
  18. Smear a small dollop of the frosting on the plate, pedestal or cake board, and place your first layer cut side up (so bottom of the cake layer is touching plate), and spread 1/5th of the Cinnamon Sugar Spread Filling on the layer, followed by ~3/4 cup of Vanilla Bean Whipped Cream Filling with a small offset palette knife, leaving 1" or so around the edge.
  19. Repeat previous step until you get to the final cake layer. Place last layer face down, wrap tightly with plastic wrap and chill cake for at least 30-40 minutes to set.
  20. Frost entire cake with a thin "coat" of Fluffy Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting and chill until firm, about 30 minutes. Repeat frosting, using a turntable and palette knife to create texture (as in photo)--use one hand to turn the turntable and hold the palette knife in the other hand. Keep palette knife in place and let the turntable do the moving. Top with dollops of the remaining Vanilla Bean Whipped Cream Filling. Sprinkle with cinnamon and white sugar. Chill cake to set.
  21. Finished cake can be kept at room temperature for up to 8 hours. Keep refrigerated if longer than 8 hours, but serve at room temperature (although it does taste very good cold!.
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Sweetapolita’s Notes:

  • Pumpkin cake is similar to other spice cakes, carrot cakes, etc. in that it not only lasts several days in the refrigerator but almost gets better with age. It retains its moisture so well that you can make it up to two days ahead, chill and serve at room temperature, however it also tastes great cold!
  • The cake layers are essentially the same as the Sweet Potato Cake layers from the Autumn Delight Cake, but with pumpkin puree in place of the sweet potato puree and less crystallized ginger.
  • If you’d rather not be bothered with slicing the baked layers, you can always serve this as a 3-layer cake–I doubt anyone would complain!
  • The Cinnamon Sugar Spread Filling can be made the day ahead and covered in plastic wrap. To soften for spreading, simply microwave for about 10 seconds, or until it has softened enough to spread. On a sidenote, this spread is amazing on toast, pancakes, waffles or pretty much anything. And just when you thought cinnamon was cinnamon, there are several varieties, and each one will yield a very different taste in your baked goods.
  • The Fluffy Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting is very fluffy and almost “loose” because we’ve beat the cream cheese to smithereens, but it tastes so good and creamy this way. I personally like using a really soft frosting consistency when frosting a cake, but it does take getting used to it wanting to slip and slide. If you find it too soft you can refrigerate the frosting itself until more firm, and in turn if you over-chill it and it’s too firm, you can soften in the microwave in very short intervals (about 10 seconds). It’s very forgiving. Just be sure to “beat” any air pockets out of it with a rubber spatula in a back-and-forth motion against the sides of the bowl.

Good luck & enjoy!

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Retro Stars Mixer Giveaway! {Winner Announced}

And the winner of the Retro Stars KitchenAid 5QT Mixer is . . .

#1822 Jody: “I’d love to visit the late 40′s, after the war, when things were prosperous and the fashion and cars were amazing.”

Congratulations, Jody! You will also be notified by email.

I will be back soon with another sweet recipe to share!

. . .

 

KitchenAid Mixer Giveaway via Sweetapolita

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Hello, hello!

So today wasn’t going to be a mixer-giving-away-blog-post kind of day, but yesterday I googled “decals for stand mixers” (this is the type of random thought that hits me in the middle of doing something completely unrelated), and I came across this most awesome photo and Retro Stars decal design on Etsy. And while there are many mixer decal styles out there, this one speaks to me.

I think it’s my connection to the 1960s–a side effect which likely comes from watching countless Betwitched reruns with my 60s-born older sister while I was growing up. It’s not so much the “hippie life,” that appeals to me, but rather the strange fluffy pop culture of the era like, say, Valley of the Dolls and Nancy Sinatra (I’m not certain I should be necessarily be proud of this affinity). Well actually, it’s sort of a cross between the 1950s and the 1960s I’m drawn to–you know, baking a layer cake with an aqua Mixmaster in a pink kitchen listening to this and wearing this. I mean . . . come on.

And as for the 1960s, any era from which the Easy-Bake Oven came, is one I can wrap my heart around.

So in honour of my love for, well, all of that, I’m giving one very lucky reader a KitchenAid Artisan Stand Mixer (in Aqua Sky or any colour you’d prefer), along with these Retro Stars Decals! The decals take the mixer to a whole new level of cuteness (and can be removed at any time with no trace that they were ever there). So fun.

TO ENTER:

To enter this giveaway, simply answer the following question in the comments section of this post:

If you could live in any era, which one would you choose? Is your heart in the 1960s à la Mad Men and Bewitched? The Roaring 20s? Or perhaps you secretly wish you were living on Little House on the Prairie in the 1800s? I’d love to know!

  • For an extra entry, come over to Facebook and “like” Sweetapolita, and then come back here and leave a comment telling me you did so. That comment will count as your extra entry.
  • For an additional entry share the Sweetapolita Facebook Giveaway post on your own Facebook page, and then come back here and leave a comment telling me you did so. That comment will count as your extra entry.
  • For an additional entry, share this post on Twitter and include @sweetapolita, and then come back here and leave a comment telling me you did so. That comment will count as your extra entry.

THE RULES:

  • One entry per person, plus additional qualified bonus entries (mentioned above). Your comment may take a few moments to appear.
  • Winners will be announced Tuesday, October 8th, 2013.

Best of luck to you!

*This giveaway is sponsored by Sweetapolita & GoodMommyLLC.

I’ll see you very soon with another recipe!

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7 Beautifying Baking Ingredients

As some of you might know, I have a bit of a history with cake and beauty. I’ve always been a total girl’s girl–you know, hooked on dresses, lip gloss, fancy skin cream and the like. I’ve also always been obsessed with baked goods (what gave that away?). So, in light of wanting to make these two passions my career, by the time I was 26, I decided to marry my fascination for cake with my love for all things girly together in one sweet flurry–I created a collection of bath and body products made from high quality “baking” ingredients, blended and whipped together in the same way we would make sweet frostings or batters.

It took about a year researching ingredients and recipes, and of course serious concocting in the kitchen, but finally the initial line of “cakey” lotions, suds and scrubs was born. After a year of studying and working with of the best natural oils and butters on the market, I learned that we can achieve the most gloriously gorgeous skin using just a handful of these chemical-free, all-natural ingredients. And even though I left the company in the hands of my business partner several years later, my love for gorgeous skin and hair lives on–I continue to smother my skin in the very same ingredients we use to bake our beloved cakes and confections–they’re just too good and always in my pantry.

Besides, us baking junkies cannot live on baked goods alone, right? We all love our skin and hair to feel nourished, youthful and glowing (you know, for those days we actually leave the kitchen). So let’s talk beauty, baby:

*As with anything that you’re applying to your skin, you’ll want to do a little patch test, before using all over your face or body, particularly if you have sensitive skin.

HONEY

Aside from its divine taste and texture, honey is said to have countless health benefits and medicinal uses, a lot of which have to do with its anti-bacterial and antioxidant properties, among others. Honey seems to be a heal-all, including working as a treatment for cuts, wounds, sore throats, hangovers, energy-boosting and many more. But honey also boasts several beauty benefits. It is known for its soothing properties and for being a natural humectant (naturally attracts and retains moisture), so needless to say it’s a sweet addition to any beauty routine.

Here are some (of many) ways I like to use honey in my beauty routine:

  • Mixing a squeeze of honey with coconut oil or shea butter for a sweet-as-can-be body moisturizer.
  • Adding a few generous squeezes of honey (about 1/2 to 1 cup) to warm bath water for a luxurious bath (I have to admit, I do feel slightly Cleopatra-esque doing this, but I think we all need to feel that way whenever possible.) It feels incredibly silky and leaves the skin smooth as can be.
  • Squeezing a teaspoon of honey into your palm and mixing with my shampoo in shower for taming my rather processed, tangly, curly hair prior to conditioning.

You can learn more about the benefits of honey here.

7 Beautifying Baking Ingredients via Sweetapolita

SUGAR

So it’s true, sugar isn’t necessarily the most magical ingredient for the inside of our bodies–we know this. (Which is why we all keep our sugar intake to a minimum, right? Right. Ahem.) But, sugar is a fabulous beauty ingredient. It’s also helpful that it’s likely always in your cupboard, ready and waiting to beautify the baker (that’s you).

One of the main benefits of sugar (when used on the skin) is that it contains glycolic acid (Alpha hydroxy acid). Glycolic acid penetrates the skin easily, and is said to reduce wrinkles and remedy hyper-pigmentation (along with many other skin conditions). With its ability to “peel away” dead skin cells, it is a natural exfoliant, revealing the healthy, live cells beneath which gives our skin that vibrancy and glow we all yearn for. The sugar granules themselves are also an exfoliant and are a great way to bind other skin-saving oils (eg. olive oil) to create the ultimate natural skin product. (It’s also handy that sugar acts as a natural preservative, giving our homemade beauty products a longer shelf life.)

You can use any type of sugar in your beauty routine, but just note that the finer the sugar granule, the gentler the exfoliation. You can use it on its own, but I find it’s easier to combine with some olive oil, coconut oil or other beautifying base-oils, such as sweet almond oil or jojoba oil (these are found at health food shops or online).

From finest to most coarse, I use brown sugarcaster sugar (aka superfine sugar), granulated sugar, or raw sugar (aka turbinado sugar). You can, though, use any kind of sugar you may have or come across. Just remember that if you are using on your face, I would stick to brown sugar or caster sugar and apply in small, gentle circles before rinsing thoroughly. For your body, any of the sugars would work well–I use turbinado mixed with some lavender white sugar (and oils) for my body scrubs, and apply 3 times per week (the sugar dissolves down the shower drain). I don’t, however, recommend using a sugar scrub in the tub–the granules tend to sink to the bottom and can aggravate your, um, parts. Let us stick to the sink or shower for our exfoliating adventures.

EGGS

With their protein-richness and nutrients, it’s not a surprise that eggs can make a nourishing and natural beauty ingredient. Both egg whites and egg yolks can be used in at-home beauty care, both for nourishing facial and hair treatments. While I have to admit that I don’t feel particularly comfortable rubbing raw eggs on my face, but I have been known to smother my rather large, frequently coloured and potentially dry hair in whole eggs for a rich boost of moisture and shine.

There are many egg-based hair treatment recipes out there, but I like to keep it simple–break an egg (or in my land of big-hair, 2 eggs) into a bowl and whisk (scrambled eggs, anyone?). Get into the shower and work the mixture into dry hair from root to ends. Leave on for 10 minutes before rinsing with COOL water, not hot water, or you will end up with cooked eggy bits in your mane, and that’s never good. Once completely rinsed, shampoo and condition as usual.

7 Beautifying Baking Ingredients via Sweetapolita

COCONUT OIL

Let’s just call this the sweet-miracle ingredient. I keep a big jar of this stuff in my kitchen and bathroom at all times–it’s readily available at grocery stores, health food stores, online, etc. (try Trader Joe’s Organic Virgin Coconut Oil) and I use it often. At only about 50 cents per ounce (or less if you buy in bulk), it’s hard to find a reason not to. The actual health benefits of coconut oil are seemingly endless: When used in cooking and baking, it has been scientifically linked to such things as weight loss, increased energy and lower blood cholesterol levels, just to name a few.

If that’s not enough of a reason to start buying it by the truckload, let’s talk about how it can make us even more dazzling. Back in my body-lotion-making days, I couldn’t get enough of coconut oil in my formulas–it’s so rich and creamy and leaves the loveliest sheen to the skin. (And no chemicals. Imagine?) You can use coconut oil straight out of the jar as a nourishing and effective makeup removerbody moisturizer (it’s a bit greasy for a face moisturizer though), massage oil, deep hair treatmenthair-styling cream to ease frizz and add sheen, lip balm and more.

Here are just a few of the ways I love to use coconut oil in my beauty routine:

  • Placing a small amount of the oil on a cotton round to remove my eye makeup. I love how easily it takes off even the blackest of mascaras, and moisturizes that sensitive eye area all the while (just don’t get it in your eyes).
  • Adding a scoop to homemade brown sugar body scrub (see below) used every few days in the shower. The coconut oil adds extra richness and leaves a gorgeous sheen (soap, albeit very necessary, is super-drying, so this is a fabulous skin-quench to apply after you use shower suds of any kind).
  • Using directly out of the jar post-shower as a full body moisturizer, rubbing it into nails as well for a cuticle treatment and nourishment (you can also try adding a bit of honey and rubbing together before massaging into skin–sweet decadence!).
  • Using as a once-per-week deep hair treatment by massaging into hair (starting a few inches below roots working through to ends), leaving on for 10 minutes and then applying shampoo, washing and rinsing in the shower (don’t rinse before adding shampoo, or it will remain greasy for days).
  • Applying to lips as a decadent lip balm, nails as a nail and cuticle balm and feet as a foot cream. (I also love using it on my dry hands, but because it does have a light greasiness to it, so you just want to be sure to really work it in.)

Learn more about the health benefits of coconut oil here (there are plenty!).

OLIVE OIL

With large amounts of vitamin A, D, and, as well as vitamin E (a powerful antioxidant–antioxidants kill free radicals which cause our skin to show the signs of aging), olive oil is another miracle oil of sorts–its uses and benefits are seemingly endless, for both health and beauty. Back in the very beginning of my natural-beauty-product-making days, while researching all of the various oils and their properties, I remember being shocked to discover all of the amazing beauty benefits of olive oil–an oil I thought was just for cooking. I immediately started using it as a moisturizer and nail oil for weeks before working it into some of the product “recipes.” I noticed a remarkable transformation in the softness, sheen and texture of my skin. Just remember that olive oil imparts a subtle and distinct “olive oil” scent.

Here are some ways in which you use can olive oil in your beauty routine:

  • Using an olive-oil based sugar scrub in the shower (you can also include the coconut oil mentioned above, among other ingredients in this list.) for a decadent and nourishing skin treatment.
  • Applying all over body for a skin-sheen and hit of moisture.
  • Applying a few drops to a cotton round to removing makeup (and as with commercial makeup remover, you just don’t want to get it in your eyes).
  • Working into hands, feet, heels and elbows (or any other dry patches or areas of skin) for and instant treatment, either on its own or mixed with honey.
  • Filling a small dish with olive oil and soaking nails for a few moments to soften cuticles for a mini at-home manicure (soak for a few minutes and then gently push the cuticles down prior to painting your nails).
  • Adding a few tablespoons of olive oil to warm bath water for moisture and lighter layer of sheen.

Learn more about the many health benefits of olive oil here.

COCOA BUTTER

Dessert for your skin!

Okay, so you may not already have this in your pantry, unless you’re making your own chocolate, but this makes for not only an amazing baking ingredient (try it–it’s awesome), but incredible asset to your natural beauty ingredient arsenal (you can buy it at health food stores or online, such as on amazon: Cocoa Butter). Cocoa butter is high in antioxidants and is extremely nourishing. Much like chocolate, the cocoa butter itself is solid at room temperature but begins to soften and melt with the warmth of your hands, so it makes an ideal massage bar and body butter–it’s creamy, rich, nourishing and velvety. It also has the most delightful-but-subtle chocolaty confection scent to it, naturally–pure decadence for your skin, lips and nails.

My aunt and uncle used to work in a chocolate factory, and I remember when I was a teen, they would bring me home huge chunks of cocoa butter. I loved using it as a body butter then, and I love it now. (However, if I was writing this blog then, I may have to told you that to achieve the ultimate goddess-like tan, you should smother yourself in it and lay on a scorching black roof with your best friend whilst listening to Guns ‘N Roses. That would have been very, very bad advice.)

But, I can tell you that cocoa butter does have some amazing uses for natural beauty and care . . .

Here are some of the ways you can use cocoa butter in your beauty routine:

  • Use a chunk of raw cocoa butter as a massage bar, which in turn becomes an rich and nourishing moisturizer.
  • Apply to lips as a decadent (and yummy-smelling) lip balm.
  • Rub into nails for an effective nail treatment and natural shine.
  • Melt 1 part cocoa butter and 1 part coconut oil over a double boiler until melted, remove from heat and add a squeeze of honey and stir until combined. pour into a glass jar and let cool. Use on dry skin or all over body for a sweet and decadent body butter.

BAKING SODA

So it does seem a little strange to be using the same thing for our beautiful-ness as we do to deodorize our refrigerators and bake our cakes with, but it seems there are countless ways to tie this everyday ingredient into our skin and hair care routines (you’ll just want to keep the box of baking soda in the fridge, in the fridge). And since you likely always have baking soda on hand, it just might be time to give it a few other cheap and cheerful purposes. Think purifying and clean. Super clean.

Here are some nifty ways you can work this clarifying ingredient into your beauty routine:

  • For a quick and super-affordable dry shampoo, use a clean, medium-sized make up brush dipped in baking soda (with excess tapped off) and blot along your oily roots. Leave on for about a minute and then shake hair with your hands to distribute and rid of any excess. The baking soda will absorb all of the grease and leave your hair feeling ready for (yet) another day.
  • Create an effective, natural face cleanser by mixing 3 parts baking soda to 1 part water, and apply to damp skin in a gentle, circular motion. Rinse well with lukewarm water and pat dry. This is gentle enough to use several days per week, particularly in the summer when our skin generates more oil.
  • Sprinkle some baking soda onto the regular amount of toothpaste on your brush, and brush your teeth as usual for a homemade tooth whitener.

So there we have it! There are so many more, but these are the ingredients I use the most in my beauty routine. And if you’re not the type of person who feels comfortable smothering and slathering kitchen cupboard ingredients on themselves, try looking for beauty products that contain one or some of these ingredients–I bet you’ll notice a difference.

And if you’re eager to get buffing, here’s the 5-minute brown sugar body scrub I make and use 3 times per week for a gorgeous, super-healthy glow:

Decadent Brown Sugar Body Scrub

Ingredients

  • 2 cups turbinado (raw) sugar (or 1 1/2 cups turbinado plus 1/2 cup lavender sugar, if you have it)
  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil
  • 1 tablespoon honey

Instructions

  1. In a wide-mouthed glass jar, add all of the ingredients and stir to combine. Keep lid on jar between uses.
  2. Apply to body in a circular motion and rinse. Use up to three times per week.

Notes

In a pinch, you can use straight turbinado sugar and olive oil--it will still be a decadent exfoliation and nourishing treatment for your skin!

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Do you have other ways in which you incorporate baking ingredients into your beauty routine? I’d love to hear about them!

See you soon with a baked good recipe!

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Tuttiest Fruitiest Rocky Road Bars

Tuttiest Fruitiest Rocky Road Bars via Sweetapolita

Hello!

Guys, it’s been awhile since my last post, but I promise you I’m really not asleep over here. And it won’t be like this forever! Pinkie swear. Just a few more months of the crazy book recipe testing schedule, and then there will be a shift. (You might even get too much of me and my blog posts at that point, because I’ve adapted to very long hours of baking and writing, and now I can’t imagine it any other way.) Thank you so much for understanding and not forgetting about me. ♥

So this unusual recipe I made this week has been one pinned to my Pinterest board via Bistro Gerard for months–I forgot about it, but when I saw it there again the other day, I had to make it. For such a simple, no-bake treat, it’s a complete delight. With white chocolate, marshmallows, fruity jelly candy and dried cranberries, it’s definitely on the seriously sweet side of the rocky road, but the macadamia nuts and pistachios add the most addictive crunch (and salt) factor. Although it has a holiday appeal, it seems like an any-time-of-the-year confection to me. (However, if my annual July-birthday-pumpkin-pie-request is any indication, you may not be able to trust me–I’m a little backwards when it comes to seasonal desserts.)

I made only minor changes to the recipe, which was really just about the quantity of each ingredient. It’s one of those recipes, though, that you could really add anything and everything that appeals to you. I could see coconut, almonds and pretty much any dried fruit or nut, making a really summery version. The jelly fruit slices aren’t something I would ever eat on their own (they’re lovely, I just save those calories for bigger desserts), but it made me happy slicing these up for a recipe. They definitely add to the almost Willy Wonka-ness that I feel when I look at these bars. Like something you would eat in a magical land of confection.

I found that by using a good quality white chocolate, it really gives these a rich decadence that a lesser quality white chocolate might not give (think waxy versus creamy). It does take a pound of white chocolate, and along with the pistachios and macadamia nuts, it’s not the most inexpensive treat you can make, but they are special and unique. And I can’t get over how quick, easy and rewarding it is to make rocky road recipes! A welcomed change from the ever-baking-cake-junkie. And it’s always awesome when my little cakelets can help out with a recipe. They loved removing the shells from the pistachios, weighing out the ingredients, choosing the colours of the jelly candies, and helping to stir the concoction once everything was added to the bowl. I think it still mystifies them when we make a dessert that transforms into something wonderful by simply placing it in the fridge. As though we missed a very important bake-it-in-the-magic-oven step.

So now that I’m rapidly gaining what I’ve affectionately called “book-baby weight,” I’m sitting here staring at these, trying to figure out how many *not* to eat. Help!

Tuttiest Fruitiest Rocky Road Bars

Yield: 12 medium-sized bars

Colorful and decadent white chocolate rocky road bars filled with fruity marshmallows, fruity jelly candy, macadamia nuts, dried cranberries and pistachios.

Ingredients

  • 454 grams best-quality white chocolate, chopped (I used Callebaut White Callets )
  • 3 cups (150 g) mini coloured marshmallows
  • 150 g jelly fruit candy (about 10 jelly fruit slices), cut into small pieces
  • 1/2 cup (70 g) macadamia nuts, roughly chopped
  • Scant 1/2 cup (50 g) dried cranberries
  • 1/2 cup (50 g) shelled pistachios, roasted

Instructions

  1. Spray an 8 x 8 square pan with cooking spray, and then line with parchment paper, leaving a few inches overhang on two sides.
  2. In a large bowl, gently toss the 2-1/2 cups of the marshmallows, fruit candy pieces, macadamia nuts, cranberries and pistachios.
  3. In a heatproof bowl, melt the white chocolate in the microwave, in 30-second increments, or over a pot of barely simmering water on the stovetop. Pour the melted chocolate over the marshmallow mixture and mix until everything is coated in chocolate. Pour into the prepared pan and spread evenly using a small offset spatula. Place the remaining marshmallows randomly on top of the bars, pressing each one down gently to secure.
  4. Chill for at least one hour. Remove from pan by lifting excess parchment paper, and place onto a cutting board. Cut into 12 rectangles. Store in an airtight container in refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

Notes

Slightly adapted from Bistro Gerard

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Sweetapolita’s Notes:

  • Since white chocolate is the “glue” keeping all of this colourful awesomeness together, try to use the best white chocolate you can find. It will give the bars a noticeable decadence and creaminess. I used Callebeaut White Chocolate Callets (I also love that it’s in callet/chip form–so easy to melt).
  • You can use any fruit-flavoured jelly candy you like. I used Pizazz Fruit Jelly Slices (found at Bulk Barn, for my fellow Canadian friends)–they’re just so pretty! They’re very similar to these Fruit Slices, made in the USA.
  • I used an 8 x 8″ cake pan, but of course you can use any size you have. The larger the pan, the thinner the bars will be; the smaller the pan, the thicker the bars will be (you get the idea).
  • If you can’t find certain ingredients or want to use what you have on hand, I could safely bet that any nut and dried fruit combination would work beautifully in this recipe. Have fun and experiment!

Good luck & enjoy!

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