Shelter Staff Appreciation Week

14 Nov

Last week was all about appreciating those who give time for others. Across the world we remembered our Veterans on Friday. Last week was also National Shelter Staff Apperication Week (Nov 6th – 12th). I have been volunteering for my local Animal Shelter for nearly 18 months now, and have been lucky enough to see first hand the amazing work that the staff at the Irvine Animal Care Center do for the community and all those pets looking for their new forever home.

Both of my kitties have been rescues, one in fact from the Irvine Animal Care Center, and both have been the most loving, cutest pets I could possibly have, and I know this has alot to do with the care and love these animals receive at Shelter organisations. So this week, a group of us volunteers decided to get together and provide some treats for all the staff to show our appreciation. Everyday, one or two volunteers would bring in treats of many varieties.

Aren't they just too cute!?!

So my contribution, of course, Cupcakes!

These started as simple Vanilla and Chocolate Cupcakes.

As I knew I would be making the puppy, kitten and rabbit faces for the tops, I didn’t want to go to over the top with Frosting, so I simply topped them with a Vanilla or Chocolate Fudge frosting.

The idea for the animal faces came from finding a very cute candy mould in Micheals. These were originally made for Candy lolly Pop’s – but perfect are they as CupCake toppers!


So early Saturday morning, I made my delivery down to the IACC, before alot of the staff were at the Shelter, or were out working with the animals. When they came back to the office this is what they would find:

From the feedback I got, the cupcakes, along with all off the treats brought in throughout the week went down really well. Sometimes the staff at animal shelters get over looked for all the hard work they do, especially here at the Irvine Animal Care Center, providing a loving temporary home for these homeless pets whilst they wait for their forever homes. If you are in Irvine over the Holiday Period, you should go and visit the Center for their annual ‘Home for the Holidays‘ Event on Dec 3rd!

So if you happen to be visiting a local Shelter (of any kind, not just animal!), but sure to say Thank you to the staff and volunteers there for all the time they give. If your thinking of a pet for you or your family, please think about Adoption first – there are so many loving pets in shelters and rescues all over the country, just looking to be your new furry best friend.

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Remembering Veterans Day

11 Nov

When life gets crazy, its often easy to forget the small things.  While we should alway remember those that fight for our freedoms, today we should pay special attention.

In the UK, this is the time of year where you rarely see a person walking around without a poppy.  Sadly this year I do not have one, so I am posting mine here – to show my support!

I also wanted to post this, as such a beautiful moment for remembering those who did not make it back. It may be from a comedy, but I just think its a beautiful scene to remember our soldiers.

Thank you to all our Veterans around the world

#FF Follow Friday – [Desi]gn Cakes & Cupcakes

4 Nov

Happy Friday all! The weather here in Orange County is miserable today, a sign that Winter has offically set in.

So my #FF Follow Friday this week is a little piece of sunshine in Orange County, Miss Desi from [Desi]gn Cakes & Cupcakes.

Many of you may have seen [Desi]gn Cakes & Cupcakes on Cupcake Wars, or at this years Cupcake Camp OC, where I was lucky enough to spend some time with her and try some of her amazing Cupcakes. You can read my Cupcake Camp OC recap here

Desi and here Cupcake Nerd Fan! 🙂

Abit of bio from the [desi]gn Cake & cupcake website itself:

We are an award-winning online cupcakery, featuring an array of unique and traditional cupcakes. All of our cupcakes feature flavors from our traditional Italian heritage, and we bring a little piece of Italian love to each treat we create. We use fresh fruits in our batters, sweet cream butter, and create all of our cupcakes from scratch. We create your treats to order, so you can savor in the most delicious cupcake.”

And after trying some of Desi’s cupcakes, I can confirm she is definetly worthy of all 7 times she has won awards!

This week is also a special week for them, as it is their First Birthday!! On Monday November 7th, [Desi]gn Cakes & Cupcakes will be celebrating this great occasion with cupcakes of course, and an birthday event! Details of the event can be found here – maybe I’ll see some of you there!

So if you live in OC, and are a cupcake fan like I am, I would recommend you try [Desi]gn Cakes & Cupcakes! You can also follow Desi on Facebook and Twitter for more information on her new flavours, creations and events!

For Pricing, flavours and General information on [Desi]gn Cakes & Cupcakes, you can also visit their website at designcakesandcupcakes.wordpress.com

Help Our Teachers, Help Our Kids #SmartFinalSupportsSoCalSchool

3 Nov

#SmartFinalSupportsSoCalSchool

When I was first asked about being involved in helping promote the Smart & Final campaign for the California Milk Advisory Board “Help Our Teachers, Help Our Kids”, I thought “Am I the right person for this?” I mean, I don’t have kids, so I haven’t been very involved in the ‘schooling’ community in my local area.

However I am a very big believer in making school the best experience it can be for all kids. I loved school when I was younger, and was very lucky to have great teachers and surroundings to help make it a great experience. Also, as a baker, I use Dairy products everyday, so how could helping the local school community be a bad thing!

Smart & Final are taking part in the amazing campaign from the California Milk Advisory Board “Help Our Teachers, Help Our Kids“, with all of its participating First Street products. All Students and families need to do is simply collect Real California milk seals from select First Street products, as seen on these participating products:

Students then give these to their teachers, and then teachers submit seals. Each seal counts as one sweepstakes entry. Teachers who submit 100 seals get 25 Scholastic books or $25 school supply gift card. Each teacher entrant gets one Scholastic book.

The California Milk Advisory Board is going to announce winners in February, BUT Smart & Final is so awesome that they’re doing a separate sweepstakes!

Entrants who go to FirstStreetSupportsSoCalSchools.com and tell why their SoCal school should win will be entered to win $500, $300 or $200 to be donate to the school of their choice EVERY MONTH! So that means that there will be a total of NINE winners, 3 per month, from those that enter at the site! Now I think that’s good odds!

SO utilizing some of the great products as part of this amazing campaign, and with Thanks giving on the way, I wanted to share with you one of my favourite recipes for this time of year. As a Brit who only arrived in the US last year, 2010 was the first all American Thanksgiving we celebrated. My first introduction was through the tradition ‘Pot-Luck’ Lunch at my office. I decided to stick to something safe, as I had no idea what was ‘traditional’ – and deserts have always been my thing.

I’m going to be honest as well here, and please don’t hate me for this people, but I really dislike Pumpkin. Fall is filled with Pumpkin flavoured everything, and I just can’t stand it. So with this in mind, I chose other classic fall flavours, like caramel, apple and cinnamon.

Caramel Apple Cupcakes

Recipe adapted from Food Network & Cupcakes by Shelly Kaldunski

For cupcakes

1-1/4 cups flour
1-1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup sugar
6 tbsp unsalted butter
2 large eggs (one whole egg, and one you will just need the egg white)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup milk

For caramel apple filling

4 apples
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
1/8 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons heavy cream
2 tablespoons butter

To make cupcake

  • Preheat oven to 350F, and line cupcake pan with paper liners.

  • Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt in a large bowl and set aside for the time being.

  • Beat together the sugar and butter until combined smoothly. Once smooth, add in the egg and 1 egg white and vanilla, and beat on a low speed for 2-3 minutes.

  • Add the flour mixture and milk in alternately. I spilt the flour mix into 3 portions, and the milk into two, making sure to end on the flour mixture. Then mix until the batter is smooth.

  • Fill cupcake liners, to about 2/3rds full and bake for about 20-22 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Cool completely on a wire cooling rack whilst to make your filling.

To make filling

  • Peel your apples and slice them up into small chucks, about the size of a small nut. To stop your apples going brown during this time, add a small amount of lemon juice over them.

  • Combine together all of the dry ingredients, then combine these with your apple chunks in a large bowl, making sure to evenly coat all your pieces.

  • Add the vanilla and heavy cream to the coated apple pieces.

  • Using a pan over low heat, melt your 2 tablespoons of butter. Cook the apple mixture in the skillet for about 10mins, to allow the apples to soften, but not too mushy.

The final touches to fill your cupcakes:

To remove the center of your cupcake, you can use multiple methods. I used a great little tool from Bed Bath and Beyond, a Cupcake Plunger. This a great little tool to remove even patches of cake from the center. Don’t have one of these? You can simply use a small cookie cutter, or using a sharp knife, cutting a small circle. Note: You only want to insert to go down about 2/3rds of the way through the cupcake, allowing the cupcake to look like a pie crust.

Then fill each cupcake with approx. 1 tsp of your caramel apple filling.

If you happen to be serving these out the same day that you make them, I strongly suggest adding s scoop of Dulce de Leche Ice Cream (which is included as part of the California Milk Advisory Board campaign –yay!) to enhance the caramel taste. However these little treats work great on their own, or topped with alittle whipped cream.

Show your support and find out more about Smart &Finals amazing program by following them on Facebook and on Twitter !

NB: This project has been compensated as part of a social shopper insights study for #collectivebias#CBias , however all opinions expressed and recipes developed are my own. Follow Collective Bias on Twitter (@CollectiveBias).

Happy Halloween

31 Oct

Happy Halloween Everyone!

Last week the company the hubby works for had there annual Trick or Treat event. Alot of companies these days allow staff to dress up for the Holiday, and some even have contests, but this is slightly different. All those with children are able to bring them into the office, dressed up for the Holiday, and they can visit their colleagues offices for Trick or Treating! Some of the costumes are just too cute!

So as a treat for the kids, and those in the office participating, I send in a little treat of my own. Halloween Cupcakes!

Apologies for the bad lighting, these were taken very late at night!

To deal with allergies, I decided to make these Gluten Free. I have been looking for good gluten free recipes, and so far this one seems to have been the best. I’m still holding out on finding the perfect recipe, so when I do, I will share! Upon request, I made Red Velvet Cupcakes. They had originally started as Orange Velvet, to fit in with the theme, however, the coloring wasn’t as bright as I had hoped.

I went for three different styles, the first being Oreo Spiders.

These are made from simply covering the cupcake in Orange ButterCream (I’ve previously posted my favourite Butter-Cream Recipe here). Then a single Oreo Cookie is then tilted on the top of the cupcake, and I used melted chocolate to draw on the legs and eyes.

Marshmallow Pumpkins

To make these rounded out Pumpkins, I used a circular candy mould to mould Orange Fondant into a half ball shape. I left these for afew hours to harden before drawing the Jack-O-Lantern faces on. As these were hollowed out shapes, I needed top find something yummy to fill them with. Afew weeks ago I brought some Marshmallow puff – and till this week, had never had a project to use it it. Until now! The only downside – after alittle while, the marshmallow started to leak out of the Jack-O-Lantern.

And Finally – Fondant Mummies,

These started off being the most complicated design, however turned out to be the most fun to make. I covered the cupcakes in white Butter-Cream, and cut small strips of White Fondant. Before applying any, I added a small section of black Butter-Cream, and added two small sprinkles for eyes.

Happy Halloween one and All! Have a great night if you are not to partied out – and enjoy the candy!

Halloween ‘Martha’ Style

30 Oct

This week has been a long one, work has been crazy and, like everyone else it seems, I have been battling with being sick. Now I am back, on the mend and ready for the sweet delights of Halloween!

This Saturday I visited my local Sur La Table to take part in a cooking class. Afew weeks ago, a friend asked me what class I would recommend them taking as beginner, and I had to admit I didnt know anything about them. This resulted in some research, and to my delight, a local branch of the store offering a wide variety of classes. All of a sudden, one name appeared on the course list and I was sold. The name, of course, was of Miss Martha Stewart.

The class took place in a fully-stocked student kitchen in the back of a branch of Sur la Table. The class was full to capacity, with a total of 21 students all under the careful guidance of Chef Lauren. The Theme;

Halloween Treats from Martha Stewart Living.


The menu consisted of;

Crispy Chocolate-Marshmallow Treats,
Halloween Whoopie Pies,
Pumpkin Chocolate-Spiderweb Tart, and
Almond Brownie Coffin Cake
.

I loved the way this class worked with so many of us present. The class was divided into 4 stations and groups, all whom made a half version of the printed recipes. Along with Chef Lauren, were 3 assistants who filtered through the groups making sure everyone had the right ingredients and tools, and helped when Chef Lauren was with another group.

Amongst the class was a young girl who had been coming along to multiple classes to learn all she could as she was an aspiring chef.  I was amazed at the culinary knowledge of this 10 year old, and loved the passion she had for the trade.  I wish I had know back at that age that I loved cooking as much as I do! She was a true inspiration to the rest of our group.

The treats we made were delicious! The Rice Krispie Treats reminded me of childhood treats, and the chocolate was a fantastic twist. This was the first time I had ever made or even tasted Whoopie Pies, and the first time didn’t disappoint. My overall favourite however was easily the Almond-Brownie Cake. This is easily the best brownie recipe I have tried in a long time and I cant wait to try it out for myself.


All of the recipes from this class are available in the Martha Stewart Halloween issue on newstands now. You can also find a listing of your local Sur La Table Cooking classes here.

#FF Follow Friday – The Cupcake Blog

21 Oct

Good Morning Everyone!

I hope you are all well this Friday! I’m super excited its almost the weekend, I have a fun filled weekend planned.

This weeks Follow Friday is a great showcase of all things Cupcake….The Cupcake Blog.

This site is updated daily will some of the best cupcakes around each day. I have found many a great recipe and idea from this site, and have been lucky enough to have been featured on the site earlier this year when I was starting out in the Baking World.

So head over to The CupCake Blog, or follow them on Facebook or Twitter!