Swiss Meringue Buttercream

With a month to spare, I have finally completed #3 on my 31 before 32 and made the last of the 12 recipes from my Sweet & Vicious cookbook! There are so many great recipes I still can’t wait to try out, but I am happy to have the ones I “had” to do behind me. Since I’d done a few of the main recipes and a couple of the extracts, I wanted to try something from the back of the book. The frosting area seemed as good as any so I decided to tackle Swiss Meringue Buttercream.

So light and wonderfully fluffy! It made for some very pretty cupcakes.


I took some pictures of the process, just so you’d have an idea of how things were going to look as you went along. I find that sort of thing helpful whenever I’m trying out a new recipe.
The egg white/sugar mixture when I put it on ⇑ and took it off ⇓ the double boiler. 
How the meringue looked when it was ready for the butter. 

Notes:

  • I think the thing I liked best about this was the sweetness. I like sugar as much as the next pudgy American, but I hate frosting that is sickly sweet. Standard buttercream is easy to make, but usually it’s a bit much and has ruined many a cupcake for me. It’s really nice to have this in my back pocket for future baking.
  • This recipe also pipes like a dream; I had wonderful frilly frosted cupcakes with minimal piping bag manipulation, and it held its shape and didn’t dry out overnight.

Duck Donuts

On our recent trip to North Carolina, Andy and I discovered a wonderful new place to procure donuts when visiting his parents. Well…”discovered” might not be accurate, we actually learned about the chain from my brother in law; he and his wife had first encountered the chain when they were visiting the Outer Banks, and while we were all trying to find somewhere to go to dinner, he realized there were not one but two locations with in easy driving distance from our hotel. Donuts and adorable water fowl? I was definitely game for a trip.


I will admit I was a tiny bit trepidatious when we walked into this little shop. I know donuts are sugary and insipid, but this place was so damn pink and cheery. I’ve become a bit of a snob in my ripe old age, and I like my bakeries/restaurants a little more “small town local” and just this side of hipster-y. But we were already there and I was so tired at this point, so I figured “why the hell not”.
To give the place a fair shake, we ordered two of their pre-designed donuts (cinnamon sugar and blueberry pancake) and did two build your own (lemon blackberry & chocolate peanut butter). At this point, I got a little…well…pissy watching the two highschoolers haphazardly dumping toppings on our order and slapping our box together willy-nilly (I sound like such a grumpy old lady!), so by the time we got our order, I wasn’t even interested in trying the donuts and I put them in the back of our car so we could enjoy them as a road snack later… aka when I was in a better mood.
After all that, I’ll be damned if those donuts weren’t pretty freakin’ awesome. 5 out of 5 stars, would go again, highly recommend. We both liked the blueberry pancake the best, closely followed by the lemon blackberry. I am actually sad that this place is a 10 hour drive away. Oh well, holidays in the NC just got that much better. 

The take away from this: I’m a mean old grumpy pants when I’m sleep deprived and under the weather, and I should always trust my brother in law when it comes to awesome places to eat.


Chocolate Peanut Butter Slow Cooker Cake

I did a thing. I found this recipe video online, and it seemed too easy to be real. I mean slow cooker baking? This sounds like a crazy Pinterest thing that you pin, but never ever make. Which it was until we had a really shitty week at the office and I knew we needed to do something to boost morale. Cake makes people happy, I’m too tired to make it at home, and it could get a blog post out of it, so… here we are.


The moment when I realized that I should have brought a whisk from home. Salad tongs and spaghetti scoops for days, but not a single whisk or whisk like object to be found. So I kicked it old school and used a fork. 
Ingredients blended and set to bake. Fortunately, my office is near the break room because even though the video said to leave for 4 hours, things started smelling a little singed around 2.5 hours in.Slight burning on the edge, but it was easily trimmed off and the other 90% of the cake was saved. This was about the time people started poking their heads into the kitchen to see what I was doing and how much longer they had to wait for their cake. 
Some frosting magic and TADA! 
Oddly shaped, but sure enough this crazy thing actually came out looking more or less like a cake and even more surprisingly tasted like a pretty decent cake. 

I had two coworkers ask me to write down the recipe so they could go home and make it for their families.

Ingredients:

Cake

  • 1 box Betty Crocker Moist Yellow Cake Mix
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • 1/3 cup of butter
  • chocolate syrup

Frosting

  • 3 tbsp peanut butter
  • 3 tbsp milk
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • Reese’s cups

Directions:

  1. Grease inside of the slow cooker.
  2. Combine the first five cake ingredients and mix thoroughly. Take out 2/3 cup of mix and then add a generous squirt of chocolate syrup and mix together. Swirl together batter in slow cooker.
  3. Bake on high for 2-4 hours. The video said four and mine was a bit singed after two and a half so just keep an eye on it the first time you make it.
  4. Combine the first three frosting ingredients and whisk together with a fork until smooth.
  5. Top the cake with frosting, extra chocolate syrup and chopped Reese’s cups.

Notes:

  • Holy shit, guys, this works! It works! It works! It works! And you know what? It’s pretty good! It was all gone less than three hours after we frosted it. I will so make it again, and you bet your ass I will be baking more in my slow cooker.

My Go To’s: Morning Routine

I’ve reviewed a lot of products on this blog; I’ve tried even more over the years. I am a serial dabbler; if there is something new and shiny, I want to try it. In the last two years though, I’ve really started to see the wisdom in having a core of go-to items for my daily routine. One – it allows me to streamline my morning routine, and two – it takes a little of the stress out of my morning routine, and BONUS – with my go-to’s I have the space/time to add something new without it throwing everything off.  So here we go, a few of the items that I use every single day.


Urban Decay Vice Lipstick – when Urban Decay debuted the Vice line I was one of those girls who showed up at ULTA the day it come out. Okay, I actually did both Sephora and ULTA, but you guys get the point, I was excited. I used a coupon and bought three different colors, all sheers, but I’ve branched out since then. Now the “metallics” are my standby and I always carry “Conspiracy” and “Amulet” in my purse. When I start to get to the end of the tube, I throw it in my desk drawer at the office or in my travel kit so I have backups strategically located.

Weleda Citrus Hydration Body Lotion –  Andy is hyper allergic to EVERYTHING. I have had to change every single personal product I’ve ever used. This is the one lotion I have found that works for my skin and doesn’t make my husband break out if I touch him after I’ve put it on. Smells great, works great, doesn’t kill my husband. What isn’t to love?

Crystal Essence Mineral Deodorant – I do, I do wear magic hippy deodorant guys. I tried it on a whim and it worked and I really liked it. I’ve tried a few of the different options, but the Pomegranate scent is the one I always go back to.

Naked Skin Finishing Powder – For the longest time I was a Benefit girl all the way, but I picked this up on super sale and I’ve never looked back. For me, I use this because it sets my make up and lightly conceals. Also, there is rarely a day where one doesn’t find herself a little dewy and this helps keep the shine down. 

Clump Crusher Mascara – I think getting caught up in labels can be a bit ridiculous when it comes to your personal routine. Investing in quality is fine, but it really all comes down to what works best for you. I’ve tried many many types/brands, and this is what works for me and my lashes. Good coverage, no smudges, and most importantly – no icky clumps.

Kat Von D Tattoo Liner – the last one is a recent addition to my arsenal. I loved the original black, but being so pale, it can be a bit harsh. The Mad Max Brown wasn’t an option until later and by then I already had a liner I loved. However, I got a gift card for Christmas and I decided to give it a shot. LOVE. It became first string the first day I used it.

What are your go-to must haves?


Julie’s 1st Trip to IKEA

This weekend was pretty big for me; for the first time ever, I went to IKEA. I’ll give you a minute to take that end. IKEA. Before Sunday, the closest I’d been to the iconic store was the song by Jonathan Coulton. I was excited but a little apprehensive, since I’ve had people tell me before how overwhelming the store can be and also how you can get lost if you’re not careful. However, my adventure was being coordinated by two IKEA veterans, and they were bound and determined that I was going to get the most out of my inaugural trip.


That’s right; we IKEA selfied, and you know what? We weren’t the only ones.  If you’ve never been before, IKEA is broken down into 3 main sections: The Staging Area, The Marketplace & The Warehouse. There is also a cafe AND a cafeteria (where they serve their famous meatballs), but they were packed with people and therefore off the agenda for this particular trip. We started in the staging area with notepads and tiny golf pencils in hand to make our lists of what we wanted to pick up from the marketplace and warehouse afterwards. That quickly turned into us taking pictures of the tags/items with our phones, but hey, we got it done. 
Three show rooms in, my head was already spinning from so many great things for really great prices! I wanted all of it, and I was quickly beginning to realize that I was going to have to be strategic about my purchases or I’d spend way more than I had budgeted. 
Mostly I was looking for storage containers and quirky kitchen items, but honestly, I saw some larger pieces that I’d like to incorporate into our home. I am already planning a return trip with the husband since I like to let him weigh in on things like that. I was also absolutely sure he’d love the “exploding” lamp below. Not really my thing, but he had fun looking at the pictures none the less. 
I did have one minor issue on this trip. The wood based bell jars below were the one thing I HAD to have, and although they were in several of the staged spaces, I couldn’t find them in the marketplace. Finally, I tracked down an employee, and he told me that they hadn’t had a chance to restock them. Which I get, but when I asked if I could purchase one of the staged sets (since I’d seen about a dozen), he informed me that I just have to come back or use the website. A minor annoyance and, I think, a dumb policy, but I’ll get my hands on them eventually. 
LOVED these floating tea balls, so much so that I purchased two sets so I could share with my tea loving friends.   Someday, I will own this tub, it was huge and I will soak in it every single night when the stars aline to make it mine. 

So much fun, and I left with so many ideas. Andy and I are going to try to head back in the next few weeks to implement some of the short term fixes I found for our home and to make a longer list of items that we want to start purchasing and integrating as our financial situation permits. Also, so I can check out the cafeteria 😉