the tahoe macarons

It was recently brought to my attention that I hadn’t posted on this site in over a year. Well, that’s not good. To be honest, I have no excuse, but I will throw some out there. I haven’t really made anything different or post-worthy in a long time. I also had a crappy camera for a while (I was stuck with my old iPhone 3 – and yep, not even 3G) and the few things that may have been somewhat decent, I didn’t have good pictures of anyway.

But now I have a OnePlus (love this phone, by the way) and laziness should no longer be an excuse. Right? Right!

A couple of months ago, my boss ordered 50 french macarons for her family trip to Lake Tahoe. Well, that was one helluva weekend of baking. And waiting. And mixing. And waiting. I decided on 3 flavors, 2 of which needed to be kid friendly. Chocolate is always a favorite. The kids also love watermelon. That was easy because I decided to make those pink and blue. So the third one? I wanted to do something different, something that this group hadn’t tried before. So I went with a traditional Filipino flavor, buko pandan. That makes green!

Basically, buko is young coconut and pandan is a type of leaf with a distinct aroma. They make quite the perfect pairing and can be found as a flavor in many Filipino desserts from sticky rice to ice cream.

japsierons macarons
japsierons macarons

the cookie monster cake

One thing that my inaanak (Goddaughter) and I have in common is our weakness for cookies. I love me a delicious cookie, especially the freshly baked kind. And so does she.

So for her birthday this year, I decided that I would surprise her with, of course, a cookie monster cake. ‘Cuz let’s face it: that’s exactly what we both are.

I baked two 8″ round cakes. I was initially going to do a chocolate mud cake, but at the last minute, I opted for red velvet for two reasons: 1) It’s her favorite cake flavor; and 2) It would be red when you cut into cookie monster. Ok, so I guess that’s a little gross, but the crazy in me finds it funny at the same time. Anyway, stacked the two round cakes with nutella buttercream (again, her favorite) and cut out a small section out of the top layer. I would describe this section as a secant from the top of the top layer between 90-120 degrees and sliced at an angle approximately 45 degrees from the top plane towards the bottom plane. Please excuse the crudeness of my drawing, but hopefully this helps:

cake cutting guide

Then comes the fun part! I dyed some buttercream frosting black and drew a semicircle on the angled edge that you just cut, using the diameter part of the circle parallel and close to the slice at the top of the top layer of the cake. Then, I dyed some more of the buttercream frosting blue and used the Wilton tip #233 to make the fur. For this to come out nicely, I started at the bottom of the cake and worked my way to the top. You place the tip on the edge of the cake and as you squeeze the bag, pull away from the cake perpendicularly. Stop squeezing when you reach the desired fur length and the “fur” should fall naturally, giving the effect you want.

cookie monster cake
cookie monster cake

For the other details, I covered two oreos (in this case the watermelon flavor, but it really doesn’t matter) with white buttercream frosting and used the same black I used on the mouth for the pupils. I then placed some chocolate chip cookies (in this case, the crunchy chips ahoy ones) in the mouth and around the front. I made sure to break the cookies into pieces right above the mouth area so that all the little crumbs that fall when that happens just scatters in the fur. I even threw in a few extra small pieces to get the full effect.

cookie monster cut

the lemon triangles

We’ve had some lemons grow on our little tree in the front yard before, but not as much as we’ve had this year! So naturally, when I came back from being away for so long, I just had to pick some and make something with them. What better excuse to make lemon bars, right? So I went outside, picked a few lemons and found this recipe online.

lemon bars

They turned out pretty good. However, if there was one critique I would say about the recipe is that it wasn’t “lemon-y” or sour enough for me. Just a tad more kick and it would’ve been even more delicious. Maybe next time, I’ll double the amount of lemon zest! Haha. Either way, it’s great snack that’s quick and easy to bake.

the black sesame macarons

One of my favorite desserts when I go to yum cha (or dim sum for you Yanks!) is the Black Sesame Lei Sha Tang Yuan (Glutinous Rice Balls). It’s like a chewy mochi ball filled with black sesame and then covered in ground peanuts (side note: the recipe linked above uses soybean powder instead of peanuts). It is DELISH. Every time I have yum cha, if I don’t see it on the carts, I always ask for it.

I loved it so much that I figured there must be a way to get that delicious flavor into a macaron! I definitely had to try it. I made the shells just like normal, but substituting a little bit of the sugar for black sesame powder, which you can make from scratch or find at your local Asian store. If you do buy a packet, make sure you find one that contains only black sesame and not any additional sugars or preservatives. For the filling, I mixed some of the same black sesame powder with melted dark chocolate.

Voila! Dark chocolate and black sesame macarons!

black sesame macarons

the macarons made with love

I had been trying to make macarons all year and at the end of it, I was headed to the Philippines for a vacation and of course, to see my family. Well, let’s just say that I received numerous requests to bring some home for them to try. I had a few different families to bring boxes to and each box that I found at Daiso held 16 pieces. That’s 64 macarons…IF I didn’t mess any of them up!

I decided to make my most requested flavors: pistachio, pink velvet and calamansi. Either luck was on my side or the extra love that went into making these three batches for my family resulted in almost perfect shells each time. Which was great, because I didn’t need to re-do any of the batches! Thank you, Lord!

macarons love

the minion cakes

When I was in Michigan, I took my 12 year old cousin, Icee, to watch Pacific Rim. During the commercials before the movie, he was looking at random stuff on his phone. He showed me a picture of a minion cake and said, “Ate Jap, can you make this?” For my little cousins? Of course!

Luckily, I was off the next day and we took a trip to the grocery to buy some ingredients. I made a simple chocolate chip cake using a 13 x 8 ” pan and then cut it in half to make two smaller minions. Made some icing, grabbed some food coloring, chocolate chip cookies and melted chocolate and voila! I present Icee’s minion cakes.

Minion cakes

Since there was only four of us in the house, we ended up giving the other cake to Icee’s “girlfriend” (haha, he hates that we call her his girlfriend!) and I’m happy to say that she enjoyed it too. Success!

the butterfly garden cake

It was that time again: my inaanak (Goddaughter)’s birthday. She turned 12 this year and before her birthday, I asked her what kind of cake she wanted. Her response? The same as last year! “What?” I answered, “We can’t have that! Something else?” To which she replied…


“No, butterflies!”

“And candy!”

Haha. So I compromised and surprised her with a fantasy butterfly garden cake, completely made of candy. Well, the butterflies were made from using fondant and a butterfly cutout, plus some sprinkles. But everything else on the cake (except for the ribbon and the “Dani’s Garden” sign were just a few of her favorite candies. Hmph, then again, ALL candy is her favorite, so I guess anything would’ve worked but I chose these for a little fantasy garden.

Dani's butterfly garden cake

Success! Yessssss!

On a side note, for those of you who like to bake for the little ones, using candy to decorate cakes is a great idea. First of all, it’s easy. Just think of a good theme and find the right candies and you can make any scene come to life. Secondly, after Dani blew out her candles, we just let all the kids attack the cake, picking out whatever candy they wanted and giving out slices after. The kids love it. I mean, let’s face it, how many kids have tried to poke their finger into icing and lick it, while all the adults yell out, “Ooooh…nooooo!” This way, not only do they love the cake, they feel like they’re part of the experience with the birthday celebrant! You should’ve heard all the kids giggling in awe that they were actually allowed pick at the cake! Anyway, hope you guys try it sometime and if you do, please share your creations!