Green Pea Birthday Cake (for Cats)

Jelly recently celebrated his 9th birthday.

This past year was full of grand accomplishments. Some of his most notable ones…

He’s been a busy feline.

I had a hard baking act to follow after last year’s Birthday Cake For Cats post. It is actually the #1 most popular post on my blog to date. I have received so many comments from readers who are spoiling their own cats with birthday cakes, it makes me so happy!

Shawna recently commented that I should use green pea flour in recipes for cats because it is healthier for them than wheat flour. I had never heard of it before, but sure enough, Bob’s Red Mill sells it.

I decided to yield her good advice for this year’s cake.

Chicken and Green Pea Birthday Cake (for Cats)

Prep time: 5 minutes | Bake time: 15 minutes

Yield: 6-12 servings (invite your feline and canine pals!)

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup green pea flour
  • 1/2 cup cooked chunk chicken (plus 6 small pieces for cake centers)
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 2 tbs water
  • 1 tbs shredded cheese

Instructions:

  • Place 1/2 cup cooked chicken chunks in a food processor and pulse for a minute until fine crumbs are formed.
  • Mix together chicken and green pea flour in a medium bowl.
  • Stir in beaten egg and water until mixture is smooth.
  • Spoon cake batter into a miniature cupcake pan or two-bite brownie pan.
  • Push a small piece of chicken into the center of each cake. Spread the batter on top to cover it.
  • Sprinkle with shredded cheese.
  • Bake for 15 minutes at 350F, until firm.
  • Allow to cool completely.
  • You can slice the cake in half to help the cat sink its teeth in. Garnish with a spread of wet food and a piece of shrimp for birthday flair.

We surprised Jelly with his cake while he was soaking up the sun on his cat tree.

He was instantly intrigued.

He hopped down on to the ground to make eating easier, and we watched as he gobbled up the cake and chicken bits like a ravenous lion.

The little piece of chicken hidden on the inside of the cake was a big incentive for him to tear into it.

Judging by the way he licked up all the cake crumbs, I think he liked this recipe a lot.

After he ate half the cake, I took the rest away and so he could digest for awhile. He wound up napping and coming back for the second half an hour later.

Happy kitty, happy life. Happy Birthday, Jelly!
 

Swapping with SF Swappers

In the end of January, I went to a food swap with the SF Swappers group.  

I was excited to try delicious new foods and meet some San Francisco foodies. This was my first time meeting with this group, and my first official “food” swap (I’ve swapped dozens of cookies though, read about it here and here.)

I liked the way the event was structured. Everyone brought food for a potluck, so there is more food on top of food (which is a win in my books.) All the swapping and sampling goods are laid out on big tables. I was impressed by the range of food products available for swapping. There was truly something for everyone and every diet.

Every item has a card in front that describes what it is.

After an hour of socializing and sampling, everyone is allowed to bid.

I went around and wrote my name on every thing that interested me (pretty much everything.)  After the bidding period is over, everyone gets to look at their bid card, and the swapping takes place in a crazy free-for-all.

So, what did I bring to the swapping table? Individually baked goat cheese and blackberry cheesecakes.

These little mason jars were the perfect vessel to bake a small cheesecake in and it was just the right portion size for the swap. I made a bright green label for my cheesecake but I forgot to take a picture of it. Boo!

Here’s how I made the cheesecakes: I prepared the graham cracker crust of each little cake, and a big sheet cake to slice for samples. I made the cheesecake batter and poured that first, followed by a blackberry purée. Then I swirled it all together with a skewer and baked them.

I did not mind having to taste test this recipe.

Goat cheese cheesecakes pretty much sells itself. I figured my cheesecakes would get a few bids because the samples disappeared really quickly. I had about 7 offers for the 6 cheesecakes that I brought.

Here’s what I got:

  • dried cured beef
  • rancho pozole soup and fresh veggies
  • chipotle barbecue sauce by Chef Stephanie (one of the event co-hosts)
  • a l’orange glaze
  • grapefruit ginger lemon curd
  • bottle of wine from Indian Leap Vineyards in Sonoma Valley

That’s a pretty good haul, right?

I ate the soup that night for dinner and had some of the BBQ sauce a couple days later. We had a couple pieces of the dried cured beef, but I didn’t think to put it in the fridge and instead left it in the cabinet. It molded in two days! Gross and sad. I made some pastry with the lemon curb a few weeks later, and I still have the wine and sauces left to use.

For the work that went into making my cheesecakes, I was totally satisfied with what I received. I am already scheming what I can make for the next swap that will be even better.

 

DIY Cookie Swap: Boston Cream Pie Cookies

This was my first SF foodie event!

A holiday cookie swap at 18 Reasons in the Mission. After last year’s successful swap in Boston, I was excited to find another one to participate in this year. All I had to do was bring 3 dozen cookies for sampling and swapping. Easy!

There were about twenty different types of cookies available for swapping. Everyone set up their cookies and then wandered around with a tupperware to collect different kinds.

I was happy to see the standard holiday favorites like Mexican wedding, crackle, and gingerbread, and a few new kinds. Even one with bacon!

Irvin of Eat The Love‘s reverse white chocolate crackle cookies were my favorite. They were so soft and unexpected.

We came home with a couple dozen cookies (including at least 4 reverse crackles!) The haul wasn’t nearly as large as what I brought home from the swap last year, but really, who needs that many cookies? Two dozen is a reasonable amount for two human beings.

As for my contribution, I went big. Big, as in mistaken-for-a-cupcake-but-it’s-really-just-a-huge-cookie big.

Boston Cream Pie cookies.

Here is the original pin (and the rest of my board with cookie swap ideas.)

And here is how I did it myself:

Boston Cream Pie Cookies

Cookie contents:

– shortbread cookie crusts

– vanilla pudding

-chocolate ganache

I make a ton of shortbread dough at my sister’s house the night before the swap. She was kind enough to let me use her stand mixer while mine is being stored in Maine.

I baked all the shells off and let them cool overnight.

The next morning, I made a gigantic batch of vanilla pudding. I know real Boston cream pies have custard inside, but I didn’t want to gamble on trying to make my own custard this time. Vanilla pudding is close enough, in my books.

I spooned a healthy heaping of pudding inside each cup. I really tried to mound the pudding as high as I could. Then, I set them all in the freezer until they were hardened.

Next, dipping in the ganache.

Since the pudding was frozen into the cups, they were really easy to dip. The ganache set up perfectly after a few hours in the fridge.

Most everyone seemed to enjoy them at the swap. They were definitely the biggest cookie at the swap, in terms of mass and volume. I loved them, too. It’s like eating a miniature pie, cupcake, and cookie all at once.

We’ll count that as my first successful food post from San Francisco. ‘Bout time!

 

For Now, Cheesecake

I have a few fun things that are keeping me busy, I will be able to share the fine details soon!

For now, a cheesecake.

I made this for Justin’s 26th birthday a couple weekends ago! He requested cheesecake instead of traditional b-day cake this year, which is fine by me because I love cheesecake.

To make it special, I swirled caramel topping on top before the cheesecake baked (I used Smucker’s caramel topping, it is lazy but so good.) Then, I thinly sliced strawberries and placed them on top.

In hindsight, I would have arranged the strawberries around the outside edge of the cake because having them in the center made it difficult to cut slices. Nevertheless, it was probably the prettiest cheesecake I’ve ever made, and most delicious.

We brought it up to Maine for the long weekend and shared it with his family at the yearly barbecue.

Here is a look at birthday cakes I’ve made for Justin in years past:

Cookie Monster Cake

Reese’s PB Cake

 

Birthday Cake for Cats

Let’s talk birthday cake for cats.

Food is the focal point of all matters for Jelly, just like his momma. I knew nothing would make this birthday boy happier than getting to eat all the human foods he usually steals off our plates.

I googled ‘birthday cake for cats’ and searched around for a friendly feline cake recipe. What I found was much more than that, I found the sweetest thing I have ever seen. Those cats are so stinkin’ lucky! I actually teared up when I read the post because I am a crazy cat lady I was so happy to finally have my own cat to spoil!

Jelly waited patiently while I baked for him.

You can refer to the original inspiration and recipe for full instructions, here is a quick how-to.

Birthday Cake for Cats

Yield: 2 small cakes | Prep time: 20 minutes

Ingredients:

1 egg

1/2 can of tuna

2 tbs flour

2 tbs shredded or grated cheese

defrosted shrimp, to garnish

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350˚F. Break up tuna in a medium bowl. Lightly beat egg in a separate bowl, then combine with tuna. Add in flour and cheese. Stir to combine. Scoop batter into cupcake tin or silicone cups.  Bake for 15 minutes.

Above: before

Below: after

These “cakes” are actually more like muffins. They were pretty dry, so I trimmed the top off a little so that Jelly could tear it up more easily.

I think the shrimp garnish is most essential. It was the first thing he went after.

The presentation on a plate was really just for the blog. I barely got photos of his reaction once I put it down on the table. He kept grabbing it and running off to the corner – as he usually does when he is snatching things from the kitchen. It was funny that the one time he could sit on the table and enjoy it, he wouldn’t.

How will I top this next year?

Update: Check out the birthday cake I made for Jelly’s next birthday – new post from April 2013!

 

Jelly Turns 8

I didn’t have many pets growing up. We never had a dog or a cat, just a handful of caged rodents and birds – animals I usually run away from when I encounter them in nature.

I look a little scared there, right? I am afraid for me, still.

When I finally had the chance to adopt a “real” pet in college, I jumped for it. I got a 6 month old orange kitty off of Craigslist (first mistake) named Charles.

I was head over heels in love with this animal, until he fell ill a few months later.

I did everything I could to help Chals, including paying hundreds of dollars worth of vet bills and feeding him with a spoon while he was cooped up in the kitchen cabinet. In the end we learned he had FIP, a disease that occurs in young cats, which is incurable and fatal. Soon after, I had to put him down. It was the absolute worst.

I lived with a few other cats owned by roommates after that, but I didn’t adopt again for almost 5 years. Mainly because I wasn’t allowed to have pets in the building where I was living, but also because I have planned to move to the West coast and figured it would be smarter to wait until I was situated there to get another pet.

Then came Jelly.

One day last spring, I decided I couldn’t wait any longer. It took no more than 15 minutes in the animal shelter to pick out Jelly (formerly known as Nikey). The rest was history.

I am telling you all this because that is how I rationalized my over-enthusiasm for celebrating Jelly’s birthday. He turned 8 this year, but it was his first birthday with us.

There was cake, home-baked with love (recipe in my next post!)

With a shrimp on top.

It was devoured.

I bought a present, and he won’t even acknowledge it.

Dogs love kong toys – have you ever met a dog who didn’t like them? I thought it would maybe work with my ravenous cat, but Jelly could care less.

He got plenty of treats on his birthday (on most days, actually) and napped for hours afterward. I don’t think a cat would ask for more from a birthday celebration.

Let’s see if we can suffer his reign for another year. Long live the king!

 

Chocolate-Dipped Almond Crescent Cookies

I baked for the sake of baking over the weekend. I had no one to feed nor an occasion to celebrate, I just wanted to make something in the kitchen. The result was quite delightful.

I made a shortbread type cookie flavored with almond extract. Dipped in chocolate and topped with powdered sugar, these cookies turned out to be very special. They looked like something that would come out of a Pepperidge Farm container. There doesn’t have to be a reason to bake these cookies, but if you want to make a cookie to impress a crowd, consider these.

Chocolate-Dipped Almond Crescent Cookies (lightly adapted from Simply Recipes)

Yield: about 30 cookies | Prep time: 40 minutes | Cook time: 20 minutes

  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 cup ground sunflower seeds
  • 2 sticks butter, room temperature
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 tsp almond extract
  • 1 cup chocolate chips
  • splash of milk
  • powdered sugar, for decoration

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350˚F. Sift together flour and baking powder in a mixing bowl. Stir in ground sunflower seeds, and set aside. Cream together butter and sugar at medium-high speed for 2-3 minutes, scraping the sides of the bowl as necessary. Beat until light and fluffy. Add in extracts, beat until smooth. At a low speed, stir flour mixture in by the half-cup. Turn up speed to medium-low once all the flour has been added, and beat until the mixture is crumbly and starts to come together (will not form a solid ball of dough.)

Divide the dough in half, and form each half into a cylinder. Use plastic wrap to help the rolling process, if needed. Slice each roll into 1/4″ pieces. Form each piece into a crescent shape by pressing the dough together firmly into a ‘C’ shape. Transfer cookies to a parchment lined baking sheet. Bake for 15-20 minutes, turning the baking sheets around in the oven halfway through the cook time. Bake until lightly browned on the bottom. Cool completely.

Melt chocolate chips in a glass bowl set over a pot of simmering water. Add a splash of milk to loosen the chocolate. Remove the chocolate from heat and place near cookie tray. Dip the bottom of each cookie into the chocolate, then flip the cookie over to put it back down. Repeat with all cookies. Allow the chocolate to set up in the fridge (1-2 hours) before dusting the cookies with powdered sugar.

Certainly, the most challenging part of this recipe is forming the crescents from the cookie dough. After three or four, I got the hang of it and it didn’t take me long to make batches of 9 or 10 crescent cookies to bake off at a time.

I like a recipe that stretches to 2 or 3 dozen cookies – the more, the merrier in my kitchen.

Here are the cookies after they got dipped in chocolate:

I saw some recipes where the cookies were dunked halfway in chocolate – but I like my style more. Dipping the bottom of the cookie in chocolate covers the browned bottom edge so every cookie looks perfect.

And if you’re wondering, almond extract does not seem to trigger my nut allergies. Usually almond crescent cookies have 1 cup of ground almonds inside in addition to almond extract. I substituted ground sunflower seeds for the almonds, and bumped up the quantity of almond extract. So far, so good.

 

Oreos Blanche

The latest sweet treat to come out of my kitchen is a white cookie sandwich a.k.a. oreos blanche.

I made soft sugar cookies and butter cream frosting for the filling, both with a touch of lemon zest to cut some of the sweetness.

These cookies were an exercise in patience and even baking. Patience because I rolled out the dough bit by bit to keep it cold and firm. Even baking because I wanted light, just-baked cookies without burnt edges. I used a radiant heat shield (a.k.a tin-foiled covered baking sheet in the bottom of the oven) to help the cookies bake evenly.

I also played around with some cookie cutters because I was imagining cookie sandwiches with a hole on to top so we could peak through and see the filling.

But most of the star-cut cookies burnt in the oven, so I had little success with that experiment.

The rest of the cookies got a heap of butter cream frosting and I smeared it around carefully with an offset spatula. I also practiced neatness while spreading the frosting, though I was tempted to rush the job and just press the cookies together, wipe up the sides, and call it a day.

It’s funny how such a basic recipe can require so much attention, but well worth it in the end. Next step: chocolate wafer cookies to make “real” homemade oreos. Also, check out my recipe for pumpkin oreos.

 

Scones, Brownies, and Whoopie Pies

I am feeling the love just a week before Valentine’s day via baked goods. In years past, I could be found eating bon-bon after bon-bon for the month of February – but with a nut allergy now, I have to steer clear of my beloved Whitman’s sampler.

Instead of chocolates, I might go for a slice of rich chocolate cake or chocolate covered strawberries on Valentine’s day.

Scones could be romantic, if they are made fresh in the morning for breakfast in bed. I made carrot cake scones three times to get them right for the high bidder of Amanda’s online bake sale. (Recipe here.)

The final batch of scones was mailed this morning to California, to a home just a few minutes away from where I stayed last month in San Diego.

I fell in love all over again with my best ever brownies. (Recipe here.) I made a test batch before baking the real thing for Elizabeth of On Tap For Today. She won these brownies and got to choose her own mix-in for the recipe. Nut butter swirl was her choice, is there anything better?

The test batch came out just as good as I remembered. I absolutely love the consistently of these brownies: soft, cakey, and deeply chocolate.

The only problem with shipping brownies is that they are prone to sticking to plastic wrap and fingers. I will try wrapping each brownies in parchment paper. Elizabeth can pull a Joey Tribiani and suck the brownie residue off the parchment when she gets home from a night of fine dining.

I also shared these lovely pink cream whoopie pies at work last week. I wanted to test a recipe for whoopie pie cakes because I haven’t had luck with them in the past.

The recipe for whoopie pies with mint filling that I used to make the cakes came from bon appetit. I chose it because it called for butter or shortening, whereas most recipes I found use shortening in the cake and the filling.

Much to my delight, the cakes were soft but sturdy. I piped a ton of buttercream frosting in between two chocolate cakes and sprinkled them red and pink sugar.

What kind of sweet goods do you think best express your love?

 

Extraordinary Desserts

There are few things I enjoy more on vacation than eating fancy desserts in the middle of the day. Many cities have a variety of bakeries and cupcake shops to enjoy, and I can’t rely on visiting them all after dinner. So, we stopped into Extraordinary Desserts after lunch this weekend.

Truly, these desserts are nothing short of extraordinary.

I wanted to climb behind the counter so I could take pictures of everything close up.

Looks aside, we had to try a couple desserts to see just how good they are. Justin’s mom and sister split a white chocolate linzer cake.

I ordered the chocolate fruit tart and shared a few bites with Justin.

It actually wasn’t as fantastic tasting as I hoped- the chocolate tart shell was very hard and the ganache was thick. I picked all the fruit off and ate the chocolate mousse on top. I also noticed a bug on one of my flower leaves, so at least we know they use fresh flowers.

Still, the experience here was special and I’m happy we came. The desserts they offer change daily, so I wouldn’t just them by this tart alone.

Aside from the desserts, there is a cheese menu and a variety of lunch and appetizer options. They also have lots of teas and coffees to order.

I am a sucker for tea served in individual tea pots.

Justin enjoyed an Americano.

Check out the rock sugar! Can’t say I’ve seen sugar served this way before.

Continuing on the topic of delicious baked goods, I wanted to let you know about an online bake sale that Amanda the Kitchen Misfit is running to benefit the Leukemia and Lymphoma society. Bidding goes live tonight at midnight and continues through the 28th. Visit this page to see what’s up for auction an place a bid.

I am providing two items for the bake sale:

Carrot Cake Scones – recipe here

The winner of this item will receive one dozen medium-sized carrot cake scones. These are soft, cake-line scones laced with shreds of carrot and scented with citrus. Enjoy room temperature or toasted with butter.

Best Ever Brownies- recipe here

The winner of this item will receive one dozen thick, soft brownies with their choice of mix-ins (nut butter, chocolate chips, nuts, butterscotch chips, or mini marshmallows). They are the best brownies I’ve ever made!

I picked these recipes because I think they will hold up well in shipping and are appealing to a range of palettes. Click over to Amanda’s bake sale page tomorrow and start bidding!

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