Welcome to Natasha's Creative Confections! If you have stumbled upon this blog page, then you're in for a real treat! One of my favorite things to do is bake. If you choose to read on you will find pictures and recipes of some of the fabulous treats that I have created. So take a look around and enjoy!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Lemon Layer Cake

For Easter this year I made a Lemon cake as the main dessert. I actually got the recipe from a Good Housekeeping magazine. I'm always kind of skeptical of magazine recipes because, I don't know, for some reason they don't turn out as good as I hope (for me anyway!) But this cake was a masterpiece...if I'm allowed to say that about something I made myself. :D

This wasn't just a plain lemon cake. It had three different, amazing components that made it so spectacular. Let me break it down: 3 layers of soft and fluffy lemon flavored cake, a zesty and tart lemon curd filling, and a creamy and light mascarpone frosting!

(Mascarpone cheese is such a treat! There is an amazing dessert: Blueberry Lemon Mascarpone cake, at a restaurant my family and I like to go to and I LOVE getting it!
This cheese tastes so good in lots of different desserts! If you've never had it before, you should definitely find a recipe that calls for it. You won't regret it!)

I had never made a curd filling before, and was a little nervous because I didn't want to end up with scrambled eggs. It was a little similar to making the creme brulee, but went so much faster I was scared I was going to ruin it! My stovetop heated up too quickly, and before I knew it, it seemed like I was jumping ahead almost to it being finished when I thought I should've been just starting! This curd though, turned out amazing! I was actually really impressed with myself for it being my first time doing it! I didn't expect it to hold the right consistency, color, or anything! I was just certain that something about it wouldn't turn out right, but it was PERFECT!

The frosting was not a buttercream, but a whipped cream, which I think gave the cake a whole different flavor. The creaminess of the whipping cream with the mascarpone cheese was delightful :) The frosting also had some fresh lemon zest in there to add even more lemon flavor to the cake as a whole! It wasn't overpowering at all, but you do have to like lemon to enjoy this cake!

For the lemon curd filling:
-4 large egg yolks
-1 Tbsp. finely grated lemon peel
-1/4 c. fresh lemon juice
-1/2 c. fresh Ruby Red grapefruit juice
-4 tsp. cornstarch
-6 Tbsp. butter
-1/2 c. sugar
-1/4 c. sour cream

1. Prepare curd: In medium bowl, with wire whisk, stir egg yolks until blended. In 2-quart saucepan, whisk lemon peel and juice, grapefruit juice, and cornstarch until smooth. Add butter and sugar. Heat to boiling on med-high, whisking occasionally. Reduce heat to medium and cook 2 mins. or until thickened, whisking constantly. Gradually add 1/4 c. of the mixture to the yolks, whisking constantly; return mixture to saucepan. Cook on medium-low 7-12 mins, or until curd is very thick, whisking constantly.
2. Transfer curd to medium bowl. Press plastic wrap directly onto surface of curd. Cool to room temperature, then refrigerate at least 2 hours or until cold and stiff, up to 1 week. When ready to use, fold in sour cream until well combined.

For the cake layers and mascarpone frosting:
-3 to 4 lemons
-1 Ruby Red Grapefruit
-2 1/4 c. cake flour
-1 1/2 c. granulated sugar
-2 tsp. baking powder
-1/2 tsp. baking soda
-1/2 tsp. salt
-1/2 c. vegetable oil
-5 large eggs, separated, plus 2 lg. egg whites
-1/2 tsp. cream of tartar
-8 oz. mascarpone cheese
-1 1/2 c. heavy whipping cream
-1 c. confectioners' sugar
-1 tsp. vanilla extract

1. Prepare cake layers: Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease bottoms of three 9-in. round cake pans. Line bottoms of pans with parchment paper; grease parchment paper. From lemons, finely grate 4 tsp. peel and squeeze 1/4 c. juice. From grapefruit, squeeze 1/2 c. juice, set aside.
2. In large bowl, with wire whisk, blend flour, 1 c. granulated sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Make a well in the center. Add oil, 5 egg yolks, lemon juice, grapefruit juice, and 2 tsp. lemon peel; whisk into dry ingredients until smooth.

3. In another large bowl, with mixer on high speed, beat 7 egg whites until foamy. Add cream of tartar and beat until soft peaks form. Gradually sprinkle in remaining 1/2 c. granulated sugar, 2 Tbsp. at a time, and beat until whites just stand in stiff peaks when beaters are lifted.

With rubber spatula, gently fold one-third of whites mixture into yolk mixture to loosen the batter, then fold in the remaining whites mixture.
4. Divide batter among prepared pans. Gently smooth tops. Bake 25-35 minutes, or until top springs back when lightly touched with finger. Cool completely in pans on wire racks. With knife, carefully loosen cake from sides of pans. Invert onto wire racks. Cake layers can be wrapped tightly in plastic wrap and kept at room temp. up to 1 day.
5. Prepare frosting: In large bowl, with mixer on low speed, beat mascarpone and cream to combine. Gradually beat in confectioners' sugar. Increase speed to med-low and beat until soft peaks form. Fold in vanilla and remaining 2 tsp. lemon peel until well blended.
6. Assemble cake: Place 1 cake layer on cake plate, flat side up. Spread with half of curd and top with another cake layer, flat side up. Spread remaining curd on top. Top with remaining cake layer, flat side up.

Frost side and top of cake with frosting. Refrigerate assembled cake at least 1 hour and up to 6 hours to allow flavors to meld and frosting to set. To serve, let stand at room temp. 15 mins.

**I added some flowers that I picked up from this cute baking shop called, Nancy's Fancy's. I hope to learn how to make my own flowers someday soon! You can jazz this cake up with any decoration you like. I wanted to keep it "springy" with flowers since it was for Easter, but there are lots of different decorations that would look good since it is a white frosting! :D


Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Kourabiethes (or Greek Butter Cookies)

I absolutely LOVE being Greek. One of my favorite things about being Greek is, of course, the food :D It is delicious! Some of the desserts are to die for! These cookies happen to be a favorite of mine.

Kourabiethes are Greek butter cookies that I always associate with Easter. I make them every year and they are quite a treat to have. They are also special to me because my Nouna taught me how to make them. They are quick to make and they always come out tasting great! I know they're not your typical chocolate chip cookie, but if you enjoy almond and vanilla flavor, you will most likely enjoy these :)

- 1 c. melted butter (preferably unsalted sweet cream)
- 1 egg yolk
- 1/2 tsp. baking powder
- pinch of salt
- 1/2 c. sugar
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- 1 tsp. almond extract
- 1/2 c. almonds or walnuts (finely chopped)
- 3 c. flour

1. Mix all of the ingredients together (except for the flour).
2. Add the flour to the mixture a little at a time, mixing just until it is blended in.

3. Roll the dough into little balls and place on an unbuttered cookie sheet. (These cookies do not spread out when they bake, so you can put them pretty close together if you want!)

4. Bake at 375 degrees for 10-12 minutes. Let the cookies sit for 5 mins. after, and then cover with powdered sugar. (I put the powdered sugar in a large ziploc bag and then add the cookies, a few at a time, to cover in the sugar)

These are ready very quickly after you make them and they stay good for awhile too! :) Hope you enjoy this fabulous Greek dessert.

**Be sure to look out for my Baklava recipe, hopefully coming soon :D

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Martha Stewart's SURPRISE Cookies

Well, I haven't yet gotten to try a recipe from my new Baking with Julia cookbook, but hopefully soon!

I was looking to try something new and quick, so I thought I would bake some cookies! This recipe is from Martha Stewart's Cookies . I flip through this cookbook a lot and always find so many different cookies I want to try because, seriously, it's a pretty large book filled ALL of cookies! However, I always find myself choosing not to make something from her cookbook because most of all her recipes require you to chill the dough for at least a few hours. That's a wee bit frustrating when you don't want to prolong the process...but these cookies require NO chilling!

These cookies taste a lot like cake (little miniature cakes) but they are rather tasty if you enjoy a good dose of chocolate. They are, obviously, cake like chocolate cookies, with chocolate frosting on top. The "surprise" is that you don't see what's underneath the layer of chocolate frosting, and it's marshmallow! :D I only had mini marshmallows available, and I think it would have been better to have the large ones, which is what the recipe calls for. It was a little too hard to keep the small ones from falling off the cookies before they were baked and you don't get enough mallow flavor in there ;)

These cookies are very soft and sweet. They have a great flavor that isn't too rich. Try them sometime!

For the cookies:
-1 3/4 c. all-purpose flour
-3/4 c. unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch-process)
-1/2 tsp. baking soda
-1/2 tsp. salt
-1/2 c. unsalted butter, room temp.
-1 c. granulated sugar
-1 large egg
-1/2 c. whole milk
-1 tsp. pur vanilla extract
-About 15 marshmallows (large), halved crosswise

For the frosting:
-3 c. confectioners' sugar
-6 Tbsp. unsalted butter, room temp.
-1/4 c. plus 1 1/2 tsp. unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch-process)
-1/4 c. plus 2 Tbsp. whole milk
-3/4 tsp. pure vanilla extract

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Sift together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda & salt into a bowl.

2. Put butter and sugar into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on med-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 2 mins. Reduce speed to med-low; mix in egg, milk and vanilla. Mix in flour mixture, 1/2 c. at a time, until combined.

3. Using a 1 3/4 in. ice cream scoop, drop dough onto baking sheets lined with parchment paper, spacing 2 inches apart. Bake cookies, rotating sheets halfway through, until firm, 8-10 mins. Immediately press a marshmallow half on top of each cookie. (If you are using miniature marshmallows, try to get 3-4 on each cookie) Bake until marshmallows begin to melt, 2 mins more. Let cool completely on sheets on wire racks.
4. Put confectioners' sugar in a medium bowl. Melt butter with the cocoa powder in a saucepan over med-low heat, stirring occasionally. Add butter mixture to the confectioners' sugar. Whisk in milk and vanilla.

5. Spread about 1 Tbsp. of frosting on top of each cookie to cover marshmallow. Let stand until set, about 10 mins. Cookies can be stored in single layers in airtight containers at room temp. up to 2 days.

Enjoy <3

Friday, April 15, 2011


I was just surprised with a copy of Baking with Julia in the mail from my mother-in-law!

And wait...it gets better! 2 DVD's to go with it :) I'm one happy girl.

Stay tuned for lots of delicious (and I'm sure, challenging) recipes to be featured :) Just flipping through the cookbook I have found some amazing looking treats, such as this scrumptious looking Nectarine Upside-down Chiffon Cake!


Thursday, April 14, 2011

Chocolate Chip Cheesecake (for Chad's Birthday!)

Yes...this is the same "famous" cheesecake that I always use...but this time I jazzed it up a bit :)

Chad wanted a cheesecake for his birthday this year--specifically a chocolate chip cheesecake, which I thought would be kind of fun to do for a birthday!

Instead of sticking with my traditional graham cracker crust, I decided to try an Oreo one. ( why yes, I did scrape out all the centers by hand just to use the actual cookie part...) and then ground them up in my food processor. I wanted a thick crust, so I used about 3 cups of cookie crumbs and mixed that with 1/2 c. melted butter to press into the pan. With the graham cracker crust, you add a little bit of sugar to mix in, but I wasn't sure if I should do that or not with the Oreo crust because I figured the cookies were already sweet enough. I didn't end up adding the sugar, but I think I will next time because it wasn't as sweet as I thought it would be!

The filling for this recipe is the same I've always used. I went back and looked at my previous cheesecake blogs and noticed I never put the recipe up! Look out for it this time...it will definitely be included :) I also used mini chocolate chips upon Chad's request :) I actually expected to mix them into the filling, but Chad said the type he's had before we're just placed on top. Hmm...I think next time I'll try mixing them into the actual cheesecake because then my oven might not smell like burnt chocolate.

SIDE NOTE: Because of a little spillage from the cheesecake, my oven now smells awesome. It was smoking up a storm yesterday while I was finishing up the cheesecake. I had to open the sliding door and all the windows, and it has left a reminiscent smell of Christmas 2009 lingering in the air. YUM. (Christmas baking+burnt pie filling on bottom of oven+smoke+freezing air from open windows=what I think of when I was sick ALL day Christmas that year) Anyway...all that being said, be sure to place the cheesecake on a baking sheet, or place one on the rack below it.

I felt a little overwhelmed baking this cheesecake--not because of the cheesecake itself, but I didn't have a whole lot of time to make it because I had to work, run errands, decorate for Chad's bday, and get ready for dinner and the movie we went to! I noticed that the texture was a bit off, so I'm thinking that I didn't give the cheesecake the proper amount of time to cool before putting it in the refrigerator to chill. This is really an easy recipe to make, but I always forget how long it takes to bake and cool.

-1/2 c. butter, melted
-3 c. crushed oreos (centers removed)
-1/4 c. sugar (optional)
-24 oz. cream cheese, soft
-1 can sweetened condensed milk
-4 eggs
-8 oz. sour cream
-1 Tbsp. vanilla
-1 package of miniature chocolate chips

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2. Combine butter, crumbs and sugar. Press firmly on the bottom of a 9-in. springform pan.
3. In a large mixer bowl, beat cheese until fluffy. Gradually beat in the sweetened condensed milk until smooth.

4. Beat in eggs, sour cream & vanilla. Pour into the prepared pan. Top with 1 pack (or less, if desired) of mini chocolate chips.

* I also made a mini-gluten free cheesecake for a friend (just w/o the crust!) *

5. Bake 50-55 minutes, or until lightly browned around the edge (center will be slightly soft). Cool to room temperature and then chill in refrigerator.

The crust cracked a bit, but it still was tasty! Hope you get to make this cheesecake sometime. You'll enjoy it and it's a simple recipe that you'll use over and over. What are some flavors you might try? :)

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Devil's Food Cupcakes w/ Vanilla Bean Buttercream

I guess I'm on a little bit of a cupcake kick. I don't really like cupcakes that much...and when I say "like" I'm not referring to the way they taste, but just how they've become so trendy. But, there are some that are just so adorable and creative, I can't say that I don't like them anymore, because I would be lying! Yes, they are simpler than cakes, but simple fits right up my alley. I'm not great at decorating cakes and cupcakes, but would LOVE to get better at it. I've seen some amazing creations recently and have been inspired to get better at it, for my cakes too. I'd love to kick it up a notch! I'm hoping to take some decorating classes very soon :)

I made these cupcakes to have tonight with some friends who were coming over for dinner. Sadly, my friends are unable to attend, and I have 2 dozen (well, now 22 since Chad ate a couple yesterday!) cupcakes sitting on my counter just waiting to be eaten. I will be taking most to work with me tomorrow and am hoping my coworkers will eat them up! I don't know what made me choose Devil's Food...I've only had it maybe once or twice, I think. I made a cake for my mom's birthday a couple years ago that was Devil's Food, but I can't recall any other time that I've had it. I was very pleased with the way these cupcakes turned out! They all were practically the SAME size...how often does that happen? It was almost scary how identical they looked! No bumps or ridges either. They were so smooth looking on top and smelled great when I took them out of the oven. They are lighter in color than I'm used to Devi's Food being, so I was concerned that they would just taste like chocolate, but they in fact are a little richer like Devil's Food. The batter was gorgeous after I mixed all the ingredients in; so silky and smooth (I admit that I tried the batter after I scooped the cupcakes into their pans, and it was SO tasty)

I got the recipe for the frosting from my sister-in-law, Kelli, and had made it once before to be used as an icing for the gingerbread cookies that I so frantically made for everyone for Christmas last year. The cookies were a bit of a fiasco, but the frosting was great! (even if it didn't look so good actually on the cookies!)
This frosting is thick, but very smooth and just really amazing! I love the taste of this frosting so much and I think it would go well on many different types of cakes. What makes this frosting so good, I think, is the freshly scraped vanilla bean that is added! At first, I didn't know what type of frosting to choose when I picked Devil's Food, so I went with this Vanilla Bean Buttercream because it really does work with a lot of different flavors! I was a little worried that I hadn't made enough, but just let me reassure you if you make it, at least for these cupcakes, it will be enough!

These cupcakes have a great taste, a smooth texture and a sweet frosting! I think you'd enjoy one if you tried it! :D

Ingredients for Devil's Food Cupcake:
-1/2 c. unsifted unsweetened Dutch-process powder
-1/2 c. plus 1 c. water
-1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
-1 c. granulated sugar
-3/4 c. firmly packed light brown sugar
-3 large eggs, at room temp.
- 2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
- 2 cups sifted cake flour
-1/4 c. unbleached all-puroose flour
-2 tsp. baking powder
-1/4 tsp. salt

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line the cups of 2 standard-size cupcake tins with paper cupcake liners.
2. Place cocoa powder in small bowl. Heat 1/2 c. water in small saucepan just until it begins to simmer. Pour it over cocoa and whisk or stir until blended and smooth. Add remaining 1 c. water and stir until mixture is smooth. Set aside until mixture cools to room temp. If it is warm, it will melt the butter and ruin the texture of the cupcakes.
3. Place the butter, granulated sugar and brown sugar in the bowl of stand mixer. Beat on med-high speed until very light in color, 4-5 mins. Scrape down bowl with spatula.
4. Beat the eggs and vanilla in another small bowl to blend. With the mixer on medium, add the eggs to the butter mixture about 1 Tbsp. at a time, allowing each addition to completely blend in before adding the next. About halfway through, turn off mixer and scrape down bowl, then resume adding the eggs. Scrape down bowl again.
5. With a fine-mesh strainer, sift the cake flour, all-purpose flour, baking powder, and salt into medium bowl and blend with whisk. With mixer on lowest speed, add flour mixture and cocoa water alternately, beginning with one-third of flour mixture, and half the cocoa water. Repeat, then finish with flour mixture. Scrape down bowl and finish blending batter by hand, if necessary.
6. Fill each liner 1/2-3/4 full with batter. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until tops are firm to touch and a toothpick inserted coms out clean. Transfer to a rack to cool completely.

Ingredients for Vanilla Bean Frosting:
-2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
-1 vanilla bean, scraped
-2 Tbsp. vanilla extract
-salt to taste
-2 c. powdered sugar

1. Beat butter on med-high speed until creamy, 2-3 mins.
2. Add vanilla bean, vanilla and salt to butter and mix again, 1-2 mins.
3. Add 1 c. powdered sugar, and blend until it has been mixed in. Add the other cup of powdered sugar and mix frosting well, for 4 mins. or until you reach the consistency you like.

*When the cupcakes have cooled, you can put the frosting in a pastry bag (or just a sandwich bag if you prefer and cut the tip off) and pipe it onto the cupcakes. If you prefer to have a smooth top, use a small frosting spatula to spread the frosting across the top of the cupcakes. Add any decor you'd like! I chose some chocolate sprinkles and just a dash of white sugar crystals. Make them your own and try different toppings!