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, June 30, 2011

Banana Chocolate Chip Bread

One of my favorite treats is Starbuck's is their low fat Banana Chocolate Chip Bread. It is SO tasty and today, I was craving a piece today, so I wanted to try and make my own. I got the recipe from my All Recipes app, and then just added in some semisweet chocolate chips.

This recipe was super easy and very quick. And the bread turned out amazing!! I was so impressed with how good it was. Now I have a great banana bread recipe I can make anytime that I don't have to go to Starbuck's for :)

-1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
-1 teaspoon baking soda
-1/2 teaspoon salt
-1 cup sugar
-2 eggs, beaten
-1/4 cup butter, melted
-3 bananas, mashed

**Optional: 1/2 cup chocolate chips

1. Grease and flour a loaf pan. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2. In one bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, salt and sugar. Mix in beaten eggs, melted butter, and mashed bananas.

Stir in chocolate chips, if you're using them (or nuts, if you'd rather). Pour into prepared pans.

3. Bake at 350 degrees for 45-60 minutes, or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.
4. Cool on wire rack at least 15-20 mins. When cool, gently take a knife around the sides to loosen, turn over and let finish cooling on wire rack. Slice and serve!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Lemon-Raspberry Cake

I made this cake for my dad's birthday :) He picked out the recipe (which was from an old recipe card he found somewhere, or at least it looks very 1970s) and had been asking about this cake for sometime, so I figured it would be the perfect birthday cake.

I made a cake like this the first time I made one from scratch. It was exactly the same, but similar. That cake didn't turn out the way I thought it would, so I was hoping this one would be better. This cake was pretty quick to make--maybe because I forgot 2 of the ingredients (the extracts)--but it didn't seem to make the cake taste bad, which was nice. Since the recipe called for stirring in the extracts after everything had already been added, I just forgot that part because I'm used to beating it in before the flour and milk.

This cake wasn't my favorite, but I've realized that I'm not big on lemon flavor. I loved the raspberry filling though! Raspberry is one of my favorite fillings--it's just so tasty! I was very impressed with how the cake looked after I finished decorating it. :)

For the Cake:
-1 cup shortening
-2 cups sugar
-4 large eggs
-3 cups sifted cake flour
-2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
-1/2 teaspoon salt
-1 cup milk
-1 teaspoon almond extract
-1 teaspoon vanilla extract
-1 jar seedless raspberry preserves

1. Grease 3 (9-inch) round cake pans; line with parchment paper. Grease and flour paper. Set pans aside.
2. Beat shortening at medium speed of an electric mixer until creamy; gradually add sugar, beating well. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Combine flour, baking powder, and salt; add to shortening mixture alternately with milk, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Mix after each addition. Stir in flavorings.
3. Pour batter into prepared pans. Bake at 375 degrees F for 18-20 minutes or until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean.
4. Cool in pans on wire racks for 10 minutes; remove from pans, and let cool completely on wire racks.

For the Lemon Buttercream Frosting:
-1 1/4 cups butter, softened
-2 teaspoons grated lemon rind
-3 Tbsp. lemon juice
-3 cups sifted powdered sugar

1. Beat first 3 ingredients at medium speed of an electric mixer until creamy.
2. Gradually add powdered sugar, beating until frosting is of spreading consistency.

To Assemble the Cake: Place 1 layer on a cake plate; spread with 3 Tbsp. preserves. Repeat procedure with next layer, but do not add preserves to top layer of the cake. Spread frosting on top and sides of cake.

For decoration, pipe some frosting around the top of the cake and garnish with sliced lemons and raspberries!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Carrot Cake Cupcakes

This past weekend, it was my dad's birthday and I usually bake him a carrot cake because it is his favorite. This year, he had wanted to try another cake, so I just decided to make the carrot cake into a batch of cupcakes to bring anyway :)

This carrot cake recipe is SPECTACULAR! Everyone that I have made this for LOVES it. I am not exaggerating...if you like carrot cake, you need to try this recipe. It is pretty easy and fun to make. If you decide to make the cake or cupcakes, you can't go wrong in flavor. This is delightful.

I had never made this cake recipe into cupcakes before. For the most part, they turned out ok, but a couple came out sunken in and just didn't form right. I'm not sure if this was the recipe--if it doesn't transfer as well into cupcakes, but it seemed like it was hard for the cupcakes to take shape. There were just a couple duds that I threw out, but the rest were fine.

The cake part is moist, which makes this extra good because dry carrot cake would not be very tasty. But it's the frosting that I think makes this cake so good. It is a lemon flavored cream cheese frosting and it is just delicious. There are so many wonderful ingredients that make up this cake and you can always substitute something if it's not to your liking.

If you try this recipe, I would love to know how you liked it!

For the cake:
-2 cups all-purpose flour
-2 teaspoons baking powder
-2 teaspoons baking soda
-2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
-3/4 tsp. salt
-3 cups grated carrots (about 9 carrots)
-1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts or pecans
-1 cup shredded coconut
-1/2 cup moist, plump raisins or dried cranberries
-2 cups sugar
-1 cup canola oil
-4 large eggs

For the frosting:
-8 ounces cream cheese, at room temp.
-1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
-1 pound (3 3/4 cups) confectioners' sugar, sifted
-1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice or 1/2 teaspoon pure lemon extract
-1/2 cup shredded coconut (optional)
Finely chopped toasted nuts and/or toasted coconut, for topping (optional)

Getting Ready: Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Butter three 9-x-2-inch round cake pans, flour the insides and tap out the excess. Put two pans on one baking sheet and one on another (or if you're making cupcakes, line tins with cupcake liners).

To Make The Cake: Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. In another bowl, stir together the carrots, chopped nuts, coconut and raisins.

Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the sugar and oil together on medium speed until smooth. Add the eggs one by one, and continue to beat until the batter is even smoother. Reduce the speed to low and add the flour mixture, mixing only until the dry ingredients disappear. Gently mix in the chunky ingredients. Divide the batter among the baking pans.

Bake for 40-50 minutes (20-30 if cupcakes), rotating the pans from top to bottom and front to back at the midway point, until a thin knife inserted into the centers comes out clean; the cakes will have just started to come away from the sides of the pans. Transfer the cakes to cooling racks and cool for about 5 minutes, then run a knife around the sides of the cakes and unmold them. Invert and cool to room temperature right side up. (The cakes can be wrapped airtight and kept at room temperature overnight or frozen for up to 2 months).

To Make the Frosting: Working with the stand mixer, fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the cream cheese and butter together until smooth and creamy. Gradually add the sugar and continue to beat until the frosting is velvety smooth. Beat in the lemon juice or extract. If you'd like coconut in the filling, scoop out about 1/2 of the frosting and stir the coconut into this portion.

To Assemble the Cake: Put one layer top side up on a cardboard cake round or a cake plate protected by strips of wax or parchment paper. If you added the coconut to the frosting, use half of the coconut frosting to generously cover the first layer (or cover generously with plain frosting). Use an offset spatula or a spoon to smooth the frosting all the way to the edges of the layer. Top with the second layer, this time placing the cake top side down, and frost with the remainder of the coconut frosting (or plain). Top with the last layer, right side up, and frost the top--and the sides, if you want--of the cake. Finish the top with swirls of frosting. If you want to top the cake with toasted nuts or coconut, sprinkle them on now, while the frosting is soft.
(If you're making cupcakes, pipe the frosting on and top with nuts & coconut!)

Refrigerate the cake for 30 minutes, just to set the frosting before serving.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Peach & Cherry Cobblers!

I made two different cobblers for dessert last week--peach and cherry! My family came over for dinner and I wanted to try a different dessert. The last time I saw my mom, she mentioned something about cherry cobbler, so that was my inspiration to try it!

I found these recipes online--and they really were pretty simple! The cherry one only took about 10 minutes + baking time. The peach was a little more work (it had more steps since the crust is almost an actual pie crust instead of just a crumble), but it still didn't take very long!

I had never made cobbler before. There is an amazing homemade cobbler at this BBQ restaurant we go to in Cotati--Porter Street BBQ, and I absolutely love it. My homemade cobbler was good, but not as good as this one! The cherry is super tasty--and so is the peach! They also have an apple one, that I'm sure is out of this world too! I especially wanted to try and recreate the cherry one--ever since I was little, I have LOVED cherry pie since I was a kid, so making a good cobbler was something I wanted to experience. Both cobblers were great!

Recipe for Cherry Cobbler:

1 can cherry pie filling
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup quick cooking oatmeal
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
2 to 4 tablespoons chopped pecans
butter-flavored vegetable spray

Spray a 2-quart casserole with cooking spray. Pour cherry pie filling into casserole. Mix butter, oatmeal, flour, sugar and pecans until crumbly; sprinkle over cherry pie filling. Bake at 350° for 20 to 25 minutes.
Serves 8.

Recipe for Peach Cobbler:


For the Filling:
2 cups sugar
1/3 cup cornstarch
8 cups sliced, fresh peaches
1/2 teaspoon almond extract or vanilla extract
1/4 cup melted butter

For the Pastry:
2 cups flour
2 tablespoons sugar
Pinch of salt
1/2 cup shortening
4 tablespoons ice water
1/3 cup melted butter
1/4 cup sugar

Butter a 9x13-inch baking dish. Preheat oven to 400°.

Combine sugar and cornstarch; toss with peaches. Add the almond or vanilla extract and the 1/4 cup melted butter; set aside.

Pastry: Combine the flour, sugar, and salt in a mixing bowl. Cut shortening into the flour micture until it is the consistency of cornmeal. Gradually add ice water, stirring, just until the dough holds its shape. Roll out on a floured board and cut into strips. Pour the peach filling mixture into the prepared baking pan. Criss-cross dough strips over the filling and brush pastry generously with remaining butter. Sprinkle with sugar and bake for 30 minutes or until the crust is brown.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Chocolate Covered Strawberries

My husband and I had a date night the other night and for dessert, I surprised him with some delicious chocolate covered strawberries!

You can use any chocolate--just melt it the microwave on a low heat setting (make sure you take it out a few times to stir it up!), dip in your strawberries and place them on a piece of wax or parchment paper, and stick in the refrigerator until you're ready to enjoy them!

I used a mixture of milk and dark chocolate and they were scrumptious!!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

White Chocolate Chocolate Chip Macadamia Nut Cookies

White Chocolate Chocolate Chip....sounds a little redundant, but this cookie consists of white chocolate chunks and semisweet chocolate chips!

So, I was looking for something quick to bake, and I found macadamia nuts that I wanted to use. I've made White Chocolate Macadamia Nut cookies twice, both times at Christmas (as a request by my sister--these are one of her favs!), but I only had a little bit of white chocolate, so I thought it would be good if I added some chips in there with it.

These cookies turned out chewy and fluffy. I was quite please with their consistency and look! As I've mentioned before, I struggle with chocolate chip cookies. This recipe is honestly SO similar to chocolate chip cookies, I was sure they wouldn't turn out looking like I wanted them. But, I was surprised! And not a bad idea adding the semisweet chips in there with the white chocolate! Very tasty indeed. These cookies have a little almond extract, which I think helps bring out the flavor! They are really good and very easy to make. And macadamia nuts are such a treat, you can never go wrong with them!

-1 c. butter, softened
-3/4 c. packed light brown sugar
-1/2 c. white sugar
-2 eggs
-1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
-1/2 tsp. almond extract
-2 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
-1 tsp. baking soda
-1/2 tsp. salt
-1 c. coarsely chopped macadamia nuts
-1 c. coarsely chopped white chocolate (or a mix if you want to add semisweet, dark or another type of chocolate!)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2. In a large bowl, cream together the butter, brown sugar, and white sugar until smooth. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, then stir in the vanilla and almond extracts. Combine the flour, baking soda, and salt in a small bowl. Gradually stir into the creamed mixture. Mix in the macadamia nuts and chocolate.

3. Drop dough by teaspoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheets.
4. Bake for 10-12 minutes in oven, or until golden brown.

Eat and enjoy!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

~Lemon Meringue Pie~

What better way to kick off summer with a tangy, tart & tasty Lemon Meringue Pie. Wait...not summer weather you might say? Oh well...that shouldn't stop you from enjoying all the wonderful treats that are a part of this magnificent season.

My family and I planned a BBQ last Sunday. Yes, it was overcast, cloudy, drizzling, and pouring rain all at different points of the day, but why let that stop you from enjoying the great food that comes from BBQing? :) We had a great menu planned out and I brought dessert! I haven't made a pie in a really long time--honestly, I think it's been over a year! CRAZY. So, I had to make one! The recipe I used came from Dorie Greenspan's cookbook Baking, From My Home to Yours, and was actually for a Lime Meringue. I just substituted lemons.

This pie took quite a lot longer to make than I had expected. Making the lemon part of the pie was tedious and time consuming! You have to cook the lemon juice, peel, sugar and other ingredients until it reaches a certain temperature. It's not hard to do, but it's hard to get the filling to 180 degrees if you don't have the proper equipment to help out!

**Invest in heat proof metal mixing bowls. I made the mistake of using plastic, and it seems to work against you in the long run. Plus, metal bowls are just better in general for baking**

I finally got the lemon to a point where it was hot enough, and was able to stir in the butter, which is how you make the lemon cream filling. This chills for at least 4 hours before you use it in the pie. This pie is actually not baked after it is assembled, which was nice to not have to worry about since it took me so long to make the filling :)

If you enjoy tart lemon flavored items, you most likely will love this pie! It is very appealing to the taste buds and a good choice to at least help remind you of summer, even if the weather isn't cooperating!

For the filling:
-1 cup sugar
-Grated zest of 3 lemons
-4 large eggs, preferably at room temp.
-3/4 cup fresh lemon juice
-2 tsp. cornstarch
-2 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, cut into tablespoon-size pieces, at room temp.
-1 9-in. graham cracker crust fully baked and cooked, or a regular single crust baked fully and cooled

For the meringue:
-4 large egg whites, at room temp.
-1/2 cup sugar

To Make the Filling:
1. Have an instant-read thermometer, a strainer and a blender or a food processor at hand. Bring a few inches of water to a simmer in a saucepan.
2. Put the sugar and zest into a heatproof bowl that can be set over the pan of simmering water. Off the heat, rub the sugar and zest between your fingertips for a few minutes, until the sugar is moist and the fragrance of lemon is strong. Whisk in the eggs, then whisk in the juice and cornstarch.
3. Set the bowl over the pan and start stirring with the whisk as soon as the mixture feels tepid to the touch. Cook the lemon cream until it reaches 180 degrees F. As you whisk--you must whisk constantly to keep the eggs from scrambling--you'll see that the cream will start out light and foamy, then the bubbles will get bigger, and then, as it gets closer to 180 degrees, it will start to thicken and the whisk will leave tracks. Heads up at this point--the tracks mean the cream is almost ready. Don't stop whisking or checking the temperature, and have patience--depending on how much heat you're giving the cream, getting to the right temperature might take awhile.

4. As soon as it reaches 180 degrees, remove the cream from the heat and strain the cream into the container of the blender. Discard the zest. Let it cool until it reaches 140 degrees F, about 10 minutes.
5. Turn the blender to high speed and add the butter a few pieces at a time. Scrape down the sides of the container as needed as you incorporate the butter. After all the butter is in, continue to blend the cream for another 3 minutes. If you find the machine is getting really hot, work in 1-minute intervals, giving the machine a little rest between beats.

6. Pour the cream into a container, press a piece of plastic wrap against the surface and refrigerate the cream for at least 4 hours, or overnight. (The cream can be packed airtight and frozen for up to 2 months; thaw overnight in the refrigerator.)

To Make the Meringue:
1. Preheat the broiler.
2. Whisk the cream to loosen it and spoon it into the pie shell. Place the pie plate on a baking sheet.

3. Working in a clean dry mixer bowl with the clean whisk attachment, or in a large bowl with a hand mixer, whip the egg whites at medium speed until opaque. With the mixer running, add the sugar in a slow stream and continue to beat until the whites are glossy and form firm peaks.

4. Spread the meringue over the lemon filling, swirling it if you'd like. Make sure the meringue comes all the way to the edges of the crust, because it will shrink when it bakes.
5. Run the pie under the broiler until the meringue is golden and the tips are dark brown. (Or, if you've got a blowtorch, use it to brown the meringue.) Remove the pie from the oven and let it cool for about 15 minutes, then refrigerate for at least 3 hours before serving.

**I used my creme brulee torch, and it worked great! You can use any pie crust recipe also--I used a regular pie crust, but I think this pie would be really good with a graham cracker crust! Look for the graham cracker recipe on my cheesecake post! Or please, leave me a comment if you need a good crust recipe!**