Orange Crush Cupcakes

The Orange Crush, in cocktail form  (not to be confused with the cloyingly sweet soda variety), is synonymous with our beaches here on the Eastern Shore. A few simple ingredients are shaken up to create one of the freshest and fruitiest drinks you’ll find.  They’ve long been one of my favorites in the summertime. So, I got to thinking – why not in cupcake form?

I used my favorite vanilla cake recipe as my base – with a fruity twist from fresh orange juice and zest. And I gave the buttercream frosting a nice boozy kick with a splash of Triple Sec and vodka, as well as some orange zest for a little brightness. The flecks of orange were pretty in the frosting as well.

You guys, they TOTALLY tasted like the cocktail. But cake. I took one over to one of my early morning beach walks for breakfast, and I couldn’t resist a little photo sesh…Cake By The Ocean

Cake by the ocean, baby! If there ever was a cake deemed worthy of being consumed by the ocean – it’s most certainly these. Make them soon to welcome the warm weather! No regrets.

Lemon Cheesecake Mousse

If there’s one thing that I really love – it’s a super simple no-bake dessert. When I saved this recipe on Pinterest a few weeks ago, it stuck with me in the back of my mind. It must have struck a chord with you guys too, as it got quite a few re-pins!

Just a few minutes to whip it together, some chilling time in the fridge, and we had a delectably fluffy and rich dessert – with a hefty dose of lemony flavor. I used lemon Jell-O as well as some fresh lemon juice and zest to really brighten up the one-note flavor that box gelatin often has. Worked like a charm.

Also, instead of the ubiquitous frozen tub of whipped topping that often is included in no-bake desserts, I opted for fresh homemade whipped cream – always a welcome change in a recipe as far as I’m concerned.

Topped off with some fresh berries and a sprig of bright green mint, it’s the ideal dessert to enjoy on the back porch as the weather warms up.

I’d also like to take this opportunity to announce that I’m now a Rodelle Brand Ambassador! I’ve long been a fan of their vanilla products, and look forward to working with them in my kitchen to create more sweet treats to share with you guys. Stay tuned!

Fresh Strawberry-Vanilla Bean Sundae Topping

While we’re still trying to fight off winter, spring has already sprung in some of our sunshine states like Florida and California. When I you start to see fragrant strawberries from these states popping up in your stores, you know that warmer days are right around the corner. At least, that’s what I’ve been trying to tell myself…

There are few things better in life than a perfectly red, ripe strawberry. When I buy them, I can always be counted upon to eat at least half of the clamshell package on the way home. So I’ve learned my lesson and usually buy two, just to be on the safe side. As much as I love to eat them “as-is”, it’s so much fun to cook and bake with them in the kitchen!

Cake. Cupcakes. Ice Cream. Vodka. Margaritas. Salad. Salsa. Syrup. You name it – I’ve made it! But one thing that was conspicuously missing was a good homemade strawberry sauce. Which, oddly is probably the easiest of all of those things to make. Fresh strawberries cooked down with a bit of sugar and a vanilla bean. Heaven over a bowl of yogurt and granola in the morning, or a scoop of vanilla ice cream in the evening…

Look for berries that are a deep red in color, but most importantly – smell them! Good strawberries are extremely fragrant. That’s usually my rule of thumb for most fruits, actually – the better it smells the better it’ll taste. So, keep your sniffer in mind the next time you’re in the produce aisle!

Homemade Marshmallows

I know, I know – I’ve been another couple of months MIA. I feel like it’s been one sickness after another around here since the New Year, and I’ve just been in kind of a funk as far as cooking in the kitchen is concerned. Sticking to my old stand-by’s…and not trying anything new or out of my comfort zone. I’m doing my best to “shake it off” though, and crossing out something on your “want to make from scratch” bucket-list is always a great place to start!

Marshmallows were at the top of that list for me. With as often as we make s’mores around here, a big fluffy homemade marshmallow would be just the ticket to elevate them to the next level. You can control the thickness and shape, and you know precisely what is going into them…something that’s not so easily accomplished with the store bought variety. Not to mention the fun you could have experimenting with flavors and colors!

A stand mixer is pretty much required, as it requires quite a bit of time whisking the mixture to the perfect cloud-like consistency. It’s minimal hands on work – heating up the sugar syrup and blooming the gelatin. Then it gets a spin in the mixer, and a good amount of cooling time before cutting and enjoying. Which, is of course always the hardest part.

They turn out perfect every time, and are a delightful little gift packaged up in a pretty cellophane bag. They also hold up really well to a good roasting, they’re more substantial then your average marshmallow – which tend to just want to slough off the stick. And, they keep for three weeks! Not like they ever last that long around here.

Source: adapted from King Arthur Flour and Alton Brown