Monday, October 31, 2011

A time for shrieks, a time for tricks,...and a time for treats....

It's hard to believe that it's already that special time of year once again: the night of that infamous date of October 31st...All Hallow's Eve. And while many have already attended halloween parties and picked out their favorite costume to wear this year, I've decided to, once again, pick out a few of my favorite halloween recipes -this year it's all cupcakes- to bake and enjoy while sitting through an awesome marathon of every spooky, scary and funny movie I own. (And believe me, I have plenty.)


First up, Ghostie Cupcakes:

[Probably one of the most simple, yet still adorable.]

1/2 cup shortening
1 3/4 cups sugar
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 eggs
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1 cup plus 3 tablespoons cold water
1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 1/4 cups unbleached all purpose flour

1. Place 24 cupcake liners in two cupcake tins. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. In a stand mixer, beat together shortening, sugar, vanilla extract, and salt. Add eggs and coco powder and beat until combined. Slowly mix in water. Add baking soda and flour and mix slowly at first, then faster until the mixture comes together. Fill tins half full using a cookie scoop.

3. Bake cupcakes for 20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.
Cool completely on wire racks.

Yield 24 cupcakes. Prep time 15 minutes. Bake time 20 minutes.

Whipped White Chocolate Frosting

Flavoring syrup gives all the flavor of white chocolate
without making the chocolate too dense.
4 sticks unsalted butter, softened slightly
2 lbs powdered sugar
1/2 cup Torani White Chocolate Flavoring Syrup
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
Wilton Black Sparkle Gel
Wilton tip 1A
Plastic spiders, optional

1. With a mixer, slowly beat together all the ingredients. Once combined, turn the mixer to high and beat for 3 minutes until fluffy.

2. Fit a pastry bag or gallon size bag with a Wilton tip 1A. Fill with frosting and pipe in large spirals around cupcakes squeezing at the top for a head. Let cupcakes set for 15 minutes.

3. Make eyes with sparkle gel by holding the bottle against the frosting. Squeeze gently and release. Slowly pull away from the frosting. Repeat with remaining cupcakes. If using, press plastic spiders into frosting to decorate.

Yield 5 cups. Prep time 7 minutes.

(Source: Recipe from Yum Food and Fun for Kids, October 2010 by Laura Flowers.)

Next, Owls!:

[I couldn't help loving these; they're my favorite animal, and favorite cookie (oreos) combined into one, great tasting, chocolate treat <3 ) This recipe is for both large and mini cupcakes.

· 12 Chocolate Cupcakes 

· 1 Can of Chocolate Frosting 
· 24 Oreos 
· Medium Bag of M&Ms 

1. Separate the Oreos. You might want to microwave them for a few seconds first. Use a paring knife to remove any crumbs from the cream filling. 

2. Using a serrated knife, make 2 parallel cuts 1/2 inch in from the edge on each plain cookie half. The two outside edges will be used for the ears. 

3. Spoon 1 cup of chocolate frosting into a Ziploc bag, press out any excess air and set aside. Spread the remaining frosting on the cupcakes. 

4. Using a little frosting, attach 2 of the large ear pieces, rounded sides in and about 1 1/2 inches apart, on top of each of the cupcakes. Angle the ears slightly away from each other, and allow them to extend about 3/4 inch beyond the edge of the cupcake. 

5. Place two cream-sided cookie halves, cream side up, on the upper half of each cupcake to make the eyes. 

6. Snip an 1/8-inch corner from the bag with the chocolate frosting. Pipe lines of frosting along the length of the cookie ears to cover. Starting with the edge at the top of the cupcake, pipe the feathers with the frosting using a squeeze-and-pull motion. Work inward from the edge in slightly overlapping rows until the section above the eyes is covered. Pipe a few feathers on the edge just below each eye. 

7. Press a yellow M&M in the middle of each cupcake to make the beak. Use a dot of frosting on the cream of each cookie to attach a brown M&M to the eyes of the cupcakes.

And Finally, Tombstone Cupcakes!:

1 package (18-1/4 ounces) cake mix of your choice
1/3 cup semisweet chocolate chips
24 Milano cookies
1 can (16 ounces) vanilla frosting
1/2 cup chocolate wafer crumbs
1 cup chow mein noodles
24 orange gumdrops
3 green gumdrops, cut into small pieces

  • Prepare and bake cake mix according to package directions for cupcakes; cool completely.
  • For tombstones, in the microwave, melt chocolate chips. Pipe "RIP" onto cookies; place on waxed paper to dry.
  • Frost cupcakes; sprinkle with chocolate wafer crumbs. Carefully insert tombstones into cupcakes. Arrange chow mein noodles to resemble fingers. Use gumdrops to make pumpkins; place in front of tombstones. Yield: 2 dozen.



    I hope everyone enjoys their Halloween; whichever way they choose to celebrate it. Be it reading a great paranormal romance book, watching movies, snuggling on the couch while devouring some candy or trying to bake some goodies and
    carve jack-o-lanterns (Like I shall try to do this evening.)

    Happy Halloween to all, and to all a spooky night!

    [For those who would love to attempt baking a cake I consider to be on the expert level, or if you would just love to admire the sight, like I did, I'll post that next <3]

Happy Halloween Cake!

Chocolate Orange Layer Cake
with Chocolate Filling and Orange Buttercream Frosting
Topped with Chocolate Ganache
Makes 1 10-layer, 8-inch round cake


1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
2 cups sugar
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 lb. sour cream

For the orange layers:
1 1/2 teaspoons finely grated orange zest
1/4 cup fresh orange juice

For the chocolate layers:
1/2 cup boiling water
1/2 cup cocoa powder

Food coloring, if desired

1/4 cup boiling water
1/4 cup cocoa powder
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, softened
3 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons milk, as needed

6 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened
5-6 cups confectioners’ sugar
1/4 cup fresh orange juice
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
2 tablespoons milk, as needed

To make the cake: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line up to 10 8-inch round pans with parchment.

In a small bowl, combine the boiling water and cocoa powder; set aside to cool.

In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt; set aside.

In a large bowl, or the bowl of a standing mixer, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, until combined, scraping the sides of the bowl, as needed. Stir in the vanilla. Sprinkle 1/3 of the flour mixture into the bowl and beat until just combined. Add half of the sour cream, mix until combined, then scrape the bowl. Repeat with the remaining flour mixture and sour cream, mixing until everything is combined.

Divide the batter in half evenly. To one half, gently stir in the cooled cocoa mixture until combined. To the other half, stir in the orange zest and juice until combined. Add orange and/or black food coloring to the different batters, if desired. Place about 2/3 cup of batter into each pan, alternating between the 2 flavors, until you have an equal amount of chocolate layers versus orange layers. Bake up to 3 layers at a time for 10 minutes. Cool completely before stacking and decorating.

To make the filling: In a small bowl or measuring cup, combine the boiling water and cocoa; set aside to cool. In a large bowl, cream together the butter and about a third of the confectioners’ sugar. Stir in the cocoa and mix thoroughly before beating in another third of the confectioners’ sugar. Next stir in the vanilla and the remaining sugar, beating until well mixed and light and fluffy. Add more milk, as needed, if the frosting is too thick. Add coloring as desired.

To make the frosting: In a large bowl, cream together the butter and 2 cups of the confectioners’ sugar. Stir in the zest and juice, and mix thoroughly before beating in another 2 more cups of the confectioners’ sugar. Next stir in the vanilla and the remaining sugar, beating until well mixed and light and fluffy. Add the milk, as needed. Add coloring as desired.

Assemble the cake: Stack the cake layers, starting with orange on the bottom. Frost the top of the layer with the chocolate filling. Spread the frosting to about one-inch from the edge of the cake. Next, layer a chocolate layer on top and frost it like you did the orange layer. Repeat that process until you’ve used all of your layers.

Frost the outside of the cake with the orange buttercream. If desired, use leftover chocolate filling to pipe swirls onto the outside of the cake (I did only the sides).

Pour the (room temperature) ganache slowly on the center of the cake, allowing it to spread toward the edges. Do not pour too much ganache on at once, or it will completely cover the cake, rather than drizzling over the sides. As the ganache begins to reach the edges of the cake, use a small spatula, if necessary, to help the ganache begin to drizzle down the sides.

Garnish with fondant pumpkins or other decorations, if desired. (Note: Small, decorative pumpkins can be purchased instead of using fondant, if desired.)

(Source) Bakingdom!

[Bakingdom is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License. All writing and photography copyright © 2010-2011 Bakingdom | Darla Wireman. All Rights Reserved.]

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Review: Reclaimed (The Fire and Ice Series) By Kim Faulks

Brief Description:

Natalie Sommers is an armed bodyguard. She has completed two tours in Afghanistan with the Australian Army and carries five different weapon licenses. To say she is a tough, no-nonsense woman, is an understatement. But underneath the tough exterior that she shows, lies the truth that she won’t admit - that she is lonely.

So when she is hired to escort the rich and gorgeous Alexander Ash around the dazzling backdrop of Sydney she can’t help but become seduced by his fixation of her. But it is no accident that Alexander has walked into her life, as he has met her, loved her and fought for her before.

Alexander Ash has sworn he would love her forever, even if it means searching for all eternity…and eternity is a long time for a vampire. The Fire and Ice Series is a tale of undying passion and love as Natalie is torn between two immortals that hold a secret so deadly that it will tear her world apart.



If there’s one thing Natalie Sommers hates most, it’s pompous and arrogant clients who think the term “bodyguard” means “personal slave.” So imagine her displeasure when her boss pairs her up with a client who [reeks, epitomizes, etc.] of arrogance. Natalie knows how men like Alexander Ash work their way into sleeping with any woman, and she’s not fooled. But as fate would have it, she ends up agreeing to guard this man who is currently in need of protection while he is in the city visiting his own clients and taking care of business at a number of appointments. And it just so happens, that he also has a certain function he would like to attend…an All Hollow’s Eve ball. Although, Natalie doesn’t really see the importance in such an event and when she questions Mr. Ash about the meaning of All Hollow’s Eve, his answer is simple, yet interestingly vague; [“It’s when dead things come out to play, Miss Sommers.”]

That same afternoon, and after a therapeutic session at the shooting range, Natalie decides to finally go and meet Alexander at the hotel he’s staying in. It’s not surprising to see a tall thirty-foot or more story building, but it is a little more impressing when she learns he’s rented out the most expensive suite, the Royal Suite, at the top floor which is virtually impossible to book; a fact that now made Alexander Ash even more dangerous to Natalie. A man such as Mr. Ash definitely had money…and a lot of connections.

After sitting in the lounge and discussing the day’s schedule with whom Natalie assumes to be his attractive assistant, the door to Alexander’s bedroom is finally opened, but by three women….not Natalie’s client. Hiding her embarrassment from the sight of the skimpily-dressed women who look like they’re still full of lust for Alexander, Natalie decides then and there that she can’t wait for this “business” to be done with. Once Mr. Ash was showered and dressed, he was ready to leave with Natalie...and thus began the first wave of a new feeling that would soon overcome Natalie’s body.

The two travel by limo, Natalie sitting beside Alexander as they are driven to each destination. Throughout the rides, all she can think of is hoping that this time spent with her new attractive client passes quickly, but as the time does pass, Natalie begins to realize that she is no longer exactly ignoring this man like she originally intended. She begins to form thoughts in her mind of Alexander’s looks, personality, his physique, and she cannot yet understand why something as simple as his smile is making her heart and stomach begin flutter.

As soon as Natalie is so sure it’s just her nerves, something else begins to bother her…a voice; not near or around them, but inside Natalie’s mind and invading her thoughts. Natalie starts to hear it loud and clear inside of her head; it sounds seductive, enticing....and a lot like...Alexander’s voice. Natalie tries to forget about it and blame it all on her suspicions, but can’t seem to get this voice out of her head. She even continues to feel a touch against her skin; the touch of lips and the feeling of breath against her neck. What’s wrong with her? She attempts to force herself to behave and act professionally while with him, but the more time she spends with Alexander, the greater her desires and feelings for him become.

Once the tiring, confusing and definitely eventful day is done with, Natalie and Alexander return to Alexander’s suite. Natalie is both relived and excited to finally get the chance to go home and be apart from Alexander and the growing urges that have been increasing since the day began. But Mr. Ash’s assistant requests that she stay and tells Natalie that Alexander has already prepared a bedroom for her with all the accommodations she may need; because he figured it was a part of her duty to spend nights with the client she is protecting. How lovely. Despite her own intentions, Natalie decides to stay…at least she can take advantage of the upscale room and bed while she’s there. During her stay, Natalie notices that another group of women have decided to join Alexander for the night. Once more she attempts to ignore her perverted thoughts and tries to get some sleep, but all she can seem to focus on are the noises and moans of pleasure emitting from Alexander’s bedroom, all while becoming more unconsciously sexually frustrated for Alexander Ash.

Tomorrow comes and Natalie is still confused about this whole All Hallow's Eve thing, so she questions Alexander, who calmly tells her that he plans to go in costume and has already chosen something for Natalie to wear, as well. The tough red head doesn't have to question him much further, since Alexander happily admits that he is choosing to go dressed as the great Dracula, and he's already selected the perfect outfit for Natalie; Dracula's bride.

The evening certainly takes a turn for the...shall we say "scandalous" (rooms filled with countless aroused guests, plenty of deepening desires, and Alexander openly tempting Natalie further get her to give into him, and dark and mysterious new man appearing at the party driven to search for Natalie and bring her with him.) and by the end of this, it's quite clear that Natalie has made a risky choice is working with the seductive, alluring yet dangerous client that is Alexander Ash.

Final Thoughts:

The first out of her five-part Fire and Ice series, author Kim Faulks brings out the spellbinding passion and eroticism within the twisted love triangle centering the lead, Natalie Sommers. In reading this novella, it was clear that it was a story packed with all sorts of action and also fast-paced. Kim goes into detail with her writing; not just in describing the events of the story, but also with the developments of romance between the characters. 

The story of Natalie isn’t just a single line focusing on her struggle to understand more of what lies ahead for her, but is instead a web of lies and truths that seem to lead to more questions about the role she plays in all of it. Adding more confusion to her story is her constant yearning for love and companionship which could be found in either of the two male leads, who are themselves shrouded in mystery. What seemed to me to be the most intriguing are these two characters themselves. They come across as very complex and mysterious, it is often difficult to know exactly what they’re thinking and what their motives are, that by the end of the whole story, you’d be left wishing for more. The only negative things that I would have to say about this novella is that, at times,there were scenes that seemed a little too fast-paced and I felt there could be a little more description in certain parts so I could get a better understanding. Still, all in all Reclaimed is an intriguing and wonderful read, and with an extremely interesting cliffhanger and plot-twist at the end of the story, you may find yourself quickly choosing to buy the next installment of this series; Seductive Sands.

Check it out at Amazon.