Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Almond Joy Layer Cake

Submitted by Linda
It's hard to believe in my life of baking I had never before made a layer cake. Earlier in the summer, I decided I would definitely try my hand at it while I had some time off. I came across a wonderful Rachel Ray recipe, by chance when I was at my hair salon.

Homemade chocolate cake with almonds, coconut, and whipped cream frosting - what's not to love? Here's the first layer with the almond-coconut filling.
Now the layers are done, and I'm starting to frost with the whip cream.
What better occasion to make a nice cake than for a friend's birthday? Here's Liz, celebrating her "29th" birthday at our 'scrapping-stamping-crafting-marathon'.
Michelle made her this sweet mini-banner, which you can see hanging behind Liz's head in the photo above. It features the cute new "Cheerful Treat" papers from Stampin' Up.
50 35 85


  • 2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 stick (4 oz.) unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
  • 3 oz. semisweet chocolate, chopped (about 1/2 cup)
  • 2 1/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 4 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp. salt plus a big pinch
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 bag (14 oz.) sweetened shredded coconut (4 packed cups)
  • 2 cups sliced almonds
  • 3 cups heavy cream
  • 1/3 cup confectioners’ sugar


  1. Preheat the oven to 325°. Butter two 8-inch-by-2-inch round cake pans. Line with parchment and butter the parchment.

  2. In a medium saucepan, bring 2/3 cup water to a boil. Whisk in the cocoa powder until smooth. Whisk in the butter and chocolate over low heat until melted, about 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and whisk in 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar, 2 tsp. vanilla and 1/2 tsp. salt. Whisk in 1 egg at a time, beating well after each addition.

  3. In a large bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder and baking soda. Pour in the chocolate mixture until smooth. Stir in 1 packed cup coconut. Divide the batter between the pans and bake in the lower third of the oven for 35 minutes or until firm in the center. Let cool in the pans on racks for 10 minutes, then invert onto racks to cool completely.

  4. While the cake cools, spread the almonds on a rimmed baking sheet and toast for 12 minutes; let cool.

  5. In a saucepan, combine 3/4 cup cream, the remaining 1/4 cup granulated sugar and pinch salt and simmer, stirring, over medium heat until the sugar is dissolved, about 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the remaining 2 tsp. vanilla and 3 packed cups coconut. When cool, fold in 1 1/2 cups almonds.

  6. Split the cake layers to make 4 layers. Place 1 layer cut side up on a cake stand and spread with 1 cup of the coconut-almond mixture. Top with the second layer cut side down and spread with 1 cup more of the mixture. Repeat with the remaining 2 cake layers and filling, spreading the filling on the top. Cover the cake with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 4 hours to firm up.

  7. Whip the remaining 2 1/4 cups cream with the confectioners’ sugar until stiff. Spread over the cake. Sprinkle the top with the remaining almonds.

There is also an easier sheet cake version of this which you can find here.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Banana Crumb Muffins

Submitted by Linda
I read somewhere that people who are really "into" facebook are egomaniacs waiting to post their next thrilling "all about me" status update. I hope that's not true about me, because I really enjoy looking at facebook, usually once in the morning, and again in the evening. I have enjoyed making connections with folks from the past, and knowing what my friends and acquaintances are up to.

One neat person I have reconnected with via facebook is Sivje, pronounced See-vee. We attended the same church growing up in Oregon, and sang in our youth choir together. She was a few years behind me in high school, so we didn't hang out very much, though she was a great singer. What I didn't know is that she is an amazing seamstress! She has a beautiful blog, and she makes custom girl's dresses and pretty aprons. Check her out here!

Recently on facebook, she posted this recipe for banana muffins with a "cinnamon and brown sugar streusel" topping. I had 4 brownish bananas on the counter, just begging to be used, so I gave it a whirl. They came together easily and were really yummy!
Here's the recipe:
Banana Crumb Muffins
from Lisa Kreft via

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
3 bananas, mashed
3/4 cup white sugar
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/3 cup butter, melted
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
1/8 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 Tbsp. butter

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly grease 10 muffin cups, or line with muffin papers.
2. In a large bowl, mix together 1 1/2 cups flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. In another bowl, beat together bananas, sugar, egg and melted butter. Stir the banana mixture into the flour mixture just until moistened. Spoon batter into prepared muffin cups.
3. In a small bowl, mix together brown sugar, 2 tablespoons flour and cinnamon. Cut in 1 tablespoon butter until mixture resembles coarse cornmeal. Sprinkle topping over muffins.
4. Bake in preheated oven for 18 - 20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into center of a muffin comes out clean.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Tart 'n' Tangy

Submitted by Linda
Here's a stamp set that is retired, but it won't be leaving my stamp collection for a long time. I love these cutie fruities in the Tart and Tangy stamp set. I copied this card from page 136 of the recently retired Stampin' Up catalog. I would normally never combine the pink with orange, yellow and green, but the combination works! I love this card and will be certain to make it again sometime!It's hard to see in the photo, but the apple seeds and strawberry seeds are glitter! Always gotta add the sparkle!

Friday, July 22, 2011

It's a Loop Thing!

Submitted by Linda
Stampin' Up is notorious for putting some of their cutest items in the "hostess only" catagory, which means they aren't for sale, unless you host a party with a certain dollar amount. Though I am part of of club with Michelle, and usually have a party for my other SU bestie, Rachel, somehow I never earned the set called "It's a Loop Thing". The set included coordinating paper, rub-ons and stamps.

Michelle had it on hand, in her stash of supplies, so I 'borrowed' the whole kit and kaboodle several months ago, to make some goodies with it. I finally got to work, and here are the results! I also pulled out my old flower die cuts......
...and my old felt flowers.....
...and I happily used my spiral punch for the first time. The kite is printed on the faux notebook paper, but it didn't pop out enough, until I made another kite and raised it with dimensionals.
I think this next card is the winner. The little airplane is a rub-on, with shiny crystal effects added, and dimensionals to make it pop up. I knew I needed clouds, and I was stumped, until I saw this card at Heather Klump's Downstairs Designs blog. The paper is textured with the big shot embossing folder, then cut free hand into clouds.
On this card I used a big shot die to cut out the entire card, giving it the scalloped edge. Again, I popped out the kite.
And finally a little glitter on a cupcake makes a nice birthday card.
I made two of each design, and mailed Michelle's half to her, wrapped in a cello bag, of course! (Because nothing says love like a cello bag coming through the snail mail, right?)

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Oreo Cookie Balls

Submitted by Linda
I recently was out of town for a wonderful road trip, but I came home to some appliance drama: kitchen faucet broken (giant pile of dirty dishes due to no water), broken oven, squeaky dryer.

Immediately upon our arrival home, Craig and I took a trip to Home Depot to buy a faucet, which he immediately installed, even after a long day of driving. Squeaky dryer has been oiled, and the oven part has arrived and is ready for installation.

Tomorrow night is my stamp club, at which I am the hostess. That means I'm in charge of providing goodies for the evening. My strategy is always to have something salty, something sweet and something healthy, at a minimum. Usually peanut m & ms are involved also. Not being sure if the oven will be repaired in time, I need a sweet treat that doesn't require baking. Say hello to Oreo Cookie Balls!

These are like a truffle in disguise, and you would never know how simple they are to make by tasting them. And thankfully for me, they can be make with a food processor and the stove top.

Last time I wasn't completely pleased with the appearance of the balls and the texture of the melted chocolate, so I will try again this time and see if I can make them come out smoother.

Here's the recipe:

Oreo Cookie Balls
(from Shannon Smith, Just a Pinch Recipe Club)
Serves 24 -36


1 18 oz. package Oreo cookies (regular size, 3 rows of cookies)
1 8 oz. package cream cheese block
4 oz. white chocolate bark (or use chocolate chips)


1. Add oreos to food processor and blend until fine.
2. Add cream cheese to Oreo crumbs and blend until dough-like.
3. Chill mixture for 15 minutes then roll into bite-sized balls. Chill balls for 15 minutes.
4. Melt chocolate in microwave according to package directions. Dip chilled Oreo balls in melted chocolate using forks so chocolate can "drip off". Set covered cookie balls onto waxed paper and let set approximately 30 minutes. If using sprinkles or decorative sugars do so before chocolate sets.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Out with the Old #2

Submitted by Linda
Again, in the spirit of "out with the old", here's a card copied from page 47 of the recently retired Stampin UP catalog. I made few changes, based on the supplies I had on hand, but for the most part it's the same. I love the idea of using a circle of embossed polka dots as the center of the flower. The stamp set is Love You Much. I like this card enough I may make it again!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Another Day out of The Desi

Submitted by Michelle

My friend Carrie is always looking for something to do. She has the energy of a teenager and doesn't mind driving a few hours in order to see a new place. She is also an avid papercrafter, like me, and often will take me along on her trips. Yesterday we made another trek to Redlands to our favorite stamping and scrapbooking store, Collective Journey, to participate in a card making class. (We were in Redlands last weekend too. You can read about it here.) Summer is the perfect time for us to get out of the desert, or desi as we call it, for a day.

Our friend Andi was teaching the card class. She is totally amazing. I'm a copier/modifier when it comes to my crafting, but not Andi. She can take a single piece of paper and design the most amazing creations. Here's a look at what we made.

Balloons are very on trend this season for stamping and scrapbooking. The wire with the "reach for the sky" banner attached is truly inspired.
Pennants are also in. I'm seeing them every where! The flowers look quilled but were actually just rolled by hand.
This is my favorite. The colors, the polka-dotted ribbon and the yo-yo just take my breath away.
Glitter and baker's twine and cupcakes, oh my!
Linda and I have a new abbreviation that we use when we text. It is SSC or So Stinkin' Cute! This card would go in the SSC category, don't you think?
These fabulous cards have me inspired to put my own twist on some of them so I can share them with my stamp club members in August.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

What I Did On My Summer Vacation

Submitted by Michelle

During June, David and I celebrate our anniversary and I also celebrate my birthday. Usually, we try to take vacation as part of the festivities. This year we went to Encinitas, California and relaxed at Moonlight Beach. David's brother has a front row condo there (and by front row I mean right on the water front!) and he and his wife kindly let us use it. They also let us bring guests so we invited my cousin Steve and his family to join in the fun.

Here's a view of the beach from the living room window.
That's Steve and his oldest son, Reed, sitting under the beach umbrella.
I spent some time lounging on the beach in a chair while Reed and his brother Matt (pictured below) were total maniacs in the water. They did lots of body surfing and wave diving.
I did dip my toes in the water a bit.
And I even got David to take a few beach walks with me in the mornings.
Linda, Steve's wife, made sure we hit the beach one evening to enjoy the gorgeous sunset.
(That's Reed in the water.)
Here's a shot taken on the stairs that lead from the beach to the main street.
Linda also made sure we watched the sunset from the condo on other evenings, too.
On my birthday, Linda made my favorite meal: chicken riggies! Riggies are, as far as I know, a cuisine that can only be found in Utica, New York. They even have a Riggie-Fest in Utica, which I would love to fit into my next east coast trip. Here's Linda and Reed in the kitchen getting ready for riggie making!
There are many different recipes for riggies, but Linda's starts with onion, garlic and cherry peppers.
She adds in lots of chicken, tomatoes and white wine,
and then cooks it all down into a tasty sauce that is poured over rigatoni.
I like lots of Parmesan cheese on mine.
While Linda made me riggies, David made me a chocolate cake with chocolate frosting. Delish!
I also did some crafting on my birthday. Nothing beats card making with an ocean view.
One discovery we made about Steve, Linda, Reed and Matt is that they are all foodies, just like David and me! We ate at several Encinitas eateries that were fantastic. On one of our first nights together we dined at Blue Ribbon Artisan Pizzeria. I enjoyed the BLT Salad which consisted of butter lettuce, artisan bacon, bread crumbs and cherry tomatoes.
David had a bowl of sweet corn soup with chives and chili oil.
And we all shared several of the traditional wood fired pizzas.
Reed and Matt, ready to dig in.
Linda got arugula on her tomato pie (tomato sauce, oregano, garlic and sea salt).
Me and Steve, ready to duke it out over the last piece of pizza.
Another restaurant we feasted at was the Union Kitchen and Tap whose sign promised quality American fare, craft beer and cocktails. Cocktails indeed! Linda and I enjoyed a refreshing Tequila Blackberry Fizz while Steve sampled the craft beers.
Reed feasted on a top sirlon steak with a side of bacon mac and cheese.
Matt openly laughed in the waitress's face when she offered him a children's menu and then proceeded to order the steamed mussels and clams in a broth made with fennel, tomatoes, chorizo and parsley. And not to be outdone by his brother, he also added on a side of bacon mac and cheese.
I kept things a little lighter and had scallops in an onion marmalade with fingerling potatoes and arugula.
Linda enjoyed sea bass and Steve tried the Union Burger.
By the end of the meal we were all quite satisfied.
The best thing about our vacation was having the chance to be with family that we don't see very often. To me, spending time with people I love is better than any exotic destination.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Totes Gorge!

Submitted by Michelle
Alright all you middle aged ladies and gents, this vocabulary lesson is for you! I try to stay hip to the jive so that I can relate to my nieces, nephew and adopted sons T-Bone and Nick-Dawg (yes, I made up those fake gangsta' names for Linda's boys), but every now and then I am completely stumped by a new phrase and have to be educated by said nieces, nephew or adopted sons. Case in point: totes. Last fall my niece Rachel went away to college in Manhattan and I noticed her using the word totes on her Facebook page. Oblivious to the totally obvious meaning, I had to ask her. (Totes = totally!) Fast forward to about a month ago when Linda was reading Women's Day Magazine and found an article about words middle aged women should not be using. Totes was on the list! She immediately consulted with Nick-Dawg about the list and then called me to see if I knew any of the words, which I'm happy to say, I totes did!

Being the fun loving gals that we are, Linda and I do not adhere to random rules set forth by authors in woman's magazines and we have added totes to our vocabulary only we also shorten the other words that go with it. (Which is what the young kids do too!)

For example, these cards that I created today could be described using the current teenage slang.

Totes presh!
(totally precious)
Totes gorge!
(totally gorgeous)
Totes fab!
(totally fabulous)
And if Nick-Dawg or T-Bone were to read this blog entry they would say I am totes ridic! (Totally ridiculous)