Pink Lemonade Cupcakes

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There will be a day when my blog post is about something other than delicious food, but today is not that day!

I had some fun decorating some extras of these cupcakes I made for the county fair with some of my leftover white chocolate frosting to give to my coworkers for a surprise summer treat.  I absolutely overbooked myself for baked goods and arts at the fair this year.  The woman checking my art at the registration booth last Saturday confirmed that I had entered 11 items: 6 pieces of art and 5 bakes.  But somehow I managed to finish it all!  Here’s evidence of the 5 bakes I did in app. 2 mornings (plus the mint cookies that I took out of the freezer from graduation, but no one needs to know that 😉 )

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I’m not completely clear on how exactly I came around to deciding to make these pink lemonade cupcakes, I mean, I’ve certainly never heard of pink lemonade as a cupcake flavor before, but one day I just thought they’d make a great cupcake and figured they must be on the Internet somewhere.  And for some reason I thought white chocolate frosting would make a great pairing, even though I’ve never had that either.

And guess what?  It worked!

These delectable little cups of sunshine are the perfect summer treat!  I love the sunshiny flavor that comes through from the lemon zest and tangy pink lemonade concentrate.  With the addition of some white chocolate frosting, these cupcakes practically explode with flavor in your mouth.

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I’ve brought these little bits of summer to my group of junior high girls at church and they all raved about them!  My family and coworkers also gave their stamp of approval, so after a year of making them, I figured it was time to enter them into the county fair!

I mean, seriously, just look at them.

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They are SO good.

So go ahead and enjoy your own little lemonade cupcakes 🙂

It just might make your day.

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Pink Lemonade Cupcakes

Cupcakes

2½ cups flour
1 tbsp lemon zest
1½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp kosher salt
¾ cup butter, softened
2 cups sugar
3 eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
½ cup pink lemonade concentrate
1 cup buttermilk

White Chocolate Frosting

 

6 ounces white chocolate, melted and slightly cooled (use a white chocolate bar, not chips)

1 cup unsalted butter, softened to room temperature

2 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar

¼ cup heavy cream (can use milk, but it won’t be as rich)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

¼ teaspoon salt

 

DIRECTIONS

For the cupcakes, preheat oven to 350°. Line 27 muffin cups with paper liners and coat with non-stick cooking spray.
In a small bowl, combine flour, lemon zest, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

Using an electric mixer, cream butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs one at a time. Mix in vanilla and pink lemonade concentrate. On low speed, alternate adding flour mixture and buttermilk to mixer, beginning and ending with the flour. Mix just until combined. Fill prepared muffin cups with ¾ full with batter. Bake 20-22 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Cool cupcakes completely before frosting

For the frosting: In a medium bowl using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium speed for 1 minute. Switch the mixer to low speed and slowly add the confectioners’ sugar. Quickly stir the cooled white chocolate so that it is smooth and add to the butter/sugar mixture. Switch the mixer to medium speed and beat for 2 minutes until combined and creamy. Add the cream, vanilla extract, and salt. Beat for 1 minute until combined. Frost the cupcakes.

 

(The pink lemonade cupcake recipe and instructions are from Bite Me More and the white chocolate frosting recipe and instructions are adapted from Sally’s Baking Addiction.  Photos are property of Lotsoflifeloveandliterature)

Identity in Christ

I just got back from our senior-led retreat, and it was amazing!  God worked in wondrous ways through other people and in my own life.  As a part of the retreat being senior-led, I was one of the seniors who gave a talk.  I’ve been really passionate about identity in Christ because it’s a topic that I’ve learned so much about through my spiritual journey during these past few years.

The retreat’s spiritual theme was “spiritual disciplines” – which is really an umbrella term for knowing truth and putting it into action.  I really want to share with you all my talk that I ended up giving because it’s my testimony of my past few years and I believe that it could give perspective on how God sees you.

I’d like to start off by asking you a question – who are you?

Jesus once asked his disciples, “who do you say that I am?” and that question is said to be the most important question you will answer as a Christian.  Next to knowing who Jesus is, knowing who you are is the second most important question you’ll answer in this life.

So, if a random stranger walked up to you and asked who you were, what do you think your response would be?  Some possible answers could range from anywhere between basketball player to professional doily crocheter.  But you have to admit!, most responses to the question “who are you?” would be based off of your high school rank, age, profession, or even church denomination.  But the truth is, none of those answers would be correct because it doesn’t define what makes you you.

What really defines a person’s identity – at their core – is their relationship with Jesus. 

Neil Anderson is a Christian author who once said,

“The only identity equation that works in God’s kingdom is you plus Christ equals wholeness and meaning.”

So, for me, I accepted Jesus when I was about 4 or 5, so really young, and I grew up in the church, so I knew all the churchy-correct answers.  I believe there were some downsides to my giving my life over to Jesus at such a young age because half the time I thought I had it all together.  Sometimes it was as if I just checked Jesus off my list and knew how to live my life from then on.  I believe that my indifference to knowing my true identity in Christ had some repercussions later on that could have been avoided, and it was only a couple years ago that I truly dove into learning how to answer the question of “who did I say that I am?”  So, I’ve learned what I’m calling my “3 Identity Truths” that I believe are really critical for every believer to know:

Once you turn your life over to Jesus, you are first and foremost a new creation, secondly you are a son of the Most High, and thirdly you are free.

First and most important Identity Truth: you are a new creation after you turn over your life to Jesus.  This is the most important truth to remember because from it stems all other truth about your identity in Christ.

One of my favorite verses about this can be found in 2 Corinthians 5:17.  2 Corinthians 5:17 states, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!”

What is so crucial to remember is that our old nature is gone – done away with.  Allow me to elaborate a bit on that.  We receive a sin nature from Adam when we’re born.  That means that humans are not basically good.  Before we gave our lives over to Jesus, the inclination to sin is immediate.

Whatever the situation may be, we used to be slaves to sin, but now, it says in Romans 6:18, “You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.” 

Sophomore year I was going through some stuff, so my mom gave me this book to read called Victory Over the Darkness by Neil T. Anderson.  That book and God’s word were what really helped me at the time and I’ll talk more about that later, but there was this illustration in the book that I wanted to show you.

DSC_1925  I really found this fascinating.  So, a person is made up of three parts: their body, soul, and spirit.  And this is the original creation, so everything here is perfect.

Now, here is where the Greek in the New Testament goes much deeper than English.  Whenever you read the word “life” in the New Testament it means one of three different Greek words:

  • bios (bee-os)
  • psuche (psoo-kay)
  • zoe  (dzoo-ay)

Bios is the life of the body, psuche is the life of the soul (the mind, will, and emotions in that second ring there), and zoe is most important; zoe is eternal life and union with God.  Now think back to way in the beginning when God created Adam and Eve.  Adam and Eve were spiritually alive and physically alive, but when they sinned, his zoe ended – his intimacy with God was broken.  They were still able to connect with God through sacrifices and priests, but that spiritual closeness with God was no longer there.

However, in the New Testament, the term zoe comes back into play in a slightly different way in relation to the union that believers have with God through Christ!  Through Jesus’ death and resurrection, He interceded on our behalf and covered our sins so that we might have that zoe, that restored union and intimacy with God.  The sin nature that we received from Adam is completely abolished when Christ enters our lives.

That’s where my second favorite verse comes in: Galatians 2:20 says, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.  The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself up for me.”

“I no longer live” – if someone told you that someone you knew was no longer living what conclusion would you come to?  They’re dead.  Their physical life has ended.  In the same way, when you accept Jesus into your heart and turn over the reins of your life to Him, you die.  Your former flat, 2D identity is dead and Christ now lives in you through the Holy Spirit.  Well, the verse goes on to say that “the life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself up for me.”  God not only provides instructions of do’s and don’ts for this life, because “faith without works is dead,” but he tells us why.  He loved us enough to give his Son in our place and take our punishment for our sins.  He loved us enough to draw us to himself until we became new creations in him.

So, just some food for thought:  how does knowing yourself to be a new creation influence the way you daily live out your faith?

Second Identity Truth: you are a son of the Most High when you turn your life over to Jesus.

During youth group in the fall, we had electives on different topics we wanted to learn about, and that’s where I learned this really profound twist on what I have always known.  I was talking to my mom about my topic, and I told her that we are all sons of God.  She smiled and added, “and daughters.”

Actually, no, we are not all sons and daughters, we are all sons of God.

Let me explain.

Galatians 3:26 and 28 says, “You are all sons of God through faith in Jesus Christ.  There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”  Shortly after, Paul continues in Galatians 4:4-5, “But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive the full rights of sons.”

Now this is where I found the Greek to be really deep again because according to Strong’s concordance, the Greek word for “son” is huios and means . . .

“properly, a son (by birth or adoption); (figuratively) anyone sharing the same nature as their Father. For the believer, becoming a son of God begins with being reborn (adopted) by the heavenly Father – through Christ In the NT, 5207 /hyiós (“son”) equally refers to female believers (Gal 3:28).”

Did you all catch that?  When Jesus died on the cross and defeated death three days later, he made it possible for us to be adopted as sons of God!

In the definition I just read, “son” means “anyone sharing the same nature as their Father.”  That means that we are righteous, holy, and pure.  It means that we possess the mind of Christ.

Jesus made that possible.

Also, “5207 /hyiós (“son”) emphasizes likeness of the believer to the heavenly Father, i.e. resembling His character more and more by living in faith.”  Sooo, the bad news is we’re not perfect.  Not in this life anyway.  We are going to make mistakes along the way, but as long as we are living by faith, living out our identity as sons of the Most High God, we will resemble His character more and more every single day.

Third Identity Truth: when you turn over your life to Jesus, you are free.

This is perhaps the hardest concept for me to grasp, because throughout my high school years I was spiritually attacked in several different ways.  When I was 16, I had a lot of guilt attacks where I would remember some deceitful thing I had done, feel a load of condemnation for it for a day or so, confess to my mom and feel a million times better before it happened again.  I think the first time it started was when I started watching a show.  My mom never told me it was okay to watch it and was skeptical of it, so I watched probably three seasons privately.  I eventually stopped watching it, but the weight of what I had done clung on my conscience.  I’m not proud of this, but I didn’t tell my mom what I had done for about 8 months.  And after that 8 months, my pastor gave a sermon on confessing to each other . . . and conviction . . . and truth . . . and I absolutely burned in my seat.  I blurted out the whole deception to my mom in the parking lot – probably a bit incoherently – and she forgave me.

But then I almost felt chained to the cycle, like I had to confess everything I had ever done before starting afresh.  That constant dwelling on the past didn’t help me much either and led me to dwell on immoral things and think of things that certainly didn’t line up with Philippians 4:8, where it says, “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable, if anything is excellent or praiseworthy, think on such things.” 

Know that if you are struggling with a weight of condemnation about something that was done in the past, that is spiritual warfare.  I know, I’ve been there.  If you are in Christ, there is no more condemnation, only conviction.  The difference between condemnation and conviction is that condemnation is a feeling of no hope and overwhelming guilt whereas conviction is your conscience being pricked by the Holy Spirit.

Guys, there is a spiritual world that we can’t see with our eyes.  There is a constant invisible war being fought that we simply can’t see, but the effects show up in our lives.

Satan is real.

I don’t mean to sound shocking, but he is as real as Jesus and he desperately wants to distract us from loving and following Jesus.

The problem for us is that Satan doesn’t appear in our lives as the ugly brute we know him to be.  He shows up as an angel of light –  as the summation of all of our daydreams and hopes.  He can use the slightest bit of a lie and conceal it in truth and people buy it!  I’ve bought it.  He is the king of deception and all he needs to do is move our course a bit off, get us a bit distracted, get us in a false mindset, in order to throw our focus off of God.

And guess where it all starts?  Guess where Satan deliberately begins his attack.

Thoughts.

Exactly like a speaker at our youth group was talking about a couple weeks ago, our thoughts are the beginning to who we ultimately become.  That is why it is SO important to know God’s truth, to dwell on it every day, and to constantly be in communication with Him, because that is how we can stand our ground against the enemy attacks and know who we are in Christ.

You are filled with the Holy Spirit whether you feel it or not and that is the key difference between who you are now and who you used to be. 

2 Corinthians 3:17 says “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.”  I really struggled knowing the freedom I had in Christ with his Holy Spirit living in me, mainly because I believed that I didn’t have much choice in my thoughts.  I believed similar lies when it came to singing.  There have been days where I’ve been so beaten down mentally that I couldn’t squeak out low notes that I knew I could sing, much less higher notes that I struggled with anyway.  And the sad part is is that I partially knew that the thoughts I were thinking weren’t true.  So I had to decide, would I believe the lies or would I believe who Jesus told me I am?  The more I spent time soaking up Scripture and communing with God, the more the lies disappeared.  It’s a truth that I repeat to myself every day, that I am free in Jesus and that if temptation does come my way, He will provide a way out of it.

In conclusion, you are

a new creation

a son of the Most High God

free

Your identity changes its very DNA when you hand over your life to Jesus, and you are forever a new creature in Him as His very free child.  If you are in Christ, you are righteous, holy, and pure.  You possess the mind of Christ!  If you’ve been reading this and don’t know what it is to give your life over to Jesus, please contact your local church, a Christian friend, or even me.  I would love to pray for you.

Now I want to close in Ephesians 3:14-21, just as a prayer over you.

 For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name.  I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.  And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever!  Amen.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Layer Cake

Chocolate Peanut Butter Layer Cake

I must say right off – this cake should only be made if you have loads of time on your hands.  Since I have beginner-intermediate level of experience with baking cakes, it took all day plus a night.  However, I’ve wanted to make this cake ever since I got my Pinterest account two years ago, so when I got school off for Thanskgiving break I jumped at my chance.  I actually didn’t love the looks of the cake called for in the original recipe when I made it, so I decided to make Abby’s fabulous chocolate cake just in case.

Yep, that’s right!  I’m finally posting Abby’s to-die-for blue ribbon chocolate cake!

Also, the original cake called for a meringue layer.  Hm.  It sounded delicious and daunting at the same time.  The first attempt I made at it was when I spread all of the meringue in one cake round shape on the parchment paper.  It was decidedly thick and didn’t dry all the way through during the hour and forty-five minutes it was drying in the oven at 200°.  The middle got all sticky, gooey, and gross, so I took another swing at it and spread the new meringue almost to the size of a cookie pan.  I baked it at 250° for 30 minutes and decreased to 200° for another 15 minutes.  The result was not unlike the texture of thin foam, but the the vanilla flavor melted in my mouth.  However, the next day, the meringue was chewy and not the lovely melt-in-mouth texture it was the day before.

That was probably much more information about my meringue struggles than you cared to hear, but it was all said because though I will include the meringue layer in the recipe, I highly recommend making it optional unless you already know how to make a foolproof meringue.

Otherwise, this cake is so much fun!  The crunchy peanut butter layer combined with the chocolate cake is probably my favorite part.  It all reminds me of a rich cake version of Reese’s peanut butter cups.

An assembly tip:  Once you start to put the cake together, it you put the cake on a plate that has a slightly risen rim like mine does, put an un-leveled top half of the cake upside-down on the bottom.  That way there is a flat and sturdy surface to build the rest of the layers on.

 

Chocolate Peanut Butter Layer Cake

Meringue
2 egg whites,
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Whip the egg whites on medium until soft peaks form. Slowly add the sugar and the vanilla, continue to whip on high until the whites are shiny with stiff peaks

Spread the whites on the parchment paper in a circle the size of the cake pans. Bake for about 2 hours until the meringue is dried out.

Chocolate Cake

3/4  cup water
1 cup buttermilk
1 cup vegetable oil
4 eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla
3/4 cup cocoa
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking soda

  • Preheat oven to 350º.
  • Line desired pan with parchment or wipe with vegetable oil and dust with cocoa powder.
  • In a large bowl, beat water, buttermilk, oil, eggs and vanilla with a mixer on low speed.
  • Add dry ingredients and beat for 5 minutes on low speed, until thoroughly combined.
  • Pour mixture into prepared pan and bake accordingly, a 13×9″ pan will take about 40-50 minutes.  Two 8-inch rounds take about 40 minutes.  Do not overbake.

Peanut Butter Frosting Layer
1 cup peanut butter, creamy
1 1/2 cup powder sugar
1 1/2 cup rice krispies

Whip the peanut butter and the powder sugar together until fluffy.  Gently fold in the rice krispies.

Milk Chocolate Frosting Layer
1 cup milk chocolate chips
1 -2 Tbls cream
4 oz cream cheese
1 cup powder sugar

Warm the milk chocolate chips in a bowl over steaming water (or for few seconds in the microwave, but be very careful not to burn the chocolate).  Add in the cream cheese, the cream and the powder sugar; whip until fluffy. Add in more cream if the frosting is too thick.

Dark Chocolate Ganache
1 cup dark chocolate (pick a good dark chocolate bar, chopped, or chips)
1/2 cup heavy cream

Assemble the cake first and then make this ganache so you can pour over the cake while the ganache is still warm.  Put the chocolate in a bowl and heat the cream until it is steaming but do not boil.  Pour over the chocolate and allow it to melt the chocolate for a minute.  Mix it all together until smooth. Add more cream if the mixture is too thick.

Putting the cake and frosting layers together

Remove the cakes from the cake pan, slice the cakes horizontally so that you have 4 layers.  Place one layer on a cake tray, slather half of the milk chocolate frosting on top.  Place another cake layer on top of the chocolate frosting, top with the meringue and then top with the peanut butter frosting.

Add another layer of chocolate cake, the remaining chocolate frosting and then the final chocolate cake layer.  The final step is to drizzle the warm ganache over the top of the cake, allowing some of the ganache to drizzle down the sides.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Layer Cake 2

(Today’s recipes and steps for “Meringue”, “Peanut Butter Frosting Layer”, “Milk Chocolate Frosting Layer”, “Dark Chocolate Ganache”, and the step “Putting the cake and frosting layers together” are all directly from Fat and Happy Blog)

White Sheet Cake

White Sheet Cake

Happy Thanksgiving!

I hope you had a fantastic Thanksgiving full of love, family, and lots of turkey and apple pie :).  As can be seen by the majority of my posts, one of my top things to be thankful for is that God created the art and science of baking.  Yum.

(Side note:  if you love to bake or just like listening to British accents, watch The Great British Baking Show.  It’s my favorite, and I’m super sad that I just finished the episodes available on Netflix.  However, I’m hoping that the season that just finished airing will be available soon 🙂 .  If you don’t have Netflix, they have more recent episodes streaming on PBS)

When I was planning desserts with my mom for our first-ever hosting for Thanksgiving, we figured that we would need a good variety in case some people didn’t like some of the desserts.  Knowing that I had school off for the week, I was SO incredibly and ridiculously excited to have so many desserts to make this week.  Let me list them for you: my Melt-In-Your-Mouth Pumpkin Cookies, Chocolate Peanut Butter Layer Cake, and today’s White Sheet Cake.  And since I didn’t have quite enough time, Abby made our Best Frosted Brownies Ever.

(Side note: Abby showed me how to hyperlink, so I went and redid all my previous posts – it’s so much fun!)

I’ve been noticing that some of my posts have been made in an excited baking frenzy, wanting everyone to see my newest projects instead of calmly posting the recipes that are tried and true.  Thus said, I’ve made this cake at least ten times, and it will be made plenty of times in the future.  My dad and brother absolutely adore it, and the rest of my family also love it.  The richness found in the vanilla flavor and moistness is so much richer than any old white sheet cake recipe, probably due to the sour cream in the batter and the amazing frosting.  I once entered in the county fair as “white sheet cake”, but the judges criticized it by countering with “is not white cake.”  I agree.  This cake is not your average white cake, but it’s well worth making if you like white cake.

First, preheat oven to 375 degrees. Melt butter and water in a large saucepan over medium-low heat until butter is melted.

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Remove from heat and stir in the sugar, flour, salt and baking soda.

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Stir with a wire whisk until smooth. Add eggs and vanilla. Stir in the sour cream and mix until blended.

DSC_1357 2Pour the batter into a well greased 11”x17” sheet pan. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until the cake springs back when lightly touched or a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Remove cake from oven and allow to cool slightly while you make the frosting.  If you frost the cake while it’s still the slightest bit warm, the frosting sinks into the cake a bit and makes it more moist.

White Sheet Cake

1 c. butter
1 c. water
2 c. sugar
2 1/4 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 c. sour cream

Frosting:
1 c. butter
6 Tbl. evaporated milk
4 1/2 c. powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1/8 tsp. salt
1 c. chopped pecans, opt.

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Melt butter and water in a large saucepan over medium-low heat until butter is melted. Remove from heat and stir in the sugar, flour, salt and baking soda. Stir with a wire whisk until smooth. Add eggs and vanilla. Stir in the sour cream and mix until blended.
  • Pour the batter into a well greased 11”x17” sheet pan. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until the cake springs back when lightly touched or a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Remove cake from oven and allow to cool slightly while you make the frosting.
  • Put the butter and milk into a medium saucepan. Heat until butter is melted and bring to a simmer. Remove from heat and stir in the powdered sugar, vanilla and a dash of salt. Whisk until completely smooth. Add nuts (if desired) and spread over cake.

 

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(Today’s recipe was taken directly from Eat Cake for Dinner.)

Anticipations for Fall

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I was looking through one of my notebooks last night in search of one of my randomly placed journal entries.  I remembered that it was about being excited for fall, and I feel like I need to remember some of that excitement as I look towards my senior year. God has been preparing my heart for this school year, though, and I don’t feel as anxious about my future as I was when choosing my PSEO classes.  Still, it was fun and encouraging to read about my attitude 2 years ago, when facing my sophomore year:

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“It is the absolute perfection of a day, according to my own judgement of the weather.  It has been cloudy all day with the temperature wavering at 70° as a high and dropping below that as the day wore on.  There is a hint of the promise of autumn in the air, just enough to make me yearn for cozy sweaters, campfires, and mugs of hot apple cider.”

9-2-13

“The summer is drawing to a close, but I have no regrets.  It is not every summer I am able to say that.

The drought has brought a pre-chill into the air, forewarning an early fall if no rain comes soon.  To me, the new coolness to the air is only a source of excitement and anticipation.  It will get warmer in the next few days and feel like summer again for a while, but I love the feeling of hope that the weather brings.  I try in vain to bring up past feelings in the spring of cabin fever and the drudgery that I know schoolwork could very well become, but my mind is bound and determined to see this new season of my life in with determination, hope, and excitement, knowing that as long as I stick close to God, everything is an adventure.  I know that Mr. Freeman (a friend’s dad) is right, that at the end of our lives or at the time of the rapture, the only regret we’ll have is that we could’ve done more for Jesus.  I don’t want to have that regret.  I want, at the end of my life, to stand before God with hands wide open and say, ‘I gave you everything and held nothing back.'”

Like Paul said in 2 Timothy 4:18:

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.  Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award me on that day – and not only me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.”

Here is my prayer for you today,

I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever!  Amen.

                                                                                    Ephesians 3:16-21

At youth group this week, there was a guy who talked about these exact verses.  He was formerly a discussion group leader and mentioned how prayer time consisted of prayer requests such as, “I have this hang nail . . . ” or “My aunt’s dog has arthritis and if you could just lift them up in prayer, that would be great.”

His point was that we pray for comfort from trials in our lives, but if we pray that God strengthens us through his Spirit and establishes us in love, then we will be able to face those trials with the strength that God provides.

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.  Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

   James 1:2-3

No one goes through troubles in life without coming out from them changed.  If we keep our eyes on Jesus through the troubles, we will come out from them closer and stronger in our relationship with Him.  That’s  the only explanation why we can face trials with joy 🙂

No matter what this fall brings, keep your eyes “above the sun” on Jesus, and He will carry you through.

Lemon Blueberry Cake

Lemon Blueberry Cake

I’m starting to have an inkling that this blog may become more of a baking/cooking blog if I keep it up.  My family has been telling everyone that I’ve been baking every day this week . . . which is more or less true.  I just checked out Sally’s Baking Addiction cookbook from the library, so I had to try at least 2 or 3 or 4 of the recipes.  Once everything is added up, I made five different recipes this week – just about enough for every day.  If you’re curious, the recipes were my Bakery Style Lemon Blueberry Muffins, my Best Frosted Brownies Ever, and Sally’s apple bread, Rainbow Chocolate Chip Cookies, and Layered Lemon Blueberry Cake.

Since it is also Abby and my self-proclaimed impromptu Nerd Week, starting with 4,5, & 6 Star Wars movies, I made the apple bread during The Lord of the Rings: the Fellowship of the Ring and the Lemon Blueberry Cake during The Two Towers 🙂

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This cake is fabulous!  I’ve only made it once before and that was an utter failure.  My dad still loved it, because he ate it like breakfast pound cake, but that batch was definitely too dense.  It turned out that the high density was due to my misreading the part that says 5 seconds, but I read 5 minutes for the last round of stirring.

So make sure to read everything and be prepared for anything!

Once I followed all the directions correctly, it tasted amazing!  It’s so light, fluffy, moist, and incredibly flavorful.  The light cream cheese frosting is a “perfect complement” to the cake, as Sally says.

I just think that lemons and blueberries together are the most wonderful summer combination, don’t you?

Here are some of Sally’s tips for the cake:

“Make sure you use fresh lemons. None of that lemon extract stuff! And no bottled lemon juice, which is quite potent.

* How to choose lemons at the store? Make sure the lemons you choose are smooth-skinned and heavy for their size. That way you know they are extra juicy.

Use buttermilk. Buttermilk, known for providing exceptional moisture to your baked goods, will leave each bite tender and lush. I’ve found that lemon cakes can easily be dry and gritty. There’s none of that in this recipe! Buttermilk, a little brown sugar, and 4 eggs assure the final product is as moist as it could possibly be without being wet.

Did you know? It’s easy to make your own buttermilk alternative at home! I don’t typically keep buttermilk in the refrigerator. But you can sour your own milk (1% milk fat or higher) at home to make DIY buttermilk. For this particular recipe, simply measure 1 Tablespoon of fresh lemon juice in a measuring cup/glass. Then fill the rest up with milk until you reach 1 full cup. Stir it around, let sit for 5 minutes, and it will be ready to use in your cake. (Alternatively, you could also use 1 Tablespoon of white vinegar.)

Fresh or frozen blueberries are OK. If using frozen, do not thaw. And don’t worry – the blueberries will not sink to the bottom of your cakes.

* Why not? Because I make sure the cake batter is extra thick. When you have a thin batter, your heavy fruit will likely sink to the bottom. This batter is thick and you’ll surely work a few arm muscles scooping it into the three cake pans. Toss the blueberries in a touch of flour as well – this way they won’t burst inside and turn your cake purple.”

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Enjoy each bite of summer sunshine 😀

Lemon Blueberry Cake

Cake

  • 1 cup (230g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 1 and 1/4 cups (250g) granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup (100g) packed light brown sugar
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature1
  • 1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 3 cups (360g) sifted all-purpose flour, careful not to overmeasure
  • 1 Tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (240ml) buttermilk3
  • zest + juice of 3 medium lemons4
  • 1 and 1/2 cups blueberries, fresh (258g) or non-thawed frozen (275g)
  • 1 Tablespoon all-purpose flour

Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 8 ounces (224g) full-fat cream cheese, softened to room temperature5
  • 1/2 cup (115g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 3 and 1/2 cups (420g) confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 – 2 Tablespoons (15-30ml) heavy cream6
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • pinch salt

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350F. Grease and lightly flour three 9×2 inch cake pans with nonstick spray. Set aside.
  2. Make the cake: Using a handheld or stand mixer with a paddle attachment, beat the butter on high until creamy – about 1 minute. Add granulated and brown sugars and beat on medium-high speed until creamed, about 2-3 minutes. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed. Add eggs and vanilla. Beat on medium speed until everything is combined, about 2 full minutes. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed. Set aside.
  3. In a large sized bowl, toss together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients. Beat on low speed for 5 seconds, then add the milk, lemon zest, and lemon juice. Remove from the mixer and stir lightly until everything is just combined. Toss the blueberries in 1 Tablespoon of flour and fold into the batter. Batter is extremely thick. Do not overmix at any point.Overmixing will lend a tough, dense textured crumb.
  4. Spoon batter evenly into 3 prepared cake pans. If only using 2 cake pans, your bake time will be longer. Bake the three layers for about 21-26 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Mine took 21 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely before frosting.
  5. Make the frosting: Using a handheld or stand mixer with a paddle attachment, beat cream cheese and butter together on medium speed until no lumps remain, about 3 full minutes. Add confectioners’ sugar, 1 Tablespoon cream, vanilla extract, and salt with the mixer running on low. Increase to high speed and beat for 3 minutes. Add 1 more Tablespoon of cream to thin out, if desired.
  6. Assemble and frost: First, using a large serrated knife, trim the tops off the cake layers to create a flat surface. Place 1 layer on your cake stand. Evenly cover the top with cream cheese frosting. Top with 2nd layer, more frosting, then the third layer. Top with frosting and spread around the sides. The recipe doesn’t make a ton of frosting, just enough for a light frost. Top with blueberries or lemon garnish if desired. Refrigerate for at least 45 minutes before cutting or else the cake may fall apart as you cut.
  7. Make ahead tip: Prepare cakes and frosting 1 day in advance. Keep cakes at room temperature, covered tightly. Refrigerate prepared frosting in an airtight container until ready to use. Frosted or unfrosted cakes may be frozen up to 2 months, thaw overnight in the refrigerator and bring to room temperature if desired before serving.

Additional Notes:

This batter will fit into a 9×13 pan. Fill 2/3 full. If there’s extra batter, you can make a few cupcakes. I’m unsure of the baking time since I only typically make it as a layer cake.

  1. Room temperature eggs preferred for even distribution among batter. Simply set into a bowl of warm water for 5 minutes before using or set out when you set out your cream cheese/butter for the recipe.
  2. Be very careful not to overmeasure your flour. This will result in a heavy, dense crumb. You want a precise 360g. For a lighter crumb, you can use 3 + 1/4 cups sifted cake flour instead.
  3. Please use buttermilk in this recipe. See note in post about how to make a DIY version at home.
  4. 1 medium-size lemon = approximately 1 tablespoon of lemon zest = 2 to 3 tablespoons of lemon juice.
  5. Use brick-style cream cheese. Not cream cheese spread.
  6. Heavy cream with 30% or more milk fat preferred in frosting for creamiest texture. For a less creamy texture, milk would be fine.

(Recipe and Additional Notes are from Sally’s Baking Addiction )

About Me

If you ever see me, you’ll probably find me creating something or learning how to create something. I love everything from singing and playing piano to baking cookies and reading a good book. I believe my innate urge to create is only because I am a born again child of God. Since God is the Creator of all things and children follow their fathers, it only makes sense that I would love to copy what my heavenly Father does all the time.

My family has been the most encouraging in all of my activities and interests. They are simply fantastic! 😀 I love them so much!  I have on older brother, Alex, and older sis, Abby, and two awesome parents.

Oh, did I mention that I also have an adorable Pembroke Welsh Corgi named Riley? Yep. 🙂 He is very enthusiastic whenever we’re excited 🙂

I’ve loved creating ever since I was little and my love has only increased! When Abby and I were in 9th grade, we took cooking classes at home. It was very relaxed and fun and we learned a ton of recipes that we use regularly to this day. It was also a time that I fell more in love with cooking and baking than I had before.

With all my creative spirit, don’t be surprised to see a mention or two of Pinterest sources :). It is very inspirational, even if I don’t copy everything exactly 🙂

And last, but certainly not least, to God be the glory!

DIY Sharpie Mugs

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These mugs are everywhere.  I bet you’ve seen them on Pinterest a million times.  I love them!  They are so easy and they actually wash pretty well, despite what you may have heard.  I personally love to doodle, paint – anything crafty, so I absolutely loved this craft.  They are a great, fun craft as long as you follow a couple things.

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First off, you’re going to want to buy a super cheap mug – cheaper the better.  I bought a ton of mine at Ikea for $1 each.  The reason you want the cheap glaze, I’ve learned, is that the cheaper the glaze is the better it’s going to melt and incorporate with the inked design in the oven.

Secondly, another thing I’ve learned is that you want to sanitize the surface of the mug with rubbing alcohol before doing your design, and make sure not to touch the area that you’re working on with your fingers so that the oils from your hands don’t interfere with the ink from incorporating with the glaze of the mug.  Rubbing alcohol is also very helpful for cleaning up any mistakes 🙂

Thirdly, research (aka, other blog posts :)) has shown that oil-based Sharpies are the way to go.

(EDIT: The black marker has thicker ink than the rest and doesn’t bake well.  The featured mug on this post is half chipped now.  If you want black ink, it might be worth your time to try a regular Sharpie.)

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Some say otherwise, but the majority goes with oil-based.  You can find them in the same general area as the regular Sharpies at Michael’s.  They’re a bit more spendy, but the pros outweigh the cons if you end up liking making these.  Plus, that’s what those wonderful Michael’s coupons are for, right? Make sure to read and follow the directions on the markers before using them.

When the mug bakes, depending on the color, the design may fade to a different color.  I’ve heard that the red turns to more of a reddish-purple and I’ve personally experienced the white turning to cream . . .

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. . . but I didn’t mind how it turned out.  Just keep in mind that your design might change a bit

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Finally, have fun with it!  You can freehand it like I did, or I’ve heard that tracing out your design with eyeliner first helps.

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You can put a letter sticker of one of your initials on there and just do a ton of dots over it all like this gal did.

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Then you pull off the sticker and – wah lah!

DIY Painted Mugs - That Won't Wash Away {Craft}

This craft is wonderful in that it gives so much freedom in all the possible designs you can do.  The sky’s the limit.  You can even buy some porcelain paints and go nuts with that if you prefer painting to doodling.

Once your masterpiece is complete, let the ink set for at least 48 hours.  If the ink is thicker, it might be best to let it set for an extra 24 hours or so.  I’ve even heard that some people let the mug sit for a week or more, but I can’t remember if they were using oil-based Sharpies when they did.

Then it’s on to the oven!  Put your mug in the cold oven and then set your oven to 425º.  Once the oven is warmed up, then you set the timer for 30 min.  When it’s done, don’t put it on the counter.  Let it cool down along with the oven until it’s totally cool.

They are hand wash safe from then on out!  I’ve tried putting them in the dishwasher once and they held up, so if you want to experiment with it more, go for it.  I just recommend hand washing to be on the safe side 🙂

It’s a great pastime to do with kids or even just to pull out when you need a last-minute gift!  I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!