Thin Mint Cupcakes

Those cute little girls that sit outside every grocery store, every corner waiting to smile up at you and ask "do you wanna buy some girl scout cookies?"

Sucker! I'm a sucker + thin mints are heavenly. We ended up with too many boxes and even though I love them and their thin minty flavor I like them almost more in baked goods.

This recipe makes 36 cupcakes so it's a great way to start working your way through all those boxes you accidentally came home with. They are chocolate cupcakes but have a very mild smooth taste so that the thin mint crumble flavor really does shine through. The nutella frosting helps keep the chocolate taste in check while creating a light creamy top. It is moist and light while the coloring of it all is very appetizing. This cupcake is sure to make you work friends!

Thin mint cupcake:

2 1/4 cup flour
2 1/3 cup sugar
3/4 cup cocoa powder
2 1/2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 1/4 cup buttermilk
3/4 cup brewed espresso; room temp
2/3 cup olive oil
3 eggs
1 tbs vanilla
2 sleeves thin mint cookies; crushed

Makes 36 cupcakes or a 9" 2 layer cake

1   preheat oven to 350 degrees F and line cupcake tin with liners
2   combine flour, sugar, cocoa powder, soda, powder, salt
3   in another bowl combine buttermilk, espresso, olive oil, eggs, vanilla and beat lightly
4   slowly pour milk mixture into flour mixture and beat until combined
5   fill each cupcake liner 2/3 full and sprinkle a tsp of crushed thin mints top of each cupcake
6   bake for 15-20 minutes, a toothpick will come out clean if it's done

Nutella frosting:

1 cup butter; room temp
1 cup nutella
3 powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2 sleeves thin mint cookies
1   beat butter until light and fluffy, then beat in nutella
2   slowly beat in powdered sugar and add in vanilla
3   pipe a dab of frosting on top of each cooled cupcake and top it with a thin mint cookie


Ladies Night

Had a few ladies over to make pasta the other night. We opened a bottle of wine and nibbled on olives while jamming to an Ellie Goulding Pandora station- lady power songs, and cranking out some pasta. We made some regular and some herb laminated pasta again because it's just so darn pretty.
Fabulous night even more fabulous ladies! & since I kicked Joshua out of the apartment he also ran around to a few breweries and had a boys night :)


Wacky Birthday Cake

I'm in love with this cake! I was so honored to be asked to make a birthday cake for this man. The problem - how do you make a cake for someone with that much exuberance, passion and light inside of them!
So I started with some really great icing colors and made a gradient up the cake, ending in a very vibrant yellow green that you can feel in your teeth. I've been wanting to pepper a cake with meringues for awhile and in experimenting with it I found I need to seal them from the moisture of the cake so I dipped them in colored white chocolate and then just went for it. I am in love with how it turned out! It has so much texture and movement. I brought it into my office, architecture firm, and a lot of people were commenting about how wacky and busy it was yet they thought it felt thoughtful and striking. I knew I'd nailed it, I was pretty sure he'd love it, luckily he did :)

Just as good as the decorating is that this is a cardamom spice cake with cardamom espresso frosting topped with cardamom vanilla meringues. I loved grinding all the pods up and just dumping it in. Cardamom is normally so under obsessed about, not this time!
Cardamom Spice Cake:
from here, with a cardamom increase

1 1/2 cups flour
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp cloves
 3/4 tso cardamom
1/8 tsp pepper
1/2 cup butter; room temp
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1 1/4 cup buttermilk

1   preheat oven to 350 degrees F, line the bottom of 2  8"x8" cake pans with parchment paper, spray with oil and coat with flour
2   in a bowl mix together flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt and all the spices
3   in another bowl beat the butter well and then beat in the sugar and brown sugar
4   scrape down the sides of the bowl and beat in the eggs 1 at a time, beat in vanilla
5   then on low add in 1/3 of flour mixture, then 1/3 buttermilk and repeat until all is incorporated
6   pour cake into pans and bake 30-35 minutes, a toothpick should come out clean, pull out and let the cakes cool

Cardamom espresso frosting:

2 cups butter
4 cups powdered sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp espresso powder
1/2 tsp cardamom
1 tsp vanilla
3 tbs cold milk

1   beat butter until light and fluffy then slowly beat in powdered sugar
2   beat in salt, espresso powder, cardamom, and vanilla until smooth
3   slowly beat in milk 1 tbs at time
4   frost the top of one of the cake layers, then do a crumb coat on the outside of the cake filling in an crevices, the space between the 2 cake layers, etc and place cake in fridge
4   place remaining frosting in 3 bowls (you will want a bit more of the frosting for the lightest color as you need to frost the top with it) and add food coloring until you achieve desired colors
5   put each frosting in a piping bag and cut a big tip with scissors. Make sure you reserve a bit of icing to use as glue for putting on the meringues
6   pull cake out of fridge and pipe 2 large rings around the bottom of the cake with the darkest color, then get the middle color and pipe on 2 more large rings around the cake, then pipe the lightest color to the top of the cake and squeeze a bunch of frosting out on the top of the cake
7   take a large flat knife and smooth out the cake, you will be pulling off a lot of extra icing as that is how the gradient will start to appear. continue to work your way around the cake and on the top until it is smooth.

Then I made these meringues and dipped them in colored white chocolate and let them dry on parchment paper. If you're having trouble getting the white chocolate to set you can place them in the fridge for a little bit.

Add a bit of frosting to the bottom of each meringue and arrange them on the cake. I added a few types of sprinkles too to add more texture.


Hurricane Ridge Snowshoe

The first day we were out on the peninsula the road to Hurricane Ridge was closed. Snowshoeing that hike was the only thing we really had planned so we were nervous. Luckily though the next day it was open and the sun was out in full force. We snowshoed up what is normally the road and then up part of the trail to a precipice. The views were unrelenting!

the normal trail sign buried in about 5' of snow
We were the first ones on the trail that morning and there had been about 6" of fresh snow the night before. Something fun about making the first tracks and then watching everyone else follow them later.
It was just the most gorgeous day. The view from the parking lot was enough to captivate, but getting up higher and capturing the views at 360 degrees was a fabulous use of the day!


Olympic Peninsula Adventuring

When we did leave the cabin we headed out to Neah Bay. Neah Bay is just about the most NW point of the state of Washington. It was a pretty bleak day but it made for some good waves and the green of all the vegetation popped.

The coast is so beautiful. Small rock islands just dramatically from the waves, your eyes can follow the recess of waves into caves they've beaten in, trees teeter on the edges proudly sprouting their pine branches. It's serene to be along the Washington coast. When you can manage to be there without other people and just exist with it, well it's just really great.

After that we read Harry Potter, just finished the 6th book!, and drove to Rialto Beach. I love this beach, but the weather was just not cooperating with us. We rambled amongst the logs and sand for a bit but eventually  the wind and rain won out and we retreated. I do love the color the worn in logs turn when they're wet though.


Cabin Escape

Joshua really wanted an escape from work, and truthfully all life responsibilities, so he booked us this awesome cabin in Sequim. The couple built it and it was amazingly nestled in a forest of tall trees with a wood burning stove for heat, a cute outdoor patio kitchen, an outdoor shower, and an earth oven which I was very excited about. We thought we'd go into town for dinner one night but all we wanted to do was head back to the cozy cabin and sit in front of the wood burning stove. It was such a great escape to get away and not really have any plans and no one to need anything from us.

I was deeply ecstatic about the earth oven. Watching multiple videos on how to do it well and researching dough recipes. We ended up making pizzas that tasted just as good as all those fancy restaurants. Turns out their secret is a wood burning fire. I was really nervous and babysat my fire for 2 hours while Joshua played guitar and we drank coffee and beer and ate cookie dough. Then I finally moved the fire to the side and tossed them in. At first nothing, then the cheese began to bubble and the dough puckered and charred. We were both so enthralled!

Some how we also managed to leave the cabin and seek out a little adventure, which is next.


Celebrating a Golden Birthday

This past weekend we went to Cheesecake Factory to celebrate our friend Liz's Golden birthday.
While Cheesecake factory is a very strange choice we both, being from the Midwest, seem to get gift cards there every Christmas. We have been stockpiling them and decided to blow it all going out to dinner for her birthday!

Josh managed to get his reflection spot on in this one.

We had bottles of wine, 3 appetizers, steak, cheesecake with bubbly. We somehow managed to spend 3 hours there slowly working our way through the gift cards. It was delightful!

we got to pose with the gifts we brought :)