Fun at my Beach Town Bakery

As you may know, aside from working on my up-and-coming cookbook, I also own and operate a bakery down in beautiful San Clemente, CA.  So what exactly goes on in my beach town bakery, Sugar Blossom Bake Shop? Aside from whipping up cupcakes and cookies, we also have many opportunities to do a lot of custom orders for customers and for corporate clients.  Here’s a “My Little Pony” cake that we made at the shop just last week:

My Little Pony Cake

My Little Pony Cake
The cake is vanilla with custard filling filled with fresh strawberries and bananas. We frosted the cake using layers of luscious buttercream.

Using fondant to make the figurines from "My Little Pony"

Using fondant to make the figurines from “My Little Pony”

My Little Pony Fondant Cake Decoration

The finished product!

In the end, we decided to top the cake with a pink ferris wheel to make it more girly and festive and oh-so-My Little Pony 🙂 We love taking on custom orders like this one because it allows us to innovate and really get our creative juices flowing!

To see what else goes on in my beach town bakery, visit me at Sugar Blossom Bake Shop!

beach town baking

 

 

 

Fun and Beautiful Sea Shell Projects

When I’m at the beach (which is quite often!), I always seem to pick up a pretty shell or two and pocket them as mementos. Slowly, these shells have accrued in the corner of my house, and I finally decided that I had to do something about the situation and find a way to put them to good use. There are tons of craft ideas out there for repurposing shells, but these are my favorite! Here are three great projects to turn your beach souvenirs into lovely home trinkets:

Shells and sand in bottles as souvenirs

1. Shell Collection Display: An easy way to use your seashell collection is to put them out for the world to see. Find apothecary jars and glass vials at flea markets and thrift stores to use as displays for your collection. If you’re a world-traveler, start collecting sand and shells from beaches that you’ve visited, and put them in their own bottle. Add labels and make note of where each jar came from. Your display will not only look stunning in your home, but will be a great conversation starter about your travels for guests!

Sea Shell Lights

(image courtesy of Marthastewart.com)

2. Seashell Lights: I saw this picture on Marthastewart.com and I knew I had to make this! Sure, you can probably buy these lights from her site, but I figured this project was simple enough (and cheaper!) to do on my own. Go to your local hardware store and buy a set of white tree lights (or go through your garage and find old Christmas lights! I’d rather avoid the hassles of untangling, though) Take each of your shells and, using a pair of tweezers, carefully superglue them onto the string in front of each bulb. Let dry, hang and enjoy!

Beach Town Baking Sea Shell Soap Dish

3. Shell Dish: I love this one because it’s so simple. The hardest part about this project will be finding a big enough shell. Once that’s done, you’ll need to make sure that all of the living tissue on the shell is gone. You can do this by either boiling it or freezing it for a day or two. After the shell is clean, simply use it as a soap dish in your kitchen or bathroom.

So simple and fun, right? Which one of these three projects is your favorite?

 

beach town baking

 

Hello, Summer!

Sun Sand SurfIt’s a beautiful 75 degrees and sunny here in San Clemente, CA, a sure sign that it’s officially SUMMER! Yipee! Happy First Day of Summer, everyone! I’m going to celebrate this day by spending my afternoon at the beach and listening to some classic rock n’ roll, and then daydreaming about new sweet treats to add in my cookbook. What will you be doing?

beach town baking

 

 

Banana Cream Pie

 

Banana Cream

Layers of graham cracker, chocolate, custard, banana and whipped cream– who can resist the Banana Cream Pie?

It seems like the trend these days in the baking world is “what’s old is new again”. From cupcakes to whoopie pies to ice cream sandwiches– anything considered old-fashioned is now making a modern comeback.  Take for instance the Banana Cream Pie; for years, this classic dessert hibernated in local mom-and-pop diners. Today, it’s the most popular request I get through my bakery‘s wholesale restaurant catering business.  I wasn’t sure how to go about this dessert, so I decided to do a little research of my own and spent last Monday visiting some Los Angeles eateries – like Urth Cafe and Apple Pan — and trying out their take on this classic pie.

Some places used chocolate crusts, some used nut crusts, and some mixed in banana with the custard, while others used bananas only as a garnish. There were so many different combinations, so I thought, why not put my own twist on it?

  • Fresh, ripe bananas are key in this recipe.
  • I like to dedicate an entire layer to just bananas!
  • Whipped cream rosettes add the perfect vintage touch to this pie!

For Beach Town Baking’s Banana Cream Pie, I decided to go with a thick and crunchy graham cracker crust topped with a thin layer of dark chocolate. After the chocolate set, I made a vanilla bean custard and poured the hot custard over the chocolate covered crust. I let the custard set up for a few hours and then topped it with lots of thinly sliced bananas (3 bananas worth)! To finish the pie and make it pretty, I piped mounds of whipped cream rosettes on top. Lastly, I garnished the pie with freshly grated chocolate curls and drizzled some salted caramel sauce on top. YUM.

I’ve gotta admit, my tummy is pretty happy with my updated version of this classic pie!

Do you have a particular way you enjoy your Banana Cream Pie? Share it with me!

beach town baking

 

 

 

Memorial Day Mixed Berry Trifle

Beach Town Baking Berry TrifleI spent my Memorial Day holiday with my dear friend Seyie Putsure at her beautiful home in Pacific Palisades. Seyie is the founder of Seyie Design, an incredible interior design and branding company that serves residential, beauty, fashion and lifestyle clients in California and India. In fact, Seyie designed the interior space of my bakery, Sugar Blossom Bake Shop, in 2010!

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l to r: Holly, Seyie, Maryam, me

Beach Town Baking Barbecue

Boys meet grill!

For Memorial Day, Seyie and her husband Steven hosted a potluck barbeque and I was assigned to–you guessed it–dessert duty! One of my favorite desserts to bring to large gatherings is a trifle. For this gathering, I decided to make a mixed berry trifle and use patriotic-colored berries in honor of Memorial Day.

Beach Town Baking

Does anyone have a bigger spoon?

Trifles are quite easy and fun to make, especially if you make the components the day before. On the Sunday before the potluck, I baked a small 8″ round golden butter cake and made some pastry cream and simple syrup. The next day, I assembled the trifle by layering cubes of the butter cake with the berries and the pastry cream, which I lightened with some whipped cream. I made sure to douse each layer of cake with simple syrup to ensure that the cake remained moist. To add flavor and sheen to the berries, I glazed them with some thinned raspberry jam. Overall, it only took about 15 minutes to assemble the trifle.

Beach Town Baking Berry Trifle

Beach Town Baking Berry Trifle

 

Hoggy exhausted from too much BBQ and berry trifle.

Hoggy exhausted from too much BBQ and berry trifle.

Trifles are saviors for large get-togethers because not only do they feed plenty of people and look impressive, but they’re also super simple to assemble and make!

What’s your go-to potluck dish?

beach town baking

 

 

 

Looks for Any Beach Occasion

Usually, I dress pretty low-key to the beach, but sometimes it’s nice to be a little fashion-forward, too! Going to the beach doesn’t strictly mean wearing a bikini and shorts; here’s my little guide on how to dress at the beach for any type of occasion:

1. Just a beach day: A simple sundress or a wrap in a bold color or pattern worn over a cute bathing suit is the way to go. Grab some gladiator sandals and oversized sunnies, and throw your hair up in a bun. If you want to get a little fancier, some gold or wood bangles are a great way to “dress up” your look without overdoing it.

btbbeachlook2

2. Stroll Along the Pier: Pair patterned shorts with a white tank for an effortlessly chic look. Dress it up with a statement necklace and a pair of embellished but comfortable sandals. Remember to bring a light cardigan to throw on just in case the breeze begins to pick up!

btbbeachlook

3. Dinner Overlooking the Sea: Beach style should always be simple, so for a more formal occasion, a maxi dress is an easy way to instantly transition from a laid back daytime look to elegant evening attire. Add a pair of wedge sandals, a gold chain necklace and bracelet, and take down your bun to let your hair fall down in natural waves.

goddess
Who said you couldn’t be fashionable at the beach? These looks are all easy, beautiful and effortless. What are your favorite ways to dress up at the beach?

 

beach town baking

 

 

 

 

 

Poached Apricots in Vanilla Syrup

1a53b70cc25011e2b56022000a9f1354_7Apricot season is here!

I was shopping at Gelson’s Market the other day and to my pleasant surprise I saw fresh California apricots for sale. I love when California apricots start popping up at grocery stores and farmer’s markets—usually during late May or early June— because it’s a sure sign that summer is approaching!

Apricots and Vanilla Beans

Perfectly Ripe Apricots

I had been waiting for apricot season to arrive so I could develop a Poached Apricot recipe for my upcoming book, Beach Town Baking.

I love poaching apricots because not only is it simple, but it also really brings out the sweetness and flavor of the fruit. Plus, poaching gives the apricots a gorgeous color.

Rodelle Vanilla Beans e7a9da5cc24f11e2be4122000a1f9d51_7

I like to keep it simple and poach my apricots in a vanilla syrup. Please make sure to use whole vanilla beans, not vanilla extract. I picked up my Rodelle vanilla beans at Gelson’s as well.

Poached Apricots

 

Poached apricots are incredibly versatile; you can eat them warm, room temperature or even cold, and you can top them on just about anything. I prefer to eat mine with Greek-style yogurt.

Ice Cream and Homemade Waffles

homemade waffels

I was rummaging through my kitchen storage the other day and came across a waffle maker. I don’t recall ever buying one, but apparently I did, so I figured why not test it out?

  • krups waffle maker

The waffle maker I found  and used is a Krups model with two square-shaped waffle stamps for home use.  It gets the job done, but if I could go back in time, I would buy a commercial flip waffle maker. I had used these in restaurants and hotels that I’ve worked at, and they definitely cook and brown batter much more evenly, producing a taller and fuller waffle.

  • homemade waffles, beach town taking

As a child, I loved Eggo waffles with vanilla ice cream (Strange, I know!) I decided to slightly modify my childhood sweet treat by preparing homemade sweet waffles and serving them with Blue Bunny Butter Pecan ice cream. Trust me, this combo did not disappoint!

There are a ton of waffle recipes online that you can find with a simple search. I’m going to save my recipe for my upcoming cookbook, Beach Town Baking, but I will share one secret ingredient that I used in my waffle batter: powdered sugar. Obviously, it sweetens the batter, but the anti-caking ingredients in powdered sugar also help produce a crispier crust!

What’s your favorite childhood treat?

beach town baking

 

Champagne Raspberry Sorbet

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While my main jobs these days consist of being the Author of Beach Town Baking as well as the Owner of Sugar Blossom Bake Shop, I’m also fortunate to have other fun gigs, like getting to make some of the plated desserts at RokPrime Steakhouse in San Juan Capistrano, CA.

In addition to baking everything from butter cakes to brownies to cheesecakes for this popular restaurant, I sometimes get to fulfill requests for one-off desserts for its private events. Last week one such request came in: Champagne Raspberry Sorbet (to be served with a fresh lobster salad)–Yum!

Raspberry Champagne Sorbet

I had a brief moment of befuddlement when it dawned on me that I didn’t own an ice cream maker, but then I realized that with a little bit of MacGyvering, I didn’t need one!

So I busted out my refractometer (more on this later) and headed to my local Whole Foods to pick up some raspberries and a bottle of nice bubbly.

Icebox Cakes – The Classic American Dessert

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The other day, it occurred to me that I just couldn’t write a beach baking cookbook without including some classic American summer desserts! I brainstormed a slew of what I considered to be quintessential American dessert recipes, and decided to start off by making a classic icebox cake.

Icebox cakes are layered desserts that use only a handful of ingredients. The cakes are assembled and then put in the fridge for several hours (or overnight) in order for the ingredients to meld together to form a moist, cake-like dessert. Icebox cakes became very popular in American culture during the 20s and 30s because of their simplicity (and deliciousness!).

Icebox cakes usually call for pre-made ingredients like boxed Jell-O and packaged cookies, but I like to make the components from scratch just to add an extra touch.  Plus, anything homemade just tastes better! My take on this summer dessert incorporates three of my favorite flavors: peanut butter, chocolate and caramel. The peanut butter is highlighted with peanut butter cookies. The chocolate comes in the form of velvety chocolate pudding (make sure to use good quality cocoa powder such as Valrhona!). As a finishing touch, I drizzle on caramel sauce in between the layers of cookie and pudding to complete the flavor profile.

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I like to serve this dessert in clear glass ramekins to show off its beautiful layers. This is a great dessert for a summer get together—just assemble everything the night before, pop it in the fridge, and enjoy the next day!

Note: The Peanut Butter Cookie and Caramel Sauce recipes make larger batches than what’s needed in the Icebox Cake recipe, so keep in mind that you’ll have leftovers!

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