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.

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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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10 Beach Bag Essentials

The start of spring means that beach season is just around the corner, and it’s never too early to start thinking about what to pack in our beach bags! I love having a beach bag prepared with all of my seaside essentials so that I can grab it at a moment’s notice and jet down to the beach. Don’t have one of your own yet? Here’s a list of my beach bag must-haves to help inspire you to pack yours!

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1. Eco-friendly Bikini

Purchasing an eco-friendly bikini is a great way to honor Mother Nature and give back to the environment while also being unique and fashionable. Take for example my “green” bikini; It’s made from fishing nets, which makes it last three times longer than the average bathing suit! For more great green swimwear, check out Eco Swim’s website. They are backed by Good Housekeeping too, which is always a good sign!

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2. Rainbow Sandals

Based in San Clemente (also home to my bakery, Sugar Blossom Bake Shop!) since 1974, Rainbow Sandals makes the most comfortable yet durable flip-flops I have ever had. Each sandal is handmade with quality leather and a unique memory foam that conforms to your feet, which means comfort, comfort, comfort!

3. Stylish Sunnies

Don’t forget to bring a pair of sunglasses to the beach. I picked up a pair of Oscar de la Renta eyewear (ohh la la) from Loehmann’s for a steal of a price! You can find great designer sunglasses from other similar stores like TJ Maxx, Marshalls or Nordstrom Rack.

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4. Moisturizer with Sunscreen

UV rays can prematurely age skin, so make sure you use a good moisturizer when you’re out in the sun. I love this Neutrogena moisturizer with SPF 15; it absorbs quickly and the twist-top makes it easy to transport and use. Plus, you can find it at practically any drugstore!

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5.  Beach tote

A beach tote is a must to hold all of your beach gear! Find a spacious one that’s made out of sturdy material. I love this tote that I picked up from H&M— It’s the perfect size to fit all of my beach essentials, and was less than $25! Definitely a steal for a bag that will serve me for many summers to come!

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6. Beach Ball

I love sunbathing and soaking up all of the rays, but I also welcome some playtime at the beach! Inflatable beach balls are a classic but definite must-have at the beach. They’re so portable (you can easily deflate one and throw it in your tote bag!) and can provide you with an endless supply of games and entertainment.

 

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7. Cover-up

Need to quickly throw something over your bathing suit without having to change into a full-on outfit? Cover-ups are your solution! I picked up mine from H&M (can you tell I love this store?). They have a great selection of colors and designs right now, and the best part? They’re only $9.99 each! Why not pick up two (or three!)?

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8. Beach Hat

A beach hat is not only stylish, but functional too! Use it to keep the sun’s rays away from your face while you take a nap on the shore. It’s super fun and sexy and does a good job at protecting your face from the effects of too much sun exposure. I found mine at JCrew.

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9. Hydration

The sun and heat can dehydrate you, so make sure you bring plenty of drinking water to the beach! Again, try to conserve by avoiding plastic water bottles and getting a reusable water bottle instead. I love my Hello Kitty summer tumbler– It’s a little girly, but it makes going to the beach that much more fun! Plus, it’s way better than using a boring plastic bottle right?

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10. Beach Read

I love reading at the beach– what’s better than enjoying a novel under the sun? I recently picked up some books at my local library’s $1 book sale for my summer reading list. I’m excited to start with Jennifer Weiner’s “Best Friends Forever”!
Those are my top beach bag essentials– what are yours? See you at the beach!

Beach Town Baking’s Movie Popcorn Cookies

Movie Popcorn Cookies

I love themed events because they give me a chance to get even more creative when I’m baking. So, you can imagine my excitement when my friend asked me to bake some cupcakes, cookies and a cake for her son’s carnival-themed birthday party this weekend.

Movie Popcorn Cookies

For the cookies, I decided to create cute “movie popcorn” cookies. I used a special handmade cookie cutter from Coppergifts.com. It was a little pricey for being a cookie cutter, but definitely worth it for its quality in workmanship and cuteness!

I frosted the bottom half of the cookies with white royal icing, and let it set for 20 minutes. Then, I took red food coloring and hand-painted stripes to resemble classic movie theater popcorn boxes.

To make the popcorn kernels,  I mixed in a few drops of golden yellow food coloring into a small amount of the icing. Then, using a smooth round tip, I piped on dots to make little clusters of buttery movie-style popcorn kernels.

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I absolutely loved making these! They’re just so adorable, don’t you think?

 

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Maple Pecan Sticky Buns

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Happy Spring! Aside from the return of warm weather, I’m also really excited for spring because it’s officially…maple season! In the winter, maple trees store starch in their roots and trunks, and as the weather warms up, the starch transforms into sugar, and ultimately into the sweet, syrupy goodness that we know and love.  Around this time of year, maple production has already kicked into gear in Canada and Northeastern states like Vermont, New York and Maine.

So what better way to ring in the maple season than with some maple treats? I brainstormed some ideas and thought of the best ways I could incorporate maple syrup into baking, and I came up with Beach Town Baking’s Maple Pecan Sticky Bun. I was so excited that I immediately hopped onto my beach cruiser, rode down to the market and picked up a bottle of Coombs Family Farm Maple Syrup (made in Vermont).

These buns are especially light and fluffy and utilize a super secret ingredient (hint: it rhymes with “regatta, please”), which adds a lot of moisture to them. Since maple syrup is delicate in taste, I douse the dough, sticky topping and filling to make sure the maple flavor really shines through. This recipe is definitely going into my Beach Town Baking cookbook!

 

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Beach Town Living: Nautical Chic Homes

Living in Southern California, I’m blessed to always be within driving—most of the time even walking!—distance from beautiful beaches. You’d think that we Californians would get sick of the sea, but honestly, I don’t think we can get enough of it! I love incorporating the beach into everything in my life (can’t you tell from this blog?), and one of my favorite things to do is look at beach-inspired homes. For those of you who don’t live near the coast, you can still easily bring a nautical vibe into your home with the right décor. Here are some easy ways to add a little maritime spirit to your abode:

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What’s more nautical than navy-and-white stripes? The best part of this look is that it’s so simple to achieve– just paint thick stripes on your wall! For those who are non-committal, try looking for bold blue-and-white striped patterned fabric and hanging it up like a tapestry instead. Or, invest in a navy-and-white striped duvet cover.

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Image courtesy of Decorating Magazine.

Red always pairs perfectly with navy and white in nautical themes, but the trick is to use the color sparingly. Throw in a few red accents to break up the navy and white color scheme, but be careful not to overdo it.

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Image courtesy of House Beautiful.

Scour flea markets and thrift stores to find vintage ship figurines to place around your home.

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The rugged look of rope goes great with the nautical theme. A simple DIY project is to buy rope and then layer it in glass jars or bowls. Place these pieces on coffee or end tables, and add in a couple seashells to complete the look.

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I love this distressed wood fixture! It adds the right amount of shabbiness to an otherwise very chic setting, and reminds me of an old lighthouse.

You can choose to be as drastic or as subtle as you want with this theme. If you’re simply looking to temporarily change up your home for the upcoming warmer months, adding maritime-themed decorative pieces and swapping out your sheets for nautical-themed bedding are easy and affordable ways to embrace the nautical trend without having to fully commit to anything.

Will you be trying out this look for your home?

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Beach Town Baking’s Top 10 Food Finds in Los Angeles

My most favorite thing about living in Southern California—aside from the beaches and lovely weather—is experiencing its diversity. One day I’ll be baking in the small beach town of San Clemente, and the next day I can be wandering the labyrinth of the vast LA streets.

I venture out to Los Angeles nearly every week because it’s a quick one-hour drive from Orange County and it gives me a chance to get away after a busy week at my bake shop. There’s so much history and culture in LA, and the food—oh, the food! There’s nothing like spending a day in LA exploring new eateries. There are so many good places at which to dine in LA, but I wanted to share some of my favorite food finds so far:

Top 10 Food Finds in Los Angeles

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Beach Town Baking’s Guinness Cupcake

 

SugarBlossom-49Fun fact: Did you know that Saint Patrick was a real person? He lived from c. AD 385 to AD 461, and was the most celebrated patron Saint of Ireland.

Guinness, on the other hand, is one of Ireland’s most celebrated alcoholic beverages. The characteristically black stout is known throughout the world for its distinctly rich, malty flavor, and anything remotely resembling chocolate would taste great in a cupcake, right?

To celebrate the upcoming St. Patrick’s Day holiday, I’m making one of my favorite cupcakes (which just so happens to fit in with the theme) : the Beach Town Guinness Cupcake, made with—you guessed it—Guinness stout.  And not only do I use Guinness in the cake recipe, I also douse it in the meringue topping, too, because really, you can never have too much Guinness!

I pipe and torch a tall mound of meringue over the cupcake to resemble the frosty head of a pint, and then top it off with a shamrock sugar charm from LUCKS.

Only one bottle of Guinness is used for each batch (but I always have another one in hand just in case 🙂 ) It’s the perfect boozy treat for St. Patrick’s Day, and I know I’ll be enjoying some of these this Sunday!

Come on into my beach town bakery, Sugar Blossom Bake Shop, and grab one of these for the weekend. As for the recipe, well, you’ll have to stay tuned for my cookbook for this one  😉

 

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Beach Town Baking’s Oreo-Inspired Gourmet Cookie

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I decided to spend this past Monday morning at my loft testing out new recipes for my upcoming cookbook. Rummaging through my files, I found an old “Fudge Cookie Sandwich” recipe that I had scribbled on a scrap piece of paper. It sounded decent, but I couldn’t recall ever making it.

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Blueberry Scones

 

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Scones are the perfect grab-and-go breakfast treat.

Most beach town folks are early birds; we rise with the sun and wind the day down as the sun sets.

My mornings begin as the sun’s rays shine through my loft windows and the smell of freshly brewed coffee (pre-set the night before, of course) makes its way from the kitchen and into my bedroom.

It usually takes me a while to physically get out of bed, so I don’t leave myself much time for breakfast. Luckily, I’ve devised a system where I can laze around in bed and have breakfast, all while being on time! My secret? Having breakfast treats ready to go on my way out the door and to the beach.

I like to make blueberry scones the day before and enjoy them the next morning. These scones are buttery, sweet and moist, and the middle layer of fruit ensures that every bite is bursting with blueberry flavor.

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