Monthly Archives: August 2017

Cake Icing 101, Plus How to Make Ganache in a Pinch


Drool worthy! Maybe fork worthy is a better term. Either way, get in my mouth.

This cake-decorating post is coming a week later than planned, as I was away on vacay last weekend. I had thought that I could get the post out beforehand, but then I had minor surgery before we left of vacation, so that put paid to that. As much as I know that you all live for my posts (what, you don’t?), I thought my blog would survive even if I missed a week. So my apologies, mea culpa, and here is this week’s post: Cake Icing 101, and how to make ganache in a pinch!

Icing a cake can be intimidating to a lot of people, but once you know the steps, it’s easy to make a cake that looks at least semi-professional. Once you’ve read this post, you should be able to make a cake that will elicit oohs and ahhs from anyone who sees and eats it!

First off, let me give you my top 3 tips to ice a cake and to make a mean buttercream!


  • Tips & Tricks to Icing a Cake
    • Half freeze cake before icing; this reduces the chance of the cake breaking during icing as well as reducing the number of crumbs that you’ll get coming off the cake while icing.
    • Do a crumb coat. This is what ices down any loose crumbs, and a major step in making a cake look professional.
    • Use a Wilton 1M tip – this is the best tip to use to get those gorgeous professional swirls!
  • Tips and Tricks to Make a Better Icing
    • Butter tastes better, but shortening makes it fluffier and easier to ice. I suggest using my Best Ever Buttercream recipe, as it combines both for a tasty and easy to pipe icing.
    • Also, beat your icing for a long time! This incorporates a lot of air into the icing, and makes it easier to spread.
    • Spread the icing on the cake using an offset spatula. This is one of the few kitchen tools that is hard to substitute, so if you want to ice cakes, it’s worth the investment!

Full disclosure, I did not use a 1M icing tip for this post. I left my only 1M tip at a friend’s house a few weeks ago when I was icing cookies with her son, and haven’t had a chance to either get it back or buy a new one. So do as I say, not as I do! Seriously, using a 1M tip will make any piping you do look professional. If you take away nothing else from this post, just remember to use a Wilton 1M tip!

Now, let’s whip up some chocolate buttercream, and get to icing a fancy-pants cake!


  • 1 c. butter, softened
  • 1/3 c. vegetable shortening
  • 3 1/2 c. icing sugar
  • 1 c. cocoa
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract

Whip butter and shortening together until thoroughly mixed. Add in icing sugar, cocoa, and vanilla, and mix until combined. Beat on high for at least 10 minutes.

Want me some cake right now!


  1. Grease two cake pans with cake release spread (aka GOOP).
  2. Make a batch of chocolate cake batter. I highly recommend this one (it has the fluffiness of a box mix cake, but is 100% preservative-free).
  3. Pour batter into greased pans and bake a la recipe directions (likely about 350 degrees for about 25 minutes). Only bake until the top of the cake springs back when you poke it lightly with a finger. Don’t overbake, or the cake will be dry! That said, you can rescue an overly dry cake by brushing it with a simple syrup solution once cooled. But it’s easier to just avoid over-baking it in the first place.
  4. Once removed from oven, let cakes sit in pans for about 2 minutes, then invert over a cooling tray. Since you’ve used my fabulous GOOP recipe, the cakes will fall out of the pan super-duper easily!
  5. Let cakes cool until room temperature.
  6. Wrap cakes up individually in plastic wrap and freeze for several hours to overnight.
  7. Remove cake layers from freezer. On a flat cake plate, put a dab of buttercream in the centre, and centre the first cake layer on the tab of icing. This helps ensure the cake won’t slide around when you’re icing it.
  8. Slap on a bunch of icing onto that cake layer, spread it out evenly, and place the second cake layer on top.
  9. Slap a thin layer of icing onto the top layer, and spread it out. Smooth a thin layer of icing onto the sides of the cake, to make the crumb coat.
  10. Stick the crumb-coated cake into the fridge for at least half an hour.
  11. Spread the remaining buttercream  (less 3/4 c.) on the sides and top of the cake. Don’t worry about making it look perfect.
  12. Using a ruler held vertically against the cake (or, if you’re like me and can’t find your ruler, a stiff piece of straight-edged cardboard in a plastic baggie), rotate the cake plate. This will smooth the icing on the sides, and is a big step in making that cake look professional. Don’t worry about smoothing the top too TOO much, as we’re going to be covering the top with ganache!
  13. Chill the cake for at least 30 minutes.
  14. Make your ganache (recipe below) and pour in small circle on the top of the cake. It will start to run down the sides and give it a lusciously drippy chocolate look. Who doesn’t love dripping chocolate?
  15. Using your 1M tip and an icing/pastry bag (or a plastic baggie in a pinch), pipe little rosettes on the top of the cake around the edge. You can also pipe a little edging on the bottom of the cake if you want. You do you, boo!
  16. Stick some decoration on top of the rosettes of icing: chocolate-covered espresso beans, molded chocolates, chocolate wafers, chocolate-dipped strawberries, chunks of chocolate bar…anything you want, really!
  17. Present the cake to your friends, family, or co-workers, and be prepared for compliments! Bask in the oohs, ahhs, and impressed murmurs when you tell them you made it yourself. Ahhh… 🙂

Now about that ganache. Ganache is made using chocolate and cream. Usually, it’s a ratio of 2 to 1; 2 cups chocolate for every 1 c. of cream used. You heat the cream and stir in the chocolate until melted. Yum! But…I didn’t have any cream in the house, and I wanted to finish up the cake to send into work with the DH. (Also, I wanted a slice. I cannot lie.) What to do?

Well, I don’t call myself the Queen of Substitutions for nothing! I just followed my like-replaces-like principle that I talk about in my free e-book (This for That: Easy Kitchen Swaps & Hacks — available free to all subscribers, so subscribe now!), and replaced the cream with evaporated milk, adding in oil, as evaporated milk is lower in fat than cream.

Admittedly, it’s not going to be EXACTLY like ganache, but it’s close enough to work in a pinch. And it’s tasty, so eh, good enough. Life is too short to be a constant perfectionist. And I wanted a slice of that cake asap!

Want to make some good-enough ganache yourself? Let’s!


  • 1 c. chocolate chips
  • 1/2 c. evaporated milk
  • 1 tbsp. vegetable oil

Mix chocolate chips, milk, and oil in a microwave-proof bowl. Heat in microwave in 30 s bursts, stirring in between each 30 s., until chocolate is softened and you can stir the mixture into a homogenous thick chocolate sauce. Et voila, good-enough-ganache!

By the way, remember that vacation that I told you I took last weekend? Well, the DH and I went to Vegas with some friends! And, since the DH and I are total romantics, plus we wanted the full Vegas experience…we got (re)married in a limo in a drive-through wedding chapel! (Yes, you read that right!) And being a capital R romantic, I proposed to the DH (he proposed last time, so it was only fair). Of course, me being me, I proposed using food. A slice of cheesecake to be exact.

I proposed at a restaurant, in front of our friends. Sweeet!

The DH, being the DH, ate the cheesecake, and then gave me an answer. Apparently, food really is the way to a man’s heart!

I may or may not have helped him eat that slice of cheesecake. (Hint: It was soooo yummy!)

Next Post: Reduced-Fat Alfredo Sauce & Why I Licked the Plate

Linking Up at Meal Plan Monday! And at Happiness is Homemade!

Ridiculously Easy Strawberry FroYo: A Waistline Friendly Dessert (or Breakfast!)

Strawberry froyo: so easy to make that it’s ridic!

Picture this: it’s a super-hot summer day. The heat hits you like a wall as soon as you step outside. But wait, what’s that in your hand? It’s a scoopful (ok, let’s be realistic, it’s several scoopfuls) of freshly made Strawberry FroYo! And even better, it’s healthy, aka guilt-free! Living the dream, folks!

Recently, I got the ice cream maker attachment to my KitchenAid stand mixer. My husband likes to joke that I have a KitchenAid Kitchen as most of my appliances are KitchenAid (ooh, just had a thought — BHAG goal, a sponsored post with KitchenAid! Plus a giveaway. Now that would be a dream of a post to write! Any KitchenAid marketing staff out there who want to make my dream come true?) but given that I have limited kitchen space, getting an attachment as opposed to another appliance just made sense.

So, I had a new kitchen toy to play with, and it’s the dog days of August. Obviously, the only thing to do was…make ice cream! I’ve posted recipes for my super-yummy No Churn Rum Raisin Ice Cream (OH so good!) and my gluten-free Chunks ‘o Brownie No Churn Ice Cream (I’m drooling just typing that out), but I’ve been trying to develop a healthier ice cream that won’t add to my waistline, while still being yummy. What to do, what to do.

And then I was eating my favourite breakfast one day: homemade yoghurt with homemade strawberry jam. I looked at my breakfast bowl. I looked at my new ice cream maker attachment. And then I dumped my breakfast in the frozen bowl and turned on the paddle. BAM! Strawberry FroYo, yo!

In the time it took me to get dressed for work, my frozen yoghurt was ready. OH. SO. GOOD. Especially to eat happily while walking to work. Mmm…dessert for breakfast!


  • 1 c. yoghurt (I make my own, using this recipe)
  • 1/4 c. strawberry jam (I make my own, but you do you, boo)

Place yoghurt and strawberry jam in frozen bowl, add paddle, and churn for 20 minutes; or follow instructions for your brand of ice cream maker. And…that’s it! (Told you it was easy!)

Doing its thang: churners gotta churn.

Scoop out, eat it up, and revel in the tartness of the froyo mingling with the sweetness of the strawberries. Ah, summer heaven!

No ice cream maker? You *could* make this without one. You’d just put the ingredients in the freezer in a freezer-safe container, and then stir after the first hour, and every half hour until frozen to your taste. But honestly, that’s a pain in the patootie. This is one of the few recipes that I say you need to have a specific kitchen tool for. If you don’t have an ice cream maker or attachment, I’d suggest making my No Churn Strawberry Ice Cream instead. Not as healthy, but [redacted], it’s tasty!

Next Post: Cake Decorating Basics! I’ve been working on my coursework for the Elite Blog Academy, and this is the result of an assignment a month ago. Learning is fun, but cake is the BEST THING EVER! No, wait that’s chocolate. Ok, I stand corrected: Chocolate Cake: BEST THING EVER!

Linking Up at Meal Plan Monday! And at Full Plate Thursday!

Easy Enchiladas: A 20-Minute Weeknight Meal!

Platter of cheesy enchiladas
Oh what a saucy enchilada you are!

One of my favourite throw-it-together meals is Easy Enchiladas. I make these when I want a hot, satisfying dinner, but with little work. I prep the filling in advance and freeze it, precisely so that I can throw this dish together when I need a hearty family meal that will take me 5 minutes to make (and 15 to bake). That’s right, this dish can be on your dinner table in 20 minutes from start to finish!

These enchiladas are stuffed with seasoned rice and beans as well as cheese, making these vegetarian. You could easily add some meat if you wanted, but there’s certainly enough protein without it. And when you bite into it, it oozes cheese and seasoned filling, with a nice tang from the…secret sauce.

The secret shortcut step that makes the whole dish so easy? Salsa. That’s right! A jar of salsa, a bunch of tortillas, some seasoned rice and beans, plus some cheese, and dinner is ON! Now, given that this purports to be a preservative-free recipe site, how can I be ok using canned salsa? Well…progress, not perfection, right? If you have time to make your own salsa, perfect! If not, don’t beat yourself up; a homemade dish is still healthier than a frozen, preservative-filled cardboard dinner. So give yourself a break if you need it, use a can of salsa, and get dinner on your plate 20 minutes after starting!

So, want to make some yourself? Let’s!

Easy Enchiladas

Easy Enchiladas
This easy, cheesy, and hearty dinner pulls together in 20 minutes, and is super-tasty. Win-win-win!
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 20 minutes


  • 1 c. seasoned rice and beans (recipe below)
  • 8 small tortillas
  • 1 1/2 c. salsa
  • 1 c. cheese, grated
  • freshly cut green onions, for garnish


  1. Pour 1/2 c. of the salsa in the bottom of a 9×9 pan, and spread out evenly.
  2. Take a tortilla and put 1/8 of the rice and beans mixture in the centre, and then top with a little cheese.
  3. Wrap it up like a burrito (fold the left and right sides in, then the top and bottom sides), and place seam side down in the pan. Do the same with the other tortillas until the pan is full.
  4. Pour the rest of the salsa on top, and sprinkle the cheese and green onions on top of that.
  5. Bake in a 375 degree oven for 15 minutes, or until the cheese on top has melted and is bubbly. Then dive in, and enjoy!

Nutrition Information:



Serving Size:


Amount Per Serving: Calories: 264 Total Fat: 9g Saturated Fat: 4g Trans Fat: 0g Unsaturated Fat: 5g Cholesterol: 15mg Sodium: 770mg Carbohydrates: 36g Fiber: 3g Sugar: 2g Protein: 9g
Plated enchilada
Plated and ready for nom-nom-nom-ing!
Yield: 2 cups

Seasoned Rice N' Beans

Prep Time 2 minutes
Cook Time 12 minutes
Total Time 14 minutes


  • 1/2 c. rice
  • 1 c. water
  • 1 tbsp. taco seasoning
  • 1 tbsp. tomato bouillon
  • 1 c. beans, cooked


  1. Mix rice, beans, water, taco seasoning, and bouillon.
  2. Boil as per usual when making rice, until water is gone (10-14 minutes), stirring occasionally.
  3. Will make about 2 cups. I usually freeze this in one cup portions, so that I can pull the mixture out to make my Easy Enchiladas whenever I want.

Nutrition Information:


4 servings

Serving Size:

1/2 c.

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 94 Total Fat: 0g Saturated Fat: 0g Trans Fat: 0g Unsaturated Fat: 0g Cholesterol: 0mg Sodium: 494mg Carbohydrates: 20g Fiber: 3g Sugar: 5g Protein: 4g

I like to use my own homemade tortillas using this recipe, because I’m on an anti-preservative kick, but if you want to do store-bought, you do you, boo! Time is a precious commodity. And the same goes for the taco seasoning! If you can make your own (and it’s SO EASY), then great, because fewer preservatives, but again, you do what you can and leave the rest. Progress, not perfection!

I love serving these Easy Enchiladas with a fresh and crisp green salad, followed by something deliciously creamy, like my No Churn Rum Raisin Ice Cream! Mm, mm, mmm! Now that’s a yummy dinner!

Next Post: No Guilt Strawberry Frozen Yoghurt, because it’s summer and I like ice cream but not gaining weight.