Tag Archives: cream

Something Natural

something natural

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You know I love color. I mean, you’ve seen my apartment. I don’t really do the natural thing. But something has me drawn to simpler things recently. Clean lines, spring blooms, earthy flavors, creams and greens. Could be my crazy schedule, could be that spring is on its way. I’m sure it won’t last long (I mean I had to include that bottom left photo just so there was a little pink in this post!), but it’s really lovely right now.

What colors are you drawn to recently? Are you into naturals like me or have you already moved on to spring brights? Have a happy Wednesday!

Banana Cream Pie – Two Ways

Have I killed you with my banana obsession yet? I hope not, because I don’t think it’s going away! I’ve always wanted to make banana cream pie – like these oatmeal cream pies, it’s just one of those elusive desserts that’s the epitome of comfort food. And the final product did not disappoint. It’s creamy, cool, sweet and just makes your belly smile. Why don’t I make this all the time?

banana cream pie

Today I’m so happy to guest post on one of my favorite blogs, Note to Self, sharing a mini version of this banana cream pie. With the same cream filling and whipped cream you can make either the puff pastry tart version or the pie…or both, like I did! Just swap out puff pastry or your favorite pie crust. Check out the post on Sarah’s blog for the recipe.

banana cream pie

Be My Valentine {vmac+cheese}

I’m honored to be spending today with one of my favorite ladies, Victoria from vmac+cheese. Not only did she prepare an amazing dessert for our Valentine’s celebration, but today is a special one for Victoria… It’s her first day as a full-time, self-employed rockstar, with her new biz Vivaleur! I couldn’t be more excited for her… so let’s celebrate with some dessert!

• • •

Hi everyone! Victoria from vmac+cheese here to share a fruit tart recipe I put together especially for Nikki and all of you. The best part about it? Well, other than being delicious, it’s easy to make (though it looks fancy) and you can also serve it pretty much any time of year, not just Valentine’s!

The crust in this pretty little tart is made with store bought graham crackers. A little homemade pastry cream (trust me, it’s simple!), and a garnish of fresh fruit, and you have a dessert worthy of Valentine’s Day, or even just a regular brunch with friends. Give it a try!

Vanilla Almond Tart Raspberries vmac and cheese Victoria dessert Valentine's Day

Vanilla Almond Tart with Raspberries

For the tart shell:

  • 12 graham cracker
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 5 tbsp butter, melted

For the pastry cream (filling):

  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 6 egg yolks (I used extra large eggs, then saved the whites for breakfast!)
  • 5 tbsp all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp almond extract
  • 4 tbsp butter, cubed
  • –pinch kosher salt


  • 2 half pints of raspberries
  • –can also substitute any fruit you’d like, and use other garnishes such as sliced almonds, pistachios, even white chocolate shavings
  • –optional: 2 tablespoons of apricot jam

Vanilla Almond Tart Raspberries vmac and cheese Victoria dessert Valentine's Day

For the crust:

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Break apart the graham crackers and add them to a food processor bowl. Grind until you have a fine meal. It should yield about 1 1/2 cups of graham cracker “flour.” In a medium bowl, combine the graham cracker flour, the sugar, and the butter. Toss together until combined and the graham cracker flour is moistened.

Butter an 9″ tart pan, then set it on a sheet tray (this will just help you avoid a huge mess, and transfer the tart easily). Press the graham cracker mixture into the tart, and along the sides of the pan. I used the back of a measuring cup to press it and pack it in. Use a knife and run it along the top edge of the pan to sweep away any excess crumb (or you can leave it if you like a rustic looking tart).

Bake for 10 minutes, or until the crust is fragrant and just set. It should feel firm to the touch, not crumbly like it was before baking.

Vanilla Almond Tart Raspberries vmac and cheese Victoria dessert Valentine's Day

For the pastry cream:

Combine the milk and half of the sugar in a sauce pan over medium heat. Stir gently to combine, and let it scald.

While the milk is heating, beat together the yolks and the rest of the sugar in a glass or non-reactive bowl. I like to whip them by hand using a whisk, but you could use a stand mixer if you wanted. Beat them for several minutes, until the mixture is very pale yellow and aerated. Add in the flour, the pinch of salt, and beat again until well incorporated. It should be thick, almost like a paste. Stir in the extracts.

Once the milk is hot, carefully pour in just a little bit into the yolk mixture, and immediately stir. You will want to move quickly, so the yolks don’t scramble. Once the first bit of milk is incorporated, add some more in, and stir again. This process is called tempering, and the whole idea behind it is we want the yolk mixture’s temperature to increase, but not so quickly that things scramble! Once you’ve added in about half the milk mixture, pour the egg/milk mixture back into the pot with the remaining milk, and set it over medium to medium low heat. Use a spatula to stir it, being sure to scrape the sides and bottom of the pan. After a few minutes, it should thicken considerably. Stir to ensure it doesn’t burn. If lumps form, you can beat them out with a whisk. Once it’s hot enough that bubbles start to gurgle up through the cream, cook it for 1-2 minutes more, until it’s very thick, like pudding. Remove it from the heat, and stir in the butter.

Pour the pastry cream into a clean bowl, then cover it with plastic wrap. Be sure the plastic wrap directly touches the cream, so that a skin won’t form. Store in the refrigerator until cold. You could make this a day or two ahead.

Vanilla Almond Tart Raspberries vmac and cheese Victoria dessert Valentine's Day

To assemble the tart:

Spread the thickened pastry cream into the shell of the tart with a spoon. Garnish with fruit or whatever other items you’d like, then serve. OPTIONAL: To get that gorgeous, fresh from the bakery fruit tart look, mix apricot jam with a little water until it’s slightly liquified, then use a clean spray bottle to glaze the top of the tart. It’ll look shiny and super professional. Enjoy!

*The tart can be made a day in advance. Allowing the pastry cream to sit in the crust for at least several hours will help prevent the crust from crumbling when you serve it.

Pastry cream 911 tip:

If you refrigerate your pastry cream and find it’s not setting up (i.e., it’s still more liquid-y than pudding like), here’s a fix. Melt a couple tablespoons of butter and add in an equal amount of cornstarch. Whisk this together until it’s a paste, then whisk that into the pastry cream. Set it over medium heat, and stir constantly with a spatula or whisk, until you bring it to a slight boil again. It should be thick and spreadable. Refrigerate it again with contact plastic wrap, then use as you wish.

Homemade Hostess Cupcakes

You gotta love a good Hostess cupcake, right? They’re moist and chocolate-y and have a delightful cream center. But you know what’s even better, is a Hostess cupcake made from scratch. Same comforting treat, but made fresh, with a little more love – so obviously, they’re incredible.

Like the other filled cupcakes I made recently, they’re a little labor intensive…and a little messy…but they come out tasting great!

Perfect little chocolate cakes...

One Bowl Chocolate Cupcakes

  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1-1/2 cups sugar
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup warm water
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  1. Preheat oven to 350°. Line 24 cupcake cups with papers.
  2. Mix all ingredients in one large bowl in order written above. Beat until all ingredients are fully incorporated.
  3. Bake for 18-20 minutes (rotating pan half-way through). Let cool.

After adding the cream filling...

Marshmallow Cream Filling

  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 1 cup marshmallow creme
  1. With a mixer, cream butter until light and fluffy.
  2. Beat in 1/2 cup powdered sugar.
  3. Add vanilla and 1 Tbs heavy cream and beat until smooth.
  4. Alternating between batches, add the remaining 1/2 cup powdered sugar and 2 Tbs heavy cream.
  5. Beat in marshmallow cream.
  6. Refrigerate until ready to use.
  7. When cupcakes have cooled, spoon cream filling into a piping bag with a star-tip. Push tip into center of cupcakes and fill until the cupcake is heavy. (Test one out to make sure you have the right amount of filling.) It’s ok if some filling peaks out of the cupcake tops (obviously, look at mine!)

Topped with silky chocolate ganache...

Chocolate Ganache

  • 1/2 cup + 1 Tbs sugar
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 3 ounces finely chopped chocolate
  1. In a small heavy saucepan, combine sugar and cocoa powder.
  2. Gradually add just enough milk to make a paste, then stir in the rest.
  3. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon (make sure you’re getting the corners of the pan) until mixture comes to a boil. Boil gently, and stir for about 2 minutes.
  4. Remove from heat and add vanilla.
  5. Let cool for 5 minutes. Stir in chocolate until melted and smooth. Continue to cool until spreadable.
  6. Spread ganache on top of cupcakes, covering any cream filling on top. Let set.


  • 1 stick unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla
  1. Beat all ingredients until smooth, adding more milk if needed.
  2. Spoon into a pastry bag with a small tip (I just used a ziplock bag and cut a tiny hole in the corner).
  3. Pipe on to cupcakes to decorate.

Look at that delicious cream filling! So delightful! These cupcakes make a great gift too…I made them for one of my co-workers, Sarah-Jo, a fellow Hostess cupcake lover, as her final secret snowchick gift.