My First Blogiversary & Giveaway!
… PLUS, my top 15 favorite recipes! 

Merry Christmas y’all!  I hope you woke this morning to find your presents underneath your tree and treats inside your stockings. Santa Clause brought me everything I could ever wish for and more. Although, my favorite gift of all was being able to come home and spend the entire weekend with my family, because to me, there’s nothing greater than the feeling of being surrounded by those you love.  

Even though this holiday season has always been about giving and receiving, it’s just as important to be grateful for all we’ve been blessed with. It’s much easier to complain about what we don’t have, than to cherish what we already have. With that said, I want to thank each and every one of you for your continuous love and support this past year. Yesterday marked my first official blogiversary and I could not be more thankful for the way my site has blossomed since last December.

It all began with a simple idea to keep track of my baking adventures—both the successful and unsuccessful attempts of recreating family favorites and sugar crafted creations pulled from magazines, cookbooks, and the obvious, Food Network.  Thanks to my sister’s encouragement, Little Shortcake’ was created. It has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life, for I have been able to use this blog as an outlet for my creativity and an extension for my passion of all things sweet.

Without further ado, I would say today calls for a celebration. Since I cannot afford to send glasses of champagne to all of my fans, I decided to do the next best thing: a giveaway!
This basic baking kit includes the following:
1. Mini Cakes: Irresistible Little Cakes, Bakes and Cake Pops
2. KitchenAid Spatula
3. KitchenAid Whisk

Every baker needs a good whisk, a rubber spatula, and of course, some guidance. This cookbook is fun, easy to follow, and full of inspiration to create delicious cakes and pastries to feed your sweet tooth. To enter the giveaway, please follow the instructions below using the Rafflecopter entry form.

(NOTE: There are lots of ways to enter, as described below. All entries MUST have a US mailing address and must be over 18. The winner will be announced here on Saturday, December 31st. and will be contacted by email, but MUST respond within 48 hours to claim their prize. GOOD LUCK!)

Ready, set, GO!
[Contest closes Friday, December 30 at midnight EST.]
a Rafflecopter giveaway
I also bring to you my top 15 most cherished, most delicious, and most popular recipes ever posted. I hope you find the time to make at least one of them, but preferably all of them, for they truly are some of the best things I have ever tasted.

P.S, check out the first post I ever wrote: Peanut Butter Explosion Cupcakes --how embarrassing! I’d say my photography (and writing) skills have greatly improved since then…yikes!
Cheers and happy baking! :)
 
 
Blackberry Crumb Bars
…a naturally sweet dessert

Do you ever get really excited when fruit is on sale? Okay, maybe not. How about chocolate chips and vanilla extract? Yeah, thought so. Well just when I thought my cart couldn’t fit anything else in it, I passed through the product aisle one last time and spotted a sign for blackberries that read: Buy 1, get 2 free. Huh?! That doesn’t even make sense, but I’ll take it. As I was walking home, pushing my old lady red plaid-lined shopping cart that my mom found on Craigslist, I couldn’t help but dream up recipes that I could use these juicy blackberries for.

Since they were practically free, I didn’t feel as guilty using them to make a dessert…instead of throwing them in a smoothie, on top of a salad, or something weird and healthy like that. For sake of time, I decided to go with Confabulation in the Kitchen’s Blackberry Crumb Bars.

Juicy, sweet, crumbly, and soft. Me likey.
The Ingredients…*
Recipe by: Confabulation in the Kitchen
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, room temperature
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, divided
1/2 cup packed light-brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 large eggs, room temperature
10 ounces of blackberries (2 containers)
The Instructions…*
(1) Preheat oven to 350° F. Butter and flour an 8-inch square baking pan then line with parchment paper, allowing paper to overhang on the sides. Butter and flour paper, too.
(2) To make topping: In a medium bowl, whisk melted butter, brown sugar and 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Add one cup of flour and mix with fork or pastry blender until ingredients resemble crumbs. Refrigerate topping until ready to use.
(3) To make batter: In a separate, medium bowl whisk 3/4 cup flour, baking powder and remaining 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Set aside.
(4) In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat butter, sugar and vanilla until fluffy, about 30 seconds. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Lower speed on mixer and gradually add flour. Mix until combined. 
(5) Spread batter in bottom of prepared pan. Spread blackberries across batter then sprinkle top with cold crumb topping.
(6) Bake 40 to 45 minutes or until cake tester inserted in center comes out clean. Cool completely in pan. Lift out, holding paper, then cut into squares.
 
 
Salted Chocolate Chip Cookies…*
…yet another variation of the popular cookie recipe

In the course of my lifetime, I’ve probably consumed close to 1,000 chocolate chip cookies. Some were soft and chewy while others were hard and crispy. Most of them, however, were eaten beforethey were baked, straight out of the bowl :). There are literally millions of recipes for this popular cookie that are published online and in cookbooks, and I’m on a mission to try all of them. Well….maybe not all of them. Just the good ones…like these “crispy chewy chocolate chip cookies” by the Smitten Kitchen.

They turned out amazing and definitely deliver on flavor and texture. However, I found myself wishing there were more chocolate chips in every bite. But then again, I’m a chocoholic and sometimes eat chocolate chips straight out of the bag…and by sometimes I mean like every night. But let’s pretend I didn’t just write that and that you didn’t really read that.

Anyway, to balance out the sweetness of the dough, I topped these cookies off with a sprinkle of sea salt. Best decision I ever made! I only used half of the cookie dough, and reserved the rest for another cookie recipe that I will be posting soon…so stay tuned! :)
The Ingredients…*
Recipe adapted from: The Smitten Kitchen
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 egg
1 egg yolk
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
Sea salt, for sprinkling on top
The Instructions…*
(1) Preheat the oven to 325°F. Grease cookie sheets or line with parchment paper.
(2) Sift together the flour, baking soda and salt; set aside. In a medium bowl, cream together the melted butter, brown sugar and white sugar until well blended.
(3) Beat in the vanilla, egg, and egg yolk until light and creamy. Mix in the sifted ingredients until just blended.
(4) Stir in the chocolate chips by hand using a wooden spoon. 
(5) Drop cookie dough 1/4 cup at a time (for giant cookies) or a tablespoon at a time (for smaller cookies) onto the prepared cookie sheets. Cookies should be about 3 inches apart.
(6) Sprinkle sea salt over the tops of the cookies before baking.
(7) Bake larger cookies for 15 to 17 minutes, or 10 to 12 minutes for smaller ones in the preheated oven, or until the edges are lightly toasted. Cool on baking sheets for a few minutes before transferring to wire racks to cool completely.
Pour yourself a large glass of cold milk…
…and go on, get dunkin’…you know you want to :)
Crispy edges and gooey soft middle. Mmmmmmmmmmmmmm!
 
 
Chocolate Peppermint Thumbprint Cookies…*
…to kick the holiday baking season off right 

Holiday baking can be overwhelming. There are dozens of recipes I want/need to make this season, but unfortunately, time is running out fast. There are only 18 days left until Christmas, annndd I’m probably working 16 of them. It’s time I start checking off that list as the countdown to Christmas gets smaller. To start, I made these Thumbprint Cookies loaded with dark chocolate, peppermint, and lots of colorful holiday sprinkles. 

These bedazzled cookies remind me of the 59¢ chocolate cake donuts at the grocery store—the ones I always begged my mom to get me when she dragged me with her every Sunday morning. Somehow I always convinced her that since I was her ‘little helper,’ I deserved some kind of reward…as if riding backwards on the front of the cart wasn’t enough. Pshhhhh.

What she didn’t know was that I got more than just a free ride and a donut…I always found a way to sneak in a box or two of Dunkaroos, String Things, and those pink frosted Animal Crackers (which I still love by the way…) Poor Mom. I feel bad now for all the money she spent on that ridiculously delicious, I mean, disgusting, junk food. 

Maybe I can pay her back with a batch of these cookies? It’s only like 17 years later. No big deal.
The Ingredients…*
Recipe adapted from The Curvy Carrot
2/3 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup unsweetened dark cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 egg
1 teaspoon peppermint extract
1 and 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
Assorted sprinkles
20 milk chocolate kisses, unwrapped  (give or take a few)
The Instructions…*
Servings: about 20 cookies
(1) Preheat oven to 375 ° F.  Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper (or use Silpat liners).
(2) In a large mixing bowl, beat butter on medium-high speed for 30 seconds.
(3) Add sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt.  Beat until combined, scraping the sides of the bowl occasionally. 
(4) Beat in egg and peppermint extract until combined.
(5) Beat in the flour.
(6) Your dough should be at ball-rolling consistency at this point.  If it’s not, let it chill in the refrigerator for a while to firm up a little.
(7) Once easily handled, roll dough into 1-inch balls.
(8) Roll balls in sprinkles to coat and unwrap your Kisses if you haven't already.
(9) Place balls 2 inches apart on your lined cookie sheets, and, using your thumb, make an indentation in the center of each cookie.
(10) Bake for 7 to 8 minutes or until edges are firm.  Immediately press a chocolate kiss into each cookie’s center. 
(11) Transfer to a wire rack and let cool.
Ta-daaaaaaaaaaaaa!
Too pretty to eat....or not... ;)
Think my mom will forgive me if I put them in this cute polka dot box? Mmmm probably not, but it’s worth a try.
 
 
Banana Cake Pops…*
…have your cake and eat it too!

Ohhhhh Cake Pops--the little ball of joy that transformed the way we think about cake. Instead of eating a hearty slice of cake, we can now enjoy our favorite flavors in lollipop form with a hard chocolate shell. They are portable, versatile, fun, and easy to make.  Talk about having your cake and eating it too, these cake pops are perfect to take on-the-go and are portioned out so you don’t have to feel guilty about having one…or three. ;)

Bakerella, the inventor of these trendy treats, is one of my role models in the blogosphere. She has taken her baking obsession to a whole new level with these cake pops, which now appear in bakeries and restaurants all over the world.  Even Starbucks has used this cake philosophy to create their own line of pastry pops called Petites, with flavors to include Birthday Cake, Tiramisu, and Rocky Road. 

It’s about time I jumped on the bandwagon to make my very own cake pops. Although the idea was enthused from Bakerella, my true inspiration was taken from my dearest mother.  Last time I visited her, she sent me home with a loaf of her delicious banana bread that I usually devour in a matter of hours. This time, however, I was feeling crafty and wanted to use her banana bread as the foundation for my cake pops. Maybe, just maaayybeee one day I will share her recipe with you, but for now, you’ll have to use your resources to make your own banana bread (or cake) to begin this recipe. Enough talk already, let the cake pop party begin! :)
The Ingredients…*
Recipe inspired by Bakerella
1 loaf of homemade banana bread (or banana cake if you prefer)
1 batch of cream cheese buttercream (or 1 can of store bought frosting)
1 bag of milk chocolate chips
Assorted sprinkles, for decoration
Lollipop sticks (you can purchase these from any craft store, like Michael’s) 
The Instructions…*
(1) If you haven’t already, mix up your banana bread (or cake) and bake until done. Allow ample time to cool. (It's best to let it cool overnight at least.)
(2) After loaf (or cake) is completely cooled, break it up into a large bowl. Crumble it with a fork (or your fingers) until it is in fine crumbs.
(3) In the bowl of an electric mixer, prepare the cream cheese buttercream.
(4) Mix frosting into the bowl of cake crumbs and mix with a spoon. Then, using your fingers, continue to knead and mix until the frosting is fully incorporated into cake crumbs. (At this point, it should very easily roll into a ball without being too sticky. If it needs more moisture, add milk a teaspoon at a time until desired consistency is reached).
(5) Next, cover the mix with plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, about 3 hours, or overnight if time allows.
(6) When it’s time to make the cake balls, prepare two large baking sheets by covering them with wax paper. Take a small scoop of the chilled mixture and roll it into a smooth ball. Insert lollipop sticks into the top of each ball, pointing upward. Place balls back down on baking sheet. (After I did this, I found out  it is recommended that you dip your lollipop sticks into melted chocolate before sticking them into the cake balls—this helps them stay on better and provide more support for the dipping process)
(7) Place cake pops into freezer to harden while you prepare the chocolate.  You can melt the chocolate in the microwave on 30 second intervals, stirring in between if you’d like, but I much rather prefer to melt them over the stove using a double boiler. Either way, make sure all chocolate pieces are uniform in size and you are using low heat. Otherwise, if chocolate is overheated, it will become lumpy and grainy.
(8) Remove cake pops from freezer and dip into the melted chocolate until completely covered.  Roll in chocolate sprinkles, chopped candy bars, or colored sugars and place back on the wax paper-lined baking sheet. Repeat process with all cake pops and allow time for chocolate to harden.
(Note: DO NOT refrigerate them at this point because the chocolate coating will begin to weep, or melt.)
 Cake Pop mission accomplished :)
Now it’s your turn—get as creative as you want with different flavors, colors and toppings!
P.S, I forgot to mention the best part about these cake pops is that they are so moist! The buttercream really helps seal the flavor in and makes them last for several days—well, maybe in your household, but they only lasted a few hours in mine ;) whoops…
 

little shortcake...*