My Crazy Cocina Caliente!!

Just a crazy little latina, stirring up trouble in the cocina!

House Party: French Cocktail Party June 15, 2011

Filed under: Appetizers,Baking,House Party — Vanessita! @ 11:09 am
Hi There!
I know, I know- it’s been QUITE a while since I’ve updated my blog but I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to share with you the details of my first ever House Party!
For those of you who haven’t heard of House Party before, I urge you to check out their website and sign up.
So what is House Party you ask?

“House Party ( is a company that throws thousands of parties across the country on the same day, all hosted by people like you and in the comfort of your own home. Each event is sponsored by a leading brand, hosts get their own party website and a FREE party pack chock full of goodies to share with friends”
(Exerpt from

I was selected to house the French Cocktail Party.  Thanks to the coupons provided in my party pack I bought a few bottles of B&G wine.  Unfortunately, the requested Pinor Noir was not available in my area so instead I purchased a bottle of Merlot and the Vouvray.  While both wines were very tasty, the Vouvray was definitely the winner that night.  My guests absolutely loved this wine and I have to say it’s now become my white wine of choice!

B&G Vouvray & Merlot

House Party also provided me with some great Ile De France cheese coupons.  I was able to indulge a few varieties and they were all delicious!  I bought a wheel of Brie which I covered in Phyllo Dough and baked with an apple compote.  It was definitely a hit!  The apple and the Brie mixed so well together and made for a great cracker topper.

House Party also sent me a great cheese board which I used to display the Ile De France goat cheese and a container of spreadable Brie.  All the cheeses were delicious.  I had a hard time staying away from them!
I wanted to give my guests the best French Cocktail Party experience so I decided to cook up a few French-inspired dishes.  I baked a Quiche with ham, cheese, and mushrooms which was delicious!  I also made Mushroom Crostini and Salmon Mousse on crackers.

The SpreadCheese, Crackers and Brie en CrouteSalmon MousseCheese & Crackers

Cheese, Crackers and Brie en CrouteSalmon MousseCheese & CrackersSalmon Mousse


Salmon Mousse


Cheese & Crackers


For dessert I made yummy Chocolate Mousse in Phyllo Cups (thanks for the inspiration Katie!)

Merlot & Chocolate Mousse Cups

Overall I had a great time hosting my first House Party.  I received good feed back from my guests as well.
I definitely enjoyed the wines and cheeses and will be buying more Ile De France and B&G products in the future. 
 Thank you House Party!

Pumpkin Cheesecake! September 25, 2009

Filed under: Baking,cake — Vanessita! @ 11:17 am
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Earlier this week I posted about my experience in making my own pumpkin puree (thanks to the crazy canned pumpkin shortage!).

I took some time last night to finally make the pumpkin cheesecake I’d been craving for weeks, and boy- was it worth the wait!! 🙂

I had originally planned on making a recipe from my latest copycat cookbook, but the recipe called for sour cream which I didn’t have on hand (and I found that just a little strange).  So instead I referred back to a site I had bookmarked and made this deliciously creamy and tasty cheesecake!


I did make a few modifications- including using a different crust recipe, my changes will be red.

Pumpkin Cheesecake

Originally From Gourmet (2003), posted on Epicurious.

For Crust (Not Included in the linked recipe)

  • 2 cups of Graham Cracker crumbs
  • 1 teaspoon of ground Cinnamon
  • 5 tablespoons of melted butter

For Filling

  • 1 1/2 cups canned solid-pack pumpkin I used the homemade puree I made earlier this week.
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla I added just a tiny bit more 🙂
  • 1 tablespoon bourbon liqueur or bourbon (optional) I omitted.
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon**
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg**
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger**
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, at room temperature

**Instead of putting in all these different spices, I just put in 1 1/2 tablespoons of Pumpkin Spice (which I bought earlier this week).

Make crust:

Stir together crumbs, cinnamon and melted butter.  It should have a crumbly not pasty texture.  Pour the mixture into your springform pan and spread/press to create a layer of crumbs on the bottom and 1″ to 1 1/2″ crust on the sides of the pan.

Set aside. I chilled mine while I worked on the cake ingredients

Make filling and bake cheesecake:
Put oven rack in middle position and Preheat oven to 350°F.

Whisk together pumpkin, eggs, brown sugar, cream, vanilla, and liqueur (if using) in a bowl until combined.

Stir together granulated sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and salt in large bowl. Add cream cheese and beat with an electric mixer at high speed until creamy and smooth, about 3 minutes. Reduce speed to medium, then add pumpkin mixture and beat until smooth.

Pour filling into crust, smoothing top, then put springform pan in a shallow baking pan (in case springform leaks). Bake until center is just set, 50 to 60 minutes. Transfer to rack and cool.


  • I filled an 8″ cake pan with water and put it on the bottom rack of the oven.  This helps keep the oven moist and will help prevent cracks in your cheesecake.
  • My cheesecake took about 55 minutes to bake through.
  • Let your cheesecake sit in the springform pan until it is FULLY cooled.  I took an angled spatula and separated the sides of the cake from the pan while it was cooling.  I left my cheesecake out for about 2 hours- you don’t want to put it into the fridge too soon or else cracks may form.
  • Recipes with cornstarch tend to create less/no cracks- the cornstarch helps keep all the ingredients together and fills any holes of air created by the eggs.
  • Speaking of eggs: DON’T OVERMIX THEM!!!  The more you mix your eggs, the more air you are bringing into your batter.  The less air the less chance of cracks forming.
  • Once the cake is cooled cover it in saran wrap and refrigerate.  Because I wasn’t serving mine right away I kept it in the springform pan and covered the entire thing.  Chill for at least 4 hours before serving.

So there you have it!!!
This was the first cheesecake I’ve ever made and the experience went really well.  I brought in the cake for my co-workers and it was gone within MINUTES!!  Everyone loved the cake.  I topped it with some cool whip and chopped pecans- it was a hit. 🙂


Baby Shower Cake September 24, 2009

This past weekend hubs and I attended a baby shower for his co-worker, whose wife is pregnant with their first baby! (It’s a Boy!)


The co-workers put together this adorable shower at the father-to-be’s uncle’s restaurant and we had a great time.  The restaurant served us some GREAT Dominican appetizers and the parents-to-be got many wonderful gifts including the baby’s crib.

Hubs asked if I would mind making the cake for the shower and I said I’d love to!!! His co-worker sent me a napkin with the design she was using through the shower and so I took my ideas from that.  I created a lion, giraffe, and a hippo- I wanted them to match the napkin’s characters as closely as possible.



I made the leaves and animals out of fondant that was kneaded with Tyclose powder.  After some research I found that the Tyclose powder would make the fondant hard to ensure my shapes didn’t sag or lose their form.

My original plan was to cover the entire cake in fondant but I rolled it way too thin, plus my frosting hadn’t crusted and it just created a giant mess (I was on a little bit of a time crunch).  So I had to toss over a pound of fondant away 😦 I knew I could cover it pretty smoothly with buttercream so I went that route to ensure I didn’t mess up again and had the cake done on time.

The bottom tier (8″) was Dulce De Leche cake (as seen previously in my blog, here).  This was by far the crowds favorite 🙂 I got so many compliments and I must say it’s also one of my personal faves.

The top tier (6″) was Hershey’s Perfectly Chocolate Cake (also seen previously in my blog, here).  I filled it with Molly Jean’s Cheesecake Filling.  It was mega mega YUMMY!! A great and tasty combo for sure!

While it wasn’t perfect as per my standards I received so many wonderful comments regarding the cake.  The dad-to-be kept gushing on how nice the cake was 🙂 I’m so glad the parents-to-be and the crowd loved the cake! 🙂  It’s a wonderful feeling to receive compliments on something you worked hard on.


The Great Pumpkin Search 2009 September 23, 2009

Filed under: Baking,Fall Foods — Vanessita! @ 10:40 am
Tags: , ,

Well, yesterday was the first official day of Fall.  HOORAY!!!!  It’s my favorite season and I’ve been itching to start making fall-inspired goodies.   BUT who would have ever guessed that there would be a canned pumpkin shortage?  Especially so early in the year- I mean it’s only September, we’re no where near Thanksgiving yet!!


Recently on the What’s Cooking board the talk of pumpkin has skyrocketed.  Lots of girls have started making yummy pumpkin treats and it got me in the pumpkin mood!!!  I’ve been meaning to make a cheesecake (for forever now!!!) and figured why not make a pumpkin cheesecake?!  After looking over the ingredients I knew I needed at least one can of pumpkin puree and that’s when the search began.

I searched 4 different grocery stores and came out empty handed, but I didn’t let that stop me.  I decided I wouldn’t be defeated that easily and figured I’d just make it myself.
With a little help from the Pioneer Woman, I was able to roast 2 pie pumpkins and get a very nice amount of pumpkin puree.

Pumpkin Cheesecake- get ready! ‘Cause here I come!!!

Pumpkin Puree
(I used 2 pumpkins to be sure I got enough for my cheesecake(s).)

First: Preheat your oven to 350 degrees

Slice the tops of each pumpkin (toss or set aside)
Pumpkin2Then cut each pumpkin in half, then cut each of those pieces in half, leaving you with quarters
I then used my ice-cream scoop to scrape out the seeds and stringy mess from inside the pumpkins.  I saved the seeds though!!! I plan on roasting those tonight!!

Pumpkin4Once you’ve cleaned out the insides of the pumpkins, set them on a baking pan- skin down/pumpkin meat up.
Pumpkin3Put them in the center rack and let them roast for 45 minutes or fork tender (It took me about 55 minutes)
Once they were done I removed them from the oven and let them cool for about 10 minutes, but I did notice that the longer they sat, the harder it was to get the skin off.
Once they’re cool enough to handle, start peeling off the skins.  Make sure to get as MUCH meat as you can- you don’t want to waste any 😉
Now just take the chunks of peeled pumpkin and put them into the food processor.  I did this in 3 batches.
I didn’t use my pumpkin puree right away so I put it in an airtight container and set it inside my fridge.  I’ll be using it later this week 🙂

So thats it!!!! Super simple, very very easy!!!
One tip: If you think your pumpkin is too wet/liquidy feel free to strain it using a cheesecloth of a very fine mesh strainer.   If on the other end- it’s too dry, add a few tablespoons of water until you reach the right consistency.


Bridal Shower Favors September 3, 2009

Filed under: Baking,Cookies — Vanessita! @ 11:08 am
Tags: , , ,

Recently I was asked to bake and decorate some sugar cookies that would serve as favors for a bridal shower.  You can imagine how flippin’ excited I was, MY FIRST ORDER EVER!!!!

As soon as my friend asked me to create these cookies for her best friends shower I knew I had to find the PERFECT sugar cookie recipe.


After baking up 3 different recipes, I was about ready to give up.  Sure- the cookies would look nice but the taste was important to me! I wanted the guests at this shower to really say “YUM” when they bit in, not just “OH and AW” over its exterior.

So the hunt continued until I came across Ashlee’s Famous Sugar Cookie Recipe in Courtney’s blog: Cook Like A Champion.  I had also heard wonders of this recipe on the What’s Cooking board I frequent so I decided to give it a shot! And boy, I’m so glad I did.  The cookies came out FANTASTIC!!!  Not only did they taste great but they held their shape up  pretty good.  The trick is to make sure you let the dough cool, then once you cut it into the shapes you want, let them cool on the baking sheet in the fridge.  I let mine cool the 2nd time around for about 20 minutes.


Ashlee’s Famous Sugar Cookies
-1 1/2 cups butter
-1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
-1/2 cup powdered sugar
-4 eggs
-1 tsp. vanilla
-1/2 tsp. almond extract
-1 tbsp. lemon zest
-5 cups flour
-2 tsp. baking powder
-1 tsp. salt
-Powdered sugar, for rolling
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Cream butter and sugars in a mixer for 5 minutes.
Add in eggs one at a time, mixing thoroughly.
Add in vanilla, almond, and lemon zest.
Beat for 10 seconds.
Add in baking powder and salt, beat again.
Add in flour 1 c. at a time, mix for 15 seconds between each addition.
Do not over mix, this process should take about one minute.
Chill dough for up to a week in the fridge, or roll out and cut right away.

Bake on a parchment lined cookie sheet for about 7 minutes, or until golden brown on the bottom.

I think the secret to the amazing taste in these cookies is the lemon zest!  I even added a tiny bit of lemon extract to the mix for an extra lemony flavor and I’m pretty sure it paid off!!


I topped the cookies with Royal Icing (using meringue powder) decorations.  It was my first real time working with royal icing so I made sure to practice on my Wilton Practice Board.  For being my first time I have to say I’m pretty dang proud of how they turned out.

And from what I’m told they were a huge hit at the shower and everyone loved them, including the bride (it was a surprise for her).  My friend (who made the order) had a few leftovers and said her husband really enjoyed them as well!  (As did the hubs with the cookie scraps that I had leftover! haha).

Next time you want to bake up some scrumptious sugar cookies- be sure to give this recipe a try!!!
I can’t wait till I get to bake them again- these cookies have now given me a new obsession with cookie cutters!!! haha.


SK’s Birthday Cake September 1, 2009

Filed under: Baking,cake — Vanessita! @ 3:32 pm
Tags: , , ,

My parents anniversary was in July and for some reason or another I was unable to bake them a cake.  So, since July my mother has been bugging me about making them a post-anniversary cake.


The hubs and I decided to take Sunday and drive out to the farm to visit my parents so I figured this was the perfect chance to bring them their happy-late-anniversary cake.  I searched the Internet to find something simple and yummy and not too sweet since my dad doesn’t have the biggest sweet tooth.  I also knew I wanted to fill whatever cake with pineapple since that’s my dads favorite filling.  After searching a few of my “usual” websites I came across Smitten Kitchen’s Best Birthday Cake.  I figured this yellow cake would be the perfect cake to pair with my pineapple filling.

This cake is SO GOOD!!!  It’s very light and fluffy, soft and very tasty.  It went GREAT with some pineapple filling and a cream cheese frosting.

During the week I cranked out a few more roses in a deep orange color to decorate my cake with.  Overall I think the cake ended up  looking pretty good!


***WARNING! This recipe creates A LOT of batter!!!  I’ve made it twice so far and both times I’ve had to toss out some batter because it was just too much!***

Best Birthday Cake
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Yield: Two 9-inch round, 2-inch tall cake layers, and, in theory, 22 to 24 cupcakes, two 8-inch squares or a 9×13 single-layer cake (I have yet to audition the cupcakes, shame on me)

4 cups plus 2 tablespoons cake flour (not self-rising) I couldn’t find cake flour so I substituted 1 cup of regular AP flour MINUS 2 tbsp PLUS 2 tbsp of corn starch.  Worked well in this case.
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, softened
2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
4 large eggs, at room temperature
2 cups buttermilk, well-shaken

Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter two 9-inch round cake pans and line with circles of parchment paper, then butter parchment. (Alternately, you can use a cooking spray, either with just butter or butter and flour to speed this process up.) I didn’t use parchment circles, I just greased my pans with Wilton Cake Release- that stuff is great!

Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl. In a large mixing bowl, beat butter and sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium speed until pale and fluffy, then beat in vanilla. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well and scraping down the bowl after each addition. At low speed, beat in buttermilk until just combined (mixture will look curdled). Add flour mixture in three batches, mixing until each addition is just incorporated.

Spread batter evenly in cake pan, then rap pan on counter several times to eliminate air bubbles. (I like to drop mine a few times from two inches up, making a great big noisy fuss.) Bake until golden and a wooden pick inserted in center of cake comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes. Cool in pan on a rack 10 minutes, then run a knife around edge of pan. Invert onto rack and discard parchment, then cool completely, about 1 hour.  I had to bake my cakes (at 350) for a little longer, perhaps it’s just my oven though.

RoseCake3Pineapple Filling
Taken from CakeCentral

1 box of Vanilla Pudding Mix
1/2 a container of Cool Whip
1 large can of Pineapple Chunks (or tidbits) WITH JUICE!

Mix together the Vanilla Pudding Mix with the can of pineapple (including juice!).
Mix well and let it chill for 5 minutes.
Fold in the Cool Whip until incorporated and chill for an hour.

All in all this cake is great!! I’ll def. be making it again (I actually already made it twice, the 2nd time for cupcakes).  It was a hit with my parents and my cousins/aunt/uncle who were over as well.


Wilton Cake #3 August 27, 2009

Filed under: Baking,cake,Wilton — Vanessita! @ 9:30 am
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Tuesday was a happy but kind of sad day- it was the last class of my first Wilton course.  I totally intend on signing up for the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th courses but I know not all the girls will return and I really had a great time getting to know everyone.  I really learned a lot and in the course of 4 weeks I’ve learned how to make crazy looking clowns, pipe a rainbow, make drop flowers, pretty polka dots, and I’ve mastered the Wilton Rose.  Ok- so maybe I haven’t mastered it yet BUT I did learn how to make it and I cranked out more flowers than anyone else in my class!  So give me some credit, please. haha. 🙂


Here’s the cake I made during our last class.  I made 6 purple Roses and placed them in the center of the cake (I’m all about being imperfect and who cares that they aren’t perfectly centered, lol!).  I made a few leaves and then a few sweet peas across the bottom shell border (which I still haven’t perfected!).


Overall I love the way this cake looks.  And my frosting skills have also improved!!! I didn’t have nearly as many “blobs” on this cake, it was pretty smooth looking!


The cake itself is a red velvet cake filled and covered in cream cheese frosting.  After asking the wonderful girls on the WC board for some help finding the best red velvet recipe, I was forwarded to Bridget’s blog where she did a fabulous red velvet recipe comparison.Roses2

My co-workers probably agreed with Bridget’s findings because they all told me how wonderful this cake tasted.  Mine came out SUPER moist and wasn’t too dense.  It’s definitely a front runner for the best red velvet I’ve ever had.  It didn’t taste as good as it could have since I had to cover it with a layer of Wilton icing (aka NOT yummy!!!)…but I’m sure fully covered in cream cheese this cake would be phenomenal.  Below is the recipe:

Red Velvet Cake
Taken from The Way the Cookie Crumbles, Originally found on Apple A Day.

Makes 1 8-inch 3-layer cake

For the cake:
2½ cups cake flour
1½ cups sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1½ cups vegetable oil
1 cup buttermilk
2 tablespoons (1 oz.) red food coloring  I used gel food coloring and only used about half an ounce.
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon white distilled vinegar

For the frosting:
12 ounces cream cheese, softened
12 ounces butter, softened
1½ teaspoons vanilla extract
3 cups confectioners’ sugar
1½ cups chopped pecans (optional)

1. For the cake: Preheat oven to 350°.

2. Sift together flour, sugar, baking soda, cocoa, and salt into a medium bowl.

3. Beat eggs, oil, buttermilk, food coloring, vanilla, and vinegar in a large bowl with an electric mixer until well combined. Add dry ingredients and beat until smooth, about 2 minutes.

4. Divide batter evenly between 3 greased and floured 8″ round cake pans.

5. Bake cakes, rotating halfway through, until a toothpick inserted in the center of each cake comes out clean, 25-30 minutes. Let cakes cool 5 minutes, then invert each onto a plate, then invert again onto a cooling rack. Let cakes cool completely. I baked this cake in my 8″ round, 3″ deep pan- I put all the batter into this one pan and baked for about 75 minutes on 325 degrees.

6. For the frosting: Beat cream cheese, butter, and vanilla together in a large bowl with an electric mixer until combined. Add sugar and beat until frosting is light and fluffy, 5-7 minutes.

4. Put 1 cake layer on a cake plate, level off with a serrated knife, and spread one-quarter of the frosting on top. Set another layer on top, level, and repeat frosting. Set remaining layer on top, level, and frost top and sides with the remaining frosting. Press pecans into the sides of the cake, if desired. **Tip: after leveling cake, turn it upside down to reduce numbers of crumbs. I also did a crumb coat on the outside, let it set for ten minutes, then finished with remaining frosting. I did the same.

5. Chill for 2 hours to set frosting.

So there you have it- a deliciously yummy red velvet cake!!! Thanks Bridget!