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Red Velvet Birthday Cake

There’s something about making birthday cakes which always causes me to break out in a cold sweat. Since it’s a cake for a special ocassion, there’s a lot of pressure not to mess it up. Per birthday tradition, it was time for me to make a cake for the Englishman, and this year he requested red velvet birthday cake.

red velvet birthday cakeI’ve never made red velvet cake before and normally my cakes turn out to be more like quick breads, but I was down for the challenge. I ordered special cake pans, got all-natural food coloring, and consulted my baking guru Karla for moral support.

With my game face on, I scoured the internet for red velvet birthday cake recipes and finally decided on this one from Real Simple Magazine.

After getting my cakes ready and in the oven, it was time to tackle the frosting.  I was initially going to go with a buttercream frosting, but I didn’t allocate enough butter, so I went with a simple vanilla frosting recipe instead.  Martha Stewart has never steered me wrong, so I went with her recipe.

The cakes came out perfectly cooked (although not as red as I hoped due to the natural food coloring) and after letting them cool for a half hour, it was time to frost.

red velvet cakes

My frosting skills are pretty amateur, but I figured the cake was going to be covered in birthday candles anyway, so if it was a little uneven, it wouldn’t be the total end of the world.

red velvet cake frostingThen came the official taste test.  Would the birthday boy like his cake?  I’m happy to report that he declared it was one of the best cakes he’s ever had.  Red velvet birthday cake success!

I’ve included the cake recipe below in case you want to make this cake yourself.  It’s very easy to follow and the end result is a delicious, moist (I know) cake.  Traditional red velvet calls for cream cheese frosting, but I think the vanilla worked perfectly.

red velvet birthday cake

Red Velvet Birthday Cake (from Real Simple)


1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 c sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp red food coloring
1 cup buttermilk

Vanilla Frosting Ingredients:

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups confectioners’ sugar
2 tablespoons cashew milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 pinch salt


Preheat your oven to 350F. Grease two 8-inch round cake pans.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt; set aside.

In a separate bowl using a stand mixer or hand mixer beat the butter and sugar on medium-high for 2 to 3 minutes. Add in the eggs, vanilla, vinegar, and food coloring until incorporated, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary.

Slowly add the flour mixture in 3 additions and the buttermilk in 2 additions, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Mix until well combined.

Divide the batter between the prepared pans and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean for 45 minutes. Cool the cakes in the pans for 15-30 minutes.

While the cakes are baking, make your frosting. In a small bowl, beat together butter, sugar, milk, vanilla, and salt until light and fluffy.

Transfer one of your cakes to a plate and spread with frosting. Place the second cake on top and spread the remaining frosting on the cake. Serve and enjoy!

Now that I’ve conquered this cake, I’m ready to try another one.  What should I bake next?

Mammoth Bar

And just like that we are back from France.  Expect some recaps on the blog soon, but let me just tell you that it was amazing, the food was fantastic, and I even tried chicken liver for the first time (and didn’t hate it!).  But first let me tell you about a new-to-me paleo bar I tried before I went on vacation: Mammoth Bar.

Mammoth BarI know what you are thinking – another paleo bar?  But hear me out, cause these bars are the jam.  And unlike some other bars out there, Mammoth Bar uses more unique ingredients like dried egg white protein and baobab (which is a superfruit loaded with antioxidants and vitamin C).

Each Mammoth Bar also contains raw sprouted nuts, dates and spices, making them the perfect protein packed snack or breakfast on the go.  The bars come in four flavors: Almond Vanilla, Cashew Cinnamon, Trail Mix Goji and Coconut Macadamia.  And I loved each and every one of them.

One issue I have had with some paleo/protein bars in the past is that I’ll eat one and will feel hungry 30 minutes later.  This definitely wasn’t the case with these bars.  In fact, I ended up packing all 4 bars in my travel “snack pack” and even had a Mammoth Bar for breakfast when we were en route from Paris to London and wasn’t starving on the short flight over to England.  If that isn’t a testament to how good these bars are, then nothing is.

Mammoth Bar SnacksEach bar is packed with about 10g of protein, and all of the sugars come from natural sources like dates and coconut.  Right now you can only order Mammoth Bar online, but I’m hoping they will pop up in some local stores soon!

A big thanks to the Mammoth Bar team for introducing me to your tasty bars! I’ll definitely be ordering more of these in the future.

Paleo Bar fans: what bar is your fave?

Honey Spice Bread

At this time next week the Englishman and I will be eating and drinking our way through France, and what better way to prepare for all the amazing French food than with some Pain D’Epices aka Honey Spice Bread.

honey spice breadFor the past couple of weeks I’ve been pouring through David Lebovitz’s blog and cookbook
and making a list of all of the French dishes I want to eat.  Steak frites s’il vous plait.

This honey spice bread is made with all-purpose and whole wheat flour along with a generous serving of honey and spices.  But don’t let the honey and spices fool you; the texture of this is definitely more of bread than a cake, and isn’t very sweet at all.  If you are looking for a dense bread with a bit of chewiness to it then this bread is for you.

Gluten and I aren’t exactly bffs at the moment so the Englishman enjoyed this bread and loved it.  Vive la France!

honey spice bread

Honey Spice Bread (adapted from My Paris Kitchen)


3/4 cup honey

1/4 cup brown sugar

1/2 tsp salt

1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour

2/3 cup whole wheat flour

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp nutmeg

1 tsp pumpkin pie spice

1 tsp ground ginger

1 large egg

1 large egg yolk


Preheat your oven to 350F.  Line a loaf pan with parchment paper.

Melt your honey, brown sugar, water and salt in a small saucepan and bring to a boil.  Let the mixture simmer for 5 minutes, then add 1 cup of your all-purpose flour.  Stir together and set aside.

In a large bowl whisk your 1/3 cup all-purpose flour, whole wheat flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, pumpkin pie spice, baking powder and baking soda together.  Gently fold in your egg and egg yolk.

Add your honey mixture to your dry ingredients and stir until smooth.  Pour your batter into your loaf pan and bake for 40-45 minutes.

honey spice bread loafRemove your bread from the oven and let it cool for 20 minutes.  Lebovitz recommends slicing the bread the following day and serving at room temperature.

Natural Products Expo West: Justin’s

A couple of years ago I attended my first Natural Products Expo West and had a blast meeting a bunch of different vendors, trying new products and immersing myself in some of the best healthy and natural products on the market.  I couldn’t attend last year due to being in the thick of wedding planning, so this year I was excited to return AND meet with one of my favorite brands.  So consider this recap the Natural Products Expo West: Justin’s edition.

justins nut butter expo westFor those not familiar, Justin’s is a company specializing in nut butters and peanut butter cups using all-natural ingredients and NO preservatives.  The company uses organic ingredients when possible, and offers a line of almond butter, peanut butter, and natural PB cups that taste 1000x better than a Reese’s in my opinion. The Englishman and I always have a jar of Justin’s Almond Butter in our house, and I always take the to-go squeeze packs whenever I travel.  So when I had the opportunity to meet THE Justin at Expo West this year I jumped at the chance.

natural products expo west justinsJustin was incredibly nice (as expected) and was happy to chat about his products, what’s new, and what’s coming up for 2015.  First up is the dark + milk chocolate peanut butter minis, which at 70 calories a pop, are the perfect little treat when you are craving something sweet.

justins mini pb cupsI have already shared some of the minis with my friends and they were all big fans.  I can’t wait to stock up on more when these hit shelves starting in April.

In addition to the minis, Justin also has plans to create more healthy snacks by the end of 2015.  He explained that everything is still in the very early formulation stages, but he did share that he’s looking for that “snackability” factor and to expect lots of peanut butter and almond butter combos with more traditional snacks like pretzels and crackers.  PB and pretzels?  Sign me up.

Justin also shared that one goal of the brand this year is to become more green with their packaging and using more sustainable materials, which I thought I was great.  It’s so nice to see a brand constantly evolving and taking steps forward to be more environmentally friendly.

Not only was Justin incredibly nice and great to chat with, I could see how passionate he is about his brand, which definitely reflects in his products, cause they all taste great!  If you haven’t tried Justin’s yet, I recommend starting with the Maple Almond Butter or the Dark Chocolate PB cups.  Or even the Chocolate Hazelnut Butter.  Or Classic Almond Butter.  Obviously I don’t discriminate.

expo west justinsJustin’s products can be found at most supermarkets, Target and even Starbucks, and the new minis will be available starting in April.

Thanks again to Justin and his team for the great meeting at Expo West!