Apple Pecan Carrot Cake

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Guys, can I ask you all a random, but still perfectly serious question?

How old do you think I am?

Take a look at my picture to the right, or the pictures of me in my last post at my sister’s wedding. (Disclaimer: I usually ‘look’ like the picture to the right on a day to day basis, whereas at my sister’s wedding I was dolled up with lots of pretty makeup and a gorgeous hairdo which is NOT the norm for me.)

But anyway, yeah: how old am I?

Don’t be shy. I won’t be offended. Let’s hear it. Your best guesses.

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If you guys are anything at all like most random strangers I meet, my estimation is that a lot of your guesses are in late teens, early twenties. A lot of people think that I’m young enough to just be starting college or midway through at the most.

Not so.

I actually graduated from college three years ago.

And I’m not in my late teens or early twenties.

As a matter of fact, this weekend, September the 27th to be exact, I will officially be out of my ‘mid twenties’ and step into the later half of them.

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In a nutshell: my 26th birthday is on Sunday, guys.

I’ll be twenty six. In a manner of speaking, I guess I already am considering twenty six years ago I was alive and kickin in my mom’s stomach with Jas.

When I’ve informed people that I meet of this that mistake me for a teen or early twenty-something, I always get the same reaction. Shock. Disbelief. Then, immediate congratulations at having “good genes” or “aging really well.” I’m personally not sure how I feel about it. I mean, I’m sure that soon enough further down the road if I still look younger than what I really am, I’ll feel great about it. But for now, still being mistaken for someone who’s still not old enough to legally purchase alcohol, when in actuality I crossed that bridge LONG ago is…meh.

Birthdays stopped being something that were really important to me years and years ago. I typically let my own pass by without much fanfare or celebration; it just isn’t that big of a deal anymore. Still, the one tradition that I do still like to continue- especially since I learned how to cook/bake, is the tradition of having a cake. Because cake, is ALWAYS a big deal. Last year it was this Caramel Snickerdoodle Cake. This year, I knew I wanted something that really tasted like Fall. My mom had just bought me The Southern Cake Book released by Southern Living, and I picked this one out as my and Jas’ birthday cake pretty much as soon a I saw it.

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Let me break it down for you guys: small chunks of apples, pecans and grated carrots mixed into a SUPER moist cake batter with a mild spice flavor gets baked into 2 9-inch cakes. The middle filling is a GLORIOUS, smooth and easy Apple Cider caramel sauce that comes together in minutes. Sandwich the two cake layers together, then spread a light n’creamy cream cheese frosting on top and sprinkle with more pecans.

I made the cake last weekend- and we’re down to the last few slices already. Yep. It’s THAT good. If you’ve got a birthday coming up in the family or your circle of friends, I highly reccommend this one: you’ll make your loved one and anybody else lucky enough to get a slice VERY happy. I’ll be linking up this post with our host Angie at this week’s Fiesta Friday #87– that way, we ALL get cake.

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Apple Pecan Carrot Cake


Recipe Courtesy of The Southern Cake Book

Print

Ingredients

2 1/3 cups finely chopped lightly toasted pecans, divided
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons apple pie spice
1/2 teaspoon table salt
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 cups sugar
3/4 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup buttermilk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups peeled and grated Granny Smith apples
1 1/2 cups grated carrots
2/3 cup plus 2 Tbsp. Apple Cider Caramel Sauce, recipe follows
Cream Cheese Frosting, recipe follows

Apple Cider Caramel Sauce

1 cup apple cider
1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup butter
1/4 cup whipping cream

Cream Cheese Frosting

1 (8-oz.) container cream cheese
1/4 cup powdered sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup whipping cream

Directions

For Cake:

1. Preheat oven to 350°. Sprinkle 1 1/3 cups toasted pecans into 2 well-buttered shiny 9-inch round cake pans; shake to coat bottom and sides of pans.

2. Stir together flour and next 3 ingredients.

3. Stir together eggs and next 4 ingredients in a large bowl until blended. Add flour mixture, stirring just until blended. Fold in apples, carrots, and remaining 1 cup pecans. Pour batter into prepared pans.

4. Bake at 350° for 30 to 35 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pans on wire racks 10 minutes. Remove from pans to wire racks, and cool completely (about 1 hour).

5. Place 1 cake layer, pecan side down, on a serving plate. Spread top of cake layer with 2/3 cup Apple Cider Caramel Sauce; top with remaining cake layer, pecan side down. Spread Cream Cheese Frosting over top of cake. Drizzle 2 Tbsp. Apple Cider Caramel Sauce over frosting, and swirl sauce into frosting. Serve immediately.

For Apple Cider Caramel Sauce: Cook cider in a 3-qt. saucepan over medium heat, stirring often, 10 minutes or until reduced to 1/4 cup. Stir in remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring constantly; boil, stirring constantly, 2 minutes. Remove from heat, and cool completely. Refrigerate up to 1 week. To reheat, microwave at HIGH 10 to 15 seconds or just until warm; stir until smooth.

For Cream Cheese Frosting: Whisk together first 3 ingredients in a large bowl just until blended. Beat whipping cream at medium speed with an electric mixer until stiff peaks form. Gently fold into cream cheese mixture.

My Sister’s Now a ‘Mrs.’

Hey guys!

No food recipes today- but today’s post is still pretty important to me and since I did mention it to you all, I did want to share some of it with you.

See, last week, my twin sister Jasmine got married. It was a wonderful day,filled with a lot of smiles, joy and family. Just the way it should be. I’m really happy for Jas and her husband Josh, and I’m glad that I got to be apart of their special day.

(Although, being her twin, it’s not really like I had much of a say in the matter).

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The Happy Couple at the Rehearsal Dinner. It was a Mexican restaurant called Aldaco’s Taco Bar that I’d never been to before. Having tried the food, I can now safely guarantee that I will be back. Normally I’m not even a fan of Mexican food, but this was GOOD.

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There’s a really ‘funny’ story behind this program. Jas had originally decided on some program print-outs from Hobby Lobby, but decided two days before the nuptials that she hated them (and they ‘were’ pretty awful to be honest). So me and my Ashley, our older sister and co-MoH, along with our amazing wedding coordinator came through in the clutch for her to get these custom made for her by a SUPER designer who was willing literally do these overnight.  Let’s give her a round of applause, because she’s DEFINITELY the real MVP. They were done the day before the wedding.

Talk about last minute.

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When Jas and I first got to the church on Saturday morning, we had some quiet time while we waited on the hair stylist and makeup artist to get there, so I made her put up her hood and pose so I could get this shot. The Quiet Before the Storm.

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And, the After. Come on, I mean…let’s just all agree:

Isn’t she THE most beautiful bride you’ve ever seen?

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Jas and our dad posing together just before “Showtime”

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The Bridesmaids. I’m the devious looking one on the right who didn’t want to show teeth.

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Mr. and Mrs. Garcia just after saying, ‘I Do.’

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OMGCAKE.

One layer was Red Velvet. One layer was Raspberry. One layer was Chocolate. Options FTW.

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Maids of Honor on fleek. I showed teeth in this one.

Pictures alone really can’t do a day like this one justice. One of the best feelings is when you get to share such an important event with someone that you love, and it all goes well.

Congratulations to Jas and Josh. Love you guys ❤

(Don’t worry. I’ve got another recipe coming up for your guys very soon ;-))

No-Bake Vanilla Fruit Pizza

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Hey guys- I know I’ve been somewhat absent over the past several days, but I did have a pretty good reason. I really can explain.

See, in exactly 8 days, my twin sister Jas is getting married.

And I’m the maid of honor.

It’s my first time being in a wedding but maybe some of you that have been MoH before can attest to this. Being a MoH-a GOOD, DUTIFUL MoH that tries to keep the bride happy and assist with planning her wedding- keeps you very, very busy.

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Between all of the bridal fittings, bridesmaid dresses fittings, bridal shower planning/partying, shopping, reception planning details and daily assurances/emotional support to the bride, I’ve kind of fallen off the food blogging wagon, depending on just making my Old Faithful recipes to sustain us through the week rather than create and try new ones.

But I’ve still managed to fit them in here or there, just so long as they’re not super labor-intensive can be cooked and photographed within a few hours.

I’ll admit it: I’ve been a bit lazy and slacker-ish. But I know I need to step my game up and get back to my old regular posting schedule-especially since September is now here and with it, the arrival of Autumn, which also happens to be my favorite time of year. I won’t let you guys down on my Fall Baking; hand to God.

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But in spite of all the hullabaloo that’s going on at our place now and the frenzy that will only increase in fever pitch during the next week, I still managed to crank out a post for you guys. And to be honest, even though this recipe is STUPID easy, it is still one of my favorite desserts, hands down. My sisters literally asked me to “make” this, and we ate up every bit. It’s also a really perfect way to get one last hoo-ha of summer while the weather is still relatively warm, and the cool and fruity desserts are a la mode.

The best part? No baking or hot ovens required.

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You guys remember my Speculoos Toffee Cookies I posted about? Well when I decided to make this fruit pizza, I had a bunch of those still sitting around (the recipe makes a pretty big batch), so I decided that I would use those as the base for my no-bake crust. I piled them all up in a bowl and crushed them with my hands very easily. My recipe calls for using a cookie flavor that’s generally pretty mute so as to not overpower the flavors of the fruit- typically this is a sugar cookie, but if you’re feeling adventurous like I was, I do think that using one with a mild richness (like cookie butter) would be worth trying out.

One thing I will strongly advise though, is making sure that you’re using cookies that are on the softer side; if they’re soft that typically means that they had more butter in their dough, and will thus be easier to make stick together when putting together the crust. Can you use drier cookies like vanilla wafers or traditional Danish butter cookies? Yes, but they will require more butter to hold the crumbs together.

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And I would personally like to be able to continue telling myself that because this thing has fruit on it, it’s a “healthy dessert”. Adding more butter may get in the way of that.

All kidding aside, I have to say: when you eat this pizza, it REALLY does feel very light and refreshing- unlike most rich desserts that make you feel like you swallowed a stone a few hours later. Additionally, a little of it goes a long way, so all things considered it’s really one of the better ways to appease your sweet tooth without feeling too bad afterwards.

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Plus, if you’re super artistic (or you just google “Fruit Pizza Designs” like I did) you can really go all out and make this an impressive dessert to bring to a Labor Day Barbecue.

And did I mention it tastes delicious? Because it does. Just imagine that first bite: Cookies. French Vanilla Whipped Cream. A burst of tangy juice from the berries. Your mouth is watering by now, I know.

See you all at the Fiesta Friday #84 party, co-hosted this week by , Effie @ Food Daydreaming and Steffi @ Ginger & Bread. I probably won’t be able to post again by the time my sister gets married a week from now, so wish me (and her lol) luck!

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No-Bake Vanilla Fruit Pizza

Recipe Adapted from KRAFT

Print

Ingredients

  • 12-16 Large &  soft “neutral” flavored cookies (like sugar), crushed
  • 6-8 tbsp. butter, melted (depending on how dry or moist the cookies you use are)
  • 1 (3.4 ounce) package JELL-O French Vanilla Flavor Instant Pudding
  • 1 cup cold milk
  • 1 cup thawed COOL WHIP Whipped Topping
  • 1 cup mixed fresh fruit (blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, halved strawberries, sliced kiwi)

Directions

Combine the cookie crumbs and butter in a bowl. You’re looking for a good mixture of firm and moist crust– it shouldn’t be ‘wet’, but it needs to be able to hold together when you squeeze it with your fingers.

Press the crumbs into the bottom of a 9-inch round tart pan or shallow pie plate. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight or at least one hour.

Beat pudding mix and milk together for 2 minutes. Fold in whipped cream.

Remove tart crust from fridge. Using a spatula, spread whipped cream mixture over the top of crust. Refrigerate for 1 hour.

Top pizza with fruit, and serve.