contact me

Send a little note!  I'd love to hear from you...




Easy Peasy Lemon Squeezy Basil Cake

apollina baker

Why is this cake so easy?  Because you don't have to start from scratch.  In the interest of saving time and ensuring the consistency/density/texture of the cake, I used this box mix.  Actually I used two boxes, added the zest of 4 lemons and poured it into 3, 9 inch cake pans.  Now, there are great hacks that makes a box cake taste homemade, like this one, but I didn't want to mess with all that yesterday.  Amara and I were doing this together and baking with a toddler takes twice as long and there are a hundred interruptions and a thousand midterm messes to clean. So, we just made two boxes worth of that boxed cake and then mixed 4 lemons worth of zest into the batter. 

The frosting is where the basil comes in.  I love lemon basil cocktails in the summer but seeing as how I am in a certain kind of way this summer, I won't be enjoying them.  I guess I could drink a mocktail but honestly, if it doesn't have alcohol in it, it doesn't do it for me.  I am a water or alcohol kind of girl - no juices, cokes, no fancy Starbucks drinks.  Although when I am not pregnant I do drink my coffee every morning.  Anyway, back to caking...

You'll need:

  • 2 big bags of lemons
  • a BUNCH of basil (I bought a big bag because I wanted to decorate with it and needed a good selection of "perfect" leaves)
  • 1 or 2 boxes of a cake mix (depending on how tall you want it; if using 2 boxes, use 3 cake pans). OR, you can make your favorite homemade vanilla cake; just add the zest of 3 or 4 lemons to the batter, it will be delicious!
  • And that's it besides the common cast of characters:  butter, confectioner's sugar, milk, etc.

So, Lemon and Basil Frosting.  Here it is:

  • 4 sticks unsalted butter, softened and whipped for 8 minutes
  • Around 4 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted 
  • Pinch of salt
  • Half a tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • A cup of basil, coarsely chopped 
  • 1/2 cup whole milk (plus a little extra)
  • Zest from 2-3 lemons (to taste)

While the cakes are cooling on your counter, take the 1/2 cup of milk and throw it in a little pot, then dump in the basil.  Heat it to boiling and then simmer it (stirring often) for about 10 minutes. Now, pour the pot of basil milk into a food processor or blender.  I have a Ninja and used the individual smoothie cup blender attachment (looks like that Bullet thing) because I don't have a little food processor.  Grind it up until the large chunks of basil are little bitty.  

Whip the butter on medium for 8 minutes.  Then add the salt and vanilla.  Alternate adding the sugar and basil milk mixture until it's all well mixed and you like the consistency.  Add a little more milk if you like. I added a bit more to mine.  Then toss in that lemon zest you made while your butter was whipping and you're good to go.  I added almost 3 lemons worth of zest, wanted big flavors!  

Once those cakes are all the way cool, frost your cakes.  Crumb coat/fridge for a few minutes/final coat.  I always put a layer of granulated sugar down on the cardboard cake round or the cake plate before I put my bottom cake layer down.  It makes that bottom piece taste extra good and it helps the cake from sliding around a little.  

To Decorate:  Slice a bunch of lemons, the thinner the better (I am challenged when it comes to using sharp knives so I err on the side of thicker slices for finger safety sake).  Lay them on a couple of paper towels and then blot/press another paper towel on them to make them less wet and juicy.  You don't want to get your buttercream all messy and drippy.  Press them into the cake in whatever pattern you like and then arrange some nice basil leaves around them.  It would look prettier if I deseeded the lemons but, again, I had a toddler sitting on the counter next to the cake and time was of the essence.  I let her press some of the basil and lemons into the cake so we had lots of dents and holes going on.  So fun:)

It's totally easy right?  Boxed cake - add lemon zest.  Regular vanilla frosting - with some basil milk and lemon zest.  No big deal. I could have made this in half the time it took us and definitely with half the mess... but it wouldn't have had as much love!  Or toddler flavor;)

The flavor, by the way, is awesome.  Amara really loved the frosting, she said, "Wow Mommy" after she licked her fingers;) And then kept licking.  The basil flavor is supposed to keep getting stronger day after day.  But, as always, you should just eat that cake right away!  Or the next day:)  You know, I bet this would be a good one to freeze and eat nice and cold...

Happy Three Years!

apollina baker

It's our Anniversary Day!  Thanks for the last 3 crazy and wonderful years Bradley, I am totally making you watch our wedding video today. xoxo

This Amara Girl

apollina baker

So, of course, it is absolutely true what they say, being a Mother is the hardest job on the planet.  The emotions, the sleep deprivation, the weightiness and responsibility of teaching a young, beautiful mind... The confusion and self-doubt that comes along with parenting.  The heart palpitations and absolute fear that overcomes you when you see or hear your child get hurt...  And the criticism and judgment you get, directly or indirectly, from strangers, friends, family, etc.  It seems everything - the pregnancy, the birth, breastfeeding, your baby's sleep patterns and eating habits - it's all fair game for this strange competitive sport of being a Mom.  But guess who isn't keeping score behind your back, the little one who melts in your arms when she wakes up from her nap or clings to your neck because he doesn't want you to put him down. 

I am so incredibly proud of Amara.  I am proud of who she is and what she does.  I want to brag to everyone about the things she can do, what she eats, how she listens and how she speaks.  And I do brag, to Brad, and my Grandmother:)  While it is every parent's right and natural instinct to be proud of their amazing child (what parent doesn't think their kid is the most incredible thing?!), I think it's important to be sensitive to other Moms too.  Exercise restraint, good judgement, wisdom even.  I  think it's generally safe to assume that for every positive thing you say about your kid, what the other Mom is hearing is a negative comparison to her own kid(s) and a judgment on her parenting.  I know that is not (usually) the intention of the proud parent; it happens because every Mom is so sensitive about her own child and a little insecure about how she is doing as a parent.  Why add unnecessary fuel to a fire that is constantly being combatted?  

Additionally, offering advice on how to parent to another Mom should be done in love and with pure intentions.  Now, I don't always agree with the way that some of my friends and family raise their kids.  Honestly, it is sometimes hard for me not to say anything - if you know me, you know I'm a little too free with my opinions at times.  When it comes to parenting though, I've learned to know my place!  They may, however, get an unsolicited book from me in the mail;)  What I am saying is, when you create a non-competitive, caring environment with other Mothers you can share ideas and make suggestions that seem like real help and not opportunities to say "I'm better than you" or "you're doing a poor job".  Being a Mom is hard enough!  

Brad is always reassuring me and talking be down from the ledges of Mommy self doubt.  I just had a freak-out a couple of nights ago.  I was convinced I dropped the ball because Amara doesn't count to 10 in Spanish or try to sound out words when I read to her.  She's not even 2 yet but that night I totally thought I ruined her!  I couldn't even sleep.  You know who didn't lose any sleep over such silliness though?   A happy little girl who just knows that Mommy and Daddy love her beyond anything this world contains and that we're always there.  Brad didn't lose any sleep either, he knew I was being ridiculous.

You know what's funny?  This post started out being all about this crazy beautiful little girl of mine.  But it's 1:00 am and stream of consciousness, or unconsciousness, kind of took over. 


Valentines Hugs and Kate Spade Kisses Cake, Wink Wink

apollina baker

Happy Valentines Week!  I remember, back when I was dating, this being such a fun and exciting week... the days leading up to a big, romantic date!  Hours of online shopping for the right dress, planning how I would wear my hair/makeup and last minute trips to the mall to find the perfect earrings.  Now that I 'm married and a toddler's Momma (and currently laid up in bed with a thrown-out back b/c I went out dancing this weekend and pushed it a little too hard), Valentine's day isn't something I think about and look forward to.  It's more like, hey baby, isn't today Valentines Day?  Wanna order pizza?  V-day is a great excuse to bake though, so, I made a little cake lady who reminds me of an adorable wink clutch from Kate Spade's Spring 2015 line.  

cake winks.jpg

How sweet is this clutch?  Love it.  The cake is pretty easy too.  Just make whatever the heck kind of cake you want (3 layers) and cut out some fondant eyes and lips.  I blew up the image, printed it out, traced it on transparent paper, cut out the pieces with an x-acto knife and then cut around those "stencils" on the fondant.  Easy as pie, ;) ;)  My cake was vanilla with strawberry buttercream.  She was cute and delicious.  I thought I'd dress her up with some PicMonkey accessories for the holiday...

Amara, my little Valentine, sure enjoyed her!

And the next day too...