cowgirl dessert table

cowgirl dessert table, via

This was the super sweet dessert table I catered and set years ago, for a special little birthday girl that loved pony rides and all things pioneer.

It’s funny to dig into my archives and find images from my past work, when I was caterer. I still remember this day. I especially remember that the parents were very nice – delighted with me and my work. It truly makes it a joy, to encounter wonderful people while serving them.

The parents chose a color-theme of red, white and yellow. I made sure that the details they wished for shined through.

The centerpiece for the dessert table was the cowgirl’s birthday cake.

cowgirl dessert table, via

I loved the simplicity of a cow-print, decorated with a handmade, fondant rope, tied in a bow. This small detail made it girlie and super cute.

There were big candy/apothecary jars for the table too, with custom labeling that I created, using the cowgirl-rope theme, and red and yellow ribbon throughout the plating that I set with the desserts.

cowgirl dessert table, via

You may or may not have noticed the plastic tablecloth used for this dessert table. I have to point it out and confess that plastic tablecloths are a pet-peeve of mine. I was disappointed to have to work with them for this party. Plastic really takes away from the quality of the setting, especially when such an investment is put into a celebration. Had I known, I would have brought my own cotton, red and white gingham table cloths from home.

Sometimes, there’s no way to control all aspects of what you are hired to set. With the best intentions, sometimes the client will make a mistake of ordering the wrong thing, or no one knows the difference, until it’s already done. For any special occasion or dessert table, I believe it’s always worth it to either make, find or order fabric tablecloths, especially since they are so inexpensive and you can always reuse them.

cowgirl dessert table, via

Don’t get me wrong, this little girl (and her parents) had really good taste! They ordered individual servings of creme brulee and a lovely assortment of cupcakes to go along with all of the other treats. I decorated the cupcakes by dipping them in red and yellow candy pearls and nonpariel-sprinkles.

The party was held at the warm and lovely, Mega Arte Riding Academy in Escondido, at the edge of Elfin Forest.

cowgirl dessert table, via


authentic-Italian sponge cake

authentic-Italian sponge cake, tiramisu cake - recipe via

This recipe takes me back to my childhood. Being raised as a first-generation American in a great big Italian family, meant there were many old-country recipes being cooked and baked around me at all times. If it’s possible to duplicate or enjoy the past, to bring back good memories and authentic flavors, then I’m all in.

I found scratchings of an old Italian recipe and followed it. The chemistry wasn’t there to make it work and it failed. I modified it until this dream of a cake happened. It’s simple and dead-on for flavor and texture.

authentic-Italian sponge cake, tiramisu cake - recipe via

Real Italian sponge cake is a lot like biscotti/sweet bread. The crust is full of flavor. The outer edge has a smokier texture but is soft and easy to cut through. It tastes a lot like biscotti. It’s not overly sweet and soaks in any flavor you can pour into it. The texture inside the cake is bouncy and lovely. I love it!

I’m sharing two versions of this cake: Tiramisu-Sponge and a Strawberries & Cream Sponge.

The flavor possibilities are endless with this recipe! It’s all about preparing what to soak-in. I can see making a Paradise Sponge with either passionfruit puree or pineapple sauce. An Orange Dream Sponge would be next on my list. I’d even love this cake soaked with dulce de leche or tres leches.

Let’s start with the base:

Authentic-Italian Sponge Cake recipe by Mili’s Sweets

Here’s what you’ll need:

6 large egg yolks

6 large egg whites

1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

1 cup granulated sugar

1 cup canola oil

2 and 1/2 cups all purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 and 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

authentic-Italian sponge cake - recipe via

Here’s what you’ll do:

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Separate 6 large eggs so that you have 6 yolks and 6 whites. Set the egg whites aside. In the bowl of your standing mixer, place the egg yolks and sugar. Mix with the paddle attachment until smooth and fluffy (1 minute). Add the one cup canola oil and pure vanilla extract. Mix until completely incorporated.

Slowly add the remaining dry ingredients, including baking powder, baking soda, salt and flour. The result will look a lot like choux pastry dough. Set this cake “dough” aside as you make a meringue with the egg whites.

In a separate bowl, with a whisk attachment, add the egg whites and 1/4 teaspoon of cream of tartar. Whisk on high until stiff peaks are formed.

Add the mound of prepared meringue onto the cake dough mixture. Mix these together with a paddle attachment until completely smooth. It will take two-to-three minutes for the meringue to break down into the dough, to make a perfectly smooth cake batter.

I used one 8″ (Fat Daddio Cake Pan) and prepared it with cooking spray before pouring all of the batter in.

Bake for 50 minutes.

This cake definitely takes longer to bake than most other cake recipes. Don’t open the oven until at least 30 minutes have passed. Once your cake tester (skewer or toothpick) comes out clean, you can remove the cake from the oven.

It will look a lot like rustic bread at the top – harder than a typical cake and very golden. Don’t worry. That’s what’s suppose to happen. Think biscotti on the outside and fluffy cake on the inside. You’ll have to trust me, even though the result might seem like it’s over-done, it’s not the case.

authentic-Italian sponge cake - recipe via

Tiramisu Sponge

Here’s what you’ll need:

1 cup fresh brewed espresso, plus 1/4 cup amaretto syrup

either one batch freshly made, unset vanilla pudding or custard, with 1/4 cup amaretto syrup added into either recipe

(I use Torani syrup for amaretto flavor. I must have a completely peanut and tree nut-free kitchen, and this rich, delicious flavoring does not contain peanut or tree nut products. Please see the Torani allergen chart for more information.)

plastic wrap

prepared whipped cream

(For my whipped cream recipe, please link to my previous post.)

sweetened cocoa for dusting

authentic-Italian sponge cake, tiramisu cake - recipe via milissweets.comHere’s what you’ll do:

Prepare either custard or vanilla pudding and set aside. Add 1/4 cup of amaretto syrup into either recipe.

Cut off the top of the cake, to have one even layer. I don’t allow the cake to completely cool. It’s really not necessary since I pour on hot toppings, and the cake is easily removed from the pan. If you can’t handle the heat, wait until the cake has completely cooled. When you’re ready, place the cake on a serving dish. Use a fork to create additional holes in the cake.

Mix together 1 cup fresh-brewed espresso and 1/4 cup amaretto syrup. Pour this mixture onto the cake layer.

Next, pour the prepared (and unset) pudding or custard onto the soaking cake to completely cover the top. (For this example, I used vanilla pudding with the extra amaretto syrup.) Place plastic wrap over the entire cake and allow to set in the refrigerator until you are ready to cover/frost with whipped cream.

authentic-Italian sponge cake, tiramisu cake - recipe via

** For my tips on how to frost a cake with whipped cream, please see my tutorial photos below. **

I top the Tiramisu Sponge with a dusting of cocoa powder before serving.

authentic-Italian sponge cake, tiramisu cake - recipe via

Strawberries & Cream Sponge

Here’s what you’ll need:

freshly-prepared Strawberry Sauce (please see my recipe below)

one batch freshly made, either unset vanilla pudding or custard

plastic wrap

prepared whipped cream

(For my whipped cream recipe, please link to my previous post.)

authentic-Italian sponge cake - recipe via - strawberries & cream version Here’s what you’ll do:

First, you’ll need to prepare fresh Strawberry Sauce.

Mili’s Sweets Strawberry Sauce Recipe 

2 cups fresh-cut strawberries, smashed by-hand

1/2 cup granulated sugar

Take fresh strawberries, thoroughly wash them and remove the tops. Smash them with your fingers to cut them up, break them down and to release their natural juices. Keep smashing until you have two full cups. Place the smashed strawberries and sugar in a saucepan. Cook at medium heat for 15 minutes. Stir from time to time, once the mixture comes to a boil.

authentic-Italian sponge cake - recipe via - strawberries & cream version

When you are ready to assemble the Strawberries & Cream Sponge, remove the top of the cake with a serrated knife, to have an even layer. Use a fork to create additional holes in the cake. Pour the hot Strawberry Sauce onto the cake layer. Use the fork to push the fruit down, into the holes.

Next, pour the prepared (and unset) pudding or custard onto the soaking cake to completely cover the top. (For this example, I used custard.) Cover the entire cake with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator to set.

authentic-Italian sponge cake - recipe via - strawberries & cream version

** How to Frost a Cake With Whipped Cream **

Once the custard or pudding has set in the refrigerator, you can frost the cake with whipped cream.

Here’s how I covered the Strawberries & Cream Sponge:

authentic-Italian sponge cake - recipe via - whipped cream topping tutorial

First, make the fresh whipped cream. I double the recipe so that I have a nice, thick layer and I don’t run out as I’m trying to frost.

I take a circle-tip (Wilton 1A) and fill a 16″ or 18″ pastry bag. I start at the bottom base of the cake and apply pressure to the pastry bag to evenly pipe from the bottom-up. Using a turntable/revolving cake decorating stand will be your best friend when applying any frosting to cakes. Once you reach the top edge, pipe the top portion, with a mostly-even, circular motion.

With an offset spatula, I use the cake plate as a guide and smooth the sides. I then smooth the top. I take the spatula and cover the sides one more time, pushing the excess up to the top. Next, use a pastry scraper to push (with a slight amount of pressure) and smooth the edges toward the center of the cake.

Top the cake with a garnish of fresh strawberries, or if you have extra Strawberry Sauce, you can blend it until smooth and cook at medium heat for an additional 15 minutes, stirring constantly, for a lovely, thicker sauce to drizzle and decorate the cake.

authentic-Italian sponge cake - recipe via - strawberries & cream version

Frosting the Tiramisu Sponge was even easier. I used a large, open star-tip and made small, circular piping motions, (like piping mini cupcakes, one at at time) covering the cake from the base and moving upward, until the last one was made at the top-center.

The inside of Sponge Cakes should be soft, delicious and flavorful. Nothing about the cake will be overly-sweet, and the whipped cream is the perfect, delicate topping for any flavor you decide to soak into the sponge.

authentic-Italian sponge cake, recipes via milissweets.comI hope you enjoy this post! Please let me know if you attempt this recipe, or any of my other recipes.

Thanks for being here.

Take care, Mili

roses & chalkboard shower

roses and chalkboard baby shower via

I am surrounded by the most amazing and beautiful women, whom I am so honored to call my friends and love making sweets for. More than a handful of them have had babies this past year and some are waiting to have their new baby in their arms any moment now.

I believe that every pregnancy deserves a celebration, and it doesn’t matter how many children the family has had. It’s nice to have something new for the new baby, and to socially get together and honor the mother to-be.

I love attending the baby showers of my dear friends, and it’s special when I get to take part in the celebration by working on the styling and catering of the dessert table.

roses and chalkboard baby shower via

Kim and her husband named their sweet baby girl Victoria. The shower was held on a dark, rainy day, but the beautiful pink roses and all of the incredible women, together in one place, really shed light on the celebration.

roses and chalkboard baby shower via

I loved the cupcakes chosen to treat the guests. There were four on the menu: Creme Brulee, Brownie Bliss, Tiramisu and Lemon Meringue.

roses and chalkboard baby shower via

Here’s a close up of the Lemon Meringue cupcake:

roses and chalkboard baby shower via

I thought black and white would be so pretty with the pink roses, so I chose black and clear plating against a white tablecloth and a touch of black ribbon for the arrangements. I made the “Victoria” sign and labeling with the use of actual chalkboards and plain, white chalk.

roses and chalkboard baby shower via

I’m not a pro when it comes to chalkboard art but I went for it. Anytime the end result isn’t perfect or exactly how I expected, I just call it “rustic,” and it makes me feel better.


roses and chalkboard baby shower via

go make a mud pie

go make a mud pie, via milissweets.comI have a recipe for a happy memory: the next time you have a chance, go outside and make a mud pie!

Get dirty. Tell the kids it’s all right to get mud on their clothes and shoes. Make a mess on purpose. Laugh out loud and let it go.

go make a mud pie, via

It’s a wonderful feeling to let our kids be kids. The best and most memorable moments are typically not scheduled. I want them to have great, stress-free opportunities to enjoy this precious time that they have as children; to do some of the things I did as a kid, like go to a relative’s house to pick berries, go on a walk and explore, make up a game. Basically, I want them to go outside and play nice together!

The kids woke up one morning and I told them it was time to go outside and make a mess, to put on some play clothes and shoes that they didn’t mind messing up. They were confused. I’m sure in their heads they were thinking something like, ‘What could mommy be talking about? She’s a total clean freak!’

go make a mud pie, via

When they came downstairs, waiting for them outside was a bucket and two aluminum pie tins inside our mini-garden that we had recently cleared out for replanting. I told them they could make mud and play with it. They were thrilled – laughing and loving every minute.

go make a mud pie, via

It’s nice to take a moment to forget about the little challenges in life, with an open invitation to have fun and make a mess, or to make anything together. (As long as we clean it up afterwards.)


never bored of blueberry pie: or cupcakes, muffins and tartlets


never bored of blueberry pie: recipes for cupcakes, muffins, tartlets, via

I could never get bored of blueberries.

Blueberries are one my favorite things to eat and to bake. Blueberry pie tops the list. This post is all about my recipe for blueberry pie filling, and many awesome ways to prepare it into beautiful and delicious treats including blueberry pie cupcakes, blueberry muffins, blueberry pie tartlets. Of course, I’ll also share how to make it into a traditional pie.

Once you make this simple filling, you’ll want to make big plans for it. Let’s get to making something so good, you’ll want to make it over and over again, and pass the recipe on:

Mili’s Sweets Blueberry Pie Filling Recipe (with gluten-free version) 

Here’s what you’ll need:

4 cups blueberries (frozen or fresh)

1/2 cup orange juice

1/2 cup sugar

2 tablespoons cornstarch

2 tablespoons flour (all purpose or substitute with artisan, all purpose, gluten-free flour)

1/4 teaspoon salt

never bored of blueberry pie: recipes for cupcakes, muffins, tartlets, via

Here’s what you’ll do:

In a pan, over medium heat, combine blueberries, 1/2 cup orange juice and 1/2 cup sugar. Stir to dissolve sugar.

Add the 1/4 teaspoon salt, 2 tablespoons cornstarch and 2 tablespoons of either traditional or gluten-free flour. Stir to dissolve.

Once the mixture comes to a low boil (starts to bubble) you’ll want to continue stirring for an additional 20 minutes. The mixture will be think, full and ready to fill your desserts.

never bored of blueberry pie: recipes for cupcakes, muffins, tartlets, via

Blueberry Pie 

Blueberry pie is one of my favorite desserts to serve. If you are filling a pie crust you’ll want to add 2 tablespoons of butter, cut into very small pieces, to place over the filling, once it has been poured in and is ready for the top pie crust. I love to make a lattice design for berry pies.

I have shared my best and favorite pie crust recipe with you, when I posted my Cherry Pie Recipe. Please refer to this post, for details on how to create this wonderful option.

I bake my berry pies at 400 degrees for 15 minutes and at 375 degrees for an additional 40 minutes. Allow to cool completely before serving. My family actually prefers cold berry pie, so my berry pies go in the oven before serving.

never bored of blueberry pie: recipes for cupcakes, muffins, tartlets, via

Blueberry Pie Cupcakes and Blueberry Muffins

I know how much you love cupcakes!  This recipe is great for muffins too!

I let the blueberry pie filling do all of the work, to take this cake flavor to another level. I make these cupcakes and muffins, using my favorite gluten-free vanilla cake recipe.

Mili’s Sweets Gluten-Free Cupcakes Recipe

Here’s what you’ll need:

2 and 3/4 cups gluten-free flour (I used Pamela’s Artisan Flour Blend.)

2 cups sugar

4 extra large eggs, at room temperature (run them under warm water)

1 cup canola oil

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 tablespoon baking powder

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup buttermilk

Here’s what you’ll do:

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Fill your cupcake pan with liners. This recipe will yield 24 cupcakes or muffins.

In a standing mixer, with a paddle attachment, (you can use standard or the scraping-version) beat the 4 eggs for about 30 seconds. Mix in the two cups of sugar. Add the one cup canola oil and one teaspoon pure vanilla extract. Mix until completely incorporated. From here on with this recipe, mixing in the ingredients will be brief, and you’ll mix until only just completely moistened.

Mix in the dry ingredients including the baking powder, baking soda, salt and gluten-free flour. As the final component, blend in the buttermilk.

You will want the batter to sit at room temperature for at least 10 minutes.

Are you in the mood to make Blueberry Muffins? If so, this is the time to add one heaping tablespoon of blueberry pie filling to the center of each liner, prepared with poured batter. Swirl in the goodness and bake. If you want to make blueberry pie cupcakes, please see my how-to below.

never bored of blueberry pie: recipes for cupcakes, muffins, tartlets, via

Bake for 15-16 minutes, depending on your oven.

The result will be absolutely delicious, fluffy blueberry muffins. I simply add a sprinkling of crystalized sugar to the top of each one, once they are cooled. This is an outstanding treat to serve for breakfast, brunch or a snack.

never bored of blueberry pie: recipes for cupcakes, muffins, tartlets, via

If you’re in the mood to take it over the top and make Blueberry Pie Cupcakes, I’m right there with you! Let’s do this.

never bored of blueberry pie: recipes for cupcakes, muffins, tartlets, via

Allow the cupcakes to completely cool. Cut a hole at the center of each one, using a circular, metal cookie cutter. Remove the center portion of the cake and spoon in the berry pie filling.

never bored of blueberry pie: recipes for cupcakes, muffins, tartlets, via

Top with your choice of vanilla butter cream, blueberry butter cream or vanilla cream cheese frosting. You can choose to top with a dollop of blueberry pie filling, or a lattice-pie crust cupcake topper.

never bored of blueberry pie: recipes for cupcakes, muffins, tartlets, via

How to make lattice-design, pie crust topper:

Make two pie crusts. They can be either from scratch, or you can use prepared, roll-out crusts.

Roll them out thin, to about 1/4″. One crust should be placed on a silpat mat or parchment paper. The other crust should be placed alongside it.  Use a rolling pizza cutter, to make thin, vertical strips on both crusts.

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.

never bored of blueberry pie: recipes for cupcakes, muffins, tartlets, via

The crust on the mat (or parchment paper) will be the one to place in the oven. The crust set to the side, will be used to weave in the tight, lattice design.

never bored of blueberry pie: recipes for cupcakes, muffins, tartlets, via milissweets.comIt’s really simple, but takes patience and time, to make a lattice design, especially when it’s tight like this one. Start from the left and work your way to end, or the right-side. You’ll take each strip over and under, until you reach the top. Once you have it all latticed-up, use a cookie cutter to cut as many small (1″ is best) circles as possible. Remove the access dough around the cut circles.

Place the mat/parchment paper onto a cookie sheet. Brush circles with egg wash (one egg white, whisked) and sprinkle with a liberal amount of granulated sugar. Bake for 12-14 minutes, until golden brown. Allow to cool completely, before placing onto your frosted cupcakes.

never bored of blueberry pie: recipes for cupcakes, muffins, tartlets, via

Blueberry Pie Tartlets 

If you want to cut strait to the finger-foods, I recommend making sweet little tartlets. You’ll want to go back to my previous posts, with my recipes for how to make either Gluten-Free Pie Crust, or Shortbread Tart Crust. Either one is divine. The shortbread is a little more dense than that pie crust, which will be more flakey (but they tend to shrink a little). I personally prefer the shortbread crust, since it will provide a more consistent and easier-to-work-with result for these petite treats.

never bored of blueberry pie: recipes for cupcakes, muffins, tartlets, via

My daughter made the tartlets all on her own. She did a wonderful job! She opted for the gluten-free pie crust recipe. She rolled it out on a silpat mat, used the tartlet cutter and placed each piece of dough in the tin. She used an egg wash and then filled the tartlets with one heaping tablespoon of prepared blueberry pie filling.

never bored of blueberry pie: recipes for cupcakes, muffins, tartlets, via

In a 375 degree oven, they baked for 18-20 minutes. When the crust was golden brown, she removed them from the oven. After they cooled, she garnished them with a sprinkling of crystalized sugar.

They were beautiful and delicious! She was very proud of her work and that was the best part.

never bored of blueberry pie: recipes for cupcakes, muffins, tartlets, via

If for some strange, wonderful reason, you have extra blueberry pie filling, I recommend you save it in the refrigerator. You can enjoy it for up to a week in a sealed container.

One of my other favorite things to do with this filling is to top (or fill) pancakes with it. It’s outrageously good! For my Simple Saturday Pancakes Recipe, please see the link to my post.

Take care and enjoy!

xox, Mili

never bored of blueberry pie: recipes for cupcakes, muffins, tartlets, via