campfire cookies

campfire cookies - chocolate chip cookie sThere was a time when graham crackers were a mandatory part of s’mores. Since replacing them with freshly-baked chocolate chip cookies, there is no turning back. I made Campfire Cookies as a surprise-treat for my sweethearts. They are not going to forget how good these are! It’s a treat you won’t soon forget either.

campfire cookies - chocolate chip cookie s

Summertime is in full swing at my house. I actually look forward to having my kids with me 24/7. One of our favorite, regular family activities is having little “campfires” in our back yard, after dinner. The kids usually ask for s’mores or to toast marshmallows. We always say yes.

Mili’s Sweets Campfire Cookies Recipe

Here’s what you’ll need:

* freshly baked chocolate chip cookies

(For my chocolate chip cookie recipe, please go to my post, Chocolate Chip Cookie Joy, where I also share how to make them gluten-free, if you’re interested.) 

* marshmallows for toasting

* chocolate squares

campfire cookies - chocolate chip cookie s

Here’s what you’ll do:

First thing to do, is to bake chocolate chip cookies. For campfire cookies, it’s best to have a smaller cookie. When baking cookies to be enjoyed alone, I bake them 6-up in a cookie sheet. For a smaller size, I bake them a dozen per sheet. Smaller cookies take less time to bake. I recommend 8 minutes at 375 degrees.

campfire cookies - chocolate chip cookie s

Once they have cooled, have a helper prepare the marshmallows and chocolate squares on a plate so that everything is ready to assemble.

campfire cookies - chocolate chip cookie s

Next, you’ll want to start a safe, outdoor fire, and get it to calm down and be hot enough to enjoy toasting marshmallows.

We have a cute little chiminea in our back yard. It only needs a few logs of wood at a time. My husband typically makes our fires, so when I get them started, I place a fire-starter ball in the center, to get things moving along. With this, it takes only minutes to have a nice fire going.

campfire cookies - chocolate chip cookie s

Once we’re set, we toast two marshmallows at a time on metal skewers. We spin the mallows until all sides are completely golden. Once they are ready, and still very hot, we have a piece (or two) of chocolate set in one cookie and another cookie ready to go for the top, so that all of this heavenly-goodness can be smashed together before taking a great-big-bite.

campfire cookies - chocolate chip cookie s

My fondest memories growing-up are made up of the simple, every day pleasures of childhood. I keep this in mind when spending quality time with my own children. I love taking photos and capturing moments of them in the backyard, just playing: their hair is everywhere, they are pure and simple and themselves – just beautiful they way they are.

campfire cookies - chocolate chip cookie sWe know when the fire is perfect, because it’s when we have lots of beautifully toasted marshmallows ready to eat. After one Campfire Cookie is made, we make sure everyone has this treat in their hands as soon as possible.

campfire cookies - chocolate chip cookie s

I realize I’m not the genius who came up with this little invention, but to my family, I’m the best for bringing it to them, and that’s what matters – it’s the best feeling to thrill the ones you love.

campfire cookies - chocolate chip cookie s

I wasn’t going to let the extra cookies go to waste, so I stored them in an air tight container. A few days later, I took out some vanilla bean ice cream and . . . you guessed it . . . I made another dessert and another fun, summertime (or anytime) sandwich.

ice cream sandwiches with fresh chocolate chip cookies and vanilla bean ice cream  - via milissweets.com

I’m not going to lie, the Campfire Cookies were better!

ice cream sandwiches with fresh chocolate chip cookies and vanilla bean ice cream  - via milissweets.com

xox

miracle makers with cupcakes

Miracle Makers for Rady Children

For the last five years since Mili’s Sweets was established, I have built upon a special tradition. During the time of Lent, (40 days before Easter Sunday) I create a fundraising campaign to benefit a charity. It’s my personal sacrifice, however my wonderful customers are very involved and given the credit since the only way I am able to raise the money to donate, is via their purchases.  This year, we worked together to be “Miracle Makers” for Rady Children’s Hospital of San Diego.

It was not long ago, when I met a beautiful family, with a beautiful daughter. She had cancer. She was 6 – almost the same age as my son at the time. She was suffering. Her family was suffering.

I made a birthday cake for this perfect stranger and delivered it to her, her mom and her grandmother, in her room at Rady Children’s Hospital. The encounter was life-changing and perfectly-timed. It honestly changed me.

.cupcakes and miracle makers - via milissweets.com

You see, just a couple of days before receiving the call from Icing Smiles, Inc., I was having a hard time with what was going on in my life. It was the moment that I said yes to donating this cake, that I decided I would stop worrying about things that did not matter around me – since nothing I was dealing with could possibly compare to what this sweet little girl and her family were going through. So, I poured myself and my prayers into this cake for Kaelyn.

cupcakes and miracle makers - via milissweets.com

This was Kaelyn and her mom Jill, in August of 2012, on the day my daughter and I went to deliver her birthday cake to her room at Rady. They had my heart from the first moment we connected.

I am happy to share that we have kept in touch and this incredibly inspiring and courageous sweetheart, is now healthy and cancer-free. Here we were with our kids, at the MiaBella Yogurt & Desserts grand opening event, this past February.  cupcakes and miracle makers - via milissweets.com

This is not the only child I have encountered through my work, whom has suffered from terminal illness or from the effects of treatments to save their life. These children have parents who have this whole world on their shoulders. They are our friends and family. They are our neighbors and our children’s classmates, being treated with love, care and incredible skill at Rady Children’s Hospital, San Diego. These are the people who moved me to select this special cause.

Donating was very easy. I signed up for a Miracle Makers Page, just the way any individual or company can do. I asked my customers to please join me in fundraising by purchasing a “Red Velvet cupcakes, benefiting Rady Children’s Hospital, San Diego,” at the Mili’s Sweets bakery case inside MiaBella or via pre-order at milissweetstogo.com, to contribute to this fundraiser, between the dates of 2/18/15 and 4/1/15. One dollar per Red Velvet cupcake or red-lined cupcake sold was donated to the cause.

This was my sweet girl and youngest employee, with our little bakery case, trying to make a big effort.

cupcakes and miracle makers - via milissweets.comMarch 8, 2015 was my 5th anniversary of doing business as Mili’s Sweets. I celebrated by holding a fundraising event inside MiaBella, where we donated 100% of all sales to Rady Children’s Hospital of San Diego. We offered some items for donation-only and also accepted donations at the counter.

Here’s what our bakery case looked like on that day. We were super happy about it!

cupcakes and miracle makers - via milissweets.com

Each week I added to our team-fundraising totals, depending on how many Red Velvet/red-lined cupcakes were sold. Customers and friends in the community were also encouraged to participate in our efforts by contributing via a tax-deductable donation through our fundraising page.

On the very last day of our campaign, I made the case all “Red for Rady” and $1 of each and every item sold was donated.    cupcakes and miracle makers - via milissweets.com

In all, we raised $785.00! I’m really proud of us! Together, with cupcakes, we were Miracle Makers!

xox

 

easy breezy meringue

easy breezy meringue - recipe via milissweets.com

I love meringue. It’s one of those dessert toppings that tastes so lovely – not too sweet, light and fluffy. I get to have fun using a torch. It looks beautiful and a bonus: it’s super easy-breezy to make. Let’s make it happen.

Mili’s Sweets Vanilla Meringue Recipe

Here’ s what you’ll need:

3 egg whites

1/4 cup sugar

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

Here’s what you’ll do:

easy breezy meringue - recipe via milissweets.com

In the bowl of your standing mixer, place all of the ingredients.

easy breezy meringue - recipe via milissweets.com

Next, use the whisk attachment to mix together all of the ingredients and to dissolve the sugar.

easy breezy meringue - recipe via milissweets.com

Place the bowl onto your standing mixer with the whisk attachment. Slowly increase the speed until it reaches the highest/fastest setting.

easy breezy meringue - recipe via milissweets.com

In a couple of minutes, you’ll have the end result. It will be a thick, beautiful fluff that will stick to the bottom of the whisk –  that’s how you’ll know it’s ready.

easy breezy meringue - recipe via milissweets.comYou can plop the whole-batch onto a pie if you wish. I recommend doubling the recipe if you’d like to make a pie-topping. Use a spatula to spread it around, without pressing down too much, since you’ll want to keep the beautiful volume. easy breezy meringue - recipe via milissweets.com

Once you have the pie covered, torch all around the meringue.

easy breezy meringue - recipe via milissweets.com

Another option is to pipe the meringue onto your desserts, like this Lemon Meringue cupcake.

Other Mili’s Sweets recipes with meringue that you might enjoy:

Lemon Meringue Pie and Lemon Curd 

Baked Alaska

xox

easy breezy meringue - recipe via milissweets.com

just what the momma wants

just what the momma wants, desserts by Mili

I love when baby showers cater to exactly what the momma-of-honor wants. It shouldn’t matter if she wants pickle-flavored cupcakes with caramel frosting – I am always happy to be up for a baking challenge!

Lucky for me, my friend knew just what she wanted and it wasn’t outside what I’m used to making. I asked what desserts she likes best and catered a small dessert table with everything I thought she would like to enjoy.

just what the momma wants, desserts by Mili

On the menu were Espresso Chip cupcakes, eclairs, individual creme brulee and cranberry orange scones.

Link to: Mili’s Cranberry-Orange Scone Recipe

This was such a wonderful time, outdoors with a bunch of wonderful women, celebrating a dear woman’s 5th baby shower. She is so blessed and I felt blessed to be there to celebrate her.

xox

 

authentic-Italian sponge cake

authentic-Italian sponge cake, tiramisu cake - recipe via milissweets.com

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 milissweets.com

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 milissweets.com

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 milissweets.com

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 milissweets.com

** 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 milissweets.com

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 milissweets.com - 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 milissweets.com - 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 milissweets.com - 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 milissweets.com - 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 milissweets.com - 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

a t   r e t a i l