dreamy whipped cream & strawberries

dreamy whipped cream & strawberries - recipe via milissweets.com Once you make whipped cream from scratch, there’s no going back. It’s an absolute dream!

I’m sharing my recipe for one of the best and simplest things you’ll make with a standing mixer, and it will take less than 2 minutes to complete.

Whipped cream was the first thing I tried to make when I received a standing mixer as a wedding gift. (My 4.5 quart Kitchen Aid is still going strong after 11 years of heavy use. I even used it in this post.)

dreamy whipped cream & strawberries - recipe via milissweets.com

Here’s what I use whipped cream for: waffles, pancakes, parfaits, zabaglione, cupcakes and cakes. The list goes on and on. My family especially loves it with fresh-cut strawberries. While strawberries are in peak-season, I’ll probably make whipped cream once a week for my sweethearts. If you are not a fan of strawberries or have an allergy, simply substitute with other fresh fruits or berries.

If you’d like to make this stack, please link to my recipe, Simple Saturday Pancakes. 

dreamy whipped cream & strawberries - recipe via milissweets.com

It’s a nice touch to add a drizzling of ganache to top your whipped cream, but honestly, the whipped cream will be the star. I absolutely love chocolate, but I have to be in the mood for it. With whipped cream, it’s a different story – there’s no mood required.

Mili’s Sweets Dreamy Whipped Cream

Here’s what you’ll need:

1 and 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream

1/3 cup granulated sugar

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

dreamy whipped cream & strawberries - recipe via milissweets.com

Here’s what you’ll do:

Place all of the ingredients into the bowl of your standing mixer. (I prefer the thickness and richness of Horizon Organic,  over other brands that I’ve tried.)

Use the whisk attachment to stir the ingredients inside the bowl, helping to dissolve the sugar, for about 10 seconds.

Attach the bowl and whisk to the standing mixer and gradually increase the mixing speed to 10, or the highest level. Use a stopwatch to time one minute and 20 seconds. It’s done! You now have dreamy whipped cream, and it took about the same time would take (for me) to unwrap a prepackaged-version.

dreamy whipped cream & strawberries - recipe via milissweets.com Here’s how I make parfaits, using the whipped cream:

dreamy whipped cream & strawberries - recipe via milissweets.com First I prep a bunch of beautiful strawberries. Make sure that they are washed thoroughly. I remove the tops and cut lengthwise, between 3-5 times, depending on the size of the berry.

dreamy whipped cream & strawberries - recipe via milissweets.com

I use small pedestal-style ice cream bowls, and place berry slices at the bottom. Next, I pipe on whipped cream, place more strawberries and pipe more whipped cream on the top. Depending on who it’s for, I might add a spoonful of fresh ganache or simply place fresh strawberries at the top, without the chocolate. Either way, my family is thrilled. I love how much they love it!

dreamy whipped cream & strawberries - recipe via milissweets.com

xox

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celebrating my beautiful mother

for my beautiful mother, 70th birthday, floral dessert table, via milissweets.com

There’s no one like my mother. No one who knows me more, whom could ever love me the way that she loves me. No one has sacrificed more for me. Her example is one of the main reasons why I am who I am. It took me a while and a lot of growing up, to truly understand her life and the love that she has given.

for my beautiful mother, 70th birthday, floral dessert table, via milissweets.com

This is a woman who deserves to be celebrated! She always puts everyone first and never-ever wants to burden anyone with her personal needs or for any extra attention. She’s just amazing. She feels so loved and well-cared for as it is, so every day is a blessing . . . no need to make a fuss.

for my beautiful mother, 70th birthday, floral dessert table, via milissweets.com

My brother and I were about to change all of that. For her 70th, we wanted to make a fuss and threw her a beautiful birthday party. A whole year has passed, and she is still thanking us and cannot believe that it was all for her!

I invited mostly family and a few of her friends to lunch at Gaetano’s Restaurant in Lakeside. Owner, Maria DiGiovanni, has been friends with my family for so many years, and her food is so delicious – just like the food that we loved at big family gatherings when I was a child. I wanted the food to be authentic and something that my family could really enjoy.

for my beautiful mother, 70th birthday, floral dessert table, via milissweets.com

Of course, I would take care of dessert. However, the floral arrangements were the first thing on my mind. I wanted to honor my mother with beautiful flowers everywhere. “Abudanza” came to mind. I set an appointment with my dear friend Karen at Franco’s Flowers and with my own vases, she made my dreams come true.

I had more gorgeous blossoms in Double-Star Lilies, Dahlia, Peonies, Carnations and Roses in pale pinks and ivory, placed in individual water tubes to decorate the bottom of her elevated birthday cake.

for my beautiful mother, 70th birthday, floral dessert table, via milissweets.com“Pineapple-Coconut Paradise” is her favorite cake that I make. It’s a vanilla custard cake, (that I named “Vanilla Italia”) with fresh pineapple sauce soaked in. It’s filled with a layer of Italian custard and vanilla butter cream. It’s covered with whipped cream and lots of toasted coconut. She is diabetic but once a year, she is “bad” and has a slice of this dessert.

for my beautiful mother, 70th birthday, floral dessert table, via milissweets.com

Besides the cake, the centerpiece of the dessert table was a mural I made with special photos from her life. There was also a small white bird at the center. The invitation and decor was all about a little vintage bird, so I added lace and used birdcages and mason jars throughout the party setting.

for my beautiful mother, 70th birthday, floral dessert table, via milissweets.com

It takes a special maturity (a true gift if you can receive it in-time) to understand that your loved ones are really not all about you. At the beginning of this post, “me” was mentioned several times. That’s really how I felt through childhood – that my mom was all mine. God made her just for me. It wasn’t until I was about 18, when my mom was diagnosed with cancer, that I even began to realize how significant, rich and special her life was before I ever arrived and continued to be every day thereafter. I wanted to learn all about her life and  the best fact was, that it really wasn’t about me at all. I am just some seasoning in her beautiful life.

for my beautiful mother, 70th birthday, floral dessert table, via milissweets.com

I had a lot of vintage, handmade table linens and used them throughout the party as well. This was a special  table I set for guests, toward the entry. I wanted them to arrive, drop off their gift, and write her a well-wish or  love note. I placed additional old photographs to view and the framed tribute that I wrote for her:

70 Years of Maria Rosaria

Inside the five-foot frame that holds this beautiful woman,

is God-given strength and courage to move mountains.

On July 12, 1943, she was pronounced dead at birth,

as the seventh child of her family. Her mother saved her life.

At the age of 13, she followed her father’s dream of coming to America.

She entered the 6th grade, not speaking a word of English.

As a high school student, she had to become the woman of the house.

She takes pride in her impeccable work ethic.

She gives all that she has, and all of her personal time to

her faith, her family and to the poor.

She was a single-mother and raised two children.

While in hardship, she worked odd jobs to be sure

her children attended Catholic school.

She overcame poverty.

She always maintained her generosity.

She has worked for Mercy/Scripps Hospital a total of 34 years.

She survived cancer.

She collects rosaries.

She misses her mother every day.

Mother Teresa and Pope John Paul II are her heroes.

She lives for the kisses she receives from her grandchildren.

We adore you, Maria Rosaria!

for my beautiful mother, 70th birthday, floral dessert table, via milissweets.com

This was the pretty birdcage arrangement placed at the gift/tribute table.

for my beautiful mother, 70th birthday, floral dessert table, via milissweets.com

I made very simple party favors. I packaged clear rock candies on a stick, with a Shabby-Chic-labeled thank you note. It was super simple and I had enough so that every guest (including children) could take one home.

for my beautiful mother, 70th birthday, floral dessert table, via milissweets.comEveryone loved the dessert table! Every single sweet vanished and guests took the time to come up and look at the mural. I made cupcakes in Double Dutch, Lemonade, Orange Dream and Tiramisu, chocolate chip cookies and I provided fresh apricots and cherries for the diabetics in our group.

The very best part of the entire day was when my mom blew out her candles. I wish I had a better camera on-hand that day, but despite the low-quality, you have to see the joy from the children and the look on my mom’s face – this moment was priceless!

for my beautiful mother, 70th birthday, floral dessert table, via milissweets.com

The children helped to place all 70 candles on the cake. As soon as they were lit, I had to move fast to present it to her! Thank goodness my hair was back because that was a serious flame! The children and their joy really helped to make this moment so incredibly special.

This was a day my family and especially my mom, will never forget. She’ll be 71 next weekend and I can’t wait to celebrate her sweetness and her heart of gold, all over again.

xox, Mili

celebrating my beautiful mother - via milissweets.com

swati - February 17, 2016 - 9:39 pm

loved this post.I could feel your mom’s happiness through your words.

sweetsbymili@gmail.com - April 4, 2016 - 10:03 pm

I’m just now seeing your note Swati. Thank you! Take care, Mili

orange-cranberry king cake

orange-cranberry King Cake - recipe and how-to via milissweets.com

I’m sharing my spin on King Cake. My version is delicious and fluffy, made with one of my favorite items to bake with: orange zest. Cranberry glaze is folded into the dough, taking this tradition over the top!

If you’d like to order one that we’ll be hand made and offered at MiaBella, please pre-order via our website: www.milissweetstogo.com or via this link: http://www.milissweetstogo.com/store/p123/King_Cake_for_Fat_Tuesday_.html

My kids and I have loved making this traditional sweet bread together for the last few years. This time, I’m sharing my recipe and a couple different ways to prepare this delightful treat, including the use of a Bundt pan, which is now my favorite method.

Families all over the world enjoy King Cake to either celebrate the Epiphany, (when the three kings visited baby Jesus, on January 6) or the day before Lent begins. (Lent is the 40 days of sacrifice before Easter Sunday.) Either way, there should be a toy baby (symbolizing baby Jesus) found inside the cake. All of this fun started in 12th century France. Today you’ll find the cakes typically decorated with sprinklings of yellow, purple and green. This year, I went GOLD for our pre-Lent celebration.

This is a super easy recipe. You just need to have some time on your hands. Set aside 4 hours for rising and bake time. Trust me. Like most wonderful things in your life, it’s worth the extra love and time. I hope you’ll try to make this once. You’ll love it so much that I’m sure you’ll want to make it every year from now on! Let’s do this. . .

Mili’s Sweets Orange-Cranberry King Cake Recipe

Here’s what you’ll need for the dough:

In a large bowl: 2 cups all purpose flour

in a small bowl: 2 cups all purpose flour with 1 teaspoon iodized salt

1 packet or 2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast

1/4 cup water

1/2 cup fat free milk

1/2 cup heavy whipping cream

3 extra large eggs (at room temperature – you can run them under warm water)

2 sticks (1 cup) salted butter, softened

1/2 cup granulated sugar

zest of one large orange

1 egg white (for the wash before baking)

Here’s what you’ll need for the cranberry glaze, to fold inside the dough:

1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice (from the orange zested for the dough)

1/2 cup dried cranberries

1/2 cup powdered sugar

3/4 cup brown sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

extra tools: plastic pastry scraper, metal pastry cutter, Bundt pan, saucepan, cookie sheet, offset spatula

orange-cranberry King Cake - recipe and how-to via milissweets.com

Here’s what you’ll do:

Start by scalding the milk. Put the 1/2 cup of fat free milk and 1/2 cup of heavy whipping cream in a saucepan and heat until you see small bubbles forming on the edge. Remove from heat.

While the milk cools, prepare to activate the dry yeast. In a cup, warm 1/4 cup of water in the microwave for 10 seconds. Add the contents of the packet and and stir to dissolve. Allow to active. In 10 minutes, both the yeast and the milk will be ready, so that you can begin preparing the dough.

Next, in a standing mixer, with a paddle attachment, beat the butter until it covers the bottom of the bowl. Add the 1/2 cup of granulated sugar and then the eggs, one at a time. Beat it for about 20 seconds. The end result will look like super-fluffy scrambled eggs.

Now you’re ready to put the pieces of the dough together. In the large bowl you’ve prepared with the 2 cups of flour, make a well in the center. Add the mixture of activated yeast, then the warm milk. Mix together with your hands or a plastic pastry scraper. Once incorporated, add the butter-sugar-egg mixture and completely combine.

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place it in a cold oven for an hour and a half.

Here’s what the process looks like:

orange-cranberry King Cake - recipe and how-to via milissweets.com

The next step is to add the 2 cups of flour and 1 teaspoon of salt that you have already set aside in a small bowl. Mix this in with the use of your pastry scraper. Then add the zest of one large orange.

Once the orange zest is incorporated, cover the bowl with a cloth. Return it to your cold oven and allow it to rise for an additional hour.

While your dough is enjoying it’s second-rise, prepare the cranberry glaze that will be folded in before it’s baked.

SONY DSC

Here’s how to make the cranberry glaze:

Squeeze out all of the juice from the large orange you used to flavor the dough. It should give you about 1/2 cup. If you don’t have 1/2 cup of juice, make up the difference with either more orange juice or water.

In a saucepan, over medium heat, stir juice, 3/4 cup brown sugar, 1/2 cup powdered sugar and 1 teaspoon cinnamon. Once smooth, with the sugars dissolved, add the 1/2 cup dried cranberries and pure vanilla extract. Stir and remove from heat.

The glaze will be cooled and ready to use, once your dough is ready.

orange-cranberry King Cake - recipe and how-to via milissweets.com

This recipe will make two King Cakes. (One to share and one to keep. Or two to share. xox) When the dough is ready, use a pastry cutter to divide it.

I’m sharing two different ways to prepare to bake the dough. There’s the typical way, with a cookie sheet and then there’s a method I tried for the first time, using a Bundt pan. (Made sense to me!) Turns out using the Bundt is my favorite way to prepare this cake.

For the Bundt pan method: Spray and flour the pan so that it is prepared for the dough.

For the typical method: Place parchment paper or a silpat mat over the cookie sheet/pan.

orange-cranberry King Cake - recipe and how-to via milissweets.comPlace 1/2 of the dough on a clean, flat surface, dusted with a liberal amount of flour.

Assemble the piece of dough together and lay flat.

Spoon the cranberry glaze over the dough. Then, fold it over once. Gently twist and lengthen the dough so that you can form a circle.

* Please note that the dough should be handled as little as possible and there is no need to kneed.

Place the twisted dough in either the Bundt pan or at the center of the prepared cookie sheet.

Sprinkle it with a light dusting of flour at the top and sides. Believe it or not, it’s going to rise again!

Cover with a cloth, and return it to your cold oven for one additional, and final hour.

Here’s a peek at  the process when using a Bundt pan:

orange-cranberry King Cake - recipe and how-to via milissweets.com

When the dough is in the “after rise” stage, you can finally turn your oven on!

(This is one of the reasons why patience is a virtue.)

Preheat your oven to 325 degrees.

This is the time I put the in the baby! When I make the cake for my family, there are at least 3 babies, but typically you’ll place just one plastic toy in the cake.  I like to do my teeth a favor, and I place the baby at the very bottom of my baking-pan, so that I can spot the bottom when I eat my slice. This is best, since digging around in your cake doesn’t seem like the proper thing to do.

orange-cranberry King Cake - recipe and how-to via milissweets.com

Prepare an egg wash, by whisking an egg white. Brush it onto the top of the dough.

Bake for 30-35 minutes.

Here’s the process when using the cookie sheet method:

orange-cranberry King Cake - recipe and how-to via milissweets.com

You can see from the examples, that you’ll have a bigger cake with the cookie sheet method. It will both rise and spread. I prefer it to rise rather than spread, to have a more controlled size. (Yes. I have issues.) However, moving the cake from the cookie sheet is a lot easier. You’ll have to allow the cake to completely cool, and use an offset spatula to loosen all of the edges, to remove the cake from the Bundt pan. Then, place a plate under it, hold the two together and turn it upside down to remove.

orange-cranberry King Cake - recipe and how-to via milissweets.com

Once the cake is cooled, you’ll want to ice it. You can make royal icing or do what I do, by making a batch of vanilla butter cream frosting and melting it a bit in the microwave. I use a plastic sandwich bag as my piping bag, cut a corner for my “tip,” and coat the top in a back and forth motion. This is the moment you’ll want to have your sprinkles on-hand.

orange-cranberry King Cake - recipe and how-to via milissweets.com

This is such a special treat and I’m glad it’s part of our family’s pre-Lent tradition.

Enjoy!

xox

sweet abundance

sweet abundance - wedding desserts set and catered by Mili - www.milissweets.comTina was a bride after my own heart! For her wedding reception, she asked me to cater “abudanza.” It Italian, it means abundance – when guests have a wonderful and overwhelming amount to choose from and enjoy. It’s a cultural way of showing love for your guests, since so much time and care goes in to preparing each treat. I loved her excitement, to provide something beyond a slice of wedding cake.

Set at the gorgeous Humphrey’s Estate in Temecula, California, I made everything her and her groom’s hearts desired, on their beautiful wedding day, last June.

artisan truffles - wedding desserts set and catered by Mili - www.milissweets.com

First on Tina’s list were artisan truffles. I made both Salted Caramel and Mexican Hot Cocoa.

Then there were individual servings of Creme Brulee, topped with a fresh raspberry. She also ordered both cream puffs and eclairs.

cream puffs - wedding desserts set and catered by Mili - www.milissweets.com

What’s the difference? The difference between cream puffs and eclairs is pretty simple. Both are made with from-scratch Choux Pastry. (It took me quite a while to master making these. My husband actually taught me!) I choose to fill cream puffs with rich whipped cream and top them with a sprinkling of powdered sugar. I fill eclairs with my version of Italian custard and drizzle them with ganache.

She wanted a “pop” or sweets on a stick. Since I don’t make cake pops, she went with my alternative, cookie pops, in both Snickerdoodle and Coconut Dream.

cookie pops and artisan eclairs - wedding desserts set and catered by Mili - www.milissweets.com

She topped off her order with an assortment of mini cupcakes in Very Strawberry, S’mores and Lemonade. Believe it or not, she had a wedding cake as well! It was on a separate table, made by another vendor.

I was happy to set the desserts indoors, to save them from the outside elements on a hot, June afternoon. The setting was beautiful. With vintage wallpaper and a antique cabinet as my backdrop, all the table needed was her lovely birdcage as a centerpiece and clean/basic plating, graced with the assortment.

sweet abundance - wedding desserts set and catered by Mili - www.milissweets.com

One of the sweetest parts about working with Tina is that we met by total chance.

I had an appointment to meet a potential client at a Starbucks for a tasting and consultation and she never showed. After waiting long enough and realizing I was stood-up*, with cupcakes in hand, I offered them to a sweet couple at a table nearby, caring for a young boy. I explained my situation and asked if they would like to have the cupcakes, thinking nothing at all of it and glad that someone would enjoy them.

Well, the woman whom I offered them to worked with Tina. She told her the story after tasting my cupcakes and referred me. It always surprises and amazes me, what a simple act of kindness, and reaching out to a perfect stranger can do. There’s never a loss when things don’t work out the way you first plan. It’s better to be completely open to what’s ahead since there’s always something even better waiting for you to enjoy.

This wedding is on my list as one of my favorites of my dessert catering career. I’m so glad that I was able to be a small part of this special day.

* Oh, and by the way, that was the only time I was ever stood-up when it came to cupcakes!

xox

 

 

love first

I’m reflecting on a special day this coming week, when 15 years ago, (December 29, 2000), my husband asked me to marry him.

Here we were, just moments before he popped the big question in Florence, Italy. There was absolutely no hesitation at all. I was so excited to say yes, and from that moment on, to know that we would be our future for the rest of our lives, was like a dream come true. It still is.
us

This coming year, I’ll celebrate literally spending half of my life with this guy – my other half, the love of my life and my best friend. It’s crazy to think that we will have been together for 20 years! It’s even more awesome to imagine the next 20, 30 and 40. When God put us together He answered many prayers. My mom, my Nonna and I, are thankful.

So, what do I have to show for all of this invested time?

Love has been the true umbrella for our day-to-day life, but so much is involved with real love.

Laughter. We have a ton of laugh-lines. We both grew up with something in common: we use laughter as a remedy for dealing with hardship. We have thrived because we are full of joy. Our home is typically full of laughter too. Since the day I met this guy, I was laughing with him. He was my friend since day one and he will be my friend forever.

Here we were, laughing as usual, when our friend took photos of us for our 10th wedding anniversary. For more on this session from Love, Jen Photography and to take a peek at our wedding cake, please see my past story: My First Wedding Cake, 10 Years Later.

IMG_6767

Forgiveness. We have never mad at one another for longer than a few hours. We let it out and then we move on. We don’t argue often and we always keep it real. We love one another, trust one another, and depend on one another way too much to allow anything to stand in the way of our bond.

Trust. We are very flexible and accommodating. We go out of our way to support one another for what we individually need to do or simply want to do. There’s no resentment or nagging. It takes maturity and love and it’s easy since we are both devoted to the team.

Determination. We are two extremely determined and hard working individuals. We are giving of ourselves and care a lot. It’s hard for us to hang around those who are not like us in this way because determination takes a lot of precious, personal time.

Life is very demanding and exhausting. It’s amazing to know that we can come home (to our own sanctuary) where we lay our heads down in peace, together. I’m so thankful that we have each another to hold everything down.

I put my faith and my role and mom and wife at the center of all that I do. Despite the hustle and bustle of life and work, my husband and I prioritize to be an example. We do small but important thing like sit down together to have dinner every night. We pray before each meal (even if we’re in public) and we do everything it takes to raise our children to be the incredible people they already are.

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Here are our sweethearts on Christmas Day, 2015 (yesterday). My stepdaughter will graduate from UCLA in the Spring. We have a daughter in middle school and little-man is in elementary. How could we not love them and be proud of them when they are our life’s work? Never have I been given a better and more rewarding job than to love them and to be their mom. After all of these years, I still can’t even believe that we have such gifts!

At the end of the day, truly living life is about loving life, even when it’s difficult.

Here’s to another year of putting love first.

Best wishes to you and yours in 2016.

xox, Mili