Cooking with Kinsey – Gluten-Free birthday cake w/ fondant & buttercream

Our 10 year old daughter, Kinsey, LOVES to bake. Not only does she love it, she is freaking good at it too. At 10 years old, she can bake all sorts of stuff (cake, cupcakes, cookies, brownies), start to finish, completely by herself.

Last week our son, Travis, turned the big 1-3. Yes, I have a teenager. Ack! Kinsey decided for part of her gift to him she wanted to bake his birthday cake. She totally nailed this cake. I’m still shocked a 10 year old with little baking experience and pretty much zero decorating experience pulled off this cake.

Travis is strictly gluten-free (and Red40-free) due to severe allergies, so we tend to make a lot of treats at home. Most store-bought cake mixes, frostings, and fondants have gluten in them, so we made them all from scratch.

Kinsey started by baking a gluten-free cake. We prefer to just use a mix for this. We’ve tried dozens of mixes and our favorite yellow cake mix is from King Arthur Flour (not an affiliate).

She then made her own buttercream frosting. We’ve tried several recipes and our favorite is here.

After whipping up the buttercream and baking the cake, I helped her make some homemade fondant using melted marshmallows. It has great consistency and tastes much yummier than store-bought fondant. (Store-bought fondant has gluten in it.)

Her favorite part of all was rolling out the fondant and decorating the cake with it. She has wanted to try her hand at fondant for a few years, so we finally just went for it.

This cake is the very first time she has ever used fondant at all. I still can’t believe how adorable it turned out.

The cake looked a little “baby showerish” but Travis is such a good sport and such an awesome brother. He just thanked her over and over and was so grateful that she took hours of her day making a cake just for him.

The best part? The cake tasted even more amazing than it looked. All the homemade ingredients really helped to make one of the most delicious cakes we’ve ever eaten. And the best part? It was 100% gluten-free and Red40-free so Travis could enjoy it as well.


Chocolate Bar Toffee. Delicious easy to make treat for the Holiday season.

I served this Chocolate Bar Toffee to all the shoppers at the Kirkland’s Grand Opening Event last week. It was a huge hit and I want to share the recipe with you guys now. (Don’t forget to go enter the giveaway for a $100 gift card to Kirkland’s!)

This Toffee is so stinkin’ easy to make. I don’t generally enjoy cooking and baking, but I do enjoy delicious food, so when I do bake, it better be an easy recipe that is extra yummy. I have no patience for mediocre recipes. To make this Toffee, you only need 6 ingredients. It is that easy. The only tricky part about the entire recipe is you have to use a candy thermometer. Don’t let that scare you away though. They are only a few bucks at the grocery store and are simple to use.

To make Chocolate Bar Toffee, you will need the following 6 ingredients:

Sugar, water, finely chopped almonds, chopped walnuts (or pecans), butter, and chocolate bars. I use my mini-prep Cuisinart food processor to chop all the almonds and walnuts. So quick and easy (and dang, I didn’t realize it came in so many colors).

*Note: When you make this toffee, you MUST use a stainless steel saucepan. I have tried it several times (I’m a glutton for punishment) with my non-stick pans and the toffee will not set. I purchased an inexpensive pot from ikea (their 365+ line) and it works great, even though the pot is less than $10.

The full recipe will be at the bottom of this post.

Step 1: On medium heat, melt your butter in your stainless steel saucepan.

Once melted, add your water and sugar.

When the butter and sugar mixture starts to boil (about 8 minutes later), add your finely chopped almonds.

Continue boiling the mixture stirring it constantly. This is the most tedious part. I timed it and after the initial 8 minutes, it was an additional 22 minutes, for a total of 30 minutes stirring. These are approximate times though. Watch the thermometer and go off that.

After what feels like an eternity (30 minutes) your toffee will turn dark and you will start to worry that you are overcooking it. Don’t worry, it is not burnt! You want to cook it to 302 degrees fahrenheit.

When the tempertaure reaches 302 degrees F, pour the toffee onto a greased jelly roll pan (cookie sheet with a lip around it).

If you don’t have jelly roll pans, GO BUY SOME. If you own nothing else for baking, own jelly roll pans! You will use them for everything – baking toffee, cookies, pizza, sheet cake (I need to give you my recipe for that!), bacon, you name it. I use them for random other things like craft projects (great for containing glitter) and to hold screws while putting together furniture. They are also great as trays when cooking meat on the grill. My mom got me these jelly roll pans for Christmas last year. They are from Costco and came with two big ones and one small one. ::End of tangent::

Once you pour your toffee onto your jelly roll pan, quickly spread it out using a spreader.

The mixture spreads very easily and will settle into the pan, but it sets quickly as it cools, so don’t waste time on this step!

Once your toffee is evenly spread, top it with pieces of chocolate bar.

Just plop them down all over the top and let them sit there for a minute or two.

The toffee will quickly melt the chocolate even though the chocolate won’t lose its shape. Take your spreader and evenly spread the chocolate all over the top of the toffee. I usually use King-Sized Hershey bars (the Symphony bars are even better), but I have also used the milk chocolate bars from IKEA and they are amazing.

Sprinkle the top of the chocolate with chopped walnuts (or pecans) and pop it in the fridge for a few hours until the toffee and chocolate are firm.

To serve, break the toffee into small pieces. To do this, I use a paring knife and gently poke the toffee starting at the edge (not too hard though or you will ding your jelly roll pan!). It should just break apart on its own.

Place all the pieces of toffee into an air tight container and store in the fridge or room temperature (don’t store anywhere warm or the chocolate will melt). I prefer to keep mine in the fridge. I like my toffee cold when I eat it!

So easy, and super delicious! Trust me, your friends will think you are the bomb dot com if you make these for them this holiday season. Many customers at Kirkland’s thought I was giving away samples of toffee that the store was selling and kept asking where they could buy it! I told them I was so sorry but they were going to have to make it on their own. It is that good. People literally thought it was store-bought. (Of course, I do recognize that some things, like Rice Krispie Treats, are one-thousand times better home-made.)

And now, for the recipe. You will want to pin this one. Trust me –>

Chocolate Bar Toffee

4 sticks butter
2 C sugar
1/2 C water
1/2 C finely chopped almonds
2 large Chocolate Bars (king sized)
1 C finely chopped pecans or walnuts (I prefer walnuts)

*Must use a metal saucepan that does not contain any non-stick material.

Melt butter in saucepan. Add sugar and water. Once boiling add almonds. Boil until it reaches 302 degrees or hard ball/crack stage. Stir constantly. Pour in a greased cookie sheet and spread out evenly. Put Hershey squares on top. Spread chocolate once melted. Top with pecans or walnuts. Place in fridge until hard. Break into pieces and store in air tight container in fridge. Recipe from


Dump Cake {recipe}

Have you ever had Dump Cake? It’s more like a cobbler than a cake, and is so rich and delicious. It is one of my favorite sweet desserts and is tasty served both warm and cold. Another reason this dessert is such a popular choice at our house is because it is so quick and easy to make. I can keep all the ingredients readily available to whip together for last-minute guests. There is no measuring, no mixing, and no separate bowl to clean up.

To make Dump Cake you only need 5 ingredients:

Crushed Pineapple, Cherry Pie Filling, Butter Cake mix, a stick of butter, and some chopped walnuts (those are optional).

Start by “dumping” your can of crushed pineapple into your 9×12 baker.

Next, dump your can of cherry pie filling into your baker (use a scraper to get all the filling out of the can).

Using your scraper, swirl the two fruits together and evenly spread along the bottom of your baker.

Now sprinkle your cake mix over the top of the fruit mixture. Make sure it is evenly coated, and don’t mix it together.

Once your cake mix is evenly spread over your fruit, slice your butter into little pads…

…and place them all over the top of the cake mix.

Now, as an optional 5th step, sprinkle the chopped walnuts over the top.

Stick it in your pre-heated 350 degree oven and bake for about 45 minutes until it is golden brown and bubbly.

If you are too impatient to wait for it to cool (we are!), spoon some into a bowl and top with a big scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Enjoying it cooled off, or for breakfast the next day are also viable options. (Don’t tell me you’ve never had leftover dessert for breakfast the next day.)

I received this recipe about 13 years ago from a co-worker at the credit union I was a teller at (did you know I was a bank teller before I had kids? I was.). Her recipe called for a dutch oven, and I was like, “what on earth is a dutch oven? I’ll just bake it at 350 degrees in my regular oven because that seems like a good cake-baking temperature.” Baking it in the oven is a piece of cake. 😉

Here’s the exact recipe for your copy-and-paste convenience:

Dump Cake

1 Can Crushed Pineapple
1 Can Cherry Pie Filling
1 box Butter Cake mix
1 stick butter
1/2 C chopped walnuts (optional)

In a 9×12 baker, dump can of Crushed Pineapple, then dump can of Cherry Pie Filling on top. Mix together in baker. Sprinkle Butter Cake mix on top of fruit mixture coating evenly. Do not mix together. Slice butter into small squares and place all over the top of the cake mix. Sprinkle nuts over the butter slices. Bake at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes, or until the top is brown and the juices are bubbling. Serve warm with a scoop of ice cream!


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