Happiness – {Our Strawberry Blonde Cake}

I’m outside in a t-shirt, and I’m… Warm.

What is this?

I’ve spent the past few months starved of sun. True, this winter wasn’t memorable weather-wise – and I must admit that I have a tendency to exaggerate the chill – but it’s well-understood that the simple nature of winter leaves one cyclically under a thick covering of clouds. Blanketed, so to speak, by this unwelcome and vast palette of greys for so long, my soul has hungered for little more than a clear view of that bright orb over the horizon.

And perhaps some coffee. And a cookie. And new shoes.

But most importantly, my dear readers, that sun. And finally, after far too long, I think it’s back for good. Or at least until Friday… The forecast isn’t looking too good then… But in the meantime – before Friday! – I promise to make good use of my sunglasses and to free my pale shoulders! I can’t wait for this week to begin because, to me, so few things are better than the feeling of the sun’s warmth.

But I guess these come close… Layers of graham crackers, chiffon cake, vanilla-bean panna cotta, strawberries and caramel all work together to create my interpretation of Cold Stone’s signature creation titled Our Strawberry Blonde. It was a fun project inspired by my foodie friend, Z, and definitely something I never would have thought of doing myself! I’m definitely happy that she brought it up though, because these are awesome!

But before you get to that recipe, you might be interested in something else.

Now, I don’t know about you, but I have this problem with plastic wrap. I hate it. It’s awful. It ruins frosting, doesn’t always stick, leaves goopy spots all over everything… All of this on top of it sticking to itself and refusing to cut – do you know what I mean? Since I’ve never been a fan of tupperware, I stick mainly to cake domes. They’re pretty, functional and I’ve never had one fight back!

This giveaway is closed! Thank you for all of your entries! Please check here for the winner’s name!
So, on that note, how would you like to win one? Hmmm??

I was recently contacted by Jason of CSN stores and offered $60 with which to buy an item to giveaway to one lucky reader! Excited, of course, by this opportunity, I began to check out the shops, fully expecting to pick the prize that day. However, I instead found myself drooling over the selection – their inventory is nothing short of amazing! It took me days to whittle down my choices, finally selecting this lovely dome as the prize.

Seriously, go check this place out! They have everything from cribs to bird cages to barstools and everything in between; all with competitive prices, free shipping on many items, a satisfaction guarantee and a fantastic return policy. Not to mention the fact that these are obviously some great people to deal with – I mean, come on, they’re giving this away to you guys. What’s not to love?

All you have to do is visit CSN and leave a comment including one thing that makes you happy. Is it the sun? Your dog? Their fantastic barstool selection? I wanna know!


  • This contest is open only to residents of the US and Canada
  • One comment per person
  • Winner will be selected using random.org
  • Winner will be contacted by email. If no response is made after 48 hours, a new winner will be selected, so be sure to leave an email address!
  • This contest will end on March 21st 11:59PM

So, did you enter yet??

Our Strawberry Blonde Cakes
I’m going to be honest with you and tell you that these are time consuming. They took quite awhile to make, but they’re delicious and, I think, well worth the effort!
Printable Recipe

Caramel Sauce via Simply Recipes
1 c (199 g) sugar
6 Tbls butter
1/2 c (118 ml) cream

Measure out your ingredients ahead of time and have them ready.

Cook the sugar in a sauce pan with tall sides, stirring while it melts to make sure it cooks evenly. After it comes to a boil, refrain from stirring. Swirl the pot if necessary. After the sugar has reached a nice amber color, add the butter piece by piece and whisk to combine. It will bubble up, so be careful! Remove from heat and add cream slowly – it will bubble up again. Pour into a bowl to cool.

Chiffon Cake via Alton Brown
This is one of my favorite cake recipes!

1/2 c (63 g) cake flour
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3 egg whites, at room temp
2 egg yolks, at room temp
1/3 c + 1 Tbls (85 g) sugar, divided
1/8 c (31 ml) water
1/8 c (31 ml) vegetable oil
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp cream of tartar

Preheat the oven to 325F (165C) and prepare a 12 1/2 x 17 1/2 pan by oiling it, lining it with parchment, and oiling again.

In a medium mixing bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

Place the egg yolks and 1/3 c (71 g) of the sugar into the bowl of a stand mixer and whisk on high for 2 minutes or until the mixture becomes pale yellow and ‘ribbons’ when lifted. Add the water, vegetable oil and vanilla and whisk to combine. Add the dry ingredients and whisk just to combine. Transfer the batter to a mixing bowl while you whisk the egg whites.

Place the egg whites and cream of tartar into a clean bowl and whisk on high using the whisk attachment, until it becomes foamy. Decrease the speed to low and gradually add the remaining ounce of sugar. Increase speed to high and continue whisking until stiff peaks form, approximately 2 minutes.

Transfer 1/3 of the egg whites to the batter and whisk until well combined. Add the remaining egg whites and fold in gently. Transfer batter into prepared pan. Bake for 10-15 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean or the cake reaches an internal temperature of 205 to 210F (96 to 99C). Remove from the oven to a cooling rack and allow to cool completely. Cut out rounds of cake with ring molds, split and store.

Graham Crackers via 101 Cookbooks

1 1/4 c plus 1 Tbls (156 g) unbleached pastry flour or unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 c (71 g) dark brown sugar, lightly packed
1/2 tsp baking soda
3/8 tsp salt
3 1/2 Tbls (50 g) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch cubes and frozen
1/6 c (39 ml) mild-flavored honey, such as clover
2 1/2 Tbls whole milk
1 Tbls vanilla

In the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade or in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the flour, brown sugar, baking soda, and salt. Pulse or mix on low to incorporate. Add the butter and pulse on and off on and off, or mix on low, until the mixture is the consistency of a coarse meal.

In a small bowl, whisk together the honey, milk, and vanilla extract. Add to the flour mixture and pulse on and off a few times or mix on low until the dough barely comes together. It will be very soft and sticky.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and pat the dough into a rectangle about 1 inch thick. Wrap in plastic and chill until firm, about 2 hours or overnight.

Sift an even layer of flour onto the work surface and roll the dough into a long rectangle about 1/8 inch thick. The dough will be sticky, so flour as necessary. Cut out circles with ring molds. Place the crackers on one or two parchment-lined baking sheets, dock with a fork and chill until firm, about 30 to 45 minutes. Repeat with scraps.

Adjust the oven rack to the upper and lower positions and preheat the oven to 350F (180C).

Bake for 15-20 minutes, until browned and slightly firm to the tough, rotating the sheets halfway through to ensure even baking.

While cooling, trim with ring mold to retain shape after spreading.

Perfect Panna Cotta via David Lebovitz
This will make a little more than you need, but just pour it into an oiled mold and pretend it was intentional. You’ll thank me for it!

2 c (473 ml) heavy cream (or half-and-half)
1/4 c (50 g) sugar
1 tsp vanilla, or 1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
1 packet powdered gelatin
3 Tbls cold water

Heat the heavy cream and sugar in a saucepan or microwave. Once the sugar is dissolved, remove from heat and stir in the vanilla extract (if using a vanilla bean, scrape the seeds from the bean into the cream and add the bean pod. Cover, and let infuse for 30 minutes. Remove the bean then rewarm the mixture before continuing).

Sprinkle the gelatin over the cold water in a medium-sized microwave-safe bowl and let stand 5 to 10 minutes.

Pour the very warm Panna Cotta mixture over the gelatin and stir until the gelatin is completely dissolved.

Chill about 40 minutes, until the panna cotta is thick and holding it’s shape fairly well. Whisk to eliminate lumps, then use in construction as described below.

Just as FYI, I use 3 x 3 molds.

Cover on side of two graham cracker with warmed caramel and sandwich a piece of cake. Do this seven more times, for a total of 8 sandwiches (or double however many molds you’re using). Place one in the bottom of each ring mold.

Cut strawberries into desired shapes or simply dice. I trimmed the cheeks off of a few particularly large berries and cut with a small flower-shaped fondant cutter. I would advise you to simply dice the berries; the shape is hardly discernible! Arrange around edges of cylindrical mold and sprinkle in center, if desired.

Pour in prepared and chilled panna cotta, then top with remaining cake sandwiches.

Cover and refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight.

To remove from molds, run a sharp knife around perimeter. Place on serving plate and drizzle with warmed caramel. Enjoy the fruits of your labors!!


  1. says

    Wow, great looking' dessert there! What makes me happy? Homemade iced coffee and brownies and skirts. Though the second doesn't exactly help too much with the third. :)

  2. says

    CSN has so many awesome items! One of the many things that makes me happy is seeing the grass after a very long, snowy winter.<br /><br />dftrew(at)gmail(dot)com

  3. Ryan says

    Having four seasons makes me happy. I live in Philadelphia where we get cold winters and hot summers. I couldn&#39;t deal with it being 70 degrees all the time.<br /><br />Also, these look absolutely stunning. Strawberries make me gag but these are beautiful.<br /><br />ryanwhatt(at)gmail(dot)com

  4. says

    Looks like lots of work-but usually fabulous food is!! Really looking forward to viewing what CSN has to offer…<br />marybclaus@gmail.com

  5. says

    what an excellent giveaway, but what&#39;s even more excellent is this beauty of a dessert! yes, time and effort are involved, but what a payoff–nicely done. :)

  6. Jessica says

    This is so cute. I love the layers, and how the strawberries are like little dots peeking through. 😀 You&#39;re really creative.<br /><br />luvlywrld(at)yahoo(dot)com

  7. says

    That looks super tasty! <br />Something that makes me happy…. definitely just being creative in some way makes me happy. <br />That store has a ton of cool stuff! I see me buying a few things in the future. <br /><br />bishojomandy@gmail.com

  8. says

    Walks in the park make me happy! And I would LOVE to see that little cake stand sitting on my kitchen table :)<br /><br />junkforcarmen at gmail dot com

  9. Anonymous says

    Ooh…cake dome…<br /><br />*gasps* I need to break out the far too large one I got for Christmas to put those muffins I made yesterday in!<br /><br />MasonMMarshall AT gmail

  10. says

    Mmm…cake. The sun makes me happy especially in March.<br /><br />Thanks for the giveaway!<br /><br />Chris<br /><br />zekks at yahoo dot com

  11. says

    Gorgeous looking dessert!<br />what makes me happy is sunshine, flowers on a Spring morning. seriously, oh how i&#39;m glad i can finally see the sun again after probably more than a month of rain :)

  12. says

    Wow, that store seriously has everything! <br /><br />One thing that makes me very, very happy is my morning cup of coffee at work. It&#39;s all downhill from there 😉

  13. says

    Ok, that place has everything. <br /><br />What makes me happy…cooking with my hubby. Last night it was fresh baked bread and smoked tomato and jalapeno soup. Mmmmmmm.<br /><br />mmattice at gmail.com

  14. Anonymous says

    Those look really good, and they&#39;re pretty! Just a small tip, if you weigh the eggs, you can easily split recipes with odd numbers of eggs in half. Another advantage of weighing eggs is that you can use whatever size eggs you have on hand. I often buy medium eggs (I&#39;ve found them to be less expensive) or irregularly sized eggs at a farmer&#39;s market, so weighing eggs is more consistent.

  15. Anonymous says

    It&#39;s true their collection is fabulous. A new haircut makes me happy. Now, if I could stop being lazy for an hour and go get that haircut, THAT would make me happy.<br /><br />farihahkamali@live.com

  16. Anonymous says

    Wow!! That&#39;s looks so very delicious!! I have a question. I&#39;m already on board with making caramel sauce, chiffon cake and panna cotta; but I never made my own graham crackers or even tasted a homemade one. So what is the difference between homemade and store bought?? <br /><br />It makes me happy that you posted the CSN store. I saw the travel cup french press insulated travel

  17. says

    What makes me happy? <br />Taking a &#39;sick day&#39; and spending it reading at the park with our kittie, Abbey Road, painting and deep cleaning. <br /><br />I might feel a little guilty, but having the day to read, paint and rest is much needed.

  18. Sandra Charles says

    I think I can spend the whole day browsing the stores site… What don&#39;t they have?!<br /><br />This recipe is a must try. Thank you Kaitlin and your friend Z for the inspiration. :)<br /><br />Listening to my 2 yr. old nieces voice and her laughter makes me so very happy. :)

  19. says

    Vegetable and flower seeds sprouting on my windowsill make me happy. and chocolate.<br /><br />Love your photos<br />KatesShortandSweets at gmail

  20. says

    Rainbows make me happy =) Especially the cake you made a while back that&#39;s white on the outside and when you cut into it &quot;BAM!&quot; rainbow greatness! If you need proof just check out my blog : realitybyrachael.blogspot.com<br /><br />Great website, cute cake dome, and I hope I can use it to house that wonderful rainbow cake that I plan to make in the near future!! =)<br /><br />Rachael

  21. Stephanie says

    Graham crackers and sun are two of my favorite things (we in Indiana have been warmth-deprived too). <br /><br />Also, sleeping in and sales never fail to make me happy!<br /><br />stellinove1893 at hotmail

  22. says

    Those look absolutely delicious! And I -so- can&#39;t wait for winter to be done with.. Just this weekend the last of the snow in my yard melted. It was fantastic :]<br /><br />kaleighwaldmann@gmail.com

  23. Anonymous says

    Chocolate cake and Icecream…and kitchen gadgets of all kinds make me happy :)<br /><br />This post was great–as I now have a strawberry craving!<br /><br />ashann@ufl.edu

  24. says

    that looks so cool! plus the cake stand seems extremely convenient. I hate plastic wrap for all those reasons you mentioned. plus, everything looks twice as appetizing in a simple glass cover!<br />pjmoby13@gmail.com

  25. says

    oh my pedestal cake plates!! especially the three nesting/stacking ones…LOVELY. that makes me happy. and lovely photography.<br />teamcraun[at]sbcglobal.net

  26. says

    You know that color that is extremely bright… hot pink… with a little more orange in it and is soooo vibrant? I LOVE that color and seeing it makes me happy 😀

  27. says

    i imagine this to be very creamy, caramel-y flavoured<br />would it work with peach wedges browned in sugar and butter?? cause there are no strawberries this time of year

  28. Anonymous says

    CSN has quite literally everything for sale.<br /><br />Looking at delicious desserts I know I shouldn&#39;t be eating makes me happy-and hungry!<br /><br />rajshahsrs@hotmail.com

  29. Lynne@CookandBeMerry.com says

    Good job on a complex recipe. Beautiful, too!<br /><br />Photographing food makes me happy.

  30. Erin says

    Those look truly fantastic. I will be making them this weekend, just in time for family to come visit.<br /><br />What makes me happy is baking and then bringing it in to work to share with my co-workers (it especially makes me happy when they nag me about when I&#39;m going to bring something in next). <br /><br />glow_wurm ( at ) hotmail.com<br /><br />P.S. I totally agree with you about the

  31. says

    What a beautiful dessert!<br /><br />What makes me happy: the smell of spring after a long winter (or any winter, for that matter). Those first few days of that sweet spring smell. My most favorite smell in the world.

  32. says

    Waffle irons on cold winter days make me happy. They warm your hands while turning out the perfect breakfast, or dinner, or dessert, topped with fruit, or bacon, or syrup, or chicken, or ice cream, or a combo . . . well, some combos better than others. <br /><br />And perfectly sized to cut evenly and share! (Or not.) <br /><br />samz_fred@yahoo.com

  33. says

    Your blog brightens my day! Some things that make me happy are: pancakes, time with friends before we all leave for college, making new things, dancing to live music!<br /><br />lauren.andrea.m@gmail.com

  34. says

    a great meal makes me a very jolly person!! one word: avocado. need it at least once a week. if i can get in 3 or 4xs i&#39;d be very happy!

  35. Iliana says

    Hi, that looks so good, I&#39;m drooling on my laptop. Thanks for your photography and your baking, it makes my day. And anyway, I live in Singapore, so its BURNING SCORCHING HOT all the time, and having to train (i play basketball) in the sun is excrutiating. so TREASURE YOUR WINTER SEASONS CAUSE WE DONT HAVE ANY SEASONS. (: (: (:

  36. says

    Awesome giveaway! What makes me most happy is my fiance – we&#39;re getting married in June, and he is definitely the bright spot in my day. When I saw your giveaway, I realized I forgot to register for a cake dome when we set up our wedding registry, so I hope I win! =)

  37. says

    this looks amazing! I am going to have to make it for my strawberry loving fiance! What makes me happy is when I try a new recipe I am unsure about and LOVE it! (and when he loves it too!)<br /><br />arez1016 AT gmail DOT com

  38. says

    What makes me happy? Going to a great concert and getting to talk to the band after the show. I usually don&#39;t get to but it&#39;s a lot of fun when it happens.<br /><br />theauthenticsimpsonian(at)gmail(dot)com

  39. says

    Those desserts are perfectly presented. So cute!<br /><br />It&#39;s hard not to be a gadget freak in this world. Too many cool thingss :)<br />Thanks for the link<br />jennstempleillustration at gmail dot com

  40. says

    Wow. Gorgeous dessert.<br /><br />The Sun and my bike, together, is the perfect day.<br /><br />mrkraushaar at gmail dot com

  41. says

    I remember that from dA.<br /><br />Right now, this knock-off Snuggie my uncle got me for x-mas makes me happy. It&#39;s so soft and warm and comfortable. C: It&#39;s simple, but effective.

  42. says

    I didn&#39;t want to nerd out at you, but I was digging through Antique Globes, wandered over into Antique Maps, and the next thing I know I found the most gorgeous Map of The Universe ever. I&#39;ve been through many halls and departments, adorned with gorgeous illustrations and scale drawings, but this map takes the cake as it were. I just LOVE seeing all the connections, from the largest scale

  43. says

    Gorgeous dessert! That&#39;ll make an appearance at Easter dinner this year. Happy…at the moment, walking out and seeing my forsythia and lilacs about to burst into bloom at any moment. Love spring!

  44. says

    Right now sunshine is making me very happy….nice weather is on its way! I LOVE CSN, they have fabulous customer service and great prices!

  45. says

    Wow! Fabulous dessert! I&#39;m also enjoying the sun and warm weather here in the Midwest. It could possibly snow on Friday though :(

  46. says

    I may just have to break down and make those strawberry blonde cakes…They are too scrumptious-looking to resist!<br /><br />A good cup of chai tea makes me happy.<br /><br />somewhatawkward@gmail.com

  47. says

    a phone call, first thing in the morning that has me laughing, even before I&#39;m fully awake. Makes the whole day wonderful!<br /><br />itskq(at)earthlink(dot)net

  48. Anonymous says

    I love it when my four-year-old grandson just lets out a no-holes-barred laugh! <br />There&#39;s nothing better than a child&#39;s laugh; so fun, so carefree, so joyous!<br /><br />Thanks,<br />dmonroe(at)astate(dot)edu

  49. Anonymous says

    Happiness: an evening with my sisters when I have cooked and served a wonderful meal.<br />toy.lamae@gmai.com

  50. says

    All of your cakes make me happy. They are usually not as beautiful as yours, but always tasty. <br /><br />lauramcgregor(at)gmail(dot)com

  51. says

    Great giveaway! I went to their site and wow, it&#39;s wonderful! So much stuff!<br /><br />One thing that makes me happy is being engaged. After 8 years of dating my high school sweetheart we are engaged! So excited and blessed.<br /><br />Seasidesmitten@aol.com

  52. says

    OOooh I love the Outdoor GREATROOM on CSN… complete with chiminea for evening bbq&#39;s with great friends :) I&#39;ve always wanted my very own chiminea! Friends, bbq&#39;s and bonfires make me happy!!<br /><br />s4mcgee[at]gmail[dot]com

  53. Lizzie says

    Oh, springtime makes me happy! It was warm enough to walk to work without a coat this morning–glorious!<br /><br />[tezach -at- hotmail -dot- com]

  54. Anonymous says

    I check this blog every so often, ever since I saw the rainbow cake on epicute. Your blog never ceases to entertain me, inspire me, and make me very hungry.<br /><br />xxidioteque(at)hotmail(dot)com

  55. says

    Cooking and baking for my family makes me happy. There is nothing better than sitting down to a homecooked meal and knowing that you made everything on the table.<br /><br />OceanEyes117(at)gmail(dot)com

  56. says

    yummy. this looks fairly do-able although your pics are SO lucious that it&#39;s prob. complicated to re-create.<br /><br />what makes me happy? A good book and a cup of tea or an ice coffee.<br /><br />steele85 (at) gmail(dot)com

  57. says

    This is interesting and the picture of your cake really really looks wonderful! I am sure that whenever one do this recipe, people will be delighted to taste it! Thank you for sharing this one.

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