Treat Yo Self, Part II

Treat Yo Self
Last week I posted a Donna Meagle inspired Treat Yo Self photo. This one is inspired by her costar, Tom Haverford. Once again, if you have no idea what I’m talking about, you should watch Parks and Rec! Or this clip.

As I said in the previous post, I’m starting my own line of greeting cards! This is the latest addition.

The cake photographed here is Isa Chandra’s Chocolate Yogurt Bundt Cake and it is, without exaggeration, my favorite chocolate cake recipe. Here is another photo I took of it for a different purpose.

Now, go treat yo self! =)

Chocolate Yogurt Bundt Cake by Vanessa Rees



J.S. @ Sun Diego Eats - Parks and rec is amazing, you should do a Ron-inspired post sometime(i imagine it would involve whiskey or steak or bacon) ;)

Webbyrå - Wonderful such a beautiful project. Thank you for sharing! you can handle pictures :D

Alison Dulaney - Beautiful! I love the retro feel of the kitchen in the background. Amazing work Vanessa!

tina - Donna Meagle*!

Demetria - two of my favorite shooting days!

Roy - That cake looks amazingly tasty. Nom. Treat yo self, indeed :)

TREAT YO SELF: Orange Blossom Cupcakes

TREAT-YO-SELF34836_WORDS_DONE_FW_FBIf you follow me on Facebook you may have noticed that I’ve been doing a lot of photos that look similar to the one above. That’s because I’m starting my very own line of greeting cards (more info to come)! A friend of mine (that’s you Ms. Melissa Rogers!) suggested I make a Treat Yo Self birthday card. If you aren’t sure what Treat Yo Self is, one, where have you been for the past few years? And two, step away from the computer and go watch Parks and Recreation. Like, now. Or if you don’t have time for that just watch this clip. Essentially Treat Yo Self day is about a day of decadence. So I asked my intern and New England Culinary Institute baking student, Demetria, to come up with an indulgent cupcake recipe. She delivered. I present to you an Orange Blossom Cupcake with Saffron Buttercream.

Demetria will take it from here…

Vanessa said, “go decadent – we’re going to spray paint everything gold” – so I did.  Saffron, the stigma of the fall flowering crocus, is one of the most expensive spices by weight, and with it’s distinctive taste and ability to add a rich golden color –  it’s one of the easiest ways to fancy up a recipe.  However, before you reject it – a little goes a long way, once you’ve got a jar of this you can stretch it out far- 1 gram can translate into about 10 different recipes – so think of it as a classy investment!

Treat Yo Self by Vanessa Rees, V.K.Rees

I paired the saffron buttercream with orange blossom water cupcakes, because doesn’t that sound like a light and beautiful combination?  The saffron flavor hits you at first, making the buttercream richer and almost more butter-y tasting, and then the orange blossom floats on in and leaves you with a nice light, floral, citrus-y taste.  A cupcake dream.  These cupcakes are decadent and luxurious, but still so delicious, a perfect recipe for some much needed treating yourself.

Orange Blossom Water Cupcakes with Vegan Saffron Buttercream
adapted from Isa Chandra’s Pistachio Rosewater Cupcakes in Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World

For more recipes, vegan and otherwise check out Engrained Baking !

makes about 12 cupcakes

½ cup vanilla non dairy yogurt (I used coconut)
⅔ cup non dairy milk (I used soy)
⅓ cup canola oil
¾  cup plus 2 tbsp of granulated sugar
1 ½  tablespoons orange blossom water (usually near the rosewater, I found it at Whole Foods)
1 cup plus 2 tbsp all purpose flour
2 tablespoons cornstarch
½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
zest of one small orange
pinch of salt


I.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Line a muffin pan with 12 cupcake liners.
II.  In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the yogurt, milk, canola oil, sugar, and orange blossom water until well combined.
III. Sift together the flour, corstarch, baking powder, baking soda, and salt and mix into the liquid mixture until the clumps disappear and batter is smooth. Whisk in the orange zest.
IV.  Pour the batter into the cupcake liners until they are ¾ full.
V.  Bake 20-25 minutes, or until cupcakes spring bakes spring back when touched in the center.
VI.  Transfer to cooling rack and let cool until frosting.

Saffron Buttercream

½ cup non-hydrogenated shortening
½ cup non-hydrogenated margarine (I used Earth Balance)
3 ½ cups powdered sugar, sifted
a pinch of chopped or ground saffron dissolved in warm 2 tbsp non dairy milk
¼ cup plain soy milk or creamer


I.  Chop up a pinch of saffron into dissolvable bits.  Dissolve in 2 tbsp of warm non dairy milk.
II.  Beat the shortening and margarine together until well-combined and fluffy.  Add the sifted sugar and beat for 3 more minutes.
III.  Add the safrron milk, making sure to extract all the color and flavor from the saffron bits and then gradually add the soy milk until the buttercream is thick and fluffy.

Recipe by Demetria Provatas at Engrained Blog

Note from Vanessa: For the pictures we spray painted the cupcakes gold with this stuff. It tasted a bit odd and I wouldn’t recommend it for the actual recipe. But it made for pretty for a photo!

Aditi Gaitonde - So much beauty. Love your work

Wedding Photographer - I absolutely love the candle having just been blown out. The obvious thing to do would be photograph a lit candle, but shooting the smoke with backlight is such a great idea! Cheers.

Treat Yo Self, Part II » V.K.Rees Photography - […] Last week I posted a Donna Miguel inspired Treat Yo Self photo. This one is inspired by her costar, Tom Haverford. Once again, if you have no idea wheat I’m talking about, you should watch Parks and Rec! Or this clip. […]

tinajo - Wow, this looks awesome! :-)

Alison Dulaney - I can’t wait to see these cards!!

Rachel Jane - I can’t tell you enough how much I love this! Absolutely makes me smile. Loved the clip, my friends have been telling me to get into Parks and Rec.

Cassandra - Love this! And saffron definitely says “treat yo self!”

Aubrie LeGault - Love the shots… I enjoy your use of space.

Laura | Peaches and Greens - These are stunning! Sound delish too! Can’t wait to hear more about the greeting cards; I’ll probably frame them so I can pretend that I have my very own VK Rees prints! Eeeep!! xo

Cereal Cashew Milk Cake

Birthday Cake Cards, by V.K.Rees

This post is dedicated to the smartest, most handsomest little brother a girl could have. Happy 26th birthday, Joey (Joe, to the rest of the world)!

So, have you guys heard of cereal milk cake? I hadn’t until my food-fashionable intern, Demetria, mentioned it. I know, I’m so 3 years behind. In case you are like me and behind on cake trends, I’ll elaborate… You know how when you eat a bowl of cereal, the milk leftovers tastes of cereal-y goodness? Using cereal infused milk in this recipe results in a cake that tastes subtly like your cereal of choice. It’s damn delicious. Demetria took this already awesome concept and made it even awesomer by using homemade cashew milk in lieu of the dairy milk that is used in most cereal milk cake recipes. Cashew milk is thick and creamy which made the cake uber decadent.

Oh, and I’m selling the image above as a birthday card with the recipe on the inside. You can buy them here in about a week if you’d like!

by Vanessa Rees, V.K.Rees

Intern Demetria will take it from here!

Ever since I heard about Christina Tosi’s brilliant cereal milk recipe, I knew I had to try it.  So when Vanessa asked that I make a sprinkle covered, super fun, birthday cake, I knew this was my chance to try my hand at cereal milk cake. I scoured the internet but could not find a vegan recipe for cereal milk, or cereal milk cake for that matter, so I made up my own!

I whipped up homemade cashew milk and then soaked it in Fruit Loops, omitting the sugar that’s in the original milk recipe because the Fruit Loops took care of that.  The cereal milk recipe makes a bit extra so you can experience what a vegan cereal milkshake would taste like – so good.  I used the cashew cereal milk in the cake and the buttercream!  The cashew milk made for a rich, creamy cake that stays moist for very long time. The subtle cereal flavor brings you into a state of nostalgia.  Add sprinkles and you have may just have the best birthday cake ever!

For the cashew milk:
I used this recipe

Cashew Fruity Loop ‘Cereal Milk’:
adapted from Momofuku milk bar’s cereal milk recipe, makes 2.5 cups

  • 2 ¾ cup Fruit Loops
  • 3 ¾ cups of your homemade cashew milk
  • ¼ tsp of salt

I.  Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.

II.  Spread the Fruit Loops out on a parchment lined sheet pan.  Let toast in oven for 20 minutes.  Let cool.

III.  Transfer the toasted Fruit Loops to a large pictcher or bowl.  Pour the milk in and stir vigorously.  Let steep for 30 minutes at room temperatre.

IV.  Strain the mixture over a medium bowl.  Once the milk is mostly strained, using the back of a ladle or spoon, or your hand, wring the rest of the liquid out of the Fruit Loops, without pushing the fruit loops through the strainer.

V.  Whisk the salt in and store in the refrigerator!

Cereal Milk Birthday Cake:
makes 3 layers of 6” cake

  • 2 cups cashew cereal milk
  • 2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1 ½ cup granulated sugar
  • ⅔ cup vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch
  • ¾ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • ⅓ cup sprinkles

I.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Grease three 6” pans and line each with parchment circles.

II.  In a large bowl whisk together the cashew milk and the vinegar.  Let stand for 5 minutes.  It will ‘curdle’ a bit, so don’t worry.  Add the sugar, oil, and vanilla extract and whisk until the mixture is smooth.

III.  Sift together flour, cornstarch, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.

IV.  Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and whisk until smooth and well combined.  Divide the batter evenly between the three pans.  You can use a scale to do this, but I just eyed it.  Bake 22-25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean.  Cool for 15 minutes and then turn the cakes out and let cool completely before adding any icing.

Cashew Cereal Milk ‘Buttercream’:

  • ¾ cup non-hydrogentated margarine (I used original Earth Balance)
  • ¾ cup non-hydrogenated shortening
  • 4 ½ cups powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • ¼ cup cashew cereal milk
  • a pinch of salt

I.  Take an electric mixer and beat together the margarine and shortening on medium speed for 2-3 minutes, or until creamy.

II.  Add the powdered sugar and beat on low until combined.  Turn the mixer to medium high speed and beat 2-3 minutes.

III.  Add the salt and vanilla and beat until incorporated.

IV.  Add the cashew milk gradually until the buttercream is a spreadable consistency, but not too liquid-y.

Finally, assemble your cake and cover it in sprinkles! Enjoy!

Johnd801 - I’ve been absent for a while, but now I remember why I used to love this site. Thank you, I’ll try and check back more frequently. How frequently you update your site? fbgceegffeef

Alison - So pretty! I’ve never had this cake but it sounds amazing!

Pheasant & Hare - Mmmmm milk cake, I’ll have to try that! It reminds me of a shot I did last year for a private label recipe – instead of cake, it was cereal infused ice cream!

Ali @ Inspiralized - This saves me a trip to Momofuku, thank you! Definitely making this this weekend.

Katrina @ Warm Vanilla Sugar - Aww, man! I love this idea!

Caitlin - i have never heard of cereal milk cake, either! i love the idea, and the cake looks delicious!