Tuesday, June 30, 2009

TWD: Perfect Party Cake

Ahh Tuesday with Dorie again. I missed you. This weeks recipe was the Perfect Party Cake chosen by Carol of Mix..Mix...Stir..Stir. You can find the recipe for this beloved cake on her site - so go check it out (her cake is awesome). To compensate for the last post which was SUPER long (thank you Cassie) I will make this short and sweet (and because I am working on baking 100 cupcakes right now!). I made this cake for a partner's wife's birthday a while back. I started out making another recipe, but when i dropped that cake and ruined it - at about 10:30 PM - and had to start over - I switched to my faithful Dorie. No inside pictures since this was how it left my super cautious (this time around) hands. But, word was that it was exactly what the birthday girl wanted. A success I say. I will definately give this another try - and you should too!

Big Fun Cupcake Order

So, a while back, I hinted at a big large cupcake order that kept me up till 3 AM. Well, I am finally sharing with you the fruits of my labor. A partner at my office has the cutest sweetest daughter and they were hosting a tea party mid-week for 30 or so of her friends (plus their moms). I was asked to make the cupcakes to fit their blue and white color theme. I was super excited. Like many of you (do I have any non-baking blogger readers, doubtful) I just love any opportunity to bake.

A long while ago I had bought cupcake boxes from BRP Box Shop - a great buy. I have been using them for a long time now - love them. My sweetie pie assistant - who must have washed the dishes at least 6 times - also helped me by making labels for the boxes with my logo, blog, email and cupcake flavors. He was a champ - thanks baby.

I planned ahead - at least as far as the decorations went. I made the flowers using royal icing and my large flower tip. I had bought a flower nail head (is that what it is called?) and tried to make roses, but that didn't work out. I really need a wilton class - why is their NO Michaels or JoAnn's in San Francisco - seriously Internet do they think only people that live in the burbs want to be crafty? I don't think so.

My biggest plan ahead challenge was making butterflies out of candy melts. I got the idea from the book Hello Cupcake. I was lucky enough to get this book for my birthday from my awesome longtime friend Ashley R. (who may in fact be my only non-baker reader). Thanks Ashley. This is a great book. The first few butterflies - I don't want to talk about it. After failing on my roses, I was seriously distraught. But, I was determined to prevail.

The biggest problem that I was having with these was the fact that by the time I filled in the blue, the chocolate outline had dried which did not allow me to do the nice streaking. I was also having problems with the candy hardening in the zip lock bag and causing clotting, which made the candy melts shoot out when I applied more pressure to unclog the bag. Bad news bears.

I put my thinking cap on, and realized that what I needed was to keep the candy warm so it would stay nice and liquid. The solution? My heating pad. I took the cover off, put a paper towel on to of the pad, set the setting to low and layed the candy filled bags on top. IT WORKED! Like a charm. The candy stayed nice and melted the whole time it took me to make a dozen butterflies. Yay! In the end, I was very proud of my butterflies.

As for flavors. I went simple - considering I didn't start baking until 9PM. That was not planning ahead. I wanted to start early, I really did. But, I ended up heading over to the east bay to sign an offer on a house -which we didn't get - booo urns. Seriously (yes I say that alot), but the housing market in the east bay is brutal right now. So, late start it was. And, that meant vanilla vanilla, vanilla chocolate, chocolate vanilla, and very lemon lemon.

I did have a major failure on that epic baking night. I tried to make the Cake Slice Chai Cake into cupcake - cause hey, it was a tea party. So, I made the recipe as usual, poured the batter 3/4 full into my beautiful baking cups. And... they totally overflowed and filled the top of the cupcake pan - and I mean filled. There really was no salvaging. So, great cake, but not so great as cupcakes, at least for me.

Well, this is the end of the epic post about the epic baking night. Hope you enjoyed the pictures.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

A Cake Slice: Pina Colada Cake

Ok, so I totally made the June selection of Tripple Layer Pina Colada Cake for the Cake Slice group on-time. But, just didn't get a chance to post it until now. Hey, it is still June (barely). I had a great occasion to take this cake to - a beautiful weekend on the Delta at Bethel Island. My good friend OE's parents live right on the water in this great big blue house. They invite us out every summer (or maybe we invite ourselves!) and they are such amazing hosts, taking us out on their boats, cooking us dinner, keeping good company. Thanks Mr. & Mrs. A - can't wait to come back for 4th of July. So I was happy to have a great cake to take along to share with everyone.
"They" all insisted I pose with my cake. So here I am with my prized Pina Colada cake. "If you like pina colada's ..." I had this song in my head when making this cake, I just had to buy it off I-tunes and I seriously listened to it over and over, I love that song.
Once again, I had a bit of trouble with the frosting. I just don't like making those meringue frostings. At first I couldn't get the frosting to get past the almost curdled stage. Then I did a little research and realized I needed to switch from the whisk to paddle attachment - that sure did the trick. But frosting it, well that was tough. Thank goodness for the coconut on the outside. It was a very strange texture, it was slippery. It was very hot that day, so that might have had something to do with it, but I don't know. I might just have to be an american buttercream baker - unless Cassie wants to visit SF and come show me since she is the queen of SMBC.
So, the verdict. People loved this cake. OE's dad, "Mr. A," liked it a lot and he's aparently not a huge cake fan, and "Mrs. A" also loved it alot. People really liked how moist it was (thanks to the soaking of the layers in rum!) and the fact that it was not toooo sweet. OE like the cake, not his favorite, but good he said. He thought it was a bit of texture overload and that the pineapple filling was a little surprisingly tart (compared to the cake). I will definately make this again for all those pina colada lovers out there.

courtesy of the great Monica of Lick the Bowl Good.

SMS: Double Chocolate Cherry Cookies

I'm back! It's good to be back. I have been super busy - work, baking, family, friends. It has all been terrific. Just, didn't leave a whole lot of time to blog. And, while I have a TON of things to post, I didn't want to just throw things up and do a lot of posting when I couldn't do commenting. Speaking of which I am SUPER behind. I don't know if you know how daunting it is to have your google reader threatening to break 1000 - oh, it kept me worrying in bed a few times. So my apologies, I will do my best to make the rounds.

So, this week's SMS recipe is Double Chocolate Cherry Cookies that were chosen by Megan of My Baking Adventures - one of my favorite bloggers. She is soo sweet, bakes up tons of stupendious treats, and leaves many nice comments. You can get this week's recipe from her blog here. Seems like many of the fellow SMS Bakers liked these cookies a lot. I can't report on their taste, since I can't eat them, but I bet my work will gobble these up tomorrow and be greatful to Megan. My trusty taster and fantastic hubby is in Kenya (actually on his way back right now), so baking blind tonight. I did learn from all of the more responsible and diligent SMS'ers who baked and posted nice and early today that the baking time was probably less than in the book, so I baked mine for 12 minutes, and they look like they turned out just fine.

Happy Sunday!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

TWD: Rewind - Chipster Topped Brownies

OK, so I didn't make this week's TWD because (1) I can't eat ice cream as you know; and (2) I don't have an ice cream maker, because of reason #1. For this week's recipe, Tommi of Brown Interior selected Honey-Peach Ice Cream for TWD. Sorry Tommi, the ice cream sure looks good.

So, for this short and sweet post, I am doing a rewind to a few weeks back when Beth of Supplicious decided on Chipster-Topped Brownies on pages 94 and 95 of Dorie's book, Baking: From My Home to Yours. I made these special brownies for my husband's grandmother for mother's day. Word on the street was that she loved these and happily shared them with her friends where she lives. I found these to be pretty easy to make - lots of dishes - and well worth the effort. I look forward to making these again, I think my work would be very excited to find these in the kitchen.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

SMS: Chocolate Chip Cookies with Toasted Almonds

A special SMS post - this week the author of our group's chosen book baked along with us! That's right, Melissa Murphy of Sweet Melissa Patisserie in New York and author of The Sweet Melissa Baking Book baked her infamous chocolate chip cookies with toasted almonds with the group this week. And thanks to Elyse of Elyse's Confectionary Creations, Melissa's photos, post and the recipe are on the Sweet Melissa Sundays group site.

I can't thank Melissa enough for baking along with us and for Elyse for stepping in and posting Melissa's bake-along. I mean, its true, I called Elyse last night at 9:30 PM to tell her my friends decided to take the boat out and sleep on it, anchored amongst the reeds on the Delta. I knew that meant I wouldn't be able to get the post up first thing Sunday - no Internet on the "high seas," and that people would be looking for it so I asked Elyse to step in very last minute, and she was such a sweet willing champ - Elyse you rock! Also, thanks to Elyse, I am the proud owner of that cute little blue/green cake stand in the picture at top. I love it (I would collect cake stands if I had room) - and plan to use it often. Thanks so much (again) Elyse.

So, because these cookies are bestsellers at the Sweet Melissa Patisserie, and other SMS'ers posted their results this week with rave reviews, I decided to make these lactose free by substituting lactose free margarine for butter so I could try them. I doubled the batch so I could make one with the toasted almonds and one without. My cookies turned out very flat - and even though I baked them a little longer than the recommended 13 minutes, they tasted like cookie dough. Nothing wrong with this - Mathias said it was a perfect chocolate chip cookie for him - I think most of the time he'd rather just eat the cookie dough rather than a baked cookie. And, I know from sharing these cookies with co-workers and friends, there are other's like him out there!

I suspect after reading Melissa's post, that they weren't supposed to be quite this flat and cookie-dough like. I am not sure if it was because of the butter for margarine substitution, or because I hurried along the chilling time by using the freezer. Not sure. But doesn't really matter because people LOVED these cookies ALOT. And I thought they were fabulous. Granted I haven't had a chocolate chip cookie in years, but still, delicious. As you can see from the photo above, I used ALOT of Valharona semi-sweet chocolate and I think that helped contribute the chocolate goodness that these were. I tried both the ones with the nuts and without, and even though I LOVE nuts, I did actually prefer the ones without nuts. I definately will make these again with real butter to see how they turn out, as I know they will disappear quickly.
Finally, thanks to all the SMS bakers for your patience and understanding with this week's recipe. Sorry it was a little last minute getting it all pulled together.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Cupcake Goodies from Mom

I know Mother's Day is long gone for the year and Father's day is around the corner, but there really should be many more days of appreciation for mother's shouldn't there (I hear a resounding yes from you hardworking mothers!). I couldn't adequately express the proper gratitude and admiration for my wonderful Mother, so I am not going to try to write a long tribute, but I will say, a few things. Like my Mother has the biggest heart. Not only did she adopt me and my three sisters and give us amazing lives and opportunities, she works with abused, neglected, abandonded children trying to find suitable homes for them and would - if possible - adopt many more children herself. She's just amazing and she is my rock - we may not see eye to eye all the time, but has always been and always will be there for me. Her love and support is always felt.

So, this does have something to do with baking, I promise. See the stuff in the photo above, my Mother has sent this stuff and more (cute cupcake stickers not pictured) in many little packages over the last few weeks, with notes of love, recipe clippings, etc. It is soooo cool - THANKS MOM. I mean who doesn't like to receive good snail mail - and unexpected snail mail with very cool treats at that - man that's up there. She got most of the cool stuff pictured, like cupcake magnets, napkins, plates, x-mas ornament, journal from the wonderful Michaels for awesome discount prices. So, if your headed to Michaels soon and would like any of this stuff ... maybe you are planning a cupcake party, or just collect the stuff, look out for it there.

Thanks mom. So, in case you were wondering, I have gotten all of your packages, I LOVE them, and of course, wouldn't mind if you keep making my day with your awesome snail mail. Love you.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

More Birthday Cupcakes

Cupcakes - I almost can't believe I am choosing to FINALLY bring you the last of the birthday cupcakes from my friends Jen's and Steph's birthday party after staying up till 3:30am last night baking 8 1/2 dozen regular cupcakes and 4 dozen mini cupcakes. My second cupcake order! So fun - stay tuned cause I went all out with the decorations (IMHO). But, I am crazy like that, so here they are.

The 3rd flavor was strawberry cupcakes. I made 1 dozen of my go-to strawberry cupcake recipe - the ones my sisters always insist that I make when I go home and fight over - and 1 dozen of the Sprinkles strawberry cupcakes. I am sticking with my go-to strawberry recipe. The Sprinkles cupcakes rose a lot but instead of nice domes, it was flat and spread over the top of the cupcake pan - not cool. Seems this happens to me with one batch every time I make a bunch of cupcakes. So might not be the recipe, but what was the recipe was the use of pureed strawberries instead of chopped - and that makes a big difference. Tracey of the awesome blog Tracey's Culinary Adventures recently tried the Sprinkles strawberry cupcakes so you can check out her experience and adaptation.

I did, however, prefer the sprinkles frosting recipe as it was much thicker, tasted great and piped well. So, from now on, I will be combining my favorite strawberry cupcake recipe with Sprinkles strawberry frosting recipe. Click here for a Printable Recipe.

And, I must take a moment to thank the lovely Bunny of Bunny's Warm Oven for teaching me how to provide you with clean printable recipes. Thanks so much Bunny. You should check out her site, her photos make me drool, and she is on the top of my list for my Blog Love project.

Finally, the fourth cupcake flavor was Mocha Chip with Chocolate Buttercream frosting. I actually don't have much to say about these, as most of the feedback I received that night - after a few - ok, probably like a few to many - adult beverages was about the #1 Cupcakes that I posted about. But, these went fast and furious too, and the recipe is from one of my FAVORITE cupcake books - 125 Best Cupcake Recipes by Julie Hasson. Seriously, this is the one book that I go to all the time. There are great simple basics and clever flavor combinations - all of them easy to make and they provide a great basis for playing around. And these mocha chip cupcakes have both ground coffee and instant coffee granules for a nice strong coffee flavor. Click here for a Printable Recipe.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

SMS: Bear's Peah Cobbler

I am happy to return to Sweet Melissa Sundays. And what a great dessert to return to. This week's recipe of Bear's Peach Cobbler was chosen by Andrea of Nummy Kitchen, and judging by her posts, her kitchen sure looks nummy. You can get the recipe for this cobbler here. This was my first time making a peach cobbler, so I was excited.

As it turned out, I was invited to a lovely brunch today, so I got up early and made the cobbler to bring along. While there was no shortage of delicious food at the brunch, the cobbler was tested and got great reviews. I couldn't taste it because I didn't have lactose free products at home. The recipe was simple enough, although blanching and then peeling those peaches took FOREVER. Man, that felt like a lot of work. I see that Andrea skipped the peeling and I think I will too next time!

The dough was easy to make and I got to use my pastry blender that I bought for Melissa's pie dough recipe, so that was cool. I forgot to add the lemon zest to the dough (actually I subbed lime for lemons because that is what I had), so I rubbed the lemon zest with the sugar that you are supposed to sprinkle on top of the biscuits before baking. I also added a dash of nutmeg because I really like that spice and therefore, think everyone else should too! People definitely noticed the spice and the lime flavors and liked it. I hope to try this later this summer lactose free so I can try it. Great recipe, thanks Andrea.
As always, you can check out the other Sweet Melissa wonder bakers here.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Blog Love: Bakingblonde's Cookies

So, I am back from my AMAZING vacation in Hawaii (I know, cry me a river). Sorry I didn't make it around to your blog while I was gone, I ended up going with the cold turkey approach to all things digital. It was very refreshing, but I am so glad to be back (to blogging) and have set aside this evening to get through my google reader.

I have a few missed TWD and SMS posts to get up, but for my return to blogging I bring you my first "Blog Love" post. I just love love love so many of your baking/cooking blogs and have been bookmarking and printing your recipes for a long time now. I was inspired by the magnificent Donna of My Tasty Treasures (who blesses us with gorgeous firefigher photos, among other things) and her Imitation posts, and thought I should do a post in honor of a blog I love when I bake at least two of their posts. And so, there you go - my first Blog Love post.

So this post is in honor of the amazing, stupenduous, awesome blog Bakingblonde. Go and check this great blog out if you don't already have it in your google reader. She is so creative, I love it. I have a ton of recipes of hers that I want to try, but this post is about her Intense Chocolate Shock Cookies and Butterscotch Rice Krispies Cookies (click through for the recipes). I have been on a cupcake and cake kick lately and wanted to return to cookie monster land and bake up some cookies for the SF Food Bank bake sale I baked for a while back.

These were AhhhhMAZING. I made a few tweaks, adding Reeses Pieces instead of chocolate chips for the chocolate cookies. And for the butterscotch cookies I added some peanut butter (chunky) in place of some butter (I think it was 1/4 cup peanut butter in place of 1/4 cup butter but can't remember, sorry) as Bakingblonde suggested and added a tad more water because my dough was a little too crumbly at first.
Thanks Bakingblonde. I love your blog.