Sunday, June 29, 2014

Change is hard... but good!

Finally broke down and upgraded my computer. The blue screen of death prompted the change. I put it off for so long because I looooved my photo editing software and I knew I would have to learn to photoshop anew. Like blurring the background in my cake pics so you can't see all the great things I have in the background!

Anyway, blue screen of death. New computer, new software, blah, blah blah. Here's how it all comes around to cake: I have learned to take better pictures. :-)

The large box as a background worked for a long time. But a white box began to show marks from where I slid the cake across to the center. Marks I had to photoshop out. After looking at pictures from other bakers, I decided to try the black background approach. $2 at The dollar tree for two sheets of black foam board. And wah-lah, better cake pictures! No photoshop needed.






I guess a little change can be a good thing!

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Coyote Trail Gluten Free

Most of my cakes are super moist. Super rich. Even in the traditional White Almond Sour Cream cake, I use whole eggs to add a depth of flavor and a little structure to the cake. These are the things I have been looking for in a gluten free recipe. And let's not forget, ingredients readily available.

I have tried chocolate and vanilla from Bob's Red Mill GF Cake Mix, Betty Crocker GF Cake Mix, Cake Doctor recipes, and an online recipe for a GF Citrus Chiffon.

All of the vanilla or citrus were ok, not remarkable, but not something I would say a "Coyote Trail Gluten Free Cake."

The chocolate mixes on the other hand, I could not stand. Not a one. Not any brand, nor any doctored mix,

Until.....Bisquick! I love Bisquick in everything. Even their Velvet Crumb recipe. When I saw Gluten Free Bisquick I had a glimmer of hope. It is available at every store in town, no adding special xantham gum, or rice flour.

Tried 3 recipes from the King Arthur Flour Gluten Free Baking Mix page: GF Vanilla Cupcakes, GF Chocolate Cupcakes, GF Sour Cream Coffee Cake.  I would use KAF if it were available here. Thankfully Bisquick works.

Holy Cow! 3 recipes I can get excited about! I recommend adding 2 tablespoons of pudding to the cupcake recipes. As for the Sour Cream Cake, I left out the filling and the glaze then baked it into cupcakes! Moist and delicious!!!

These are the GF Sour Cream batter baked into cupcakes. Nice and round tops, fluffy and moist on the inside. Each recipe makes a scant 4 cups batter, about 12 cupcakes or one 8" or 9" layer cake. To make the cake below would require 3 batches of the recipe. This is a GF Vanilla cake with buttercream and fondant decorations.


The last note to share is that my kitchen is NOT gluten free. However, I wash all utensils, pans and my mixer thoroughly before beginning any gluten free projects.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Up the Learning Curve

Of all the things I learned cake making last year, there a few little tips are the make a huge difference.

1. Cake Photography

If you are an amatuer photographer like me, with a point and shoot camera, the single, most helpful purchase I have made is a large cake box. White on the outside. Largest one I could find in our little town.14" square cake box.  I folded it inside out, white is on the inside, leaving the top up and the front open. It is the perfect background for cake. Also, I have taped a little bit of white tissue paper over my flash to make it not so harsh. However, placing the white box near a window during daylight is the best condition all around for lighting.

2. Measuring Ingredients

The second most important tip I have learned is to weigh my shortening for frosting. I use a 1:1 ratio with butter. Once the butter is in the mixer, I use that wrapper to weigh out the shortening. Why is this important? Simply because it is one less mess measuring cup to wash. It only makes a difference if you are also the Head Dishwasher in your bakery.

3. Stacking Cake

There are plenty of websites that describe in detail how to stack cake. If it is a small two tier cake, you can use large soda straws, not the skinny ones. Google "bubble straws" and you'll see what I mean. I can find those near the ice cream cones in our local grocery stores, for milk shakes I think.  But if you want to stack more, a lot more, you need this:


A brand new, stainless steel, unopened pair of nail clippers. These clippers are absolutely perfect for cutting wooden dowels without leaving splinters. It is easier and safer than cutting plastic dowels with a knife. Quicker, cleaner and more precise than a hacksaw for wood. No splinters, sanding or dust to worry about when you stack a cake. Give me a pack of wooden dowels and these clippers and I can stack cake all day.

A few little tips can go a long way up the learning curve!

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Favorites from 2013

Oh my gosh! Looking through all the pictures from this past year. Truly a privilege to have been a part of so many fabulous celebrations.

Chocolate and ganache always receive lots of love on Facebook and in person too!



There are a couple of "most requested of the year" designs:


Birthday cakes are so much fun!!






And then there were some "special projects" this year. This were cakes that require hand painting or multiple mediums, and lots and lots of time. 




Thanks for taking a little stroll through some of my favorite cakes from 2013!

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Mini Cheesecake Bites

There are those days. Those days when your child says something like, "Oh yeah and I need a dessert today." Really. Today? I like to think, plan, shop and create something special, unique, just for you! Not just throw something together at the last minute while running out the door. 

Today was one of those days. And I found myself standing in the grocery store aisles thinking, "I can do this last minute. I know I can. What would Sandra Lee do?" Thank you Sandra Lee for reminding everyone that semi-homemade can be special too. 

Here's the Mini-Cheesecake Bites I pulled together in less than 15mins, not including the trip to the store!


Mini Cheesecake Bites Recipe

Crust
1 pack of Chocolate graham crackers, crushed and mixed with 
5T melted buttter
2T sugar

Press 1t into each mini cupcake cake liner.

Filling 
No-Bake Cheesecake Mix combined with 
1 1/2 Cup Milk

Follow directions on package for the the filling. Set the graham crust packet aside for another time. 
Pipe the filling into the mini cupcake liners. Leave room for the topping.

Topping
Whip Hershey's White Chocolate Pudding with 
2 C whipping cream till it thickens. 

If you whip it too long it won't look as pretty, but will taste as good! Try not to eat this all straight from the bowl. Use the same piping bag with a star tip to pipe a little swirl on top of the mini cheesecakes.

Finally, drizzle a little of the fudge sauce on top. I used some peppermint ganache I had already made. If you want to add a little peppermint extract to the fudge sauce you can. I used peppermint candy oil. I think they carry it at Michael's.

Let the cheesecake bites set-up in the fridge for an hour. Although I think I had a little less time than that today and it was no problem. The picture a quick shot while running to the car :-) 

Here's what I can do with a little more notice: 

Red Velvet Cake with White Chocolate Frosting, Peppermint Ganache and Chocolate leaves
Hope you are making some sweet treats for the holiday! Merry Christmas


Monday, October 14, 2013

4 Ways to Flood a Cookie

My single biggest stumbling block to icing sugar cookies is flooding. You've seen those cookies with the smooth flawless royal icing finish. It is luck of the draw for me, sometimes perfection, sometimes less.

As usual, I choose to focus on what I can do, rather than what I can't. That has led me to....

4 Ways to Flood a Cookie

1. You can actually flood the cookie with royal icing. Sweet Sugarbelle has some great tips on how to do this. When I can get the right consistency of icing and have the patience to flood a cookie, it is magic!
 These little apothecary cookies turned out super nice. I made a 100 in one setting and was pleased with the outcome.

2. Another great way to achieve that fabulous smooth background color is fondant. Cheating? Maybe. But it is awesome. If you use a fondant smoother on your cookies when they are just out of the oven, you can gently smooth out any bumps before you attempt to cover your cookies. Oh yes, be prepared to place the cut fondant on a hot cookie and you won't have to add any other icing to glue it together.
 I love, love, love the way these snowflake cookies turned out. I was able to add some royal icing piped lines to accent the fondant details. Super clean and polished.

3. If you are not opposed to painting, you can use an egg wash to get a solid background color on your cookie. This approach worked really well on these ornament cookies. Slightly opaque and shiny, it was a super quick way to add color. The down side is the edges weren't crisp. With all the detail for the ornament, it didn't matter. Just keep those edges in mind when planning your design. Even The Pioneer Woman likes this technique :-)

4. Finally, and I can't believe it has taken me years, Years, to figure this out: color your cookie dough. <face palm> For some reason the thought occurred to me last night to just color the dough. Duh. I made the royal icing transfer faces a day before to let them dry. Then attached to the cookies as soon as they cooled with a little dab of royal icing for each piece. I piped on a few additional orange line to mimic pumpkins and tah-dah. I think I might try this again and use a really thin powdered sugar glaze to add a little shine to the cookie before piping the details.

Seeing so many amazing cookie ideas on the web is inspiring.  If a cookie project seems too complicated, focus on what you can do and create something fabulous :-)

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Cheerwine, Ice Cream and Cake, Great!

Had a moment to experiment last week. Wanted to try the melted ice cream cake recipe with Cheerwine! Although you can buy Cheerwine pound cake locally, I was hoping for a more "Cheerwine" flavor.

Since Cheerwine syrup isn't available, I thought that melted Cheerwine ice cream might do the trick. However, all that was in Food Lion was sherbet. Don't you remember a Food Lion brand Cheerwine swirl ice cream? Oh well, sherbet was the new plan.

The recipe is very, very simple. A cake mix of your choice, 2 cups melted ice cream, three eggs.  Mix and bake.

I made a simple glaze with powdered sugar and Cheerwine but couldn't wait for the cake to cool to try it! So the glaze melted some. It was delish. I didn't run my knife through the batter once it was in the pan and thus the air bubble. But the kiddos didn't mind.


However, I have to say, not quite the distinct Cheerwine taste I was going for. I tried a second attempt but that vanished so fast, no pictures! I made a marble cake but instead of chocolate, I boiled about 2 cups of soda for about an hour to make a syrup and mixed that with the 1 cup of batter. It was a really good cake. I think this marble Cheerwine concept deserves a third attempt. I'll post a picture next time I experiment.