Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Everyone's Favorite Shortbread Cookies

These cookies are my most requested cookie. My mother loves them and so does my mother in law. I very rarely go visit without a box of these. They are so simple and delicious. It's just butter, sugars, flour and salt.

Mine Craft Cake

I cannot believe how long it has been since I posted here. The summer disappeared beneath kitchen construction, the fall whizzed by with vacation and hurricane Sandy.
So hear we are with Christmas breathing down our necks!
One of my recent awesome experiences was making an 11th birthday cake for the grand daughter of a dear friend. The birthday girl wanted a Mine Craft themed cake. I had never heard of Mine Craft so I had to do some research. What I found was pretty fascinating but I was concerned about how I was going to pull this off. Have you seen Mine Craft? It is all rectangular and pixilated with lego shaped characters. I knew this would be hard but I never turn down a challenge. 
The cake was to be an 8" square so I had to learn how to make a perfectly square cake. Have you ever done this? Much harder than I imagined and very time consuming. Once again, I checked out "You Tube" to learn how to do something. I watched an instructional video by "Cup A Dee Cakes". I think I did a decent job of squaring off my cake and next time I will know more about what I am doing.
The top of the cake is covered in fondant, the sides are butter cream and the figures are made from rice krispie's and marshmallow. What do you think?

It may look a bit amateurish but that's okay,
 because I learn as I go.

Friday, July 6, 2012

I'm So Glad....

I am a big fan of Gesina Bullock Prado! I have read her book "Confections of a (Closet) Master Baker" twice and am constantly referencing it. I have been wanting to try her recipe for carrot cake and was "So Glad" when a friend asked me to make one for her daughters birthday. I tried it out first on another friend who invited us over for dinner. I said, "I will bring dessert", giving them no choice about it.
I confess that I had a lot of trouble with the cream cheese icing. The recipe called for 16 oz. cream cheese and 4oz. butter. I usually use 8 oz. of butter and 8 oz. cream cheese. I wanted to follow Gesina's recipe but added more sugar hoping to firm it up a bit. Oh, I remember what I did. The first cake I made, I used low fat cream cheese and realized afterwards  that must have been the problem. The cake did get rave reviews form my friends though. When I made it the second time, I used regular cream cheese and it was firmer but not as firm as I would have liked. It had to be put in the refrigerator constantly in order to work with it. I wonder if this is typical.
All in all though,  I must say, this is by far the BEST carrot cake I have ever had!

What Was I Thinking????

I am in the process of  kitchen remodel hell! This began on June 13th and it is still going on! In the middle of this, we went on vacation (it had already been booked way before I decided to do the kitchen), and I had already committed to do a cake for an event that was being held on July 5th, the Thursday after we got back. Now you know why I titled this "What Was I Thinking?". I still have no kitchen sink so I am bending over the bathtub to wash dishes. Thankfully my appliances were delivered on Monday! My dear friend Joanne offered me the use of her kitchen and I really considered it. In the end I decided it was better to tough it out here, there is no place like home.
It was insane and exhausting! All my equipment was dispersed among my daughters empty bedrooms so I spent half my time looking for stuff. My husband rigged up a temporary counter for me, small but it was a clean flat surface to work on. I never realized how many times I washed my hands while baking until I had to run back and forth to the bathroom sink.

         The end result was fabulous! The event was a wedding rehearsal dinner. They wanted to have a frog on top of the cake representing the groom and a girl figure sitting down next to it representing the bride. The frog was made from rice krispie  and marshmallow, covered in fondant. I have never made a human figure before but, of course, I said "Sure, I can do that for you!" The girl figure was made of just fondant. In retrospect, I should have used the rice krispie mix on her body. The fondant was soft and kept slumping so I had to keep working it. The cake was vanilla with strawberry filling.  I dyed the butter cream with the colors of pond water in mind and applied it to the cake in a way that would  show texture and movement.
          My husband delivered the cake yesterday. It was not assembled because I was concerned about it not surviving the car trip. Therefore, I only have pictures of it in pieces. I asked if they could send me a picture of it after it was all put together. When I get the picture,  I will post it.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Slippery Little Suckers

Some friends were coming over for dinner and one of them is gluten intolerant. A perfect opportunity to try making something gluten free. So,I picked up some "Bob's Redmill" gluten free baking mix thinking I would make a pie of some sort.
This stuff handles so differently from regular flour and let me say this; it tastes gross when it is raw. It had me worried but I continued.  I had some pears and thought  that a pear tart would be lovely. I found a recipe on Martha, it looked easy enough. Well, it was a little tricky because those pear slices were slippery and I just could not arrange them nicely. So, this looks a little messy and in spite of the dough being gluten free and being nasty tasting when raw it turned out to be quite good.  I know this looks burnt in some spots, I assure it was not. I want to make it again sometime but with puff pastry instead. Mothers Day is coming up, maybe I'll make it then!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Once Upon A Time...

This cake tells a story. I will start at the beginning, before the story. It is the week before Valentines Day so, of course I am mad busy baking Valentine treats. I also have my mothers birthday coming up and want to make her a cake for our family celebration. Then, my sister calls and tells me she has tickets to go see "The Chew", do I want to go with her? Of course I do, NOT because it is "the Chew" but because I love to spend time with my sister. This means a trip to Long Island so we can take the train together. I figure I can take a day to go have some fun. This turns into two days because we have to get a 6:19 A.M. train so I have to go and spend the night before on Long Island too. This is still doable until......My neighbor contacts me to see if I can make a birthday cake for her mother, the party is this weekend and since her mother is a major frog collector and as of late started collecting fairies, can you make a frog/fairy themed cake? I am not one for backing away from an opportunity to make an awesome cake plus I really love this family so, I said I would gladly do it. Now I am feeling some pressure. I want you to know that I finished this cake 30 minutes before the delivery. 

This is a 10" chocolate layer cake with vanilla butter cream frosting, the filling is strawberries and butter cream The frog body  is made from rice krispies and marshmallow which was covered in royal icing, then fondant. The legs are fondant as is the lily pad it is sitting on. The wings...were made from fondant but for some reason they did not get hard enough to stand up so, last minute I made them out of sculpy. There was no choice and they ended up looking fabulous. I inserted straws into the cake to support the weight of the frog.
The little frogs are made from white chocolate poured into a candy mold.
So, here is the story; The big frog who is also a fairy rules the pond. All the little frogs swimming to the surface are about to be made into  fairies and will then live to serve the big fairy frog. They all live happily ever after!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

A Few Firsts

I have never made meringue butter cream, simply because I was afraid to. 
I had been baking all week and had two cakes to make at the end of a long week, both requiring butter cream frosting. I didn't have enough confectioners sugar and did not want to run to the store (twenty minutes there, twenty minutes back and you know how it is the supermarket...) because the clock was ticking away. I decided to make an Italian Meringue.  Why not take a chance and overcome a fear. I got the recipe from the book "Sugar Baby" by Gesine Bullock-Prado and followed the recipe to the "t". This recipe requires a lot of patience and determination. Everything that Gesine said would happen, did. It curdled, it fell apart but I kept on whipping it and I ended up with a lovely butter cream. I will have to double the recipe next time because I had barely enough to cover a three layer cake. Which brings me to my second first. Since I did not have enough butter cream, I decided to make lemon curd to fill the cake with. I checked the "Sugar Baby" book but did not have the organic agave nectar called for in the recipe, so I used Martha Stewart's recipe. It was so easy, what was I so afraid of? Perfectly tart!
All of the above was so I could make my mother a beautiful cake for her 79th birthday.
It was a 3 layer lemon cake, cannot remember where I got the recipe but it did have greek yogurt in it. The flowers are made of fondant (Duff's) and the flower centers are mini marshmallows that were cut in half. I thought they would stick because, well, marshmallow is sticky. Nope, they fell off so I had to make royal icing to glue them on with. Since there was not  enough Italian Meringue butter cream, I had to steal the regular butter cream from my other cake to do the piping with. I  have made this lemon cake a few times before and it was perfect, this time it was a little too dense, not sure what happened. 

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Sad But True

This was a first for me. A friend of my husbands asked me to make a cheesecake for Christmas. Naturally, I said "oh sure", then I said oh shit! I never made a cheesecake. So, after I did a quick "google" search, I decided to would try Alton Brown's recipe. One of my problems was trying to figure out how to get it off the spring form base and onto a cake board. Alton's recipe was made in a regular cake pan lined with parchment, one of the reasons I chose it. Of course I had to make a practice cake to ensure  its  deliciousness. I followed his instructions to the "t" with the exception of the pan size. The recipe was for a 9" pan and I used a 10". The cake was a little shallow, but incredibly delicious and very light. My husband and I had a piece a night for a week :-) It was a winner! The only thing was that I wanted it to be a little taller as if it were made in a 9". 
So this is where the trouble began :-(  I had a moment of brilliance and decided to double the recipe and make an 8" cake and a 10" cake. How hard could that be? The 10" went on the top rack in the oven and the 8" was placed on the bottom rack, one on the right the other on the left.  Again, I followed the baking instructions. When  it was time to remove them from the oven, they were a little jiggly. I was pretty sure that that my practice cake did not do this. So I continued baking for another 10 minutes. I was afraid!! After I turned off the oven I let them sit in the oven for another hour. They were still jiggly!!! I was sure if I let them cool for six hours in the frig they would be perfect! NOT!!! I took the 10" out of the pan, got it on a cake board and then realized it was raw in the middle. WHAT THE HELL????? I was freaking out a bit. The 8" was also undercooked. It is now 1:00 a.m. and my husband will be up in three hours to take this cake to work. I had to get the cake back in the pan, no easy task, not very pretty, not even remotely  pretty! Thank God I had a back up cake, I would give Donald's friend the 8" . That had to go back in the oven too. The clock is ticking and now my husband is awake, he heard me swearing. The cakes come out of the oven and they have to cool before they come out of the pan. I test for doneness and put them in the frig.It is 3:30 a.m. and I cannot wait any longer. I have to get this out of the pan and into a box. The darling 8"baby comes out of the pan, it looks perfect! I am so relieved and happy, we are rejoicing! I am rushing, I am delirious, it is waaaaay past my bedtime. I flip it over onto the cake board and.......SQUISH! My beautiful cheesecake is now a pancake. Needless to say, Donald's friend did not get his cheesecake. I ended up sharing them with family over the holidays and they were ugly but very delicious!!