Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Swirly Rose Strawberry Cake

A friend requested this cake for a special occasion----her sister, who lives with her family in Germany, is here for a visit, and she has been craving American cake!  :)   This is a frosting-lover's dream cake!

The strawberry cake recipe is my own variation of a few "doctored up" cake mix recipes I've seen.  The result is a moist cake with a wonderful strawberry flavor.   It's perfect paired with vanilla buttercream (as I used here, tinted pink), or with strawberry buttercream.

The swirly rose pattern on top is so very easy-----just use a super big star tip (such as 2D or 1M) and make large swirls, close together.  Fill in with swoops so that no cake shows through.  (You want to crumb coat the cake first so that the swirls have something to adhere to.  I say this from experience.  Trust me.  ;)  )

Strawberry Cake

1 box strawberry cake mix
1 cup flour
1 cup sugar
1 tsp. clear vanilla extract
1 cup sour cream
1 cup frozen sliced strawberries with syrup, thawed
3 eggs

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together cake mix, flour, and sugar.  Add vanilla, sour cream, eggs, and berries with syrup.  Beat on low with an electric mixer until combined.  Stop mixer and scrape down sides of bowl.  Beat on medium speed for 2 minutes.  Pour into greased pans----two 8 inch, two 9 inch, or one 9 x 13.  Bake according to package directions.  Cool in pan for 5 minutes.  Remove to cooling rack and cool completely before frosting and decorating.

Tuesdays with Dorie: Chocolate Truffle Tartlets

One word:  decadent

That's how I would describe these rich, chocolatey desserts!   The recipe made six 4 1/2 inch tartlets, and 1/3 of one satisfied my typically-large sweet tooth.  Wow, so rich.

This is my second recipe with the Tuesdays With Dorie group, and again, I've had a blast!   Today's hosts are Steph of A Whisk and a Spoon, Spike of Spike Bakes, Jaime of Good Eats and Sweet Treats, and Jessica of cookbookhabit.   Please visit one of their blogs for the recipe and some fantastic photographs of their baking adventures!

The recipe was easy to follow and it fairly warned the reader of what to expect with the crumbly chocolate dough.  I appreciated that when I found myself handling a pile of what seemed to be dry crumbs!  Sure enough, with patience and persistence, the dough came together beautifully, and was surprisingly easy to roll after some time in the fridge.

The filling is divine, with chunks of milk chocolate, white chocolate, and biscotti.  Again, so rich!

My kids think anything sprinkled with powdered sugar is extra fancy, so I dusted on a bit before serving.   Since we each only ate a portion of a tartlet, we're all looking forward to "seconds" tonight for dessert!

The recipe for Chocolate Truffle Tartlets, by contributing baker David Ogonowski, can also be found in Baking With Julia, by Dorie Greenspan, the cookbook the Tuesdays With Dorie group is baking through.  :)

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Angry Birds Cake

Benjamin loves playing Angry Birds!  This birthday cake is perfect for him.  The birds and pigs are all hand-sculpted with rice krispie treats and fondant.  I think I caught they're individual personalities pretty well, don't you?   The candy rocks are chocolate.  Yum.

Here are the birds and pigs up close!

50th Anniversary Cake

Happy 50th Anniversary!  Truly an occasion worth celebrating!

Friday, February 17, 2012

Homemade Samoas

It's Girl Scout Cookie time!!  I certainly buy my fair share of Samoas and Thin Mints, but when I saw this recipe on the internet recently, I just had to try it.  The website I was reading also had a recipe for Thin Mints, so I'll surely try that soon too!    Don't these look scrumptious!!

I'll not lie.  This is a time-consuming recipe.  But if you're like me, you *like* this kinda messy fun!!

Homemade Samoas

            1 cup butter, softened             2 cups flour
            ½ cup sugar
            ¼ tsp. baking powder
            ½ tsp. salt
            ½ tsp. vanilla extract
            2 Tbsp. milk

            3 cups shredded coconut, toasted
            1 bag caramels (16 oz), unwrapped
            ¼ tsp. salt
            3 Tbsp. milk

            12 ounces semisweet chocolate or milk chocolate chips
            1 Tbsp. shortening

Also needed:  

            Two round cookie cutters, one smaller than the other, to cut a round cookie with a hole in the middle.

Prepare shortbread dough:   Beat together butter and sugar with an electric mixer until light and fluffy.  Add flour, baking powder, salt, vanilla, and milk and beat until combined.  Dough will seem dry.  Form into a flat disk with your hands and refrigerate wrapped in wax paper for at least 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line cookie sheets with parchment paper.  Roll half of the shortbread dough between two sheets of wax paper to about 1/8-1/4 inch thickness.  Cut with cookie cutters.  Place on cookie sheets with ½ inch between each.  (Dough will puff some, but not spread.)  Bake 10-12 minutes or until lightly golden.  Cool on cookie sheet for a few minutes before removing to wire racks to cool completely.   Repeat with remaining dough.  Reroll scraps and refrigerate again if dough seems too soft .

Prepare topping:   melt unwrapped caramels, salt, and milk in a microwave safe bowl, on high for 1 minute.  Stir and microwave again in 30 second to 1 minute intervals, stirring between, until caramels are melted and smooth.  Stir in toasted coconut.

Using an offset spatula, spread coconut-caramel topping on cookies.  Return to wire rack to cool.  Repeat with all cookies.

Line cooled cookies sheets with wax paper.

Prepare chocolate:   in a medium sized bowl, melt together chocolate chips and shortening, in microwave, on high, for 1 minute.  Stir and heat again for 30 second intervals until smooth.

Dip bottoms of cookies into the melted chocolate and allow excess to drip off.  Place on wax-paper lined cookie sheets to cool.  Once you’ve dipped all the cookies, pour remaining melted chocolate into a Ziploc baggie.  Snip off the tip of one corner.  Drizzle chocolate on tops of cookies.

You may want to refrigerate cookie sheets to help set the chocolate.  Store in an airtight container.


Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Spiderman and Milli Valentine Cake

What a special cake for two little Valentines!  Milli and Spiderman are made using the frozen buttercream transfer technique.  I love this technique for detailed images like these.  I also love the 3D effect that it gives the cake.  It may appear to be a complicated technique, but it's really not.  :)

Start by finding the image you would like on your cake and print it in mirror image.  I like to look for coloring pages for crisp, clear images.

Tape the printed image on a cookie sheet, and then tape wax paper on top.

Outline the image with black buttercream using a #2 tip.  Here's a tip:   you may already know how it can be difficult to achieve a dark black color when coloring your own buttercream.  It can also have a bitter taste.  What I do is keep a tube of store-bought black frosting on hand for things like this.  The tube will keep for months and months, and I'm save the time and energy of coloring just a small bit of black frosting!  So anyway, outline in black:

As you can see I did not outline all the little details like Mille's eyes, mouth, and flowers on her dress.  I'll add them later.

Stick the cookie sheet with outlined image in the freezer for 15-30 minutes while you color the rest of your buttercream.  Get piping bags ready with the different colors, using tips #2 or #3 or #4. 

Remove the cookie sheet from the freezer and fill in the colors.  Stay within the sections, but make sure the colored buttercream touches the black.  Do not color outside the lines.  (Your kindergarten teacher would be so proud!)

Now pipe with white buttercream (or whatever color your cake is being frosted in), covering the entire image.  Make sure the white completely covers the black and reaches the wax paper.  Use an offset spatula to smooth.  (Sorry this photo is blurry, but you get the idea.)

Stick the cookie sheet into the freezer for at least 30 minutes.  You want the buttercream to really firm up.  Go ahead and frost your cake at this point.  And do your dishes!  And play with your kids!  And check email!  Not that I can get all that done in 30 minutes, but maybe you can.  ;)

When your cake is frosted and smoothed and ready for the image, remove the cookie sheet from the freezer.  At this point you have to work quickly.  Make sure your hands are clean and dry.  Quickly remove the tape from the wax paper and place the wax paper and image on the counter top.  Gently peel away the wax paper, invert the image in your hands, and place on your cake.  You have one shot at this.  The buttercream with very quickly start to soften and the warmth of your hands will smear the colors if you're not careful.  Again, be quick and purposeful! 

The result is an adorable cake with a 3D effect! 

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Baseball Mitt Cake

How cute is this for a little boy turning 6?  Austen loves baseball!  Last year his birthday cake was a baseball field, but this year I wanted to do something a little different for him. 

I carved a two layer, 12 inch round cake into the shape of a baseball mitt and added some simple details of the lacing on a mitt.  The baseball is a "cake truffle", made with cake scraps and frosting, then covered in rolled fondant.  I'm sure Austen will love taking a big bite out of the baseball!!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

My cake creations!

Light saber cupcakesRacetrack cake"Hippie Chick" cakePink rosebud cakeAshley and Josh's wedding cakepirate ship closeup
Max's pirate shipMarli's princess castleStephane's cupcake cakeJustin and Beth's cakeSoccer team cupcakesSteelers cake
Josh's birthday cakeHannah's Pumpkin Patch cakeClose up of pumpkinsClose up of Michelle and Scott's cakeJJ's smash cakeJJ's 1st birthday cake
Michelle and Scott's wedding cakeMario cookiesMatthew's Mario cakeMario cupcakesEthan and Isaac's Mario cakeTom and Rebekah's vow renewal ceremony cake

Valentine Sugar Cookies

This is my favorite cut-out sugar cookie recipe!  It's so easy to work with, and the cookies keep their shape as they bake, not spreading out, so you can use detailed cookie cutters without issue.  They're buttery and sugary and so delicious.

Aren't these little Valentine cookies adorable?  

A friend came over yesterday and we made a *huge* batch of cookies for our families, and also for our daughters' class.   My friend and I are the Party Parents tomorrow for their Valentine Party, and one of our activities will be decorating cookies!  (Of course!)  ;)

Since we had plenty of cookie dough, I also make some cookie pops for my children's teachers.

GR8 TCHR.  Get it??  Like a candy conversation heart!  Translation:   Great Teacher!  Hehehe.

These cookie pops are decorated with royal icing.    The process is time-consuming, but the cookies turn out shiny and beautiful and delicious!!   To begin, bake and cool your sugar cookies.  This is the recipe I use, called No Fail Sugar Cookies, which I heard great things about on Cake Central, an online cake gallery and forum.  In the recipe below,  I've added a few of my own notes on how I roll the dough out.

No Fail Sugar Cookies

6 cups all purpose flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
2 cups butter
2 cups sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon salt

In a large mixing bowl with an electic mixer, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add eggs and vanilla and beat well.  Scrape down sides of bowl.  Mix dry ingredients and add to butter mixture.  Mix well, scraping down sides of bowl as needed.   Roll a portion of the dough between two sheets of wax paper, about 1/4 inch thickness.   Place rolled dough and wax paper on a cutting board or cookie sheet and place in the fridge.  Repeat with remaining cookie dough.  Once all the dough has been rolled out, beging cutting cookies with the first batch of dough you rolled out, leaving the remaining dough in the fridge to chill.  Cut with cookie cutters and place on parchment paper-lined cookie sheets.  Reroll scraps of dough and cut again.  You do not need to refrigerate this dough since it will most likely still be cold from the fridge.  Sprinkle with colored sugar if desired.  Bake cookies at 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes or until just beginning to turn brown around the edges.   Cool on cookie sheet for a minute or two, then remove to a cooling rack to cool completely

As for decorating cookies with royal icing I've learned a lot from Bridget on Bake at 350.  Her cookies are AMAZING and really put mine to horrible shame.  I'm improving though!  Her photographs and tutorials are beautiful, so please go visit her blog.

I use her recipe for royal icing.  It works every time!!   I'm just going to link you there.  Again, this blog is truly amazing.   Royal icing recipe.

First you outline the cookies with royal icing.

Then you "flood" the cookies with thinned out royal icing.

At this point you must let your cookies dry overnight.  The top crusts over really quickly, but the icing is still wet beneath that crust.  Be patient!   After the royal icing has dried completely, then you can pipe on the lettering or other embellishments.

Decorating cookies with royal icing does take time, but the results are beautiful, edible works of art!   Have fun!