Year in pictures?

Yeah, I’m a bit behind here. And rather than try and write detailed posts for everything I’ve done since January, I’m just dumping a bunch of pics and one liners about each item and if anyone wants a recipe let me know and I’ll provide the link, this way I can start fresh going forward into holiday baking season!

Is anyone listening to me (if peeing your pants is cool, consider me Miles Davis). And I just lost my last reader to that somewhat obscure reference.

Here goes (and not even necessarily in chronological order because lord knows how my computer decided what order to load these)…

1. Spritz Redux: We remade the spritz that got jacked in the prior post for New Year’s Eve. Made in yellow with gold sprinkles. The 4 year old (at the time) was super excited about a cookie gun. Sigh.

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2. Chocolate cream pie – this was for New Year’s Eve too. It was awesome.

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3. I don’t even remember what I made these for but I think they were cake batter cookies. They were good.

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4. Superbowl Sunday football cupcakes. Nothing special, just chocolate cupcakes but frosted in football shapes.

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5. Valentine’s Day sugar cookies with my makeshift royal icing (I never have meringue powder on hand and am too squeamish for raw eggs so I usually just mix milk and powdered sugar). We used these for teacher gifts for preschool.

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6. Valentine’s Brownie Pops. Red velvet brownies cut into heart shapes, frosted with buttercream then shoved onto sticks. Except they were too heavy/dense to keep on the sticks and would roll over as soon as you picked them up. Tasted good though!

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7. St. Patrick’s Day thumbprint cookies. Just your typical chocolate cookies with hershey’s kisses, we just made them holiday appropriate with green sprinkles. I actually found them pretty blah.

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8. Chocolate chip cookie dough pie. The crust is a giant cookie. YES.

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9. Chocolate cake with salted caramel buttercream. OMG this frosting. I can’t share these recipes because they were from a dear friend who owns a bakery in California and is sweet enough to share recipes with me to use for the birthday of our twins we lost to prematurity. But this cake and frosting especially was AMAZING.

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10. Passover macaroons. Nothing special/fancy about these but we liked them. They’re not burnt, the bottoms are dipped in chocolate.

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11. Matzo crack. Like Christmas crack but made with matzo. I used sliced almonds for the topping.

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12. Easter cookies to follow Passover. Yeah, we’re confused. Just regular sugar cookies with royal icing but I got meringue powder and made real royal icing this time. It was a pain in the ass.

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13. Easter nest carrot cake cupcakes. These were all about presentation but also yummy! We brought them for Easter brunch at our best friends’ house.

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14. Purple cake. This was just a vanilla cake with vanilla buttercream, purple because it was the day of our annual March of Dimes March for Babies (and their trademark color is purple).

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15. Pumpkin whoopie pies. These are from just a week ago. I intended to just make soft pumpkin cookies and ice them but they were so cake like they reminded me of whoopie pies so I found a cream cheese frosting recipe and sandwiched them. BIG hit.

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16. Halloween cupcakes. Recipes from my bakery owner friend, both vanilla/almond cake (I tend to swap vanilla extract for almond) and the orange had vanilla buttercream, purple had almond buttercream. Monster and bats.

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17. Tart cherry cobbler. We stupidly signed up for a fruit/veggie CSA this summer (stupidly because we don’t have time to cook all the obscure things they sent and the kids wouldn’t touch most of it). But we did get nice fruit for baking. I had helpers.

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18. Chocolate cake with salted buttercream frosting again. Remade this for Gammy’s (my mom’s) birthday.

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19. Peach cobbler muffins. Another made with CSA haul, we got SO many peaches.

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20. Memorial day berry trifle. Not really “baked”, especially since we used store bought angel food cake for the cake part, but it looks pretty and is a prepared dessert?

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21. Pumpkin chocolate chip cookies. These were more of a regular cookie (vs cake) consistency than the other pumpkin cookies we used for the whoopie pies. Delicious.

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Ok. Hopefully I’ll remember to post after each treat going forward so I can include more info. Thanks if anyone is still checking here ever!!!

YUM (aka chocolate cake with toasted marshmallow filling and malted chocolate frosting)

This was my “Happy Birthday to Me” cake – as it was for the source blogger, Brown Eyed Baker. Recipe in its entirety at source here: http://www.browneyedbaker.com/2013/03/25/six-layer-chocolate-cake-with-toasted-marshmallow-filling-malted-chocolate-frosting/?crlt.pid=camp.jQkyeDqUDJD8

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It was labor intensive, and decadent, AND I ended up having to make it twice because something went awry the first time.

Ingredients: (specifics at source)

Cake:
flour
sugar
Dutch-process cocoa powder (I just used Hershey’s)
baking soda
baking powder
salt
eggs
buttermilk
strong black coffee
vegetable oil
vanilla extract

For the Toasted Marshmallow Filling:
marshmallows
powdered sugar
unsalted butter
vanilla extract
Marshmallow Fluff

For the Malted Chocolate Frosting:
unsalted butter
powdered sugar
Ovaltine Classic (I actually got malt powder – I wanted more malted flavor than from ovaltine)
vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
semisweet or dark chocolate chocolate, melted and cooled
heavy cream

So, I’ve spent enough of my life on this cake that I’m not spending as much blogging it. LOL. So, to summarize -Mix dry stuff for cake and wet stuff separately, slowly add wet to dry and mix 2 minutes. Pour equally into three round cake pans (I think recipe called for 8″, we used 9″. Bake approximately 32 mins. at 350 (rotate at 20 minutes).

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Toasted marshmallow filling – oy. You’re supposed to broil the marshmallows until brown then flip them. Um, no. Mine spread and flattened and were too sticky to flip. They then congealed into a sticky/crispy/solid-ish mess that was impossible to mix into the powdered sugar/butter/fluff mixture.

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Then, the frosting. Typical buttercream with powdered sugar and butter, plus melted chocolate chips and malt powder, and heavy cream.

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After all that, to assemble, you have the slice each cake in half to make six layers, then put the marshmallow filling between them, then frost with the frosting.

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(Does that look like three layers, not six? Congrats, you just passed preschool math. More on this later.)

Final product, first try.

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So – looks good right? Except the husband and I return from birthday date night, cut in, and he finds a little chunk of glass that he bites down on. EEK. Not sure where it came from but we were both too freaked out to eat any more after that, so we tossed it. I was sad. So two three days later when home from work with the kids I remade it but only did 3 layers to make it easier.

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It was really good – but I think the combination of wasting all the time making it twice plus the sheer richness ended up in me not adoring it. The cake part was amazing. And the frosting was amazing. But together, I think it kind of overwhelmed me. Not so much that I didn’t take sveral bites every time I opened the fridge until it was gone, though.

 

Pumpkin Cake!

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My brother’s birthday often coincides with our annual Halloween get together, so it seemed only fitting that he get a Halloween themed cake. I went with something that looked cute but wouldn’t have me up until 2am baking entirely from scratch so I decided on a bundt cake from cake mix. Didn’t really use a specific recipe other than borrowing from numerous things I saw on Pinterest.

Ingredients:

  • 2 boxes cake mix (I used chocolate – accidentally used 2 different mixes. Sigh. Different shades of brown).
  • Ingredients box mixes call for (typically eggs and oil I think).
  • Buttercream icing (powdered sugar, butter, vanilla, food coloring). I have any number of recipes on other posts for it. Do NOT used shortening because (a) it tastes bad (meaning you’ll have to start over with real butter if you’re like me), and (b) it says this on the box which is terrifying:photo 2
  • Glaze – I don’t even remember the recipe I used but I think it was mostly cream cheese, milk and powdered sugar. Sorry, I’m lazy, but you can google glaze recipes.
  • One green ice cream cone.

Bake the 2 cakes according to package instructions. Note that I used a shit-ton (technical term) of cooking spray to ensure clean removal from Bundt. Here I am with my weapon and wearing the awesome R. Kelly “Hot and Fresh out the Kitchen” apron the husband got my for Mother’s Day.

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Stack one cake on top of the other upside down to make a pumpkin shape. Drizzle with the glaze, then decorate detail with buttercream. Stick ice cream cone in middle for stem.

Mine was kind of a hot mess, but it tasted good!

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Strawberry Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

This one was for my mom’s (aka “Gammy”) birthday. Wanted cupcakes, something fun, and summery as it was mid July. Found a perfect recipe here, relatively easy too as kids wanted to help bake for Gammy.

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I found this recipe on numerous sites just googling to see if I could locate it (including here and here) so here it is reproduced.

Ingredients:

  • 1 white cake mix
  • 1 (3 oz) box of strawberry gelatin
  • 2/3 cup canola oil
  • 1/2 cup of frozen sliced strawberries in syrup, thawed
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 4 eggs

Make cake mix as directed but add the jello to the dry mix before doing the rest, and as the last step add cut up strawberries ( I used fresh, no syrup). Bake as directed for the most part (at 350 for about 16-18 minutes). I then used cream cheese frosting instead of the one with the recipes. Typical recipe – I used 4 oz. (half package) softened cream cheese, 4 oz (1 stick) butter, softened, 2 cups powdered sugar, 1 tsp vanilla extract. Mix all together, pipe onto cupcakes.

Then, because I like things pretty, I sliced strawberries and topped each cupcake with a sliver.

Key Lime Cake!

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I was a big fan of this one. Made it for our friends’ birthday dinner. I searched a lot online for a recipe that sounded right to me and finally settled on this one from “Alaska from Scratch“.

Ingredients (see source for specifics):

  • cake flour
  • baking powder
  • baking soda
  • salt
  • butter, lightly softened
  • sugar
  • eggs
  • fresh key lime juice (easier said than done without a juicer/squeezer. I may have squeezed the shit out of a few limes manually).
  • key lime zest
  • green food coloring gel (I used Wilton Leaf Green)
  • buttermilk

I’ll skip the instructions which can be found from the source, but it was relatively straightforward. I used a generic cream cheese frosting recipe online vs. the one at the source blog, and frosted only the top with the sides visible. Then I cut a few lime slices and twisted them as decoration. It was DELICIOUS and pretty. Win/Win.

Doodle Birthday Cake – 5 years

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I am so behind on blogging and about to dump a lot of recipes/baked goods here to catch up before fall/holidays (i.e. my big baking months approach). First, my biggest/most important baking event of the year: the birthday cake for our twins that passed away. This year, I got a recipe for a from scratch vanilla cake from a sweet friend that owns an amazing bakery in California, Beverly’s Best Bakery. Therefore I won’t share the actual recipe but will tell you that based on the AMAZING cake we ended up with, combined with some delicious cookies she shared when we met recently in Austin, Texas, anyone close enough to try her bakery should RUN there. 🙂

So, vanilla cake from scratch, double layered, together with green buttercream (green was always “their color” that we’d painted their room for a boy/girl room). I wanted a little more interest to the buttercream so used lemon extract in place of vanilla with a traditional buttercream recipe.

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The initials (for their names, Noah and Talia) and butterflies were melted white chocolate piped onto wax paper through a pastry tip.

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Thanks to the assist from my pro friend and the baking skills I’ve been honing over the last few years, this was by FAR my best effort yet for their cake. It was delicious, DH said it tasted like wedding cake. I was so proud to be able to honor them with such a beautiful cake!

Yellow Cupcakes with Buttercream Frosting

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So, I had the (probably ill-fated) idea to try and make the cupcakes myself for my kids’ birthday party (in June…yes, I’m crazy). If I did this, I’d need to make them the night before and was concerned about buttercream melting. I did some googling and found that if you use shortening instead of (or at least halved with) butter the buttercream stays more stable and won’t soften at room temperature. I am NOT a fan of shortening though, it skeeves me out intensely. I decided since I had 4 months to plan, I’d give shortening based frosting a go so I did my first run a couple weeks ago.

Spoiler Alert – HATED it. I made one or two minor modifications from some pro baker friends of mine but not ALL of their modifications. Maybe if I made all of their changes I would have liked it.

Second spoiler alert – I didn’t like the cupcakes either. LOL.

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Both recipes from Wilton.

Wilton Yellow Cake:

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Ingredients:

[Note – I halved this because I didn’t want a ton of cupcakes. It yielded about 9 cupcakes at these ratios.]

  • 1.5 cups sifted cake flour [This may be why I didn’t like it. I misread and used regular flour. Not sure if that would have a significant effect or not.]
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoons salt
  • 7/8 cups sugar
  • 1/3 cup butter or margarine
  • 1 eggs
  • 3/4 teaspoons vanilla
  • 5/8 cups milk

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Instructions:

  • Preheat oven to 350°F.
  • Line muffin tin with cupcake liners.
  • Sift together flour, baking powder and salt; set aside.
  • Cream sugar and butter together until light.
  • Add eggs and vanilla to creamed mixture and beat until thoroughly mixed.
  • Add flour mixture to creamed mixture alternately with milk, beating well after each addition.Continue beating one minute.
  • Pour batter into cupcake cups, filling each 2/3 full.
  • Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. [I don’t remember how long I baked but I know it was less than this. I think I may have set initial timer for 20 minutes then checked every couple minutes until done. Total of maybe 25 mins. or so depending on oven?]

Wilton Buttercream:

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Ingredients:

[Again, halved from original recipe]

  • 1/4 cup solid vegetable shortening [Note – GROSS]
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter or margarine softened
  • 1/2 tsp clear vanilla extract (note – I didn’t care about pure white and didn’t have clear so we used regular brown vanilla extract) [and, at your option, 1/2 tsp almond extract]
  • 2 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar (approximately 1/2 lb.)
  • 1 tablespoons milk (or heavy cream)

Instructions

  • In large bowl, cream shortening and butter with electric mixer.
  • Add vanilla. I also added some almond extract, about the same amount as the vanilla, to mask the shortening flavor.
  • Gradually add sugar, one cup at a time, beating well on medium speed.
  • Scrape sides and bottom of bowl often.
  • When all sugar has been mixed in, icing will appear dry.
  • Add milk (I used heavy cream instead at a baker friend’s rec) and beat at medium speed until light and fluffy.
  • Keep bowl covered with a damp cloth until ready to use.
  • I added a few drops of yellow gel food coloring then put in a frosting bag with an open tip and piped in a circle onto the cupcakes, topping with a few sprinkles.

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So, again, not too crazy. First, the cupcakes tasted more like bread than cake, which I’m guessing is from the use of regular flour instead of cake flour. And the frosting still tasted like greasy lard to me. I’m probably just going to order the cupcakes anyway. 😉

Birthday Cake

It’s that time again, the anniversary/birthday of our loss of our twin babies. Sunday was 4 years. While my living children get bakery confections for their birthdays and other celebrations, it’s important to me to go to more effort on this day, especially since this is the only day they get from me. Prior years I’ve used a mix but now that I’m baking more I thought this year warranted a recipe from scratch. I went with Smitten Kitchen’s Best Birthday Cake (although I don’t know if I agree with the designation after the final product):

Best Yellow Layer Cake:

4 cups plus 2 tablespoons (480 grams) cake flour (not self-rising)
2 teaspoons (10 grams) baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon (5 grams) table salt
2 sticks (1 cup, 1/2 pound or 225 grams) unsalted butter, softened
2 cups (400 grams) sugar
2 teaspoons (10 ml) pure vanilla extract
4 large eggs, at room temperature
2 cups buttermilk (475 ml), well-shaken

Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter two 9-inch round cake pans and line with circles of parchment paper, then butter parchment. (Alternately, you can use a cooking spray, either with just butter or butter and flour to speed this process up.)

[This time I wasn’t messing around. I actually made a special trip to Hobby Lobby (aka the tenth circle of hell) specifically for parchment paper, and even picked up some cake boards (which I forgot to use). I have pretty much NEVER been able to properly extricate cake from pan prior to this attempt, so I am now officially a parchment paper convertee. But I may have uttered an exasperated “Jesus!” in the cake-making aisle at Hobby Lobby and scandalized my fellow shoppers. Whoops.]

Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl. In a large mixing bowl, beat butter and sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium speed until pale and fluffy…

[Um – we’re starting out with butter and sugar – am I wrong, or aren’t they pale to begin with? Fluffy is a little easier to gauge as compared to our base point, but still a judgment call. This is what I deemed worthy of the pale/fluffy designation.]

…then beat in vanilla. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well and scraping down the bowl after each addition.

At low speed, beat in buttermilk until just combined (mixture will look curdled).

[Kinda curdled?]

Add flour mixture in three batches, mixing until each addition is just Incorporated.

Spread batter evenly in cake pan, then rap pan on counter several times to eliminate air bubbles.

[Here’s my batter. It was way lighter/fluffier than I’m accustomed to seeing cake batter (usually when I’ve made cake the batter is much more liquid than this, so I was CERTAIN I had seriously messed something up).]

(I like to drop mine a few times from two inches up, making a great big noisy fuss.) Bake until golden and a wooden pick inserted in center of cake comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes.

[Mid-baking they were super inflated and again, certain I’d messed up, but as seen below, they came out ok after all.]

Cool in pan on a rack 10 minutes, then run a knife around edge of pan. Invert onto rack and discard parchment, then cool completely, about 1 hour.

[Hey, look at that – perfectly de-panned!]

[I do have to say though, after finishing/eating, that the cake was a bit dry, which I attribute to (i) probably over-mixing, since the instructions to just barely beat in the flour were hard to follow when I kept finding lumps and extra flour on the sides of the bowl, so I think I mixed more than intended, and (ii) we ate it directly out of the fridge where I had to hide the finished product from grabby almost 3 year old hands.]

Chocolate Sour Cream Frosting
Adapted from The Dessert Bible

Cooking note: Be sure that your sour cream is at room temperature before you make the frosting.

Makes 5 cups of frosting, or enough to frost and fill a two layer 9-inch cake

15 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped [I used morsels which I think was a bad choice. ]
1 1/4 teaspoons instant espresso (optional, but can be used to pick up the flavor of average chocolate) [Skipped it ]
2 1/4 cups sour cream, at room temperature
1/4 to 1/2 cup light corn syrup
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Combine the chocolate and espresso powder, if using, in the top of a double-boiler or in a heatproof bowl over simmering water. Stir until the chocolate is melted. (Alternately, you can melt the chocolate in a microwave for 30 seconds, stirring well, and then heating in 15 second increments, stirring between each, until the chocolate is melted.)

[Yeah, so the microwave thing didn’t work, I ended up with a giant congealed hunk o’ chocolate. We don’t have a double boiler so we then tried the bowl over simmering water thing which, after vigorous stirring by the husband for a long time, finally somewhat melted the chocolate which we then IMMEDIATELY threw into the sour cream rather than risk it re-congealing.]

Remove from heat and let chocolate cool until tepid.

Whisk together the sour cream, 1/4 cup of the corn syrup and vanilla extract until combined. Add the tepid chocolate slowly and stir quickly until the mixture is uniform. Taste for sweetness, and if needed, add additional corn syrup in one tablespoon increments until desired level of sweetness is achieved.

Let cool in the refrigerator until the frosting is a spreadable consistency. This should not take more than 30 minutes. Should the frosting become too thick or stiff, just leave it out until it softens again.

So, here’s the final steps of decoration:

1) Leveling the layers: I followed the layer cake tips on the source site and froze the cakes for an hour or so before finishing and decorating and it made things super easy. I just sliced the rounded tops off with a kitchen knife using my own eye to make as flat as I could, and I think it came out ok.

2) Frosting: So, I haven’t had a TON of cake frosting experience and I was far too stingy with the frosting. Frosted the top of the first layer and put the second layer on, and you couldn’t even see the frosting. :/

Then I frosted the outside of the cake and I thought it looked beautiful, but I had a ton of frosting leftover which, in retrospect, I should have used all of. Oh well. The finished product LOOKED beautiful, and tasted ok.

Again, I think it looked much better than it tasted. The cake was a bit dry, and I wasn’t crazy about the sour cream frosting. Next time I’m sticking with buttercream!