Archive for May, 2009

A Cake Tasting, New Adventures In Cake…

Saturday, May 30th, 2009
The Inside of a "Tasting" Cake

The Inside of a "Tasting" Cake

Like all girls, I grew up planning how my wedding would look in my head.  I would wear a huge white princess gown and glass slippers as if I were one of the characters from a fairytale.  Let’s just say as I got older my wedding visions changed along with me.  There were even points where I simply wondered will this wedding thing ever happen? 

I have been to many weddings and seen the stress the bride goes through to make it an “event to remember”.  To me it seemed they spent most of the evening saying hello, thank you and making small talk with guests they barely knew.  All that money spent on a party for people I really don’t know, not for me.

I chose a much different route – quick vows witnessed by actual people in my life and then a party with great cake and food to follow.  My mother made all the food, dad picked the wine, my sister baked an incredible cake, and my best girlfriend took the pictures.  Although not that grand of an event, I feel it was something that created a memory for my friends and family.       

Cake Tasting Ingredients

Cake Tasting Ingredients

Over the past few months of writing this blog I have become increasingly more busy making cakes and other confections for people.  I was approached with the offer to do a wedding cake for a friend’s sister.  I was excited and terrified thinking about taking on this colossal effort.  Unlike my wedding, this wedding has somewhere between 250-300 people attending.  That is a whole lot of cake!

I spoke with the bride over the phone about her vision, and what she likes and doesn’t like.  I suggested a few ideas from my head and then we set a date for a cake tasting.  I have no personal experience with the concept of cake tasting, so I did some investigating.

a-cake-tasting1

Some bakeries you must schedule an appointment and pay a fee refundable upon ordering.  I have also heard of mass tastings held by bakeries in house or at bridal fairs allowing many to taste their confections. 

Typical me, I chose to be different.  I wanted to give her three 3 inch mini layer cakes. Me and my big ideas, ugh!  

Three Mini "Tasting" Cakes

Three Mini "Tasting" Cakes

This proved to be more of a learning experience and a lesson of what not to do.  Let’s just say, I bit off more than I could chew and had lots of leftover cake. 

The cakes did taste wonderful, of course, but after all the time baking, cooling, and cutting I didn’t have the time to make them works of art like I had planned.  This however, was a cake tasting, and taste prevailed…I got the job!  Now the work can begin…

In order to keep the brides selections and plans confidential – I am not going to disclose any flavors or recipes.  Let’s just say I am very excited about what she decided on!  Look for upcoming posts on this cake adventure

Have I Told You About My KitchenAid Mixer?

Thursday, May 28th, 2009
KitchenAid Stand Mixer

KitchenAid Stand Mixer

For many years I have been doing all of my mixing with Mom’s retro Sunbeam stand mixer.  She’s got great style with her stainless steel bullet shaped design.  But…I’ve come to learn that style is not everything when it comes to baking.

I was recently gifted a KitchenAid stand mixer!  After using it only a few times, I have no idea how I ever baked before.  The sheer power and sturdiness of this beast makes me weak in the knees.  I can do twice as much in half of the timeI am woman, hear me roar!

Paddle, Whisk or Dough Hook  –  who knew the magic of these three things?

KitchenAid Mixer

KitchenAid Mixer

Often I would get frustrated reading a Martha Stewart recipe when she would describe textures of how butter and sugar should look after a good creaming.  Beaten egg yolks were described as looking like a light lemon curd – not mine.  That was nearly impossible with my Sunbeam. 

My kids would laugh at me when I would stick my hand mixer in the Sunbeam in order to get that extra boost when making Swiss Meringue Buttercream.  Laugh no more – now that I am fitted with the proper mixer.  Surely, there are other great mixers on the market, but for me – my new love is my Kitchen Aid!

KitchenAid, are you getting all this?  :)

Chocolate Cupcakes, Cream Cheese Frosting

Monday, May 25th, 2009
Chocolate Cupcake with Cream Cheese Icing

Chocolate Cupcake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Some think Memorial Day Weekend is time to relax, I feel the opposite.  No rest for the Cake Lady!  Grandma Marion is turning 87!  Holy Moley!  My family and I spent our relaxing Sunday celebrating Grandma’s birthday and putting in my mother’s garden. 

I love Sunday’s at my parent’s house, they just feel good.  Growing up, my sister and I spent every Sunday at my mom’s parent’s house swimming with our cousins and then having a huge feast towards the end of the day.  Thinking about it brings a smile to my face. 

Another thing that brings a smile to my face is Grandma Marion.  Chocolate is the way to her heart so I baked her some extra large chocolate cupcakes with cream cheese frosting…YUM!  Once again, Ina Garten provided me with a great recipe which I swear by – Beatty’s Chocolate Cake

Chocolate Cupcake Batter

Chocolate Cupcake Batter

The cake comes out just the right, great texture and the perfect amount of chocolate.  Cream Cheese Frosting, who doesn’t like that?  Simple and easy, plus it compliments the chocolate oh so well. These chocolate cupcakes are sure to be crowd pleasers.

More Chocolate Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Icing

More Chocolate Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

Cream Cheese Frosting

What You’ll Need:

  • 1 8oz. package of cream cheese (not whipped)
  • 1 stick unsalted butter
  • 8oz. powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Directions:

 1.) Make sure cream cheese and butter are room temperature. Cream butter and cream cheese together until smooth. Add vanilla, blend. 

2.) Slowly add powdered sugar and blend until smooth.  Quick note; this is not a stiff frosting and does not pipe well.  I use this frosting for cupcakes and simple cakes…Tastes great!

Cooking Out Keys Style

Sunday, May 24th, 2009
Cooking Out Florida Keys Style.

Cooking Out Florida Keys Style.

I apologize for the lack of posts in the recent week.  I have good reason – vacation.  We just returned back from the Florida Keys – Hawks Cay on Duck Key to be exact.  So very nice!

It was a week full of sun, good food, massages, facials, fishing, kayaking and friends.  So you can understand the lack of posts.

We spent most of our time with Drew and Jen, our two friends that live there – how lucky are they?  Drew was nice enough to take us out fishing – which you can imagine is hard work since we both are pretty much useless when it comes to fishing.  

Fishing in the Florida Keys

Fishing in the Florida Keys

Drew also took us on a two hour eco-tour on kayak.   Overall, kayaking was fun – and great exercise!  We explored - seeing a good amount of wildlife.  Unfortunetely, we had a loss - Joe’s wedding band.  The ocean floor must be littered with lost wedding bands.

After the day of kayaking we were starving, so it was back to Drew’s for a cook out – Key’s Style as I like to say.  Margaritas, guacamole, split lobster tails with chili lime butter, grilled steaks, grilled corn and more margaritas

Grilled Corn and Lobster Tails with Chili Lime Butter

Grilled Corn and Lobster Tails with Chili Lime Butter

Jen makes a mean margarita!  So good in fact that I had to “borrow” the recipe.  The recipe contains beer, which at first I thought was odd - but trust me, it really is good.  The beer seems to mellow out the tartness of the limeade which makes for smooth drinking.   Oh yeah, and I should  probably mention that these are pretty strong.  As my husband says, “these will get you where your going”… you have been warned.  Make these on the next sunny day for an instant vacation.

Jen's Margaritas

Jen's Margaritas

Jen’s Margaritas

What You’ll Need:

  • 1 can or bottle of light beer
  • 1 can frozen limeade
  • 7 ounces tequila
  • 2 ounces orange liquor (Gran Marnier or Triple Sec)

Directions:

1.) Blend and serve over ice.

2.) Drink

3.) Repeat

The Perfect Mojito

Thursday, May 14th, 2009
The Perfect Mojito - It's Classic

The Perfect Mojito - It's Classic

Joe and I are headed to the Florida Keys on Saturday for some much needed R&R.  This has me thinking of the hot sand, fresh seafood and fruity cocktails.  This brings me to the perfect summer cocktail – the Mojito.  Say it with me now – “moe-hee-toe”.   It just sounds like summer, doesn’t it?

Traditionally made with just five ingredients – white rum, sugar cane juice, lime, carbonated water and mint – the Mojito has spawned many variations.  Some better than others…the best being the classic.

I’ve had my share of Mojitos – who hasn’t?  Mojitos on the beach, Mojitos from the local bar, Mojitos from my favorite restaurants, even Mojitos from chain restaurants -which I should add, are usually not “Mojitos”.   The best being the one that takes just a little too long to prepare.  “Hey, where’s my drink?”

Any Mojito fan knows that it takes time and good old fashioned elbow grease to properly muddle the lime, sugar syrup and mint. 

So what is muddling anyways?  Muddling is a somewhat gentle but thorough mashing or bruising of the mint with the sugar and lime at the bottom of a glass.  Muddling helps to release the juice and the essential oils in the mint.  The mint adds a nice cooling sensation on your tongue.  It really is a lovely combination – so refreshing.

So, start your weekend off right – here’s to the Classic Mojito!

The Classic Cuban Mojito

Glass: Highball
Garnish: Mint

  • 1 ½ oz. Cuban Rum
  • 1 oz. Lime Juice
  • ½ oz. Sugar Syrup
  • 8-10 Fresh Mint Leaves
  • Top with Club Soda

Directions:

1.) Start by muddling the mint leaves, sugar syrup and lime in the base of your glass.  Not sure how to muddle?  Click here for a muddling demonstration

2.) Fill your glass with ice, add your rum, and then top off with club soda. Stir and enjoy.

Technical Issues

Wednesday, May 13th, 2009

We have had some technical issues today on the site – we apologize for those of you who visited and were unable to reach us.  We are back – thank goodness!

Sugar Free Splenda Pound Cake

Tuesday, May 12th, 2009
Sugar Free Splenda Pound Cake

Sugar Free Splenda Pound Cake

NOTE: This is not a SUGAR FREE cake – it is made with Splenda for baking, which does contain sugar.

Families face challenges, some harder than others – but the beauty of family challenges is that you face them together.  My family has recently faced some new challenges – mom was recently diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes.  This was such a shock since although she hadn’t been feeling all that well for a few weeks, she wasn’t displaying any of the classic diabetes symptoms.

So here we are, already a few weeks later and the way we do things has already changed, the way we cook and eat has changed – it had to. But all for the better – these changes will benefit everyone in the family.  We obviously can - and will – still get together and enjoy food, we just will be enjoying healthier options.

This Mother’s Day was our first “Diabetic Friendly” holiday.  I cooked fish in parchment with very light salt, little oil, and lots of flavor – ginger, lime zest, garlic and a bit of heat.  I also made a Greek Couscous with grilled vegetables, pine nuts and cheese.  The recipe was inspired by the recipe for Grilled Vegetable and Israeli Couscous Salad I found on Things Alauna Makes.  My recipe was similar but I omitted the tomatoes and used a sugar free vinaigrette instead.

Jody got the hard part – dessert. She took on the challenge of working with Splenda to create something a bit more health conscious and fine for mom or any diabetic to eat – a Splenda Pound Cake.  Splenda is one of the better sugar substitutes in my opinion, it doesn’t have that bitter aftertaste that Sweet’N Low has.

The batter for this sugar free cake turned out like any other – not nearly as sweet, but the texture was the same.  The cake rose nicely and had a beautiful golden brown color to it.  The recipe states to bake the cake at 325 degrees for 1 hour and 20 minutes, this is far too long.  I set my timer for 1 hour, but took it out after 45 minutes.  Be sure to watch this one!

The flavor was more like a shortcake, my mother thought it tasted like Lorna Doone cookies.  I can’t say it was moist like pound cake either…this could have been due to the baking time, not sure? We served the cake with some beautiful fresh berries (blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, and strawberries) and a dollop of Splenda sweetened whipped cream.  Overall, the presentation was beautiful and the taste was pleasant.  There is much work to be done in this new chapter of my baking life…more sugar free treats to come!

Sugar Free Splenda Pound Cake With Berries and Whipped Cream

Sugar Free Splenda Pound Cake With Berries and Whipped Cream

Sugar Free Splenda Pound Cake
Yield: 18 servings

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups sifted cake flour
  • 1 1/2 cups SPLENDA(R) Sugar Blend for Baking
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 6 large eggs
  • 1 (8 ounce) container sour cream
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Nutrition Info:

Per Serving

  • Calories: 306 kcal
  • Carbohydrates: 34 g
  • Dietary Fiber: 0 g
  • Fat: 14 g
  • Protein: 4 g
  • Sugars: 16 g

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
  2. Grease and flour a 10-inch tube pan or a 12-cup Bundt pan; set aside.
  3. Combine flour, SPLENDA(R) Sugar Blend for Baking, and baking soda in a large mixing bowl. Cut butter into flour mixture with a fork or a pastry blender until crumbly. (This procedure may be done with a mixer at the lowest speed. Cover mixing bowl with a clean tea towel to prevent spattering).
  4. Combine eggs, sour cream, and vanilla in a small mixing bowl; add 1/4 of the egg mixture to flour mixture. Beat at low speed with an electric mixer until blended. Beat at medium speed for 30 seconds or until batter is smooth, stopping to scrape down sides of the bowl. Repeat procedure 3 times.
  5. Spoon batter into prepared pan.
  6. Bake for 1 hour and 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan on a wire rack 10 minutes. Remove from pan; cool completely on a wire rack.

Grandma Garretson’s Chocolate Cake

Friday, May 8th, 2009
Grandma Garretson's Chocolate Cake in Cupcake Form

Grandma Garretson's Chocolate Cake in Cupcake Form

I love receiving recipes – so of course, I was pleasantly surprised when my sister in law, Geri, sent me the recipe for her grandmother’s chocolate cake. 

My sister came over to help me prepare the cake – we decided to make an evening out of it.  We called this evening a  ”study in gum paste” since we were going to decorate the cupcakes with gum paste flowers. 

The evening started with a quick trip to the local Hobby Lobby for gum paste making tools.  Cupcake wrappers, gum paste mix, gel food coloring, and a set of gum paste tools and we were out the door.  I already had the gum paste flower cutters from a previous occasion.

Then, off to the local grocery store for snacks and wine – yes, I did mention we made an evening out of it ;-)

Wine of the Evening - Oberon

Wine of the Evening - Oberon

Once we were home, Jody began preparing the cake batter, which we must note, turned out very thick – almost similar to a brownie batter.  We decided to do cupcakes instead of cake, since cupcakes are so much cuter.   

Very Thick Chocolate Cake Batter

Very Thick Chocolate Cake Batter

We smoothed the batter out with a spatula – then into the oven.  At that point, I was already working on mixing up the gum paste.  I have worked with gum paste in the past, but had forgotten how labor intensive it really was.  We dyed it four colors with the gel food coloring – green, two shades of blue and an orangey-yellow. 

Colored Gum Paste

Colored Gum Paste

Jody then prepared the icing for the chocolate cupcakes that were now cooling on the stove.  This icing comes out very shiny – similar to a ganache.  The end result is a very delicate looking cupcake.    The chocolate cupcake was very chocolatey and very tasty, and suprisingly moist for how thick the batter was.  If you are a chocolate lover, these are for you.

Overall, we found that working with the gum paste was harder than we expected…but as you can see from the photos – they were adorable.  I have a new appreciation for gum paste or sugar flowers – it truly is an artform.

Thanks again Geri for sending me this recipe – we are sure it will be enjoyed by many.

Gum Paste Flowers on Chocolate Cupcakes

Gum Paste Flowers on Chocolate Cupcakes

Grandma Garretson’s Chocolate Cake

Ingredients:
  • 1 3/4 cups sugar
  • 2/3 cup butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. boiling water
  • 1 cup cocoa

Directions: 

1.) Mix sugar, butter, eggs and vanilla in a large bowl until blended.

2.) Add flour, buttermilk, soda and salt. Mix well.

3.) Combine the boiling water and cocoa in a separate bowl. Add to large bowl and mix.

4.) Spoon cake batter into cake pans. Cake batter with be thick, so you will need to smooth it out with a spatula.  Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit until a toothpick comes out clean in center. For cupcakes, our cook time was about 15  – 18 minutes.

Chocolate Icing
Ingredients: 
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 c. cocoa

Directions:

1.) Combine all ingredients in a saucepan.

2.) Place on med heat until it comes to a boil. Let boil for one minute.

3.) Spread on top of warm cake.  Decorate how you like.  Enjoy!

Our Cute Flowered Cupcakes

Our Cute Flowered Cupcakes

Cookies and Cream Cupcakes

Wednesday, May 6th, 2009
Cookies and Cream Cupcakes

Cookies and Cream Cupcakes

Who wants a cookie?  I do, I do!  No one ever turns down cookies at my house.  The boys have been giving me plenty of great ideas when it comes to new and creative cupcake flavors.  Not only that, but they have become my ultimate taste testers.  I am honored when they ask me to bake for class room parties…simply because it gives me a chance to show off! 

Today’s challenge was to incorporate that classic combo, cookies and cream.  I must admit it was easier than I thought.  I took a classic white cake recipe and added a bit more fat (sour cream) and crushed up chocolate sandwich cookies.  Simple white buttercream frosting tops them off and half of a cookie to give them a bit of crunch.

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Good Enough to Eat…Dog Treats

Monday, May 4th, 2009
Daisy's Favorite Homemade Dog Treats

Daisy's Favorite Homemade Dog Treats

The pet industry is big business.  New products are introduced to the market every year.  Recently I have noticed a growing trend in “Organic” or “Natural” pet foods and treats.  Let me also add these products cost a pretty penny.  I guess the saying goes you get what you pay for. 

Take a moment and read the label on your pets current food or treats, many words I’m not even sure I can pronounce.  I want to know what I’m putting in my body…shouldn’t I know what goes into my pets body?  I started researching homemade dog biscuit recipes and meshed a few ideas together, and this is what I came up with… 

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