Monday, July 28, 2008

how sweet it is... be loved by cake. And yes, as a comfort eater, I do honestly believe that food (desserts in particular) have a very special love for the person partaking of them. Am I a bit looney? For sure, but you can't tell me that a piece of cake has never made you feel good...or perhaps I am the only one. My husband and I have a dessert just about every weekend. At his request, this weekend we had a dessert that did not include chocolate. I was rather stumped because just about everything I bake involves chocolate in some way--icing, filling, etc.--but he did not want even a cousin or uncle to chocolate hovering around his dessert. Okay, okay. I get it--no chocolate! I began sifting through my favorite blogs and found a recipe for Sweet Almond Cake with Lemon Curd and Lemon Mascarpone Icing on The recipe was taken from Sweet Melissa's Baking Book and let me just tell you-- it. was. delicious. I don't think I have ever loved a non-chocolate dessert so much. Chocolate should really be jealous--and worried! I might just have another lover on the side...

Sunday, July 20, 2008

hats off

So, I have to thank Elisa Strauss for publishing the book Confetti Cakes (see link in previous post or 'books to love' to your right) because without this book, I could not have made my latest fondant creation, an open hatbox cake. My mother-in-law was in town this weekend to attend a friends fashion party. Since I hope to start a business and need the practice, I asked if she would like a cake. After much drawing and planning I came up with the idea of a hatbox and got busy purchasing everything I would need. I made the tissue paper and bow three days in advance while on conference call with my girlfriends who very politely asked that I stop crumpling parchment paper--nobody could hear anything I was saying. Thursday morning my daughter and I ran to the grocery store for last minute ingredients and then I proceeded to bake (using the vanilla cake recipe in Confetti Cakes). I will not bore you with the details, but the first cake was a total disaster! I don't know the science of it all, but the baking pan I used was 3 inches deep and while the outside was cooked, the inside was pure mush. By the time the inside was cooked the outside was burnt. Fabulous. Trip to the grocery store for more ingredients. Vanilla cake: take two. Much better. Friday morning my mother and brother-in-law were on board for watching my darling one-year old while I faught with, I mean, decorated, the cake. I am not the greatest slicer of cakes and so some troubles ensued. Luckily, I was able to cover some of my slicing mistakes and all was well. Covering with fondant was also not the best--I rolled it too thin and you could see through a bit to the cake. Lesson learned--when directions read 'roll to 1/4 in. thick' it means 'roll to 1/4in. thick', not 'roll until fondant is transparent!' At the end of the day, however, the cake turned out fantastic and everyone was more than pleased with it. Sure, it has it's little flaws, but the big picture, well I was pretty darn proud of myself. It was certainly the hit of the party until, of course, my one-year old and all of her cuteness stole the show. But that's okay, I guess--I made her too!

the cure-all: chocolate chip cookies

Sometimes, there is no other cure for an ailment but a chocolate chip cookie. Something about it just heals my whole heart when I take bite after bite, and I just can't get enough of that chewy texture and warm chocolate. Last week was a little rough--I was incredibly frustrated and feeling a bit down. I wanted a cookie so bad (so bad!) but said 'no, we're trying to lose some weight. No cookies.' Then day two of frustration came around and all I could think about were chocolate chip cookies. It was a morning, noon, and night obsession. And finally, on day three when I just couldn't take it anymore, I made my favorite chocolate chip cookies that are more than worth the few extra pounds I'm carrying and by the end of the evening, life was definitely a whole lot sweeter. These cookies are adapted from Giada De Laurentis of Everyday Italian on Food Network. It is her recipe for Amaretto Chocolate Chip Cookie Sandwiches , however I just bake the cookie portion and it is, by far, my all time favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe. They are so moist and chewy in the middle with just a little crunch on the perimeter. For me, it's all about the almond extract that adds that *umph* of flavor and sets this cookie above the rest. I haven't tried the complete sandwich (which, take a look at the recipe, it sounds delicious), but I'm sure I have a frustrating day or two ahead of me and chocolate chip cookies with an ice cream chaser sounds pretty good.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

not so vanilla...

My style of dress is quite simple, classic even, generally with a pop of color or something ultra modern in the form of a shoe, handbag, or maybe even jewelry. My closet is full of clothes I could wear today, or even ten years from now and still look fresh and 'in style'. Fussy--no room for it in my wardrobe. Over the top--no thank you; it's just not my style. However, when it comes to food and sweet goodies, bring on the fuss! I like a brownie full of nuts, with ice cream and caramel syrup. A cake? Chocoloate with chocolate chips and chocolate icing- I want more, more, more. So it was a bit odd to me when I was drawn to a vanilla cake recipe. I really just don't do vanilla, but something in my giddy little taste buds kept saying 'bake it, eat it, love it!' The approach was much like the classic style of dress with a pop at the shoe, giving birth to vanilla cupcakes filled with almond flavored ganache, and topped with buttercream icing and fondant accent. Check out Confetti Cakes for the vanilla cake recipe (I made it with four whole, large eggs vs. 7 egg whites). For the ganache: one part heavy cream to one part chocolate (I used plain old nestle chocolate chips), with two teaspoons almond extract--or however much your tastebuds desire. I love the way the cake turned out, extremely soft and light considering I included the egg yolks. I especially had fun with the stamps to make imprints on the fondant accents. The stamps can probably be found pretty much anywhere, but I bought mine at Target--and while your there, why not swing by the jewelry section and buy a lovely pop of color for summer?

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

got milk?

...because you'll most definitely need it with these cookies--and I don't even like milk! Last night I whipped up these rocky road cookies. And, oh, honey! They are fantasticly delicious. One of the moistest cookies I've ever had. Unfortunately, I can't remember where I scored the recipe, but here it is:

Rocky Road Cookies

3 cups all-purpose flour

2 ¼ tsp baking soda

1 ½ tsp salt

1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature

1 ½ cups granulated sugar

1 cup packed brown sugar

3 large eggs

3 tsp vanilla extract

2 tsp instant espresso powder

1 ½ cups chocolate chips

1 cup chopped pecans

1 cup marshmallows (leave them in big chunks, that will prevent them from melting too much)

Preheat oven to 375F.
In a medium bowl whisk together flour, baking soda and salt; set aside. In a large bowl, with an electric mixer, or in a stand mixer, beat butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Mix in vanilla and espresso powder. With a wooden spoon, mix in flour mixture. Stir in chocolate chips, marshmallows, and walnuts.
On a parchment paper lined baking sheet, drop tablespoonfuls of the dough about 1 inch apart. Bake for 10 minutes. Cool 1 to 2 minutes on baking sheet then transfer to wire rack to cool completely.
Note: To make the Chocolate Rocky Road Cookies, replace 1 cup of flour with 1 cup of unsweetened cocoa powder.

I realized at the last minute that I had overlooked the espresso powder and made it without. Really, these cookies made my evening...and part of my breakfast, snack, and dessert... Enjoy!

Monday, July 7, 2008

to cupcake, with love

Oh, how I love, love, LOVE a cupcake. And it is with great apology that I posted about my sugar cookie project this weekend and not about the darling devil's food cupcakes I made yesterday. So sorry little cupcakes. It will never happen again.
So yesterday I made devil's food cupcakes using a recipe from chokylit's blog with vanilla buttercream icing, filled with almond flavored chocolate ganache, and decorated with fondant flowers. But first, let's talk about this ganache. I was so excited about the ganache I couldn't stand it. And me being me, rushing into things the way that I do, did not give the ganache enough time to thicken and piped a liquidy mess into the cupckaes. Biting into the pretty little cake, there was no filling to be found. It had all just seeped, deep into the chocolately goodness that was the cupcake. Luckily, I have left over ganache and will either use it to glaze a cake or fill more cupcakes later this week. Much like the cookies, my piping was a bit out of control at first, but got better as I went along. The fondant flowers turned out so cute though and sat perfectly on top of a dollop of buttercream. Every girl needs that lovely accessory to complete her outfit, and these lovely, chocolate ladies got just that.

school's out for summer...

...And I am LOVING it! I just finished a 5 week, accelerated statistics and probability course (which, I might add, I got an 'A' in) and finally have time to start baking again. Two whole months without school--I'll be a heifer and a half with all the baking! So I got right back into it with my first project: wedding and baby themed, iced cookies. My best friend's sister just had a lovely baby girl, and a good friend from college recently turned 30 (ahh!) and got married and I wanted to send a little something--not to mention, get some practice in before I jump into starting a (very) small business. Next to ice cream, cookies are probably my favorite little treat. Why not share the love? With the help of my favorite food blog and the book Confetti Cakes by Elisa Strauss (great for fun and trendy ideas) I flooded my first batch of cookies. The end result? Not half bad for my first time around. It was a lot harder than it seemed--but isn't that always the case--and piping the perimeter of the cookies was particularly challenging. A steady hand is quite necessary. My lettering could also use some practice. Again, steady hand = necessary. I also made a custom cookie for my newly 30 year old friend. He's a kindergarten teacher by day and a dj by night so what better design to make than a turntable cookie. That's right, a turntable. Here, I 'glued' two square cookies together with royal icing, iced the cookies and covered in fondant. It was actually easier than flooding cookies--let's keep hope alive with the piping on cookies. If I can conquer statistics, piping cookies has to be right around the corner...