My Cake Decorating Gallery

Monday, December 29, 2008

Ina's Easy Sticky Buns

It was Christmas Eve morning and we were ready to have a treat for breakfast at my parents' house. My mom had seen this recipe on Food TV so we gave it a try... these are delicious, rich, sweet sticky buns and they are really easy to make, with only a few ingredients. I made another half recipe of these again for another gathering with friends, after Christmas, and they were still delicious. This recipe is a keeper!

One time I made them without pecans but with raisins and another time I made them with only pecans,... all of these combinations were great and I'm sure there are more additions that would be tasty also. This recipe would work well for a brunch, they tasted great warm or at room temperature. Another note is that when she says " allow to cool for 5 minutes only", she means it... when my friends were over, I was distracted and 7 minutes is too long - I had to do some coaxing. :)

Easy Sticky Buns
As seen on Back to Basics with Ina Garten, and also in her book with the same title (which I got for Christmas!), and on the Barefoot Contessa website
makes 12

12 tablespoons (1 & 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/3 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
1/2 cup pecans, chopped in very large pieces
1 package (17.3 ounces/ 2 sheets) frozen puff pastry, defrosted

2 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2/3 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 cup raisins

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Place a 12-cup standard muffin tin on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the 12 tablespoons butter and 1/3 cup brown sugar. Place 1 rounded tablespoon of the mixture in each of the 12 muffin cups. Distribute the pecans evenly among the 12 muffin cups on top of the butter and sugar mixture.

Lightly flour a wooden board or stone surface. Unfold one sheet of puff pastry with the folds going left to right. Brush the whole sheet with half of the melted butter. Leaving a 1-inch border on the puff pastry, sprinkle each sheet with 1/3 cup of the brown sugar, 1½ teaspoons of the cinnamon, and ½ cup of the raisins.

Starting with the end nearest you, roll the pastry up snugly like a jelly roll around the filling, finishing the roll with the seam side down. Trim the ends of the roll about ½ inch and discard.

Slice the roll in 6 equal pieces, each about 1½ inches wide. Place each piece, spiral side up, in 6 of the muffin cups. Repeat with the second sheet of puff pastry to make 12 sticky buns.

Bake for 30 minutes, until the sticky buns are golden to dark brown on top and firm to the touch. Allow to cool for 5 minutes only, invert the buns onto the parchment paper (ease the filling and pecans out onto the buns with a spoon) and cool completely.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Ultimate Chocolate Martini

I found this recipe in 2007 for the holidays and it has become a holiday tradition for me -- the liquors are sorta expensive, so I limit it to my birthday/Christmas season time of year for a special treat. Of chocolate martini's, my favorite one was from the Town Tavern in Royal Oak, Michigan, because they also included a chocolate truffle in the martini - nice garnish! Also, I like chocolate martinis that taste good, not just like a mouthful of liquor. They are of course $8 or 9+ bucks so I still think it's more economic to buy your own top shelf ingredients, and even little chocolates, to construct this delicious martini at home... and share with your friends! I think this martini is just as good as the best chocolate martini I've had at a bar and better than most I've ordered.

Ultimate Chocolte Martini

Recipe from

In a shaker of ice, add:

1.5oz Godiva chocolate liquor
1.5oz Creme de Cacao
0.5oz Vodka, preferably a top shelf variety
2.5oz half and half

Optional garnish: Chocolate or caramel drizzles, fine chocolates, chocolate truffles, etc

Shake shaker until it feels cold to the touch and serve in your martini glass with garnishes.


Monday, December 1, 2008

Smoked Salmon Frittata

This was just a fun recipe to try from Barefoot Contessa's, Ina Garten. My parents were coming over for brunch and The Husband was out of town so it was a great time to try something unusual. This recipe popped up in my search and I knew my parents would love it, plus it just sounded tasty.

It turned out excellent and I think it would make a great addition to anyone's menu - breakfast or dinner! In fact, since I delayed finishing this post so long, my parents actually requested it again for their visit after the holidays. I'm not really into smoked fish that much, so if you're like me, you may still love this dish - it has a nice balance with the dill and my favorite part was the tangy pockets of fresh goat cheese.

Smoked Salmon Frittata
as seen here, by Ina Garten

1 medium onion, diced
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
12 extra-large eggs
1 cup heavy cream
4 ounces fresh goat cheese, such as Montrachet, crumbled
1/2 pound smoked salmon, chopped
3 scallions, chopped, white and light green parts
3 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Saute the onion and butter in a 10-inch oven-proof omelet pan over medium-low heat until translucent, about 5 minutes.

In a large bowl, beat the eggs. Add the heavy cream, goat cheese, smoked salmon, scallions, dill, salt, and pepper and combine. Pour the mixture over the onions and place the omelet pan in the center of the oven.

Bake the frittata for about 50 minutes, until it puffs and a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean. Serve hot directly from the pan.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Caramel Cake with Carmelized Butter Frosting

Another Daring Baker's Challenge! I actually planned to serve this cake on Nov 29th which was the "reveal date" so as I write this, I have not cut into the cake! I will post a picture of the inside of the cake later after we all enjoy it for my family's Thanksgiving celebration (just a few days later than normal). I already tasted the frosting and it was awesome so I can't wait to try it together.

The caramel cake came together pretty easily, the only "tricky" part was making the caramel sauce. My caramel sauce came out OK though since I did it ahead of time, parts of it hardened but I was able to melt that back down later, for the most part, and I had enough for the frosting and the cake.

The frosting is awesome and I've never used "browned butter" before but that really makes the frosting pretty killer, I highly recommend it. I trimmed off the sides of the cake because I left them in a little long so they were a little crisp, and after tasting that, I know the cake will be awesome. Incredibly moist!

For decorations, I used those delicious Daelman's Original Dutch Caramel Wafers (Stroopwafel) which I thought would fit the theme of the cake. I cut them into little strips and made a windmill of sorts on top of the cake and when I dipped one of the scraps of the wafers into the frosting as a taste test, it was awesome. I highly recommend the combination! Yum!

The recipe is from Shuna Fish Lydon of Eggbeater as posted in Bay Area Bites and our hosts for this month's challenge were Dolores of Culinary Curiosity, Alex (Brownie of the Blondie and Brownie duo , and Jenny of Foray into Food. For those who were making gluten-free, etc versions of the recipe, Natalie of Gluten-a-Go-Go ( was there to assist.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Sugar Free Flourless Chocolate Cake

My dad does the "sugar free" and "flour free" thing so when his birthday rolled around this year, I thought I would try to at least make a flourless cake using unsweetened chocolate and splenda, and hope for the best. All of my cake decorating skills are lost on poor Dad, so this was the best idea I could come up with!

I searched online for a good recipe and there are a few out there but I decided to go with a "normal" recipe and just substitute splenda and unsweetened chocolate and hope for the best. This cake was based off of David Lebovitz's famous "Chocolate Idiot Cake".

I can't say it went smoothly but all in all, it was a success and my dad seemed to like the cake - see below for the notes about my adventure!

Sugar Free Chocolate Idiot Cake

One 9-inch (23 cm) cake

This cake is extremely rich, and tastes like the most delicious, silkiest, most supremely-chocolate ganache you've ever had. As mentioned, it's equally good a few days later, and only an idiot could possibly mess it up. You don't need to use ScharffenBerger chocolate for this cake, but use a good one—you'll appreciate it when you taste your first melt-in-your-mouth bite.

Note for sugar free: This cake will not turn out exactly like David's version if you use splenda and unsweetened chocolate, however a person who never eats sugar will find it enjoyable, and even I didn't think it was that bad. I had meant to use those fabulous Sugar Free Valor chocolate bars but the stupid market in Milford stopped selling those for some reason, so I had to go with unsweetened and hope I was adding enough Splenda. My sugar-free notes are included in the recipe below in bolded italics!

10 ounces (290 gr) ScharffenBerger bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped (I used 10 ounces of ghiradelli unsweetened chocolate bars)
7 ounces (200 gr) butter, salted or unsalted, cut into pieces
5 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup (200 gr) sugar (I used 1 cup Splenda plus at least 1/4c extra due to use of unsweetened vs bittersweet chocolate)

Preheat the oven to 350F (175 C).

1. Butter a 9-inch (23 cm) springform pan* and dust it with cocoa powder, tapping out any excess. If you suspect your springform pan isn't 100% water-tight, wrap the outside with aluminum foil, making sure it goes all the way up to the outer rim. (Okay, I did this and my cake was still swimming by the time it was supposed to be done baking. Just used a regular cake pan, why does it need to be springform? Bad idea for floating in water! Note: If you get water leakage, just pour the water off and bake a little longer and cross your fingers... mine turned out OK)

2. Melt the chocolate and butter in a double boiler (or microwave), stirring occasionally, until smooth. Remove from heat.

3. In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs and sugar, then whisk in the melted chocolate mixture until smooth. (You will notice that the Splenda does not play well with the eggs and it will cause this mixture to be all weird, lumpy, etc. I added a splash of Sugar Free Vanilla flavoring syrup to try and thin it down so it wasn't like spreading a cookie dough in the pan)

4. Pour the batter into the prepared springform pan and cover the top of the pan snugly with a sheet of foil. Put the springform pan into a larger baking pan, such as a roasting pan, and add enough hot water to the baking pan to come about halfway up to the outside of the cake pan. (I'm thinking that a regular pan would be easier here, or really don't mess up your foil wrap!)

Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes. (I think I had to bake mine less, because (probably) due to the Splenda, the cake won't rise and you'll have a thin pancake that doesn't need as much time to bake, it seems. Or maybe it was all the water?? haha)

You'll know the cake is done when it feels just set, like quivering chocolate pudding. If you gently touch the center, your finger should come away clean.

5. Lift the cake pan from the water bath and remove the foil. Let cake cool completely on a cooling rack.

Serve thin wedges of this very rich cake at room temperature, with creme anglaise, ice cream, or whipped cream. (I bought a jar of sugar free Smucker's hot fudge sauce and spread it over the top. This never dried and it has a fake sugar flavor, but it dressed up the bitterness of the cake which needed a little more splenda I think. Served with sugar free cool whip, as well!)

Storage: This Chocolate Idiot Cake can be wrapped and chilled in the refrigerator for 3-5 days.

So, I tried a sliver after I gave the cake to my dad and for being sugar free and having used Splenda, etc etc etc... it wasn't half bad. It was like a thick brownie bar cake, and the sugar free hot fudge sauce on top was nice but also extra splenda or other sugar free chocolate or fruit on top would also be great, with sugar free whipped cream, of course!

My dad said it was good but I'm not sure if he'd tell me if he didn't like it or not? But - I at least tried it so for all of you sugar free people out there, this wasn't half bad and might cheer up the diabetic near you! Also, I know David Lebovitz has excellent recipes so I look forward to buying some fabulous quality chocolate and trying his original recipe sometime in the future, it looks awesome!

Creamy Green Chicken Enchiladas

Maybe making these twice in one weekend was a little overboard, but in my defense, the first time was at my friend Natalie's house on a Friday for a "cooking night" of sorts! The cooking club lives on! I also had no plans for the following Sunday's dinner and I knew The Husband loves mexican and I thought, I'd be a nice wife and make this recipe again since it was so easy and he missed out on it. He really enjoyed it and we both agreed it is an awesome variation on your typical "chicken enchiladas" - delicious!

This is a recipe from Martha Stewart, also found online and in her Food booklets that my mom signs up for. I didn't really make any major modifications - just little things. I didn't waste time roasting garlic.. I like the fresh taste of garlic so I used fresh mixed into the "filling." I also was concerned about the lack of seasoning for the filling so I added cumin, more garlic than called for, coriander, and a can of corn. We also made extra enchiladas than the 12 called for so that resulted in less sauce per enchilada, but it was still great because it soaks into the tortillas.

Also, at Natalie's, I didn't quite read the recipe thoroughly so we did a few of the steps out of sequence, which may have changed the flavor of it slightly but it was great both times. Also, for Natalie's we used a rotisserie chicken from CostCo (they are good there), and for the one at home I just roasted chicken breasts and thighs (and then removed the skin and bones to shred) - and both worked great. So just use the type of chicken that you prefer or have time for.

Creamy Verde Chicken Enchiladas

Serves 6
3 pounds bone-in, skin-on chicken breast halves
Coarse salt and ground pepper
5 garlic cloves, unpeeled
2 jars (16 ounces each) medium green salsa
3/4 cup heavy cream
12 corn tortillas (6-inch)
12 ounces Monterey Jack cheese, coarsely shredded (3 cups)
1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped (optional)

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Season chicken with salt and pepper; place with garlic on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake until an instant-read thermometer inserted in thickest part of breast (avoiding bone) registers 165 degrees, 25 to 30 minutes. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine salsa and cream.

Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees. Once chicken is cool enough to handle, shred meat, discarding skin and bones. Peel and chop garlic. In a large bowl, combine chicken, garlic, and 1/2 cup salsa mixture. (I also added a can of corn, cumin, coriander, and extra fresh garlic here)

Stack tortillas flat, and wrap in damp paper towels; microwave on high for 1 minute to soften. Working with one tortilla at a time, dip in salsa mixture, lay flat, and fill with 1/3 cup chicken mixture. Roll up and arrange, seam side down, 8 enchiladas lengthwise and 4 crosswise in a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Top with remaining salsa mixture, then cheese.

Bake until cheese is browned and salsa is bubbling, 40 to 45 minutes; let rest 10 minutes. Serve, sprinkled with cilantro, if desired.

This was such a tasty dinner, and the photos may not be the prettiest but you won't care once you try this recipe! Martha's photo (see above website) is a little prettier but these things just aren't very photogenic. :) Enjoy!

Thanks to Natalie and AJ for picking a great idea for cooking night, can't wait to see what we do next!

Friday, October 31, 2008

Creepy Halloween Cupcakes

Yay for Megan and Bryan having a Halloween party... a perfect excuse to make more cupcakes. This was a fun project - I just googled halloween cupcakes and picked out the styles that I liked the best and went with 6 of them-- Spiders, Mummies, Brains, Monsters, Skull/Crossbones, and Ghosts. All of the decorating was done with buttercream frosting and I just used food coloring to get the different colors. Some of the other examples online used candy and such but I thought I would keep it "easy to eat" with just frosting...

Here are a few shots of how they turned out!

Note to self: Always use a box when transporting cupcakes, especially if you aren't "glueing" them down with frosting to the board...even if you are only driving a few miles. Sudden braking can cause a few cupcakes to roll off the board and get smashed, as they did here! Lucky for Megan and I, we just ate those on the spot..... so, only 22 cupcakes left for the party! Oops!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Daring Bakers Challenge: Pizza Dough

I missed last month's challenge (crackers) but was happy to squeeze in October's challenge, especially since it was my first savory challenge plus my first time to use yeast in a recipe. Today is the post date and I just squeaked in this recipe last night!

To start, I had a few "problems" but nothing to do with the recipe. First, I left my camera's photo card at work so I had to pull out the old camera, so hopefully the pictures turned out OK! Second, our furnace seems to be on the fritz but only with me, so it was 55 in my house all evening because I couldn't get it to turn on! (Until The Husband came home at 9 when the first pizza was ready, then he did the same maneuvers I had except the furnace turned on for him!!!) That was just extra stress though cooking the toppings and having an oven at 500 degrees did warm up the kitchen area eventually. Lastly, I'm not sure if it was the oven or the pizza stone but they smelled up the house at that high of a temperature... it did not affect the flavor of the pizza and maybe this is something that wouldn't happen again. I'd still make pizzas but maybe with a furnace working so I can open a window. :)

The recipe wasn't too difficult - it was from "The Bread Baker's Apprentice" by Peter Reinhart.

4.5 cups chilled flour
1 3/4 tsp salt
1 3/4 cups ice cold water
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tsp yeast
1 tbsp sugar

flour or cornmeal for dusting

See Rosa's blog at Rosa's Yummy Yums for more details about this recipe!

The directions were for a 2 day process - Day One included mixing the dough and then splitting it into mini balls (I chose quantity of 4) and putting in the fridge to rest. Day Two included molding them into discs, letting them rest for 2 hours and heating up the pizza stone and prepping your toppings before baking.

I have tried using my pizza stone in the past with those stupid Betty Crocker pizza crust mix packages (just add water) but I had all sorts of trouble with my pizza peel and the pizza sticking, etc. I don't think I was preheating the pizza stone and also I was putting on too many toppings, and not using cornmeal underneath the crust for easy removal, plus it was store-bought crust, so that was probably the problem.

I did get a chance to try tossing the pizza doughs, as the challenge recommended to capture on camera, if possible (with three of the four... the first one I quickly realized the dough stretches so quickly so I didn't get a chance to throw it with the camera ready). Here is a collage of the last three tries...

Since I was alone, finally I learned how this old camera's timer worked (flash-flash-flash-flash-longflash-THROW!) on the last try, but then I hadn't floured my hand enough and you can see it sticking to my right hand. This caused a mishap with the dough and there just wasn't enough flour in general, so I ended up with a strangely shaped fourth pizza... but that was OK with us. (see picture of L-shaped pizza below) Lesson learned! Like I said, the dough stretched so easily that I only got one toss per dough... maybe it was because I had bigger pizzas than the original recipe (they said make 6 smaller ones)... or maybe my "discs" were too big.. they were about 7 inches or so, as it rested for 2 hours before baking.

For my first real pizza dough trials, I only had a chance to prepare for two different topping combinations. I made two styles of pizzas:

#1 homemade marinara (from Sopranos cookbook), crumbled fennel sage sausage, mozzarella/provolone mix, and red onions.
#2 barbecue sauce (Sweet Baby Ray's and Sticky Fingers), leftover chicken enchilada filling (seasoned, green salsa with cream, and corn), red onion and mozzarella/provolone cheese
The BBQ / Mexican Chicken pizza was a huge hit with The Husband, it was a great twist on the typical BBQ Chicken Pizza. The Green Chicken Enchilada recipe blog will be coming soon... that was another great dish (and why I had leftovers of the filling!)

I am looking forward to trying some roasted red peppers, a mexican pizza, and other fun toppings for use with my next time around with this dough. Maybe I'll make a sweet one with sliced apples, spices and brown sugar! This is a great recipe to keep around and when we have kids, I hope to have a "pizza night" tradition like so many of the other bloggers seem to. This dough tastes great and mine turned out a bit like "New York Style Pizza" - crispy and chewy crust and thin and floppy elsewhere. It was yummmmy. My topping combinations turned out great, too!!

This was a great challenge and I am glad I have tried this recipe. Thanks to Rosa of Rosa's Yummy Yums for hosting this challenge! I am so excited to have a great pizza crust recipe on hand! Also, I'd like to try this recipe on a grill - and maybe even for a "make your own pizza" party, which seems like a lot of fun! Thanks again Rosa!!!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Curried Butternut Squash Soup

This is my entry for i like to cook's Weekend Cookbook Challenge with October's theme of "Fall Vegetables." This month is hosted by Lisa from Confessions of an Apron Queen and I thought it was perfect timing! A neighbor had dropped off some butternut squash and I had yet to think of something to use it for... now I had a purpose. I searched for recipes and finally decided on Curried Squash Soup from it just sounded tasty to me and I was happy to finally have some time to participate in this blog challenge.

Curried Butternut Squash Soup

as seen on Taste Of Home

1 3/4 lbs butternut squash (i had one small and 1 large and it was a good amount)
1 large onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons vegetable oil (i used olive oil)
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon curry powder
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
5 cups chicken broth
1 bay leaf

Cilantro Cream Topping
1/2 cup sour cream
1/4 cup whipping cream
1/4 cup minced fresh cilantro

Cut squash in half lengthwise; discard seeds. Place squash cut side down in a greased or foil-lined baking pan. Bake, uncovered, at 400° for 40-50 minutes or until tender. When cool enough to handle, scoop out pulp; set aside.

In a large saucepan, saute onion and garlic in oil until tender. Add the flour, salt, curry powder and cayenne until blended. Stir in broth. Add bay leaf. Bring to a boil; cook and stir for 2 minutes or until thickened. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, for 20 minutes. Discard bay leaf. Cool to room temperature.

In a blender, combine half of the broth mixture and squash; cover and process until smooth. Repeat with remaining broth mixture and squash. Return to the saucepan; heat through. Combine the topping ingredients; place a dollop on each serving. Yield: 6 servings.

This soup is a beautiful color (better than the dark picture above) and it tastes awesome! It's slightly sweet and the curry is subtle, it tastes rich but it's very healthy! The cilantro is a delicious counterpoint. Thanks to Lisa for hosting a great challenge!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Cake Decorating Class.. First and Possibly Last

I live near a little cake shop and I recently just finished a little course they offered "Intro to Cake Decorating"... a lot of it was a little basic but I did pick up a few good tricks and learned how to make a buttercream rose and such. We had to make a cake for the last class (it was four classes, each 2 hours) and I decided to go with an ornately decorated little greenish cake. I liked the way that unlike my classmates, I was not using all sorts of random colors and but instead went with a "cool" color background and all of my decorations were in white. I was trying to class things up, you see. hehe

On this cake, I practiced making a ruffle along the top and then I added some string work, which I had been meaning to try. String work is where you pipe thin "strings" of icing and they typically are hanging in the air, at least partially. I added a rosette type of a border along the bottom which I thought was a poor choice, I would've scraped it off and done something more delicate if I could have.

On the top I practiced some cornelli lace (please ignore the asymmetrical "flower" shape that the lace is filling in --- for a real cake, I would've made sure it was straight!), and I did some "beadwork" to outline the lace, and finally there was room in the center for one rose. It was pretty fun to just sit there and do whatever came to mind. And I didn't even have an occasion so I brought the cake to fatten up my coworkers... and as it turned out, it was my 3rd anniversary date at work so I could've used that as an excuse. Happy Anniversary To Me!!!

I used the cake instructor's frosting recipe which she swears people loves and that it is the best, and let me tell you, this "Baker's Complement" extract (as opposed to vanilla or almond) is pretty weird smelling and tasting. I don't think I'm going to use this recipe again! It sorta lost its weird taste after a few days, afterwhich her half shortening/half margarine recipe tasted pretty similar to the frosting at Kroger.

Anyway, it was an interesting experience and I'm glad I got to try the rose and stringwork in particular, I will be doing so again! They are easier than they look! The class was OK though it interfered with my other more interesting projects, such as the Chili CookOff cupcakes. It was a little annoying to have to make the nasty "class buttercream" the night before the class when I had some cute little peppers and GM signs to pipe out... but if I hadn't had taken the class, I would have always wondered if I was missing something. It turns out that it's just fine to look in books and online for ideas, and it's perfectly fine to learn from my mom, from trial and error myself, and from reading about other people online!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Chili Cook-Off Cupcakes

I host a chili cook-off at work, and this was the third one we've had so far - it is getting bigger and better each year! We had 12 chilis enter the contest and probably about 60 people. Maybe someday I'll post "how to host a chili cook-off" but for now let's take a look at these cute cupcakes I made especially for the event!

I had googled "chili cupcakes" and saw a few chili/crockpot cakes but nothing in the way of chili cupcakes.... so I decided I could certainly make my own.

I decided I wanted to make basic cupcakes with frosting and then have a cute token on the top of them, and I was going to make four types -- red chiles, yellow chiles, blue #1 ribbons, and the GM symbol.

I hadn't used Royal Icing since the Gingerbread House party but I thought that should work out fine - it is an extremely stiff icing that dries hard and keeps its shape and it is good for making little flowers, etc ahead of time, which will be used to decorate a cake later. It's OK for taste but it's nothing you'd want to frost a cake with solely. Royal icing is also sometimes used for frosting cookies.

I mixed four different colors - blue, red, yellow, green and got out my tips that I'd be using for the different shapes, and started piping the shapes onto the parchment paper. It actually went pretty smoothly, and I made several extras in case they didn't dry quite right or if any of them broke accidently.

I let the little cute shapes dry overnight and they were perfect - they popped right off of the parchment paper and they stuck into the frosting without a problem. I think they turned out cute and I'm glad I learned a little bit more about using Royal Icing and making little decorations ahead of time - it works well!

Royal Icing
3 Tablespoons Meringue Powder (can be found at Michaels)
1 pound (4 cups) powdered sugar
6 tablespoons warm water
Beat all ingredients until stiff peaks form, 7-10 minutes at low speed with a heavy duty mixer (or 10-12min at high speed with a handheld mixer). Keep all utensils grease free for proper icing consistency. Makes 3 cups (though it seemed a lot less for me!). For stiffer icing, use 1 tablespoon less water (this is what I did).

Thursday, October 2, 2008

White Chicken Chili

I host a chili cookoff where I work and I've only ever had one little taste of a white chili / chicken chili. It was good and since then I've been wanting to try a recipe!

Good ole Betty Crocker has a recipe and here is the modified version that I used. It was super tasty, it thickened up nicely, and The Husband really enjoyed it served in a bread bowl (he's been loving those lately.) I think it would equally be good with tortilla strips on top or served with chips! This is a perfect fall meal, and it comes together quickly which is good for a weeknight.

White Chili
Adapted from Betty Crocker

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 onions, chopped
4 cloves of garlic, pressed
3 cups chicken broth
2 tablespoons cilantro plus more for garnish
a splash of lime concentrate or 1-2 tablespoons fresh
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspon oregano
1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cans white beans, such as canneloni
1 can of corn kernels
1 packet of McCormick white/chicken chili seasoning mix (so Betty didn't use this but this really made it taste a lot better, otherwise I would've added more salt and cumin, etc)

1 pound chicken breasts, cooked and chopped into bitesize pieces (I seasoned mine with salt, garlic and coriander)

Monterrey Jack cheese for garnish (this makes it super good)

Onions, cilantro, sour cream, bread bowl, tortillas, hot sauce, etc for garnish... it's all good

Saute the onions and garlic until soft, add all other ingredients except the chicken. This is a good time to cook the chicken if you haven't done so, yet, in a separate pan. Bring to a boil and simmer. I used my submersion blender to blend up some of the beans to thicken this soup a bit, before putting in the chicken. Add chicken and simmer for 5 minutes or until heated through. Pour into bowls and garnish with cheese and other toppings. This chili thickens upon standing. It's so delish!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Jackson's Baptism Cake

So, this cake was a learning experience as usual! Cindy asked if I wanted to make the baptism cake for little Jack a while ago and I gladly accepted, as I really enjoy looking up different ideas and trying new things in the realm of cakes!

I went to and looked through a bunch of different cakes.. from 3-D crosses to 3-D bibles to little babies or stained glass.. this and that. I came across one that my advisor (Mom) and I liked the best, which is what I used for the idea of this one. The cake I found was white with pink fondant bow and I knew I'd rather find a cute real ribbon and coordinate my cake to that. ... and use some boy colors!

I originally thought blues and greens but when I went to Michaels, I found a Martha Stewart ribbon and nothing else that had cute little brown and blue stripes... so green got cancelled out, which was fine. White was my third accent color. Blue and brown is one of my favorite combos... see also pink and brown. I have seen young Jackson sporting blue and brown on many occasions so I know his mom will at least like this color scheme as well!

This was my first time making a square cake... I think it was about time. I wanted it to have perfect corners and my goal was to make this buttercream look smooth like fondant. Well you'll see that didn't really happen but it was a learning experience. I decided to go with my new buttercream - Mousseline - which was .. different .. to deal with in the realm of decorating.

First things first, I thought - why not chocolate cake? We sorta have a chocolate theme anyway! I bought a wilton 10in square pan and used my newly acquired Cake Box Mix ratio to pan chart that I just got in my first decorators class on Wednesday. The chart said 1.5 boxes per 10in square.. this is more than I would've used so no wonder my cakes don't exceed the rim of the pan and I end up with shorter layers!

I learned in class it was also easier to level a cake right from inside the pan - but this only works if the cake dome is above the level of the walls, which mine usually aren't. I will say that it was sorta a pain to measure cups of batter in my 1st box of cake mix (I made each box separately like a good girl), so that I knew how many cups to add from the 2nd box (half). I ended up with around 5.5 cups per box. I only had one 10in pan (cheapskate) so I had to bake one layer at a time... which was fine, The Husband was gone and I had nothing better to do.

I noticed the first pan was much fuller than my normal cakes and I thought "whew I just made it from that spilling over into my oven!" .. you'd think I would've thought of putting a pan underneath for the 2nd layer but I didn't... sure enough that one was slightly fuller and I did have some overflow spillage. Luckily it popped right off from the bottom of my oven!

After the two layers were baked, I wrapped them up to continue the cake on Saturday. I kept the 2nd one in the pan and the 1st one was already mounted on the cake board which was already wrapped in foil, so that was good to go. I put down little squares of wax paper under each side of the bottom layer for when it came time to frost and I could easily pull them away afterwards. The trick here is to barely put any wax paper under the cake, otherwise you might be dragging the cake when you try to remove them! Trust me, this happened to me last time...

On Saturday I made my first batch of Mousseline. I used the pasteurized Break-Free eggwhites that you can find at the store to avoid any worry of whether or not these things get cooked with the sugar syrup mixture. It ended up working just as well and I flavored the mousseline with vanilla and amaretto (I ran out of almond).

I took a small amount of icing and mixed in some crushed oreo bits (used my mini chopper!) and this was the filling. I piped a white border around the edge of the cake to keep the cookie filling from squeezing out and messing with my outer frosting.

Finally it was time to have some fun with color, and I needed to match the rest of the icing to the blue line in the ribbon. I used a mixture of paste and gel food coloring - blues, a little yellow and a little green. When I was pretty happy with it, I put down a crumb coat.

Here is where I really felt the pain of using Mousseline and not having my predictable decorators icing. As a re-cap, I chose Mousseline because it has a totally different flavor - it's buttery and light and airy. Nothing like the super sweet decorators icing, which uses some crisco with the butter. With mousseline, it's a meringue style buttercream so it's all natural and in a totally different class from the other styles of frosting. We should have a frosting taste off to see which buttercream is the best!

I think that is Giada chopping some food in the background!

BUT... while mousseline has an outstanding light and pure flavor, it doesn't crust over. If you're not a cake person, this means it doesn't get a dried-out little crusty layer after sitting at room temp for 15-30 minutes. Crusting over is super useful -- if you happen to nudge it or want to smooth things out - no problem, it helps. You can scrape off mistakes and when you make a crumb coat, you can frost on top of it, being sure not to pull up any more crumbs if the crumb coat is crusted. Welllllllll.... with mousseline... this never happens. Think of the consistency of whipped cream... it's always tacky and when you touch it, it makes a peak as you pull away. This, my friends, is very hard to make look smooth.

Also, because mousseline has all this air whipped into it, it gets little bubbles as it sits and you work with it. They pop and make a bumpy appearance. Unless you refrigerate it, it will not stiffen up so a crumbcoat can just be scraped away like nothing. Still, I think mousseline is a good choice if the flavor is what you want AND you know how to work with it. Next time, I'd refrigerate it after crumb coating, and then apply the 2nd layer. Like with other buttercreams, the hot-water method works for using your spatula and making the sides smooth. Dip your spatula in hot water, wipe, and slowly smooth out airbubbles and imperfections. This also works with chilled mousseline, or room temperature.

So, let's just say I fussed around with making the sides look smooth before I ... figured it out/gave up. Looking at my camera pictures, it actually was pretty smooth (until I botched it later) so I am happy to know it's possible. I really liked my latest addition to my smoothing tools - a brand new straight edge scraper from the hardware store. This worked well and was longer than the height of the cake. The corners were difficult to get to look "perfect"... but they weren't too bad.

I had read about using real ribbon on cake... there are two things to worry about. First, the butter or shortening may soak into the ribbon and give it grease stains... fine if it's the whole ribbon but if it only happens to be blotchy? This will look bad! I read that to stay away from this, you can iron on wax paper to the back of the ribbon.. or you can douse it in crisco or vegetable oil to "beat it to the punch." Another thing to worry about is seeping of the ribbon dyes into the frosting. I tried a sample of my ribbon on the frosting and it didn't seem like it'd bleed, and that was true - it turned out just fine on the cake. (This was Martha Stewart grosgrain craft ribbon from Michaels, fyi)

I had already decided to skip the idea of cutting a strip of parchment paper the exact width / length of the ribbon to protect the cake and the ribbon.. there's no way that the parchment would be perfect, it'd be hard to bend the ribbon and I knew I'd somehow get the blotchy butter marks on the ribbon anyway. Once doused in veggie oil, the ribbon can have anything taped to it, so the parchment idea was a bust! So, I just stuck with the veggie oil idea (wipe clean of excess oil!!) and while it darkened the colors slightly, it worked great.

I chilled the cake and worked on the bow, which I used separate pieces of ribbon. I used pins to keep the bow together and also to attach the ribbon to the cake (the bow hid the big pearl pin heads). The ribbon went on pretty easy, so then it was on to decorating!

I first tried to take some of the leftover blue icing and change it to brown for the frilly cross, but that was a disaster.. it would've been a chemical cocktail to get it that dark. I opted for ganache, and melted some chocolate chips and heavy cream and then let that cool to a good piping consistency. I forgot to save some white for the initials and dots so I had a can of store-bought icing (haha I seem to use this on every cake!) and here is where my penmanship really gave me some problems...

I ended up messing up the intials so that I scraped them off twice! The cake was no longer its perfect smooth consistency but oh well.. I went over it the best I could with a spatula and finally got some initials on there that I didn't mind. Then with the chocolate - by the time I was ready it was too hard... back in the microwave. Then it was too soft! Well, I was too impatient and ended up using it very drippy wet.

I should've thought out this cross thing a little more. When I doodled it at work a few days ago, I thought "easy, piece of cake"... but things are harder when you have your big hand in the way and you aren't following any sort of plan. I tried moving fast because of the chocolate and.. well, it showed. I was just trying to make things symmetrical and I failed. I ended up really hating with what I had and decided to let the cake chill and attempt to scrape the chocolate off and try again.. or at least parts of it.

I was really impatient and that stupid chocolate wouldn't harden, now that I needed it to! I had dinner.. watched the rest of the Michigan game (which actually had a good ending!), and finally dug into the cake again. The chocolate wasn't brittle and easy to pick off like I had planned but I went forward anyway... I ended up scraping away pieces here and there and leaving the rest due to the chocolate still being soft. I tried to fill in some of the frosting areas which were not smooth anymore, but it was hard with the chocolate design partially still there!

So, basically.. I just did the best I could and even used a pin for some of the fine, fine details. I improved the parts that I truly hated and now they are just "imperfections, but OK" which I could handle. I finished off the cake with a few more curls here and there, and also some white polkadots. Tada, it was done! I had planned on using some shimmery dust on the cross but I don't think that will look good with the dark chocolate color... the brown matches the ribbon so I decided to not mess with it,... it was acceptable.. call it done!

Well, after chilling overnight, I noticed that the blue frosting was seeping into the white stripes of the ribbon - but only in certain places! After a 5 second panic, I thought I'd just put on a second layer of ribbon so that the inside one wouldn't show. Luckily I had enough... so this is a good lesson if you're using a light colored ribbon on top of a darker colored frosting. I oiled the second piece of ribbon as well and tried to get it on the cake as tight as possible... If you are using a white frosting, I'd stick with just one layer of ribbon and call it good!

I brought it over for the baptism on Sunday. Upon removing the ribbon there were no problems and the frosting was very soft at room temperature which gives it that light and airy feeling. It's a buttery frosting but people seemed to like it, so it was a success!

Some of us were able to get pieces of cake to get home, so I do have a note on that. When cold, this mousseline is not my favorite - it is sorta buttery and gets very solid. I popped the extra cake in the microwave for a few seconds and besides making the cake moist and warm, I think the flavor of the frosting improves so I highly recommend serving this frosting at room temperature at the coldest. The oreos in the center for a filling were super tasty, I would add a thicker filling next time, or maybe split the two layers into four! Yum! Thanks for looking!

Recipe Information

Chocolate cake: Duncan Hines butter recipe chocolate. Each 10in square pan takes 1.5 boxes
Frosting: Mousseline Buttercream from Rose / The Cake Bible flavored with vanilla and Amaretto, with a Cookies and Cream (oreos) filling