My Cake Decorating Gallery

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Daring Baker's May Challenge: Apple Strudel!

The May Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Linda of make life sweeter! and Courtney of Coco Cooks . They chose Apple Strudel from the recipe book Kaffeehaus: Exquisite Desserts from the Classic Cafés of Vienna, Budapest and Prague by Rick Rodgers.

Apple strudels were a big part of my childhood with my mother being eastern european and she having lived in Germany most of her childhood.. however my mom's specialties were always made using those phyllo dough sheets you can pick up in the freezer section. (These were still good strudels mom!) I'm not sure I've had a strudel with homemade crust before. The Husband, a gigantic apple pie lover, also loves apple strudel so I was really excited to try this new method of strudel making - which included making our own tissue-thin dough!

As the recipe stated, the dough is cheap to make so I made two batches in case one didn't go as planned.. this also meant that if both turned out - I'd have two strudels as a result, yum! I made the classic Apple Strudel as listed in the recipe as my first attempt. I had some accidents using my hand-crank apple peeler/corer/slicer but nothing a bandaid couldn't fix. hehe

The filling for the apple strudel included rum-soaking raisins, cinnamon and sugar, granny smith apples, toasted buttery breadcrumbs, and a sprinkling of nuts (I used pecans even though I knew The Husband would eat around them).

The dough was pretty much just a mixture of water, vegetable oil, flour, and a touch of vinegar. You knead it a little bit, let it rest, and then the interesting part is stretching it out to a 2 x 3 foot very thin-as-tissue sheet of dough. This was fun! I let my second batch of dough rest a lot longer and refrigerated it another day to bake at a later time, and I did a better job stretching that dough (no holes) though the holes didn't seem to cause a problem with the first strudel. I read on the daring baker's forum that in the old country, strudel dough should be stretched out so thin that you can read a love letter through it, so I used that benchmark.

My second strudel was berry themed! I was going to try strawberry rhubarb but chickened out (never made rhubarb before!), and used strawberries, blackberries, and raspberries. I threw in some nuts in halfof it and also a strip of sweetened cream cheese. I wasn't quite sure about all the proportions so maybe my strudel was a little juicy but it turned out great. The apple was my favorite, however!

The recipe called for using a tablecloth that has been spread with flour to help in the aid of stretching the dough and then rolling this gigantic yet delicate strudel log. I didn't quite have anything on hand and used parchment paper and this worked out great for me.

My dough only stretched out to about 2 x 2 feet but this made a large strudel and worked out fine. I would also like to try some of the other Daring Baker's ideas of savory strudels sometime - spinach/feta, mushroom, or maybe a cookie sweet combination which I almost tried - banana coconut chocolate! Strudel making was super fun. The one thing I did note was that it didn't stay crispy for too long... both strudels were best eaten right out of the oven, and this would not be a recipe I'd use to make ahead the night before, or alas I would be missing out on serving something crispy! Maybe I had too much filling, juice, or not thin enough dough, but the dough was delicious nonetheless, even days later.

I would have never thought of making my own strudel dough on my own and it was so fun and turned out delicious. I am very thankful for this Daring Baker challenge and look forward to my next challenge for the month of June! Thank you!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Jackson's Very Hungry Caterpillar Cake!

My nephew Jackson was turning 1 .. and since he hasn't quite developed a long list of hobbies or favorites, I chose his mom's favorite childhood book as the theme of his birthday cake: The Very Hungry Caterpillar!

I personally wasn't familiar with the book but after finding out about it, I realized it was very cute and quite a popular classic children's book! The story is about a little caterpillar who is born and eats through all sorts of foods during the week, and then goes to sleep into a cocoon and emerges a lovely butterfly.

The cake features colorful swirls and polka dots, much like the actual coloring of the book, with a big caterpillar winding along.

I tried to make everything look like it was from the book.

I used Mousseline buttercream (From Rose's "The Cake Bible") .. and since it took three full batches of that, I had to make another double batch of regular decorator's buttercream for the decorations.
The filling was mousseline with raspberry preserves.
The smash cake, which was especially for Jackson to get messy with, featured the butterfly which closes out the cute story, and similar polka dot borders and swirling sides.

Jackson and I, Auntie Anne, pose in front of his cake!

This was a very fun cake to make and I enjoyed every bit of giving Jackson his first taste of sugar. We had a great time at the party!!

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Coconut Cream Cake for Mother's Day (and cupcakes)

This is a great recipe and I even added a major shortcut to it and it was still awesome! If you like coconut, I highly recommend trying out this coconut custard filling and cream cheese frosting combination with the toasted coconut topping. The recipe also called for a coconut flavored cake but I already had the Caterpillar cake going on this weekend so I cut my time short by using a box cake and adding coconut extract. I doubt you even need the extract - the filling is so coconutty that it overpowered whatever flavoring the cake had. It was a delicious combination. I made the custard filling in advance and it worked like a charm.

I first thought of trying this recipe when I saw Bobby Flay on "Throw Down" challenge the chef of the Peninsula Grill in Charleston, SC to a Coconut Cake challenge. Bobby said this was pretty much his favorite cake and he would always order some and have them shipped to his family gatherings during the holidays. Martha Stewart featured this recipe on her show and that's where I tracked down the recipe, as seen here.

Since I only wanted a small cake, I only used a 6inch cake pan and made as many layers as I could (about 5 layers) and I still had tons of filling and icing leftover. I had extra cake batter too so I decided to give my coworkers another treat and make Coconut Cream Cupcakes.

I tried implanting the filling into the cupcakes but when that didn't work, I just piped it on top of the cupcake and then covered that mound with piped cheesecake frosting and then topped it with additional toasted coconut.

These were a gigantic hit and I've had requests for more of these cupcakes, so if a cake isn't up your alley - keep the coconut filling and frosting recipe in mind for cupcakes! Sooo tasty!

I surprised my mom by making this cake for Mother's Day and it was a big hit, and the leftovers froze really well - this little cake was enjoyed for a long time. It's a very decadent recipe but you don't even have to love coconut to appreciate these, delicious!

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Cookies for a Cause: Pecan Bars

I was thinking for a while about baking for charities and I often bring in extra baked goods into work, and eventually I came up with the idea of Cookies for a Cause! Not that I personally checked all of them but a few charitable organizations will not allow homemade baked goods to be donated. (I have checked into sending baked goods overseas to soldiers, etc) They'd rather just have the money or store-bought items, which is great, but I like the bake darn it!

If you haven't noticed, I like to try new recipes so I had been trying to figure out how I can do something good for the world with this hobby and finally came up with the idea of Cookies for a Cause! The idea is that I am going to periodically pick out a recipe that I'd like to try, bring them into work and put a donation out next to the cookies. I will not keep any of the money donated to offset my costs: my time and ingredients purchased are my contribution. 100% of the money raised will go to a charity that I've chosen.

I only have had a chance to do this once so far, and the inaugural recipe was Pecan Bars from the Martha Stewart Cookie Book, in which I have earmarked several "To Bake" recipes. If you love pecan pie, you'll die for these bars. They were rich, sweet, salty, buttery... a great combination of a buttery shortbread base with a caramel and pecan topping, my oh my! Here is a great blog post and recipe posted here, at Every Last Cookie's Blog. I made a double batch and it filled up a tiny 8x6 pan and 11x17 and I cut them into 30 hefty cookies, I wanted to be generous to hopefully encourage more donations! The cost of the cookies for me was around $16 due to the pecans, but that is my donation and I wasn't looking to make that money back in any way.

While I work in a secured area, there was a little concern of some money being stolen out of my donation jar so next time I might keep it at my desk (though it is a little awkward as I believe donations should be private as I don't want to pressure anyone). Otherwise, I think the event went great and I raised $17 for the Capuchin Soup Kitchen in Detroit, an awesome charity that my husband's grandmother loved during her life. It may not sound like much but I know it will add up over time if this works out. My coworkers can skip the vending machine and we can help out. There are so many charities that it is very hard to pick just one, so I hope that I can bake cookies every few weeks and that by the end of 2009, I will really have made a difference for some one!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Ricotta Gnocci - The First Daring Cook's Challenge!

The Daring Baker's has grown and expanded to the new website, The Daring Kitchen, and a new group has also sprouted - The Daring Cooks! I decided to jump at the chance to join another monthly food blogging event and was excited that the first recipe was something I had never tried - Ricotta Gnocci. I haven't been this late for a Daring challenge - the recipe was due today and I made it today!

The first challenge of the Daring Cooks was hosted by Daring Kitchen founders Ivonne of Creampuffs in Venice and Lis of La Mia Cucina who have chosen a recipe from the stunning cookbook by Judy Rodgers, named after her restaurant, The Zuni Café Cookbook.

I don't have too much time to post right now so I'll get right to it - go here for the recipe and lovely photos from other Daring Cooks!

The recipe consists of using ricotta cheese and draining it, adding some egg, butter, parmesan, nutmeg or any other flavoring you choose, and forming tender gnocci shaped dumplings in flour, and then boil for about 5 minutes until cooked through. The result is extremely delicate, light, and tasty gnocci, much different from the traditional flour/potato gnocci I've had in the past! I had a little trouble making the test gnocci and eventually had to add some flour to get my gnocci to not fall apart while boiling, and they came out fine after that.

I flavored mine with nutmeg and served them simply with salt, pepper, and onions sauteed in butter, with a tablespoon of pesto which was a great addition. Thanks for the lovely recipe! We severed ours with homemade baked chicken fingers and asparagus.