Friday, December 26, 2008

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year...

Ah, Christmas...the joy, the time spent with family and friends, and THE BAKING. Holiday baking has got to be one of my all-time favorite past times (big surprise), and this year is no exception. Typically the Christmas season inspires me to make a multitude of cookie varieties, for the holidays are the perfect excuse to try out new recipes I've been eyeing. Still revved up from my sugar cookie-making high, I decided that decorated sugar cookies must be on my list this year. That and my favorite "top secret" gingerbread cookie recipe. I honestly thought I would save time by not doing my traditional cookie glaze/piped decorations, opting to go the buttercream and colored sugar sprinkles route. Wrong. The time commitment ended up being pretty much the same, with the added benefit (some might say downfall) of the cookies being a tad on the sweet side. Frosting AND sugar? Can we say overkill?

In keeping with the sugar-sprinkled theme, I topped my gingey boys with coarse sparkling sugar. This of course had nothing to do with the fact that I inadvertently omitted the brown sugar from the recipe, as evidenced by the discovery of my unopened carton of sugar while cleaning up :( They still turned out pretty good though, but not exactly like everyone remembered.
And last but certainly not least...FRUITCAKE. There seems to be two distinct camps regarding this much-maligned holiday treat: adore or detest, and no one on either side can comprehend how anyone can possibly stand on the other side of the fence. As for our family, we fall into the "adore it" category. This is my second crack at fruitcake, the first was using Alton Brown's recipe which calls for dried fruits in lieu of candied. Good? Yes. But not what we were looking for, so this year I happened upon a recipe in our local newspaper, and it was a hit at our family gathering. So there you have it, in all its rum-soaked, glowing neon fruity glory.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

"Mmm...Tastes Like Chicken Christmas"

You know, for a blog that's supposedly "Powered by Cupcakes" I sure haven't delivered on any as of late. But don't worry--I took care of that today:

May I present to you my "Rudolph Red Velvet Cupcake," complete with festive sprinkles and a handy mascot. Yes, I realize the picture's a bit blurry. And yes, I realize that's actually a plush moose with a BROWN nose...but you get the point. :) Perfect holiday flavor + best Christmas show ever = awesome!

Also making an appearance today are Eggnog Cupcakes, adorned with snow-capped candy Christmas trees (in homage to the rare bit of snowfall we got last week in Louisiana). Is it weird that while not a fan of actual eggnog, I absolutely adore all things eggnog-flavored? 'Cause these are delicious and pack a rummy-nutmeggy punch to boot!

Ummm... will you just look at those insane penguin toes up there?!?! Beyond cute.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Mexico Bound

Our Church is holding a bake sale this weekend to help raise funds for our Easter mission trip to General Cepeda, Mexico...and of course I had to join in on the fun! I don't know about you, but I just love--no, make that LOVE--bake sales :) Pictured above are: (clockwise, from upper left) Brownie bites, Neapolitan Bundt cake, Marshmallow Krispie Treats, Pretzel Kisses, Lemon Bundts, Pretzel Hugs, and Eggnog Bundts. Yum!

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas

Anyone who's ever been to my house between the months of November and January has seen the ridiculous spectacle of Christmas decorations my folks enjoy setting up. "Over the top" doesn't even begin to describe it, but thankfully this year my dad decided against putting up the colorful blinking light display on the exterior. Let's just say that we've become known as "the people with that Christmas House." Anyway, to help me get into the holiday mood, I decided to start some Christmas cookie baking. Above you'll see cranberry orange cookies, made with fresh cranberries that didn't make into the Thanksgiving sauce. Below are Rainbow Cookies (a.k.a. Spumoni Cookies), which sport maraschino cherry, chocolate, and pistachio layers. Very Christmasey :)

A Thanksgiving Feast...For the Eyes!

Holidays at my house usually means we'll be feasting an unusual mix of Vietnamese and classically American dishes. After all, what's Thanksgiving without my mom's crab & asparagus soup nestled against plates full of green bean casserole and cranberries? Most people eagerly look forward to trying to fit in that teeny little slice of pumpkin pie after stuffing themselves to the brim on the main meal--but us? We're Jell-O® folks through and through. Usually it's the "Crown Jewel" dessert (a spectacular mix of gelatin cubes suspended in a gelatin and Cool Whip® mousse, all encased in a ring of pound cake slices), but this year I decided to go with the "Rainbow Ribbon." Is it the shimmering layers of color or the mesmerizing soft wobbliness that intrigues me so? I think it's both.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

"Oh snap, he's about to eat that power pill!"

Yeah that's right--you guys better hurry up. I have been dreaming up an occasion to make these adorable cookies for some time now, because they're not exactly suited for any particular holiday. Halloween, maybe...because of the ghosts? The original (and quite famous, might I add) concept for these comes from the uber-creative mind behind the Snack or Die website, which features video game-related baked goods galore. Check it out if you're into that sort of thing :)

Friday, November 14, 2008

A Christmas Miracle???

Surely it must be, if I made these sammiches last night and I'm posting them the very next day! There's hope yet for me after all :) Compelled to bake 'n' post after procuring a new blog layout (which I'm absolutely IN LOVE with--Thanks, Delicious Design Studio!), I decided to see what I could whip up using ingredients I already had in my *shamefully* large baking supplies stash. Using my favorite cake mix-turned-cookie recipe, I converted a milk chocolate mix into some cute & chewy red velvet cookies and finished them off with a delectable cream cheese filling. Like an Oreo Cakester...but better!

Monday, November 10, 2008

And One for the Groom, Too!

My cousin married her high school sweet heart (awwwwwww!) this past Saturday, November 8th. Unforeseen circumstances brought the pleasure of making the groom's cake to my doorstep, and I was happy to take on the task. Two layers of dark chocolate cake encase a cookies and cream compliments to the bride and groom for selecting such an awesome flavor combo!

While I'm not normally a fan of the star fill-in method made popular by the Wilton school of cake decorating, I found that it was the quickest and albeit cutest way to represent "grass" in butter cream. (Oh, and can we say, "green and black mouths?" It takes crazy ridiculous amounts of food coloring to achieve those shades, even using my uber-black Americolor Super Black gel. For deep colors like black, red, blue, and green Americolor can't be beat! Make the switch from Wilton and you won't believe how it will change your life. Okay, so maybe it's not life-changing, but it will certainly make your decorating a breeze!) The fleur de lis, lettering, numbers, and gazillion tick marks were piped a few days before using royal icing. Thank goodness for proper planning!

Here's the cake set up at the reception hall:

Friday, October 31, 2008

Halloween Cookies: 2008 Edition

So here's the new and (much) improved version of the cookies I made a year ago... it's hard to believe how quickly the year has passed! Check out last year's cookies for comparison :) Last year was the year of the Crazy Eye. This year? Cartoon eyes, of course! Much more whimsical this year, eh? Time consuming? Yes. Worth it? Definitely. Now I know why those fancy cookie bouquet shops charge so much per cookie...these things are so darned labor-intensive! It's hard to pick a favorite, but if I had to choose, I'd say that I'm kinda lovin' the expression on the bat's face. I almost regret not giving the candy corn any features. What are your thoughts?

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Cupcake order, Part II

It's been a crazy busy baking weekend. Did I mention that the lady who ordered the zoo cupcakes also ordered a batch of Disney's Cars themed cupcakes for her son to bring to school on his birthday? No? Well she did, and here they are in all their cream cheese-topped, vanilla cakey glory. 'Lightning McQueen' cupcake liners? Red and blue sprinkles? You got 'em.

We originally planned to do red velvet cupcakes to match the color scheme, but I don't think too many moms would be happy if their sons and daughters came home with red get the point. They ARE 4 years old, after all. And even though I've never seen the movie Cars, I'd like to mention that I think "Lightning McQueen" is quite possibly the coolest character name ever. Like, ev-er. See ya next time.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

My cousin's getting married!

White almond sour cream (WASC) cake. Do a quick Internet search on it, and you'll quickly discover that it's a very popular choice for wedding cakes. Is it the pristine white interior, the firm yet light texture, or the classic almond flavor that's captured the hearts of people throughout the country? Or is it the fact that it's practically no-fail since it relies on a commercial cake mix as its base? The world may never know.  Past experience with this formula (I used the chocolate variation for the wedding cake I made last year for K. and J.) caused me to turn to it yet again for my cousin's bridal shower this weekend.

The term "bridal shower" for me conjures up images of dainty, genteel ladies eating dainty little desserts (think petits fours), so cupcakes seemed more appropriate for the occasion than a full-blown cake. I was informed that the wedding colors were brown, pink, and olive green and that it would be New Orleans-themed (i.e., fleur de lis everywhere) so I did my best to incorporate those into the cupcakes. Here they are in pink:

and green: That's not exactly olive green but I figured a minty green would more appealing as an icing color. 

I was also asked to make a larger cake that would serve as the centerpiece for the dessert table and would be a "family only" cake that we'd tear into after the guests have come and gone. Following the theme, I covered the cake in white chocolate fleur de lis and cream cheese icing. What's inside, you ask? Red velvet, of course! And yes, that's a couch...all this was completed at the eleventh hour and I was already 30 minutes late in leaving the house for delivery!

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Did someone say, "Zoo Party?!?!"

Never one to turn down an excuse to try out fun new ideas, I jumped at the chance to make zoo-themed cupcakes for the sweet son of a co-worker. (I think he's 4???) I'm just now realizing this, but this was my first official (paid) cupcake order. The amount of planning and labor that went into these cuties was, as usual, far more than I expected. In the end, however, I was quite pleased with the outcome and of course it was a labor of love :)

My sister D. played a huge role in making sure this order would be finished in time, and many thanks go out to her! She actually spent her time off painting the tigers, hippos, elephants, and zebras with food colors and a tiny, tiny brush! The animals are made of animal crackers (you know--the ones that come in a big plastic bear-shaped tub) covered with a colored glaze made of powdered sugar, milk, and corn syrup. I would have liked to include some other animals, but I figured the ones I chose had the most distinctive shapes (zebra, lion, tiger, and elephant were a given since they also appeared on the green jungle print cupcake liners). These are so fun I almost want to throw my own zoo party just so I can make them again!

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Pretty days...

...just beg for pink cupcakes! And October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, don't cha know. Think pink!

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Cooking with Coveiter

I was recently asked if I'd be interested in creating a baked good in the spirit of the Coveiter website, which provides daily helpings of all things pretty--shoes, clothes, home items, and jewelry to name a few. Being a huge Coveiter fan, I didn't have to think twice before enthusiastically saying "YES!" (More excuses to bake, right?) Whether you're a girly girl or just someone who appreciates beautiful things, you should check out their awesome website. The ladies at Coveiter have impeccable taste and have never been known to disappoint. Many, many thanks go out to Lindsey at Coveiter, who agreed to photograph my creation. Beautiful work, Lindsey!

For this project I used the colors of Coveiter's blog heading for inspiration: a palette of purple, grey (silver?), and white. Purple was easy--I knew I had to incorporate blueberries somewhere in my recipe (and I knew it had to be cupcakes!), since they bake up and burst into a vivid shade of purple. In the end I chose to use them in the frosting in order to better showcase their lovely hue. Baked in silver foil liners and topped with a pearl-dusted white fondant flower, I think I did a good job with sticking to my planned color scheme. I better be careful, though, since lately the famous Sprinkles Bakery is having a fit over other people allegedly copying "their look" with fondant decorations on top of cupcakes. :)

A Dozen Donut Cupakes (adapted from The Joy of Cooking)

2 cups unbleached flour
1 Tbl. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
2 large eggs
1 cup vanilla yogurt
2/3 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup canola oil
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Place oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 400°F. Line a 12-cup muffin pan with paper or foil cups.
Whisk dry ingredients together in a medium bowl. In a separate (large) bowl whisk eggs, yogurt, brown sugar, oil, and vanilla together until smooth. Add dry ingredients and stir just until moistened. Batter will be lumpy.

Portion into 12 muffin cups and bake until cakes test done, about 15 minutes. Let cool in muffin pan for 5 minutes, then remove to wire racks to cool completely before frosting.

Dreamy Blueberry Buttercream (enough to frost 24 cupcakes)

1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup Crisco®
1/4 cup Blueberry Cobbler flavored Coffee Mate® powdered creamer
3 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 small can wild blueberries, drained**

**Buy a box of Betty Crocker® "Twice the Blueberries" muffin mix. It comes with two small cans of wild blueberries...borrow one for this recipe, and you'll still have one can left to make blueberry muffins with. Yay! Or you could buy frozen wild blueberries and use about 1/4 cup if you live in an area where this is more cost effective, or go with fresh if you're lucky enough to get your hands on some.

With an electric mixer, cream butter and shortening together until smooth and creamy. Add powdered coffee creamer and mix to incorporate. Slowly add powdered sugar, stopping to scrape bowl as needed, and beat another 3-5 minutes. Add blueberries and continue beating another minute or so, until berries break down and blend into frosting.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Everyone's got a favorite

Hostess® snack cake, that is. Mine happens to be the rare and elusive Orange Cup Cake. Okay, so it's not the healthiest choice one could make, what with it's scary-long list of ingredients, artificial flavors & colors, and enough sugar to send a panda into a diabetic fit. But just want it, you know? Behold, my take on two childhood favorites: the (in)famous Hostess® Cup Cake (often mistakenly referred to as a Ding Dong, which is a similar yet entirely different beast) and the Twinkie® cupcake form.

As usual, I take requests whenever a company event arises, and these two garnered the most votes for our Labor Day cookout. I'm actually quite pleased with how they came out, despite the fact that I veered from the classic canoe-shape for the cupcake on the right (which incidentally only has marshmallows on top to help disguise my messy cupcake filling technique). Ideally I would've used half a large marshmallow, but it was late and the minis were all I could find in my baking stash.

Wanna make some? You'll need two dozen of your favorite cupcakes, made using your favorite recipe or my favorite--from a box. Use cupcake liners or not; it's more authentic without, but then you're stuck with the tedious task of greasing and flouring your muffin tins. Once cool, use a pastry bag (or large zip-top bag) fitted with a large star tip to fill them with "Hostess® Twinkie Creme Filling" found on the Top Secret Recipes site. For the chocolate top: melt 1 cup chocolate chips, 1/4 cup shortening, and 3 Tablespoons corn syrup together and spread on cupcakes. Finish with an icing squiggle, if desired. Don't try to make 7 loops on top unless you've got crazy good piping skills, which I don't. That and I think Hostess® has trademarked "the look."

Sunday, August 17, 2008

No Tricks, Just Treats

Combining my two recent obsessions, Rice Krispie Treats and Neapolitan anything, these precious cubes of stri-pedy goodness are sheer genius! Wish I could take credit for inventing these, because they're such a simple yet clever idea. Not to mention tasty. (Thank you, Kraft Foods, for inventing strawberry marshmallows!)

I don't know what it is about the combination of chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry that plays such a beautiful symphony in my mouth and brings such a smile to my heart. Perhaps it's the lovely stripes of color, oh so sweet and pastel. Or maybe it's the liberating feeling of knowing that no longer do you have to choose among the three flavors. Why settle for one when you can have it all?

Neapolitan Treats (yield: 48 cubes)
You'll need:
a parchment-lined 11x15" pan
a largish pot
silicone spatula or other stirring device
rainbow sprinkles (optional)

Chocolate Layer:
3 Tbl. margarine
10 oz bag mini marshmallows
8 cups Cocoa Krispies (not the "Pebbles", because those are flat-ish)

Vanilla Layer:
3 Tbl. margarine
10 oz bag mini marshmallows
8 cups Rice Krispies

Strawberry Layer:
3 Tbl. margarine
10 oz bag Kraft Jet-Puffed Strawberry Marshmallows
8 cups Rice Krispies
4 drops red food coloring (optional)

I prepared them in that order because I did not want to wash my pot in between flavors. You can layer them in whatever order you prefer!

Line your 11x15" pan with parchment paper, then lightly spray the bottom with non-stick spray. For each layer, melt the margarine and marshmallows over low heat until melted, then stir in cereal until evenly coated. A silicone spatula works wonders for this! Spread mixture into pan, and spread evenly while pressing firmly. Repeat with remaining layers. Now's the time to add the sprinkles, if using. Cool completely, then cut into cubes. Enjoy!

Friday, August 15, 2008

It's good to be back!

Well it's that time of year again, so head on out to the Cajundome for the Games of Acadiana Game Day on Saturday, August 16th beginning at 10 a.m. As always, it's free to register and play, but please consider making a donation to benefit Miles Perret Cancer Services. Check out "Mama T's Bake Sale" and peruse oodles of tables overflowing with baked goods lovingly made by the good folks of Acadiana. Every thing's $1, so buy plenty--it's for a good cause

Here's what I'll be throwing into the mix:

Neapolitan Cookies

Lemon-Lime Cupcakes

Marshmallow Krispy Squares (with sprinkles!)
If you're as big a fan of giant Rice Krispie Treats as I am, then you've gotta grab some of these at the bake sale. Measuring in at a whopping 3" x 3" x 1.75", these gooey, crispy yum-yums also sport the fun addition of "flair." Cute!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Kitchen is closed!

That's right, folks. You read that title correctly (take a few seconds to breathe deeply and calm down...everything will be okay). Barring any unforseen and/or spontaneous cake-requiring events, my oven is going on hiatus. That is, until the week of August 16th--when I'll be firing it up again to churn out ridiculous piles of baked goods for the Games of Acadiana Bake Sale to benefit the Miles Perret Center. Make plans to bring your little ones to Game Day at the Cajundome in Lafayette, LA on August 16th for a fun-filled day of family-friendly activities. Until then I'll be hanging up my oven mitts and dreaming up what delicious little lovelies I'll be bringing :) See ya next month!

Monday, July 21, 2008

I just discovered Wordle!

While browsing the I Heart Cuppycakes blog a few days ago I was introduced what I would consider quite possibly one of the neatest sites I've ever seen. Go find yourself a big block of text to copy and paste, then check out to generate your own "Wordle" graphic. You can switch up fonts, layouts, and color schemes to your liking, and they're even smart enough to allow you the option of excluding common words (so your Wordle won't be full of "the", "a", "of", etc.). I generated one using the text of my recent post on vegan chocolate cupcakes. Small things such as these bring so much sunshine and happiness to my day!

Miss American Cupcake Contest: Update

Many thanks to all my friends and family members who voted for me and my cupcake entry entitled "Petits Gateaux de Sirop" in the Miss American Cupcake Contest. The polls have closed and the results are out. Alas--no love for me, despite all my charms, good looks, and pleas for votes. :) Better luck next time, eh?

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Vegan brownies? Yes, please.

I don't know what it is about these brownies, but they are unbelieveably good. I'm talking best-ever brownies that have come out of my oven, and that's saying a lot because I've tried many, many recipes on my quest for the perfect brownie. Vegan or not, these are the hands-down winner. I love them so much I want you to go make some for yourself and try them out. Yes, the recipe calls for tofu, but it's cleverly disguised beneath all that sugar and chocolatey goodness. Think of it as covert soy.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Vegan cupcakes are taking over my oven...

Does that chocolate cupcake not look like it's packed full of awesomeness? 'Cause it is, and it's vegan too! The recipe came from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World, and if you don't already own a copy you should go buy one. Seriously. Any unsuspecting omnivore would mistake this delightfully tender and light cupcake for a standard boxed cupcake. Don't get me wrong, I love me some cake mix cakes, but these were so easy to make and boast the addition of soy milk and canola oil--healthier substitutes for milk, butter, and eggs. Next time I might even fill them with a little Twinkie-type filling and top them with ganache and a little white squiggle. Mmmm...tasty.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

It's not easy being green (cake).

My sister and I have been on a cake ball kick lately, and I decided to take the plunge and try my hand at making Bakerella's original Cupcake Bites. These are similar to the ones I previously made, but without the peanut butter cup-like bottom. We couldn't find the correct size of flower-shaped cookie cutter that was called for in the tutorial, until Diana happened upon some in the scrapbooking section of Hobby Lobby. Go figure. I actually did find the cutters at Williams-Sonoma, but the set was...pricey.

I made a minty green cake by adding mint extract and green food coloring to a box of white cake mix, which I naively assumed would stay the same beautiful green color when baked. Well lo and behold, the exterior of the cake baked up a wonderful, beautiful shade of...golden brown. Which is all fine and dandy until I started crumbling the cake. The resulting pile looked like a dirty speckled mess of green and brown. Yuk. It was nothing few more drops of food coloring couldn't remedy though. Make that tons more drops. Making these required quite a bit of a time commitment, but as I have no life and my weekends are pretty much free I didn't mind it so much. The minty flavor is subtle, which most people seemed to enjoy. I however am more partial to a more pronounced minty punch in the mouth, but overall I am quite pleased with the cuteness of the final product. Kinda like mini mugs of root beer. Which isn't such a horrible idea at all considering the number of root beer flavored cupcakes I've seen floating around the interweb...

I also made a three layered carrot cake, slathered in cream cheese icing and covered in chopped pecans. It was both beautiful and delicious, yet for some reason I did not think to take a picture of it :(

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Arrrgh Matey!

Enter the Rum Raisin Cupcake (aka "Pirate Cupcake"), which has been on my "to bake" list for two weeks now. Sweet and innocent looking, these little cuties pack a quadruple punch of rummy goodness: rum-soaked raisins, rum in the batter, rum glaze, and rum flavored frosting. It's a veritable rum lover's heaven! Now before you go on thinking that you can get tipsy from these, you should know that the alcohol is probably mostly cooked out from the cake, and is definitely cooked out in the glaze, which I sent a-boilin' for about 5 minutes. It's the flavor I'm after. Sorry, alcoholphiles. (Is that even a word?)

This is my second venture into the world of vegan baking, and I have to say I'm quite happy with the results. My first attempt was a chocolate flavored "Wacky Cake," and I was less than thrilled with its flavor and texture. I wasn't willing to give up yet, since I find the concept of vegan baking rather intriguing and worth pursuing. Baking without eggs and dairy means I can whip up a batch of yum-yums at the drop of a hat, because finding a stock of eggs, butter, and milk in my fridge is always a gamble. You can find the Rum Raisin Cupcake recipe in Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World, easily purchased at your local bookstore or from an online vendor. I really like that the recipes in VCTOTW make a neat dozen... small enough batches to do some experimenting with! The red velvet, vanilla, chocolate, chai latte, cappuccino, and coconut ones are next on my list (in no particular order), so be on the lookout in the future for these posts.

Friday, July 4, 2008

It's the Fourth of July!

Cake + Fruit + Jell-O + Cheesecake = YUM!

This delightful concoction by Kraft Foods entitled "Wave Your Flag Cheesecake" has been in my repertoire for several years now. It's one of those cleverly devised recipes that calls for multiple brand name products, but I of course went the generic/store brand route just to fly in the face of Kraft Foods. While it may seem odd at first to top a pound cake with gelatin and a cheesecake-like mixture, one bite will have you aching for more. Finish reading this post, then run to the store and buy the ingredients. There's no baking involved, so you have no excuse not to make one.

The holiday weekend has me itchin' to fire up my oven and do some baking, but that might have to wait till Sunday. In case you're curious, here's a sneak peek at what I have planned...

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Allergy Warning: This Product Contains Dairy

I have been dreaming about making a Tres Leche cake for the past week now, ever since I had a piece at my friend's birthday dinner at Cafe Habana City. It was the third, maybe fourth time I'd ever tried it...and boy was it goooood. A simple description of tres leche (or leches) cake? How about a sinfully rich slab of sweet milky deliciousness? Filled with condensed milk, evaporated milk, and cream/half-and-half/whole milk (it depends on the recipe), it's got more milks than you can shake a stick at. If you're even slightly lactose intolerant, don't even think about eating or even looking at it. Or do it anyway, like I do, knowing full well that you're going to give yourself a tummy ache. It's worth it.

This really should've been posted with the last post, since it was part of the baking bonanza that occurred yesterday. However, it wasn't ready until today since the milk mixture had to soak into the cake overnight. My sister and I both peeped anxiously at the cake as it was resting in the fridge, wondering why it should soak so long and what would happen if we just eat it now??? Would we create a tear in the space-time continuum? That's a risk we weren't willing to take. It was a long hard wait, but we made it! It's an odd, odd thing...but even after pouring over 3 cups of liquid over it the cake seemed dry. Huh? Definitely not like the restaurant ones :(

Wanna make your own? Try out Alton Brown's recipe. He's a generally trustworthy guy, if you ignore my cranberry muffin incident. (Yes, I know this is the second time I've referenced it, but how can I ever forget something like that?) I did make some changes though (don't I always?)...instead of half-and-half I used a mixture of heavy cream and 2% milk. After all, half-and-half stands for half milk, half cream. Duh. The recipe calls for a cup, but half-and-half only comes in pint containers and I hate to buy more than I know I'll use. I hate to waste, so I used half a cup of cream out of my pint of heavy cream and made the difference up in milk. Of course that meant reducing the topping, but believe me--it still made plenty. I used 1/4 cup powdered sugar instead of the 8 ounces of granulated sugar called for. That would've just put it over the top. ^_^

On a side note, I'm pretty happy with how the photo came out. I have the broken cover of our kitchen skylight to thank for that, because it cast a mega beam of sunshine juuust in the right spot on my counter.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

A Saturday Baking Bonanza

I can't exactly remember the details, but some time ago I signed up to be a recipe tester for Cook's Illustrated magazine. I'm a pretty big fan of the magazine and website, and if I'm lucky enough on a Saturday afternoon I can catch their television program "America's Test Kitchen" on PBS. For those of you not familiar with the premise of the organization, they do extensive testing of recipes, products, techniques, and cooking gadgets. In other words, when you use one of their recipes you can be sure that it's pretty much no-fail and will taste amazing.

I've been receiving e-mails from them with recipes to test and a corresponding survey to complete, but so far this is the only recipe I've attempted--Chewy Chocolate Cookies. The other recipes they've sent have either not interested me or required too many ingredients I would need to buy and subsequently never use again. These cookies were okay, but if I ever make them again I'll make a few changes. First, I would cut out the step of rolling the dough in granulated sugar prior to baking. At first I thought this would make it easier to shape the cookies and reduce stickiness, but after handling the dough with relative ease I think the step could be eliminated. I'd also make these guys a bit smaller. Make that a LOT smaller. The entire batch of dough was portioned into 16 cookies but could have easily made a full 36 and still end up with a decent size cookie. The current size is generous, yes, but in my opinion it's more than one person can eat. Or should eat.

A while back my sister's boyfriend asked me if I knew how or have ever made focaccia bread. My answer was "no," but it got me to thinking that maybe I should make it, and soon. I turned to my trusty Allrecipes site to read up on some recipes and member reviews and found this recipe. I made two modifications though: less yeast and no olive oil on top (I figured we could dip in olive oil when we ate--like at those nice Italian restaurants). The recipe calls for 1 Tablespoon (3 tsp.)of yeast...a standard package contains 2-1/4 tsp., and I wasn't about to open another pack for the rest. I knew I could get away with using less if I increased the proof time. The resulting bread pretty darned tasty, but next time I'll stretch the dough into a bigger slab before baking. I followed the directions by patting the dough out to 1/2", but my final product was too puffy, too tall, too bready...if that makes any sense.

Well these aren't baked goods per se, but they did come out of my oven and it's just too pretty a picture not to post. :) On the left are crawfish cakes. Yes, that's right. Crawfish cakes. Sounds good, no? I chopped up some leftover tails I had in my freezer from a crawfish boil earlier this year and threw them into a standard crab cake recipe. Of course I made the mistake of forgetting that the tails were already seasoned, so with the added salt in the recipe the cakes ended up being a little salty for my taste.

Pictured on the right are some roasted vegetables I prepared using a package of Italian dressing mix and a touch of olive oil. It's officially summer time (though it's been feeling like it outside for quite some time now), and with it comes a bounty of summer squash. Yellow squash and zucchini are two of my favorite vegetables, as are sweet red peppers. Normally I'm unwilling to shell out the bucks to buy them, but there was a sale at Albertsons I couldn't pass up. I still had a pound of carrots in my fridge from when I made carrot cakes, so I wanted to use those up too. (parboiled first, of course) If it wasn't such a rainy Saturday, I'd have thrown these into my veggie basket and popped them onto the grill with some portbellos. Then I would be in veg-u-ble heaven!

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Shortcut Carrot Cupcakes

I'm feeling generous today, so maybe it's time for some recipe sharing. Carrot cakes I've made in the past were 'from scratch' recipes that were only so-so in terms of taste and texture. Some of this had to do with the fact that the great majority of carrot cake recipes call for ungodly amounts of oil or butter. I've seen recipes that call for 1.5 or even 2.0 cups of oil. CUPS. Yeesh. Try as I may, I just can't bring myself to use that much oil in anything, so I typically resort to the age-old trick of substituting half the oil with applesauce. That's all fine and dandy, but for this round I decided to find a recipe structured on a smaller amount of fat to begin with. It's no secret that most of my cakes come from a box, so without further delay...

Carrot Cupcakes (makes about 24)

4 eggs

1/2 cup oil
4 oz. jar carrot baby food
18.25 oz. box yellow cake mix*
2 tsp. cinnamon*
1/2 tsp. nutmeg*
1/4 tsp. cloves*
3.4 oz. box instant vanilla pudding
1 lb. carrots, peeled and finely grated
1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans (optional)

*You can save time by using a spice cake mix instead of these.

Preheat oven to 350°F and line 24 muffin cups with paper liners.

In a mixing bowl, beat eggs, oil, and carrot baby food until smooth. Add cake mix, spices, and instant pudding to bowl and beat on low until combined, about 30 seconds. Scrape down sides of bowl, then beat for 2 minutes on medium speed. Fold in grated carrots and nuts, if using.

Portion batter into 24 muffin cups. (I was worried about overflow so I ended up making 28 cupcakes, but it turns out the batter doesn't rise all that much. Making 24 would give you a nicer, taller crown or "muffin top" than what I have pictured.)

Bake at 350°F for 30 minutes, or until cakes test done. Let rest in pans for 5 minutes, then remove cupcakes to cool on wire racks before frosting.

White Chocolate Cream Cheese Icing (Yield: about 3 cups)

8 oz. cream cheese
2 oz. butter, softened
6 oz. bar white chocolate, melted and cooled
1 tsp. vanilla
2 cups powdered sugar

Beat cream cheese and butter together until smooth. Add white chocolate and vanilla and continue to beat until incorporated, scraping sides of bowl as necessary. Gradually add powdered sugar, and continue to beat until fluffy and spreadable.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008


Blueberries are definitely up there on my list of favorite foods, so buying a mega-carton of blueberries at Sam's was a no-brainer for me. Problem is, there's no one else in my household who shares my great affinity for these delectable blue morsels. It's not a big deal for me to just sit and eat blueberries until I'm sick, but I decided that a better option for using them up before they spoiled was to bake them in something. Well not just any something--blueberries are at their happiest when that something is a blueberry muffin. I mean who says "no" to a blueberry muffin, really? I defy you to find that person.

If a blueberry muffin = love, then a giant muffin cake would surely = Love. Capital "L." Times a hundred.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Thanks Cakespy!

Five weeks ago I decided that it was high time I got off my lazy rear and take up the "Couch to 5K" program. I'm on week 6 of the 9 week schedule, which means I *should* be running 5 km on the 4th of July. Hooray for Independence Day! From there, I'll just need to work on pacing and I'll be race-ready in no time. A proper runner has to have proper running attire, right? Enter my new jogging tank designed by Jessie Oleson of Cakespy.

It's supposed to be a sleeveless tank/singlet-type shirt, made of that newfangled micro-dry-performance-stain-resistant-anti-microbial-and-whatnot-material. But on me it looks more like a muscle shirt because I ordered a size too big. *sigh* I based my size guesstimate on how the shirt looked on the online model, who is definitely wearing a size Small. But who cares when the design is described as "The most magical design ever?" Cupcakes and unicorns...what could possibly top that?

Oh and you might be wondering if the picture I posted is of me wearing it? No, it's just a cropped photo of the shirt on a hanger. Why not just put it on, take a picture, and crop that? Well I did, and quite frankly, taking a picture of and then posting a shot of my chest is well...creepy. :)

Thursday, May 29, 2008

"Your Cuteness, Sir, Confounds Me"

Holy snap. These things are cute. And I don't just mean your ordinary, everyday, run-of-the-mill cute. These babies are devastatingly adorable.
tr.v. dev·as·tat·ed, dev·as·tat·ing, dev·as·tates
1. To lay waste; destroy.
2. To overwhelm; confound; stun

Such a perfect definition, for gazing upon a tray full of these miniature delights would most certainly render a person unconscious. Or at the very least obliterate any feelings of sadness, discontent, or ill-will. Could these possibly be the answer for world peace? You decide.

My sister D. and I collaborated on this little project, which was a little time consuming but well worth the effort. The first few came out kinda...ugly. But we quickly got the hang of it and churned out some pretty little 'cupcakes.' Inside is a strawberry and cream cheese cake ball, topped with white candy coating and resting upon a cup of chocolate bark. Chocolate bark??? Really? You'd think the inventor could've come up with a better name than that.

Anyway, learn how to make your own using Bakerella's tutorial. While you're there, check out the awesomeness that is Bakerella. Oh and you might as well buy a t-shirt or 3.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

And the Winner is....

Me, hopefully. Well I've gone ahead and sent in my entry to the "Miss American Cupcake Contest." Entry deadline is May 31st, so it may be a while before the state winners are announced. I'm guessing that once the recipes are received they will need to be tested out and baked. Depending on the number of entries, it could be weeks before I know anything. I know my recipe and photo definitely has prize-winning potential, but still--better keep my fingers crossed.

After my less than stellar results with the Cajun Cake recipe, I decided to go with a gateau de sirop (syrup cake) recipe. It kind of hit me in one of those "why didn't I think of this to begin with?" kind of moments. Gateau de sirop is a very traditional, very popular and beloved cake here in Cajun Country, where sugarcane fields abound. And it's really only properly made using Steen's Cane Syrup, produced locally in Abbeville, Louisiana. I myself have never eaten a syrup cake, nor have I tasted Steen's Syrup before developing this recipe, but I'm really glad I did. The cake itself is reminiscent of gingerbread-- only softer, springier, and more moist, with less of a gingery kick. The cane syrup has a decidedly molasses flavor, but different somehow. I can't explain it, except that it's pretty durn good!

Recipe development was fun, actually. Since I was planning on entering my creation into a contest, I couldn't just use the classic Steen's recipe on their website or any of the others I found online. That would be stealing. My geeky nature prompted me to search out a total of 9 recipes and enter them into Microsoft Excel spreadsheet for comparison. Baking is a tricky science, so making up a cupcake recipe on the fly could only result in disaster. By comparing flour-liquid-egg-syrup ratios and getting an idea of typical ingredient amounts, I was able to take what I thought was best out of the 9 recipes I had to make one that was uniquely my own. Hooray for spreadsheets!

I'm not going to post the recipe here until later, after results are announced. It's pretty long, and this post is already getting too long. Here are some snapshots of the process:

Cupcake mise en place. Sometimes I pretend I have my own cooking show.
Fresh from the oven. I was actually really scared of overflow, as the batter was exceptionally thin and filled the muffin cups pretty high. Luckily, no disasters today... save for one cupcake (not seen in the picture) that was inadvertently smashed by my oven mitt.
Frosting mise en place. For the frosting, I tried to replicate the flavor of a "dollop of whipped cream and drizzle of cane syrup" that is commonly found on gateau de sirop. It's a cooked frosting otherwise known as Mock Whipped Cream. The flavor is gently sweet with a texture that's light, almost ethereal, and lilting on the tongue. If you've ever had a Red Velvet cake with the "other" frosting (as in NOT the cream cheese frosting), then you know what I'm talking about.

I think I did pretty well with the photo of the finished product, don't you think? (Very first picture in this post...scroll back up if you don't believe me.) Now that's what I call one heck of a beauty shot.

Monday, May 26, 2008


So I've *almost* done it. Updated my blog completely, that is. I have one more entry on deck, but that will have to wait for tomorrow because it's late (for me) and I need to get to bed! Sneak peek: It's about my entry in the Miss American Cupcake Contest.

A Different Sort of Swirl

You may or may not have noticed that I've been on a cupcake kick lately, and that I tend to decorate them with the same frosting swirl. Don't get me wrong, I love using the 1M swirl on top of my cupcakes. It's elegant and makes fast work out of frosting cupcakes. I'm not kidding when I say that it probably takes me 3 times as long to just use an offset spatula to spread icing on compared to using a piping bag. I've said before that I have some sort of problem with getting things "just so," so when I'm spreading on icing by hand I tend to go over the same spot multiple times to try to make it look right. With a piping bag, you get one shot. The swirl hides most imperfections.

That being said, I just don't think the 1M swirl is fitting for every occasion. Sometimes you want a more whimsical look to your cupcake. Enter the 2A swirl. I recently purchased the 2A tip, and thought that it would be very fitting atop a chocolate chip cupcake. Cute, no? You probably can't see the wrapper very well, but it's decorated with Easter bunnies. I had Easter-themed papers I bought on clearance, so I used them with the chocolate cupcake thinking that the color of the cake would obscure any design on the paper. (These were for a male co-worker's birthday) Wrong again.

Mini Red Velvet Cupcake FAIL

I had this crazy notion that making Red Velvet cupcakes in mini-cupcake form would be a fantastic idea. Which it was, until it came time to frost and pack them away for transport. How the heck was I supposed to carry 8 dozen mini cakes to work? All frosted up they'd be impossible to stack and just throw in a giant tub, and I was NOT about to lug a bunch of cookie sheets up the stairs at work. Altogether they just take up too much surface area...something I hadn't accounted for.

Ever the clever and resourceful baker, I decided to improvise and forgo my usual cream cheese icing and instead top these gems with a cream cheese glaze. That supposedly hardens. According to the internet. I learned the hard way that not all glazes harden to the same extent. The recipe I chose said the glaze would "set," which I incorrectly interpreted as "it will get hard enough to stack." The top crusted over nicely by the next morning, but breaking the crust revealed a still-liquid layer. Not yummy. So off goes the glaze and the wrappers, for as it turns out, this batch of cupcakes was destined to become cake balls. I hadn't made cake balls since Christmas, so I figured it was high time they made it back into my repertoire. By the way, if any of you decide you want to make cake balls, do yourself a favor and bake a cake in a 9x13" pan. Peeling off 8 dozen wrappers? Not fun.