Monday, December 29, 2008

Pumpkin Pecan Comfort

Today was just one of those days that started out good, but by the end required the comforting task of baking something sweet and new to restore peace of mind, so I decided to make the very first recipe from my new cookie cookbook: Pumpkin Pecan cookies. They came out soft and cakey and just sweet enough. I didn't make the frosting that's supposed to go on top because I want to take them to work tomorrow, but I don't think they even needed it. All in all, it was a nice recipe that got my mind off of work, which was the whole point.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Holiday Cookie Insanity

For the past few years my friends and I have decided that there are too many of us for a gift exchange, so instead of gifts my friend and I take over another friends house (she has a much bigger kitchen then both of us combined) and bake bake bake the whole weekend before Christmas. Usually the number of boxes we need to make is semi-reasonable, but this year I ended up making 40 boxes filled with 7 different kinds of cookies. Originally I wanted to make 10 different kinds, but time and strength simply ran out. We literally worked around the clock both days and when I went to work that Monday after 1 hour of sleep, I felt like a zombie and I vowed never to go that crazy again. This of course lasts only until I catch up on sleep and then plans for next year start swirling in my head like snowflakes in a blizzard. But back to this year. Some of the cookies I had to make because they're family favorites, like sugar cookies, white chocolate cranberry shortbread and toffee. The others were new experiments, like molasses cookies (still not as awesome as my friend's recipe, but I'm getting closer), cannoli cookies, orange spritz cookies, and pecan nougat.

On the same topic, yesterday I got a package from a new friend introduced through BzzAgent, a company that lets members try new products and asks them to spread the buzz. For the holidays they decided to initiate a gift exchange amongst it's members and I got paired up with a girl from Florida that amazingly enough ended up having a lot in common with me. For example, we both love to bake, and as my gift she sent me this book, from which I'll now be baking from all year:

Thank you Erika and Happy Holidays everyone!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Gluten Free Chocolate Truffle Cake and Thanksgiving

Please excuse the was taken last second as I was boxing up the cake and rushing out the door on my way to work and though it may not look as nice as some of my other cakes here, it smelled divine. It contains about 3 batches of ganache and almost 4 pounds of deep dark chocolate and my favorite honey instead of sugar. It was for a coworker's mother's birthday, which happened to be on Thanksgiving, so before getting the dinner ready (I hosted this year) I did some research, adjusted some recipes, and made this with three layers of gluten free chocolate cake. I was a bit worried since I haven't made too many cakes with such restrictions, but on Monday he told me that one of the people at the party said it was the "best chocolate cake she ever had". I'd say that's gosh darn pretty good :)

As for Thanksgiving...I know it's not cake, or even dessert, but it was by far the most complicated non-pastry I've ever made, and it came out amazing, so I'm writing about it here. I made a Christmas Beast (if you remember the old Grinch cartoon), also known as a Turducken. For those of you who have not heard of this excessive dish, it's a stuffed chicken inside of a stuffed duck inside of a stuffed turkey. Did you catch that? Three birds and three stuffings. Whew! It was time consuming and labor intensive and there was a minor grease fire towards the end, but it was totally worth it! It came out much bigger then I anticipated, very very very moist and it fed three families and a small group of coworkers over the next 5 days. Now I know why turkey is only really made once a year :)

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Pistachio Pear Cake

I kinda made this up on spur the moment. My friend said that for her mother's birthday she wanted a pistachio cake with...something...and whipped cream. Oh, and all the things I would pair with it, someone in her family either doesn't like or is allergic to. I happen to still have a couple pears left from yesterday's cupcakes, so I made a white chocolate and pistachio ganache, then I sliced and caramelized those pears, arranged everything into three layers, and built up this huge monstrosity covered in light fresh whipped cream. This cake is huge. You can't really tell from the picture, but it's about a foot high, and I do hope they like it. Me? I have a small container full of yummy pear caramel, so I have to think of something to use that on....and so the cycle continues.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Darn Figs

A few days ago, my friend's random whim, I found myself at a giant Asian supermarket at a quarter to ten, minutes before closing, running down the aisles with a box of fresh persimmons and another with fresh figs. The persimmons are for ice cream and the figs were for spice cupcakes, but due to crazy work week...okay, crazy week in general, the first day I had the strength or the inclination to actually bake was today. I'm baking a pistachio cake for my friend's mother's birthday anyways, so what's a couple of extra cupcakes? Plus I get a chance to "use" the adorable handmade cupcake stands I got from this girl I found on etsy and therefore totally justify their purchase.

Now I didn't take a picture of what the figs looked like, but you can take my word for it, you didn't want to see it if I had. They went bad and fast. It looked like a fuzzy forest or a futuristic civilization full of intricate roads and pathways, or to put it plainly: ten dollars worth of Gross! On top of all that, I didn't even look at the figs until the cake batter was already in the cupcake tins. I HAD to substitute something (you can't have plain cupcakes, that's just wrong) so sliced pears had to fill in. A quick lemon cream cheese frosting and the pictures here show what came out. Yes, I'm disappointed. It's hard to find fresh figs around here, but all in all I don't think the people at work will mind. Free food is free food :)

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Wedding Fun

I know it's now a week later, but it's been a crazy week so I'm only now getting to post the pictures from my friend's wedding last week. The day after my Halloween party, bright and early I had to work again, but as soon as that was done I cleared my dining room table, preheated the oven and began the rolling/baking/repeat marathon that would last about 12 hours. I rolled and baked almost 400 cookies, half sugar cookies and half peanut butter. My friend and the bride came several hours later to help package them (and feed me since I had not thought of eating since I started). The box above contains about half of them and the picture below is what they looked like once they were on the table:

There were two kinds of wedding cake. I made a peanut butter cake with peanut butter buttercream and chocolate ganache filling as the main cake and two huge vanilla sheet cakes with dulce de leche buttercream. Because of work I couldn't start on them as early as I wanted to so I found myself baking until 5am the day of the wedding to get everything assembled and packed in time. A few hours of sleep and it was time to get going as the reception was over an hour away and I had to get the cake there 4 hours before the wedding, so I settled everything in and took off at a crawl to avoid unnecessary jostling. About 30 minutes into the drive I remembered...I was invited to this wedding and I didn't bring a change of clothes or anything and all I had on were jeans, a ratty shirt and sneakers. Definitely not wedding attire. I delivered the cake and got it settled in (the pics are just of the main cake since the sheet cakes were not going to be seen and were just for cutting and serving) and then took off for the nearest mall. I lucked out and was able to find a nice outfit and shoes. The nice lady at the Clinique counter did my makeup and I arrived back at the hall only 5 minutes late. Whew! All in all I think everyone liked the cake and it came out tasting great.

Quick update, the wedding pictures are now up and the photographer put up a picture of my cake on her blog here or more to the point here. Go take a look if you like.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Tasty Brains....Cupcakes that is

I have decided that between crazy all consuming work and cake orders, life is still too boring, and therefore I'm throwing a Halloween Costume party tomorrow for a few of my friends. In honor of the occasion everyone has to dress up and I'm decking out my house in gory and creepy details to the theme of Dracula's Science Lab ('cause then I can decorate however I want). The food is also themed of course, which leads us to this post. The dessert. I saw pictures of brain cupcakes, but for one reason or another mine came out looking less like brains and more like guts...which actually works even better. They're apple spice cupcakes with lemon cream cheese guts with just a touch of strawberry juice for that "freshly acquired" look and I just had to "sample" the tasty specimen in these pictures. Yum!

The totally cool pumpkin set me back 50c at a farmer's market last weekend. I got a whole bunch of em cause they looked so cool. A handful, once they've served their purpose as decor, will be turned into tasty little pies, but more on that later.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Free the Gnomes!

My friend calls herself and her husband, both of whom are of a short stature, the munchkins and for his birthday she asked me to make him a Gnome cake, which my best friend thought was just too funny. She's been calling me a gnome ever since the movie Amelie came out and I said that I wished someone would steal me and take me around the world like the gnome in the movie. The movie took it's inspiration from the Garden Gnome Liberation Front, who have been around for some time and have gotten themselves into their own fair share of trouble. Travelocity took that idea and ran with it as well, hence their spokesperson is a gnome after which I vaguely styled the cake. It came out a bit shorter then anticipated, hence his lack of feet, but then I figured he should be short anyways, that was the point. Inside he's 4 decadent layers of rich chocolate cake and smooth dulce de leche buttercream. Who WOULDN'T want him for a traveling companion?

Here he is on his recent trip to Russia!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

The Best Toffee Ever!

The one thing all my friends and family look most forward to during the holidays are the boxes of baked goodies that I give out as gifts and the one thing they love the most in that box that I MUST put in every year is my toffee. I guess I never thought of actually taking money for it, but recently a friend of a friend asked if I'd be interested in selling her 1lb boxes of it to give out to friends and this lead me to make more toffee then I ever make outside of December. It's a lot of fun and it's starting to look more and more professional.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

A Rainbow beneath the Monochrome

A friend of mine was throwing a birthday party and asked me to make the birthday cake. But not just any one, the same one as I made for his wedding (white champagne cake with a raspberry mousse, chocolate ganache and buttercream frosting)...but not green...and not pink....or blue.... After we went over the colors "not allowed" I decided that I'm going to mess with him a bit, so I made the cake black and white (see pic above), but I couldn't leave things there, especially since he made such a distinct point about all the colors I couldn't include, so I decided that he was not very specific and only told me not to use those colors on the I put them inside :) With some of the leftover batter I made 6 cupcakes one of which you see here (you can get a bit of an idea of the trickery in this picture):

The color breakdown was a lot neater in the cake layers, but I forgot to take pictures at the party, so the split cupcake will have to do. Everyone was very surprised when the cake was cut and had a lot of fun teasing him about the colors inside. His wife even said that the colors made the cake taste better :)

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Nothing warms a house like a Cosmo...

...Cupcake that is. Okay, that was really cheesy, but it's pretty late Sunday night and I've had a pretty full weekend. On Saturday I went to my friend's housewarming, and I thought it'd be a good chance to try out a new recipe for cosmo-inspired cupcakes. The cake itself is cranberry-lime, soaked in vodka-cranberry syrup and topped with cranberry lime buttercream. The recipe I found for the frosting really needs fixing. I made it almost according to the instructions, but I cut the sugar in half and when I tasted it, it was still too sweet so I added a package of cream cheese to cut that. It came out much better, but still a bit too sweet for my taste. I'll try to incorporate these flavors into a meringue buttercream for next time. I shared a few of the "extras" with my friends, and my family, and my sister brought two of them back to school with her to share with her friends there. All in all the cupcakes were a hit at the party and everyone I heard back from, though my parent's agreed with me on the frosting, which just goes to show just how spoiled they are :)

Saturday, August 30, 2008

An Elephant Never Forgets

My mom's boss and friend wanted a cake for her daughters 25th birthday, and since my mom really liked the pink eleoink she asked me to make it again. This time around I made sure that the elephant looked like an elephant and I even gave him a habitat since the cake needed to feed 50 people. Inside it's chocolate cake soaked in raspberry syrup with honey ganache and raspberry buttercream so when you slice it, there are pink layers inside to match the outside. I'm happy with how it came out, but the ribbon is my favorite part :)

Thursday, August 28, 2008

First Pie of the Season

I've been making cakes and cupcakes for so many occasions all summer that I've been neglecting the "others". Since the holidays are slowly creeping in (just look at all the Halloween sections in stores and you'll agree) I decided to finally make the sweet potato pie with a graham cracker crust I've been promising one of my co-workers in return for all the stuff he has done for me. Unfortunately, I realized that I don't have pecans too late and had to resort to using walnuts instead. Hopefully he won't mind...hey, a free pie is a free pie. I made too much filling so I made two baby pies along with a regular sized one. Above is a picture of one of the babies :)

Monday, August 25, 2008

Quick Little Change of Mind

I've decided that I still want to post a picture of the Vanilla Vanilla cupcake after all. I made it, it turned out cute, so there! I think I need to tweak the recipe though. I'm not sure if it's the weather but it came out a bit different then usual this time around. In the mean time though, here it is:

Now I REALLY must get some sleep or else tomorrow I'll resemble the living dead.

Where's that paddle when you need it?

One of my friends asked me to make the cake for her wedding in November and we narrowed down the flavor options to three.

First one is a peanut butter cupcake with peanut butter frosting, since her finance loves peanut butter. It looked like it was in a tiny canoe, but it has no paddles, so it's up the creek in a jungle full of peanut-loving animals without a paddle. Poor cupcake:

The next one is a Dulce de Leche cupcake. It's a vanilla base with Dulce de Leche filling and a DDL buttercream on top. The exciting part with this one is that after years of watching my mom make DDL, I finally made it all by myself. I even resisted that 11pm call to check with her how long it needs to cook. It came out great!

The last one she picked was just plain vanilla with vanilla buttercream. So instead of of showing you that one, I'll show you what I did with all the extra peanut butter batter... PB&J cupcakes! I filled each one with strawberry jam and drizzled chocolate on top. If I hadn't had to work all night and then again all day from home, I'd have brought all of these to share with co-workers. Oh darn, I'll have to find other willing subjects to "dispose of" these cuties:

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Joy's Wedding

So remember a few weeks ago when I was doing a trial run for Joy's wedding cupcakes? No? That's okay, because I don't remember it either. In fact I don't remember anything prior to last Thursday. When I did the trial, I just did a few of each kind and that really doesn't prepare a person for making about 300 cupcakes (she needed only 220, but once you're on a roll, it's kinda hard to stop). On the day before the wedding (and incidentally my birthday) I was baking late into the night and my poor sister had to put up with the mixer whirling until 4am, but when she woke up to go to work she said she thought she was still dreaming because the entire dining room and kitchen was filled with cupcakes and the whole house smelled of chocolate. How's that for a test of will power? They came out even better than during the trial though, as I modified both recipes, and the cake itself was awesome too. It's a really rich chocolate cake with strawberry buttercream and ganache filling inside and plain vanilla frosting on the outside. The cupcakes were lemon blueberry and chocolate strawberry just as last time. You can't see them that well in the picture because the lighting was bad and I had my tiny little ineffectual camera with me, but hopefully once Joy gets the professional pictures from the photographer I'll be able to replace this one with that. I made the stand all by myself just minutes before arriving at the reception and I think it came out pretty good.

Here's a decent picture of one before they left home:

And look, this is the photographer's picture of the rings and one of the cupcakes:

Sunday, August 3, 2008

The Pistachio Incident

My friend and co-worker had a craving for pistachio cake, and so I set off in search for a recipe. Interestingly enough, there are not that many of them. I found two good ones, one called for a very expensive pistachio cream (which I'm considering making myself in the future as time didn't allow for it this time) and another one using pistachio pudding. I really really wanted the cupcakes to actually taste like pistachios and not just be a bit green, so I used lots of pudding, added some sprite and all in all not enough flour. This resulted in VERY moist and VERY tasty cupcakes that all collapsed on me. Or to be more precise (or diplomatic) provided the perfect little wells for the cream cheese frosting :) I also spent the afternoon making fondant flowers for my friend's wedding cupcakes, so I made a few in pink and put them on these. I think pink looks very nice with green. Since pictures I take at night never look as good as the ones I take during the day, and since I want to really perfect this recipe as it came out very tasty, I'll definitely be making these again, but for now, this is what they looked like.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

My favoritest cupcake ever and it's early demise

I'm stuck working from home. Usually this is a horrible situation. I love my tiny condo, but I hate being stuck in these 4 walls for any period over 24 hours especially when they're all spent in front of the computer. Ick! There are things in life that make such days tolerable. For one, my sister will be home in an hour and she's usually good for a few entertaining stories to break the monotony. And two, I have the last chocolate raspberry cupcake sitting in my fridge and quietly calling to me. Normally I don't eat what I bake outside of the casual taste test to make sure that whatever it is, it came out good, but when I need cheering up it's nice to know that for once something I made is actually for me. I only really made two or three of these little guys and they were made from the leftover batter from last night's Eleoink cake, so "Here, here!" for leftovers and their inevitable demise.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Chocolate Grasshopper

If you ever end up with a bottle of Creme de Menthe and you have no idea what to do with it, don't give it to me, I've got my own. I got it a few months back because it looked funky and I had "possibilities" floating through my head as I browsed the liquor aisle. It was only much later that I remembered that I don't really like mint all that much. I do however love the color combination. Cream, chocolate and green look awesome together and were therefore the inspiration for this chocolate mint cupcake. It came out pretty gosh darn good so here it is.

My very first Pink Eleoink

My friend's roommate loves pink elephants, so for her birthday, my friend ordered a chocolate chocolate chocolate with chocolate pink elephant cake. I wanted it to be smooth and pretty, so I surrendered and decided to use fondant (I like frosting more, but nothing gives a cake that smooth finish like fondant). There are no parts that are fondant alone and every extremity has cake underneath it...which is probably why his trunk is a bit short and also why I call him my Pink Eleoink. He came out delicious (my sister kept snatching away pieces of cake as I was carving it) and cute to boot. I might even start doing more experiments with fondant :)

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Lemony Mist

Okay, so the title is a bit too fanciful, but I'm sleepy and I just finished making 60 pretty little lemon cupcakes for my friend's "camping event" which I won't be able to make it to due to waaay too many other family obligations. Since these are iced and not frosted, they will survive being out of the fridge for as long as they'll need to, which was the goal all along. Since the icing is so sweet, I made the cupcakes a little less so to balance out and they came out very moist and dense, so I'm happy and I hope that my friends like them too. As for me, I'm taking Sunday "off" and declaring a non-baking craft day, it's getting a bit too hot to bake. Hmm...I might go make some lemonade :)

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Vacation and From Wedding to the Pitter Patter of Little Cupcakes

I'm sorry that it's been a while since the last post, but I finally took a much-needed vacation. I drove through Ireland in two weeks and I've come back with a sense of calm and ideas for future baking experiments (can you say chocolate stout cake? Mmmmm.)

One of my friends and co-workers has asked me to make cupcakes for her upcoming wedding, which also happens to be on my birthday. The colors of the wedding are pink and blue, just like for a baby shower, and although she denies any association between the two, the fact that she's also pregnant is making me think otherwise. She has decided on lemon-blueberry and chocolate-strawberry cupcakes with maybe a small cake of undecided flavor on top. I did a trial run this weekend and I'm glad I did. The cupcakes came out great, but the lemon-raspberry need a bit more of a lemon kick. I'm almost out of the organic lemon oil my dad found somewhere for me. A little bit goes a long way and it is a wonderful way to add a bit of lemon flavor without needing to modify the basic recipe too much. I must find some right away.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Coffee Cakes Galore

I have never before attempted a coffee cake, believing that if it has no frosting it's just not worth it, but a few days ago one of my friends recommended me for an order for a whole bunch of different coffee cakes for one of her co-workers. I did some research and found what I thought were the best of the best and got to work. There were some setbacks (one of them just didn't want to come out of the pretty pan I baked it in, but my co-workers didn't mind the crumbly mess the next day and declared that I can bring my "failures" to them any time I want) but all in all they came out very pretty. Unfortunately, I didn't get to taste any of them, which kinda got me worried, so today I woke up a tiny bit too early (for a saturday morning at least) and baked two of them, one for a party later this evening and another for an early father's day picnic this afternoon. I packed everything up, grabbed a box of my somewhat failed attempt at french macaroons (the feet didn't form like they should have, so I'll have to try that recipe again) and took off to the picnic. All in all I think the coffee cake came out pretty well. It was moist and very tasty, but what the kids at the picnic loved best were the tiny little macaroons that they kept stealing from the box. By the time the adults decided to find out what all the fuss is about the box was almost empty.