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Friday, April 23, 2010

The Cupcake Wand

This week I had to take a little time away from the baking to make a different kind of cupcake. I saw a picture of this and just had to try it. Every girl loves a wand, and with a cupcake scepter like this who wouldn't. Now, I just have to come up with some kind of matching tiara!

The Best Vanilla Cupcakes

Week 3: Making Things Taste Good

Since I have gotten so many custom cupcake orders in the last month, I ma now on a quest to make the best vanilla cupcake ever. Here I go again with wanting my cupcakes to taste just as good, if not better, than they look.

I think I found the perfect cupcake. This week I made a Vanilla Sour Cream Cake with Vanilla Bean Buttercream. The cake part was the perfect consistency, not too light and fluffy, and not too dense. Just the perfect in between, light enough to be super delicious and dense enough to hold up all the frosting and decorations I may need to add to it. The taste of the cake was wonderful as well. It almost tasted like a snickerdoodle cookie. Fabulous!

The best part of the cupcake though was the Buttercream frosting. I really think that I good buttercream can make the difference between just a cupcake and something that is truly distinct and special. The buttercream I made for this cake was not just a Vanilla Buttercream, but a Vanilla Bean Buttercream. One of my Tuesday Night Testers took one bite and proclaimed, "It tastes just like Dreyer's Vanilla Bean Ice Cream. I know I shouldn't, but I might have to have another." Success. The difference between the regular buttercream and the Vanilla Bean flavor was the use of Vanilla Bean Paste in the buttercream instead of using regular vanilla extract. I had never used nor ever heard of this ingredient before this week and it has left me needing to find where I can buy a bigger bottle of it.

Vanilla Bean Paste comes in a jar, just like Vanilla Extract, but has the consistency of molasses. You can also see the wonderful little flecks of bean in the paste. This paste seemed to give the same taste and visual effect as if I had used actual vanilla beans, but was less expensive and easier to use. You can find this item at William-Sonoma, Sur la Table, or your local cake making supply store. A 4oz bottle coats about $10.00 and is definitely worth every penny.

Overall Decision: 9 out of 10

I give it this rating only because I over cooked the cupcakes a little and over filled the cupcake liners, so the cupcakes came out kind of mushroom shaped. Also, I haven't decided if the natural vanilla bean color to the buttercream takes away from the aesthetics of a cupcake once it has a topper. I might kind of wish it was a bright white color (but really only for pictures).

Monday, April 19, 2010

Strawberries & Champagne

Week 2.5: Making Things Taste Good

This week I had a second opportunity to make something new that might taste good. Morgan and I hosted "Girls Night" at our house on Sunday. I meet up with a great bunch of girls about once a month to hang out, catch up with each other and share a laugh along with some great food. Up until this last Sunday, we had tried eating at a myriad of different restaurants ranging from Azteca to Palomino. On Sunday, eight lovely ladies came over to our place for dinner. They played swords with Austin in the backyard, witnessed that little Anna does actually have enough hair for ponytails, chatted and laughed about our high school fashion trends and hair styles, and ate a fabulous meal made by the best husband ever...mine. We had braised pork shoulder with pears and thyme, wild rice, and roasted cauliflower. It was delicious.

But, I was the most happy with how my attempt to make something that tastes good turned out. I was still thinking about what dessert I would serve at Girl's Night when Anna and I were standing in line at the Fred Meyer earlier this week. We had two items in our cart, but the two carts in front of us looked like the may have had the Garden Center's entire stock of primroses in their carts. I knew I had a few minutes to spare and picked up a Better Homes and Gardens magazine. I flipped to the middle and the cake on the page was pretty and pink. It was perfect. I scanned the recipe and it was so easy.

So, I made a Strawberries & Champagne Cake. It was light and fluffy and the cake actually did taste like champagne. The pink whipped frosting with strawberries on the side made it pretty and perfect for Springtime or for Girl's Night Out. This cake would also be perfect for a bridal shower or Mother's Day. It definitely has a celebration kind of taste.

I know that this cake was a hit because between the eight of us girls and Morgan there was only the tiniest slice left at the end of the night, and my friend who tend to not like sweets (it's just not her preference) had a second piece!... Victory!

Overall decision: 9.5 out of 10
the only reason you would not like this cake is if you do not like the taste of champagne.

This picture doesn't really do the cake justice.

I bought a boxed white cake and followed the instructions on the back. The only change you should make is exchanging champagne for the exact amount of water used in the recipe. While the cake was baking, I took store bought vanilla frosting and added the pink color to it while whipping the frosting with the electric mixer. After the cooled I frosted between the layers and layered sliced strawberries on top, laid the second layer on top and frosted the side and top with remaining frosting. When we served the cake, we put a whole strawberry on the side for garnish.

Easiest. Recipe. Ever.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

The Wellingtons

Week 2: Making Things Taste Good

My husband, if I haven't mentioned it before, although he works a day job as a web developer, is a trained chef. He went to culinary school, before me and the kids, purely because he loves cooking and food. It has never been his goal to cook or serve food to anyone but his family and friends, so dinner guests are a fun time for him to get to try something fancy or new. Now that Slugger is coming to dinner every Tuesday, it is a chance for both the hubby and myself to test our culinary abilities.

This week Morgan, the wonderful Husband, found a Beef Wellington recipe in Jamie Oliver's book "Food Revolution". (We are also fans of his new show). This particular recipe is made with ground beef instead of a single piece of meat and then wrapped in puff pastry to cook in the oven. Morgan has always wanted to make a Beef Wellington and thought this recipe might be an easier version for him to try on a weeknight after he comes home from work.

So, then it was my turn to find a new cake or dessert recipe for our new, fun Tuesday night dinner. I was surfing around the Internet and there it was, just all of a sudden...I had stumbled upon a recipe for...Cupcake Wellington. Ok, theme dinner, here we come...

I must tell you, at first I was a little skeptical about this recipe. I decided to do it for fun, never actually expecting it to taste good. (I know it kind of defeats the whole attempting to "make things that taste good" thing). I found the Cupcake Wellington recipe at, which is now one of my favorite baking blogs. The recipe says that you can use any type of cupcake you prefer for the inside of your wellington,so I chose to make the most delicious from-scratch chocolate cupcake I could find. So, here it goes...

The Inspiration: Morgan's Beef Wellington

First, I made super chocolaty cupcakes. They not only called for more bittersweet chocolate than I would have thought tasty, but I also mixed mini semi-sweet chocolate chips into the batter right before popping them into the oven.

After they colled, I used a melon baller to scoop out the middle of the cupcake.

While the cupcakes were cooling, I made a super creamy chocolate mousse. I've never actually made mousse myself before and I was amazed that it was just beaten eggs with chocolate folded in...who knew? I piped the mousse into the middle of the chocolaty cupcakes.

After they set, I dipped the top of the cupcake in a dark chocolate ganache, sealing the mouse inside the cupcake.

The last step was to wrap the entire cupcake in puff pastry. I cut a 5 inch square of store bought puff pastry and put the cupcake face down in the middles, wrapping the rest of the dough around the cupcake, kind of like wrapping a present. I flipped it over, brushed a egg wash on top, made some score marks and put it in the over for approximately 25 min. It came out hot and golden.

The part that surprised me was that the second time in the oven actually cooked the mousse filling, making it absorb back into the cake. I was excited to find that this was actually pretty delicious. Especially right out of the oven. I think I am going to have to do a 2.0 version of this in another flavor just to see what happens.

Kids like Cupcake Wellington too!

Making Things Taste Good

So, we can all agree by now that I love to make cake. However, the part I really like is the part where I get to make it look pretty. I love working with fondant and piping icing, but I don't feel like I particularly excel at making any of the desserts I make taste great...and I do want everything to taste as good (if not better) than it looks. Therefore, I am now on a mission to make things that taste good.

The opportunity to practice this more often has presented itself recently. Our friend, Slugger (Kelly), has started joining us every Tuesday for dinner, playing Nintendo with the family, and watching LOST. So now, I have a reason or excuse to make a dessert since we are having a dinner guest.

This week I made a Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake from the "Heirloom Baking with the Brass Sisters" cookbook. This is a chocolate cake with chunky peanut butter mixed right into the batter with a rich choclate frosting and peanut garnish. This cake recipe was a lot more difficult that I expected it to be...and I bake...a lot. Anyhow, I wouldn't call it a complete success. It tasted alright, not great. The cake was a bit dry and crumbly and the taste was very rich. I thought that best part was the peanuts pressed into the sides of the frosting. They provided and interesting crunch and saltiness you don't find in most cakes.

Overall decision: 6 out of 10. Taste of cake not worth the effort of this recipe.

I'll try again next week.

More Summer Dresses for Anna

I'm not sure what it is about Spring that makes me want to make sweet little summer dresses for my little sweetie, Anna. I do know that this time of year I could spend hours in the fabric store. There is something to be said for the bright and cheery summer fabrics they have in stock right now that makes you believe that you must buy and use this beautiful fabric right now before summer is almost over (even though it's not even here yet). I convince myself that I must buy this fabric now and make the dress as soon as I get home, so as to get optimal wear out of this dress, since the summers here seem to be so short. So, here are dress #2 and #3 for the summer...I wish it would get warm enough for her to wear them.

For this dress I learned all about making ruffles. So fun! Now I want to put ruffles on everything!

This is so cute on Anna. I love the sleeves!

The back of the dress even has matching fabric covered buttons. I found a little kit at the craft store to this. It was so easy!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Jungle Friends Cupcake Toppers

This week's new toppers are Jungle Friends. I only made the four toppers, and after seeing how they turned out I definitely need to add a zebra, a lion, and maybe a koala. Look for additional Jungle Friends coming soon...





Jungle Friends

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Sesame Street Cupcake Topper

These Sesame Street Toppers are my favorite so far. I am super excited about how they turned out.

Big Bird

Cookie Monster

The Grouch



The whole gang

Footballs, Dragonflies, and Rocket Ships

Here are the new cupcake toppers for the week.

Football Topper
The football topper was made for my friend, J-Gym (Chris), who's birthday was this last week. I missed all of the festivities, but sent a bunch of these cupcakes in my place.

Dragonfly Topper

Rocket Topper

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Owl Cupcake Toppers

These cute Owl Cupcake Toppers were the brainchild of a special friend who loves owls right now. It's a hot trend and perfect for a birthday, baby shower, or just for fun. These fits perfect for a party themed "Look whooo's turning 2" or "Look whooo's expecting". These toppers are a hoot!

Blue Owls

Pink Owls