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Sunday, August 22, 2010

My Mom's Birthday Cake

A lot of things were going on this weekend.

1.My sister has been is town and we have been spending as much time as we can with her since we have not seen her since this time last year.
2. I am making a tasting cake for the bride and groom of the wedding I am doing in 3 weeks.
3.My whole family is coming over for a BBQ to see my sister and her boyfriend before they have to leave to go back to AZ.
4. It's my mom's birthday.

So, what do I do?...I make a lot of cake!

I decided that the best way to go would be to make a double recipe of the tasting cake I was making for the bride and groom and use that as the batter for my mom's cake as well. This way, not only am I pretty positive it tastes good (I've tried a lot of recipes to get to this one), but I will also have a captive cake eating audience to be additional taste testers for my wedding cake.

It turned out great. Everyone loved the cake...even if they did think that my end product with decorations and all did resemble a ladies hat. I love you guys anyway.

Wedding Tasting Cake

Now that I have found the perfect recipe for the wedding cake I am making, it was time to make a small tasting cake for the bride and groom to try before the wedding. Again, I couldn't resist making it pretty as well, so I tried to make a smaller version of what the top layer of their cake will actually look like. This cake was only a 4" cake making it a very small replica, but you'll get the idea. the best part was....they LOVED the cake! Yeah!

Peanut Butter & Jelly Cupcakes

Everyone in my family loves peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. I would not be surprised if 1 or more of us consumed one of these each day. So, when I went looking for a cupcake recipe this week it seemed the only natural choice. Owing to the fact that I am doing a lot of baking (wedding cake in three weeks remember..I'm practicing) I was looking for a recipe that would be fairly simple but still super yummy. My idea for the peanut butter & jelly cupcake was just that...super easy.

I started with my tried and true best vanilla cupcake bottom and piped store bought strawberry jelly directly into the center of the baked and cooled cupcake bottoms. I then topped it with the awesome peanut butter buttercream I used for my chocolate and peanut butter cupcake from a previous post...and voila!...a perfect peanut butter & jelly cupcake!

And by 'perfect' I mean it tasted exactly like a peanut butter & jelly sandwich. Both myself and many taste testers really enjoyed these cupcakes and most people were truly surprised at how much this really tasted like peanut butter and jelly. My husband's reaction was undeniably true though..."Why wouldn't you just eat a peanut butter & jelly sandwich then?" This is true but eliminates the true cupcake eating experience. It is a a sweet little treat. A small little cake made just for you. It's the perfect size for one person and it's yours. You don't have to share it because it is most likely that everyone else in the room has one too. It's cute and if done right should definitely make you smile. I like the peanut butter & jelly cupcake and wouldn't change a thing about it. H
having this cupcake taste almost exactly like it's inspiration is a much better way to go than being a lack luster imitation!

Overall Rating: 4.8 out of 5

Wedding Cake Practice

I'm just going to put it out there now. You are from this time until September 10th going to see a lot of posts about 'Wedding Cake Practice'. I am officially making my first wedding cake and have approximately 3 more weeks to make sure that it is the most perfect and delicious wedding cake ever

The bride and her fiance have decided on a three tier square cake decorated with rhinestones and ribbon. It is going to look fabulous I am absolutely sure. My quest now is to make sure that it will taste as good as it looks. I am looking to bake the best white cake with vanilla buttercream and filled with raspberry preserves that I can possibly whip up.

To date, there have been multiple versions of this cake. I will not bore you with a litany of all the pros and cons of each, but I think I have finally found the perfect recipe!

Below are few pics of my practice cakes. I had to make them look pretty even if they didn't pass the ultimate taste test.

More practice to follow...

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Buttercream Rose Bridal Shower Cupcakes

Based on a referral from the bridal shower I did earlier this month (see Anemone Bridal Shower Cupcakes post), I was asked to do a second bridal shower for an entirely different bride. This time the request was for my Raspberry White Chocolate Cupcakes with buttercream roses piped on top. It's been a while since I've done piped roses, but they turned out great. My favorite part is that the raspberry buttercream needs no additional color aside from the pureed raspberries to make it's beautiful pink color. These were definitely a delight to make!

The 4th fo July tastes like...Apple Pie Cupcakes

We were having a BBQ with family and friends on the 4th of July and I was so excited to make a 4th of July themed cupcake, until I realized that I don't really know what the 4th of July tastes like. We came up with so many ideas, but most of them had huge conceptual holes. I could do a watermelon cupcake but that would mean using a box of watermelon jello as the flavor in my cake mix which I didn't want to do because it didn't seem "baked from scratch" to me. (What does watermelon ultimately taste like anyways?) Maybe a pink lemonade cupcake? But the husband and I are not really fond of the super sour, especially in our cupcake and we wanted to taste good. I even considered making a chocolate cupcake and adding 'liquid smoke", an ingredient which imparts a smokey bbq flavor. It might be fun to have a cupcake that seemed like it was cooked on the bbq with the rest of the meal but would it taste good? Questionable. So, we decided that the most traditional and American flavor we could come up with (that had the best possibility of tasting awesome) was Apple Pie!

I decided to start with my favorite vanilla cupcake bottom. Once they were baked and cooled, I used a paring knife to cut a circular section out of the top of the cupcake. I then made a tradition apple pie filling. I diced green apples fairly small and cooked them with brown sugar, nutmeg, cinnamon and vanilla. When the apple pie filling was room temperature, I put a heaving spoonful into the middle of the hollowed out cupcake bottom. I topped this with my favorite vanilla bean buttercream. I used a small ice cream scooper to made the buttercream look like the cupcake was 'a la mode'.

This cupcake was awesome and truly felt 4th of July inspired. The cupcakes only downfall was that when you brought it to your mouth and tipped the cupcake back a little to get to take a bite without getting it on your face, the little 'a la mode' buttercream would fall off the back taking half of the filling with it. Therefore, you needed to be careful eating it...or if your like my buddy, Lance, you can just eat the whole thing in one bite, topside first. He guarantees me it is just as delicious!

Overall rating: 4.8 out of 5

Anemone Bridal Shower Cupcakes

I made these cupcake for a friend who was hosting a bridal shower a couple of weeks ago. I saw a picture of these gumpaste flowers in a magazine and have been wanting to make them ever since. The bride's colors are black and white with hints of hot pink, so putting the cupcake in a hot pink cupcake liner made these super fun and helped to personalize her bridal shower just that much more. I used my best vanilla cupcake recipe topped with mu favorite vanillla buttercream and then added the gumpaste flowers on top. Don't get me wrong, I think the flowers turned out great, but they were a bear to make. Not necessarily hard, but they were very time consuming. Rolling, cutting, veining, ruffling, drying, inserting individual stamen, sugar crystals, assembly, and luster dusting times 30! Whew! But they turned out gorgeous. I loved them.

P.S. So gorgeous that the bride actually contacted me and asked me to make her wedding cake. My first wedding cake! Yeah! Look for the post mid-September.

Dreamsicle Cupcakes

It has taken me so long to write this post that I honestly can not remember why I decided to make these particular cupcakes. Maybe I am blocking out the reason for making these cupcakes because they were a total failure. In my opinion, they were yucky!

The worst part about this for me was that it was a Martha Stewart recipe. Come on Martha, what's the deal? Both the cake and the cupcake called for a lot of orange zest, more than I would have thought would taste good, so that was part of the problem. the second issue was that the cupcake bottom had the consistency of cornbread rather than cupcake. And thirdly, against my better judgment, I strayed from my favorite buttercream icing and tried a Italian buttercream cooked on the stove top and then once cooled the flavors are added. The Italian buttercream was super soft and kind of ran off the sides of the cupcake and had a weird almost gritty texture (the zest?). Overall yuck!

Oh, it did have one shining moment. I had candied some orange pieces for garnish (more for taking a good cupcake picture than for eating) and they turned out fabulous. Even better than the candied grapefruit I did in a previous post. The candied oranges were so good that the hubby and guests discarded their cupcakes and stood at the counter picking off the candied pieces of the other cupcakes and ate them instead.

Overall rating: 1 out of 5

The BEST Chocolate Chip Cookies

For Father's Day I got Morgan one of his favorite magazines. This particular edition was America's Test Kitchen's 10th Anniversary Edition featuring the best recipes in the last 10 years of their hit television show. I was thumbing through the magazine looking for the dessert section and I came across what should have been a simple chocolate chip cookie recipe. It seemed quite involved and a lot of work compared to the recipe on the back of the bag of chocolate chips I usually use, but something compelled me to try it anyways.

Wow, I'm glad I did. America's Test Kitchen doesn't mess around, these are the best chocolate chip cookies I have ever had! This recipe is definitely more time consuming but well worth it. I believe the key to this recipe is the browned butter. It gave the cookies a great nutty butter flavor and added so much depth to the cookie. The added bonus was the fact that the consistency of these cookies were fabulous. It took us a week to eat the batch but they stayed fresh and perfect, a little crunch on the outside and still soft in the middle. These are delicious!