Sunday, June 1, 2014

Chocolate Cake and White Cake EQUALS a Friend's Birthday Cake

Wow!  I can't believe it's been almost a year since my last post.  Honestly, I don't know where my time goes.  But with summer upon us, I'm hoping to catch up and get back to some serious baking.

I volunteered to bake a cake for a dear friend's birthday.  And she doesn't know it.   The last cake I decorated was WAY back in the beginning and it was pretty … wobbly.  Ok - it was bad.  So, I'm feeling a bit intimidated.

First, everyone agrees she likes chocolate.  So I planned a chocolate cake.  Then, luckily, we were all talking about desserts and she mentioned that she doesn't like chocolate cake unless it's really moist.  Hm.  Great.  Sounds like "everyone" likes chocolate instead of Judy!  LOL

So me thinks, thinks me … I'll use my go-to chocolate cupcake recipe because it is super moist.  Then paranoia took over.  I need to do half chocolate and half white.  No idea how to do THAT.  Look it up on Cake Central.  Ok, I think I can swing that.  I did the tilt and pour method.  I poured the chocolate into the tilted pan first, because it is the heaviest batter.  When I added the white cake batter, it was amazing.  They pretty much stayed 2 separate cakes!  Good on one hand, maybe not so good on the other because the cake wanted to crack into 2 pieces where the 2 flavors met.  The frosting helped keep it all together.

I tried a different frosting because I wasn't happy with the consistency of my usual buttercream.  Again, I struggled getting the right texture to pipe but I finally got it and once I did, it worked great.  Unfortunately, I was running out of time and my flowers and writing were pretty shaky. 

I'm so mad at myself because I was so flustered that I forgot to take pictures.  But at least here is the final result.

Now, as to the "age" … we thought it would be nice to not be real obvious so another friend had her hubby get this equation for us.  We wanted it really complicated.  If anyone would like to verify what that age is, please let us all know.  We know what it's SUPPOSED to be, but … well, it's been a few years since math class.  LOL

Monday, June 3, 2013

Bon Jovi Cupcakes

Yup.  That's right.  BonJovi cupcakes.  HubbyDear's co-workers requested chocolate cupcakes decorated with a BonJovi theme for one of them.  Seriously.  My mind went                                   .  Just like that.

I've known about this for a few months, so I've had time to obsess … to no avail.  Sadly, I resorted to rather "boring" decorations.  I really like to make my own decorations, but this one just didn't happen for me.  We raided Country Kitchen for basic Rock & Roll themed decorations.

To make up for it, I'm making Nutella cupcakes instead of plain chocolate cupcakes.  I've been anxious to do a filled cupcake since my class.  I have the filling tip!  I want to use it!  :)

Favorite Chocolate Cupcakes

TWO containers of Nutella later … mmmm! 

I used Jamie's Nutella cupcake directions that included my go-to chocolate cake for the cupcake and Nutella Buttercream.  OH. MY.  <insert multitudes of heavenly angels singing>

Using a cupcake filling tip
Epic Fail Using the Filling Tip
As for the filling tip, I don't know if I'm just a wimp and couldn't squeeze the Nutella through it, but I could NOT fill those cupcakes!  I ended up using a regular frosting tip #8 instead and treated it the same as if I were using the filling tip - pushing it into the cupcake center and filling until the top swelled a bit.  It was kind
of amazing that I jar of Nutella was EXACTLY the right amount for 24 cupcakes!

Nutella Filled Cupcakes
Now, as for the Nutella buttercream frosting … let me repeat:  OH.  MY.  <there go the angels again!>

And the Nutella cupcakes have been proclaimed by hubby's office as the best cupcakes yet!  

Rock & Roll Cupcakes
Rock and Roll is here to stay ... these cupcakes won't last long!

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Chili Cheese Corn Muffins & Ham and Beans OH MY!

Believe it or not, I've never made "ham and beans".  Frankly, until recently I wouldn't eat any beans other than Van Camps or green beans.  I love chili, but HATE kidney beans.  There's always a little pile of beans left in my bowl. 

A dinner we had on vacation last summer opened my eyes to pinto  beans and I've been experimenting  with different beans ever since.  What I discovered is that some beans aren't so icky.  The little ones that don't have a tough "skin".  I still can't accept kidney or lima beans into my life.  Baby steps ...

After making chili this winter using pinto beans instead of kidney beans and actually eating the beans (it was actually hard to not automatically pick the beans out!) I decided it was time to go out on a limb and make/try  ham and beans - one of the two meals at home when I was a kid that I would literally try to hide from .  (The other is … liver and onions.  AWwwKK!  I don't care how old and mature I get, I will NOT eat them anywhere!  Take THAT Sam I Am!)

I had to look up a recipe for Ham & Beans.  They all looked pretty much alike, but almost all called for using one lb. of navy beans, soaked overnight.  I cheated and used beans in a jar.  DH says that is what he remembers his mom using and we had frozen some leftover ham chunks.  Little else is required!

Ham Chunks
1 -  48 oz jar Randall's Great Northern Beans
1/2 tsp  Onion Powder
1/2 tsp  Salt
1/2 tsp  Black Pepper
1/4 tsp  Cayenne
1/2 C     Brown Sugar
1 Tbls    Dry Parsley

Just  throw it all in a nice, heavy pot and simmer it all on the stove for anywhere from a half hour to an hour and that's it!  I had to add about 3/4 C water because it got too think and pasty, and of course, the seasoning can be adjusted - but this is just my starting point. 

What goes with Ham'n'Beans??  Cornbread!  Cornbread muffins are akin to cupcakes!  My hubby loves these corn muffins and they're especially good with Mexican style food.  We really liked them with the ham 'n' beans, too.
1 box Jiffy Cornbread Mix
1 box Jiffy Golden Yellow Cake Mix
2 Eggs
1/2 C Milk
1/3 C Water
2 Tbls Vegetable  Oil - I use Canola
1-4 oz Can of Chopped Green Chilis, drained
1 C shredded Cheddar Cheese

Mix the DRY cornbread mix and the DRY cake mix in a bowl.  I use my tried and true Tupperware Mix and Pour (I think that's what it's called) because I like being able to  … get this … mix and pour the batter into the cupcake cups!  Theoretically, you're supposed to mix the eggs, milk, water, and vegetable oil in another bowl.  I'm lazy and don't like having an extra bowl to wash, so I do it all in one.  Mix the ingredients together just enough to make sure all the ingredients are mixed and stop.  Add the green chilis and the cheddar cheese and mix just enough to make sure everything is fairly evenly distributed.

Fill your muffin cups (greased) or cupcake liners 2/3 full and bake at 350 degrees for 20 - 22 minutes or until a toothpick in the middle comes out clean.

You can sprinkle the tops with more shredded cheese immediately after removing them from the oven and it will melt on top.  Never too much cheese!!  I got carried away trying to remember to take pictures that I forgot to top them with more cheese shreds.  Oops!  We managed to eat them anyway. 

This makes about 16 muffins.

Adapted from Taste of Home's Quick Cooking 2000

Monday, December 31, 2012

Autumn Wedding Cupcakes

Wow … Christmas sure got in the way of my cupcake making!  And writing.  And a lot of other things, too.

The cupcakes for wedding #2 came out really well.  The candies were a hit, too.

We finally settled upon Carrot Cake cupcakes, Snickers cupcakes, and white wedding cake cupcakes.  Although we were using previously tried flavors, the decoration needed personalizing.  The wedding colors were the colors of fall leaves, with orange being the dominant. 

I made the white cupcakes with the same recipe as I used for the sunflower cupcakes earlier.  Our bride-to-be really hadn't requested anything particular as decoration and I really wanted them to be pretty and special for her.  Up until now, I really hadn't done much with flowers.  All I could come up with was a deep yellow rose, leaves … it was just very abstract in my mind.  Not having made roses since my class a year earlier, I wasn't entirely sure I could do it, but … I did!

Unfortunately, I didn't have the brains to take photos of the process.  It really was kind of a struggle, though.  The edges of my rose petals were incredibly jagged.  I know a little bit makes it look more "natural" but this was AWFUL.  It was hot in the kitchen so I thought the frosting consistency was wrong.  I tried making it really soft.  Didn't work.  Tried really tight.  Didn't work.  FINALLY thought to go get a new rose tip.  Mine was a tiny bit bent.  Amazingly, that was the problem! 

 So … I made a bunch of yellow roses.

And then … I put them onto the newly frosted cupcakes and added tan leaves, burgundy flowers and green vining leaves.  Um .. I may have gone a little crazy.  But they sure were pretty!

I was disappointed in my Snickers cupcakes.  They tasted perfect, but I topped them with chocolate trees trimmed with fall colored leaf sprinkles.    I couldn't think of any way to frost the cupcakes with seriously gooey caramel, so I simply pushed the tree into the top of the cupcake and sprinkled a few leaves on top.  Also … I didn't take the height into consideration.  When we started putting them in my smaller cupcake stands, they were too tall and we ended up having to almost place them flat on top.  Thank goodness the cupcake was universally loved!

Here are the steps for the trees:

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Well!  I had to take a little cupcake hiatus.  Gained too much weight the last go 'round despite the fact that I never even licked the bowls or spoons.  AND I only ate one of each cupcake just to make sure they were as good as I wanted them to be. 

That, and my onlinevintage clothing and jewelry shop was suffering a bit from lack of attention.  I'm not good at multi-tasking.  Now my housekeeping is suffering from lack of attention.  Seriously, I need a maid.  There are so many more interesting things to do than dusting!

So ... the next bride-to-be elected not to fight the reception hall and their policy of not allowing homemade cake.  Instead I'm doing the cupcakes for the rehearsal dinner.  The flavors are decided - chocolate Snickers, carrot, and white wedding cake. 

Our Bethie-Pie loves fall colors and her wedding colors are autumn leaves.  A happy coincidence - her mother-in-law to be (that would be ME) loves those colors, too.  You'd think this would make it easy for me to decorate these cupcakes, but the problem is that I'm only making 3 flavors, not 5 and only 50 cupcakes and not 125.  I have too many wannado-s. 

I want do trees with leaf sprinkles.  I wanna do viney leaves.  I wanna do beautiful magenta, orange,  and golden yellow roses.  I wanna do multicolored fondant leaves.   I wanna do … well, I guess an Angry Bird.  I know, I know … doesn't quite go with the theme but my son is a rabid St. Louis Cardinal baseball fan.  His younger brother got dinosaurs on one set of his wedding cupcakes.  I need to do something for him.

I'm going to make flavored candies in favor cups in leaf shapes.  And I'm dreaming of making flavored sugar leaves -- for what reason, I have no idea.  I seem to have this need to overdo it. 

Awww … I've turned into Martha Stewart. 

I'm starting with the candies because they have a much longer "shelf life"  and frankly, this time around I do have a clue about what I'm doing.  I've been making filled chocolate candy at Christmas since the boys were quite little, so this SHOULD be a no-brainer.  (Famous last words.)  I never took a class on the "proper" way to make candy so if you are a stickler for "proper", run away NOW.

I use an old electric food warming tray that I got as a wedding gift, um, awhile ago.  It seems to keep the candy at a nice, even temperature.  I tried melting the chocolate in the microwave and it works sometimes, other times I get busy and burn it .  Unpleasant.

These candies will be orange, yellow,  green, and brown and will be flavored cinnamon, maple, and English toffee.  Chocolate will take care of itself!  I'm using oils because I've always added mint oil to my Christmas chocolates and it works very well. 

It's fairly easy and other than the candy mold, you can probably use kitchen items you already have.  For instance - if you can't find a warmer (try ebay - they can be found for about $10) you can always melt in a double boiler.  If you don't have the paint brushes, just spoon it into the mold.  Some people use plastic bottles that look a lot like condiment bottles.

You need

Electric warming tray
Small heat proof dishes - one for each color and/or flavor
Candy confectionary coating disks - color(s) of your choice
Chocolate disks - I use "Cocoa Lite"*
Oils - flavors of your choice
Something to stir the melted candy with
Paint brushes, food grade, one for each color and/or flavor
Candy molds

*I have used milk chocolate disks in the past and this slow melting worked well enough, but milk chocolate is very fussy about temperature.

Put a small handful of each color candy disk into a separate little heat proof dishes.  Personally, I LOVE my vintage Pyrex custard cups, also a wedding gift.   Plug in your tray and set the dishes on it.  The disks will slowly melt -  I think this took about 20-30 minutes to get the first ones to start melting.

Keep an eye on them.  The bottom ones will start to look a bit shiny and may completely melt.  I try to not have them completely melt because when you stir them, they will actually be melted more than you think.  Stir them fairly well - there will probably still be lumps, which is fine.  Now add another small handful of the candy coating pieces on top.  Wait another 15 minutes or so and stir them around again.  They will still probably be lumpy.  Depending on the size of the dish you are using to melt in you may wish to add a few more pieces of candy and let that melt in.  Stir frequently now.   When using flavoring, I try to have as much candy melted as the dish will hold and still be easy/not messy to stir so that I get as many as possible candies that have the exact same flavoring.  Obviously, your next batch will be slightly different no matter how much you try.  Make sure to keep your stirrers separate so the colors don't mix AND especially once you've added the flavoring, you REALLY don't want to mix flavors!

Just so you don't panic and think something is going wrong, my chocolate didn't melt much after 45 minutes and I started melting the pieces all at the same time.  The chocolate will have a completely different texture as it melts, too.  Once it begins melting to the point that all the pieces are mooshy, give it a good stir.  It is usually pretty thick, but the more you stir, the more it will soften and smooth.  Add more chocolate disks and melt in, as above.

Flavoring can be a bit tricky, particularly if you're making more than one flavor.   You might want to have a taste helper around because after a couple of tastes YOUR taster won't work as well.  As with wine tasting, try to "cleanse your palate" between tastes - even of the same flavor. I start with one drop of oil, stir it in well, then taste.  Add one drop at a time - these oils are POTENT.  If you get some on your skin, it's a good idea to wash it off.  It's never harmed me, but then I'm also rarely sensitive to things.  (Note:  I got a little cinnamon oil on my lip and it did "burn", but washed off quickly with soap and water.)

 Just to give you an idea of how much to use, I used 5 drops each of these oils and felt that the flavor wasn't intense, but could definitely be recognized as maple (green), cinnamon (orange), and English toffee (yellow).

Left - small mold /// Right - large mold
Small mold, filled
As you can see,  I've chosen 2 different candy molds.  One is quite a bit larger and I'm going to start with this one since it is easier to show.  Using a paintbrush, pick up a blob of the melted candy and place it in the center of the mold.  Then, use the paintbrush to gently push it out toward the edges and up the sides.  Try not to get the candy outside of the mold.  It will take 3 or 4 "scoops" painted this way to fill an individual mold, depending on the size of the mold.  When the individual mold is full, "paint" the back smooth.  Mine usually ends up with a little loop - I tried making it flat and it didn't work for me.  So now I just go with it and enjoy my little curly cues.  After all the individual molds are filled, put your mold in the freezer for about 5 minutes or more if you're not in a big hurry.  Here is where it's handy to have a couple of molds - fill the next mold and trade them in the fridge.

Filling (painting) the large mold with candy coating.
Unmolded large candies

After taking the candy in the mold out of the freezer,  simply turn the mold over and the candy will fall out.  If not, just give it a shake.  If you have a few that look a little sloppy at the edge - while the candy is still cold/frozen you can use a knife to scrape away the overflow and clean up edges.
Small candies (wheat sheaves & turkeys).  The two wheat sheaves on the far left have been "trimmed" .

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Victim of Zucchini

I took a longer break from cupcakes than anticipated.  I was still going strong the weekend after July 4th, but then remembered that if I didn't get back to working at my vintage clothing business, there wouldn't be any excess cash to feed this cupcake affliction.

Enjoying zucchini muffin with fresh Amish butter and a good cuppa!
My boys have loved my zucchini bread since they were very little.  I don't remember where I got the recipe, unless it was from my Grandma Lucy.  The first year after Hubster made me my new raised bed garden, my zucchini was prolific and I made probably 6 or 8 batches of zucchini bread.  After the first couple of loaves, we realized that the waistline was becoming the wasteline.   I found 3 little loaf pans stashed away in my cupboard and started making mini breads, but quite time consuming with only 3 little pans, so I graduated to muffin/cupcake pans.  A perfect snack for one!  I froze the muffins, I gave the boys muffins to take with them wherever they went, and finally ended up freezing them.  I even froze the shredded zucchini so I could make it later, but it was so long before anyone could stand more that it got freezer burned. 

The past 3 summers, I've tried to grow various squash including zucchini.  We were actually missing the bread again.  :)  I only got a few "proper" sized zucchini at the beginning of the year and used/froze those.  By the time I was ready to let them grow to a larger size, they were attacked by squash bugs.  This year, I hadn't planned on even attempting any squash until I learned the secret to getting rid of them (other than soap that didn't work for me or chemicals that I really don't want to use and didn't work either).    

I'm PROUD of my zucchini plant!  The radish flowers are actually kind of pretty.
 To try it out, I planted 2 hills of zucchini seeds - no use planting a bunch and feeding the entire county's squash bug population.  Then I added the secret:  Radishes.  I planted radish seeds around each hill and then scattered some randomly.  They have to be left to go to seed.  I think it's safe to say that it's a success, now that I've got 2 HUGE plants that have produced the nicest zucchini I've ever grown.  Now they're doing the turning-from-a-little-bitty-zuke-one-day-to-a-caveman-club-the-next thing that they're so famous for, so it's time to crank up the oven, get out the pans, and shred that zucchini!  I'll notify the grocers that I'll be needing every available egg again!

Power tools make life worth living

After I cut out the seeds, I thought of my small ice cream scoop.  Easy peasy!



Vegetable Oil
Zucchini, grated
Baking Soda
Baking Powder
Walnuts, coarsely chopped (optional)

Beat the eggs until light and foamy.  Add the sugar, oil, zucchini, and vanilla and mix lightly but well.  Combine the flour, salt, baking soda ,baking powder, and cinnamon .  Add to the egg  and zucchini mixture.  Stir until well blended.  Add nuts,  if desired, and pour into greased pans.  (I tried using the candied walnuts used in salads.  They added a nice little crunch.)  Bake in preheated 350o oven.  Bread is done when toothpick inserted into center comes out clean.  Remove from oven and cool in pan 5 minutes, then turn out and finish cooling on wire racks.

9 x 5 x 3 loaf pans, bake for 1 hour (there should be enough batter for 2 loaf pans of this size)
Muffin tins, bake for 20 minutes        (approximately 20 muffins)
Mini loaf pans, bake for 27 - 30 minutes   

These freeze really well.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Hooray for the Red, White, & Blue Cupcakes!

Woot!  I had a good excuse to make more cupcakes!  We're had some family over for an Independence Day party and of course, I MUST bake cupcakes!

The Problem:  I was entranced by red, white, & blue star shaped sprinkles when I was at Country Kitchen shopping for the wedding cupcake supplies.  They forced me to put them in my basket.  And so did the matching cupcake liners. 

Don't you hate when inanimate objects mess with you?  Bait you?  Call out to you???  (oh my)

Anyway, ever since these two objects jumped into my shopping basket, I've been dreaming of swirls of fluffy, white frosting with red, white, & blue stars scattered strategically on top.  But what kind of cupcake?  Vanilla?  Mayybee …  Confetti?   Naw, too much going on with all those sprinkles.   Chocolate?  Hmmm …

On the other hand, for a 4th of July picnic-party-hoopla, berries are practically a requirement AND as a plus, berries do cooperate with the theme by being red and blue.   I could make the berry cupcakes again.  But the frosting is pink and talk about CLASH!  I suppose I could make the frosting become red, but then the star sprinkles wouldn't look good. 

The Solution:

Make the Carrot Cupcakes with the white cream cheese frosting in the patriotic cupcake liners with the star sprinkles … AND … something summery … like root beer float cupcakes!

Who says I don't have a cupcake problem???

Sadly, I was really disappointed in the root beer float cupcakes.  They were ok, but considering that the last cupcakes I made were proclaimed pretty much worldwide as being PERFECT (aka HEAVENLY) they probably didn't stand much of a chance. 

I used the recipe from the Better Homes & Gardens magazine, "Cupcakes 150 Sweet Recipes".  It needs some serious tweaking.  The cake did have a root beer flavor, but the texture was dense and dry.  The frosting was supposed to have a vanilla ice cream flavor - it did not.  But they were edible and cute and everyone liked them. 

So now I have two challenges:  First, I used my last box of Carrot Cake mix so I've got to come up with a knock out carrot cake recipe.  Second, I love the idea of the root beer float cupcakes so I'm going to FIX IT!