Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Taste the Rainbow Cake!

Original challenge photo
 If you've met me, you know that I set pretty high standards for myself. You may or may not also know that I don't like to lose - I'm a little bit competitive and I don't like to say no to a challenge. Having said that, recently a friend posted an image to my personal Facebook wall. There was a simple caption with the image, which read. "Do you accept the challenge?"

I didn't think twice about it. Of course I accepted, informing him that he'd have to eat the cake once I'd made it. This was to be a six-layer, rainbow cake with white fondant and a meme on top. I created the meme in advance using gum paste. I coloured a portion of it black and left the remainder white to create the meme. Once it was ready, it was set aside to harden while I focused on the cake.

I used a basic vanilla cake recipe from Baking With The Cake Boss for this cake. The recipe suggested that it was enough cake batter to make two 9" round layers. Once I had the batter prepared, I divided it equally among 6 different bowls - this was about 3/4 cup of batter per bowl. Once I had the batter divided, I added a little bit of soft gel paste food colouring to each bowl. This was the first time I'd used these food colours and they were great! The colour was extremely vibrant and stayed vibrant once baked.

Once the batter was coloured, I sprayed the 9" cake pans with non-stick spray and then poured in the batter. Since there was very little batter for each colour, the cake layers took significantly less time to bake. I found that each layer only took 12-15 minutes. Because the layers are so thin, you want to be careful not to over bake them or they'll be dry. I started checking each layer around 10 minutes.

While the layers cooled, I prepared a butter cream icing (basic white, to accent the vibrant colours) to use to assemble the cake. As there were so many layers, I used a fine layer of icing between each so as not to have too much. Once the entire cake was iced, I covered the cake in white fondant, and then positioned the pre-made meme on the top.

I was pretty happy with how this cake turned out. Once we cut into it, the inside looked great. This was also much simpler to make than it looked, and was a hit with those who saw it. It would make a great cake for birthdays or other colourful events!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Chocolate Ganache-Filled Red Velvet Cupcakes

Growing up, my sister and I didn't always get along, but now that we've grown up I think you could probably go so far as to even call us friends. So, when she asked if I'd make a cake for her 20th birthday, I was more than happy to oblige (after first having a mid-life crisis because my baby sister is 20, which makes me just plain old).

She requested Red Velvet, which I realize I've already mentioned in a previous post. However, these were not just basic Red Velvet cupcakes. They were filled with chocolate ganache, and were made with a different recipe than the previous cupcakes. If you read my last post, you'll notice that the recipe I used came from Baking With The Cake Boss, and while the cupcakes were definitely red, they were also pretty bland. For these cupcakes, I used a recipe found in Cupcake Diaries (at this point I feel the need to mention that I have still yet to watch Cake Boss, and also that I've never seen DC Cupcakes either - Cupcake Diaries was referred to me). This is the third Red Velvet recipe I've used to date, and it's probably my favourite. You can find it, the chocolate ganache recipe, and the cream cheese recipe on the Recipes page! 

What I instead wanted to talk about was filling cupcakes! I've done this a few times now, and have used two different methods. The first was simply using a Wilton 230 decorating tip to penetrate the cupcake and fill it with the filling of choice. I'm not partial to this method because you cant tell how much you've put into the cupcake, and therefore there is often too little filling as opposed to too much in order to avoid the cupcake breaking. I found that the majority of the filling ended up being absorbed into the cupcake this way because there was so little of it.

Recently, however, I purchased a cupcake corer from Golda's Kitchen. This is what I used when making my sister's cupcakes, and it made filling them a very easy, straightforward process. All you need to do is:

1. Bake cupcakes of choice, as per insturctions
2. Allow cupcakes to cool (you don't want to core them while they're too warm or you'll risk breaking the cupcake)
3. Position corer over centre of cupcake and gently push downward
4. Once corer has been inserted into the cupcake, twist the corer back and forth to cut the inside of the cupcake
5. Remove corer from cupcake, and remove cupcake centre from corer

And voila, cored cupcakes, ready to be filled. If you're using the ganache, like I did, you'll want to make sure it's cooled before filling the cupcakes. Once they're filled as desire, ice your cupcakes and enjoy!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Soccer Jersey Chocolate Cake

So, about that other cake I made at the end of last week. A few weeks back, a good friend, Mariana (check out her fantastic blog, Gift Favours Under $5), asked me to make a birthday cake featuring the Stoke On The Trent football team's jersey and logo.

This seemed like an easy enough challenge although I was pretty nervous about making a cake for someone outside my family. This was the first time that failure would not be an option and I was feeling the pressure, and for good reason.

I used my favorite chocolate cake recipe for this cake, and it turned out quite nicely except that the chocolate chips in it stuck to the bottom of the pan and it broke coming out. Broke only slightly, but broke nonetheless.

I managed to save the situation by using that broken side of the cake to trim in order to make the sleeves. Crisis averted. For the time being.

Next, my chocolate butter cream was too thick and wouldn't go on smoothly, so I had to thin it out so that I could have a smooth surface.

Next, my fondant was drying out a quite a rapid pace (quicker than usual) and would not cooperate. As if it needed to be more problematic when I'd already fought tooth and nail to get it red.

Finally, I was doing a shell border around the edge of the cake and ran out of white icing with about 3 inches to go and had to make more for that tiny length. By the time I was finished, it looked like a bomb had gone off in my kitchen, with chocolate icing in one corner, vanilla butter cream in another, and the counter covered in scraps of fondant. It took an hour (with the help of my lovely mother) to clean up the mess of icing sugar, fondant, and butter cream that coated just about every surface.

Needless to say, when it was all said and done I was less than satisfied with the results of this cake. Perhaps that was just due to my frustration, I can't be sure. I guess it's true that we are our own harshest critics. Although, I did use gum paste for the first time when making the crest and I can honestly say that I quite enjoyed using it. It's much easier to work with than fondant.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Hello Kitty Cake

Hi there friends! I hope you all had a fantastic weekend/Valentine's Day (if you've already celebrated it). Maybe you tried out those DIY heart-shaped cupcakes (if so, how did they turn out?).

If your weekend was anything like mine though, it was a whirlwind and flew by without there being enough time. Last week, I had even less time than I did over the weekend, because I took on two cakes in addition to everything else.

The first of these cakes was a Hello Kitty cake that my aunt and uncle requested for my cousin's 5th birthday. It was pretty straight forward - use the Hello Kitty pan to bake the cake and then ice it.
This process went quite smoothly. I used a vanilla cake recipe from Baking With The Cake Boss, and my basic butter cream recipe that I've come to know by heart.

There weren't any problems with this cake (though it did take about 1.5 times longer to bake than the recipe indicated because of the depth of the pan) but I feel the need to let you all in on a secret.

Ready for it?

Using a 16 Star Tip to ice the entire cake takes forever. I honestly spent over two hours just piping the white onto the majority of the cake.

In the end though, I was pretty satisfied with the results. It's not too often (yet) that I get to say that so I'll call this cake a success. Also, though I didn't get a chance to try out the cake, I was told that the recipe was a hit!

Check back in a couple days to hear about my less successful cake encounter that also took place last week!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Valentine's Day Red Velvet Cupcakes

Happy Valentine's Day to all the lovebirds reading this today! I wanted to share with you today some quick and easy heart-shaped cupcakes to celebrate Valentine's Day.

After seeing a photo on Pinterest, I improvised a method to do the same thing as there was no corresponding link to instructions. So, I've created a little how-to for you, based on how I accomplished these cupcakes, so that you can make something special for your special someone.

You will need:

  • Your favourite cake/cupcake batter, and icing
  • A regular muffin pan
  • Muffin pan liners
  • Marbles or glass rocks, or other heat-proof round objects
  • Sprinkles, candies, sugar dust, etc. to decorate
From what I could tell in the photo on Pinterest, they used marbles. I didn't have marbles so I improvised with decorative glass stones. I also used a Red Velvet cake recipe from Baking With The Cake Boss (I've still yet to watch his show), as well as a Cream Cheese Icing from the book. Once you've got your batter prepared, this is what you'll want to do:
  1. Line muffin pan with liners (I used Valentine's Day themed liners)
  2. Fill each liner with your cake batter (using something like an ice-cream scoop will help alleviate any mess and ensure that the cupcakes are roughly the same size)
  3. Using your index finger, push the liner towards the centre of the muffin hole
  4. Fill the resulting space with marbles or other objects to hold the liner in place (you'll want to stack a few on top of each other, so that the batter doesn't bake over top of the marble)
  5. Bake cupcakes according to recipe directions
  6. Let cupcakes cool, and remove from pan - be careful, the marbles may still be warm
  7. Allow cupcakes to cool completely and ice as desired
When icing my cupcakes, I chose to decorate them with red and white sugar sprinkles, heart-shaped candy sprinkles, and silver sugar dust. I used Valentine's Day themed cookie cutters on top of the cupcakes and filled the cookie cutter in with the dust (or sprinkles in some cases) to leave the decorations in the shapes of hearts, flowers, bells, etc. 
These were quick and easy, without the cost of purchasing a heart-shaped pan, or the need to elaborately decorate a cake! You get delicious results, and more time to spend with loved ones! 

On a side note - the Red Velvet cupcakes stayed nice and moist, and tasted pretty good, however the recipe only calls for 1tbsp of cocoa powder. I found that this left them a bit bland, as red velvet is supposed to have that cocoa taste. I'll be using my old recipe next time!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Peanut Butter Cupcakes and Butter Cream Roses

I'm going to be completely honest about a couple things:
1. I love peanut butter
2. I have no self-control when it comes to baked goods

Only the first point is relevant to this post, but the second is important because I just feel better admitting it. Its like a weight is lifted.

Moving along, what I wanted to talk about today was not only my absolute favourite cupcakes, but also butter cream roses.

I stumbled on a great video on YouTube, sort of by accident, and it was a pretty clear tutorial about how to pipe butter cream roses, something which, until this point, I hadn't even fathomed trying. The video made it look pretty easy though, and I decided I wanted to learn. This required cupcakes, because who needs icing roses with no cupcake? No one.

This brings me to the peanut butter cupcakes. My absolute favourite cupcakes. Without a doubt the best things of my life. So I thought I'd share the recipe with you, which I originally found on the Wilton website. To make the cupcakes, you'll need:

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/4 cups firmly packed brown sugar
6 tbsp butter, softened
3/4 cup peanut butter
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract (the original recipe calls for clear vanilla, but I prefer pure vanilla extract, it has a nicer flavour)
1 cup milk

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees, and either line a muffin pan with cups or spray it with non-stick baking spray and set it aside. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt, and set it aside once they're combined. In a large bowl, cream the butter, brown sugar, and peanut butter. Once the mixture is smooth, add the eggs one at a time, followed by the vanilla extract. Next, alternately add the milk and the flour mixture until all of the ingredients are combined. Spoon the batter into the muffin cups, and bake for 20-25 minutes, checking that they're done (use a cake tester or a tooth pick, if it comes out clean they're ready!).

Once my cupcakes were ready, I used my new-found rose-making savvy to pipe butter cream roses. I used a chocolate butter cream icing because there is something irresistible about peanut butter and chocolate. Some of the roses were piped onto parchment paper squares on a flower nail, while I piped others directly onto the cupcakes. While they were by no means perfect, they turned out pretty well for a first attempt. Check out the video below and attempt these cupcakes and flowers yourself! 

Friday, February 3, 2012

Homemade Fondant Icing

A few weeks ago, I stumbled upon a photo of homemade fondant on Pinterest, and re-pinned the photo/link so that I could refer to it in the future. The future has arrived, my friends.

Until now I'd always been using store-bought fondant. I didn't have a clue what I was doing, and felt that it was best to stick with the pre-made stuff. Having said that, let me tell you that buying fondant is expensive. Especially for any fondant other than basic white. So I finally decided that I'd attempt to make my own, keeping in mind the link I'd found (click here to see it for yourself). I didn't have the web page open in front of me, but kept it in mind while making the fondant.

Like the instructions showed, I used multi-coloured marshmallows. I bought two bags and sorted through them to separate all of the colours, and set each group aside in its own Ziplock bag.

The first colour I used was the pink, and it didn't go nearly as smoothly as the green and yellow did - I ran out of icing sugar before I got to make the orange. Anyway, the instructions say to toss the marshmallows in a small amount of water. I forgot that step, and ended up with a sticky mess that was a nightmare to work with. The marshmallow goo got stuck to the spoon, to the bowl, to the counter, the cutting board, my hands, everything you could imagine. The hassle of getting the sticky gunk off everything was nearly enough to put me off making marshmallow fondant again.

Rather than give up right away, however, I checked back to that link, via Pinterest, and found that I had forgotten one tiny, simple step. I decided to try again with the yellow marshmallows and found that it worked much better. So, the key is to toss those little marshmallows with water! It made the whole process so much smoother, and it actually ended up being pretty simple. By the time I'd moved on to the green marshmallows, I felt like a pro.

Now, I don't really like the taste of fondant, though it looks nice (thank heavens for the real icing layer that's found under fondant), but the marshmallow stuff tastes worlds better than the store bought kind, and its so much nicer on the wallet!

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