Tag Archives: baking

Pip-Boy and Nuka-Cola

 
  

Until a few months ago, I had no idea what this meant. I still don’t really other than it has to do with Fallout 4. Which is a video game that was released on November 10th. Waaaayyyy back in June, it was announced that there would be a special edition released that would include a Pip-Boy. From what I gathered, a Pip-Boy is something worn on the arm by characters in the game. What I knew for certain was that my husband was really excited about this, but they were sold out…everywhere.

Thanks to my being home during the summer, I was able to monitor websites fairly closely and was ready to pounce when they came available. From then, it was just a matter of telling but not telling my husband to purchase the game.


The game finally arrived this week. There was a bit of a delay in the shipping, so by the time it finally arrived, we were both excited. It felt like Santa had arrived.

 

 

With all this excitement, I was inspired to make him a cake. When I finished my orders for the week, I used the tiny little 4-inch cakes I made with left-over batter to construct him a cake.

I used the few details I know about the game to help me design the cake. I know there are vaults in each version of the game. The vault for Fallout 4 is 111. The vault door was the inspiration for the top of the cake. After covering the cake in grey frosting, I added some copper powder to make it look old and rusted; just like everything on the screen looks in the game.

 

The cake is made using 1-2-3-4 Pound Cake recipe from Swans Down with a couple of alterations. I used 1 cup coconut milk. I also substituted the almond extract for coconut extract. Each layer was made from leftover dough from orders this week. One order included turquoise cupcakes which is where that one colored layer is from.

The little topper was made with candy melts mixed with light corn syrup. I just learned this trick. By mixing the two ingredients together, you create an almost fondant. Though it tastes much better. It also doesn’t dry out when you are working with it. It’s my new favourite discovery.

 

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Baking With Booze

Irish Cream Coffee Cupcakes

It’s a risky title, but I’m going with it. Normally, I save my baking with alcohol until around St. Patrick’s Day. Admittedly, this is when I baked these cupcakes for the first time. Since this excursion into baking with booze, I have been seeking out opportunities to use alcohol in my baking.

I find it rather exhilarating to add a little element of naughty into something so sweet and innocent such as cupcakes. You should see people’s eyes light up when you mention there is beer or liquor in the cupcake they are about to partake. It’s as if they were 16 and sneaking a sip of their daddy’s forgotten beer.

Irish Cream Coffee Cupcakes

The delightful addition to these chocolate cupcakes is Irish Cream and coffee. The flavor of the Irish Cream is not strong (I will probably add more next time). I do plan on using a bit of coffee in all of my chocolate cake or cupcake baking in the future. The addition of the coffee, really accentuates the chocolate flavor. Next time you’re baking, add a quarter to half cup of coffee. I promise, it will be amazing.

I plan to tweak the recipe I followed to make these particular cupcakes just a little bit for personal preferences, but that’s not going to stop me from sharing the source. They are quite good. I followed the recipe posted here for Irish Cream & Coffee Cupcakes.  

Irish Cream Coffee Cupcakes

The one change I did make was with the frosting. I left the coffee out of the frosting. I don’t like a strong coffee flavor. Instead, I increased the amount of Irish Cream I used and added a little bit of milk. When using alcohol to create frosting, you will need to add more liquid that when using straight milk. I imagine it has something to do with the alcohol not moisturizing, but I have not done research on the topic. I just know I need to add more than 3-4 tablespoons to get the consistency I need to pipe frosting.

Irish Cream Coffee Cupcakes

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Birthday Baking

Pink Layer Cup Cakes

This year, I decided to try something new for my birthday treats. Yep, I still make birthday treats for myself. All my co-workers appreciate it. Then again, we are teachers and get birthday treats on a regular basis. Since those treats are store bought, I like to add a little homemade goodness to the mix.

Pink Layer Cup Cakes

I’ve seen stacked cupcakes featured on a few blogs and thought I would give them a try. Rather than try to bake something already round, I opted to bake the cake mixture as a flat sheet. I used a jelly roll pan that is 15 x 11 inches. By baking the cake in this manner, I ended up with a 1 inch thick cake. I then used a 2 in circle cutter to cut out my circles (I think next time, I’ll use a sharper edged cutter as the edges were a little rough).

Pink Layer Cup Cakes

I used a basic buttercream frosting. To make it interesting, I used variegated shades of pink, starting with white. After completing a layer of filling, I added a little more food coloring paste to darken the pink. (I’ll have to do this again as I didn’t take photos of each step.)

Pink Layer Cup Cakes

They turned out amazingly! The cake was fudgey. By using thin layers of frosting, I managed to avoid them being overly sweet.

Pink Layer Cup Cakes

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Lovely Lemon Bars

Lemon Bars

I connect lemons with summer. We always had lemonade. Though, not fresh squeezed lemonade, we had Country Time Lemonade. My mom knew how to mix it up just right. Now that I live in Florida, I am having to rethink all of my perceptions about when certain fruits and vegetables are ripe. Lemons are no exception. I do realise it is July as I am typing this, but I made these bars back in February when the lemons on the neighbour’s tree were ripe for picking. Though I am sure, these bars will be just a good with the imported lemons currently available.

Lemon Bars

Until this year, I had never used lemons. Like I said, lemonade came from a powder! I enjoyed testing out a few recipes using fresh squeezed lemon juice. Topping the charts was the lemon bar recipe I tested. It was the perfect blend of sour and sweet. Even the crust was amazing. It wasn’t too crumbly and it seemed to melt in your mouth.

Lemon Bars

Since this was my first time making lemon bars, I followed the recipe from Smitten Kitchen exactly. (You can find it here.) I used the full-sized lemon layer. It was perfect. Even my fiance (who dislikes cheesecakey things because of the texture) loved them. I thought he would prefer a thinner layer of lemon, but he didn’t.

Lemon Bars

I don’t believe I would change anything to make this recipe again. Well, except maybe line the pans with parchment. Even with greasing the pans, the bars stuck to the sides.

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Star Wars Cupcakes

Star Wars Cupcakes

You may have guessed by now, that we are a little on the nerdy side. Or maybe I’ve hidden that fact fairly well thus far. Which means, that we also have friends who are a little nerdy too. Maybe some a little more than others, but it doesn’t matter as we enjoy spending time with them. Especially for birthdays!

Star Wars Cupcakes

I have started offering to bring cupcakes or cakes whenever we are invited to parties. I’m working on getting my baking skills known so if I ever open a bakery, I already have a long list of customers!

Star Wars Cupcakes

This birthday boy, is a huge fan of Star Wars. With that knowledge and some newly acquired Star Wars stamp cookie cutters, I was inspired to do a little experimenting. (I really wish I had taken photos of this part.) The set includes; Yoda, Darth Vader, a Storm Trooper, and the Death Star. Not only do they work well when making cookies, they work exceptionally well on fondant. The most difficult part was making sure not to roll the fondant to thin.

Star Wars Cupcakes

The cupcakes themselves, were spectacular. I made Cupcakes-on-Tap from Bake at 350. This is my second time using this particular recipe. I used a different beer both times. The flavor was both amazing and different each time. For this batch, I used AmberBock. The birthday boy’s beer of choice. I highly recommend using this beer (though I also plan on testing this with other beers).

Star Wars Cupcakes

 I also followed the included frosting recipe. Having the touch of beer in the frosting, made it that much more fun. Though, the frosting was very thick. I recommend adding a little milk to make it easier to pipe onto the cupcakes.

Star Wars Cupcakes

These cupcakes are not child friendly. Make sure you are only serving these to people of legal drinking age.

 

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Filled Lemon Chiffon Cupcakes

This may be the first recipe I claim as my own. It didn’t begin as my own. I started off making a cake shared by cake journal and ended off going my own way with the entire process.

The cupcakes are light and fluffy with an almost angel food cake texture. Thanks to the airy-ness, the lemon curd filling didn’t glob all into one place, it spread around inside the cupcake. To complete the cupcake, I added a lemon cream cheese frosting. They were delicious!

I started out following the Lemon Chiffon Cake recipe from cake journal. With a few major deviations.

Lemon Chiffon Cupcakes

  • 1 3/4 cups cake flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 6 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup cold water
  • 2 teaspoons lemon zest

Directions

Heat over to 350° F. Line cupcake pans with liners. Separate the eggs into 2 bowls. In the bowl with the egg yolks, add the oil, lemon juice, lemon zest, and water. Mix until just combined. In another bowl, mix together flour, baking powder, salt, and 1 cup of sugar. Save the rest of the sugar for the egg whites. Combine the wet and dry ingredients. Mix until smooth.

In your mixer’s bowl, beat the egg whites until light and foamy. Slowly add the remaining sugar. Beat egg whites until stiff peaks form. Mix the egg whites into the cake batter. Fold in 1/3 of the eggs at a time.

Scoop batter into cupcake pan. I use an ice cream scoop to get even results. Bake for 12-16 minutes. My oven cooks cupcakes in 15 minutes. The cupcakes will be lightly browned with a slightly rounded top when you pull them out of the oven. They will fall as they cool to have a flat top. Remove from pans and allow to cool on a baking rack.

Lemon Curd Filling

  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/4 pound butter, room temperature
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt

Directions

Cream the butter. Beat in the sugar. Add eggs one at a time, mixing completely between eggs. Mix in the lemon juice. Mix until combined.

On the stove, pour the mixture into a 2 quart saucepan. Cook over low heat until thickened. It should take about 10 min. Stir constantly. I highly recommend using a candy thermometer to monitor the temperature. The curd will thicken at 170°F. You should see the change.

Remove from heat to let cool.

Once the cupcakes and lemon curd are cool, you can fill the cupcakes with the lemon curd. There are multiple ways to do this. You could remove a portion of the cupcake. I have an attachment for a pastry bag that I use for injecting filling.

Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting

  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1/2 pound butter
  • 5 cups powdered sugar

Directions

In a mixing bowl, place the zest, cream cheese, and butter. Beat until fluffy. About 2-3 minutes. Slowly add powdered sugar. I usually add about 1/2 cup at a time to prevent any from being mixed over the edge.

Using your method of choice, frost your cupcakes. If you are not using a pastry bag, you can probably get away with making half of the frosting recipe.

Make It and Love It

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Ruminations on Resolutions

In 2013, I didn’t make resolutions. Instead, I made goals. I’m sure you are thinking what is the difference. That really depends on your perspective. In my mind, resolutions are things you would like to do sometime this year. A goal is a set plan with a final outcome. I created a list of goals with defined parameters so I would know that I accomplished them.

I know I didn’t accomplish them. In fact, I believe I only fully accomplished one goal. I made it really close to completing all but one. I even managed to keep a fairly good running tally of what I did to accomplish the goals for much of the year (ok, until April!). Let’s review the goals.

1. Use an entire box of baking soda and can of baking powder.

I came fairly close to meeting this goal. Both containers are about half empty. Had I bought smaller containers, they would have been empty. I have learned loads about making baked goods this year. If anyone wants to provide support, I will gladly open a bakery and spend every day baking my little heart out!

2. Use an entire jar of yeast.

I didn’t spend nearly enough time practicing bread baking this year. First off, it wasn’t nearly as popular to take to the office as cupcakes and cookies. Second, I slowly cut out carbs as the year progressed. Bread was one of the first to go since we rarely ate it anyway. I fully plan on making and selling bread in the bakery someone is going to support for me to open!

 

 

 

3. I want to try a new recipe every week.

We tried loads of new recipes this year. As we do every year. I don’t know that we tried at least one every week. Some weeks we would test out 3-4 and others we ate take-out all week. This is something we will continue throughout the coming years since we both enjoy cooking and testing out new foods.

4. Complete one project a month during the school year. And one a week during the summer months.

I admit to being liberal in my definition of projects. I often included projects I did for my classroom as long as it included glue or scissors. Once summer hit though, I was doing a project or two a day. The house looked as if a craft store exploded inside! I think the only way for me to have completed more projects would to have not blogged about any of them. I still have many backlogged to write about.

5. Dragging my boyfriend to various tourist destinations around central Florida.

This is the one goal I know that failed miserably. I’m not saying we didn’t do anything all year. We just didn’t do specifically touristy things. We found ourselves at craft shows, BBQ cook-offs, pancake breakfasts, and many other activities that residents would do rather than tourists.

I fear I’ve bored you with enough ruminations about my goals for 2013. We had a marvelous year. I’m sharing highlights next. We are both very excited to see what 2014 has in store for us. I’ll also be sharing my goal for the year.

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Yellow Birthday Cake

My sister doesn’t like cake. She likes the frosting, but not the cake. She says they are flavorless. That they don’t have any taste. My sister doesn’t eat cake if it doesn’t taste wonderful.

Since learning of my sister’s sentiments, I did some observing the next few times I had cake and decided I agree with my sister. Rather than stop eating cake, I decided to find delicious cakes to bake.  I warn you, if you also decide to do this, you will never be happy with box cakes again.

Since my family was all together recently, I made a cake to celebrate. I thought I would test out a yellow cake. Yellow cakes are  difficult to master and make consistently. Some are just too sweet. And others go the way of corn bread. The recipe I found was the perfect balance between the two. This cake can hold its own in the flavor department. 

I’m no stranger to making frosting. Though I am changing my mindset about their role involving cake. I used to think of them as a way to add flavor to cake. Now I feel that frosting should be paired with cake they way wine and food is paired. The two should enhance each other’s flavors. This frosting is just sweet enough to not overpower the cake’s flavor.

You may have noticed that my layers are slightly different sizes. This is due to my using spring-form pans rather than cake pans. Since I was travelling, I was using my mum’s kitchen. For some reason, she doesn’t own round cake pans, but does own multiple sizes of spring-form pans. I am quite impressed with how well the cakes baked in them. Removing the cake was quite easy since the pan sides and bottom separate.

Since Deb Perelman from smitten kitchen does such an amazing job sharing her recipes, I don’t feel the need to spend time retyping her creations. I do highly recommend that you follow the links and make this wonderful cake and frosting. On the cake post, she shares a frosting recipe made with sour cream. I really want to give it a go, but haven’t had the opportunity just yet. Soon though!

And my sister who doesn’t like cake. She ate 3 pieces of cake!

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Rhubarb Companion Cube Pies

 

I love the idea of hand pies. It reminds me of trips to the bread store with my mum when we were children. If there was a special sale going on, which meant just a little extra money left, we would get Hostess Fruit Pies (or the off brand version of those pies). This was a highly unusual treat as my mum was very much into home-baked treats and did her best to feed us many vegetables and very little sugar.   I don’t know why we never thought to make our own little pies. Probably because Betty Crocker never suggested it!

Thankfully, one of my favourite food blogs, Smitten Kitchen, recently wrote about her wonderful little rhubarb cream cheese hand pies. They looked amazing. Despite the cream cheese, my fiance was keen to try them as well since he loves rhubarb.

Since rhubarb doesn’t grow in Florida, it’s much too hot for far too long, we pay about $6.00 a pound for the wonderful stalks. I decided to cut the recipe in half, so I would have rhubarb left to make another treat with the other half a pound. I also used my own crust recipe since I had some ready to go in the freezer.

Rhubarb Companion Cube Pies (from Smitten Kitchen)

To begin, make your favourite pie crust, or use the one at Smitten Kitchen. While the dough refrigerates, make the fillings.

Rhubarb Filling

  • 1/2 pound rhubarb
  • 1/4 cup sugar (I didn’t quite fill the measuring cup all the way)

Peel the tough outer skin of the rhubarb. Roughly chop into small pieces. Place into small pan with sugar. Cook over low heat about 15 minutes. Stir occasionally. I let it simmer until there was a thick paste so I wouldn’t have juices running out of the pies.

Cream Cheese Filling

  • 2 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1/4 cup sugar (I didn’t quite fill the measuring cup all the way)
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1 small egg yolk

Whisk all of the ingredients together in a small bowl. Keep refrigerated until needed.

Now for the fun part, assembling the pies!

First, Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Roll out your dough. You can either use a pizza cutter or a cookie cutter to cut your dough into an even number of shapes. I used a Portal Companion Cube cookie cutter since that is the sort of cookie cutters we have in our house! I ended up with 14 squares (Next time, I’m going to roll the dough a little thinner.)

Second, Place half of your squares on your baking sheet. These will be the bottom of your pies. With the remaining shapes, create a vent by cutting a plus in the top of the pie. (Next time I want to make a heart shape.)

Third, Using a spoon, place about a teaspoon of cream cheese mixture in the center of the pie bases. I smoothed it out a bit. If you have a larger shape, you could add more filling. You may want to do a test pie to make sure you don’t overfill the crust.

Fourth, Scoop about the same amount of rhubarb filling on top of the cream cheese.  Again, make sure you don’t overfill the crust.

Fifth,  Carefully place the vented crust pieces over the pie bases. With your fingers, gently but firmly press the edges of the crusts together.

Sixth, Bake pies for 15-20 minutes. The edges will be quite brown. Remove from baking sheet and place on cooling rack. I recommend letting them cool to room temperature. But I realise how hard that part of the instructions will be to follow. Store in a sealed container in the fridge, if there are any left!

You could do a light egg wash before placing the filling on the base to help seal the edges, but mine held together quite well. You could also finish with an egg wash and sprinkle with sugar before baking, I may try this next time.

 

 

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Sweet Bread Cake Pops

I would love to say that everything I bake turns out amazingly. Sadly, it does not. When projects don’t go as planned, I often learn a lesson and find another way to use the results. My most recent adventure with yeast bread, was such an adventure.

I started making Portuguese Sweet Bread and then found out we had to go somewhere. I thought I had remembered that you can mix the dough and then refrigerate the dough, thus stunting the growth process. Then upon removal as the dough warms up, the yeast will wake up and begin doing its thing. Apparently, I was wrong. At least in this case, further study will need to be done.

 

Due to this misunderstanding, the result was a very small, dense loaf of bread instead of a soft, sweet, round pillow loaf. The boule (a ball) was about one third the size it should have been. You can’t tell very well from the photos, and I didn’t take comparison photos when I made the same bread a few days later. We did taste-test the loaf. The taste was wonderful, but it was so dense it was like eating a brick. I didn’t think anything could save it.

Then inspiration hit! What if I tried to make cake balls? I knew we would not eat this bread and I didn’t want to just throw it away. I figured the cost of a tub of frosting and some almond bark (which I already had) would be worth the test.

 

I used Duncan Hines® Frosting Creations. I mixed the base with the Orange Creme flavour since my bread already had an orange flavour to it. After mixing the flavour in the tub of frosting, I got to work on making my cake balls.

 

First, I cubed the loaves of bread to make it easier to crumble. Then using my hands, I crumbled the bread into small pieces.

Second, I mixed in the frosting. I mixed and mixed until all of the crumbs were moist and coated with frosting. I started by using a spoon and eventually used my hands to make certain everything mixed together properly.

Third, using a melon baller. I have a fancy pampered chef scoop that I love using for such things. I scooped out tiny little balls and lined them on a baking sheet. They then went into the freezer for a couple hours.

Finally, I melted the almond bark. I only did a few squares at a time so I wouldn’t overcook the bark. And I didn’t want to melt more than I would use. I tried a couple different ways to dip the balls. I tried using a stick, but they fell right off. I ended up using a fork and very carefully rolling it in the melted almond bark so I didn’t disfigure the balls. When all the bread balls had been coated, they went into the fridge to harden.

I was very impressed with how they turned out. If I hadn’t known they were made from a failed loaf of bread, I wouldn’t have known the difference. I quickly gave them away though, so I wouldn’t eat all 60 of them myself!

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