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Thursday, March 26, 2009

Wilton Cake Decorating Course 2

So, course 2 is over! I really enjoyed this class. Working with royal icing to make flowers is much more enjoyable than working with buttercream... it is easier to work with, smoother, longer lasting and the result is much prettier. I think the colors are even more vibrant when done in royal icing rather than buttercream as well!

I missed lesson 3 due to a crazy allergy attack (that ended with me in the hospital needing a steroid shot, by the way) so I had to learn how to make several of the flowers on my own. As a result, my daisies are really ugly and I don't have any mums :( For the Finale Cake, here is what I had...

Apple Blossoms... using a flower nail and tips 1, and 101.
For Wilton instructions, click here

Violets... using a flower nail, your violet template, tip 1 and either tip 59s (righties) or 101s (for lefties, like me!)
For Wilton instructions, click here

Daffodils... using a flower nail, your daffodil template, tips 1, 3, and 104
For Wilton instructions, click here
These are one of my favorite flowers to make!

Daisies... using the flower nail, your daisy template, and tips 5 & 104
For Wilton instructions, click here
So not my fave. This is one I just could not master.

Primroses... using your flower nail, your primrose template, & tips 1, 14 and 103
For Wilton instructions, click here
My other favorite to make, so cute!

Victorian Roses... using your flower nail, & tips 12 and 104
For Wilton instructions, click here
Much easier to do royal icing roses than buttercream roses.

I also made the Violet Leaf called for in class, as well as some smaller leaves with tip 47 to go with the smaller flowers...

So how did the GRAND FINALE CAKE turn out? Pretty good in my opinion. Learning and completing the basket weave was time consuming, but fun. It creates a nice effect. Take a look! Be nice! Keep in mind, it's my first :)

Looking forward to course three in about 2 weeks! Oooh, fondant! (I'm scared).

Sunday, March 22, 2009

More Blog Catching up! Awards, Wilton Classes & A Cake

I'm catching up on overdue posts! Back in FEBRUARY (o dio mio, I am behind) the glorious Donna of My Tasty Treasures bestowed upon me the Kreativ Blogger award. Yeyy, Thank you Donna! So sweet! If you haven't yet, you should really go visit her blog. She's hilarious and always whippin up something new and delicious in the kitchen.

I am going to pass this award on to 5 bloggers whose sites I thoroughly enjoy visiting:
*Elyse's Confectionery Creations
*honey & jam.
*Tami's Kitchen Table Talk
*The Cupcake Activist
*Three B's .... Baseball, Baking, & Books

Now, on to the cake. I am taking the Wilton Cake Decorating Classes at Michaels. So far, I have completed Course 1 which "Focuses on basic skills and techniques, from icing prep and simple borders to roses". It is time consuming - there is quite a bit of prep work prior to going to class... course 1 required a cake baked and frosted prior to coming to each class, and also required you to bring several different containers of frosting in different colors & consistencies.... as well as the clean up time once you get home from class. But nevertheless, it was definitely worth it. I really feel like I learned a lot, and more than anything else, it gets you over than FEAR of cake decorating. It was challenging and fun and very useful. Here are some pictures from course 1:


A neat little trick I learned during lesson 1 - How to properly add a filling in a 2 layer cake:

You take your "Thin Consistency Course Buttercream Frosting" (see my post on Sugar Cookie Bars for the recipe and make a very thin layer on the top of your bottom layer. This makes it kinda waterproof, or pudding-proof or filling-proof if you will. It protects the porous cake from absorbing all of your delicious filling. Then pipe a thicker layer of Buttercream Frosting around the outside of the cake like this:

Now, you fill up your circle with your choice of filling (I chose the easy route and used a pudding cup :)

The little frosting dam you created earlier prevents filling leakage once you squish on your top layer...

Next, attempt to ice your first 2 layer cake ever.. get fed up because you neglected to do a Crumb Coat (very. important.). Realize you earned your reputation as "The Angry Baker" for a very real reason. Shout expletives and wave your offset spatula threateningly until your more-patient and thoroughly-talented boyfriend offers to help/do the rest of it for you. Thank him and secretly be envious of his cake icing skills...

Finally, bring this cake to class and learned to transfer patterns and pipe decorations using the star tip:

Not bad for a first timer, eh??


Check out the scallop shell border, and dot piping skills. Ohh yah baby.

Ok, maybe the clowns could use some improvement.
and yes, Daniel did frost this one for me, too. he's really good, isn't he??

And there's a RECIPE with this one! :)

The cakes baked for the previous lessons were a plain ol' white cake. Though they were gobbled up radidly, I thought I'd go with a fancier one for my final cake. Inspired by Vanilla Sugar's Cinnamon Espresso Cake, I decided to alter the recipe to fit my Wilton Course Requirements.

Cinnamon Espresso Cake with Cinnamon Espresso Pudding Filling adapted from Vanilla Sugar, makes enough for (1) 2-layer cake.

1 3/4 C minus 1 Tblspn sugar
2 1/2 Tblspn cinnamon
2 1/4 tsp espresso powder
2 1/2 C + 2 Tblspn flour
3 tsp baking powder
a dash of sea salt
1.125 C half and half (just estimate its 1 1/8 C)
3 eggs room temp
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1 & 3/4 sticks butter, melted and cooled
1/2 C miniature chocolate chips
1 pudding cup

1. Preheat oven to 350F and prepare two 8 inch cake pans - use shortening to grease, and dust with flour, shaking out the excess
2. In a small mixing bowl, combine 3 tablespoons of the sugar, with 1 tablespoon of cinnamon, and the espresso powder. Set aside.
3. In a large mixing bowl, whisk the flour, remaining sugar, baking powder, remaining cinnamon and salt together until combined.
4. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk the half & half, eggs, and vanilla until blended together.
5. Pour the egg/cream/vanilla mixture over the flour mixture and gently whisk until almost combined but do NOT overmix!
6. Using a rubber spatula, fold in the melted butter just until the butter is incorporated.
7. Divide evenly between two mixing bowls (this will make the second portion much easier). Take one bowl and pour a little more than half of it into one of your prepared cake pans. Repeat with the other bowl of batter and the other cake pan. Spread evenly.
8. Sprinkle the mini chocolate chips over each of the cake pans and then top with the cinnamon-sugar espresso sugar mixture** (**Be sure to Reserve about 2 tablespoons of this mixture for use later). Top with the remaining batter but dolloping the batter on top of the cinnamon/expresso mixture.

9. Go slowly and lightly, and use your wet fingers to spread it out as much as you can. You want As little of the cinnamon/expresso stuff showing as possible.

10. Bake for about 25 - 30 minutes at 350F, but start checking for doneness at like 22 minutes. Bake just until a toothpick comes out clean. Let the cake cool in the pan for 15 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack. Turn it out again onto another rack so it is right side up.

For the filling:
When the cake has completely cooled, create a frosting dam as seen in Cake 1.

Take the reserved cinnamon-sugar espresso mixture and stir into the pudding cup.

Fill your frosting dam with the cinnamon-sugar espresso pudding.

Top with your top cake layer and frost with frosting of your choice!*** (Warning - you may need to level your cakes off before layering them to avoid a cake hump. This may leave you with small scraps of cake filled with cinnamon-sugar espresso powder. Eat at your own risk, it's incredible addictive.)

***or make your boyfriend frost it for you as I did.. check out his skillllsss:

PICTURE BELOW OF FINISHED CAKE AFTER DECORATING DURING OUR FINAL CLASS OF COURSE 1:\ my buttercream roses are PATHETIC. I blame it on being the only lefty in the class, quite a disadvantage. But my dots are cute, right?!

Aw, look how pathetic they are up close:

They're a bit wilty but oh well. We learn Royal Icing roses in Course 2, maybe that will be easier!

As for the Cinnamon Espresso Cake... delicious.

WHEW, Long post. Course 2 post to come soon!

Katherine Hepburn's Brownies with Reese's Peanut Butter Cups

Catching up with the posts (a bit)! I made these not too long ago. Inspired by Katharine Hepburn's brownie recipe included in Dorie Greenspan's Baking: From My Home to Yours and my undying love for Reese's Peanut Butter Cups... I decided to combine the two to create a Delicious dessert MONSTER. The result... very good... Especially after a day or more just like every brownie recipe I've ever made... this seems to be a given with homemade from-scratch brownies. The cinnamon and the espresso flavor were quite pronounced, and they were nice and moist and tender, yet on the sturdy/not-going-to-fall-into-crumbly-bits side. Although we enjoyed them thoroughly, I have to say they were not my absolute favorite brownie recipe so far (but that didn't stop us from eating the whole pan within days). I also think that with the espresso and cinnamon flavors, the peanut butter cups fell into the background a bit. I will try the Peanut Butter Cup mix-in again but perhaps with a simpler brownie recipe.

Katharine Hepburn's Brownies with slight alterations from Dorie Greenspan's Baking: From My Home to Yours
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
1 stick unsalted butter
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 tsp espresso powder
2 eggs
1 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
4 ozs semisweet chocolate chips
9 miniature Reese's peanut butter cups, chilled in the freezer for at least 1/2 hour

1. Preheat your oven to 325 and butter an 9 inch sqaure baking pan. Line the buttered pan with parchment and re-grease the parchment paper. Lightly dust greased dishwith flour.
2. In a small mixing bowl, combine the flour, cinnamon and salt.
3. Chop the peanut butter cups roughly and set back in the freezer.
4. In a medium saucepan melt the butter over low heat. Once it begins to melt, sift in cocoa powder and espresso.
5. Stir until the butter is completely melted and the espresso and cocoa powder have completely combined.
6. Remove from the heat and allow to cool for ~ 3 minutes
7. Add the eggs one at a time to the butter cocoa mixture and beat just to combine.
8. Stir in the sugar and vanilla, do not overmix.
9. Whisk in the dry ingredients, followed by the chocolate chips. Gently fold in the chopped peanut butter cups.
10. Pour into the prepared baking dish and bake for 30 - 35 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.
11. Allow to cool on baking rack in pan for at least 30 minutes before removing them from the baking pan, or allow to cool completely in the pan (it is up to you... I generally allow them to cool all the way in the baking dish, though this adds some extra baking time to the brownies possibly overcooking/drying them out).

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The Future of Bakeries

Not surprisingly, it is much harder to keep an active flow of blog entries when working full time (I suppose 2 part time jobs totally 40+ a week counts as full time, right?). I have baked a bit, and have been attending Wilton cake decorating classes (I'm up to lesson 3 of course 2), and have yet to post about it. EEP! I'm slackin', but I'll get to it soon. For now, I wanted to tell you about the FUTURE of bakeries. That's right, put DOWN those cupcake pans, toss your adorable cupcake liners you've been collecting in your pantry into the trash. Throw away that piping bag and those millions of piping tips you've collected in every size and shape. ::sigh:: Cupcakes are sooo last week. What's the next thing in million dollar miniature cake business?

BUNDT CAKES. You heard me! Bundt cakes are the new cupcake.

Don't get me wrong, I think it's an ADORABLE-FANTASTIC idea. I've always liked bundt cakes, and mini-anything is a winner in my book. In fact, I even own a few mini bundt cake pans. Plus, Bundt is a fun word to say. But I don't think I'm ready to retire those trusty cupcake pans just yet :)

Anyway, check out Nothing Bundt Cakes, the first (?) of its kind. I totally wanna go. (Cutest name for a bundt-cake-bakery EVER, no?... and that's not just because its the first and only bundt cake bakery ever, either). I'm jumpin on the bundt-bandwagon! Watch, the next thing you'll see outta my oven is a fancy mini bundt.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Malted Milk Blondies

When I saw these Malted Milk Blondies on, one of my favorite blogs, I knew I had to make them. We loooove us some blondies. PLUS I have practically a whole container of malted milk powder left over from our Malted Milk Ice Cream. I wanted to make the full batch, so I went to the original source. The recipe is from Baked: New Frontiers in Baking, a recipe book I have used before with great success. (sheesh, I think I went a little hyperlink crazy in this post). This time, I got similarly amazing results. These blondies are super soft-and-chewy, brown sugary, and delicious. I followed the recipe for the most part, the only changes being that I omitted the malted milk balls and nuts, and instead, put in 3/4 C of Chips (half semisweet chocolate chunks and half reese's peanut butter chips). With the end result, I wouldn't have changed a thing. Blondie Perfection! They were quite different from other Blondies we have made... more brown sugary and chewy, and less cakey. But still delicious! I really gotta go get this book.


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