Monthly Archives: March 2008

Just Desserts doing the Daring Bakers Challenge

I’m not sure if you’ve heard of something called the Daring Baker’s challenge but in a nutshell, a bunch of crazy bakers do one recipe each month and try to make it their own. This month it was Dorie Greenspan’s “Perfect Party Cake.”

Admittedly, i am a lazy baker. When you tell me a certain cake calls for 7 (or in this case 15!) minute frosting, my gut says ‘make it buttercream.’ When half of the directions tell me how to slice, frost, and layer, i think, “ugh. Do I have to?” Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind doing things from scratch, it’s kind of what i do, but i put this off til the last possible moment out of sheer terror.

010.jpg  The cake is called perfect party cake. There were a few different flavors that we could mess with: lemon, coconut, raspberry, but we were told that no matter what, it HAD to be a layer cake. So made cupcakes. And layered them.

The cake turned out wonderfully moist, spongy, and quite delicious. Other bakers were posting on the blog with concerns of the cake not rising, but mine did awesome. The meringue frosting was a pain the arse, but turned out smashing! I’m going to post the recipe here with my notations and additions as needed.  I’ll throw in another picture at the end.

For the Cake
2 ½ cups cake flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt I omitted the salt since the only butter I could use was salted.
1 ¼ cups whole milk or buttermilk (I prefer buttermilk with the lemon) I used powdered because buying ‘real’ buttermilk is a waste for me.
4 large egg whites
1 ½ cups sugar
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
1 stick (8 tablespoons or 4 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature again, I used salted butter
½ teaspoon pure lemon extract  I used coconut extract because I had a feeling these were going to be too lemony for my liking- and they almost were

For the Buttercream
1 cup sugar I used ¾ cup, because I only had two sticks of butter
4 large egg whites I used 3 egg whites
3 sticks (12 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature I used two sticks
¼ cup fresh lemon juice (from 2 large lemons) I only juiced one lemon
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

For Finishing
2/3 cup seedless raspberry preserves stirred vigorously or warmed gently until spreadable
About 1 ½ cups sweetened shredded coconut

Getting Ready
Centre a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter two 9 x 2 inch round cake pans and line the bottom of each pan with a round of buttered parchment or wax paper. Put the pans on a baking sheet. I used my silicon baking cups. I sprayed them with no-stick and placed them on a pan.

To Make the Cake
Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Whisk together the milk and egg whites in a medium bowl. For some reason, I didn’t see this step while making my treats. Put the sugar and lemon zest in a mixer bowl or another large bowl and rub them together with your fingers until the sugar is moist and fragrant. a fork did the job just as nicely.  Add the butter and working with the paddle or whisk attachment, or with a hand mixer, beat at medium speed for a full 3 minutes, until the butter and sugar are very light. Beat in the extract, then add one third of the flour mixture, still beating on medium speed.  Beat in half of the milk-egg mixture, then beat in half of the remaining dry ingredients until incorporated. Because I missed that previous line, I ended up alternating flour, milk, then eggs. Didn’t seem to make a difference.  Add the rest of the milk and eggs beating until the batter is homogeneous, then add the last of the dry ingredients.  Finally, give the batter a good 2- minute beating to ensure that it is thoroughly mixed and well aerated. I didn’t do this part either. I get super paranoid about over-mixing stuff. I don’t like my cakes tough and tasteless.  Divide the batter between the two pans and smooth the tops with a rubber spatula. Again, I poured the batter into my silicon baking cups that were sprayed with no-stick. Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until the cakes are well risen and springy to the touch – a thin knife inserted into the centers should come out clean. I baked my cupcakes for 19 minutes.
Transfer the cakes to cooling racks and cool for about 5 minutes, then run a knife around the sides of the cakes, unfold them and peel off the paper liners. Invert and cool to room temperature, right side up (the cooled cake layers can be wrapped airtight and stored at room temperature overnight or frozen for up to two months).

To Make the Buttercream
Put the sugar and egg whites in a mixer bowl or another large heatproof bowl, fit the bowl over a plan of simmering water and whisk constantly, keeping the mixture over the heat, until it feels hot to the touch, about 3 minutes. This took me closer to 6 minutes but I wasn’t stopping til it looked like marshmallow.
The sugar should be dissolved, and the mixture will look like shiny marshmallow cream. Remove the bowl from the heat. Working with the whisk attachment or with a hand mixer, beat the meringue on medium speed until it is cool, about 5 minutes. I wanted to stop right here, because it tasted just like marshmallow fluff. I was in heaven! I think I know what I’m going to do for my s’mores cupcakes! Switch to the paddle attachment if you have one, and add the butter a stick at a time, beating until smooth. Once all the butter is in, beat the buttercream on medium-high speed until it is thick and very smooth, 6-10 minutes. During this time the buttercream may curdle or separate – just keep beating and it will come together again. Mine never did curdle. I guess I got lucky. On medium speed, gradually beat in the lemon juice, waiting until each addition is absorbed before adding more, and then the vanilla. Well, I put the vanilla in first. I guess I’m not that good at following directions. My bad.  You should have a shiny smooth, velvety, pristine white buttercream. Press a piece of plastic against the surface of the buttercream and set aside briefly.

To Assemble the Cake
Using a sharp serrated knife and a gentle sawing motion, slice each layer horizontally in half.
Put one layer cut side up on a cardboard cake round or a cake plate protected by strips of wax or parchment paper. Spread it with one third of the preserves. Cover the jam evenly with about one quarter of the buttercream. Top with another layer, spread with preserves and buttercream and then do the same with a third layer (you’ll have used all the jam and have buttercream leftover). Place the last layer cut side down on top of the cake and use the remaining buttercream to frost the sides and top.
Press the coconut into the frosting, patting it gently all over the sides and top. At this point, I simply cut each cupcake in half, spread some buttercream, blobbed on the raspberry jam, replaced the top and spread more buttercream there. Then I took a pinch of coconut and placed it on top. I pushed down so that I could kind of smoosh my little sammies to hold them in place. Worked like a charm! However, after doing half the recipe this way, and becoming extremely bored, I busted out my melon baller, scooped the centers out, and dropped some raspberry jam inside. Then I frosted with the buttercream, turned my cuppie over and pressed into a bowl of coconut flake I had sitting on the counter.

011.jpgI gotta tell ya, my husband liked the ones with the raspberry surprise a bit better. (They were easier to make, too.) Now, i know this isn’t called Bill’s challenge, so his opinion does not matter at all. I mean this is the guy who told me that ‘cookies would be a nice change of pace.’ How dare you, sir.

I know that we were supposed to make this our own, so that’s what i did. I made it my own. They turned out beautifully so i guess a little hard work does indeed pay off in the end.  012.jpg

 

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The wonderful world of baking

so i had been meaning to write a new blog about all the cupcakes and frostings i did for Randi’s mom’s work party and i am finally getting around to it. i’m throwing some pictures in here, hopefully they aren’t too crappy of quality, but we’ll see.

017.jpg In this picture we have (starting at the top and going left, then down, etc.) pistachio with bailey’s irish cream in the frosting. i thought they were tasty, all they needed was a packet of pistachio pudding and little food color to make them more green. next, we have the red velvet with cream cheese frosting and white chocolate curl garnish. typically, red velvet isn’t my favorite flavor as it is, so i don’t much care for these. honestly, give me chocolate on top of chocolate with chocolate inside and maybe a chocolate candy bar garnish, but hey, that’s me. however, randi said they were a humongous hit, so let’s go with that. next is my husbands favorite, the s’mores. just a piece of a graham cracker on the bottom before i pour in the batter, which is crammed full of sweet chocolate chips. the topping is a rich marshmallow fluff mixture i spoon over but it always drips over the sides and makes a sticky mess. i top with half a marshmallow that i toast nice and dark with my kitchen torch. next are my ‘banana split’ cupcakes. strawberry cupcake, topped with a thick chocolate ganache which is then topped with a swirl of banana flavored frosting and garnished with a maraschino cherry. next are my strawberry cupcakes with strawberry cream cheese frosting. yum. next are the andes mint cupcake. chocolate cupcake with an andes(r) candy baked in side and the frosting has a hint of mint flavoring mixed in with the decadent chopped candies. 016.jpg

in the next picture we have the shamrock shake cupcakes with melted shake mixed into the batter and the frosting as well. i did add a touch of both vanilla and mint to both to give them that little something extra and it worked because these went over huuuuuuge. after those we have the chocolate raspberry. basically, chocolate cupcake, raspberry flavored ganache filling, topped with chocolate raspberry frosting, garnished with a raspberry. following that is my carrot cake with cream cheese center. after that are the cappucino chip cuppies. these had the most delicious frosting with a mix of coffee and starbuck’s coffee liqueur in it. holy crap, were they fabulous. but i love coffee, so maybe i’m a little biased. then there are the chocolate peanut butter cupcakes, the recipe i borrowed from bake and destroy. the only thing i did different for mine was…well…i forgot to add the chocolate chips so i just tossed some on top thinking they would sink upon cooking. yeah, not so much. they were still tasty, though. oh, and my frosting wasn’t as shiny as hers was, but still yummy. next we have the coconut cupcakes with coconut cream cheese frosting. my personal favorite. these had coconut milk in the mix. oh god, they were great. i love coconut almost as much as i love coffee, so these will definitely be made again at my house. mmmmmm…

021.jpg

only the bottom two are new flavors. the left one is my version of strawberry margarita, with a candied lime peel garnish. i didn’t taste them, i don’t know how they were. i hate tequila. it tastes brown and to me that’s just gross. the one on the right is my cosmo cuppie with cranberries in the frosting. i don’t know how this one was either. good, i hope.

so there they are and if you are interested in a recipe, i will share gladly, just ask.

***edited note~ i didn’t put larger pictures of all the different cupcakes because i thought it would take up too much time, and i have no extra time to spare.  also, i thought it would make the blog too long and i know how people’s attention spans are as of late. constant stimulation, like flies or gnats. you can visit my flickr page for the photos.

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Baking a million cupcakes

I started today with my job coming up on Thursday. I only have 5 more to go, then i get to frost all the damn things on Wednesday morning. I know it may sound silly, but i did indeed bake some today, just to freeze them until Wednesday. I want to be prepared and i thought this would be the best way to do it. I have frozen cupcakes before and as long as they weren’t crappy going into the freezer, they’ll come out okay. Plus, i didn’t want to leave them out for 5 days. they’d get all kindsa crumbly and stale and I’m not putting my name on something shitty. However, I’m freezing the ones with ganache in them and also the ones with the Andes candies in them, so that may be a problem, but we shall see. I will post pictures as soon as i actually frost them but until then, you aren’t getting photos of my bald cupcakes.

My oldest daughter just told me she upped her ear gauges to a 6 and that she got stepped on by her friend’s horse today that ripped her shoe and gave her a wicked bruise.

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14 different cupcakes

So for next Thursday, i have to bake 14 different cupcakes for my friends mom and her work party. Now, because i love my friend, i did NOT tell her mom to go pound sand up her ass. Luckily, i already have 5 flavors in my freezer so i will really only have to bake 11, but that means 11 different frostings as well. I’m actually kind of stoked and it gave me a good idea. I’m going to go around to a bunch of businesses and drop off like ten different cuppies to each one, along with a few business cards, just to see if i get any bites for business. why not? i’m going to have all these damn cupcakes and i don’t want them to get freezer burned, ya know?

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Anthony Bourdain

I just want to start by saying that i think he is awesome and amazing. I am currently dvr-ing every episode of ‘no reservations’ that comes on my television. i love that he doesn’t really like everything he experiences. cabaret in berlin? no thanks, says tony. dodol in indonesia? you can keep it, he says.

I’m in the middle of reading ‘kitchen confidential’ and so far i love it. granted, i’m only into the third chapter but it’s everything i remember about my first restaurant experiences when i started at 13.

I watched tony in portland, oregon yesterday and first off- i have been waiting to see this episode forever because i heard my favorite author was featured as one of his city hosts. that’s right kids, chuck palahniuk was tony’s host not only for a donut shoppe that featured cap’n crunch coated or bacon topped donuts, but they also visited the largest velvet painting museum in america. amazing. now i want to visit portland. i mean, i wanted to visit before when i read ‘fugitives and refugees’ but now i want a bacon covered donut. what?

i wish i had more time to write because i have so much to say.

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Shamrock shake cupcakes..revisited

Just a short post to say that i remade the frosting and this time, not only did i add the melted shake instead of milk but i put in the tiniest drop of mint extract and vanilla extract. Tons better!

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Here they are!!

109_0388.jpg

These are the shamrock shake cupcakes as promised! I had to cheat a little and use a cake mix, but i promise before these shakes leave my local mickey d’s, i will figure out how to do it without a box involved.

1 package plain yellow cake mix

1 package instant french vanilla pudding

1 1/4 cups shamrock shake, almost room temp

1/2 cup veg oil

3 eggs

oven at 350. mix em all together then bake for 18 minutes in lined muffin cups. my buttercream frosting consisted of half a stick of butter at room temp, beaten til fluffy. i added about 2 cups of powdered sugar and when it got dryish, i added about 2-3 tbsp of the shake, also at room temp. they were/are super yummy!! 109_0389.jpg

Also, they didn’t turn out perfect by any means. They had fallen a little in the centers of some of them but to me that’s never a big deal because it can be hidden by extra frosting. And the soundtrack to ‘fight club’ makes a great baking companion. just sayin.

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coconut curry chicken soup

I made coconut curry chicken soup, as the title implies. Not bad, however, next time i will add more coconut milk instead of heavy cream. it was my own recipe modeled after the way i remembered it tasting at a little restaurant in chicago called ‘noodles in the pot.’ i ate there about a month or so ago and i could not get those damn noodles out of my head. i will be making this again and when i perfect it, i will post the recipe on here, along with pictures.

My husband thought it was rather bland. What a surprise, my husband doesn’t like something i cooked. Color me shocked.

I am in the process of trying out a new St. Patrick’s day cupcake recipe. I have to take my daughter to cello practice later and when i do, i will be swinging by McDonald’s for my favorite frozen treat- shamrock shakes. I’m going to melt the shake and use it in place of milk in one of my basic vanilla cupcake recipes and then I’m going to use the melted shake in place of milk in the buttercream frosting. Doesn’t that sound freaking awesome? I think so. Update to come! And pictures!

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