Archive | December, 2010

Christmas Cake Pops!

23 Dec

Christmas is just a couple of days away, and I can hardly believe it is almost here! The good news in this  is that Christmas is my favorite holiday. The bad news is that Christmas baking is just about over until next year. 😦 Of course I’ll still find many other treats to occupy my time until next year, but I really do love making Christmas treats, and I’m always a little sad when Christmas day is over and there are no more red and green desserts to be made for several months. But….let’s enjoy these last couple days of Christmas baking season 2010 while they are here. 🙂 I am finishing off this year’s baking with Christmas cake pops! These were a lot of fun to make. My dog Mandy even enjoyed it, because she got to eat one of them that I dropped. Oops. 🙂 I almost didn’t get the lollipop stick away from her before she devoured that too!

Now, I have seen lots of adorable Christmas cake pops. I’d intended to make several different designs: Santa hats, Christmas trees, ornaments, snowman, and reindeer. These dreams were cut short when I realized that I had less than a dozen lollipop sticks left! 😦 So, I settled for the two that I wanted to try most. I really wanted to do the Santa hats and Christmas trees because they have a different shape, and I wanted to try something besides round cake pops. The others will have to wait until next year I guess. But that is ok because these two designs have lots of Christmas spirit packed in. 🙂

I started with leftover chocolate cake. As with any cake pops, I started by crumbling up the cake.

Then I added a little mint buttercream icing. I think the chocolate/mint combination is a great flavor for Christmas time. Remember that you always want to add only a little icing at a time, you don’t want the cake pops to get too soupy!

Instead of making this mixture into cake balls, I needed to make cake cones. After they were shaped I put them into the freezer to let them harden up just a bit.

Even though both the hats and the trees need the same shape, the dipping process is slightly different. I’m so glad that bakerella.com already laid out the steps for me so I wouldn’t have to figure it out myself. For the trees, I added a lollipop stick using a little bit of melted candy coating. For the hats, the stick doesn’t get added just yet. I put these back into the freezer for 5 more minutes to make sure the lollipop sticks were secure.

Let’s start with the hats first. I dipped the bottom part of the hat into melted white chocolate bark. After I dipped it, I added the lollipop stick while the bark was still wet. Then I put them into my styrofoam block to let the white chocolate set.

It won’t take very long for the white chocolate to dry. While you’re waiting on it, melt some red candy coating. I dipped the top part of the cake pop into the red candy (just to the point where it touched the white).

Of course, any Santa hat is topped with a white puff. On Bakerella’s blog she used a white chocolate covered espresso bean. I didn’t have any of these, but I didn’t want to go buy any just for this. I took the easy way out and used something already in my pantry. Mini marshmallows. 🙂 These are probably something most people have in their kitchens this time of year, because they are highly necessary for hot cocoa.

I thought some shredded coconut added to the bottom rim would give it a nice, fluffy looking texture. I don’t care for coconut too much, so I didn’t want to add it to all of the cake pops. But I did think it would look cute. So I added it to a couple of the Santa hats…

….and left a few of them without coconut.

Hats are done! Now time to work on the trees.

The trees were actually even easier than the hats. I dipped them in melted green candy coating. Before it dried, I used a toothpick to swirl around the coating to give it some texture. It looked somewhat like tree branches, so I was happy. 🙂

I used a little yellow fondant and the smallest star cookie cutter I have to make a topper for the tree. Cute!

Now the tree just needs a little decoration. Lucky for me, a couple of weeks ago I bought some very adorable Christmas lights sprinkles at Michael’s.  I think they added a nice little touch.

And thaaaaat’s all folks! The next time I post something here to the blog it will be something other than Christmas treats. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about and looking at pictures of things I’ve made this year. And more importantly, I hope everyone who reads this has a very Merry Christmas!

Random Thought of the Day:  Another one of my Christmas favorites (besides baking) is Christmas movies. What is your favorite Christmas movie?

The End. 🙂

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Candy Cane Cheesecake

18 Dec

Somehow my Christmas baking has gotten off track from my original target. I guess that’s ok though, as long as I’m still doing some type of Christmas baking. That’s what really matters. 🙂 I planned to make lots of cakes and cupcakes with Christmas decorations, but I’ve somehow changed that into making lots of things with Christmas flavors. The red velvet cake was pretty good, and the gingerbread cupcakes were amazing. Neither had special holiday decorations, but the flavors certainly made them seem very merry. This next recipe is one I made a couple of weeks ago, but I’m just now getting around to posting it. It’s a Candy Cane Cheesecake. The very first recipe I posted on this blog was a cheesecake, so I think it’s appropriate to post a different variation that is geared towards this jolly season.

First, let me say that it is VERY important to line your springform pan with parchment paper for this recipe. The other cheesecake recipe I’ve made didn’t require this step, but the crust was made a little differently. Unfortunately, when I started making this I realized that I was out of parchment paper. Of course. 😦 So I skipped it……and learned the hard way how important it is for this recipe. Most of my yummy chocolate crust was stuck to the pan, so next time I’ll make sure I have plenty of the paper available before I start.

After your pan is lined, mixed together 2 cups of crushed chocolate graham crackers and 1/4 cup melted butter. I don’t have a food processor to crush the crackers with, so I used my blender instead. It worked surprisingly well. : )

Press this into the bottom of an 8″ springform pan. It helps to use the bottom of a drinking glass to press down the crumbs. It’s easy to get the crumbs pressed in evenly this way. I wish I could say I came up with that creative idea on my own, but I definitely stole it from a Food Network show.

Now that the crust is ready you can start preparing the actual cheesecake. Beat together 24 ounces of cream cheese, 1 cup of sugar, 2 tablespoons of flour, and 2 teaspoons of vanilla.

Once this is all combined, add 2 eggs and an egg yolk.

Lastly, stir in 1/4 cup of milk and 9 crushed candy canes. I figured it might not be a good idea to put candy canes in the blender. So I put them in a big ziploc bag and crushed them with a hammer. This is a good step to do on days when you have any frustration to take out. 🙂

Once it’s all mixed together it looks like a pretty, creamy, delicious batter with speckles of red.

This will need to bake for 50-60 minutes in a 375 degrees oven. Cool it in the pan, and then refrigerate for at least 4 hours. I actually just refrigerated mine overnight.

The recipe suggested topping this with chocolate ganache. I didn’t want to go to the trouble of making ganache, but I did have some chocolate syrup readily available. 🙂 I decided to use a drizzle of the syrup and a couple of mini candy canes for the garnish.

I really liked how the chocolate and peppermint flavors gave a Christmas-ey feel to this cheesecake.  Is Christmas-ey a word? How is it spelled? I’m not sure, but I don’t think that is the important thing here. 🙂 The important thing is that this was a yummy recipe. My only disappointment was that I didn’t line my pan which caused the crust to stick. I’m pretty sure I’ll try this recipe again, and I hope you’ll consider doing the same!

Up Next: Not sure yet, but something else Christmas related. 🙂 I guess it depends on whatever I’m in the mood for baking once I’m on Christmas break this Tuesday. 🙂

Random Thought of the Day: This weekend the new Yogi Bear movie is being released. As strange as this may sound coming from a grown adult, I actually really want to see it! When I was younger, Yogi was my absolute favorite. I had several animated movies I watched over and over again, and had a stuffed Yogi that I carried with me anywhere I went. What was your favorite cartoon as a kid?

The End. 🙂

Red Velvet

11 Dec

Ahhh….December. The only time of the year when you can walk down the baking aisle of your local grocery store only to find that every single bottle of red food coloring is gone. Red Velvet season is clearly in full swing. To be honest with you, I’ve never been a big fan of Red Velvet. I’ve always thought it was ok, but I’d prefer chocolate or white cake instead. Of course, the cream cheese icing always makes it good. 🙂 But I thought to myself: Maybe it’s because I’ve never really had a made from scratch red velvet. I’ve always had store bought or boxed mixes. Maybe there is something special about the homemade kind that I would like more. I searched Food Network’s recipes and I decided to try this one: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/paula-deen/grandmother-pauls-red-velvet-cake-recipe/index.html

You start by creaming together butter and sugar. Now this is a recipe by one of my favorites, Paula Deen. 2 full sticks of butter are required. 🙂

Make sure to let your butter sit out until it becomes room temperature before you try to do this. That will help it become nice and fluffy.

Now you can add the eggs, one at a time. I’ve always wondered why it’s so important to add only one egg at a time. Anyone know?

Now it’s time to mix together the cocoa and red food coloring. Since there was no liquid red food coloring to be found when I went to the grocery store, I decided to use the red food coloring that I normally use for icings. It’s a gel instead of a liquid, but I figured red is red, right? I was pretty sure it would work. I added this and a little water so that it would mix well with the cocoa powder.

Add this to the sugar mixture. And observe the “action shot” of my stand mixer. 🙂 I love this thing. It makes baking so much easier!

Next you’ll need to sift together the flour and salt. Then begin adding it to the sugar mixture, alternating with the buttermilk.

When all of the flour and buttermilk has been added and it is well blended, add the vanilla. Then in a separate bowl mix together the baking soda and vinegar. This makes a cool reaction, pretty fizzy.

Add this to the mixture and your batter is complete! It will look something like this:

I found that the baking time in the recipe was off quite a bit. The recipe suggests to bake for 20-25 minutes. I had to bake mine just over 30 minutes. But look how pretty it looks when it’s all done. 🙂

While your cakes are cooling you can make the cream cheese icing. I didn’t use the icing recipe that came along with the cake recipe for a couple of reasons. I already have a cream cheese icing recipe that I really like and it’s much simpler than the icing recipe this cake had. Also, this cake’s recipe called for coconut in the icing and I’m not a big coconut fan either. So I just stuck with my tried and true cream cheese frosting, but if you like coconut this one is probably worth a try. For mine, I just creamed together a stick of butter and a pack of cream cheese (both a room temperature). Then mixed in one box of powdered sugar. And that’s it! Homemade icing doesn’t get much easier than that.

Add this yummy goodness between the layers and around the sides and top of the cake. Then simply sprinkle with pecans and you’re finished!

This cake was much better than the boxed varieties I’ve tried before. It was pretty good. I think I still prefer chocolate, but this is definitely something that I’d make again. And considering that I’ve never been fond of red velvet, I’d say that makes it a pretty good recipe.

Up Next: Candy Cane Cheesecake

Random Thought of the Day: This weather is too stinkin’ cold! But at least it’s a good excuse to wear hoodies, drink hot chocolate, and build fires in the fireplace. 🙂

 

Deck the Halls!

5 Dec

I always enjoy decorating for Christmas. There’s just something about it that really makes my heart smile. You know what else makes my heart smile? Decorating cakes, of course. 🙂 For this week’s special Christmas treat, I decided to decorate a cake that is decorating for Christmas. Wow, that sentence was even more confusing than I thought. Here, I’ll show you what I mean.

*Warning* This is not a cake that you want to try to make in a small amount of time. Unless you’re very talented, that is. For some experienced bakers this would be easy as pie. For me, it was as easy as 2 1/2  hours 🙂

I started by baking a chocolate cake in a Wilton “Sports Ball Pan.” Basically, there are two cake pans in half sphere shapes. You bake a cake in each one, and then stack them together using a layer of icing to hold  them in place. Like so:

Next I covered it with buttercream. This icing will not show on the finished cake, so it’s ok if there are crumbs in it and it’s not totally smooth.

Then I tinted a big piece of fondant blue and rolled it all out. This was some serious work. I could really use one of those nice fondant sheeters that you see on the cake decorating shows. Except that they cost a couple thousand dollars. I guess what I actually need is just to roll it out by hand and give my arms a workout. 🙂

Of course the next step is to get this fondant onto the cake. That wasn’t as easy as it sounds. I’m still working on covering cakes with fondant, and this reminded me that lots of practice is still in order. Of course, the good thing about this cake is that it’s going to need lots of details, so I can easily cover up any crack and mistakes in the fondant.

A pizza cutter makes a perfect tool for trimming off the excess fondant once you’ve finished smoothing it to the best of your ability. Now, right about this point in the decorating process I realized that I was getting short on time. I started slacking off on taking pictures because I needed to be finished by the time for the FSU game to start. So I’ll have to walk you through some of this without illustrations.

I tinted and rolled out some red fondant and used the pizza cutter to cut it into a cone shape. Then I wrapped the large end of the cone around the top of the cake, pinched the seam together in the back, and folded over the top flap. This was the best way I could think of to make a santa  hat. It took a few tries, but it wasn’t too bad. Good thing you can re-roll the fondant and try again. 🙂

See the waves in the bottom edge of the blue fondant? These were really starting to bother me. Lucky for me, I had some shredded coconut left over from another baking project. I mixed this with a little buttercream icing (just to make it sticky) and pressed it onto the cake board all around the edge of the cake. It looked a lot like snow, and covered all those icky fondant creases. 🙂 I forgot to take a picture of this step, but you’ll see it in the grand finale picture. 😉

Next I started working on facial details. Again, no pictures. Sorry! Next time I’m going to do a better job of the picture part. This little guy’s face was actually very easy. If you have circular cookie cutters in several sizes, use these to cut out white and black circles to make eyes. Then just make a little moon shape for a smile. To make his letter m, I traced an M&M package on some parchment paper. Then I cut this out and placed it on top of some white fondant. I (very carefully!) cut out the pattern and added it to the cake using a small paintbrush and some water to make it stick.

Ok, now I’m finally back to where I took a picture. Remember that I said my cake was going to be decorating for Christmas? Of course it’s absolutely necessary to put out Christmas lights when doing any serious decorating. So that is exactly what this little guy is going to do. I made some Christmas lights using different colors of fondant. I simply rolled them into a ball and then pinched one end together. Then I used a bit of green fondant and rolled it into a skinny rope for the cord.

I added this around the edge of the snow and was very happy with the end result! I wish I’d had more time to take pictures of the process, but at least I got a good shot of the finished cake.

I hope he makes you smile! I had a lot of fun with this cake. I hope you  have started some Christmas baking of your own. You just can’t beat spending a relaxing weekend making Christmas treats!

Next Up: Candy Cane Cheesecake

Random Thought of the Day: How much Christmas shopping have you finished? I am somewhere around halfway done. And the stores are getting entirely too crowded! I need to work on that more before it gets even worse!

The End. 🙂