Archive | May, 2011

Taco Night

27 May

So I told you guys last week that this week’s post was going to have a southwestern feel. I didn’t tell the whole story. It didn’t have a southwestern taste at all, just looks. 🙂 I had some family over this week for taco night. I thought I’d surprise them with this cake!

I didn’t take pictures of the whole process this time, so here’s a quick run down of how I made this.

I tinted some fondant and gumpaste a light yellow color for the tortilla chips. I cut them into triangles and let them dry in things called “flower formers” to make them slightly curvy. Flower formers are basically  paper towel tubes cut in half (except made of plastic).

For the salsa, I used seedless strawberry jam and mixed in some tiny pieces of green fondant, to give it the right look.

Then I just put the “chips” and “salsa” on top of round cakes that I’d baked (and carved just slightly to try to make them look like bowls) and voila! We had chips and dip cakes for taco night. : ) I hope my brother in law, Rafael is proud.

Sorry for the super short post this week, but I am off to Georgia to see my family. I’ll see ya next week. 😀

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Tiramisu

21 May

First of all, what in the world is it? When I told a few people that I’d made tiramisu this past week, lots of them weren’t sure what it was. The truth is, I had no idea until a couple of years ago, and I had only had it once before I decided to try making it. I went over to a friend’s house for dinner and afterwards she wanted to go to her favorite Italian restaurant for dessert. She said they had the best tiramisu in the world. I had no idea what it was, but I figured if it was the best in the world it might be worth trying. 🙂 It is a layered dessert and apparently the name actually means “pick me up.” It is made with layers of ladyfingers dipped in an expresso mixture and a cream layer, with chocolate added on top. I had forgotten all about this dessert until I saw Anne Burrell feature it on her Food Network show. She is one of my favorite hosts, so I decided I would go with her recipe. You can find it on foodnetwork.com if you’d like. I think I could spend hours looking at all the mouth-watering recipes and photos on their page.

The first thing I had to do was round up a few ingredients. I don’t drink coffee or eat ladyfingers, and those are the two stars of the show so I had to get some of those. I’d also never cooked with marscapone cheese before, so I was excited to try it. The other ingredients are some of the usual suspects for desserts: eggs, sugar, chocolate chips, brown sugar and cocoa powder. Most of those things can be found in my pantry on any given day 😉

Making the cream mixture is actually just a bit complicated. The eggs and sugar have to be mixed together, and then cooked enough so that the eggs aren’t raw. But you don’t want to scramble the eggs, so you have to use a double boiler so that they don’t get too hot, too fast. Believe it or not, this is what it will look like after being cooked over the very low heat and then mixed for another 5 minutes. I didn’t know just eggs and sugar could turn into this kind of a pudding-like texture. I guess I still have a lot to learn. 🙂

Then the marscapone cheese and chocolate chips get mixed in, and it must be refrigerated for one hour. The marscapone cheese is a little like cream cheese, but has a more creamy texture and the flavor is more mild.

When the cream mixture has chilled for an hour, it’s time to make the dipping mixture for the ladyfingers. When I looked at several tiramisu recipes, I realized that there are lots of variations as to what all goes in this mixture. I stuck with Anne Burrell’s, but I changed her ratios just a little. I do like a little coffee flavor in some desserts, but since I’m not really a coffee drinker I added a little less expresso powder and a little more cocoa powder. 😉 Besides the expresso and cocoa, the mixture also consists of some water, brown sugar, and chocolate flavored coffee creamer. When adding the water it needs to be boiling water so that the expresso powder will dissolve. But then once it’s all been stirred together and dissolved, it needs to cool back down to room temperature before being used for the layering.

Once the expresso mixture is cooled, the only work left to be done is layering. So from here on out it’s basically like making a trifle. Each ladyfinger is dipped into the mixture, then placed into the pan to start the bottom layer.

On top of each ladyfinger layer goes a layer of the cream mixture. There are 3 layers in all.

Once all three layers are put together, it must be covered and chilled overnight. Then it can be sliced, and a little chocolate can be grated on top. It makes it look all pretty and what not. 🙂

Overall I was pretty happy with how it turned out. And I was proud to be able to say that I’d made a fancy Italian dessert. 🙂

Next Up: Something with a southwestern feel. Can you guess what it is?

Random Thought of the Day: By this time next weekend I’ll be in Georgia visiting with my granny, parents, sisters, brother in laws, and my niece. Can’t wait! 🙂

Key Lime Cupcakes

14 May

I usually try to focus this blog on the decorating part of my desserts, but today I’m more concerned about sharing a recipe with you.  This past week I baked Key Lime Cupcakes for a wedding shower at work, and they were such a big hit that I knew I had to include the directions here. I was told by another teacher that these were the best cupcakes she’s ever eaten. So they are definitely worth making! Plus, another teacher who doesn’t even like cake liked these. You know who you are. And I think you are weird for not liking cake. And I hope you are reading this. 😉

I found the recipe for these cupcakes at allrecipes.com. It’s what I’ve heard referred to as a “doctored cake mix.” Which means that they aren’t entirely made from scratch, but you don’t just follow the directions on the box either. You spruce up the box mix just a little. 🙂 http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/Key-Lime-Cake-III/Detail.aspx

Start with a box of lemon cake mix. Any brand will work fine, I’m just a little partial to Duncan Hines. And I really can’t tell you why. I’m just weird like that. But not as weird as the above mentioned teacher that doesn’t like cake. 😉

Then you’ll need these sidekicks to come along for the ride.

Combine all of these ingredients into a bowl and mix: the box of lemon cake mix, 1 1/3 cups of vegetable oil, 3 eggs, one package of lime jello, and 3/4 cup of orange juice.

I know, I know. It doesn’t look all that appetizing at this point in the process. But trust me, the end result is quite tasty.

Once the batter is all mixed together, it actually kind of looks like alien goo or something. But once they are baked, they turn a little brown on top, so the color isn’t quite so bright. (It’s still a very bright green on the inside though. I should have made some for my students last week when we were studying space and told them that they were alien cupcakes!)

And, I was lame and forgot to take any pictures of making the frosting. But it’s just as easy as the cupcakes. Cream together one stick of butter, one package of cream cheese, and 3 tablespoons of key lime zest. (The butter and cream cheese will need to be softened to room temperature). Then beat in one pound of powdered sugar, adding it about a cup or so at the time so that it blends together nicely. The icing is the truly dangerous part. I could eat it by the spoonfuls. Ok, I admit it. I *have* eaten it by the spoonfuls. I’m crazy for cream cheese icing anyways, and the key lime juice gives it a perfect balance of tangy and sweetness together. Seriously, you should try these cupcakes. I put little fondant decorations on these since they were for a bridal shower, but just smearing on the icing with a knife works too.

Update: My sister has come up with a way to out do me. She makes Smores cupcakes that have a graham cracker base to them. It goes into the cupcake liner before the other batter gets added on top. I’ve never had them but I’m sure she will volunteer to make a batch for me when I visit her this summer. *hint, hint* When I told her how good these cupcakes were, she had the idea to make them and include the little graham cracker crust in the bottom. I think making these even more like key lime pie is a perfect idea. So maybe I’ll have to repeat this recipe sometime soon with her graham cracker idea to give you all a review.

Up Next: Not really sure. Any ideas?

Random Thought of the Day: I can’t really think of one because all I can think about is finishing this post so I can eat the chocolate chip muffins that my husband just pulled out of the oven. So that’s all 🙂

Cutest Giraffe Cake I’ve Ever Made

7 May

In all honesty, this cake doesn’t have much competition. It has to be the cutest giraffe cake I’ve ever made because it is the ONLY giraffe cake I’ve ever made. But it’s still pretty darn cute (if I do say so myself). This past week there was a baby shower for one of my co-workers and I was asked to make the cake. Of course I was more than happy to say yes. Who can turn down a good excuse to decorate a cake? I found out that the mother to be is decorating the baby’s room in a jungle theme, and she has mostly giraffes. I thought I would try making a giraffe out of a fondant/gumpaste mix and using it as a little cake topper. I’d only made one other fondant figure before, and it wasn’t even for a cake. I just made one to see how hard it might be, and to practice. So this would be my first fondant figure that actually made a public debut. 🙂

I started by mixing together the colors I needed into some fondant. This actually took longer than I would like to admit. I kept tweaking the colors until I thought they were just right. To me, this was the most boring part of the whole thing.

Then I used a good bit of the yellow fondant to form a body and head for the giraffe. Since this was a pretty small figure, I just made the entire thing from the fondant. If it was much bigger than it was, I would have needed to form the animal out of cake or rice krispy treats and then cover it with fondant. But I wasn’t really for all that just yet. Maybe I’ll tackle something like that over the summer while I have plenty of time to play with all of my cake toys. 🙂

I kept adding more and more details and it started to look more like a giraffe and less like a yellow blob. All in all, this figure took me about an hour and a half. Probably because I kept trying to re-work the legs to make sure everything was in proportion. I think once I have more practice with fondant figures I’d be able to make this in half an hour or so.

Once I added the eyes and the spots, I was just about done. *Please note the “stitches” that I pressed into the fondant on the front of the giraffe’s belly. This was one of my favorite parts. So if you don’t notice it at all, that would make me sad. Ok, thanks for looking back at the picture to make sure you saw it. That makes me feel better.* 🙂

Truth be told, if the mother to be was expecting a boy, I’d be done at this point. But, because she is having a girl I needed to add a little pink bow. Because everyone knows that the only thing cuter than a baby giraffe is a baby giraffe with a bow by her ear.

Ta da! I placed this little cutie on top of a sheet cake that I’d iced in green. I also added some little pink fondant flowers around the edge and the baby’s name on top. The mom-t0-be was very happy with how it turned out, and so was I. The best part about making cakes for people is seeing them smile because they really like it. Of course, who could stand to not smile at that little pink bow? I think it’s pretty much impossible. 🙂

Random Thought of the Day: HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY! I don’t know how many people who read this post are moms, but for all who are: I hope you have a fantastic Mother’s Day!

Next Up: Cupcakes for a wedding shower at school. Hopefully they will be just as impressive as the giraffe. 🙂

Burgers and Fries

1 May

For some reason I find food that looks like other food really fun (in kind of a weird way?). I once made my husband (back when he was only my boyfriend) a cookie cake that looked like a pizza. It was a huge chocolate chip cookie with red icing on top (to look like pizza sauce), covered in grated white chocolate  (to look like cheese). I just realized that I have a lot of parenthesis in this post so far. But…that’s off topic. 🙂 I don’t know why I find this so cute, but I do. So today I made something that I think is even better than the pizza cake. Baskets of burgers and fries (except that they are really cupcakes and sugar cookies).

I started with a batch of cupcakes and a pan of brownies.

After the brownies cooled I cut them into “hamburger patties” using a small round cookie cutter.

After mixing together some red, yellow, and green icing I was ready to assemble the burgers. I cut each cupcake in half, horizontally. This created my top and bottom hamburger buns. Then I added a brownie circle. Squirted on some “ketchup”…

…then finished it off with some “mustard” and “lettuce.” I was actually really happy with how the lettuce turned out. I used an icing tip that is normally used for piping flower leaves. The shape of the tip gave it a nice wavy texture, so I thought it looked pretty realistic (not to mention looking MUCH tastier than real lettuce).

I didn’t *quite* faint at the cuteness of these cupcakes. So I kept baking and made fries to go with it. 🙂 I’m generally not to good with cookies, so I played it safe and used a bagged mix for these. I rolled them out and cut them with a pizza cutter. Thank goodness that one of my favorite bloggers had already posted these fries a while back, so I had some good tips to help me along the way. If you’ve never seen www.bakerella.com, I highly recommend it! Following her advice, I took some of the cookie slices back off of the pan (and saved for the next batch to go in the oven) so that the fries didn’t all bake together when they started rising in the oven.

After they came out of the oven I rubbed a little bit of sugar on them to look like salt. I couldn’t get over how well these turned out! Sugar cookie french fries are adorable. 🙂

I put them both in a mini loaf baking liner. I’m assuming these are actually intended for individual sized loaves of banana bread or something like that? I’d never really noticed them before. But I saw them at Hobby Lobby yesterday and thought they would be nice to hold my cupcakes and cookies in. There you have it! Baskets of burgers and fries.  🙂 I’ll be taking these to school tomorrow to share with a few teachers. 🙂 I hope they  like them as much as I do!

That’s all I have time for tonight!

Up Next: A baby shower cake that I’ll be making on Tuesday.

Random Thought of the Day: Have anyone ever seen the Food Network show Desert First? I saw it for the first time yesterday morning and I loved it! I’m pretty sure that if the host and I ever met we’d become BFFs. 😉