"Hey, I can do that!"

Monday, May 7, 2012

Happy Birthday, Zoey!

Happy Birthday, Zoey!

My little girl's birthday isn't until Friday, but we've already celebrated her birthday 3 times with various family members on different days.  Still not sure if I'll make yet another cake later this week!  The first cake is when we doubled her birthday with my nephew and celebrated with my side of the family.  The second is when we celebrated with my hubby's family.

  • 8" square yellow cake
    • filled and frosted with chocolate icing
    • frozen buttercream transfer of Spongebob and Patrick
    • sides coated with "sand" (crushed graham crackers and brown sugar)
  • 8" round chocolate buttermilk cake
    • filled and frosted with vanilla Swiss meringue buttercream
    • topped wiith "dirt" (cake crumbs)
    • piped almond bark dinosaur bones
    • piped shell borders

It's been a while since I've done a frozen buttercream transfer.  Last time I did one, the parchment paper I had piped on to seemed to crinkle while freezing.  This time I used some nice acetate, but it still managed to warp slightly as the buttercream contracted.  Maybe next time I'll tape the acetate down firmly to my small cutting board.

Instead of piping all the colors, I used a paint brush for some of the smaller areas.  I dabbed the colored icing into the proper spots instead of wasting icing bags and time for less than a square inch of coloring.  It turned out well, especially for having done it in the middle of the night.  The next day I plopped on the frozen slab and threw crumbs on the side of the cake right as our guests were walking in.

My daughter's one request for her birthday was dinosaurs.  For this cake, I put the leveled cake tops into the food processor to make crumbs.  After filling and icing the cake, I sprinkled the crumbs to cover the top to look like soil.  With melted almond bark in a squeeze bottle, I piped some dinosaur bones.  She thoroughly enjoyed picking out the bones and eating them.

Happy Birthday, kid!

Friday, May 4, 2012

Scratch It: America's Test Kitchen

While on maternity leave, I've been watching a lot of America's Test Kitchen online with my website subscription.  Whenever the baby wakes up in the middle of the night, she nurses while I watch dessert episodes on my laptop.  I've had the opportunity to make a few of the recipes that interested me.  They've been great learning experiences and several are now my go-to recipes.

Their science segments have really helped me understand the different ingredients used in caking ... dutch-processed vs. natural cocoa, cake vs. all-purpose flour, cocoa butter vs. cocoa solids, etc.  Watching their chefs use different mixing methods and hear their explanations have really opened my eyes.  Scratch baking is very scientific, and my sloppy, bad habits just won't do if I want to succeed.

I know that America's Test Kitchen isn't the highest echelon of pastry art, but it has held my hand as I transitioned to scratch living ... and not just desserts.  This week I made chicken tikka masala and thin crust pizza from scratch.  I haven't attempted using yeast in ages!

I've tried their dessert recipes for:
  • chewy sugar cookies (best ... cookies ... ever!)
  • fluffy yellow layer cake (little dry and bordering bland, but I think I screwed it up ... the recipe was a little complicated, and I was unprepared)
  • chiffon cake (home run! see previous post)
  • old-fashioned chocolate layer cake (OMG I didn't know I could have it so good!)
  • chewy brownies (pretty darn good, but I have little experience with brownies ... see photos below)

 Unfortunately there is no turning back.  I'm afraid the next time I taste a box mix, I won't be able to keep a straight face.  The host of the show once humorously (but emphatically) referred to box cake mix as "the decline of Western civilization!"  I distinctly recall the moment when tub frosting became disgusting to me.  After years of loving Duncan Hines' chocolate and cream cheese flavored icing ... trying them again after gaining experience with scratch icing was a wake-up call.

I know it must be good if my daughter eats it all.  She's not a picky eater, but somehow she's not big on cake.  When I picked her up from school today, I told her I had made brownies, and we'd try some when we got home.  Sitting at the kitchen table, I cut a piece for her.  She insisted that the piece I gave her was supposed to be my piece and then indicated which piece she wanted from the cutting board.  So I ended up with the small portion and she got the big slice.  She ate the top crust first and insisted I do the same.  We enjoyed our brownies with some cold milk.

At some point I'll try their red velvet cake recipe as well as their chewy chocolate chip cookies.  I go back to work full time in a little over a week, so I need to enjoy my baking free time while it lasts!

As Seen On

As Seen On Capital Confectioners