Monday, March 30, 2015

Springtime Cake for Charity

It all began with the Wilton Course 2, which taught me more skills in making flowers.  We learned to use Royal icing for many kinds of flowers.  Royal icing flowers can be made weeks ahead of when they are needed.

The blooms and blossoms.

Here are some of the roses I made:

And some of the many blossoms.  I loved making the blossoms!

The cake layers, after leveling
I was going to make a simple cake for my final class cake.  It would be decorated for the final class.  However, I was asked if I could donate a cake for a fundraiser for colon cancer awareness.  I asked if my class cake could be used, even though it was before the cake raffle.  They were excited to get my cake, so I made it even more special.  I decided to make a honeybun cake, full of cinnamon flavor.

After icing the cake

After the basketweave and braid border was added.  The basketweave took a very long time, at an odd angle.  I rested my hands after this part!!!
The finished cake.  I knew I'd want to put the blossoms around the basket part.  The blossoms also cover up any basketweave errors, LOL.

They were very happy to receive my cake.  I found it a challenge to get it there without dropping it or having it slide in the box.  My friend, Donna Nave Smith, gave me some great tips about putting non skid drawer material underneath the cake and the box.  Thanks, Donna!

The cake brought in $60 for colon cancer awareness, and was donated back to the office.  A nurse in the office said it tasted "awesome!" 

If you want to find out more about the fundraiser, click here:

Gluten Free Fudge No-Butter Brownies

This month's Avid Baker's Challenge is a wonderful pan of fudgy brownies!  YUMMY!!!  Even hubby is looking forward to this easy challenge!

Although the idea of no butter or oil in the recipe sounded odd, I gave it a try.  Here is the recipe:

Fudgy No-Butter Brownies (gluten-free, dairy-free)
Makes 16 brownies

2 cups (300 g) icing/confectioner’s sugar
2/3 cup (56 g) unsweetened natural cocoa powder
200 g (about 2 cups) ground almonds/almond meal
½ tsp salt
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 large egg white
2 tbsp water
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
5 oz (about 2/3 cup) best quality dark chocolate chips or chopped bittersweet chocolate, plus extra for topping

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Line the bottom and sides of an 8×8-inch pan with parchment paper, letting it hang over the edges of pan.

Sift icing sugar and cocoa into a large mixing bowl. Add almond meal and salt and stir to combine. Add whole eggs, egg white, water and vanilla extract and stir until smooth. The batter will be thick. Stir through bittersweet chocolate.

Scrape batter into your prepared pan, smooth the top and scatter extra chocolate over top. Bake until a shiny crust forms and a skewer inserted into the center comes out with a few moist sticky bits, about 25-30 minutes.

Transfer pan to a wire rack and let cool slightly. For neat slices, let cool completely before slicing.

 OK, time to get baking...
Step 1:
Before preheating the oven, make sure the oven doesn't smell like the Brussels sprouts we roasted last night!

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Line a 8" square pan with parchment paper. I put handles on the sides to make removing and cutting the brownies easier

I was really happy for this recipe challenge. I've had this bag of almond meal in the freezer for awhile

The recipe said that the batter would be thick. No kidding!  I didn't think that there was enough liquid for the recipe. I was just about to add some more water. Then I remembered that the recipe said that the icing sugar would dissolve and keep the brownies moist

Here's a tip .  Use a wet spatula to smooth the thick batter. Less batter will cling to it  

Fresh from the oven, and the house smells wonderful! My husband just showed up and said "Ah, the smell of chocolate in the morning..."  

Look at all that melty chocolate goodness!!!

Hubby gave it a happy 10!!!

If you would like to see more about this recipe, it's at Gluten Free Fudge No-Butter Brownies

If you would like to know more about the monthly Avid Baker's Challenge, Click here for Avid Baker's Challenge
Thanks for stopping by.  These were great, and we kept nibbling at them for a few weeks.  YUM

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Star Trek Shirt Cake for My Hubby's Birthday!

Birthday cake for my favorite Star Trek fan!

My husband is a big Star Trek fan.  He has videotaped or put on DVD every show of all 5 Star Trek (non animated) series.  Hubby has most of the movies (except  the one with Khan, and the newer one--he doesn't like those).  He's not the kind that dresses up for conventions, though--well, he might, now that he got his engineer Star Trek shirt at the Las Vegas Star Trek Experience.  Yes, we went there.

Lots of memorabilia.  I drew the line at his bringing his Captain Kirk life size cutout home when he left his last job.   We are selling the house, and I didn't think it would look good for the buyers (sweet hubby had a difference of opinion!)  He loved that thing so much he drove it from California to Tennessee so it wouldn't be crushed by the movers some years ago.

dark chocolate yumminess inside!!!

So when his birthday came up, it seemed obvious to me that a Star Trek cake would be a great idea.  I scoured the internet, and finally found some cakes that might work.  However, I'm a beginner and so I wanted something fairly simple.  

A cake buddy suggested the type of cake I made. She found it on Cake Central.  It looked more like a shirt than the square cakes.  However, there weren't any details about covering the cake with fondant. 

The cake did have some challenges for this beginner--matching up 2 colors of fondant and using Luster Dust for the first time.

The cake tech details:

The cake was a double layer devils food cake in a heart shape.  My hubby adores chocolate, and I felt it would be better to have chocolate under dark fondant. It's also a chance to use my heart pan--it looks like the shirt has shoulders.. Unfortunately, I only had the one pan and had to bake twice.  I've seen tutorials showing that you can make a heart shape using a square and a round cake, but I might be making 4 cakes that way.

The frosting was dark chocolate buttercream, using Hershey's Special Dark Cocoa. Awesome flavor!  The cakes were leveled, and filled between the layers.
After the cake was iced and chilled overnight it was time to apply the fondant. I used Wilton black and red fondant for the shirt.  

Matching up the edge wasn't easy, and I was nervous about doing it.  However,  I figured out a way.  I put a line where I wanted the red and black to meet with my bench knife.  After measuring the sides and the width of the cake, I rolled out the fondant to the correct size on my flexible Wilton Roll-N-Cut mat. It needed to be 12 1/2". I didn't want to use a razor, which might tear the mat, so a ruler was used to cut the top edges.  Then, it was a matter of turning the mat upside down and matching the fondant up to the scored line on the cake.  Whew, the colors met!

For me, that was the hardest part.  To make the com badge, I took 2 copies of my hubby's com badge (yes, it came with his Star Trek Engineer shirt).   There are plenty of images on the internet, though.   The oval was cut out from one copy, and the arch was cut out on the other one.  Using grey Wilton gel color, some fondant was tinted to an almost a silver color.  The oval was cut out with grey fondant  Using CK Luster Dust, the grey color became a shiny silver.

Using Americolor gold gel color, I made some gold colored fondant.  The arch was cut from that.  I used the end of a #12 icing tip to cut the pips/lapel button of rank. CK Luster Dust in gold was brushed on these. After that, I used gum glue mixture to put them into place.  The Luster Dust didn't keep the arch from being attached to the oval properly.  It all came together beautifully.

The collar had to be made before the pips could be attached

To make the stand up collar, I cut a piece of black fondant that was about 5" long and 1" wide.  My fondant was just opened and fresh, so it was very pliable.  I folded it in half.      

Then it was just a matter of centering the collar in the bottom of the "v" on top.  Happily, it didn't crack.  If your fondant isn't fresh, you might try using some shortening or glucose to soften it up.  I used gum glue mixture to put them into place also.

I thought about adding "Live Long and Prosper" on the cake board, but hubby was excited about actually eating the cake!  And, at some point, cake should get eaten!!!  So I put the cake on a cake board, and took this picture of the cake with my happy hubby:

One happy birthday guy!

 and we ate the yummy cake.....

Hubby gave the cake a "12" rating on a scale of 1-10!!!

If you have a Star Trek fan in your life, this is a really great cake.  I hope the details of my "voyage" in making the cake will make it simpler for you.

Thanks for stopping by.  I hope you will make a comment, or Pin my post on Pinterest to help other Star Trek fans.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Lemoniest Little Lemon Loaf

This month, the Avid Bakers Challenge continues to bake from the "Scientifically Sweet" websiste.  This month's recipe is a wonderful cornmeal-lemon loaf.  I followed the recipe as written.  My only change would be the pan.  I wanted to get some use out of my small loaf Wilton pan.  After all, this is a little loaf:

Little Lemon Loaf
Makes 8-10 servings

1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp baking soda
1/3 cup yellow cornmeal
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 large egg yolk, at room temperature
1 tbsp finely grated lemon zest
¼ tsp salt
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup pure canola oil
¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

Preheat your oven to 350°F. Line a 9x5-inch rectangular loaf pan with parchment paper, leaving a 2-inch overhang on opposite ends along the length and butter exposed sides.

In a medium bowl, sift together flour and baking powder. Add cornmeal and whisk together to blend evenly.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat whole eggs, egg yolk, lemon zest and salt on medium-high speed until foamy, about 40 seconds. Gradually add sugar while beating. Increase speed to high and beat until mixture is very pale and almost white in colour, about 5 minutes. The mixture will nearly triple in volume.

In a small bowl, combine oil and lemon juice. Whisk it with a fork to blend. Add one-third of the flour mixture to the egg mixture and fold it in gently using the wire whisk attachment from the mixer. Add half of the oil mixture and fold until almost blended. Fold in half of the remaining flour mixture followed by the rest of the olive oil mixture. Finally, gently fold in the last third of the flour mixture using a wide rubber spatula until evenly incorporated. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and until the top is golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 30 minutes. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool completely.
I really enjoyed the flavor of the cornmeal and the lemon.  We enjoyed some of the mini loaves, and the rest were given to a doctor's office (my favorite taste testers!)

 Thanks for coming by.  If you want to see what the other bakers have done with this recipe, check out the Avid Bakers Challenge, Lemoniest Little Lemon Loaf

If you want more information about the recipe, Click Here

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Orange, Date & Almond Biscotti (aka Mandlebread)

"I'm a traveling man, made a lot of stops all over the world..."  Ricky Nelson song

I began thinking of this song as I baked this treat.  Whether (in the past) by foot, horse, or (now) by plane, this food travels well.

This month's Avid Bakers Challenge is Orange, Date & Almond Biscotti.  We are baking recipes  from the Scientifically Sweet website.  I have grown up making mandlebread, a very similar type of treat.  I thought it would be interesting to see how they might be connected.  Good recipes are good recipes, and seem to go across cultures. 

It seems, that twice baked cookies became popular for people traveling long distances.  They last a long time, and are easy to pack.  I became fascinated by the histories of these cookies, after reading about them on Wikipedia.

Biscotti (/bɪˈskɒti/; Italian pronunciation: [bisˈkɔtti]; English: twice cooked), is also known as cantuccini (English: coffee bread), are twice-baked cookies (or biscuits) originating in the Italian city of Prato. The biscuits are oblong-shaped almond biscuits, made dry and crunchy through cutting the loaf of dough while still hot and fresh from baking in the oven.

"Biscotti" is the plural form of biscotto. The word originates from the medieval Latin word biscoctus, meaning "twice-cooked/baked." It defined oven baked goods that were baked twice, so they were very dry and could be stored for long periods of time.

Such nonperishable food was particularly useful during journeys and wars, and twice baked breads were a staple food of the Roman Legions.[1] 
(I added the italics for emphasis)  Click here for more information on biscotti
September 29 is National Biscotti Day.


Mandelbrodt,[1][2] also known as mandel bread in English-speaking countries and kamishbrot in Ukraine, is a Jewish cookie popular amongst Eastern European Jews. The Yiddish word mandelbrodt literally means almond bread, a reference to its common ingredient of almonds. It is typically formed by baking a loaf which is then cut into small slabs and twice-baked in order to form a crunchy exterior. The cookies were popular in Eastern Europe among rabbis, merchants and other itinerant Jews as a staple dessert that kept well.[3]

Its precise origin is unknown, as is its historic relationship with biscotti, a similar Italian cookie. While mandelbrodt and biscotti both consist of a crunchy exterior, mandelbrodt is slightly softer than biscotti due to its higher oil and/or butter content.
Click here for more information on mandlebread

So both are twice baked, have almonds, travel well, and have oblong shape!

Whether (in the past) by foot, horse, or (now) by plane, this food travels well.  My guess is the travelers took their recipes to other parts of the world.

The recipe:

You can find the recipe for the Orange, Date & Almond Biscotti at Scientifically Sweet.  I made a few changes to the recipe:

1 tsp of almond extract instead of 1/2tsp (I thought I was measuring the vanilla, LOL)
1/2 tsp orange extract, because I had it on hand.
craisins instead of dates, the first time around.  We really liked the combo of flavors.
Sliced almonds were what we had on hand, so those were used

I found they were really crumbly when cutting them.

 I contacted Christina Marsigliese of "Scientifically Sweet."   She said:
"The only thing that would make these crumble is if they weren't completely cooled before slicing. Also, if the knife isn't sharp enough then it is very difficult to slice through the almonds - try chopping the almonds before adding them to the mix. Cheers!"

Well, I was already using sliced almonds.  I did wait until they were cool.

I decided, since biscotti was so much like mandlebread, I'd ask some of the people on the Facebook Jewish Food List for their ideas.  Many of them said that maybe I should bake the loaves less time.  
I tried the recipe again, this time with dates.  I remember waiting for them to become light golden brown, trying to wait that few minutes extra.  Maybe I waited too long?

This time, I baked them only until the loaves were firm.  They weren't brown yet.  The egg wash made a glossy sheen.  I began to wonder if the crispness of the egg wash caused crumbling.  I had never used egg wash for this type of recipe before.

I tried cutting them with the knife vertically, when they cooled.  It seemed to help with the crumbling, but there was still a lot of crumbling. 

Then someone in our group posted a video of her slicing of the biscotti.  She used a long, serrated bread knife. It's possible that the type of knife that I used wasn't smooth enough and caused the crumbling.

The recipe suggested using a serrated knife.  I used the knife on the left.  However the woman who posted the video of slicing her biscotti used a knife like the one on the right.  I'd post that video for you, but it's probably as interesting as watching paint dry if you aren't a baker.

Then I spoke to someone in my exercise class, who bakes biscotti.  She agreed--the knife makes all the difference.  So, next time, I'll use a bread slicing knife.

Here are the biscotti after I baked them again, 7 minutes on both sides.  I don't like them really dry.  They are like a firm, tasty cookie.  We enjoyed them very much--sometimes I enjoyed too many of them, LOL!

Thank you so much for stopping by!!  I hope you will leave a comment.

If you want more information about the Avid Bakers Challenge, Click here

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Double Chocolate Chocolate Chip Banana Muffins

This year, our Avid Bakers Group will be baking recipes from Christina Marsigliese's "Scientifically Sweet" blog.  We are all excited to bake from this website, as much of baking is combining chemicals and formulas!  Even 1/4 tsp of much baking soda can throw off an entire recipe.

Christina not only gives us a recipe, but she can also tell us why something is done.  For example, her recipe calls for freezing the bananas.  Why?  She says that you can use overripe bananas, but freezing them first helps to break down the little black fibers for a smoother batter. You can see how she uses this method to make super a super smooth and yellow batter for her Banana Cupcakes with PB Cocoa Frosting in her book!

While making this recipe, I kept thinking of this fun song.  I thought maybe you would enjoy it, also!
"She Blinded Me With Science" music video, with the Muppets   

We started off the year baking her recipe for Double Chocolate Chip Banana Muffins.  It's a basic muffin recipe--you mix dry ingredients together.  Then you mix the wet ingredients in another bowl:

Dry and wet ingredients, separate
I made some changes to the recipe, based on what I had on hand.  Instead of sour cream, I used whipping cream and 1% milk with some lemon juice to sour it.  After 15 minutes, I could see bubbles on top.  It was ready to use.

Instead of using dutch process cocoa, I used Hershey's Dark Special cocoa.  It has part dutch process cocoa, and is much cheaper than dutch process cocoa.  For muffins, I felt that would be fine.  There's enough dutch process in the cocoa to work with the recipe properly.

The dark mixture from the Hershey's Dark Special cocoa!

They baked up really nicely

And how did we taste?  Hubby gave them a "9."  He thought that they could use some frosting or cherries on top. I think they would be better with pecans.  I'm keeping the recipe, but with notes to add pecans next time. 

They were also a bit dry. I'd recommend checking them sooner, maybe at 15 minutes.

Since we are not eating many sweets, these will be given away tomorrow. Some will go to the pest control guys who are coming.  The rest will go to my physical therapists.  "Never underestimate the power of great baked goods," is my favorite saying!

If you would like the recipe, you can find it here: Double Chocolate Chip Banana Muffins

If you want to bake along with the monthly Avid Bakers Challenge, you can find more information here:   Avid Bakers Challenge

Thank you for stopping by!