Monday, November 28, 2011

Playing with Sugar...

There is so much excitement and mystery in trying new techniques. Especially when you like to learn as you go. One of the things I have found that I really enjoy, is playing with sugar. HOT sugar.

And yes, I've gotten LOTS of burns. But I keep going back to it and trying new things.

My most recent project was for a 21st Birthday. It's a hand painted, poured sugar, champagne bottle surrounded by gift boxes. It's VERY feminine. And it was a lot of fun to deliver.

 Here are some other cakes that included poured sugar work.

The beer bottle and shot glass are poured sugar on this cake

The ice is sugar too!
A close up of the Beer bottles and melting ice.
If you haven't tried working with poured sugar or Isomalt, but you want to try. I recommend starting with edible gems.

They are a great place to start without being too overwhelming. You can see how HERE.

Cranberry, Apple, Cinnamon Roll Cupcakes

I recently saw a recipe by Paula Dean for Apple Cinnamon Roll Cupcakes. They looked soooo good. BUT, lately, my palate has matured to a point where I like a LOT going when I bite into something. I don't want to be overwhelmed by a single flavor.

So I decided to mix it up a bit and make Cranberry, Apple, Cinnamon Roll Cupcakes! And MY OH MY! I made 3 dozen and in 4 days my husband, the boys, and I ate them ALL!!! They were delicious! 

 I used Paula's Recipe for the Bread/Roll. Then I mixed it up a bit. The recipe seems like it has a lot going on, but bear with me. It's not that bad. While your dough is rising, you can work on preparing your filling. And then while the cupcakes are baking, you can prepare the icing. We'll be having these for Christmas Eve Brunch this year!

Ingredients for Roll:
  • 2 cups 2% milk
  • 1 tablespoon (.5oz) active dry yeast
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 6 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, divided
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup butter (room temperature)
Ingredients for the Filling:
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) of room temperature butter
  • 1 1/2 cups brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp of AllSpice
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 3 cups finely cut chopped Granny Smith (or other tart apples)
  • 1 cup of chopped cranberries
Ingredients for the Icing:
  • 4 oz Cream Cheese (1/2 of an 8oz block)
  • 1/4 cup of softened butter
  • 1 1/2 cups of confectioners sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/8 teaspoon of salt
Directions for the Roll:
  • In a small saucepan or a microwave oven, warm milk to about 110 F.
  • In a large mixing bowl, dissolve yeast and sugar in the milk.
  • Add salt and two cups of flour and beat for two minutes.
  • Beat in eggs and butter.
  • Stir in the remaining flour a half cup at a time, beating well after each addition.
  • Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic (about five minutes).
  • Place the dough in a large bowl and cover it with a towel.  Set in a warm place and allow to rise for 40 minutes or until approximately doubled in volume.
Directions for the Filling:
  • Mix together the brown sugar, butter, cinnamon, salt, and allspice in a mixing bowl until smooth and combined. 
  • Using a spoon or spatula, fold in the apples and cranberries.
  • Divide the dough into two parts. Using 1/2 of the dough, roll it out into a large rectangle. 
  • Smooth the filling over the dough. Avoid the outer edge or you will have a mess. 
  • Roll the dough up to encase the filling and create a large log. 
  • Then take a very sharp knife and cut the dough into 3/4" rolls. 
  • Place them in paper lined cupcake tins. 
  • Repeat with the remaining 1/2 of the dough. 
  • 350 degree oven for 15 - 20 minutes or until tops are golden brown.
NOTE: this is a messy and juicy process. It creates a sticky mess while assembling and while baking. During baking, the apples and cranberries create quite a bit of juice. It is best to place your cupcake tins on a cookie sheet for the baking process to catch any juices. I DO NOT recommend using colored foil papers for this process as the liquid will remove the color from the foil and create a technicolor mess.

Directions for the Icing:
  • While the Cinnamon Rolls are baking, beat together the cream cheese, butter, confectioners sugar, vanilla, and salt until smooth and creamy. 
  • Drizzle or slather the tops of your cinnamon rolls in the cream cheese icing after they have cooled a bit but are still warm. 
REMOVE your cinnamon rolls from the cupcake tins before they cool completely to ensure that the cooled sugar does not glue the cupcake wrappers to your baking pans. 

And ENJOY!!! 

Homemade Marshmallows!

 If you are anything like me, you've purchased marshmallows at the store your entire life and never gave much thought to "how" they were made. If they ever crossed your mind, the thought was fleeting. 
Standard Homemade Marshmallows
So when I saw a post a few weeks back about homemade marshmallows, I decided I HAD to try making them. I mean really, if that blogger could do it, I certainly could. Right!

So I set out to find the recipe I wanted to use and settled on Alton Brown's Marshmallow Recipe. I like his for several reasons. First, he has a video posted with the recipe so you can actually WATCH him make them first. (This eliminates the "duh" moments) And secondly, he's very scientific and I know I can trust his recipes.

So here is the recipe I used. I do recommend you watch the video he has posted.

Marshmallows are STICKY. In fact, so sticky, that I believe you will lose about 1/5 of your mix to the mixing bowl and spatula because you won't be able to get it off. Thank goodness for hot water! With that in mind, imagine how hard your mixer will be working. I DO NOT recommend you make homemade marshmallows with a hand mixer. The mixer will burn up and leave you with a sore hand and a sticky, soupy, mess! I also have to say that if you have a smaller KitchenAid stand mixer (about 4.5 qt), that you keep a close eye on it! I used my 6 quart and it got HOT and you could hear the strain the motor was under.

Now, if you want to get fancy, you can take those yummy marshmallows and using chocolate and other treats, you can fancy up your marshmallows to use them as gifts for the Holiday's.
Dark Chocolate and Toffee Marshmallows

Peppermint Crunch Marshmallows

Dark Chocolate Dipped Marshmallows. In the mug are Kahlua and Coffee Marshmallows! 

 Okay... so I know the next question... Kahlua and Coffee?!? Yep, and I'll share that variation shortly. Just think about some yummy grown-up Hot Chocolate with those little babies on top. mmmmmm Yummy!

Also coming shortly, how to make those cute Melted Snowman S'Mores.

They are AMAZINGLY good! I mean... I'll likely give them as gifts this Christmas good because they are better tasting than ANY S'More I've ever had in my life! I've even given several out as taste tests. It's so much fun watching the faces and hearing the noises that come from people as they enjoy!

 Happy Baking! 

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Melted Snowman S'Mores... Mmmmmm

Last night I tried making Marshmallows for the first time. I'll share photos of the actual "marshmallow's" later. But in keeping with tradition, I had to try making snowmen out of marshmallows BUT I wanted them to be REALLY tasty.

So I took some graham crackers, split them in 1/2, and cut off the sharp corners. Then I dipped them in milk chocolate. After they cooled, I made homemade marshmallows, and piped the marshmallow onto the prepared graham cracker. Once they set up for a bit, I got my royal icing together and decorated them. And of course, I'm a fan of glitter, so I made them sparkle with a little rainbow disco dust. (totally optional, but for me, it's a sickness! lol).

 I'll put together a tutorial later. And let me tell you, I'll NEVER be able to stomach a standard s'more ever again. My husband LOVES these and my 6 year old ate one for breakfast! ha ha ha (Shhhh... don't tell)

 Happy Baking, Caking, and Decorating!


Sunday, November 13, 2011

The long road to inspiration...

I'm often asked where I get the ideas for my cakes. And sometimes I can give you a very specific answer. Like, the client was very clear, they told me what to do, I followed instructions, and there you have it. Other times, the route to inspiration is anything but direct.

This past spring one of my display cakes was being transported to a show, when the box that held it was picked up by a very disagreeable gust of wind, carried several feet, and thrown to the ground, where it was smashed into an unrecognizable mess. This was a very stressful moment for the caterer that was transporting my displays. (No worries, I didn't yell at him.)

The display cake before the wind took it on a wild ride.

It is moments like these that have a way of forcing your hand. There were no plans for an additional display cake. Over the past 2 months, I'd made six! As far as I was concerned, I was all set. But... ummm... yea, things happen. The smashed cake was the biggest display cake I had. It showed a variety of techniques and well... I figured if I had to remake it, I might as well take it a step further. The whole idea of a display cake is to show potential clients what is possible. For me, it's not about creating a cake that I can copy in the future. I just want them to see what their options are. And with very little time until the next show, I was a little stressed.

And I was quickly reminded that I often do my best work when I'm under the gun. I don't know why. It makes no rational sense... And yet, I was so pleased with the resulting cake, that I was happy the original cake was smashed. In fact, I decided that I no longer liked the original cake. Go figure!

Isn't it pretty!?! I really love it. It's so very romantic and soft looking.

A little later... I had the opportunity to make a baby shower cake for a client's daughter to match the theme of the baby's bedroom.

Isn't it cute!

Fast Forward to this fall... The same client saw that pretty display cake that I had to make under the gun this past spring. Seeing how they love all things super girlie and feminine and of course PINK, she wanted that cake used as the inspiration for the Christening Cake.

So, I was able to adjust the design down a bit to make the perfect Christening Cake for Janel's precious baby girl. I added a little more pink into the mix than the original cake had and we removed a few of the more mature elements. And Voila!

Isn't it interesting how cakes are born? Inspiration comes from all around, and you never know what will inspire you to create something new. Sometimes, even a disaster can result in something amazing.

Happy Baking, Caking, and Decorating!


Thursday, November 10, 2011

Popular Prints for a Trendy Cake!

Animal print cakes are all the rage right now and Zebra Stripes are probably THE MOST popular of all the prints chosen. There is something striking, crisp, and bold about those stripes. No matter what color background they appear on, they always seem to look good! And I've certainly done my share of zebra stripes.

This weekend it was a Sweet 16 in Teal, Black, & White. The Birthday Girl is a Soccer Fanatic so we also worked in a custom topper that coordinated amazingly well (black and white).

I thought this would be a good time to show you how many different looks can be achieved with zebra stripes. These are some of the cakes I've done! Enjoy!


Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Manly Cakes....

So what kind of cake do you get for your man? Well, you could do just about anything. The sky's the limit. And sometimes, I think you should reach for the sky. Because those cakes can be so very cool!

This was one of my favorites. Not because I'm a huge fan of the subject matter, but because it was challenging, fun, and required the use of several different cake decorating mediums.

I hope you enjoy. EVERYTHING on this cake is edible. The bottles are poured sugar, the ice is poured sugar, the pretzels, peanuts, bottle caps, and can opener are all sugar paste, and the bucket itself is White Almond Sour Cream Cake with Lemon Curd Filling.

And here are some other "manly" cakes for you to enjoy!