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Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Peanut Brittle

This was my first attempt at Peanut Brittle.  Bear with me here.  I think it turned out pretty good in the end, but timing and temperature is everything.  I was watching one of my many and multiferous cooking shows where they made peanut brittle.  I decided then and there that I must make peanut brittle... today... as in right now.  They made it look so easy.  It should be noted that I watch an inordinate amount of cooking shows.  So much so that if my husband walks in and the tv is not on a cooking show he thinks I am sick.
Ingredients Assemble!

Peanut Brittle

  • 1 and 1/2 tsp Baking Soda
  • 1 tsp water
  • 1 tsp Vanilla extract
  • 1 and 1/2 cup Sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup Sorn Syrup
  • 3 Tbs Butter
  • 1 pound (16 oz or 2 cups) of nuts.  Any kind of nuts.  I used traditional peanuts.
  • In a medium sauce pan on medium heat.  (Sounds like the beginning of a cooking children's book.)  Add water, sugar, and corn syrup.  Medium heat, stirring occasionally, for +/- 25 min until it reaches 240 degrees.  Then add butter and nuts.  Stirring constantly, heat for another +/- 13 min until the thermometer reaches 300 degrees.  Then remove from heat and add baking soda mixture (in a small bowl add baking soda, water and vanilla) and stir in.  Pour onto a buttered cookie sheet and spread out briefly with a buttered spatula.  You may need two cookie sheets.  Let the brittle cool at room temperature for about an hour.  Now for the fun part.  Break it.  Store in an air tight container for up to 2 weeks.

Water, sugar, and corn syrup.
A small bowl of baking soda, water, and vanilla.
A buttered cookie sheet.
Bring sugar mixture to 240 degrees on medium heat.
Add nuts and butter.  I gave my peanuts a few pulses in the food processor because I like them a bit more chopped up than whole.
Continue heating to 300 degrees, then add baking soda mixture and remove from heat.  It was at this exact moment of careful candy thermometer degree monitoring that my brother called.  Sorry, Richard, I am not answering the phone right now but I must say you have impeccable timing.  You could not have called at a more inopportune moment.
Spread out on a buttered  cookie sheet to cool for about an hour at room temperature.
I let my husband break them apart.  He is an excellent breaker.
Then I added some peanut brittle to my Pumpkin Cupcakes.
We ate the rest.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Pumpkin Cupcakes

This time of year I crave for something pumpkin.  I love pumpkin.  I love pumpkin spice.  I cannot honestly say I love pumpkin flavored everything because of the infamous pumpkin milkshake that one year, but I like most things pumpkin.  

Pumpkin cupcakes

  • 2/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 4 eggs
  • ¾ cup + 2 Tbs sugar
  • ¾ cup canned pumpkin (half of a 14 oz can)
  • 1 and ½ cup flour
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp baking soda
  • ¼ tsp cloves
  • ¼ tsp nutmeg
  • ¾ tsp cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • Mix together oil, eggs, sugar, and pumpkin.  Mix together dry ingredients, add to wet and combine.  Bake 325°F for 25 min. Makes about 24 cupcakes.
Mix together wet ingredients and sugar.
Add dry ingredients and mix together.  Using an ice cream scoop fill cupcake wrappers.
This batch made exactly 24 cupcakes.
I think Cream Cheese frosting goes best with pumpkin cake and cupcakes.  My twist is the cinnamon.

Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 8 oz cream cheese (one package) microwave shortly until warm
  • ½ cup butter (1 stick) at room temperature
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 5 – 6 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 Tbs Cinnamon - add according to taste. I tend to go a bit heavy on the cinnamon.
Peanut Brittle for garnish.  Peanut Brittle
Here I go all trying to be fancy and made peanut brittle to garnish my cupcakes.
Cupcakes without peanut brittle.
Cupcakes with peanut brittle.  I think they look nicer with that added touch of something crunchy.


Friday, October 11, 2013

Peacock Cake

My friend, Victoria, asked me to make a Peacock cake for her birthday party at Gardner Village.  It was a Peacock themed birthday party.  There would be 20 - 30 people.  Of course I jumped at the chance.  Who doesn't love peacocks.  I admit, I was a intimidated to make a cake for her because her mother, Jane, is a professional cake artist, so Victoria knows good cake.  She provided the peacock feathers and the cake topper which really pulled the look together and made it sing "I'm a Peacock Cake."
I started with the chocolate mousse filling, as it needed some overnight refrigeration time.  This is an easy chocolate mousse recipe, just 5 ingredients, and it's rich. 

Chocolate Marshmallow Mousse

  • 4 cups mini marshmallows
  • 3/4 cup whole milk
  • 3 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 3/4 cup heavy whipping cream - whipped
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • Cook marshmallows, milk, and chocolate in a medium saucepan over low heat.  Whisk together until melted and smooth - about 5 min.  Transfer pan to a large bowl of ice water.  Let stand, whisking occasionally until cool and thick - about 15 - 20 min.  In a separate bowl beat whipped cream and vanilla until, well, creamed.  Fold in whipped cream.  Refrigerate 6+ hours or overnight.

Heating up chocolate, marshmallows, and milk.
When they are all melted together transfer to an ice filled large bowl.  It needs to be big enough to fit the pan.  Whisking occasionally, let sit for 15 - 20 minutes until cool and thick.
In a separate bowl make the whipped cream.
Fold in whipped cream into cooled chocolate marshmallow mixture.  Refrigerate overnight.
What you don't see is me eating the chocolate mousse with reckless abandon.  Time for some cake.

Chocolate Fudge Cake

  • 2 and 1/3 cup flour
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 1 and 1/3 cup cocoa powder
  • 3 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 3 cups buttermilk
  • 1 cup shortening
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • Beat together shortening and sugar.  Add eggs and vanilla.  Mix all the dry ingredients together in a separate bowl.  Alternate adding buttermilk with dry ingredients to the batter.  Bake at 350 degrees for 30 - 40 min.  Makes three round 9" and two round 6" cake pans.
Vanilla Buttercream frosting.  

Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

  • 1 cup shortening
  • 1 cup butter, room temperature or softened
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 4 Tbs heavy whipping cream
  • 2 Tbs meringue Powder
  • 8 cups powdered sugar
  • Beat together shortening, butter, vanilla, and whipping cream.  Mix in Meringue powder and 1 cup or powdered sugar.  Mix in the rest of the powdered sugar 1 cup at a time until well combined.  Add more whipping cream or powdered sugar as needed for the right consistency.

The bottom layer with chocolate marshmallow mousse.
I went with a light green bottom and a light blue top.  Instead of separating the frosting out in three colors, I finished the bottom green layer, added blue food coloring to the remaining frosting to make the blue layer, then added red to make purple for the peacock scroll work.
Top blue.  My yellow fondant flowers are in the background.  I forgot to take pictures exclusively of them.
Added more food coloring for purple.
Draw on happy peacocks.
I think the peacocks look a bit sloppy, but let's call it Impressionist instead.
Completed cake.

I have peacocks on all sides of the cake.

Yellow fondant roses.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

A Tale of Two Cakes: Chocolate and White

This is a tale of two cakes.  Chocolate and White.  My sister Chelsea was in town for a weekend so we decided to celebrate our September birthdays (my brother Richard age 22 and my nephew Dutch age 1) that Sunday.  I come from a family of chocoholics, so naturally I assumed everyone wanted chocolate cake.  I planned on doubling my  recipe and doing two cakes with one batter, but I decided to play the professional baker and ask what they wanted for their birthday cakes.  True to form my brother requested Chocolate cake with Chocolate Ganache filling.  Then my sister Sabrina (Dutch's Mom) throws a wrench in my easy peasy chocolate plan and said that we always have chocolate and requested a white cake.  It's easier to clean up after.  Though this may be good Mommy logic, white cake is easier to clean up after than chocolate, I was stuck with making two very different cakes at the same time.  This was not going to be as easy as I planned.
Here is my mass of ingredients for everything.  Not only does it make a nice beginning photo for my blog, I also have everything I need in one central location so I am not going around the kitchen looking for ingredients.  The table top mass also lets me see instantly what I am almost out of or missing before I start my baking project.
The first thing I did was make frosting.  I decided to go with two buttercream cakes instead of fondant because they are easier and take less time to manufacture.  I decided to frost and finish the white cake first, then I can just add cocoa powder to the remaining buttercream and use the rest of it for decorating the chocolate cake.

Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

  • 1 cup shortening
  • 1 cup butter, room temperature or softened
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 4 Tbs heavy whipping cream
  • 2 Tbs Meringue Powder (optional)
  • 8 cups powdered sugar
  • Beat together butter, shortening, vanilla, and heavy cream.  Beat in meringue powder and powdered sugar one cup at a time until combined.  Add more cream or powdered sugar until you get the right consistency you want.
I take a new frosting picture every time.  Do I ever get tired of frosting or frosting pictures?  No.  Not yet anyway.
Since Richard's Chocolate Ganache filling needed some refrigeration time I did that next.

Chocolate Ganache

  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 8 oz (two bars or 1 cup) of semi-sweet baking chocolate
  • Chop up chocolate.  Heat cream to near boiling in a saucepan.  Add chocolate to a separate bowl.  Pour hot cream over the chocolate chunks and stir until melted.  Refrigerate until cool.  Whip together.
What you do not see is me eating the chocolate ganache with reckless abandon.  I love this stuff.  On to the cakes.

White Cake

  • 5 Tbs butter (half a stick+)
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp almond extract
  • 1 and 3/4 cup cake flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2/3 cup milk (I always bake with whole milk.  It taste better.)
  • 3 egg whites
  • 2 Tbs sugar
  • Beat butter and 3/4 cup sugar together.  Add vanilla and almond extract.  Mix flour, baking powder, and salt together in a separate bowl.  Alternate adding milk and dry ingredients to butter-sugar mixture.  In a separate bowl whip egg whites with 2 Tbs sugar until stiff peaks form.  Beat in 1/4 of the egg whites into the mix.  Fold in the rest of the egg whites.  We want a nice and fluffy cake batter.  Bake at 375 degrees for 25 - 30 minutes.  Makes one 8" - 9" cake pan.
To make them as different as possible I went with a round cake for Dutch and a square cake for Richard.

Chocolate Cake

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup shortening
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 oz unsweetened baking chocolate, chopped, melted and cooled.
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 cup + 2 Tbs water
  • 1/4 cup + 2 Tbs buttermilk
  • Melt chocolate and wait for it to cool.  Beat together sugar and shortening.  Add egg and vanilla.   Pour cooled chocolate in slowly.  If it is too warm it seizes up in the batter and you end up with chocolate chunk cake (which isn't such a bad thing, but not pretty).  Mix together dry ingredients.  Alternate adding dry ingredients with buttermilk-water mixture.  Bake at 350 degrees for 30 min.  Makes one 8" - 9" cake pan.
Since I used 3 egg whites for the white cake I decided to use the left over 3 egg yolks for the filling.

Vanilla Custard 

  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1 Tbs butter - room temperature or softened.
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • In a medium saucepan whisk together egg yolks and sugar.  In a separate sauce pan heat milk to almost boiling.  Slowly whisk in hot milk to egg yolks so not to curdle the eggs.  Heat custard over low heat, stirring constantly until thickened.  Remove from heat and whisk in butter and vanilla.  Refrigerate until thick and cool.
A white cake.
A white cake with a Whale.
Little kid cakes are easy.  It is the adult cakes that I have a hard time designing.  I did not think Richard would appreciate a Captain Ahab cake to go with the whale.  Add what is left of the chocolate ganache filling to the chocolate cake.
I added cocoa powder to the remaining white and blue frosting and I had enough chocolate frosting to cover cake #2.
I decided to go with a basket weave pattern around the edge and random scroll along the border.  That's good enough for a mature, sophisticated 22 year old, right?
My two cakes - chillin'.
Upon delivery to my parent's house.
Happy first birthday baby Dutch.
Dutch with his first birthday cake.
Happy Birthday Richard.
Richard with his 22nd birthday cake.
Happy birthday boys.  I love my boys.
Chocolate and White cake were equally eaten.