Thursday, December 8, 2011

Birthday Cake Cocktail

So, the real reason I've been MIA for the past month and a half is because my life has been all over the place. For instance, that new job I had mentioned in a previous post got replaced with another job after a mere week. Let's just say I found myself in the back of a walk-in freezer for much of my 13-hour workday. And I don't know about you, but I don't typically wear my long johns to work. 

Maybe you do. What's under your clothes is none of my business, really.  

Anyway, now you can find me at the Columbus Cupcakery doing all of the custom cake orders. If you're from this wonderful area of South Jersey, you need to stop in and try a cupcake or four. Flavors are always being updated (Tiramisu cupcakes, anyone?). This wonderful new career opportunity has been great, mostly because we don't have a walk-in freezer. Oh, and I get to do what I love. That's good, too. 

Okay, that's the end of my public service announcement. My days have also been crazy because another huge, life-changing event.......

We joined a new gym. 

Was that a let-down? Well, it's big for me and my mom. I'm pretty sure she was a member of our old gym for like a decade or a century or something along those lines. And I was probably there since before high school. We spent every morning with the same wonderful, sweaty people. Then one day, an eviction notice was posted, and that was that. I don't do well with change in my routine, especially my morning routine. But it turns out that pretty much everyone we knew from the old place are at this new one with us, and it's closer, and cleaner, and we all lived happily ever after. 

Now to go with all this gym talk: a healthy, energy-boosting protein drink that I think you should all start your day with. 

I'm lying again. It's calorie-laden and flirting with the idea of being sickeningly sweet. But it isn't, so you should try it. 

How do you feel about drinking your birthday cake? Do you feel as good about it as I do? Or do I only feel good because I had to drink some of these as a quality control procedure before writing this post? Anyway, if you're too lazy to bake a cake for your birthday, or no one made one for you because they're also too lazy, you both can whip up this cocktail in a matter of seconds. Hell, I'm probably going to start replacing birthday cakes with this. It's like the Easy Bake approach, but instead of cake mix you have alcohol, and instead of a light bulb oven you have more alcohol. 

Birthday Cake Cocktail 
Original Recipe
1 oz. vanilla frosting vodka (such as Cupcake brand vodka) or vanilla vodka
1 oz. Frangelico
1/2 oz. of creme liquor (such as Starbucks brand liquor)
1 1/2 oz. simple syrup
Splash of half-and-half
Whipped cream and/or sprinkles for garnish

Fill shaker a little more than halfway full with ice. Add vodka, Frangelico, creme liquor, simple syrup and half-and-half, and shake well. Pour into chilled martini glass and garnish with whipped cream and sprinkles.

PS--If you read my last post, I went with my better judgment and decided to post that picture of my beautiful, loving mother. If you don't know what I'm talking about, well, that's your problem. Have a great day! 

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Coffee Almond Cake

December already! I wonder why they decided to skip November this year? Going straight from Halloween to the Christmas season just seems so wrong. It's quite a monumental moment in our world history--I'm actually surprised there wasn't any sort of massive uproar over it. I mean, Thanksgiving is a pretty sweet holiday. It's too bad we missed it. At least thousands of turkeys' lives were spared this year. 

Nah, I just didn't blog at all in the month of November, and I wanted to cover it up by trying to convince you that the wonderful 11th month of our year was non-existent. I think it worked for a second, but then you realized that I'm really bad at lying. And I'm also pretty fickle. How about we move on to YOUR imperfections? No? 

Thousands of turkeys actually died, by the way. And the one that died for our Thanksgiving dinner was fantastic. (Shout out to you, Mama!)


How's your holiday season going? It is a little on the warm side, but I can dig it (I am NOT complaining Mother Nature, not for one second). Our holiday season over here starts with my mom's birthday, which is TODAY. 

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MAMA! Double shout out. 

If you know my mom, you already know she's an awesome lady. She's super fun...I'm pretty sure she has more of a social life than I do. And she's super nice, and really pretty. I'd post a picture of her and have you guess how old she's turning, and you'd probably all guess somewhere around 30, 32--MAYBE. But, she's probably horrified at the thought of that all going down, so we'll just skip that little game. But seriously, she's pretty much my BFF, and puts up with my fickleness, which is very admirable. Enjoy your day, Mama. I love you!

Obviously this cake is for my mom's birthday. I tried to come up with something that combines a few things she likes. So, I started with coffee buttercream (Mom loves coffee!), then moved on to the cake. Hmmm...what goes with coffee?....chocolate: BORING, vanilla: BORING, coffee: TOO MUCH COFFEE, hazelnut: NO. So what did I go with? Almond. Mom seems to like almonds. And I figured if I douse it in Disarrono, she'd be sold (Mom loves alcohol!). Now we have a party. 

Almond Cake 
Adapted from Living Tastefully

1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup almond butter
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup amaretto liquor (I used Disarrono), plus more for dousing the cakes
2 cups cake flour (or 1 3/4 cup AP flour and 1/4 cup cornstarch)
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
1 cup hot milk

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F, and prepare two 9" cake pans. Cream butter, almond butter and sugar in a mixing bowl. Add eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition, and then add vanilla and amaretto. Mix in dry ingredients, slowly add the milk, and mix until just combined. Divide batter between the two pans and bake for 35-40 minutes. Cool cakes a bit and use a pastry brush to add some additional liquor.

The frosting I used was basically this frosting from a previous post.

See you in February!

Just kidding, maybe.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Butternut Squash Ale

There's nothing like brewing in the fall. The weather is perfect and the flavors typically used are some of the best we get all year. The air is crisp and you can probably find me huddling closer to the propane burner as the day goes on, but I like it that way (until I catch fire, which is bound to happen sometime soon. Stayed tuned for that post).

Pumpkin ale has made its way back on tap in the past few weeks, and I know that's something we all look forward to over here. We usually brew our own pumpkin ale this time of year as well. But we're over it. 

Well I wouldn't say we're over it, but it's been done...a lot. And I should probably just speak for myself, but after two years of doing the same thing this time of year, it's time for a change. So we did a little swap of the pumpkin for butternut squash. Butternut squash ale, doesn't that sound good? It's not revolutionary, but it's still festive and just enough change to keep things interesting. 

For the grain we used 8lbs of pale malt two row, 2lbs of Crystal 30-L, 1lb of Cara-Pils, and 1/4lb of Victory, and 4lbs of the butternut squash (I keep automatically writing "buttnut" instead, which personally, I think is a better name) went into the mash with it. 

Dinner, anyone?
We spiced the boil with ginger, allspice, nutmeg, cinnamon (and vanilla, but that didn't go in until the secondary fermenter). Then you add eggs, sugar, butter...kidding. We're not making pie.

We eventually added 1 oz of Mount Hood hops and 1 oz Liberty hops to the wort.

Looks like fall to me. 

We finally added some London Ale yeast, and it's off to ferment for a bit. I'll report back when it's drinkable. I suppose I never let ya'll know how the Lavender Pale Ale turned out. Well it was delicious. More of an amber ale when all was said and done, but still pretty awesome. The lavender didn't smack you in the face or anything, but it definitely had some herby-ness goin' on. 

Cousins of ours came up from Florida and Virginia and popped in to help brew. And maybe to spend some time with their family, but mostly for the beer. And you know what? This is not the beer we brewed with them. But it was pretty great having their company. 

In other news, has anyone else been plagued by fruit flies lately? It's like they divide and multiply mid-air, then fester in anything containing food (NOT just fruit, don't be fooled). So my family (mostly my father), being the leader in good ideas, has taken to keeping the vacuum within reach in the kitchen and making a sport of sucking up the little buggers, and may or may not be keeping score (Bothwell's: 187, Fruit Flies: I'll give you 1 point for frustration). It's almost a full-time job, being a professional fruit fly trapper. 

Go get 'em, Dad!

PS--Thanks, Ma, for taking the pics! Besides that winner at the end. That was all me. 

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Espresso Buttercream and New Endeavors

Happy October! Well, mid-October. Since my last post I've been busy making cakes for some dear friends (Happy Baby Shower, Christina! And Happy Birthday, Umran!), being a leaf-peeper in Vermont, playing jump-rope with the cable wire laying in our driveway (cough Comcast sucks cough) (Side note: do you understand how difficult jumping-rope is? From what I remember from my childhood, it shouldn't be very complicated. My boxing trainer has me jump rope EVERY WEEK and I still can't do it without tripping over myself. And that's super intimidating when you're getting ready to throw down.When did I become so uncoordinated? I digress.), and getting a new job!

If you remember correctly, I recently started a new job in August. But now I have a new new job! Where I get to replace my heels with sneakers! And be surrounded by baked goods all day! That's right, I'm gunna be doing pastry. Full time. And get paid for it. So that's definitely going to up my cred with all these recipes I'm giving you, so if I were you I'd write them down furiously. Just kidding, I have no cred. But I think this is a step in the right direction! I'm technically the "Pastry Finisher," which means when all the pastries are done, I get to eat them. Quality control of sorts. Are you jealous of my job yet?

Okay, that's not what I'll be doing at all. I'll be assembling all the pastries and decorating them and making them look nice. I think. I haven't started yet so I could be lying. Either way, I'll keep you all updated when I'm not working at the bakery or the restaurant, and if our Internet doesn't decide to take a nap in our driveway again.

I just have a simple recipe for you today. Simple but delicious. And chock-full of caffeine. I also have some pictures of the baby shower cake I made a few weeks ago. So by the time you're done, you'll have relived the last few weeks of my life. Minus the awkwardness that I tend to contribute. Enjoy!

Espresso Buttercream
Adapted from Sweetpolita

5 egg whites
1 cup granulated sugar
3 sticks (1 1/2 cups) butter, softened (I use salted so it's not overpoweringly sweet, but if that's what you like, use unsalted!)
1 1/2 Tbsp instant espresso powder mixed with 2 tsp water to make a thick, syrupy mixture (this amount makes it fairly strong--use more or less depending on how strong you'd like the final espresso flavor to be)
1 tsp vanilla

Over a double boiler that's simmering (not boiling), whisk egg whites and sugar until mixture is hot to the touch (around 140 degrees F), about 7-10 minutes. Transfer to a mixing bowl with the whisk attachment, and whip on high until egg whites are fluffy and glossy, and mixture is no longer warm to the touch (this takes me 10+ minutes. To help cool it off, I keep a damp towel in the freezer then wrap it around the mixing bowl as it whips). Switch to a paddle attachment and add butter one tablespoon at a time until it is all incorporated. Add espresso mixture and vanilla and stir until combined.

Here's the baby shower cake pics-- pink and leopard cake for sweet little Aleeah! Can't wait to meet her!

                                                                   *thanks for getting the pic, Christina!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Chocolate Kahlua Cupcakes and a Cowboy Hat Cake

So I don't have a new recipe for you, which is a little bit of a cop-out cause I haven't posted in a while. Bear with me.

I've been busy pretending I'm in college again. Which for me would actually mean recipe testing and baking every hour of the day, and I'd probably have 17 new recipes for you. So really I've been busy pretending I'm in college for the first time while I'm visiting my friends and going to alumni weekend. And you know what it's taught me?

I'd be really good at being homeless.

First of all, if I didn't have to primp for my job every day, I wouldn't feel the need to mess with doing my hair or wearing attractive clothes. Flannel=perfection. As long as I could bathe I'd be a happy permanent camper, and as I've mentioned in this post, give me a puddle and a bar of soap and I'll be just fine (Note: puddles can also be substituted for fountains). Also, I got some practice sleeping in my car and it was pretty cozy. You wake up and everything you need is right there! Jump in the driver seat and the world is at your gas pedal. So maybe I couldn't be street-homeless, but more of the live-out-of-a-car homeless type. Plus you start to learn which places have accessible outlets and bathrooms you don't have to buy anything to use.

Are you impressed yet? Why is that look of disgust on your face? I'm just saying, if it was between you and I being homeless, I might volunteer for the job (really, you should be thanking me...). The only problem, I don't think I'd be able to do this whole baking-blogging thing for very long, and that might drive me crazy. So I'll just continue being a non-homeless person (Thanks, parents, for letting me live here! Don't kick me out now!).

Speaking of the live-out-of-a-car homeless type, I have a friend that does this. Okay, so we're not like BFFs, but we hung out once. And by "hung out" I mean we went fishing at midnight. And by "we" I mean I didn't go there with him, we just happened to be doing the same thing at the same place at the same time. So I guess it was only natural that we struck up a conversation. Also, I suggest you listen to this song. It's only appropriate.

His name was Dave, and he was there with his friend Rusty and we had a great time. Until Dave showed me the laser pointer he found and figured out how to smoke stuff out of it. That's when I called it a night. To be fair, at first I didn't know I was basically intruding on his home next to the river. I thought he just needed to get out of the house and away from his wife for some prime time fishing. It was only when we parted and he said, "Okay well I'm gunna go take the truck back to the tracks now," when I realized. Then good ol' Rusty goes, "Yeah I'm gunna head home and go in the hot tub." HOT TUB?! Dave's gunna go sleep in his truck and you're gunna go home to your luxurious, bubbling hot tub? Dave didn't seem too jealous though. And by then I could slowly back away and disappear into the night. But not forever. The next morning on my run I saw Dave! "Hey, Amanda!" "Hey there, Dave!" And we never crossed paths again.

I wonder what Dave's doing these days. Well, I can't tell you that, but I can tell you what I'm up to. I'm  making cowboy hat cakes and cupcakes with Kahlua in them, and you can, too!

So what I should have done is take pictures of each step of this cowboy hat cake so you could just look at the process instead of enduring my awkward, incoherent babbling. But I didn' here goes.

The very first thing I did (a week ahead of time) was cut the brim of the hat out of chocolate fondant, and allowed it to harden into shape by placing it on top of, stay with upside-down cowboy hat. I had to do this step THREE times. Even though I set it out a week ahead, the fondant just wouldn't harden enough to support the cake. So two days in advance I made the same thing out of gum paste I dyed brown kneaded with chocolate fondant, and by God it worked. You can just skip right to that step and avoid all the stress and frustration, if you'd like.

I made two batches of chocolate cake batter so I'd end up with three cake layers and a dozen cupcakes. Once the cakes were cooled I brushed them with Kahlua and stacked them with ganache in the middle. Then I started hacking at it with a knife til it looked like the top of the hat! There's really no fancy method to do it, just have an idea of what you want to end up with and gradually saw off cake wherever you see fit. It's all going to get covered anyway so it doesn't have to be pretty! Take too much cake off? Just put a dab of ganache and stick some cake scraps on there to fill it in. It's fairly forgiving, just take your time!

Next, I coated the sculpted cake in buttercream and set it in the fridge to harden a bit while I rolled out the fondant. Then I just covered the cake with the fondant, smoothed it out and cut the excess. I dyed some of the leftover fondant a darker brown and cut three really super long strips and braided them for the leather rope around the hat's base. And made the medallion looking thing that I painted with edible gold paint.

When you're sure the brim is hardened enough, the cake can be assembled. I put a bit of extra sticky fondant on the cake board to secure the brim in place. I did the same thing when attaching the cake to the brim. Actually that's untrue. I totally forgot to secure it all to the cake board which was really stupid of me. So I had to lift the whole finished cake up and then put the fondant underneath to attach it, which is also a frustrating step that you may skip.

The final steps were attaching the fondant medallion and braid with some melted chocolate (if you use chocolate candy melts it'll dry a lot faster), and painting the whole thing with brown food coloring to give it the look of leather.

With the cupcakes I just cut out a bit in the middle, brushed on some Kahlua and piped in some ganache. Then I put the cake back that I cut out and topped them with buttercream, a chocolate-covered almond and some cocoa powder. Done and done!

Thanks for putting up with my extra wordy post. I'll be sure to come up with more exciting recipes now that I'm no longer practicing being homeless and have an oven and the Internet within reach.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Ice Cream Pie

Is it just me...
Caramel Chai

And I understand when I usually start a question with that phrase the answer is almost always "Yes." But hear me out.

Is it just me, or when someone tries to be nice and compliment you and asks, "Have you lost weight?" it does NOT feel like a compliment.

Here are the thoughts that go through my mind while I'm trying to smile and respond appropriately:
"I had weight to lose?"
"Maybe it's the oversized flannel and large bird's nest hair that's causing that illusion you're seeing."
"I'm fine today, thanks for asking!"
"Have you found it?"

Seriously, am I the only one who feels this way? I mean, I know the compliment-er is just trying to be nice and all. And if I were actually losing weight and was super excited about it, I might even muster up a real smile instead of a fake one.

Well what I'm getting at is, no one appreciates this backward form of a compliment (because I'm going to assume you feel EXACTLY the way I do). So if you were thinking of giving this kind of "compliment," you have been warned of the possible unexpected reactions.

To prove a point, let's eat some ice cream. No, let's eat some ice cream pie. Because adding a little extra butter and sugar will definitely show how serious we (WE!) are about this issue.

Now excuse me while I step off my soap box.

Banana Split

So.... ice cream pie is something I've been making for a while. It started a few summers ago where I'd make flavor after flavor, bringing them to work at least once a week. For the entire summer. That's a lot of ice cream. Well I've since slowed down from factory-producing to a more reasonable couple-times-a-season output, and it really couldn't be any easier.

The secret is the crust. I've been keeping this dear recipe to myself for years, and now I've decided to share it with you. I think it's even the first recipe I ever developed myself. You should be honored. It might not blow you away, but without it you wouldn't have real ice cream pie. I should charge you, really. But I won't.

Tips still welcome.

Ice Cream Pie
Original Recipe

2 cups ground sugar cones (approx. 1 12-count package)
6 Tbsp melted butter
2 Tbsp granulated sugar
1 pint ice cream
Any additional toppings

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Toss first 3 ingredients together with a fork. Press mixture into a pie dish to form the crust. Bake for 7-8 minutes until slightly golden. Cool completely (put in the freezer for 15-20 minutes to speed this part up!). Allow ice cream to soften a bit, then fill crust with the ice cream of your choice and add toppings (my standards are chocolate ganache, caramel sauce, whipped cream, sprinkles, candy....the list goes on.......). Some combos I've done are caramel chai spice, Oreo fudge brownie, mint chocolate chip, creamsicle, banana split, vanilla fudge sundae...and about a million others!

Oreo Fudge Brownie

Well there it is, folks. You impressed yet? The least you can do is try it before SUMMER ENDS. So hurry up. And please excuse my iffy diner-quality photos. I won't even try to defend them, the ice cream pie makes up for it.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Chocolate-Covered Strawberry Cake

A wonderful day off from work! The sun is shining as summer comes to an end (gag), the birds are singing and the squirrels are plumping up for the colder weather that is approaching.


Well I do have the day off from work today, but it's because I'm sick. Other than that it's pouring and the birds are too depressed to sing because summer is ending...but I'm pretty sure the squirrels are still really fat. Anyway, I'm thinking it's a standard case of strep throat.

Let me tell you a little bit about the relationship between strep throat and I. That's right, we have a relationship.

Growing up, my year would not be complete if I didn't get strep throat a few times. Sometimes the smell of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches or cement glue can bring someone right back to their childhood. Give me a whiff of liquid Amoxicillin and I'm 8 years old again, with a closed throat and only canned peaches to get me through (mental note: have someone pick up canned peaches on their way home from work).

Well I haven't gotten a good case of strep throat in a while, so I guess it's long overdue. Actually when looking for medicine in the cabinet last night, it had all expired somewhere between the golden years of 1991-1994. Yep, definitely still effective.

So don't mind me while I lay on the couch and eat soggy Rice Krispies all day. At least I can devote my day to blogging! No baking though....I don't think people would appreciate cookies laced with strep.

Sounds sketchy.

Since I don't have anything new I can make and share with you, I'll share a recipe from Valentine's Day a few years ago. Don't ask questions, just go with it.

I wanted to make a strawberry cake for this particular Valentine's Day. But when searching through recipe after recipe, they all contained Jell-O and food coloring and while I'm sure they're wonderful and tasty and beautifully pink, it just seemed....wrong. But I finally found one on another blog (Confections of a Foodie Bride--check her out if you haven't already!), and it was perfect.

Then I filled the cake with a quick strawberry jam, frosted it with a light pink vanilla buttercream, covered it in chocolate ganache, swirled in some white chocolate hearts and topped it with chocolate-covered strawberries. If that doesn't scream love, folks, I'm not sure what does.

Oh, and it sparkled. TAKE THAT.

Strawberry Cake
Adapted from Confections of a Foodie Bride

2 ¼ cups cake flour
1 ¾ cups sugar
4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
12 Tbsp (1 ½ sticks) softened butter
1 cup pureed fresh strawberries
¼ cup room temperature milk
4 eggs, beaten
1 Tbsp vanilla
¼ cup plain Greek yogurt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F, and grease and flour two 9” cake pans. Add dry ingredients (flour, sugar, baking powder and salt) to mixing bowl. Add butter and mix just until butter is incorporated and texture is crumbly. Add wet ingredients (milk, eggs, vanilla and strawberry puree) and mix to combine. Fold in yogurt. Divide batter evenly between pans and bake 25-30 minutes until toothpick inserted in middle comes out with no traces of batter, but not completed dry (should have some moist crumbs attached). Cool cakes completely.

Quick Strawberry Jam

1 cup chopped strawberries
1-2 Tbsp sugar (as much or as little as you'd like to get desired sweetness)
1/4 cup water (juice can be substituted)
2 tsp cornstarch mixed with 2 tsp water

Add all ingredients to a saucepan over medium heat. Slowly bring mixture to a simmer, stirring occasionally. Allow mixture to cook until liquid is reduced and thickened. Transfer to a bowl, cover, and put in the refrigerator to cool completely before using.

Chocolate Ganache
Adapted from Fine Cooking

1 lb. chopped bittersweet chocolate or chocolate chips
2 cups heavy cream
2 Tbsp softened butter

Place chopped chocolate in a heat-proof bowl. Heat heavy cream in a saucepan over medium heat just until it begins to bubble (not boiling!). Pour hot cream over chocolate and let sit, untouched, for 3-5 minutes. Slowly begin whisking chocolate-cream mixture until chocolate is melted and smooth. Add butter and continue to whisk until completely incorporated. Cool ganache at room temperature before using, just long enough so it's still able to be poured (if you let it sit overnight it'll become thick, perfect for frosting a cake).

For the pink buttercream, I just used the vanilla buttercream recipe I've mentioned before and added a few drops of pink food coloring to reach the desired color. For the chocolate-covered strawberries I used dark and white chocolate candy melts and went crazy with it!

To assemble the cake, I filled it by putting a layer of buttercream then topped it with the cooled strawberry jam. I frosted the whole cake with the pink buttercream, poured on the chocolate ganache, then used melted white chocolate to make the heart designs on top (start with just a dot of white chocolate then pull a toothpick through the center--voila!). Finally, I topped the cake with some gold luster dust (so it shimmered, obviously) and the chocolate covered strawberries.

Happy Valentine's Day! ....I mean, Happy Day After Labor Day! Hope it's a good bring me some peaches.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Cinnamon Bun Cake

This restaurant nonsense has taught me a lot of things. Before this job, going to a restaurant as a customer was the only point of view I had experienced. Now that I'm on the other side of things, boy have my eyes been opened.

#1: There is chaos behind the scenes while you sit and enjoy a nice meal, and hopefully you have no idea that sometimes we're all screaming inside.

#2: You never get used to the pain of wearing heels for hours on end. Ever.

#3: Sometimes little old ladies come in and adopt you as their grandchild for a few hours. It's cute, really.

#4: Even though we work at a restaurant, we don't eat all day. So when you jokingly ask "Hehe would you like to sit with us?" The answer is: "I'll move you to a bigger table that has an extra seat."

#5: People are PICKY. I don't know if this is how most people work, but when we'd go out to eat growing up we'd take the table we were given and not think twice about it. I'm telling you, no less than 50% of the people that come in request a different table. I've gotten a palm to the face, straight out "NO," snarls, evil stares, and people who just move when I turn my back after I seat them. Is this how it always is? IT'S A TABLE, PEOPLE. They're all the same. No, you're date won't look less Alf-like if you put them in the lighting over there. Sorry, I'm holding grudges.

#6: If you do get a chance to eat, it has to be something bland. Because people don't appreciate coming to a restaurant and smelling their future meal on your breath.

They would probably appreciate if your breath smelled like Cinnamon Bun Cake, though. And that, my friends, is something we can make happen.

So this cake was made for my dear friend/cousin/neighbor/wing-man/copilot for her birthday. I made a similar cake for my brother's birthday a year and a half ago, and she's been requesting it ever since. And so with some changes to the original cake, this cake was born. It's got cinnamon swirl cake, cinnamon bun filling, cinnamon buttercream, streusel crumbs, and more cinnamon bun filling on top. Needless to say, I rarely get to eat my cakes, and I'm very glad I got to have a piece of this one!

Cinnamon Swirl Cake

¾ cup (1 ½ sticks) butter
½ cup brown sugar
1 14 oz can sweetened condensed milk
4 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
1 tsp vinegar
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp baking powder
¾ tsp salt
1 ½ Tbsp cinnamon
3 cups flour
1 ½ cups hot milk
¼ cup brown sugar
2 Tbsp turbinado sugar
1 tsp cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour two 9” pans. Cream butter and sugar. Add condensed milk and mix well. Beat in eggs one at a time, then add vanilla and vinegar. Whisk dry ingredients together. Alternate adding dry ingredients and milk until just combined. Divide batter evenly into pans. Combine ¼ cup of brown sugar, turbinado sugar and cinnamon. Swirl cinnamon-sugar mixture into batter and bake 30-35 minutes. 

Streusel Crumbs
Adapted from Sugar Cooking

6 Tbsp butter, almost completely melted
1 cup flour
½ cup brown sugar
2 tsp cinnamon, plus extra for sprinkling
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp baking powder

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix all ingredients together until texture is crumbly. Spread on a baking sheet lined with parchment. Sprinkle extra cinnamon on top. Bake for 7-8 minutes until slightly golden. Use a spatula to break in to small pieces before completely cool. 

Cinnamon Bun Filling

1/4 cup (half a stick) butter
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 Tbsp corn syrup
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon

Melt butter and sugar together. Add remaining ingredients and mix well. Let cool before adding to cake.

For the cinnamon buttercream, use the typical vanilla buttercream recipe and add as much cinnamon as you'd like (I used about 2 teaspoons). 

Maybe next I'll come up with a garlic cake and eat it before work. And then people will want to get away from me and quickly as possible and just sit wherever I tell them. And then I'll get promoted to boss of everyone because I come up with such innovative problem-solving ideas. 

We've got the baking bug in my family. My cousin Gina made some pretty outrageous root beer cupcakes this weekend, among many other things she's made in the past (which unfortunately I don't have a picture of). Shout out to my cousin Kaitlynn who made these cupcakes! Would you believe she's in fourth grade?? Pretty freaking impressive if you ask me. And let me tell you, they were goooood. Reese's peanut butter brownie cupcakes and strawberry cupcakes with white chocolate chips. Holy. Cow. Keep up the good work, champ!

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Skillet Jalapeno Cornbread

I hope everyone made it through the hurricane okay. I know we didn't get hit as hard as expected. We had a few trees down, some flooding in the area, and power outages. We didn't have power for close to 48 hours, which compared to the 7 days we were told it would be, it wasn't bad at all.

But, you know, everyone around is complaining "I can't charge my phone!" "I can't watch TV!" "I can't see anything!" But I kinda liked it. No, I really liked it.

Now you get to do things like cook dinner over a fire (or a charcoal grill, close enough), force people to play Scrabble with you, bathe in the backyard (alright so that was just me, the rest of my family decided to shower at Grandma's. BORING.), and bake. How do you bake when your electric oven has no power, you ask? On the grill! We're just reaping resourcefulness over here. The only downside: power outages=no internet=no posting. So here I am a week later finally able to report back to you. I can't rub sticks together and get the internet to work, people. I tried.

So skillet cornbread can be a little tricky when working with a charcoal grill, just because the temperature isn't so easy to control. More oxygen, less oxygen, hot on this side, extremely hot on that side. It's just complicated. But I suggest just letting the coals go for a while, tweaking the amount of oxygen getting to them and using a thermometer so when the lid is closed it's somewhere between 350-420 degrees F. Dad also made the note the when baking on the grill KEEP THE LID CLOSED. Like, barely even peak at it. Since most of the heat is hitting the bottom of your pan, you need as much heat getting to the top of the pan as possible. And strategically place the pan near the edge of the grill or wherever it's a little less like the depths of hell.

Now that we've had that little pep talk, I think we're ready.

Skillet Jalapeno Cornbread
Adapted from Taylor Takes a Taste, which she calls "Perfect Cornbread," and she's not kidding!

1 cup flour
1 cup cornmeal
4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp black pepper
2 eggs
1 cup milk
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) melted butter, plus another 1/4 cup for the pan (I suggest using salted butter)
1/4 cup oil
1 1/2 cups fresh corn kernels
1 Tbsp chopped jalapeno

Get your grill ready, aiming for 400 degrees F (or preheat your oven....). Put the cast iron pan on the grill to heat up while you make the batter.Whisk flour, cornmeal, sugar, salt, baking powder and spices together. Add wet ingredients and stir until just combined, then add the corn and jalapeno. When ready to bake, put the remaining 1/4 cup of butter into the skillet and swirl to coat the pan. Immediately add batter and place back on the grill. Bake for about 30 minutes, depending on the temperature (we had ours around 425 degrees and it took almost 30 minutes). The middle should be just set (not liquid-y, but not dry).

The butter will bubble up over the batter once it's poured in. And not to boast, but I'm pretty sure I should be a hand model. 

Voila, we have cornbread! It's TV magic in blog form! 

This makes a pretty spicy cornbread to average folks, so use less (or more!) jalapeno depending on what you like.

Just doin' the dishes old school style, using a puddle in the yard. Disregard the basketball hoop laying in the driveway. And the flour hand print on my butt (it is my own THANK YOU VERY MUCH). 

Have a wonderful storm-free day!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Coconut Cake

I feel bad. It's only been a little while since I started this blog and already this week I had such little time to devote to it. I promise it'll change! Work has been crazy busy! And I love every second of it. But at this point we should probably all just live at the restaurant. It'd be way more convenient. Plus there's tons of amazing food. And really comfy booths. And lots of booze. I think it could work. Right now my days consist of going to the gym and going right to work, then coming home late and sleeping. Where does baking fit in? I'm thinking I found a solution, but it's something I can't mention yet (even though I'm really, really, really excited!).

Well, the temporary non-solution solution was having my mom bake this cake for me. Is that an ultimate blogger sin? I guess it'd be worse if I pretended like I did it myself and didn't tell you. Anyway, luckily for me she's amazing in the kitchen and is the sole reason why I decided to spend any time in there in the first place. And so the only thing I had to do on my day off was whip up some frosting and custard and assemble the cake.

You know what else that left time for? If you guessed spending time with my family, you're wrong. It's drinking.

Fine, I was drinking with my family, so I guess I'll give you half credit (that's the elementary teacher side of me coming out, which doesn't happen often because THERE ARE NO JOBS AVAILABLE. Let's change the subject before things get all political up in here). Back to the alcohol. (Oh, and don't act like your elementary school teachers didn't enjoy a drink every once in a while. Don't you dare judge me. I'm just real, people. And a recent college graduate. There needs to be a buffer period, and that time is now.)

So the other day my dear little cousin, all ten years of him, blurted out, "You were happy drunk at your graduation party." Let me explain. Okay, there's not much to explain. There was way too much to drink and I guess I felt the need to take control of the situation. At least I was the "happy drunk cousin" and not the "angry drunk cousin" or the "emotional drunk cousin" or the....I'll stop there. Anyway, we've moved forward. But as we parted the other day, my too-wise-for-his-mere-ten-years cousin left me with a piece of advice (by yelling across the parking lot):

"Amanda. Do not drink alone! That's when it gets bad."

Thank you, kind sir. I will truly keep that in mind. I hope you learn from my mistakes, dearest cousin. Though it seems you know my mistakes before I even make them.

By the way. If you enjoyed the doughnuts in the last post, check out said cousin's website: United Doughnut Kingdom. That's right, a whole internet kingdom devoted to doughnuts. I'm not sure what could be better. Oh, and don't be upset if you missed the Doughnut Meeting that he had scheduled on April 15th, I'm sure there are plenty more to come. This website craftsmanship must run in the family or something.

You want me to get on to the recipe, you say? Fair enough, we'll continue to discuss my life's mistakes and mishaps another times. And I know that last sentence didn't make sense (and yes, I know I will be teaching your children someday), I just know these types of discussions are bound to occur on many, many occasions to come.

So, coconut cake. I didn't bake this cake. I admitted that. So I'm not going to claim to revamp a recipe or give you the play-by-play. But what I will do is give you the link. Cause this cake was awesome (as is the lady who made it!), and if you need a coconut cake recipe, let it be this one.

Coconut Cake

I had leftover buttercream so I crumb-coated the cake with that, and made a Swiss meringue buttercream to frost and decorate it. The filling was a chocolate custard that was super easy to put together (and the solution to having 5 egg yolks leftover from the frosting).

Chocolate Custard
5 egg yolks
3/4 cups sugar
1 Tbsp cornstarch
2 cups milk
1 cup half and half or heavy cream
6 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1 tsp instant espresso powder
1 tsp vanilla

Whisk together egg yolks, sugar and cornstarch until fluffy and light yellow. Over medium heat, heat milk, heavy cream, chocolate and espresso powder until it begins to bubble around the edges of the pot (not boiling!). To temper the eggs, use a ladle to slowly add some of the milk mixture to the egg yolks while whisking constantly. After adding about a cup of the milk mixture to the egg yolks, strain the egg mixture back into the pot with the rest of the milk. Whisk the mixture over medium-low heat until it thickens (it should happen fairly quickly). Transfer the custard to a bowl and cover with plastic wrap pressed right on the surface of the custard to prevent a skin from forming. Cool custard completely in the fridge to finish thickening before using.

The ruffle technique has been featured on many blogs, so I'm sure it's nothing new to you! This was my first attempt and I'd like to take my time next time. Even if you don't make this cake all ruffly or it's not your grandma's 80th birthday, you should make it, 'cause it's just plain delicious. Happy birthday, Grandma!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Homemade Yeast Doughnuts

Every Sunday growing up my family and I would go to church, immediately after going straight to Grandma's house for coffee, doughnuts and bagels (7 year-olds drink coffee, right? This may or may not be the reason I currently drink a minimum of 3 cups of black coffee a day). The doughnuts didn't come from some franchise shop (I'm not Munchkin hatin'-- those things are amazing, especially for bribing people), but from a local bakery, making them something special. I'm not a fan of cream-filled things (sorry!), or jelly-filled things (sorry again! This on top of what I admitted to in the past, I'm starting to question why I even bother to bake...), so obviously I went for the frosted doughnuts with sprinkles. Beautiful, colorful sprinkles. So when I decided to make doughnuts of my own, that's exactly the kind I made. No cream, no jelly, just sprinkles.

Adapted from Alton Brown
Homemade Yeast Doughnuts
  • 1 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 1/3 cup shortening 
  • 2 packages instant yeast
  • 1/3 cup warm water (lukewarm to the touch, not hot!)
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1/4 cup sugar 
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
  • 23 ounces all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting surface (Alton suggests you weigh the flour, which I did and it worked perfectly. Unfortunately that means I don't have it converted into cups...)
  • 1 gallon frying oil (peanut is best, but I used canola) 

  • Place shortening in a bowl. Heat milk over medium heat, just enough to melt the shortening. Pour warm milk into the bowl with the shortening. In a separate bowl put warm water and sprinkle with the packets of yeast, allowing to dissolve for 5 minutes. Transfer the yeast mixture to a mixing bowl. Add the shortening/yeast mixture when it only slightly warm. Next add eggs, sugar, salt, nutmeg and half of the flour, and mix on low speed until incorporated. Add the rest of the flour on low speed, then switch to medium speed and beat until well-combined. Change to the dough hook and beat the dough until it's smooth and pulls away from the sides of the bowl (about 3 minutes). Grease a large bowl and transfer the dough. Let rise for an hour until the dough has doubled. Roll out the dough on a generously-floured surface to about 1/2 inch think. Using a biscuit cutter, doughnut cutter or whatever large and small round cutter you'd like,* cut out your doughnuts. Place on a floured surface or baking sheet and cover with a towel. Allow to proof for 30 more minutes. Place a cooling rack on top of a sheet pan. Heat oil to 365 degrees F. Fry the donuts (a couple at a time, don't overcrowd!) for a minute per side, until cooked and light golden brown. Place cooked doughnuts on cooling rack and allow to cool before glazing. 
  • *I used a larger glass for the doughnut and a shot glass for the hole. I just finished college, don't judge. 

  • Vanilla Glaze:
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 Tbsp* milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

  • Combine ingredients and mix well. *Add more or less milk to reach desired consistency.

  • Chocolate Ganache Glaze:
  • 8 oz semisweet chocolate, chopped (I used chips)
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 Tbsp softened butter
  • 1 Tbsp corn syrup

  • Heat cream over double boiler until it just begins to bubble. Pour over bowl of chopped chocolate. Allow to sit for a couple minutes, then slowly whisk to combine. Add butter and corn syrup and mix well. Cool slightly before glazing doughnuts. 

  • Dip or drizzle donuts in glaze of your choice, and top with sprinkles (absolutely not optional).

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Specialty Cakes

There's no recipe for this post--mostly pictures and a few words so there's less opportunity to embarrass myself in front of you, cause I'd really like to keep you around. I wanted to share some of the specialty cakes I've made for people in the past. I'll probably do it over the course of a few posts, so I don't overload you with cakes! (If that's even possible...) The quality of some of these photos is really exceptional and definitely not taken with my phone. Just sayin'.

Leopard Cake: Devil's food cake with cookies and cream buttercream
This cake was raffled off during a promotional event!

Butterfly Cake: Vanilla bean cake with key lime custard and vanilla buttercream
I made this cake for my 21st birthday. It was a combination of lots of my favorite things: vanilla bean, key lime and butterflies.

Pink Blossom Wedding Cake: Chocolate and vanilla cake layers with fresh strawberry filling and vanilla buttercream
This cake was for the wedding one of my best and most amazing friends. So happy I was able to be a part of her big day!

Global Outreach Cake
Donated to an event for a friend from school!

Marist Rugby Ball Cake: Chocolate cake with vanilla buttercream
Made for the great guys on Marist's rugby team! 

Guinness Cake: Red velvet cake with chocolate-hazelnut filling and cream cheese frosting
It may be deceiving that this cake isn't actually made with Guinness, but it ended up incorporating many of the birthday girl's favorite things!

Coral Damask Cake: Devil's food cake with raspberry-orange filling and chocolate buttercream
Happily made for my aunt's birthday!

Monkey Baby Shower Cake: Bottom tier--Peach cake with vanilla buttercream, Top tier--Banana cake with salted caramel frosting 
This cake was made for the same amazing friend as the wedding cake. She couldn't have picked a cuter theme!

Have a wonderful day!