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Ta-DDDDAAAAAA!!!

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I’m ba-ack! And you thought you could get rid of me that easily. Not a chance, my people. Not a chance.

WELL, what have I been doing these past few weeks – er, months, but who’s counting? – that I haven’t written to you lovely readers? What haven’t I been doing is the real question (and don’t say “posting on your blog”. Not allowed.). In any case, here is a limited list:

1. My new job! I currently work as a part-time editorial assistant for the editor-in-chief of an academic journal. It’s a job, and it’s something I can do from home for a bit o’ extra money. It’s obviously not my ideal job, nor does it use too many of my hard-earned collegiate skills, but I do get to communicate with people from all over the world and learn some new stuff. It’ll do until…

2. …I finish my first app! As some of you may or may not know, I’ve dabbled in iOS (that’s iPad/iPhone/iPod Touch) development in the past, and I’m turning much more attention to it now. Currently I’m catching up to speed on all the new development features that I’ve missed because of *SOMEONE* I’ve had to take care of for the past over 10 months. Psshh. I’ve got a couple of project ideas lined up already, and I’m hoping I can get them pushed out and ready to go in the next few months.

3. That *SOMEONE* that I may or may not have ever mentioned on this blog before. Yeah, him. He, uh, also occasionally takes up some of my time.

BABY PICTURES ATTACK!!!!!!!!

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There’s more where that came from, too, my friends. ‘Tis but a small selection. You’ll have to stay tuned for more!

4. Finally, baking. Yes, I may not have been keeping you updated about my baking, but I sure as cake was still continuing to bake (I honestly did not mean for that to rhyme). Because of the backlog, however, you’re just going to have to enjoy the pictures of my creations without too much background explanation. Me tired. I’ll start afresh with this weekend’s assignment.

Here it goes:

Orange-chocolate-pecan coffee cake:
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Somehow in all my adventures I’d never managed to produce a coffee cake before, but this one was definitely delish!

Tres leches cake! With real leches!

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Chocolate cappuccino cake, which was actually very cinnamon-y:

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This occasionally happens to me with baking; I, actually, was not the biggest fan of the above cake. I mean, it was ok, but it was not necessarily what I look for in a chocolate-coffee cake. For one, I thought it was kind of dry. HOWEVER, the things that I am usually meh about turn out to be some of the biggest hits with everyone else. This cake was exactly an example of that. People kept telling me how moist and delicious it was. Go figure. Whatever makes ’em (and “’em” being the people so gracious as to partake in my culinary exploits) happy, I guess!

So then I got on an insane scone kick. To the point where I wasn’t able to even take pictures of some of the ones I made because they disappeared so fast. But here were my favey-faves, maple oat scones:

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And James’s favorites, mini vanilla bean scones:

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Finally, there was the rediscovery of my amazing breadmaker, which produced this lovely lemon poppyseed cake:

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Alas, not pictured (because I somehow didn’t manage to snag these on camera!) are a classic pound cake, my father-in-law’s traditional birthday chiffon cake (which I even made twice, and still didn’t manage to catch on “film”!), lemon-blueberry scones, and orange-cranberry scones.

So you see, I have been a busy beaver. Those baked goods couldn’t just bake and eat themselves. And all the other stuff? Well, come on, let’s get our priorities straight. 🙂

Welcome back!

When life gives you desserts

Ok, folks, I really dropped the ball on this one. Today I write about not this week’s dessert, but last week’s, with the hope that I might write about this weekend’s dessert much sooner and be all caught up. Hopefully. I’ll just blame the rush of the holiday season. Yeeeeah, that sounds good.

Anywho (or as I saw someone spell it on Facebook recently, “newho,” and sat there for about five minutes trying to figure out what that word was supposed to be and how to pronounce it), last weekend we celebrated my wonderful mother-in-law’s birthday, so it was time for more birthday cake! If it seems like I write about a lot of birthday cakes on here, by the way, I do. That’s what happens when you’ve got parents, parents-in-law, four siblings, four siblings-in-law, three siblings-in-law-in-law, four nieces and nephews, a beloved hubby, and a wee babe. Notice I don’t count any extended family here, either…

When thinking of a cake for Mom G, my first thought went to something with ginger (Mom G loves ginger), but to go with something a little more universal, I went with one of Mom G’s next favorites – dark chocolate. Gotta love those antioxidants!

During my perusal of my awesome cookbook, I stumbled upon this little gem:

Raspberry Whipped Cream Truffle Cake

Really hard to get that ganache perfectly smooth.

I wish all pieces of cake were this big!

The dark brown and pink contrast as well as the chocolate and raspberry flavors. How's that for artsiness?

This decadent, delicious cake really is like a truffle in cake form. I was especially proud of the way this dessert turned out – it’s probably the most even-looking, cake-shop-window-worthy (hopefully!) cake I’ve ever made! AND it didn’t even slide apart once it was finished! YAY! Anyway, the cake was comprised of moist layers of chocolate cake sandwiched between a rich ganache and raspberry whipped cream. Yum. Check it out here – it’s definitely worthy of a special occasion, but just give yourself enough time to work ahead. You’ll be aptly rewarded for your patience.

So, the next question is, what DO you do when life gives you desserts? Why, make more dessert of course! The truffle cake recipe only called for three out of the four layers that you end up with, so the fourth cake layer went to this:

Chocolate cake parfaits with raspberry whipped cream. Like a little cake in a glass. Although I think the whipped-cream-to-cake ratio may have been a little skewed. Delicious nonetheless. And in fact, not all of the leftover cake went into this. Half of it currently lives in my freezer, waiting to be turned into – you guessed it – more dessert.

So that’s how it’s done, folks. You apparently can never have too much dessert. Or maybe it’s just me who can never have too much dessert. In any case, stay tuned for this weekend’s creation. Here’s a hint: there will be more dessert(s).

Bananas over birthdays!

This weekend my family celebrated some very special birthdays. My youngest nephew Kacio turned a year old (yay, happy birthday!) and my dear mother turned, um, 35 maybe? Something like that.

Anyway, we had a wonderful family dinner with TWO birthday cakes and lots of eating and talking and fun. Here’s Kacio with his delicious, chocolatey birthday cake made by his mama:

Happy birthday Kacio!

Yum!

When I asked my mom what kind of cake to make for her birthday, she requested no chocolate (what?!) and no citrusy flavors. Maybe she was afraid of the crazy cakes I’ve made before, ha. But this actually made things super difficult! As I looked through my amazing cookbook, I kept going, “Ooh! That looks good! Oh wait, chocolate. Ooh, how about thi-, no, chocolate. Hmm.” Finally, though, I found one of the most unique cakes I’d ever seen.

You see, most of the time when I think of layer cakes, I think of the basics – cakes that taste like vanilla, chocolate, some kind of nuts maybe, with pretty straightforward fillings and frostings. So the cake that I ended up picking was something completely different. I give you:

Banana Layer Cake with Caramel Cream and Sea-Salt Roasted Pecans.

Awwww yeaaaaah. I just thought it sounded so unique! It’s like bananas foster, elevated to cake status! I got to use some new techniques and new equipment (yay for candy thermometers!) for this cake, too, so that’s always good for my baking-education purposes. I will say this, though, if ever you make a cake whose filling is essentially whipped-cream-based, please, for goodness’ sake, assemble it on-site or make sure to chill it for several hours before you take it anywhere. Otherwise you end up with this:

A delicious avalanche.

Sad. Still tasted great!

So if you’re looking for something completely different, I suggest you check out this cake some time. I’m not even usually a fan of banana-flavored things, but honestly, this cake was fantastic. The sweetness of the bananas mixed with the saltiness and crunchiness of the pecans? Delish. Here’s the rest of the pictures to get you salivating… and baking! Seriously, try it!

Close-up of those home-roasted pecans. These are worth making by themselves.

Four layers!

That’s it for this weekend. Have a wonderful week!

Zut alors!

There comes a point in every baker’s life where you just have to cover up a mistake you made. This has, of course, never happened to me before. Ahem.

I was all kinds of excited about this weekend’s dessert because I felt like I was so clever in choosing it. You see, my beloved husband asked me to buy him a large amount of apples for our recent Halloween get-together so we could bob for apples. So I happily grabbed a five-pound bag and brought it home the day before the party. Where it sat for the next week, unopened.

Sssoooo, I needed to find a use for five pounds of red delicious apples. Lo and behold, my monster of a cookbook did not disappoint, and I found a recipe for Tarte Tatin, which is apparently a fairly common French pastry. I already had all the ingredients on hand, and I was going to get to try some new techniques.

This pastry is unique in that you cook the apples in a simple caramel sauce, first on the stovetop, and then in the same pan, covered with a delicious crust, in the oven. When the tart is finished, the whole thing gets flipped upside down and you have beautiful caramel-y apples atop a gorgeous crust.

That is, if you don’t burn your caramel and apples first.

*Sigh*

Long story short, due to rushing around and trying to do too many things at once, I let my beautiful caramel apples cook just a touch too long on the stovetop. James came into the kitchen and wondered why there was steam coming out of our hot water kettle until he realized it was actually smoke coming from our cast iron skillet on the stove. Some quick thinking and salvaging of unruined apples later, we had a makeshift, semi-Tarte-Tatin baking in a pie dish in the oven, at least covered with that delicious crust.

And you know what? It actually wasn’t too bad. We took the tart to a family gathering where they all commented on its deliciousness. I either have a really awesome family who loves me and wanted to make me feel better or the tart was actually edible. Probably both. I’d say the biggest problem ended up being the tart’s diminished size, so it’s a good thing we’d thought ahead and brought some homemade oatmeal cookies since it was supposed to be a fairly sizable gathering.

All in all, everything turned out well. You might even consider my adventure totally appropriate, considering the origins of the Tarte Tatin.

And now, the incriminating evidence:

Prior to flipping.

Action shot!

All flipped over and ready to go.

Apples ready for their close-up.

Served with fresh cinnamon whipped cream.

The always-dependable oatmeal cookie.

A very similar Tarte Tatin recipe can be found here (just add in some cinnamon to the crust!), and as for the surprisingly amazing whipped cream, just add two tablespoons sugar and a quarter teaspoon cinnamon to a cup of whipping cream before you start beating it. I would imagine it would be a wonderful addition to holiday baking!

And, because we can hardly let a dessert post go by without some painfully adorable pictures of my own sweetums, prepare to be pained:

Mama, I disapprove of your mistakes.

Sometimes your desserts taste funny.

But it's ok because I'm flying!

Until next time!

Welcome to fall-y baking!

Alrighty friends, here we go. Dessert time!

There has been a recipe from my massive cookbook that’s been on mine and James’s must-bake list for a while now. It’s kind of a fall-y recipe, however, so I never felt like it would really fit in with 110-degree weather and whatnot. But NOW, NOW that we’re enjoying luxurious 90-degree weather in mid-October, well, the time seemed absolutely right for a fall-y cake.

Right.

In any case, this weekend’s delicious cake has got to be one of the most creative layer cakes I’ve seen in a while. It features orange cake layers (with double orange flavor – both orange peel and orange extract, which I’d never used before. Yay for new ingredients!), cranberry glaze, and brown-sugar frosting. So. Good. And so unique!

This cake would be really great for holiday baking as the flavors are very reminiscent of fall (got that yet? It’s a fall-y cake.), Thanksgiving, and Christmas. You just can’t beat the combination of orange and cranberry for the holidays, and the brown sugar is a great bonus.

See here for some inspirational photos:

Fall-y.

Actually turned out pretty good!

Making the sides purposefully not smooth makes icing so much easier!

I was really nervous about the piping, as I've probably only used an icing tip a handful of times.

The colors, the colors!

Here's a slice picture.

Babies don't eat cake, silly.

Maciek checking out my handiwork.

Sorry about the questionable quality of the last two photos. They were taken on the fly since we actually took this cake to a party of good friends of ours, and couldn’t take slice pictures before we left. When we got there, we got the amazing honor of having our cake used as the host’s birthday cake! Wow!

Happy birthday Kraft!

See? Candle. Proof that it was used as a birthday cake.

And that’s this week’s dessert! To make sure I don’t infringe on any copyrights, I’ll try to send you to online versions of recipes I find in books, so you can check out this gorgeous cake here.

Happy baking!

Oh, sheet cake!

Alrighty everyone, sorry for the delay, but I give you last weekend’s dessert:

Texas Sheet Cake, in honor of the Texas-Oklahoma game (but let’s not talk about that).

According to the cookbook, no one really knows why this cake is associated with Texas. It is topped with pecans, which are pretty Texas-y I suppose, but the cookbook also suggests using different toppings; so much for the pecans “Texas-ifying” this cake.

In any case, this was a super-easy, simple, quick, delicious cake (I sense a pattern with my baking – I’m either making something overly complicated or ridiculously easy. I like it.). In fact, I started it at half-time and we were eating it by the time the game was over. Not bad for a whole cake.

The cake was a simple chocolate-cake batter topped with toasted pecans and a chocolate glaze. I forgot to take pictures of the whole cake since we dug into it pretty quickly, but here’s a slice accompanied by a glass of cold milk:

Nothing like chocolate and milk.

All forked up and ready to go!

I'm ready for my close-up.

Chocolate-y.

Yum. Because this cake is so simple, I imagine that variations of the basic recipe would be pretty easy and interesting, beyond just using different toppings.

That’s it for this week’s dessert. But I have a question for all of you – would including recipes for the weekly desserts be of use to anyone? I thought I’d run that idea by you to see what you thought. ‘Til next time!

Good News, Bad News

Which one would you like to hear first? I always prefer bad news first to get it over with, so here we go:

I am not crazy or spontaneous.

Sad, yes? My awesome crazy mission of last week did not succeed. But on the bright side, it’s not because I failed, it’s because I didn’t even try! That’s good… right? Anyway, just to not be mean, I’ll tell you what I was supposed to have done and why I didn’t do it.

Last week two Starbucks (Starbuckses?) opened in Austin. Both of these were offering FREE DRINKS FOR A YEAR to the first 100 customers at their grand openings. Can you imagine what this would have meant for someone like me? 52 x the-cost-of-a-grande-drink dollars, that’s what. The crazy part was that the Starbucks closer to me was opening at 5 AM and I was going to be all hard-core and show up at 4 and get those darned free drinks, thank you.

The night before, however, I found out that the free drinks were only valid at that particular Starbucks. SADNESS. I quickly realized that a round trip out to this Starbucks (about 14 miles away) would cost me about the price of a grande drink in gas. Ssssoooo. That plus the fact that I would have needed to get up at 3 AM made me decide that I wanted to do something crazy, not insane, so I very unspontaneously climbed into bed and forgot the whole thing.

And now, the good news.

It’s time for another dessert!

This weekend I tried my hand at my first cheesecake since I started this blog. I gave my beloved hubs the chance to pick this week’s dessert, and he picked a delicious crème fraĂ®che cheesecake with honey-rum-roasted pineapple. Um. Yum?

Quick fact: crème fraĂ®che is akin to sour cream, but a little smoother and sweeter. It’s still got a tang, though, so it added both some nice smoothness and lightness to the cheesecake.

I also got to use a vanilla bean for the first time ever in this dessert, so I was very excited about that. Until I found out that ONE vanilla bean costs nine dollars at our local grocery store! I seriously thought I read that price tag wrong, but no no, nine dollars it was. I went ahead and bit the bullet anyway because I really wanted to use that vanilla bean to get the experience and to do the cheesecake right. But I definitely sneaked off to Amazon right after I got home from the grocery store and found out that vanilla beans cost $0.50-$1 per bean there, depending on how many you buy. So let’s all definitely keep that in mind for any future culinary exploits.

(P.S. About the vanilla bean – actually really easy to use! And you can keep the bean once you’ve scraped the seeds out to make vanilla sugar! I’m most definitely looking forward to that.)

And now, without further ado, I give you cheesecake:

Cheesecake!

The cheesecake in all its glory.

Would you care for a slice?

A be-pineappled slice of cheesecake.

Yum.

See the vanilla bean seeds?