Thursday, March 31, 2011

Hannah's 9th Birthday Cake

Hannah is the eldest daughter of some friends of mine and Brian's from church. For her 9th birthday I was able to make her cake, and I was told that she loves pink. Recent inspiration came from a photo I saw of three dark brown colored cakes with bright flowers on top. They were gorgeous, and to me pink and brown is a perfect combination.

The cake was a white cake filled with chocolate mousse and covered in chocolate ganache- yum! The lilies were made out of royal icing. I also dyed the cake layers two different shades of pink and swirled them together, it baked up perfectly.

White cake dyed pink after baking.
Leveled cake layer.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Apple Streusel Cupcakes with Maple Glaze

My brother-in-law Nick turned 30 this past weekend. We had a fun time with friends at dinner and laser tag,  concluding the evening with these delicious cupcakes.

I know these aren't typical cupcakes for a birthday party, but my brother-in-law, being from the Netherlands, has a more refined palette when it comes to desserts. While he enjoys birthday cake with sprinkles and butter cream frosting, he really loves desserts like tiramisu and Dutch apple cream cake (I'm still unsure of what that is). For such a memorable birthday, my sister-in-law and I baked these cupcakes up and they were a huge hit with the birthday guy and all of our friends. This recipe is extremely simple, but delicious, making it the perfect go-to cupcake recipe for any occasion.

Apple Streusel Cupcakes with Maple Glaze
Makes about 2 dozen cupcakes

• 1 box of Duncan Hines cake mix- french vanilla flavor
• 1 1/3 cups water
• 1/3 cup vegetable oil
• 3 eggs
• 21 ounce can apple pie filling
• 5 tablespoons butter
• 1/3 cup light brown sugar
• 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
• 1/3 cup oats
• 1 teaspoon cinnamon
• 1/4 cup pure maple syrup
• 1 teaspoon heavy cream, if needed
• 1 cup confectioners sugar

Apple Streusel cupakes baked in Tulip Cups.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees
1. Prepare cake mix as directed by beating the eggs, oil, and water, and mixing with the cake mix.
2. Cut the apple slices in the apple pie willing into small 1/2 inch chunks.
3. Stir all of the apple pie filling into the cake batter.
4. Fill 24 cupcake liners with cupcake batter.
5. Make the streusel topping by combining 3 tablespoons of the butter with the brown sugar, oats, cinnamon, and flour. Use a pastry blender to cut the butter into the flour mixture until it is lumpy.
6. Sprinkle the streusel topping over each cupcake by the spoonful.
7. Bake cupcakes 18-20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted removes cleanly.
6. Make the maple glaze by melting 2 tablespoons of butter with the maple syrup in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Whisk in the confectioners sugar until smooth. If glaze becomes too thick thin it out with the heavy cream. Drizzle the glaze over the cupcakes immediately.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Mini Orange Scones

Every now and then a scone is just the thing to satisfy a sweet tooth. It's not something I'd want everyday, but once in a great while a good scone will do the trick. What I dislike about traditional scones is their size. Seriously. A friend of mine who worked at a bakery and cafe brought some home from work one time and shared. It was an orange scone, and I thoroughly enjoyed the first few bites. However, this thing was the size of a baseball. It was shocking. Maybe it's just me, but I would much rather prefer to enjoy bite size sweets and finish them one at a time when I want them than have one giant sweet that I will finish over time, or not finish at all.

So one day I was doing housework (vacuuming to be exact) and I was thinking about how it's not that wild of an idea to make mini scones. Now this was before Starbuck's had their bite-sized Vanilla Bean scones all over the place. All the recipes and scones I had seen before then were rather large. As I continued vacuuming I was formulating a scone recipe in my mind for Mini Orange Scones (Please tell me I'm not the only one who writes recipes in her head while doing everyday things like cleaning, driving, or trying to fall asleep). Later that week when I tested it out, I was pretty happy with the result.

These scones are the perfect balance of sweetness, orange flavor, and flakiness. The orange icing on top is super fresh tasting, not overly sugary. The recipe uses only fresh squeezed orange juice and zest for flavoring, no extracts, gooey jams, or sugar filled juices, so it has the lightest and freshest orange flavor. In my opinion, however, the best part is that they can be eaten in only two bites! So enjoy as many or as little as you like!

Mini Orange Scones
Makes 30 mini scones

• 1 cup All-Purpose flour
• 1/4 cup granulated sugar
• 1 teaspoon baking powder
• pinch of Kosher salt
• 3 tablespoons very cold unsalted butter
• 2 tablespoons room temperature butter
• 1/2 cup very cold heavy cream
• 1 large orange
• 1 cup confectioners sugar
• 1 tablespoon light corn syrup

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
1. Combine the flour,granulated sugar, baking powder, salt, 3 tablespoons butter cut into small 1/2 inch squares, and zest of half the orange in a food processor and pulse until mixture is grainy and slightly sticky tot he touch.
2. Transfer the flour mixture to a bowl add heavy cream. Using a rubber spatula, form dough into a ball. Try not to touch the dough as much as possible because the heat from your hands will bring down the temperature or the dough. The colder the dough, the flakier your scones will be. =)
3. Roll out dough on a floured surface to 1/2 inch thickness. Using a knife, cut out 1 inch triangles.
4. Bake the scones on a parchment paper lined baking sheet for 7-9 minutes, or until very lightly golden brown. Cool completely on a wire rack.
5. To make the icing, juice half of the orange and mix the juice with the confectioners sugar, room temperature butter, corn syrup, and orange zest to your preference. Mix all of these ingredients together until smooth.
6. After scones are cooled, place the wire rack over a cookie sheet. Spoon one generous spoonful of icing over each scone. Allow the scones to set for 30 minutes before serving.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Carrot Cake

My family loves the carrot cake from the restaurant J.Alexanders.

It's seriously the bomb.

My husband and I have talked about what foods and places we'd pick to talk about if we were Food Network stars appearing on the show "The Best Thing I Ever Ate". (It's okay. I know that's kind of nerdy...) Well J.Alexanders's carrot cake is by far the BEST carrot cake we've ever eaten. Ever. One slice is huge- like the size of a brick. It's so moist and dense filled with walnuts, coconut, raisins, spices, and of course carrots. It's served warm and has this thick cream cheese glaze over the top.

All that to say, this weekend I did some research into carrot cakes. What are ways to make them moist, what are common ingredients, and how to make the best cream cheese icing. On Sunday afternoon my husband Brian, my sister-in-law Sarah, and I threw on our aprons and baked a carrot cake inspired by the epitome of all carrot cakes from J.Alexanders. I mean, it was kind of a daunting task. Our carrot cake luckily turned out to be amazing. While it's not exactly the same as J.Alexanders, we think it's a pretty close second.

Our carrot cake is full of plump golden raisins, toasty walnuts, sweet carrots, coconut, and pineapple, and flavored with cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger. After it is baked, it is brushed with an orange-clove infused simple syrup for extra moistness. To finish it off, each slice is given a generous dollop of cream cheese icing that just melts over the top when the cake is hot. I hope you and your family enjoy.

The Brown Family Carrot Cake
Makes 2 8x8x2 inch cake layers
Serves 18

  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 1/2 cup golden raisins
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking poowder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 cup oil
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts, lightly toasted
  • 1 cup shredded coconut
  • 1/2 cup crushed pineapple, drained
  • 2 1/2 cups grated carrot
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
1. Allow the golden raisins to soak in the boiling water for about 20 minutes.
2. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger.
3.  Using a mixer, mix together the eggs, granulated sugar, and brown sugar for about 2-3 minutes. Add vanilla extract. While mixing, slowly stream in the oil until well combined.  Add the flour and spice mixture in 3 batches, making sure not to over mix. Over mixing the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients will cause the cake to become tough.
4. Gently fold in each of the remaining ingredients using a rubber spatula- walnuts, coconut, pineapple, carrot, and the drained golden raisins which will now be very plump.
5. Divide the batter between two 8x8x2 inch cake pans and bake for 25-30 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.
6. Immediately after the cake is done, poke several holes in the top using a toothpick.  Use a pastry brush to liberally brush the orange-clove simple syrup (directions below) over the top of the hot cakes.
7. Cut each cake into about 9 pieces and top each with the cream cheese icing (directions below) just before serving.

Simple Syrup:
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 4 inch peel of orange
  • 4 whole cloves
1. Using a vegetable peeler, peel of a 4 inch strip of the zest of an orange. Poke 4 holes in the strip using a toothpick and stick 1 clove in each hole.
2. Bring the sugar and water to a boil in a small saucepan. The mixture should be clear.
3. Remove the simple syrup from the heat and drop the orange zest strip in the syrup. Allow the mixture to cool while the orange and clove infuse the syrup. Remove the zest strips before use.

Cream Cheese Icing:
  • 1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 5 tablespoons milk
  • 2 t. vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 2 cups confectioners sugar

1. Using a mixer, mix the butter and cream cheese until smooth. Add the milk and vanilla extract and once again mix until smooth. Add the lemon zest.
2. Mix the sugar into the cream cheese mixture in 3 small batches until smooth and creamy.
3. Keep refrigerated when not in use.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Cupcakes for a Lingerie Shower

Eyelet detail, ribbon cupcake, & pillow top cupcake

 To celebrate one of my good friend's upcoming marriage, I made these cupcakes decorated with homemade marshmallow fondant. The fondant decorations were inspired by silky, lacy, white bridal lingerie. Whether I 100% achieved this look or not they were most definitely a huge success at the party. Slightly more importantly than the way they were decorated was the taste. I made 3 dozen total, each dozen being different.

Lemon and yogurt cupcakes with vanilla bean butter cream

Lemon blueberry and yogurt cupcakes with vanilla bean butter cream

Almond cupcakes with amaretto butter cream filling and vanilla bean butter cream on top

I used 2.5 ounces of plain Greek yogurt in each batch of the yogurt cupcakes. The cake was incredibly moist, even after 3 days! However, since it was so moist the cupcakes sunk in a little bit after cooling. In this case it worked to my advantage because I need flat tops for my decorations. I was able to even out the indent with some butter cream, and that way each cupcake not only had the fanciful fondant top, but underneath that was about a teaspoon of real butter cream frosting. Many of the guests loved that part. =) Flavored with fresh lemon zest and plump blueberries, these cupcakes were most definitely delicious.

Variations of the ribbon cupcake

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Just the Beginning...

So first off, by popular demand, this is it- my food blog for all things cake, cookies, and pastry.

I've never done this before, but my facebook page (and my friends' facebook newsfeed) is FULL of my photos of cake and chocolate and cupcakes and more cake. Not that this is bad, but I received a lot of response from friends about it! Therefore, I suppose it is time that all of my sweet confections wind up in one specific place instead of just being added to the growing number of albums on my facebook page (which probably won't change friends). I'm hoping to get photos of all my past creations up, and then work on my new future baking endeavors.

I hope in the end it's all worthwhile. I am by no means the best baker or cake decorator and am always learning and trying new things, which I enjoy. It's a hobby I love to share and bless others with. I also hope all my foodie friends and fellow baking enthusiasts find some inspiration here- I know I always do when reading food blogs. =)