Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Barfomatic Express

You read that title right.

The Barfomatic Express.

This "recipe" goes back to when I was six years old, and my Aunt Ginna was visiting from California. She recently uncovered the original "recipe," and I found the pictures. This is the first documented baking adventure of my life, so it's very special, albeit terribly horrifying. I remember we put the final "product" outside, and even the squirrels wouldn't eat it. YIKES!

Hopefully this goes without saying, but do not, I repeat DO NOT ever make this. I'm posting the "recipe" as an homage to the past, not as an endorsement to actually make it.

Without further ado, I present to you, The Barfomatic Express:

Olive Oil
Apple Cinnamon Cheerios
Chocolate Sauce
Strawberry Yogurt
Lots of Water
Powdered Sugar (for the top)
And, most importantly: Gatorade.

Here are a couple pictures of Little Kelly :)
That's the actual Barfomatic Express cake on the right!

You can tell I was just so terribly shy (HA!)

You can find my Aunt Ginna's website with actual recipes here: Honey Baby Darlin'

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Wilton Cake Decorating

After months of trying, today I finally successfully signed up for Wilton's first course- basic decorating. I've been trying to teach myself the lessons all summer, but I figured it would be nice to get some advice and training from a pro :) I start September 1st! I'll be sure to share all my pictures and projects with you!

This is my last week at home, and I've moved most of my baking stuff in to my new apartment, so I won't be posting much, if at all, this week. But I shall return soon!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

THE Cake

This is It. The Big One. The Project I've been gearing up for all summer.

July 27th, I was scheduled to make a cake for my dad's best friend's birthday. I decided a couple weeks in advance to combine two concepts I'd seen on Sweetapolita- the ruffle cake, and the neapolitan cake. To do this, I had to: 1) Master Swiss Meringue Buttercream, 2) Learn how to make those ruffles, and 3) Practice ahead of time.

I learned a LOT of lessons in this process, which we will get to eventually :)

First up, I tried making the cupcake version of this cake, so I could get comfortable with the cake recipe, and, most importantly, get some practice in at making swiss meringue buttercream (SMBC). I had made it once before, but this cake was really important, and I wanted to make sure I did it right. For an excellent tutorial on how to make SMBC, you can visit two of my favorite sites: Sweetapolita or Whisk Kid.

I'm not even going to go into full details about making these cupcakes. It was nothing short of a disaster. Seriously, I don't remember the last time I failed so horribly. The SMBC turned out great, but when I tried to add the strawberry puree to make the strawberry SMBC, it turned into a horrible, icky, gooey, curdle-y mess. I'm not entirely sure what went wrong, but immediately after I went out and bought some Strawberry Essence. Fortunately for me, there's a gourmet food supply shop in Old Town Alexandria, La Cuisine. The Strawberry Essence was pretty pricey, at $12 for 2 oz, but it was worth every penny.

Lesson #1: Buying the better, more expensive ingredient is almost always the best move for a serious baker. 

Another thing that went wrong was the cupcakes were too short- I think if I make these again, I'll make fewer cupcakes so they can be taller. Eventually, I just took the strawberry disaster and filled the chocolate cupcakes with it (it still tasted good even though it looked dreadful), and I piped the SMBC on top.

Now, on to the main event!
I used the following recipes & techniques & ideas for this creation.

Southern Devil's Food Cake
Courtesy of Sweetapolita
Yield: One 3-layer 8" round cake
Unsalted butter- 3/4 c, softened
Dark brown sugar- 2 c
Vanilla extract- 2 tsp
Eggs- 3, large, at room temperature
Flour- 1 3/4 c
Unsweetened Dutch-processed cocoa powder- 3/4 c
Baking soda- 1 1/4 tsp
Baking powder- 1 tsp
Kosher salt- 1 tsp
Buttermilk- 1 1/2 c, at room temp
Mayonnaise- 1/4 c

1. In a stand mixer, beat the butter, brown sugar, and vanilla on medium-high (6) speed until it is slightly increased in volume and lighter in color, about 3-5 minutes.
2. Lower the speed to a medium speed (4), and add the eggs one at a time.
3. In a separate bowl, sift the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and baking powder. After sifting, add salt. Alternate dry ingredients and buttermilk into creamed mixture. Mix until just incorporated (do not overbeat).
4. Fold mayonnaise into batter, and whisk until just blended.
5. Prepare the cake pans, either with butter & flour or with Baker's Joy (a spray that combines both).
6. Bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees F. (Rotate pans after 20 minutes)

It's time for another lesson! Here's what happened..
When I was done preparing the batter, I decided to use only 2 of the cake pans, and to save the extra batter- I had just purchased two mini (4") cake pans, and I wanted to try making mini cakes, so my family and I could enjoy them; they also served as the guinea pigs for my ruffling practice. My plan was to slice the 2 big cake layers in half, so I would have a four layer cake. This had worked with the recipe I used for my mom's birthday cake, so I figured this wouldn't be a problem!


When I tried to slice the layers in half... disaster struck. I don't know if there's anything worse for a baker than to have completed a cake only to have it BREAK IN HALF after baking. That's right. The layers broke in half. Some of it crumbled. Sheer horror.
Two lessons learned:

Lesson #2: DO NOT slice layers in half unless the recipe EXPLICITLY tells you it's okay. You know what they say about assumptions....

Lesson #3: Never panic! There is almost always a way to correct a mistake. 

Somehow I managed to keep a level head, and it all turned out okay in the end. How? Frosting.

Let me explain...

Frosting, especially SMBC, works perfectly as a glue to hold a bunch of crumbly pieces and layers cut in half together.
Which leads me to....

Swiss Meringue Buttercream
Courtesy of Sweetapolita
Yield: 15 cups of SMBC
A note about this recipe:
This recipe makes A LOT of SMBC. It was more than enough to frost and decorate the entire 4-layer cake, as well as the two baby cakes. Rosie, of Sweetapolita, has another version of SMBC that only makes 5 cups, and it would be just as easy to adjust the ingredients to make 10 cups.

Lesson #4: It's always better to make too much frosting. You never want to have a shortage.

Egg whites- 16 large (450g, or 2 cups) ~ It's fine to use egg whites in a carton for this
Sugar- 4 c
Unsalted butter- 5 c (10 sticks), softened but cool, cut into cubes
Vanilla extract- 2 tbsp
Salt- 1/4 tsp

For strawberry SMBC:
Strawberry essence- to taste
Pink food gel (I used AmeriColor Soft Pink)

1. Wipe down ALL of your tools (mixing bowl, whisk attachment, small bowl, and whisk) with a paper towel and lemon juice to remove any possible trace of grease.
2. In the mixing bowl, add egg whites and sugar. Place bowl over a simmering (not boiling) pot of water, and whisk constantly but gently, until temperature reaches 140 degrees F, or, if you don't have a candy thermometer, until the sugar is completely dissolved and the egg whites are hot (feel a drop in between your fingers to make sure no sugar granules remain).
3. Take off the stove, and put bowl back in electric mixer. Using the whisk attachment, whip the mixture until it is thick, glossy, and a neutral temperature (feel the outside of the bowl to test it).
4. Switch to the paddle attachment, and, while mixing on low speed continuously, add butter one cube at a time until incorporated, and mix until it has a silky smooth texture (if it curdles, don't panic! keep beating and it will get smooth).
5. Add vanilla and salt, and mix well.

At this point, I separated the SMBC- one half I kept vanilla, and the other I put in a separate bowl.
In one bowl, add the strawberry essence, one 1/4 tsp at a time, tasting it after each addition. I think I ended up with 1 1/2 tsp, but I can't be sure. Just make sure you don't overdo it! Add a couple drops of pink food gel, so you get a nice pink color.

Assembly & Decoration of the Cake
For a tutorial on the ruffling technique, check out this video.

I decided to use the strawberry SMBC as the filling, and the vanilla SMBC as the frosting. It looked gorgeous :)

I feel like I missed a couple things, so I'll be sure to add more soon :) Here is what the inside looked like!

Even with the crumbling and splitting and chaos, it still looked okay once I put it all together. 
Not the best looking inside of a cake, but this leads me to my fifth and final lesson...

Lesson #5: Practice makes perfect.

Don't freak out if the first SMBC you make turns out to be a mess, or if your cake crumbles. 
This is baking. It's supposed to be fun! 

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

My Aunt

I just added a site to my list of faves, and I'd love for all of you to check it out :)
My aunt, Ginna BB Gordon, is an incredible cook, author, artist, and just an all-around awesome person. Her site, Honey Baby Darlin', shares the name of her most recent book, the first in a series that will chronicle her life, love, and love of cooking.

Please check it out! :)

 My aunt Ginna, Cat, and me


As promised, here are a couple pictures of my new apartment kitchen :)

Yes, I'm rocking a Cupcake Apron, Oven Mitt, and Dish Towel 

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Super Cute Cake Carrier

"Everything is better with Cake and Frosting!"

Truer words have never been spoken :)

I got this in Rehoboth Beach, DE at a super cute gift shop. Not a great picture, but I wanted you to be able to see how great the full thing is- the latches on top make it nice and secure, and the design is adorable! I paid $35 for it, only to realize later that I could have gotten it for $25 at Perpetual Kid... Oh well, totally worth it! I'm thinking of adding the even cuter cupcake tin as well!

Friday, August 12, 2011

New Apartment!

Hey everyone!
Today, I will be making the initial move into my new apartment :) I cannot wait to fill up my new kitchen! I'll be sure to take plenty of pictures and post them :)
Yayyy! :)

Thursday, August 11, 2011

My New KitchenAid!

Today, my dear readers, marked one of the most incredible days of my life.

My parents surprised me with my very own KitchenAid Stand mixer. I'd been planning on buying a pink refurbished one, but because I had an internship, I didn't exactly earn any money this summer...
So today, I'm sitting in my family room, and all of a sudden a UPS truck pulls up, and the UPS guy walks up carrying a box that says "KitchenAid Stand Mixer." And I begin to scream. And scream. And scream. And scream.

It's beautiful. It's white. It's PERFECT!!!!

Here is the picture of me in my new KitchenAid bliss.

I'm in love with my mixerrr

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Baking Therapy, Part 3

Last but not least, these are the sinfully incredible Cake Batter Blondies that I made with Cat. I cannot take credit for these, I found the recipe at a wonderful blog called Girl Meets Life. They are purposely thick and gooey- do not be surprised if the entire pan is gone within an hour. Even if you live by yourself.

Cake Batter Blondies
Original recipe: Girl Meets Life
Yellow cake mix- 1 box
Canola oil- 1/4 cup
Milk- 1/3 - 1/2 c
Rainbow Sprinkles- 1/2 c
White Chocolate Chips- 1/2 c

1. Combine cake mix, oil, and the egg.
2. Add milk very slowly (batter is supposed to be super dense).
3. Add rainbow sprinkles and white chocolate chips.
4. Bake at 350 degrees F for 30 minutes. The center will most likely be gooey, but do not put it back in the oven! Let it sit for 20 minutes, if you can muster up the willpower, and then dive on in :)

A huge thanks to Gracie at Girl Meets Life for this incredible recipe!!!

Friday, August 5, 2011

Baking Therapy, Part 2

8/16/12 update:
I decided to go back and re-photograph some of my favorite recipes. This is one of them :) What a difference a year makes.

Here is the recipe for Tres Leches Cupcakes :)

The thing about these cupcakes is, they're incredible. Moist, light, spongy, just the way I like 'em. Once they come out of the oven, you quickly poke holes in them and brush the "tres leches" (three milks) mixture and let it soak in. It can make for pretty sticky cupcakes, but trust me, they're worth it. The recipe makes WAY too much "tres leches" than is necessary- I usually only use 1/3 of it. I can try to cut the recipe in half, but then I have a bunch of leftover evaporated and condensed milk! If anyone has any ideas, please comment :)

Tres Leches Cupcakes
From Martha Stewart's Cupcakes
Yield: About 20 cupcakes OR 2 dozen mini + 1 dozen regular
Eggs {large}- 6, separated, room temp
Baking soda- 1/4 tsp
Coarse salt- 1/4 tsp
Sugar- 1 c
Butter {unsalted}- 1 stick, melted and cooled (stick in fridge for about 10 minutes)
All-purpose flour- 1 c, sifted
Evaporated milk- 1 can (12 oz)
Condensed milk- 1 can (14 oz)
Heavy cream- 3/4 c
Whipped cream (see below)
Ground cinnamon- for dusting


1. In an electric mixer (medium speed), whisk egg whites, baking soda, and salt, until soft peaks form.
2. Reduce speed to low, and add egg yolks and sugar. Whisk until completely combined.
3. Fold melted butter in with a flexible spatula. (Please make sure you have one of these. Cat's family does not own one, and I found it so disturbing I bought them one)
4. Add flour in four batches, folding until just combined after each batch is added.
5. Bake at 325 degrees F for about 25 minutes. Check on them after 20, because you DO NOT want to overcook these. I accidentally did that yesterday for one batch, and it was very, very sad.
6. While they are baking, whisk together evaporated milk, condensed milk, and heavy cream.
7. Remove from oven and immediately poke holes in tops of cupcakes with a toothpick (or a skewer). Brush the tres leches mixture over the cupcakes with a pastry brush, and allow them to absorb for at least 30 minutes.
8. Dollop or pipe whipped cream (recipe below) and sprinkle with cinnamon.
(Martha says to serve immediately, which is best, but if you have to wait an hour or two keep them refrigerated)

Whipped Cream
from Martha Stewart's Cupcakes
Heavy cream- 2 c
Powdered sugar- 1/4 c, sifted

1. Whisk heavy cream until soft peaks form.
2. Add powdered sugar, and whisk until combined.
(Can be refrigerated up to 3 hours in an airtight container)

Tres Leches Cupcakes
One with Cinnamon, the other without

I wanted you guys to be able to see the coolness of the pastry tip I used- it's a large French star opening, and I was just about to order a jumbo one from Bake It Pretty, when I discovered we had this one in the house already! Don't you just love it when that happens?

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Baking Therapy

Hey everyone!
Yesterday was a sad day, as it marked the 1 Year Anniversary of my best friend Natalie's passing. She died  August 3, 2010, after battling brain cancer for almost two years. She was 19.

Naturally, I turned to baking to help me cope. I made two desserts for a small gathering her parents held, and then I made a third with my other best friend, Cat :) It was a long day full of yumness, which was exactly what I needed. I'm posting all three recipes :).

The first is a delicious, yet incredibly simple, chocolate chip bundt cake. I found the cake recipe on Duncan Hines' website six or seven years ago, and I found the frosting recipe in a Hershey's cookbook.

Chocolate Chip Bundt Cake
from Duncan Hines' website
Yellow cake mix- 1 package
Instant chocolate pudding- 1 package (3.9 oz is fine)
Chocolate chips- 1 package
Eggs- 4
Canola oil- 1 c
Sour cream- 1 c

1. Mix cake mix, pudding, eggs, and oil.
2. Mix in sour cream.
3. Pour 1/2 batter into bundt pan (greased & floured).
4. Sprinkle 1/2 chocolate chips over batter.
5. Add remaining batter, and sprinkle remaining chips.
6. Bake 1 hr @ 325 degrees F.

One Bowl Buttercream Frosting
from Hershey's Best Cakes
Butter- 6 tbsp (softened)
Powdered sugar- 2 2/3 c
Hershey's cocoa- 1/2 c
Milk- 1/3 c (additional may be needed)
Vanilla- 1 tsp

1. Beat butter.
2. Add powdered sugar & cocoa, alternating with milk.
3. Beat to spreading consistency (if too thick, add more milk, 1 tsp at a time).
4. Blend in vanilla.
5. For extra fun, sift some powdered sugar over the frosting :)

Chocolate Chip Bundt Cake :)

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