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January 29, 2013

Rich Chocolate Cupcakes (or Cake)




I’ve made a lot of chocolate cakes and I’ve used quite a few great chocolate cake recipes! 

At first I used the chocolate version of my Easy Pound Cake almost exclusively.  From there, I made a dairy-free version

Then, after realizing that my absolute favorite white cake was White Almond Sour Cream Cake, I decided to try a Sour Cream Chocolate cake.  It was delicious, but not quite there.

Finally, with a bit of tweaking, I found the perfect chocolate cake recipe!  This chocolate cake is rich, moist, and decadent and receives rave reviews every time it is tasted!

The search is over – this is the best chocolate cake you’ll ever make!


Recipe Notes:
*Don’t be afraid of the espresso powder, you won’t taste it!  The espresso powder simply enhances the flavor and decadence of the chocolate.


January 25, 2013

Harry Potter Butterbeer Cake



What a whirlwind start to the year!

I know it’s nothing new, but the years really do seem to go by more quickly as we get older.  It is because were older and wiser?  Because we’re busier?  Because we see our babies grow and we just want time to slow down a bit?  I just don’t know.

But what I do know is that when I get stressed, I tend to shut down, take a day off, and read, read, read!  One of my favorites is The Harry Potter series.  In fact, I just finished reading them all again for the umpteenth time and again I was enthralled by Harry and his quest.  And again I was so sad when the final book ended.  It’s like saying goodbye to a good friend.  I miss Harry when I finish reading his stories, I almost want to go straight back to book 1 and start all over again immediately.


While I was still in the process of reading the stories this last time, one of my friends asked that I create a Harry Potter themed cake for her son’s 5th birthday.  Being the Harry Potter fanatic that I am, I decided to go all out with a carved book cake, complete with a Gryffindor book mark with mini Hedwig, glasses, a wand, and of course the golden snitch.


I also created a butterbeer cake and butterbeer buttercream for the occasion, because Harry Potter cannot have boring cake.  The Butterbeer cake is not simply a butterscotch cake, but instead a combination of butterscotch, brown sugar, cream soda, and butter flavor to make up a completely unique flavor that can only be described as butterbeer.

All in all it is a delightful cake that will make you feel like you’re sitting in Leaky Caldron awaiting your book list via owl post.

January 22, 2013

Boy's Baptism Cake



This Baptism cake and recipe originally appeared on my first blog, Amy's Cooking Adventures, in September 2010.



This cake was from my younger son's (now 2 1/2) baptism.  The cake was two-tiered.  The top layer was white cake and the bottom was chocolate using the recipe below.  

Both layers were covered with almond flavored buttercream frosting and marshmallow fondant (a recipe and a half in this case).  To make a cake that could stand up to stacking, I modified a boxed cake mix to make a denser, but still moist, cake. 

The inscription (Wilton Tip #2) and boarders (Wilton Tip #12) were piped with buttercream.  The rest of the details were cut out of tinted fondant.   

January 18, 2013

Hockey Cakes


The local college hockey team is very popular in my area.  So popular in fact, that I had two UND Hockey cakes ordered for 4 year old boys within a month of each other!

Though the premise of the cakes were basically the same, I used a different technique on each cake. 

Both cakes were given a nice layer of buttercream and then topped with MM fondant to start.

The details on this first cake were painted on.  To paint the details, a little bit of gel food coloring was watered down slightly and painted on with a paintbrush (be sure to designate “food only” paintbrushes and keep them away from your kids!)


I love painting details, because the colors are very nice and vibrant.  The drawback of painting is the possibility of the colors bleeding, especially if the food coloring is too thin.


For the second cake, I use a similar style, but used edible food markers instead of paint.  The lines are much more concise, but the color isn’t as vibrant and sometimes fades, especially if there are inconsistencies in the fondant.

All in all, as practice more and more, I am finding that I typically prefer painting small details. 

What is your favorite way to add small details to cakes?
  

January 15, 2013

Basic Buttercream Frosting



Since we’ve been talking Fondant and How to Use it, I thought it important that I also address Buttercream.  With every fondant cake, I use a layer of buttercream.  I sometimes also make buttercream only cakes, but my buttercream smoothing skills still need a bit of work, so I tend to shy away from those.

But either way, buttercream is a necessity.  The term buttercream immediately makes one think butter, it is in the title after all.  But let me tell you a little secret (my buttercream doesn’t use butter).  Nope, my favorite is a Crisco (solid vegetable shortening) based frosting.

I do this for several reasons. 1. I prefer the texture of the Crisco based frosting, 2. I prefer the taste of the Crisco based frosting (butter based frostings taste like I’m eating a stick of butter, but that’s just me), and last and most important, 3. the Crisco based frosting produces a whiter, more pure frosting that takes to coloring better.

January 11, 2013

DIY Marshmallow Fondant: Part II

This post originally appeared on my first blog, Amy's Cooking Adventures, in May of 2012.

To see the first part of this series (DIY MM Fondant), click here.


Decorating with Marshmallow Fondant

If you missed the tutorial on how to make MM fondant, check it out here.


Now that the fondant is all colored and ready to go, we need a cake.   This amount of fondant will easily cover an 8, 9, or 10 inch cake with some to spare.  If you are covering a tiered cake (let’s say an 8-inch and a 6-inch cake) you will likely need an additional half batch of fondant.  

Today I’m decorating an 8-inch square cake.


First of all, cover your cake with buttercream, at least 1/8 inch thick (ignore all the crumbs on my cake – it was a new recipe that turned out to be rather crumbly – good thing I was planning on covering it with fondant!)

Now it is time to measure your cake.  Even if you know your pan sizes (my cake is two 8x1.5 inch square layers stacked on top of one another), always measure with a ruler to verify (my ruler is pretty snazzy, eh?). 


In this case, my cake is 3 inches tall by 8 inches wide.  Now it is simple mathematics.  Always (for square or round cakes) take your width and add the height twice (or W + 2H).  For my cake this looks like: 8 + 3 + 3 = 14. 

Therefore, when I am rolling out my fondant, I need it to be at least 14x14 inches (I roll out a large circle regardless of the shape of my cake.  And it is not usually perfectly circular, more nodular).  I usually add an additional inch or two, just to be on the safe side.  For this cake, I actually rolled out a 16x16 inch circle, about 1/8 inch thick.


I always roll out my fondant on a thin fondant rolling mat that has been very lightly dusted with corn starch.  It is marked with sizes and is flexible enough to be flipped directly onto the cake and peeled off. 


If you do not have a mat that can be used for this purpose, dust the surface of the fondant with corn starch and gently roll the fondant onto a rolling pin, carefully unrolling the fondant onto the cake.  Also use this second method if you need to roll the fondant larger than your rolling mat. 

If you notice any air bubbles as you roll, insert a toothpick into the bubble and press down on the bubble to release all the air.  Continue rolling as usual.

Using the palms of your hands or a fondant smoother, gently smooth the fondant over the top of the cake, starting at the center and moving to the edges.

Then move to the sides.  Smooth the fondant along the sides of the cake, taking care that the fondant is flush against the cake, especially near the bottom.  


At times, the fondant may wrinkle (this will specifically happen at the corners on a square cake, but will occur on round cakes as well).
 

To remove the wrinkle, gently pull and stretch the fondant to cover the area and smooth down.





Use a sharp knife or pizza cutter dusted in corn starch to cut away the excess fondant.  Smooth down the sides with a fondant smoother.


Now the cake is covered!  


Add any details and borders using fondant or buttercream.


Check out these other cakes that were decorated with Marshmallow Fondant:
-Wall-e Cake
-Zebra Stripe Wedding Cake
-Xylosaurus Cake
-Beautiful Bow Cake
-Modern Circle Cake
-Pretty in Pink Cake


January 9, 2013

DIY Marshmallow Fondant (MM Fondant): Part I

This recipe originally appeared on on first blog, Amy's Cooking Adventures, in April 2012.  I almost always use MM Fondant when decorating cakes!  Don't miss MM Fondant: Part II here!

When I decorate cakes for events, I usually use Marshmallow Fondant.  I use MM Fondant because it has the same smooth finish as traditional fondant but it tastes much better and is very inexpensive!

If you’ve never made or used fondant, it can be a little tricky, so I’m sharing a two-part tutorial on how to make MM fondant and then how to decorate with it.

Today I’ll share how to make the fondant and next week will be how to use it.  Enjoy!


Recipe Notes:
*You’ll notice I’ve put some brand names in the ingredient list.  Based on experience, I suggest dishing out the extra dollars for high quality ingredients.
*If your fondant has little lumps of powdered sugar, try letting the fondant rest overnight.  Most of the lumps should dissolve.  If the problem persists, try switching powdered sugar brands in the future or pre-sifting the sugar.


Marshmallow Fondant 

Ingredients:
16 oz Jet Puffed Marshmallows
32 oz (2lbs) powdered sugar
2 tbsp water
Crisco Vegetable Shortening

January 5, 2013

MN Vikings Cake

This post originally appeared on my first blog, Amy's Cooking Adventures in November 2012.  I'm reposting today since the Vikes are playing (even though I'm a Packer's fan at heart).  I plan to make & share a Packer's cake soon!



This week’s installment of 12 week’s of Christmas Treat is delayed until Monday.  Because Monday is SRC reveal day and I have a wonderful recipe picked out for you from my SRC blog!  It’s something delicious and decadent and I can just imagine putting the children down for bed on Christmas Eve and diving in to this beautiful dessert.  It also fulfills one of my 30x30 recipes.  Have you guessed it?  You’ll have to wait to find out until Monday to find out!


In the meantime, since we are in the middle of football season, I thought I’d share a cake I made for my neighbor a few weeks ago.  


Her son is a huge Vikings fan and specially requested a Vikings cake for his birthday!  And even though I come from a family of Packer fans, I was more than happy to oblige!



You'll have to forgive my lighting.  The cake really was Viking Purple, my camera just decided to pick out all the blue!



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