Saturday, September 4, 2010

Cupcakes and Cookies and Gettin' My Groove Back

Man! I hit a slump there for awhile. We all hit them but man, did-i-hit-this-one-hard. I told you about the wedding cake that melted on me. Then I had this birthday cake to do for a customer's birthday. It was so beautiful in my head. It was to be peacock colors and stacked and just great. But when it got down to it and I was putting it together it just wasn't cooperating. The fondant wasn't cooperating. The cake wasn't cooperating. The cake topper I made for it wasn't cooperating. It was making me question myself in a big way. Not to make excuses for myself, but one problem is how hot and humid it's been here and it can throw everything off. PLUS (and I mean a BIG PLUS) my newly diagnosed arthritis has screwed with me a lot too.

But I think I got my groove back. I had a recipe that I wanted to play with and my mom just so happened to need something to take into work with her. A coworker of hers was celebrating five years of remission from breast cancer. YOU GO GIRL! And all the ladies in the office threw her a party and it was requested to make something with chocolate. So I tried these chocolate merlot cupcakes. I noticed that the batter was really slack and I worried about that a little bit. I continued with the cupcake plan though. I didn't have time to bake a cake, wait for it to cool and then frost it. While they were baking I made some Merlot Swiss Butercream. It took quite a bit of merlot to taste the merlot. I actually lost count of how much I put in :) oops. But once you could taste it, it was quite good. It would have been better with chocolate buttercream, but I was low on any kind of chocolate. So, anyways, back to what I was talking about. So after frosting all the cupcakes I tried one. I took the wrapper off and the cupcake fell apart. Just what I was afraid of. It would have been good as a cake, still crumbly, but better than for a cupcake (in my opinion). But it was tasty none the less. But needs work.


Then this past week I did cookies for another customer. She just needed some tropical fish and surfboards but I did a couple extra to play with. They were so cute. And I glittered them all up. Whatcha think?

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Six Impossible Things (if you don't get it now, you'll get it later)

I hardly ever get to sit down and add to my blog posts. I've been keeping busy and doing things to tell you about. But other things seem to always pop up. I am a living poster child for "Life is what happens when you're making other plans." The main thing that's making life a tad "impossible" (see posting title) is that I apparently have some issues with tendons in both feet. Yes. Both feet. Kinda makes my baking job "impossible" and makes life in general a little more difficult. I don't know exactly what's going on with these tendons but I find out July 6. Or at least the doctor will let me know by then if he's figured out my MRI.

So, ANYWAYS, impossible things 1 & 2. I did a very cute little cake for a little girl's second birthday. And another cake for an office birthday party. It was my take on Irish Car Bomb Cupcakes. I've been hearing a lot about them here and there but really got inspired by Cupcake Rehab's post. I didn't do her exact recipe and method. Especially since I did it in cake form. But I saw her cupcakes and just had to do it.

#3 I tried to do some sugar cookies for my daughter's dance class. They're dancing to "Red Red Robin" and they all look like cute little flapper girls. IT'S SO DANG CUTE!!!!!! So I made sugar cookies that look like their costume and some that are ballerina cut outs.Only problem is is that I ran out of time before the recital, but I did do some anyways. I was determined to at least get my idea out of my head and onto the cookie!!! When it comes to doing things for myself I always come last.
#4 This Sunday I did a wedding cake that I thought would be stunning. Not tooting my own horn here but the colors are amazing and the mock-up I did lookied very promising. There was a little bit of back and forth about the original design but in the end he trusts me and my taste. It was a very beautiful cae but because of the heat the top stack started drooping!!! As you can probably see in the pic. I was not a happy camper. There was a huge blob on one side that all I could do was turn it away from the front and cover any other "melt-downs" with roses.

#5 I also did a birthday cake for a very good customer. She requested stargazer lilies on top and she got them, I just wish I had had time to practice them so I could've make them myself. She gave me more than enough notice for the cake but I don't think I could have mastered stargazer lilies for this cake. And I won't give someone something I did in practice or training. Personal memo: start working on sugar flowers!!!! On top of that she asked for a strawberry cake which I still haven't mastered. It tastes great but not very strawberry-ish. So I just tried to bring the flavors out as much as I could with a strawberry liqueur sugar wash and strawberry buttercream filling.

#6 I've also been working on sketches of potential sugar cookies inspired by Alice in Wonderland. Don't think I'm going the easy route here. I'm not just doing little cookies that say eat me, although they will be included, I'm actually planning on some pretty artsy stuff here. And they will definitely be posted here when I make them.

If you are wondering: why Alice in Wonderland cookies??? I will tell you. I'm a tad bit into Alice stuff. My mom married into a Cheshire family and therefore we have Cheshire cats here there and everywhere. And I kind of got attached to the story and characters because of it. I was super excited when the recent movie was released and owned a copy the day it was released on DVD. And this also explains my "six impossible things", if you've read the book or seen the recent movie you already knew.

movie quote: I try to believe in as many as six impossible things before breakfast. Count them, Alice. One, there are drinks that make you shrink. Two, there are foods that make you grow. Three, animals can talk. Four, cats can disappear. Five, there is a place called Underland. Six, I can slay the Jabberwocky.--Alice

novel quote: "Alice laughed: "There's no use trying," she said; "one can't believe impossible things."
"I daresay you haven't had much practice," said the Queen. "When I was younger, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast."

Saturday, May 8, 2010

I've done quite a bit again since last I blogged. Still some baby shower things but I did some cookies for a little girl's first birthday and I'm working on a fifth birthday cake today (pictures will come ASAP I promise).

Monday, April 5, 2010

Everybody's Having Babies

These are the second set of baby cookies I've done recently and I have at least one more set to do in the near future. This week in fact. These are for my boss. My gift to him and his wife They had a baby boy March 27.

The Real Deal Baby!

I had every intention of putting my little girl to bed Saturday night then getting up to start my hot cross buns so that we could have them for Easter brunch. No such luck. I passed out and didn't get up until 7 am just to say to myself "oh well" and roll back over. At least my mom's coworkers will get to enjoy them for breakfast.

They were easy enough to bake. Easier if my five year old didn't have to fight for my attention while I was making them. And then I ended up proofing them around the same time the ham went in the oven so I had to put them in the fridge to slow the proofing down until the oven was ready for me. But most of them came out beautifully and they are as delicious as they look.

Now I say these are the real deal because my mom doesn't remember hot cross buns coming with all this frosting that grocery stores put on theirs. And she remembers different fruit being in it. And a lot of times I hear people say that there shouldn't be any frosting on them at all. All the sweetness should come from the bun. AND. I got this recipe from one of the new books I purchased recently: Irish Traditional Cooking by Darina Allen.

Hot Cross Buns
from the book Irish Traditional Cooking by Darina Allen

1 oz fresh yeast
1/2 cup superfine sugar (I used regular sugar only because that's what I had on hand, it's not too hard to find though)
1 to 1 1/4 cup tepid milk (I ended up only using one cup)
3 1/4 cups bread flour
6 T butter
1/4 t cinnamon
1/4 t nutmeg
1 to 2 t mixed spice (I had to look this up and the mix varies but I used a mix of 6t corriander, 5t cinnamon, 3t nutmeg, 2t ginger, 1t cloves and I only ended up using 1 teaspoon in this recipe)
pinch of salt
2 eggs
1/2 cup currants
1/2 cup golden raisins
1/4 cup chopped peel (double checked with my mom, orange peel)
2oz shortcrust pastry (recipe to follow)
egg wash (milk, sugar and  egg yolk according to recipe, I just used one egg beaten smoothe)

shortcrust pastry
8T butter
2 T superfine granulated sugar (again, I just used what I had)
1 egg
1 1/3 cups flour

Cream the butter and sugar. Add the egg and beat for several minutes. Reduce speed and mix in flour. Chill for at least an hour before use.

Dissolve the yeast with 1 T of the sugar in a little tepid milk. (I used 1 cup of milk here)

Put the flour into a bowl. Rub in the butter; add the cinnamon, nutmeg, mixed spice, a pinch of salt and the remainder of the sugar. Mix well.

Beat the eggs and add to the milk. Make a well in the center of the flour. Add the yeast and most of the liquid and mix to a soft dough, (add more milk of necessary). (Here, since I added the yeast to 1 cup of milk I added the beaten egg to the yeast/milk mixture and that's all I needed for the recipe, I didn't need anymore milk)

Leave for 2 to 3 minutes, then knead until smooth. Add the currants, sultanas and chopped peel and continue to knead until the dough is shiny. Cover the bowl and let the dough rise in a warm place until it doubles in size. Punch down the dough, by kneading it for 3 to 4 minutes. (I just punched it down) Rest it for a few minutes, then shape it into 1 1/2 inch balls. ( I got 16 out of this) Put them onto a baking sheet and brush the tops with egg wash. Mark the top of each bun with a cross. Carefully put a cross made of thin strips of shortcrust pastry onto each bun. Leave the buns to rise again to double their size, and brush again carefully with egg wash.

Bake in a preheated oven at 425* for 5 minutes, then reduce the heat to 400* for a further 10 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on a wire rack. (The commercial baker in me that's used to not having the luxury of changing oven temps for everything I put in the oven just stuck with 425* for 15 minutes and they came out fine.)

**Side note: This is my first time working with fresh yeast. Boy was I surprised by the smell.

P.S. Check out my Easter Egg pics here. They were so pretty.

Monday, March 29, 2010

New Stuff!

Today I got some extra money for the extra jobs I've been doing and I quickly went to invest my money properly. I went cookbook shopping. I went a wee bit overboard. But, like I said, it's an investment. The Silver Spoon is somethng I've wanted for awhile. It's the Italian's cookbook bible. Mastering the Art of French Cooking is something my mom wanted me to have after watching Julie & Julia. And Irish Traditional Cooking is something I picked up because: 1. I needed a good soda bread recipe, 2. I needed a good hot cross buns recipe and 3. my mom and I are curious about our Irish heritage. She grew up a little closer to our heritage than I got a chance to but she says her memory is foggy. So, I picked that up too.

Yeah a little overboard but I can't wait to attack them!

90th Birthday Cake

This is the 90th birthday cake I referred to in my last post.  I was told it was a big hit and people were asking for my number. I love doing cakes but they take up so much time and energy. But they also get the biggest reactions. So, basically, you get back exactly what you put into it. I never went to bed the night before I delivered it so I crashed HARD Saturday night. Crashed so hard that my daughter got up in the middle of the night and I didn't even know it.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Baby Shower Cookies

I've been lucky enough lately that my "side business" (it's not totally official yet) is picking up. My latest project was for a friend that found my on facebook through another friend that I did those purse cookies for. I love these cookies so much. They were so much fun to do and I was given some creative license with them.

Next project that I'm working on now is a birthday cake for a 90th birthday party. Can't wait because the party is also a close friend's first big catering gig. I know she's gonna rock it. Actually it's three people I went to school with that are starting this new catering company. I'll let you guys know more when I know more. I don't want to give you guys the wrong info.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Pancake Day

Well, apperently it's Pancake Day. Guess what that means! Breakfast for dinner and I'm makin' pancakes. My basic go to pancake recipe from The Good Housekeeping Illustrated Cook Book:

1 1/4 c AP flour
2 T sugar
2 t baking powder
3/4 t salt
1 egg
1 1/3 c milk
3 T oil

  • mix dry ingredients in one bowl
  • mix wet ingredients in another bowl
  • add wet ingredients to dry ingredients
  • spoon desired amount of batter onto hot buttered griddle
  • when batter bubbles and edges look dry flip and cook until golden (2 minutes max)
  • remove from griddle and serve immediately

Add whatever fillings you wish right after you pour onto griddle and before you flip. Blueberries, chocolate chips, bananas....


P.S. I had some yummy banana pancakes while my daughter had a chocolate chip pancake. Yummmmmmm........

Monday, February 8, 2010

I was pretty busy this week. At work, my work load has practically doubled and I only get about 2 more hours a day to get it all done. I like the pace, keeping busy and all, but a little help on the little jobs would help out a lot. But that's for me to tell my boss, not you. Then, I had two cakes to do. One was originally scheduled for last Saturday but we got snowed in. We never get snowed in. Normally, flurries and a dusting shuts everything down. But this was at least 6 inches and that's unheard of here. So that cake was rescheduled for Thursday. Then the other cake was for this past Saturday. But I also had 40 purse cookies to decorate.

I didn't sleep much last week.

So here are the labors of my love:
I still need to get a picture of the snow day cake from my mom. If I don't post it here it will definitely be on flickr.