Friday, July 23, 2010

It's a cowboy cookie.. no it's a spice cake.. it's a cowboy cake?

Ahh, more cakes! Yes, lately I'll take any opportunity to bake. My brother-in-law's birthday was earlier this month, but as he's been working a project job out of the state for the past 2 months, we will be celebrating it late, tomorrow. He's a tough one, because he says he's "not a cake person".. so it's hard to know what to do with that. My husband reminded me that he ate up all of my cowboy cookies I made for Christmas, so I went on the search for creating a similar flavor in a cake. I found something really close, and just added coconut, pecans, and chocolate to it, and I think it came out pretty well, but next time I would add more sugar, as it really wasn't sweet enough for me, especially without any frosting. It would be great to eat for breakfast as is though.

Brother in law is really into fishing, boats, and even fish painting (where you use an actual fish dipped in paint..), so I went with that theme. It was a lot of fun, and I think it came out really cute, although certainly not as realistic as some I found online. But hey, it didn't take long at all, and I think he will like it. I also bought a cutting board for a serving plate, an idea I borrowed from someone else.

To decorate this cake, I frosted it and let it sit up in the fridge until it was slightly stiff to the touch. Then I just used a toothpick for the fins, and the small end of a frosting coupler to make the scales, since it was on hand. It worked out pretty well. Oh, and I tried out Betty Crocker's Decorating Spray which is how I got the 2 colors (all the frosting was the light green color). Never used this before, but got some for Christmas that was sitting around, and I thought it was pretty cool.

The basic recipe was Oatmeal Cake with Broiled Topping, but here is my version, as I made it.

Cowboy Cookie Inspired Cake

1½ cups water
1 cup quick cooking oats (uncooked)
1½ cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
1 stick butter — softened
½ cup granulated sugar (I would suggest increasing by 1/4 cup)
½ cup packed light brown sugar (I would suggest increasing by 1/4 cup)
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup coconut (I used 2 tbsp unsweetened fine coconut, and 2 tbsp sweetened shredded)
2 tbsp pecan flour (finely ground pecans)
2 tsbp chopped pecans
3 oz chopped dark chocolate (or semisweet chips)

Bring water to a boil in a lidded saucepan. Remove from heat, stir in the oats, cover and let sit for 20 minutes. Remove cover and let sit for another 10.

Meanwhile, stir flour, pecan flour, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt together in a medium bowl; set aside.

In a large mixing bowl and using an electric mixer, cream the butter and both sugars for about 2 minutes.

Add the eggs one at a time, beating for a minute after each egg. Beat in the vanilla and oatmeal. By hand, stir in the flour mixture, then stir in the coconut, pecans, and the chocolate.

Pour mixture into a greased cake pan (I used a 7x11 pan and 2 small heart shaped pans) and bake on center rack at 350 F for about 20-25 minutes (my small hearts took 18 minutes, the larger pan took about 25).

I used my new standby buttercream recipe, but I think this cake probably would go better with some other flavor added to the frosting.. just not sure what. Maybe coconut, or cream cheese frosting. Brother in law hates cream cheese though, so I didn't go that route. It still went ok with this frosting, and definitely needed the sweetness.

This is just a scrap piece I had cut off to shape the fish, but I figured I'd post a pic of it anyway so you can get some idea what it looks like inside.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Project Wedding Cake

Well, almost a wedding cake. Actually, it was a three tiered anniversary cake, but the point was because my parents didn't get to have a big wedding with a fancy cake, and they are celebrating 30 years of marriage tomorrow, so I wanted to give them something.

This was quite a process! It was fun, but definitely would have been easier with a larger kitchen and empty freezer space. The hardest thing was trying to get the frosting smooth, and I didn't really do a good job. I think I needed to thin the frosting more, but I was afraid doing so would make it melt too easily on the drive to deliver the cake, so I didn't. Luckily, it survived the drive in my small, too warm car in 90+ degree weather. I've never accelerated so slowly in my life (for fear of sliding cake layers)!

The roses also needed work, but it was only my second time trying to make them, so I wasn't expecting perfection. And it would have been better if I had pans that were a greater variation in size, so I could have had room on the top of the bottom layers for more roses. I was working with what I had, or I would have probably gone with round or square instead of heart shaped too.

I didn't take any pics of the baking process, but here's one from before it was completely assembled and decorated. I only had time to snap a few shots before I left, because I wanted it to still be as cold as possible for transport. I also wish I had a pic of a slice of the cake, but it hasn't even been cut yet, and I probably won't see it when it is.

I looked around for a millions ideas before I began, and decided to go with 2 flavors.

For the bottom tier, I basically made a white chocolate almond with raspberry filling cake. I modified this recipe from Good Things Catered.

I almost followed it, except I added half a pack of white chocolate pudding mix, and used 1 tsp almond extract instead of 1 tbsp because I didn't want it to be overwhelmingly almond flavored. I also used a little less water for the raspberry sauce, but it was still too weakly flavored. I think I'd skip the water altogether next time. I really liked this cake though, although it was hard to time it right.

For the middle, I wanted strong chocolate. Then I got the idea of adding Bailey's flavor to it, but I couldn't find one recipe I liked, so I kinda combined these three:
I ended up adding 1/4 cup Baileys and 1/4 cup chocolate liqueur to the cake mix and following the orange ganache recipe from the second link, except using Baileys instead of the orange flavorings.
I thought the chocolate cake was a little dry, but maybe I just overcooked it.

For the frosting, I started with Buttercream Icing I and also added a little more real vanilla extract instead of just wilton's clear. Then, I added melted white chocolate and a little O'reilly's white chocolate irish cream. I really like this frosting both with and without the white chocolate additions. I am going to stick with this over pure buttercream, because it totally reminds me of the frosting from my wedding cake.

This is kind of inspiring me to really consider taking a Wilton's cake decorating class at Michael's. I will have to see what day/time they are and see if I can fit it in, maybe in August or October.

Happy 30th Anniversary to my parents!

Monday, July 5, 2010

Patriotic Blueberry Pie

Publix had an awesome sale on blueberries the week before July 4th.. they were $1.50/pint, plus they had a $1.50/off one pack coupon online, so I actually got one pack free. Anyway, I bought a bunch of them, and had to think of something to do with them... so, I decided on pie.

I'm not really a pie maker. Actually, I've only made a few, ever. I think I made a pumpkin one, banana cream, and frozen peanut butter chocolate before, and that's probably it. And I don't think any of those had a homemade pastry crust. Well, this one doesn't either. I did cheat and go the frozen ready made crust route, but someday, when I have counter space, I'll try out a real one.

I looked around at many recipes online, and this is probably the closest to what I actually did: Allrecipes Blueberry Pie

The stars weren't my idea either, I saw that from a different recipe, although I did use 3 different size stars instead of all uniform.

Here goes the recipe.

4 cups fresh blueberries
3-4 tablespoons cornstarch
a little water to mix the cornstarch with
3/4 cup sugar
Dash salt
1 squeeze of fresh lemon juice
Pie crust, ready and chilled

- Preheat oven to 375 degrees
- Mix cornstarch with water, then add sugar, salt, cinnamon, and the blueberries to a medium saucepan. Cook over medium heat until the sauce begins to thicken. Let cool while you work with the crust.
- Line pie dish with one pie crust. If you're going to do any design with the top, keep the bottom crust in the fridge, and cut out your designs from the top crust. You can use cookie cutters for shapes (I used a 3 pack of different sized star shaped fondant cutters), a knife to cut stripes, etc.
- Pour berry mixture into the crust and lay out your top crust (if not using a design, cut a few slits for steam vents). Crimp and flute edges if desired.
- Bake pie for 30-45 minutes, or until crust is golden
brown. Store bought thinner pie crusts take the lower amount of time and may need foil tented around it to keep from burning. If your crust is thick, you probably don't need to precook the filling, just bake the pie longer.
- Let pie sit a few hours before cutting.

Notes: Initially I used a dash of cinnamon and nutmeg as well, because many recipes did that, but I left it out of this recipe because I think it would be better without it. You can also do an egg wash on the crust, but I was too lazy.

This pie was amazing heated up and topped with Blue Bell white chocolate almond ice cream. It was also pretty good cold.

New Food Blog

Hi everyone! A friend suggested this weekend that I should start a food blog, and I've been tempted in the past, so here goes nothing. I can't promise I'm going to update this a lot, but I'll try. This first post is just going to be a mix of somewhat relevant comments about me and baking.

As most people who know me can tell you, I enjoy baking and trying to be creative in general. I would do it more often if I had a kitchen with enough space to do anything in. My KitchenAid mixer (named The Monster) lives on top of my refrigerator in the only empty semi-accessible space I could find, so I get a workout hauling it around whenever I want to bake something.

Many things I do stem from ideas I've seen online, so I'll try to credit where I originally saw things on here when I can remember. I browse through quite a list of food and party planning blogs on a weekly basis and have a ton of things saved that I'd like to try sometime. I rarely follow a recipe exactly, and usually I end up finding several and sort of combining and making up my own as I go along. The bad part of that is I usually end up with recipes with far too many ingredients.

I'm also not one of those people who does everything from scratch. I take shortcuts when I can, if I think it's worth it to do so. My cake pops, for instance, usually start from a box mix, which I sometimes add other ingredients to before baking. I make my own frosting about half the time, and use the store bought stuff the rest of the time. My cake pops also do not look nearly as professional as the queen herself, bakerella (you should see her stuff if you haven't yet, everything is amazing!), but I try to make them look cute anyway.

Well, that's about all I have to say for now. Stay tuned for future goodies!