Thursday, March 29, 2012

Dark Chocolate Cupcakes - Red and White Vanilla Buttercream

These cupcakes were made for a Christmas Eve get together.
Dark Chocolate Cake recipe made into cupcakes.
2 cups boiling water
2 cups unsweetened cocoa powder (I used Ruddy Red cocoa powder from Bulk Barn)
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup butter, softened
2 1/4 cups white sugar
4 eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract (I use Nielson Massey Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla
1. Preheat oven to 350 ºF. This makes over 3 dozen cupcakes so prepare pans accordingly.

In a medium bowl, pour boiling water over cocoa, and whisk until smooth. Let mixture cool. Sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt; set aside.
2. In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs one at a time, then stir in vanilla. Add the flour mixture alternately with the cocoa mixture. Scoop batter into prepared pans.
3. Bake in preheated oven for 20 to 25 minutes - check at 18 minutes. Allow to cool.

Birthday Boy Cookies

I made all sorts of cookies for my grandson's first birthday party. He was the only little one there the rest of the guests were adults (about 16 of them) who could really enjoy all of the food we had served. Of course, I wanted everything to be special so as usual, I over did - what can I say? that's just me!
I made cookies shaped like # 1s and decorated like Tigger, his favorite of the Winnie the Pooh characters. I didn't have any number cookie cutters so I used a paper template and a knife to cut out the 1s.
I did baseballs with his name and his age - baseballs because his grandpa wants Ben's favorite sport to be baseball. I also did flower cookies on sticks which I displayed in pails of packed brown sugar.
I know - flowers are not "girly" but there were going to be ladies there and I thought they'd look cute as part of the table decorations. My daughter helped me decorate the flowers. I also did cupcake cookies and other flower cookies as well.
The birthday boy was oblivious to all of my hard work but it seemed to be appreciated by some of the guests - ultimately, I was happy with it and was just thrilled to be able to spend the day with the people who love Ben and wanted to share in celebrating his 1st birthday.

Birthday Girl Cookies

These cookies were made for a little girl who was turning 7 - her party theme was cupcakes, so of course the cookies had to be cupcakes in girly colors. 
These cookies were made using the sugar cookie recipe from Sugarbelle's site. This dough is easy to work with and tastes great with different flavorings - for these cookies, I used pure almond extract to flavor the dough and I used Wilton clear artificial vanilla to flavor the royal icing. I haven't found anything else that is "oil free" to use for the royal icing. If anyone knows of any other oil-free flavorings, please let me know, I'd love to try something different. I make my dough using a mixer, someday, my mixer will go ca put on me because of the volume of cookie dough, cake batter, buttercream and mostly - royal icing that I make. My goal is to be able to buy a KitchenAid stand mixer - they are beautiful  and seem to be the stand mixer of choice with most bakers. Someday.... I can dream :)
Just had to make a special cookie for the birthday girl herself :)
I don't have cookie cutters for the cupcake or the tiara so I did templates on paper and used them to cut out the cookie dough using a knife - it takes longer than using a cutter and is a bit of a pain but you gotta do what you gotta do!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Fancy Caramel Apple Cookies

I have only made these once but everyone loved them and I think I should make them again. SOON!
This recipe is adapted from a recipe I found at Callye Alvarado's site: The Sweet Adventures of Sugarbelle - she is awesome, so talented and generous - she has so many tips, tutorials, recipes and great advice - she is my cookie hero. I don't know her but have been a fan for many months. I hope she doesn't mind me sharing her recipe here on my humble little blog with no comments so far. If you want to check out her blog - and I think everyone should, follow the link here
Okay - the recipe - when I say "adapted" in this case it means, I substituted some ingredients listed in the original recipe for things I could find here in my neck of the woods. Below, the recipe is as I made it with substitutions...if you follow the link above, you will find Callye's recipe.

3/4 c. unsalted butter, softened
1/2 c. granulated sugar
1/2 c. dark brown sugar
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla (I used Neilson Massey Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla - it is my go-to vanilla of choice)
1/4 tsp. butterscotch flavoring - I used LorAnn Butterscotch Flavor which is kind of extra strength which is why it is    only a quarter teaspoon
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
2 1/4 c. all-purpose flour
1 medium Granny Smith apple, diced {about 1 cup} next time I will up the apple by about another half cup

1 c. pecan pieces
1 tbs. dark brown sugar

caramel sauce - I used stuff that can be heated and used to cover apples, got it at Bulk Barn
Hershey's dark chocolate chips and white chocolate chips (it's what I had on hand)

Method is the same as the method used by Callye at the link above. I am in no way trying to "steal" her recipe - just letting everyone know that I have tried it and it rocks! I am sure it would be even better if I could have made it exactly as she did!


Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Three Layer Apple Cake

I made this cake twice - in November and for New Year's Day. The picture above is the New Year's cake and below is the birthday cake I made in November.
This apple cake was a huge success! The filling is cinnamon buttercream and the icing is vanilla buttercream. I used Neilson Massey Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla. I use this vanilla whenever possible - when the icing doesn't have to be white-white as the vanilla changes the color to off-white.
The cake is adapted from a recipe found on Martha Stewart's website. It is called John's Three-Layer Apple Cake. I pretty much followed the recipe  but I did add extra grated apple and changed the frosting - did not use the suggested frosting because I read such mixed reviews in the comments section.
I have had requests from family to have this as their new birthday cake - my nephew who doesn't usually like fruit or cake, loved this cake - his birthday is not until September so he made sure to get extra slices at New Year's. 
If you try it, let me know how you liked it in the comments.

Wilton Decorating Basics

In February, I took the Decorating Basics course at Michaels - four weeks, 2 hours each Tuesday evening and this is the final cake. It was a dark chocolate 2 layer cake made with ruddy red cocoa powder. The recipe was found on All Recipes website, it makes three 9" cake layers but I only used two of them as the third one fell on the floor! Surprisingly, the mishap was only followed by a mild temper tantrum and a few bad words which I am not proud of but I gathered myself together and moved on. The little flowers at the bottom of the cake were made ahead using royal icing. The roses on the top were made with buttercream at our last class.
I had made the chocolate cake before - in October I made it for my husband's 50th birthday cake (posted here).

It is a delicious rich chocolate cake and goes well with vanilla buttercream. 
This chocolate also made an appearance in my sister's birthday cake in November - it was a Neapolitan cake.
This cake was great but it was a lot of work - I had to make 3 different 9" cakes - not sure I would ever make it again, even for my sister! 
If anyone wants more details, just leave me a comment.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Wilton's Giant Cupcake Pan

I found this pan for $20 at Home Sense - it is $50 at Michaels.
I decided to grab it and try it out before my grandson's birthday. I read a lot of comments on the Wilton forums before I gave it a try. The pan comes with a recipe for chocolate pound cake but from what I read, it seemed that it wasn't a good idea. Most of the comments said that modifying a cake mix was the best way to go. 
I used Betty Crocker cake mix but instead of oil, I used butter. Where the box called for water, I used milk and where it called for 3 eggs, I used 4. The pan is uneven - the bottom holding more than the top - which can cause the problem of one side being cooked and the other side not being cooked through. What I did was measure 2 & 1/2 cups of batter for the top side of the cupcake - on the empty side, I put water  and baked for 35 min or until done. *You must grease the pan well - I used Wilton Cake Release* After the top was done, I cooled it on a rack and cleaned the pan, coated the other side (bottom of giant cupcake) with cake release and added the rest of the batter...again, I put water in the empty side. Baked until cooked - toothpick test comes out clean. Cool on rack.
I had a bit of a "hump" on both cakes so I trimmed the humps off. I stuck the two sides together with icing and then decorated the cupcake as a whole. My first try was a Cherry Chip cake mix which I altered as mentioned above - but I also added some almond extract and chopped up maraschino cherries. The frosting was buttercream with juice from the cherries, almond flavoring, pink gel food coloring and some cherries pureed. 
I was moderately pleased with how the giant cupcake turned out but everyone was thrilled with how it tasted!
I continued to read more info about the best way to bake and decorate this big baby and came across a tip on how to decorate the bottom of the cupcake. Use the pan as a mold - melt candy melts or chocolate and pour into the bottom of the cake pan (the bottom of the cupcake) and coat the inside, chill and unmold. I tried this for my grandson's birthday cake and this is how it turned out....

French Vanilla Cupcakes

French Vanilla Cupcakes with Vanilla Buttercream
I made these the day before St. Patrick's Day but I hid the "green" inside the cupcake - I turned some of the batter green with food coloring and layered the batter in the muffin cups. When the ladies at "games night" opened them up, there was the surprise for St. Patty's Day.
I used Nielson Massey Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla - generously! The tasted and smelled delicious.

More Party Cookies

These cookies were designed for a party girl whose first name starts with a "B" and she was turning 3!

Birthday Party Cookies

Roll-out cookies for a birthday party.
These were practice cookies - my grandson's birthday was coming up and I wanted to try making some party cookies. I didn't have cutters so I drew some cupcakes and party hats on paper and cut them out as templates. I just used a paring knife to cut the cookies out using the template - takes longer than using a cutter but you gotta improvise sometimes.
I used Lila Loa's chocolate roll-out cookie recipe which can be found at:
and Callye's sugar cookie recipe found at:
I also made these cookies....
and 1s which I also had to draw and cut out now, the flowers I had a cutter for those.