Thursday, May 29, 2008

Wilton Course 2 Finale- Banana Cupcakes

Ha Ha Had to post my cake! It actually came out not looking TOO bad.
I baked a banana cake and had to use class buttercream to ice it. I was burned out on chocolate and decided to make banana, but Mark hates bananas so I made just a little cake to decorate. But I chose to make a 3 layer 4 inch cake and make cupcakes to take to work. Yes there are 4 inch cake pans. HeHe So cute. The cake is pictured above.
Anyway, Mark told me no one would eat nasty banana cupcakes. He thinks no one likes banana. Of course he was wrong. I iced the cupcakes with buttercream I made using the recipe from the Opera cake, but flavored with bourbon vanilla. Fantastic! I took a dozen cuppies to work and brought home the empty container! Everyone had more than one! The cupcake and the buttercream combo was really a winner. Here are the recipes.
Banana Cupcakes

1 (18.25 oz.) box yellow cake mix
1 (3.4 oz.) box instant banana pudding
4 eggs
1 cup water
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 cup mashed banana
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line muffin pan with papers.
2. In a large bowl combine cake mix and pudding mix. Stir together and create a well in the center.
3. Add eggs, banana, water and oil to the center. Use a mixer to combine. Scrape sides down, and mix for about four minutes on medium speed.
4. Pour batter into muffin tin, until about 2/3 filled with batter.
5. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until tests done.

French Buttercream

2 cup (100 grams) granulated sugar
½ cup (60 grams) water
1 tbsp. pure vanilla extract
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1¾ cups (7 ounces; 200 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
flavouring of your choice (a tablespoon of an extract, a few tablespoons of melted white chocolate, citrus zest, etc.) I used Madagasgar Bourbon Vanilla.
Combine the sugar, water and vanilla bean seeds or extract in a small saucepan and warm over medium heat just until the sugar dissolves.Continue to cook, without stirring, until the syrup reaches 225F (124C) on a candy or instant-read thermometer. Once it reaches that temperature, remove the syrup from the heat.While the syrup is heating, begin whisking the egg and egg yolk at high speed in the bowl of your mixer using the whisk attachment. Whisk them until they are pale and foamy.

When the sugar syrup reaches the correct temperature and you remove it from the heat, reduce the mixer speed to low speed and begin slowly (very slowly) pouring the syrup down the side of the bowl being very careful not to splatter the syrup into the path of the whisk attachment.
Raise the speed to medium-high and continue beating until the eggs are thick and satiny and the mixture is cool to the touch (about 5 minutes or so).
While the egg mixture is beating, place the softened butter in a bowl and mash it with a spatula until you have a soft creamy mass. With the mixer on medium speed, begin adding in two-tablespoon chunks. When all the butter has been incorporated, raise the mixer speed to high and beat until the buttercream is thick and shiny. At this point add in your flavouring and beat for an additional minute or so.Refrigerate the buttercream, stirring it often, until it’s set enough (firm enough) to spread when topped with a layer of cake (about 20 minutes). Note-This buttercream will not hold up well in warm weather.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Daring Bakers go to the Opera!

A few months ago, in the wintertime, I was searching food blogs for something interesting to eat and stumbled upon a post of one of the Daring Bakers. The DB's started as "just a lovely group of ladies who enjoyed baking the same recipe together, as written, and then showing off our finished delights to each other and the rest of the "blogosphere"". ( It has expanded to include men and women from all over the world!) Hmm -I thought this sounded like a way to increase my baking skills and have fun at the same time. Right I was! But little did I know that all too soon I would get to actaully co-host the challenge for May as one of the "newbies". YYYYIpppppEEEEE!
So- this month's challenge is hosted by the the 2 founders of DB, Lis and Ivonne, along with myself and Shea (fellow lucky newbie!).
The Daring Bakers challenge for May is Opera Cake. Opera Cake traditionally is a joconde (cake) of Paris origin flavored with coffee buttercream and chocolate ganache. Our recipe uses light colors and flavors. After much back and forth, I chose to make a coconut version.
We decided to lighten up the cake to reflect partly the time of year, but also to honor those battling cancer for their perseverance. I have a good friend and former neighbor, Cheryl, who is dealing with what began as colon cancer, but has since advanced to other areas. Also, Barbara at Winos and Foodies for has impressed many with her courage.
At first glance, it looks like this recipe is gonna be another all day show. But actually, it was pretty easy! I broke it down into parts to make it even more simple. One night I made the syrup. No problems there, simple as boiling water! The next night I made the buttercream (coconut was my flavor of choice). I got kind of a late start do the the fact that I was putzing around and my butter was frozen. I got started cooking and set to beating my eggs.
Whoops, I let the syrup get slightly higher than 225 degrees. Oh well, keep on plugging through and SLOWLY pour the hot syrup into the egg mixture. All seemed well, except when I stopped beating I had some strings of egg on the whisk even though I was very careful to pour it down the side of the bowl. So I pull off the strings and continue on to step 5, but this is taking longer than 5 minutes, with no sign of cooling down. So I elect to give it some help.
I hold a bowl of ice under the mixer bowl for a few minutes and that works well to cool it down.
I add the butter and beat it in.
But then I tasted it. Holy moly- this has to be some of the tastiest buttercream I have ever had. Coconut buttercream crack!! Hope it lasts to put in the cake.
The next day, it's time to tackle the baking the joconde. Quite a lot of eggs to crack. My jelly roll pans are a tad small, 10x15, so I make a 4" springform with the extra batter. All goes well, and the cakes bake up quickly, a little longer than 7 minutes (check pan size) as the center took longer to set. I lay them on the counter to cool as stated in the recipe.
I had no real issues assembling the cake. I layered as the recipe stated, but added some coconut flakes on top of the second buttercream. But when it comes time to make the white chocolate glaze, I decide , due to my family's objections, to not glaze the cake as stated, except for my little round cake. I finished the top of my square cake with more buttercream. I added a little raspberry syrup on the plate for presentation.
The finished Opera cake is pretty tasty, I should have used a little more syrup brushed on the layers, but I was afraid it would be too soggy. The layers are impressive and look pretty when cut. Of course the buttercream is beyond fabulous.
If you would like a copy of the recipe, please email me- it is 7 pages long!

Sunday, May 25, 2008

I'm Fixated here....Almond Buttercream plus more!

Do I detect some obsession here? Another set of cupcakes???!! Hmm, I am getting so many ideas for new flavorings. Here are the ones I took to my church picnic today. They were getting snatched off the table as I was putting them on! Squueeeeeee!!!
First up, Chocolate CC with my Aunt Mary's Almond Cream Cheese Buttercream. This is Mark's all time favorite combination. The recipe is below.

Next- Chocolate- filled with Choc. Hazelnut Creme -topped with Hazelnut Creme. The filling was made by mixing Nutella with Rich's Bettercreme, about equal parts of both. For the icing, I added Torani Hazelnut Syrup to taste to the Bettercreme. OH so yummy!

Last the flowered one is Chocolate with Choc. Chips topped with Malted Creme. This icing is like CRACK!!! It's so simple. Just add Hershey's Whoppers Malted Syrup to Rich's Bettercreme. Addicting!!!

Almond Cream Cheese Buttercream

4 oz Cream Cheese Softened
1 1/2 sticks butter
1 box (1 lb) 10 x sugar (may need slightly less)
1 tsp pure almond extract
Beat cream cheese and butter together till well mixed, add sugar in small batches and keep beating until fluffy and well blended, add extract and beat 1 more minute. ENJOY!
This tastes really good on your favorite chocolate cake.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Flower Cupcakes

I am on a serious cupcake buzz. I made these for Mother's Day a few weeks ago for my sister in law and mother in law. I found the decorating instructions here for flower cupcakes. I couldn't get the begonias to look right so I made all carnations. Very simple and fun!
I just used decorator's buttercream but the cake recipe is from Taste of Home.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Cupcakes for Carol

Last Tuesday, I baked these beauties and took them to work for my coworker,Carol's, birthday (yes, another May BD!). This was the first time I had made cupcakes in a long while and now I've got THAT bug! These Wilton courses are making me fat! HeHe!
I used a doctored Duncan Hines mix, cuz Carol is kinda picky and well dang, it was her birthday so I gave her what she likes. The icing is the recipe from the back of the can of Ghirardelli premium baking cocoa. It's really a good recipe- Mark thinks it tastes like fudge.
Everyone at work ate more than 1, so I will take that as a compliment!!

Friday, May 9, 2008

Uncle John's Plant Farm

My sister-in-law Marcia, just sent me a video where she was interviewed at their family business, Uncle John's Plant Farm. It really is a great place for plants or gifts- check out the video
of Marcia and get a great idea of what they have. Stop in if you are in the area (Olmsted Falls, OH-southwest of Cleveland).

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Polenta with Parmesan

A Blogging Event to highlight May being National Osteoporosis Awareness month is being hosted this month by Susan of FoodBlogga- I'm in. Yep, I, too, found out last year that I am at the beginning stages of bone loss.
I went for a bone scan because I had begun having joint pain and the technician kinda surprised me mid way thru the scan by questioning whether I had taken certain drugs or had a family history of the disease and was I sure. Now I am not really THAT old, I work out pretty much every day, and there is no history of broken bones by any of the older women in my family.I don't smoke or drink. So I was really very surprised to find I have osteopenia. Osteopenia is the term for low bone mass that is not yet bad enough to be called osteoporosis.

I have no real answers why I have advanced bone loss for my age. I blame it on the fact that I had virtually no calcium when I was growing up. I never had to drink milk, the only green vegetables I remember having was an iceberg lettuce salad every night- our vegetable drawer was filled with Hershey bars. No, really. I am not kidding! That's a story for another day...

Anyway, I urge all of you to learn all you can to protect yourself and your loved ones.
Exercise, get enough calcium and vitamin D, and talk to your doctor about your bones.

Here is my recipe to add more calcium today.

Polenta with Parmesan
1 cup stone ground cornmeal
3 cups water
dash salt
1 cup milk
1/2 cup parmesan
1 clove garlic (or more) minced
1/2 tsp. oregano

Mix the cornmeal and milk in a bowl , Set aside. In a saucepan, bring water and salt to a rolling boil. Whisk in the contents of the bowl slowly, to prevent lumps. Add the garlic and oregano. Keep stirring to prevent sticking. When the polenta is very thick and coats the spoon, stir in the cheese and it is done. At this point you can serve it or you can pour it in an 8 inch square pyrex or other container and refrigerate. It can be sliced and reheated later by micro or baking or panfrying as the leftovers are great.
Tonight I served it warm and covered with my favorite spaghetti sauce as a side to grilled salmon and a salad of field greens and zucchini topped with balsamic vinegar.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Janet and Jim's B-Day Cake

Oh, This was my first time decorating with roses! My co-workers Janet and Jim who have birthdays this week made me feel great by each taking pictures of the cake to show their families! (I should have skipped making the stems!)
It was fun making the roses, even though my icing was a little thinner than I needed. Now thatI am done with Wilton course 1, our class decided to take course 2 together! More fun to come.