Friday, November 25, 2011

Dessert Table

Wow - it's been awhile since I posted on here! Sorry about that! Time always seems to start going faster and faster this time of year!

I hope you all have had a fabulous Thanksgiving with lots of good food and good company. I am so thankful and blessed to have such a wonderful family. This year, though I missed my extended family, I really enjoyed spending Thanksgiving with just my hubby and kids. It was so relaxing and fun! I am also very thankful for the joy that baking and decorating brings to me! That joy is a gift from God and I am loving every minute of it!

Enough gushing... Now for what you've all been waiting for. Well, maybe some of you have been waiting for it. :)

I hosted a little get-together at my house along with a good friend of mine and I volunteered to make the food for it. This is the first dessert table I have been able to create and it was so much fun! Here is the whole thing:

Don't you just love it? I don't know if you can tell, but I even made little cards with the names of each item. How very Martha of me, right? I decided to go with a silver and white color scheme, since it fit a lot of the plates and things I already had and because it seemed festive for this time of year but not too Christmas-y. After all, it wasn't a Christmas party. (It was a Thirty-One party, actually.) It was also fun to be able to use several of my cake stands and plates!

For decoration, I bought an inexpensive silver tablecloth from HomeGoods. If you haven't been there, you should seek one out and go! It is the best store for cake plates, cake stands, and table linens. And a lot of fun to shop in. I try to limit myself in that store, but it never works. The other thing I did was take two tall vases, which I already had, and line the inside with silver and white wrapping paper. The paper added a pop of color and hid the stems of the flowers in the vases. I thought this was genius! And I thought of it all by myself! :) I'm sure it's been done before, but it's fun to pat myself on the back just a little. The flowers themselves are fake. I normally very much prefer fresh flowers, but I found these for $1 each at Hobby Lobby a couple of weeks ago and thought they would be perfect for this.

Want to see the food? Of course!

There is a lot of it! And all was very good!

First, the centerpiece item.

Almond Champagne Cake with Champagne-Chambord simple syrup, Champagne-Chambord Swiss Meringue Buttercream, Raspberry preserves and fresh raspberries. I've really got to come up with a simpler name for these babies! Oh, they were sooooo tasty. And don't they look pretty in the little jars?

Next, I made Chocolate Mini-Cupcakes topped with the same Chambord buttercream and a sprinkling of chocolate jimmies.

These cupcakes were almost like eating brownies, though they had a lighter crumb and were not quite as dense as a brownie. They are absolutely packed with chocolate flavor! And the little swirl of buttercream gave the perfect hint of raspberry flavor. Yum! Watch for the recipe for these coming up in another post soon.

Finally, the caramels. Last but definitely not least.

It took me a couple of tries to get these right. I think I still need to tweak it a bit, but mostly that's for workability and ease in putting them together. The flavor of these is spot-on and delicious. I seriously could eat all of these in one sitting all by myself. If guests weren't coming over, I probably would have!

Oh, but you're waiting for a description probably. These beauties are soft salted caramel topped with chopped pecans and a very light sprinkling of ground cayenne pepper, then coated in milk chocolate and a touch of fleur de sel. They have a bit of everything - soft, crunchy, chocolatey, sweet, a hint of spice, a hint of saltiness - and they pretty much melt in your mouth. Divine! I will be sharing this recipe, too, as soon as I perfect it.

Rounding out the table were mixed salted nuts, red hots, sour candies (Lemonheads and Friends), spicy Chex Mix and water with lemons and raspberries.

What a fun night it was! And though it was a lot of work, I can't wait to do it again!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Flower Birthday Cake

My friend's little girl, Kyla, just celebrated her 4th birthday last week! She is the sweetest little thing and I hope that she just loved this cake I made especially for her!

The cake is dark chocolate with cream cheese Swiss meringue buttercream filling. So good! I covered the cake with milk chocolate ganache before covering it with fondant. The flowers and vines are fondant. Bright pink and purple are Kyla's favorite colors. I added the green vines as an accent and put some sparkling sugar on for some shine and sparkle. What little girl doesn't like sparkly shiny things? I also added some white dragees (little sugar balls) as the flower centers and as accents.

Happy birthday Kyla!!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Almond Ginger Spice Cake

Here is my latest cake, decorated for the MisoBakes Project. This time, the challenge was to use the basketweave tip without doing any basketweave. I played around with the top for a little while on a piece of waxed paper and this is the use that I ended up liking the most. It was fun! And I don't think anyone would guess that this piping this was made for doing basketweave!

Check out the other participants' cakes on the MisoBakes Project blog, here.

When I baked this cake, I knew it would be for my family only, so I decided to try a new recipe. I took what I had on hand and transformed my basic yellow cake recipe into Almond-Ginger Cake. It turned out lovely!

Here is the recipe, in case you want to make this spice cake for your family! Enjoy!

Almond-Ginger Spice Cake

3 cups (10-1/2 ounces) sifted cake flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup crystallized ginger pieces (I used The Ginger People crystallized ginger chips, which I found at Williams-Sonoma)
1/2 cup ground almonds (chop 1-1/2 cup whole plain almonds in a food processor until finely chopped)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1-1/4 cups (8-3/4 ounces) granulated sugar
3/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup (4 ounces) butter, softened
6 egg yolks plus one whole large egg
1 tablespoon molasses
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon pure almond extract

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine cake flour, baking powder, salt, crystallized ginger, ground almonds, cinnamon, ground ginger, cloves, allspice, nutmeg, and granulated sugar. Mix on low for at least 30 seconds. Add 1/2 cup cream and the butter. Mix on low until dry ingredients are moistened, then mix on medium-high for 1-1/2 minutes. In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, whole egg, vanilla and the remaining 1/4 cup cream. Add the egg mixture to the butter mixture in three parts, adding each part on low speed and then mixing on medium-high speed for 20 seconds. Scrape down the sides and pour into a greased, parchment-lined and floured 8X3-inch round cake pan or two 8X2-inch round cake pans. Bake until top springs back when touched with a finger and toothpick inserted in the center comes back with moist crumbs clinging to it, about 45-55 minutes.

This cake tastes great with vanilla swiss meringue buttercream. Fill with the vanilla buttercream and more crystallized ginger for an extra pop of flavor.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Peanut Butter Swirl Brownies

Take a look at these. Don't they look delicious!

My sister made this recipe and was kind enough to share with us. She is the best! And so are these brownies!

Here is what Amy had to say... Enjoy!

"I got the idea to find a good peanut butter brownie recipe after visiting a bakery in town. The brownie I had there was so good and I wanted to try to make something similar. After trying a couple recipes, I decided to combine two recipes from Martha Stewart’s Cookies Cookbook. I took the brownie part from her Double Chocolate Brownies. It was nice and fudgy. Then I took the peanut butter filling part from her Peanut Butter Swirl Brownies. The only thing I changed was that I increased the peanut butter from what she had. I’m telling you this is probably the best brownie I’ve had and it’s certainly the best one I’ve made. These are so good.

"I also tried a couple different peanut butters to see if that made a difference. It does make a bit of a difference. Get one that you really like but I liked the creamy Krema brand. It’s one with just peanuts in it. You don’t really need anything else since these are already sweet.

"After they cool, I like to cut them into squares and put them in a big freezer bag. That way, I’m not eating dried up brownies a couple days later. I can have a fresh tasting one anytime! I have a piece defrosting on the counter right now. Better go…I’m going to top mine with homemade vanilla ice cream!"

Peanut Butter Swirl Brownies
Adapted from Martha Stewart Cookies Cookbook

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for pan
6 ounces good-quality semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
1 cup smooth natural peanut butter
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a buttered 8-inch square baking pan with foil or parchment paper, allowing 2 inches to hang over sides. Butter lining (excluding overhang); set pan aside.

Put butter, chocolate, and cocoa in a heatproof medium bowl set over a pan of simmering water; stir until butter and chocolate are melted. Let cool slightly. Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt in a separate bowl; set aside. Put sugar, eggs, and vanilla in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, and beat on medium speed until pale, about 4 minutes. Add chocolate mixture; beat until combined. Add flour mixture; mix, scraping down sides of bowl, until well combined.

To make the filling, stir together melted butter, confectioners' sugar, peanut butter, salt, and vanilla in a bowl until smooth.

Pour one-third of batter into prepared pan; spread evenly with a rubber spatula. Drop dollops of peanut butter filling (about 1 tablespoon each) on top of batter, spacing about 1 inch apart. Drizzle remaining batter on top, and gently spread to fill pan. Drop dollops of remaining filling on top. Gently swirl peanut butter filling into batter with a butter knife, running the knife lengthwise and crosswise through layers.

Bake until a cake tester inserted into brownies (avoid center and edges) comes out with a few crumbs but is not wet, about 35 minutes. Let cool slightly in pan, about 15 minutes. Lift out brownies; let cool completely on a wire rack before cutting into squares.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Angry and Adorable

They're angry, they're cute, they just want their eggs back! Yep, angry birds. If you haven't played that game yet, you should. It's totally addicting!

I had the pleasure of making these little birdy cupcakes for a friend who was going to a Halloween party dressed in the Angry Birds theme. I believe her kids were angry birds and she and her husband were slingshots. (Erin, correct me if I got that wrong!) Cute idea!

These were very detailed and so took a little more time than I originally expected. But it was a lot of fun putting them all together and getting to share them! The toppers are made from modeling chocolate (also called candy clay). Modeling chocolate is so much fun. It is a little like working with fondant, except that it doesn't dry out quite as quickly and it tastes fabulous. I used candy melts. You can buy Wilton candy melts in different colors at Michael's, Joann's or Hobby Lobby. Just take a package of candy melts, melt it according to the directions on the package, and then stir in 1/3 cup light corn syrup. It will thicken and stick together, like chocolate seizing. When it does this, just place it in a lump on some waxed paper and let it cool. Then knead it a few times until it is smooth and malleable. After that, you can roll it and cut it like fondant (or like playdoh!). It might not be the best for modeling figures because it doesn't harden and won't "set up" like fondant or gumpaste. You also can't roll it quite as thin, so it's not the best for some flower work. But it's great for things like stripes or cut-outs.

The cupcakes themselves are oh-so-good chocolate with vanilla bean Swiss meringue buttercream. Yum!

Here are some more pics.

Apparently, my camera didn't like the close-up on the red and yellow birdies, so they turned out a little blurry. I'll show them to you anyway!

I left a few of the cupcakes without a topper and with a swirl of the buttercream. I think it looks fantastic all on it's own too!