Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Holy Macaron!

My First Batch of Macarons: Part success, part FAIL!

Hey ladies and gentlemen!

Have you ever tried making a macaron? Have you even heard of a macaron? Tempted to call them macaroons? No, not the same thing! You know, we're talking about those adorable whimsical often colorful little french sandwiched cookies, popping up all over the blogosphere, in trendy cafes and in our hearts! Well, they finally got to me. I could take their cutesy wutesy siren's call no longer, and despite the many many (many) many (did I say many?) fails of amateur bakers all over the internet and warnings of rough terrain ahead (pointing at me saying "that's you, stupid!") and even talk of necessary prayers to macaron gods for them to turn out ok, I decided, as usual, why not? After all, asking "why not" sparked the very site you are perusing! I would not know I had a talent for cakery had I not braved out that first one, being willing to fail to find out.

So, much like a drug addict recalls their first hit (omigosh did I just say that?) I am living my immortal memory right now, yes folks, last night I made my first batch of macarons and shall be deemed from this moment in time, insanely obsessed with making them repeatedly until at long last I figure these little buggers out, and prove that macaron gods don't in fact, need burnt offerings anymore, and the little charmers, macaron cookies delicioso, will eventually come from my kitchen and spread cheer amongst the office masses, family, the end. Shall we? I never thought you'd ask.

Last night. Oh my. Where to start? I started at www.Bravetart.com where I have been getting all sorts of inspired to try new and amazing things! Her recipes are unbelievable, her sassy attitude is right up my alley, and the photography makes mine look like my toddler took my photos for me. Hey, maybe he did? So what wanna fight about it? :) Ahh yes, last night. So, I made one batch. I baked several trays, experimenting all the way to try to understand them better and what makes them tick! Ok, when I say tick, I really mean crack, but hey, it sounded good.

Here's the LINK to Stella's recipe: http://bravetart.com/recipes/Macarons
If you are going to try to make these, please visit her page above and follow her instructions rather than mine, which I have included for reference only LOL On her page you'll find the links to the Macaron Myths and Commandment articles, and should read through the comments too! I'm an absolute beginner in the macaron department. Take everything I say with a grain of salt, except that you should visit Stella's macaron page!

French Macarons by Stella Parks

115g Almond Flour
230g Powdered Sugar
144g Egg whites
72g Sugar
2 tsp Vanilla Extract (she uses beans but I had none on hand)
1/2 tsp salt

10 oz Filling of choice (I used Rose's recipe for Classic Lemon Buttercream from The Cake Bible)


1. Basically, you sift the powdered sugar and almond flour together in a bowl and set aside.
Almond flour and powdered sugar sifted...

2. Whip egg white, sugar and salt together in KA for 3 minutes on 4; 3 minutes on 7; and 3 minutes on 8.

3. Add vanilla, whip on 10 for 1 minute or until a stiff meringue forms and clumps in the whisk.

4. Dump dry onto the wet, and perform "macronage" seriously, this is a word LOL, which means deflating     the egg whites in the perfect super duper way hehe that doesn't ruin it all and make you cry!

Dump it in!

****Stella recommends around 40 strokes to get it around the "just right" point of piping consistency. Overmixing, where the mix piles up on itself and after about 20secs does not melt back down will ruin them as well as undermixing, where it goes all runny and un-useable! Gah!

So, once you think you've got it just about right, you pipe one macaron onto a parchment or silpat lined baking sheet. If it has a sharp peak, you undermixed and need to pipe it al back out into the bowl and refill your bag. If it melts back into a smooth surface, enough anyways, to look like a macaron, pray and bake at 300F for 18 minutes, of course after piping the rest about 1.5-2 inches apart perhaps, and banging it on the counter a few times to kill any air bubbles.

All three of my batches had some cracked cookies (one had ALL cracked lol, see pic) and two of my batches had some feet like thingies. Pied is the proper name for them, so I hear! Some were sticky inside, some were shiny and smooth and released easily. All different, and crazy! I used silpat, where Stella uses parchment. I can't locate parchment ANYWHERE over here, so silpat is my only choice for right now. I'm at a loss of words regarding what I did right or wrong, and only repeatedly making them will help me learn I'm afraid.

First Batch: Some cracked

Second Batch: Collapse!

What I *suspect* I learned? (snicker snicker)

~Macarons are very temperature sensitive. Use your oven thermometer! I used mine.
~A too hot oven makes cracked macs.
~Watch your batter for stray areas of meringue that didn't get whipped properly (bowl side). Don't use it.
~Bake all at once if you can, I wonder if allowing my batter to bake one tray at a time messed it up  somehow. They all turned out so different!
~Use parchment over silpat if you can find it!
~If you fail, try again and again until you figure it out or go gray whichever.
~Pray to macaron gods.

THE END! (for now) I'll try again soon, and keep trying until I figure it out! I'll share my successes and fails with you, too.

Luckily, I got about a dozen that were presentable enough to be filled and taken to work with Hubby this morning. Word is on the street they were enjoyed, so that's always a plus! A huge thank you goes out to Stella Parks for her help in making these, and her advice after I made them and reported my results for diagnosis hehe. She is awesome! Macaronomnomnom!

Happy Baking my friends!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Creativity for Hubby's office: Fauxstess Inspired Brownies and Classic Cupcakes


I hope you have been enjoying the beginning of February! This month always reminds me of the sweeter things in life, of course, anyone can imagine why! Valentines Day is right around the corner! Oh yes, that holiday of holidays where we are all encouraged to bake our hearts out, eat little heart shaped candies with messages of love enrobed in chocolate, pink frosting and pastel sprinkles a-plenty, cakes divine, the scent of vanilla in the air almost everywhere you go. You get my drift, Valentines Day is one of my favorite days of the year. I really seem to get into the baking spirit! So what is a (naughty baking) nutritarian to do with all the goods she cannot eat? Why, send them in to the office! In my book, there is no sight more wonderful than a happy, sugared man, and his well cared-for soldiers/airman/whatever when they are away from home. Well, actually, I'd prefer my man was a Nutritarian like me, but in lieu of that since *that* ain't happening haha, I digress. Anyhow, since I am overseas and so many here are without their families, I've really taken it upon myself to be more nurturing of his office mates, while in turn, getting out some pent up creative energy in the kitchen. This bunch really deserves it, they work hard, are away from the ones they love (even the ones with family here) and really have a lot to cope with here. It's the least I can do!

So, proceeding with the understanding that making them treats benefits me as much as it does them, hehe, check out this last weeks nom noms! It was so much fun making them, they are really appreciative and even comical about it. It totally makes my week to hear about how they enjoyed them, and how it lightened their day and the general mood of the office. These little gems might indeed be little morsels of doom (health wise) but hey, if they won't join me and they would just end up eating processed junk anyways if I didn't send in anything, I don't see the harm in replacing mass produced junk with homemade always from scratch junk LOL. I don't care if anyone disagrees with that either, I don't *just* live to stay alive! You have to enjoy your time here while you've got it. I like to think I have found a nice balance of that in my I choose to live. If you're confused wondering what on Earth I am talking about, please see my Nutritarian blog at www.blissfulnutritarian.com!

Ok, so first up we have a bunch of cupcakes, recipe of course from Rose's Heavenly Cakes aka Rose Levy Beranbaum, because she is, after all, the Queen of cakery. Nobody else's recipes ever hold a candle to hers. It took me a while to master the chocolate cakes for some reason, but I've got 'em down pat now and they smell so incredible and are so fluffy! The color is almost black, they truly are amazing. Out of respect to Rose, I do not post her recipes on my blog (someday she might give me permission, and that would be great!) but for now I just have to refer you to her fabulous book on Amazon, Rose's Heavenly Cakes.
I used a standard wilton buttercream for these little beauties, at my Husband's request.

Here is that recipe at least! It can also be found at http://www.wilton.com/recipe/Buttercream-Icing
Those cupcakes were so fun to make! I'll definitely be making them again soon! The guys stayed up super late and went into work at 3am to watch the super bowl, so these went in with Hubby for that! It's a time zone thing. Next, we have the dreaded Wednesday meetings, according to Hubby, that mark the least favorite day of the week right next to our "Monday" which is really, due to local custom, Sunday. I was feeling nostalgic, having spent the week drooling over Stella's magnificent creations over at www.bravetart.com and being that I just got a new Fat Daddio's silicon financier mold, I was itching to try it out! I ended up of course, making brownies in it instead of authentic financiers. Like there is another brownie worthy of this great mold, Rose's recipe for Barcelona Brownies from Rose's Heavenly Cakes, again, was my perfect choice!

Since I didn't have any heavy cream on hand for the ganache plugs that the recipe lists as optional, I opted to dress them up Fauxstess cupcake style with the white buttercream decor. It was so ridiculously good looking! Even with my poor piping skills, I am after all very good with fondant and not so experienced with piping, at least not to the same skill level...they still looked on par with my expectations. Nostalgic, check! Magical! What do you think? I am still waiting to hear how they liked them, it is almost time as I type for the meeting to start! I hope it totally makes their day.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Homemade Marshmallows

So,  I've been following my new favorite blogger of all time, Stella at www.bravetart.com like an obsessive fool!  I found a tempting recipe for homemade marshmallows I just had to try! I had to adapt it a bit to suit what ingredients I had on hand (no vanilla beans, bah) so if you want the original recipe that uses vanilla beans, go to her gorgeous amazing blog! Warning, it's addictive and makes the clock do funny things like skip hours at a time in the blink of an eye.

I've been wanting to learn to make these things for about 6 years now, what on Earth has stopped me? I have no idea! For some reason they have always just seemed so...scary! Complicated? Impossible? Everyone has irrational kitchen fears, and for me, right next to my past fear of tempering chocolate (recently conquered!) this was at the top of my list.

I am so very glad I finally bit the bullet and jumped right in, because I will never be buying these things ever again! They are so beautiful, and according to my family, taste even better than the ones you can buy at the store. Since I haven't been able to taste them (Nutritarian baker, haha) I have to go on my family's assessment that they are absolutely fantabulous :) I can say, they do smell amazing, familiar, and enchanting! They really shocked me when I went to take them out of the pan for dusting and cutting. So amazingly soft! I bet they would be mesmerizing in some hot cocoa, or roasted over a camp fire for s'mores!

Without further small talk, here is the recipe, Stella's link and my very own photo. Of course, I don't have a professional photographer at my disposal so please, if you go to her site don't laugh *too* hard at mine! LOL I am a proud Mallow-Momma!

Homemade Marshmallows
(adapted from Bravetart)

1.5 oz Gelatin
8 oz Cold water
11 oz Corn syrup
8 oz Water
28 oz Sugar
1/2 tsp Salt
1 1/2 tsp Vanilla extract
1-2c Powdered sugar for dusting

Mis en place: Weigh all ingredients and have them ready to go. Grease a 9x13ish rectangular pan and set aside. Have a few spatulas ready and greased, a medium pot w/lid handy and a stand mixer ready to go with the whisk attachment. Grab your candy thermometer. GO!

Step 1
Bloom the gelatin and cold water in a stand mixer bowl. Ignore it for a while :)

Step 2
In a medium saucepan combine the corn syrup, water, sugar and salt. Over low/medium heat bring to a simmer while stirring very gently, being careful not to get sugar crystals up the side of the pan. Cover once simmering and allow to steam itself for 5 minutes.

Step 3
Uncover and fit with candy thermometer. Continue to cook undisturbed until the mixture reaches 240 F. Turn off heat, cool until 210F.

Step 4
Very carefully (HOT!) pour 210 F candy mixture into awaiting stand mixer bowl, add vanilla extract, and whisk on medium high for as long as it takes to triple the volume and become as fluffy as a cloud. It will nearly exceed the capacity of the bowl. I have the Kitchen Aid Pro 600 w/6 quart bowl and it filled it nicely.

Step 5
Using the oiled scraper, scrape the fluff into the prepared 9x13 pan. Sprinkle some powdered sugar on top and cover with plastic. Place in the fridge to set for 4 hours!

Step 6
Remove from fridge and reach in with your fingers, between the pan and the mallow, and pull it out and onto the counter, powdered side down! Cool is right! Powder the bottom, which is now facing up.

Step 7
Using a sharp knife or your other preferred medium for cutting sticky things, slice into long strips and then little pieces/shapes to your liking. I tried using a hot knife (knife set into hot water, wiped off), using floss to cut the strips, and using an oiled bench scraper. I found the floss to make the prettiest cuts but the sharp oiled knife to be the most efficient. Either way you slice it, heh, it's gonna be sticky and slightly challenging. Going slow and cutting cautiously is the road to success, I think. Play around.

Step 8
Eat and store them! They keep just like store bought mallows. Place them in an air tight bag or container. Voila! Congratulations! You've just made your first marshmallow! Wasn't that fun? Now clean up this mess!

I hope you enjoy making these bad boys! They were so fun to make, and honestly, I've never seen my Husband and son more excited about something I've baked! Especially my Husband!


Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Happy 4th Birthday Skyebird!

I can't believe my baby is four years old! Where on Earth did the time go? Every parent hears the phrase "Don't blink" about oh, a million times, within the first month of their child's life, and rarely do we understand try as we might the implications. May I just say "wow" :) Skyebird asked me for an Arnie the Doughnut cake this year, based off of one of his favorite children's books by the same title, so imagine my excitement at the thought of creating this little guy let alone theme an entire party after it!

As part of the party, we watched the short story on DVD, made mini "Arnies" using chocolate frosted Dunkin Donuts with fondant eyes and smiles I had made and dried in advance for the craft. I was so busy playing hostess I didn't get good photos of any of the party setup, decor, craft etc. Lesson learned! Wow! Can someone say "hire a photographer?" Anyways, I twisted Dunkin Donuts arm to give me tons of small donut bags and napkins so that everyone could make their own "Arnie Homes" lol after they were done making him, that is, if he survived that long! Many didn't. May we take a moment for the fallen Arnies! Ok, glad we got that out of the way. Oh yeah! The cake! You probably want to see that, no?

I started several days in advance and yet still, ended up staying up all night on the night before the party finishing this bad boy. As always, I used a recipe from my idol Rose Levy Beranbaum's The Cake Bible. I decided to try something new for this cake, rather than the usual white yellow or chocolate cake base, so this time, I present to you, a four layer white chocolate cake by the name of Rose's "Golden Luxury Butter Cake" in The Cake Bible, page 48!

Also, I finally gave Rose's fancy buttercream recipe a chance for the filling hehe, after much encouragement from her other followers, and it did not disappoint! It is a unique way of making buttercream, containing no confectioner's sugar but rather, it starts as a mixture of sugar, freshly squeezed lemon juice and water which is then cooked to soft ball stage and immediately whipped into egg yolks until completely cooled, then whipped into butter and more lemony goodness. Delish! It had the strangest visual texture to me, smooth as silk and satiny, as someone who has never strayed from traditional American confectioner's frosting. The mouthfeel was reportedly light and airy, with a warm, gentle lemon flavor that does not overpower the perfume of the white chocolate in the cake batter. I insist on the traditional buttercream under my fondant however, so that was on the outside of the cake.

As usual, everything was made with love from scratch, and all the decorations were made from my usual fondant recipe except for the ice cream thingies, those are molded chocolates I made. We actually had a chocolate lollipop tree with more "ice cream" like you see here but on sticks obviously, but again, I got so busy I forgot to photograph it. That was a big shame, as it took hours to make! Gah! The fondant, it's just your typical MMF, you can find the recipe on Cake Central as "Rhonda's Ultimate MMF". As you can see from the picture, TOTAL CAKE DEVASTATION! Yay!

Another successful birthday behind us, great memories were made, and a good time was had by all. I have never been so happy to clean up such a big mess, quite possibly, the messiest day in this home's humble history. ROCK!

Lastly, consider this a special shout out to a local fan who will be receiving another wedge of cake VERY soon, with your name on it with love! LOL Thanks for the sweet comment :)


Thursday, October 27, 2011

Happy Birthday Dear Hubby!

This cake was made for my sweet Husband, my best friend in this whole wide world right next to Jesus. He challenged me in requesting this cake specifically, as usually it's up to me! He used to love the original Nintendo NES system as a kid, still has one, and let me just say, it is the cause of many hours of lost sleep! I wanted to make him this cake so badly, even though it was intimidating to me as all get out. You see, in the cake world the simpler the design, the harder it is! It is very backwards! Add to that I have never done a square cake in fondant (my cheeseburger cake does NOT count LOL) or an odd shape like the bottom edges here that are sharply angled. I had no idea how I was going to pull this off, and wondered if I would have to devise a plan to excuse myself for not posting photos just in case it ended up a disaster worthy of Cake Wrecks! Luckily for him, and me (!) it is recognizable, and turned out good enough for me and more than good enough for him. I am my own harshest critic, although others have tried to test that theory bah ha ha! That's one arena where I always come out on top, unfortunately.  I had some wonderful examples on Cake Central to use as inspiration! Most importantly, I had the real deal right next to me at all times to model. At one point (insert cringe here) I practiced applying fondant to the corner of the actual console! Don't tell Thomas! Oops, too late now! Cats outta the bag! LOL

So, what's inside? Everyone knows I adore Rose Levy Beranbaum. I have learned to have people sample the recipes because the chocolate recipes are unlike other chocolate cake recipes sold in boxes LMBO, and you either love it or hate it. The caviar of the chocolate cake world, not quite to everyone's tastes but when you do fancy it, nothing ever tastes the same again. To me, they remind me of oreo cookies mixed with actual rich chocolate. Very sharp, straight to the point, matter of fact in your face chocolate flavor. It looks chocolate colored because it IS chocolate! Intense! Nevermind that, this cake is YELLOW! Just felt the need to mention that because after all, this is my blog and you can't make me stay on topic! Na-na-na-na-naaaa! Ok, seriously.  It's a yellow scratch cake, with fresh strawberry conserve/bakery  filling, wilton buttercream based spackle, and marshmallow fondant. As usual, everything is made from scratch. Nothing new there.

Marshmallow Fondant Recipe: http://www.designmeacake.com/mfrec.html

Buttercream Recipe: http://www.wilton.com/recipe/Buttercream-Icing

I needed a two 10 inch cake bases to start from, as I needed to carve it all up anyhow. So, I ran into a problem. All of Rose's recipes are made for either 8 or 9 inch pans, usually single layer, sometimes double but the double recipes were not the right size. Now back in the day I would have just winged it, heh, or made two batches. I know better now. So, in The Cake Bible, her first cake book to my knowledge, in the back is a special guide for creating custom recipes for odd shaped or sized pans for classic white, yellow and chocolate cakes. She calls this the "Rose Factor". She has a base recipe for each type of cake, you use a chart that corresponds with different sizes of pans, follow a matrix design to the number of multiples of the base recipe it would need to produce two full layers of that sized cake, and go to work calculating baking powder levels with another chart. It sounds like a lot of work (it is) but Rose's recipes are worth it. Hands down. I made my custom recipe for two high 10 inch layers of cake which would later make four torted layers, and off I went.

Out of respect to Rose, I will never post her recipes in my featurettes. Please, please don't be upset, but we have quite a following on her baking blog/forum/instruction site www.realbakingwithrose.com and I just wouldn't feel right doing that to her. Now, she does post recipes herself, so check it out! Please do yourself a HUGE favor and buy her books! Even if I posted the recipe (which I won't) you really need to read her books to understand her complex cake science processes, and apply them to the recipes. Knowing the recipe isn't enough in this case, anyways. I bought all mine on Amazon.com, it changed my baking life!

Onward, per Thomas' request, I used classic wilton buttercream, which I then made into a spackle using Toba Garrett's method from "The Well Decorated Cake" another awesome book! That was for under the fondant. Inside was a different matter. Thomas requested a jelly like filling, similar to bakery style cakes. I have never done this before, so it was a first. After researching many different recipes I decided to just wing it and throw stuff together, making my own recipe.

Fresh Strawberry Bakery Filling:

I used two packages of strawberries, washed and pureed them in my vitamix. Then I cooked then in a pot with about 3/4 cup sugar until they smelled right. Remember, I don't taste anything I make anymore, it's all by smell! LOL Yeah, I know. I know. So, when that smelled pleasant, I added some bloomed plain gelatin powder (about 1/2-3/4 package) and little by little, cornstarch. Once it thickened up how I wanted it, keeping in mind I wanted it very thick and gelatinous so it didn't soak into the cake layers or cause things to slide or shift once stacked and covered, I let it cool. It was very simple, still had the tartness of the berries (the sugar was NOT overpowering at all) and didn't soak into the cake. Next!

I have learned the importance of using a simple syrup on my cake layers as I stack them, to preserve moisture levels as I decorate (yeah, I'm slow) and to perfume the cake further. So, this time I whipped up a syrup (1c water and 1c sugar) boiled it, then added a splash of rum. Nom! The alcohol cooks off leaving a nice perfume and a hint of sweetness. I don't use much on my cakes anymore. Practice really does make perfect. It doesn't take much, just think of how pavement looks after it starts raining for the first minute. That is what you want the cake to look like. Droplets speckled, no puddles. Thank you!

I stacked them up, started carving, filling, syruping and spackled. Let it chill to firm up, then made my fondant and covered it. Voila! Ok, I skipped a lot, but you get the jest of it. The fondant didn't want to cooperate due to the high humidity of the day, and my colors kept changing as the fondant sat. Yeah yeah, I've made enough cakes that I know colors deepen upon sitting blah blah blah but this was nuts. I' get it perfectly matched to the NES system next to it, then two hours later it would be green or blue! So I'd color correct it again and again, until I was satisfied with the shade of gray. Gah! Eventually, I had to decide close enough was close enough :) It still looked green/gray in photos, but in person, at least for the first day of it's cake life, it was gray LOL. Time for some new color powders I think, instead of this wilton stuff. Blech!

Happy Birthday my sweet Hero, I love you endlessly! "...and many more!!!!!!"

Till November...

Thursday, September 29, 2011

My Fabulous Muffin Base Recipe

Hello everyone!

How have you been? Long time no read! My fault, entirely. I know! It has been a while since I've made a cake worthy of posting hehe, since we have been on a long and wonderful vacation! Since we've been home, I've managed to make a whipped cream cake for DH and some odd ball nom noms but none that look as delicious to me as these muffins! I got this muffin base recipe from the old days of Recipezaar online, where I had a membership. This recipe has been with me for years and has seen many a-variation! It is versatile, light and fluffy, gorgeous and delightful. I've made it in muffin cup pans and mini loaf pans. I've added all kinds of fruit to my heart's content! It always comes out wonderful!

From my kitchen to yours, please enjoy this recipe and let me know how you liked it!

Blueberry Version: I mashed up the blueberries and mixed into the batter so as to make it this lovely indigo color. If you leave them whole they look absolutely lovely as well, but these blueberries were huge and in my opinion too large for the muffin cups :) I ended up needing a couple of tablespoons more of flour to get the batter looking just right due to the excessive juice they gave off once squished! Don't be afraid to experiment!

Fabulous Muffin Base & Crumb Topping

For The Base:

1-3/4 cups flour
2-1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1c sugar
2 large eggs
1/2c oil
3/4c whole milk
1tsp vanilla
2c fruit pieces or whatever

In a large bowl, whisk together all dry ingredients. In a small bowl, whisk together all wet ingredients. Set aside.

For The Crumb Topping:

1 cup flour
3 Tbsp light brown sugar
2 Tbsp sugar (white or "raw")
1 tsp. baking powder
1/8 tsp salt
6 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted

In a medium bowl stir ingredients together with a fork or pastry cutter until combined, and crumbly looking. Set aside.

Finish the muffin base:

Add the fruit pieces or whatever you're adding as the feature ingredient to the dry ingredient bowl and mix until coated, then add the wet ingredient bowl to the dry ingredient bowl and gently fold just until combined. Not over mixing at this stage makes for a very fluffy tender muffin. Immediately spoon into greased muffin cups or whatever you are using, with or without liners, until about 2/3 full, and spoon about a tablespoon of crumb topping over the poured batter.

Bake the muffins:

Have ready a pre-heated oven with racks at center, about 350 degrees (170c I believe) and pop those babies in but do it gently, please :) Bake for about 25 minutes, watching carefully that they don't burn. Remove when the centers appear fully risen and set, when lightly pressed the centers feel slightly springy to the touch.



Friday, August 19, 2011

Happy Birthday Dear Daddy!

Today is my sweet Daddy's 51st Birthday, yes, on this day in history, the world was forever changed. He is the most wonderful Daddy anyone could ask for, selfless, thoughtful, protective, wise and always there when you need him. It was my pleasure to make him this cake today!

More later...


Monday, April 25, 2011

Hoppy Easter Cake for My Love!

Happy Easter Everyone!

I have had this awesome molded bunny pan from Wilton for years and years, yet until now have never used it! Well, this year I broke the standoff :) I think I had been avoiding this pan because of my fondness for fondant, and not knowing if I wanted to attempt to cover it and ruin the fine details of the pan. It seemed like such a shame to cover them up, but after my last cake I got a fun idea. Why not cover this bad boy in a thick warm milk chocolate ganache? I hoped it would end up looking like a chocolate easter bunny, and thankfully, it worked! It was such a joy to make, and fun too!

I used, as usual, Rose Levy Beranbaums "The Cake Bible" as my assistant in the kitchen and recipe source, and determined her "Perfect Pound Cake" and was the right choice for the job. It is a classic pound cake, dense but velvety in texture that somehow dissolves in your mouth with each bite :) I suppose I have to mention that comes from my Husband, who was kind enough to be my taste-tester and commentary. For those who are new readers, I am actually a Nutritarian by some sick twist of fate and do not eat my own works! LOL I will never tire of the irony. Nevertheless, I need people to taste these things and give me ammo for this blog or else each entry would read more like "Oh! It smells so good, looks like it would be velvety in texture and absolutely delicious, but who knows!?" hehe. Where's the fun in that?

The finished cake before adornments.
I am so happy I got to make a cake for my Husband this Easter! My sweet Hero really deserved the special pampering this year above and beyond that he absolutely deserves my pampering no matter what! So, I was more than happy to deliver! Gotta love a good man! There is a saying "It is hard to find a good man, but easy to keep one!" I couldn't agree more. What a love.

I made him a real Easter Bunny and Egg too this year, finally!
I hope you all had a great Easter Holiday with your family and friends! Thanks for visiting!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Rustic Sportsmen Story Cake

The Story: A friend contacted me about doing a special cake for her 15th wedding anniversary, specifically, as a present for her sweet Husband, also a hunter. She told me the most hilarious story from which the idea for this cake was born. Basically, his first big kill (deer) had one antler missing, reduced to a nub hehe, and when he went to put the skull cap with antlers (eww, me too!) on an ant hill to clean the brains (again, eww!) their hunting dog ran off with it, and though the dog was recovered said antlers were never found! Thus, never mounted. Poor guy! Poor dog, lol. So, this cake is a symbolic representation of that story, with a replica of the antlers in question made out of fondant and mounted on a miniature fondant wall mount hehe! How appropriate! He gets to have his antlers mounted after all ;P The frame on the front is a dog's paw print to represent the antler thief of a dog (!) hopefully you were like "Duh, I see it right there!" instead of "Oh! Is that what that was supposed to be?" lol. The ant hill is self-explanitory (I love those puffy ants!) and their ant hill/hole is reminiscent of the ones in North Carolina so I am told! Last but certainly not least, the deer bullet, or whatever the technical manly man name for it is! I bet a handful of my friends who hunt are slapping their own foreheads right now reading this! Can you tell I am not a hunter? But oh, how fun this cake was to make! 

So, a breakdown. Inside this little gem is my most prized filling ever. The cake is Rose Levy Beranbaum's All-American Chocolate Butter Cake from The Cake Bible. I love her to bits still! Her recipes are worth trouble shooting for different climates, through and through and I don't regret sticking with her! Her cakes are blow-your-mind delicious, not the ordinary cake flavor one might expect (tastings are helpful I am learning!) gourmet and filled with copious amounts of science and love. Great combo, you say? My Husband is a nerd, I had to fit in somehow! 

So, each layer (there are four of these bad boys) is sprinkled with my homemade amazingly smooth vanilla bean vodka (cooked off) simple syrup for maximum moisture and aroma, and then we decided to fill it with my "Daddy's SECRET German Chocolate Frosting" recipe. I used to eat the stuff out of a bowl like a meal as a kid, eek! Being a nutritarian now, that makes me cringe but understandably to my credit, it was as fabulously divine then as it is now. Due to geographic issues, I had to use fresh coconut instead of the typical American flake version called for in the recipe, but to my surprise and relief, it turned out wonderful.  I added a healthy dose of finely chopped freshly toasted pecans for good measure! Lastly, I decided no buttercream. I crumb coated and iced this cake in a thick luscious layer of pure milk chocolate ganache aka truffle filling! It was amazing to look at, and decadent as could be. After that it was covered in Rose Levy Beranbaum's recipes for Rolled Fondant and Pastillage. Most was hand painted, and glued together using chocolate and love.

Thanks so much to my friend who ordered this from me,  trusting me with such a special occasion! They were celebrating 15 years of marriage, quite an accomplishment! Congrats to you both, the happy couple! I hope your anniversary was everything you hoped for and more! 


Sunday, February 27, 2011

It's the little things that matter...the giving cake!

This cake came about as a surprise to even me! I was sitting in our local bistro being served by a most wonderful young woman. My Husband was out of the country for the moment, and I was so lonely and sad! I had someone watching Skye three times a week so I could catch a break and have tea by myself and read, rewind. This is one such occasion. This gal, my server, always made me smile as I had tea each week, making the time I had to spend apart from my Husband that much more bearable and a little less lonely. Suddenly, I felt the Lord's whisper upon my heart, that I should do something random for this young girl using my cakery skills, whom by her service to me was providing me with so much more than merely tea, but hope...and kindness. I felt like I was supposed to ask her when her birthday was, that I would find out it was soon, and tell her I would make her a cake and deliver it, as a gift. I knew she lives here in Abu Dhabi, away from her home country and family, by herself much like I, and probably didn't have any family to celebrate with. In fact, she and I, I later learned, arrived here at the same time. Hesitatingly, I questioned God. "Really? Seriously? You want me to do what? I'll look like a fool, and those cakes take so much time to make and stress me out!" but He insisted, and promised me I the cake I made her would be a joy to make. He promised I wouldn't be too stressed to make the cake, and so with an obedient heart I approached her and asked her when her birthday was. Inside I was thinking I was nuts.

What happened next surprised me, and confirmed I wasn't nuts. She looked shocked, and said it was merely in a few days. I had the perfect amount of time to make her a cake right away! So, I showed her pictures of my cakes on my phone, and told her I wanted to make her one as a gift, no charge, no strings attached. She was shocked, again, but managed to give in to my insisting it wasn't a burden on me! I didn't tell her why I had asked, living in the Middle East, one can get into a bunch of trouble for talking to anyone about religion or God, sadly enough. Maybe she will someday read this and find out why she received that gift, that I am not so great but God is, but until then my lips are sealed. I have a toddler to care for here, I can't do that from an Arabic prison! Moving on...

The day arrived quickly, and just as promised, the cake was a joy to make. I just allowed my fingers to create whatever they wanted, and I ended up with this...

It is the first time I attempted a homemade buttercream finish instead of fondant, and while I still prefer the velvety impossibly smooth finish of fondant, this wasn't bad at all for a first attempt! I filled it with my homemade european milk chocolate ganache and made one of Rose Levy Beranbaum's recipes called Buttermilk Country Cake for the torte, which was thinly stacked for a total of four layers. The layers were also sprinkled with a fragrant simple syrup. It was so fun! The rose is fondant as are the leaves, made my hand of course and painted with edible pearl powders and painted with food coloring and a paint brush. The pearls are also my fondant, rolled into little balls and then rolled in pearl colored edible food powder. It was simple and elegant, slightly under stated so as to not overwhelm her, and of course, fun. It also just happened to be her favorite color.

This cake was so much fun, and a great lesson in learning to truly listen to the Lord's whispers and trust Him. I am so glad I did. Take care everyone, see you next time!


Sunday, January 9, 2011

Classic Candy Themed Cake

Hello everyone!

Long time no see? If you had been following, you know I was in the middle of an international move, and now, I am happy to announce I am here and all settled in! Along with the end of the year came my little love's birthday, number 3 to be exact! Since we didn't know very many people here (at all) the cake I made was smaller than I would have liked but none the less, I really enjoyed how it turned out.

I made this scratch cake with four torted layers of the most wonderful Sour Cream Butter Cake, recipe from Rose Levy Beranbaum's "The Cake Bible". I am a die hard Rose Levy fan! Nobody's cakes taste as incredible, and bake up as reliably (once you get the science behind the rise!) than hers. Anyways, I filled it with milk chocolate ganache I made with European Galaxy Bar chocolate (I'm here, right?) and covered it with a creamy buttercream frosting and then my fondant. All the decor is fondant as well, with edible glitter powders.

Let me tell you, I have been wanting to do a cake like this for sooo long! It was awesome to finally just create something crazy, all my own, and express what's in my heart. Apparently, my heart is filled with appreciation for old world charms and childhood whimsy! Nevermind I am a nutritarian behind all this cake baking for others, something about the visual appearance of candies made with love AND painstaking skill just warms my heart and always will.

More pics coming...

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Rice Crispie Pops - Happy Birthday Chantz!

RKT Pops made using the Wilton Series of Cookie Pop Pans!         

I just had to post these! These were so SO Much fun to make! It was my little brother's birthday so I decided upon something fun and delicious as a birthday treat in the mail ;) All I did was make some rice crispy treats and using the Wilton Cookie Pop Pan (find it in my NEW OpenSky store!) pressed the hot mixture in after being thoroughly greased. I pushed the sticks in while they were cooling, and melted some yummy chocolates, colored the chocolate using oil based food colorings, had a ball with sprinkles (who doesn't like sprinkles!) and voila! He loved them so much he wouldn't eat them! He is such a little love. I love you Chantz!

You can find the standard RKT recipe on the back of any Rice Crispies cereal box =) Nothing fancy in that recipe and oh-so easy! I would imagine you might even leave these "blank" so to speak and let the kids decorate them with frosting, candies, let your imagination go wild! The hot melted chocolate might not be such a good idea for little ones, unless you REALLY like to clean! lol

Take care everyone, and wish us "Happy Travels" and we make our way to our new home overseas!

Jessie aka Jemoiselle

PS Check out my new OpenSky Store, where I will be selling the products I use to make these treats and more, products I truly use and believe in! How cool!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Sweet Summertime!

I have had some minor time on my hands to play around with amidst the domestic chaos life presents me with on a daily basis, and honestly, I feel incredibly lazy today having been up all night baking. What it is with me pulling these wild baking overnighters? Something about stars and ganache I think, anyhow here are the resulting products!

 Zebra Print Toffee

This one got me into trouble with a good friend, hehe, for it was a last minute surprise I decided to make before a special dinner we were going to, and it decided to misbehave at the last minute and I had to "save" it. Toffee is such a finicky animal! I ended up being late for said dinner, being forced to rely on my culinary charms to buy me some sweet mercy and forgiveness. Did it work? She still fed me so I am thinking yes. LOL

Vanilla Babycakes with Semi-Sweet Chocolate Ganache
(Recipe Obtained From: Rose's Heavenly Cakes)

These bring an interesting story to mind. At choir practice on Thursday last week, one of our guitarists suddenly looked at me and said "I'd like some cupcakes on Sunday!" Ha! Then our percussionist said "Yeah! Yellow cake with chocolate frosting! My favorite."  It was so funny how he said it so politely and with almost childlike hope, because he had no idea I do cakes etc to begin with or that I had stopped making them recently (for others). He just acted on intuition, and got lucky!  I asked him what made him ask me, and he thought about it, then said he had no idea! It just came out before he could think and stop himelf! Talk about going with your gut instinct! Feeling God was asking me to pick up my polka dotted apron again and crank out some seriously decadent nom noms, I happily obliged. I don't think they honestly thought I would take their antics seriously, hehe, but they truly had no idea that what they had just done was medicine for my soul =P

Semi-Sweet Ganache (setting up)

Today I showed up with a pretty wooden tray of these bad boys at choir practice early in the morn, and when I felt that old familiar sense of pride and love I associate with my work, realized how much I have missed it.

Much like anything one puts their whole heart and soul into coupled with hard physical work (thinking of my larger cakes hehe) it's always a gamble for the person afraid of failing. Hoping for someone else's enjoyment, paid or unpaid, such an act can bring about the most euphoric untold joys, or on the flip side,  frustration and disappointment when things go wrong. I know it isn't any huge feat to make cupcakes from scratch blah blah blah, but for me, this was a turning point in my confidence. What a great way to begin my day! I feel rejuvenated...

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Toffee! Toffee! Toffee!

Toffee! Toffee! Toffee!

This toffee absolutely hands down, was the best I have ever tasted in my entire life! The toffee itself is buttery, rich and almost smokey to the discerning palate. Upon first bite, you notice it's crisp satisfying snap, yet light texture. That sensation shortly dissolves into nothing short of heaven on Earth, as it goes through several different transformations. It starts off with that crisp snap, then gets crunchy, then chewy, then it just disappears entirely beckoning you to indulge once more. The almonds in the toffee add that familiar authenticity, while the different layers of chocolate and walnuts on top add an aire of luxury and velvety goodness to the already decadent moment of bliss. Ahhh, I love toffee!

I know, I know...I don't eat this stuff, why do I keep making it? It is so beautiful! I cannot help myself here folks, I have this obsession with old world confectioneries I simply cannot explain. There is something about watching sugar caramelize that stirs my soul, transporting me into another dimension or even another era completely! I get to escape the realities of life for a mere hour with the promise of something delightful to look forward to, and what's more, I get to share it with all the people I love the most in this world! I can't think of a better way to spend an afternoon...

I know this one was kind of random, but it is what it is. This stuff is just so special to me, a product of many years of dreaming and hundreds if not thousands of dollars worth of fancy confectioner's cook books I have never been brave enough to crack opened for anything more than a mid-summer's dream session. Today, I conquered the candy thermometer, and couldn't be happier! My cake making was NOT the first thing I started with, my friends...it was candy that sparked the flame!

Have a beautiful week, and if you know me and I love ya, come on over for a piece...it's waiting!


English Toffee Recipe 
(My version, adapted from the Taste of Home Cookbook)

1c. Salted butter, cut into 1" cubes
1c. Sugar / 200g
2 Tbsp + 2 tsp water
1 tsp Vanilla
1-2c Semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
1c white chocolate, melted
1c finely chopped Almonds
                                                      1c coarsely chopped Walnuts

1. Line a large cookie sheet with parchment paper, and set aside

2. In a medium heavy bottomed sauce pan, combine the butter sugar water and vanilla. Heat on low flame stirring slowly until all sugar dissolves.

3. Use a wet pastry brush to wipe down sides of pan to ensure all crystals are gone or dissolved. VERY important for texture.

4. Attach candy thermometer once everything is dissolved and smooth, and take out your stirring spoon. This is where I recommend you stop stirring entirely. Ask me how I know =(

** If you keep stirring, you run the risk of it separating around 280 degrees into a nasty looking, stringy oily buttery mess. If it does do this,  it IS savable despite what you may think. Simply add tablespoons of hot water, one at a time, and stir slowly until it comes together again. Then, you resume heating per recipe.

5. Heat on low to 290 degrees, or soft crack stage. Upon hitting 290, pull from stove. GENTLY fold in chopped almonds and pour carefully into pan. Smooth with an offset spatula into an even layer at a thickness pleasing to you.

6. Sprinkle hot toffee with semi-sweet chocolate, and allow to sit until melted. Using a new offset spatula, smooth and swirl chocolate until satisfied with coverage.

7. Sprinkle walnuts onto chocolate, and finish with an artistic drizzle of white chocolate to your hearts content.

8. Don't plan on fitting into ANY outfit in the following week after making these, you just won't. They are that good! Refrigerate until firm, then use a knife and chisel the sheet into pieces.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Rose's Heavenly Cakes: The Banana Refrigerator Cake featuring White Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting

Those of you that know me well, know I am all about scratch baking. Well recently, I have been introduced to the works of a few legendary icons of the professional baking world, most impressive of whom is Rose Levy Beranbaum. She is a celebrated master baker, pastry expert and cake scientist extraordinare! After reading about her passion for pastry, life and obsession with baking science I was hooked. We quickly found ourselves the proud owners of every single major pastry, cake and bread bible she published and then some. One of her newest books (2009) Rose's Heavenly Cakes, has an almost cult like following!



In fact, there is a group online that calls themselves "The Heavenly Bakers Club" and/or "The Heavenly Cake Bake Along" who bake their way through her newest book, one cake a week, all in unison, blogging about the affair afterwards simultaneously. I am dying to become an official part of that group! But alas, they require two cakes at least a month, or else! *Insert scary doom music here* So, I have made it my goal to bake enough of her cakes, pastries and breads from these books to be confident enough in my abilities to join with a straight face. *snickers* These are not your typical cakes! They are magic. Just pure, incredible, mind blowing magic in the kitchen. You have to forget everything you thought you knew about scratch baking, and go in with a hunger for innovation and artistic desire. She is just so incredible!

Well, here I go. Here is the first official cake I have made from Rose's Heavenly Cakes, or as we on the forum like to call it, RHC. I am so proud! I am now one step closer to my goal...and oh my, this cake was beyond words. Out of this world, in fact, it is over halfway gone already. Wowza!

Until next time!
Jemoiselle aka Jessie

Monday, April 19, 2010

An Announcement...

Dear Vanilla Expressions fans and followers,

I have really enjoyed making cakes for all of you, my special friends and family.
You have been such an inspiration to me, and I have truly loved exploring my talent and expanding my skillset with you. Due to the upcoming move, I will not be taking orders for my cakes effective immediately. I will still be baking for fun at home though, so keep an eye out for new pics!

Take care and thank you for everything,

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Super Mario Birthday for a super 5 year old love!

This might not look like it, but it was the hardest cake yet to do I think. It was a 6/10, the same chocolate blow your mind recipe from the cake bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum. It was filled with a simple vanilla buttercream, and covered in fondant with fondant and modeling chocolate accents. Mario was made of fondant, for those who might be wondering!

This cake took some serious skill to frost and stack, being that it is light as air bursting with moist crumbs and sticky with fudgey goodness! That being said, I cannot wait to hear about how it tasted at the party it was made for. A friend asked me to do this special cake for her son's 5th birthday. She really goes all out, and honored me with the task of making a cake with her son's favorite characters on it.

I used to play these games when I was a young gal, and really, still enjoy them whenever I get an opportunity to play (which is like, next to never) So I incorporated elements from different levels and typical challenges the game presents in a flowing "cake level" so to speak. It flows to the right, starting at the bottom tier by the row of coins. I tried my best to capture the flow with the camera, but it proved difficult.

Until next time,