Monday, September 29, 2008

When Cakes Are Deemed Clinically Insane

What a weekend. Saturday my husband and I played in my sister's friend's fundraiser DODGEBALL tournament. 5 hours of 80's themed dress-up dodgeball, "dodge, dive and duck"... followed by an 80's themed dance party in which I had to dance 3 hours straight because the music was so good! Needless to say I hobbled home in my heels after that one, and my arms are STILL in pain and it's now Monday! But... I had to soldier on like any good member of the Obsessed With Baking army... Sunday was my sister's birthday party, so I had to make a very special cake for a very special sis. I call this cake... "CLINICALLY INSANE TRIPLE LAYER CAKE." A layer of fragrant coconut cake, followed by raspberry jam and vanilla buttercream, followed by a layer of dark chocolate cake, followed by more jam and frosting, followed by a layer of vanilla cake, with raspberry jam... and a shiny, drippy layer of my favorite friend, chocolate ganache! Topped off with fresh raspberries, it really was a personal piece de resistance, and now the kitchen appears as if it was hit by a flour and icing sugar tornado.

Above is a picture of my wonderful heavy-duty pale pink gadget, Kitchen Aid, with its sweet and thick friend, Vanilla Buttercream. I was very pleased with how the cake turned out-- each layer was moist and flavorful; I adored the raspberry jam, but next time I will make my cake layers in more similar flavors! I just loved cutting into it and seeing the layers in full action. It took many hours to create but all was worth it, to provide a memorable and crazy cake for my sis. My new obsession, though, is... raspberry jam-filled coconut cupcakes!

Friday, September 26, 2008

Because They're Pretty And So Are You

I made these for my mom last Mother's Day... lemon cupcakes with creamcheese frosting and fresh raspberries, one of my fave cupcakes to make and eat! I am cupcake-obsessed currently because I am making cupcakes and a small cake for my dear pal Miko's upcoming Fall wedding! I've been working on making little fondant flowers, and yesterday in the pouring rain I drove out to Langley, BC to go to this crazy cake supply store"SCOOP AND SAVE." Do you know it? If not, it's got pretty much everything a cupcake and cake obsessed nut like myself would like. You kind of have to slog through some garish yucky colored Wilton-y megaproducts to get to the cute stuff, it's almost like slogging through a rack of clothes at Value Village to find that one perfectly tailored vintage dress, but on this trip I found some truly resplendent (!) vintage looking striped cupcake liners, and they have bulk non-pareils and dragees (silver party balls for decorating!) and all that jazz. I can't wait to post pics of the upcoming wedding cupcakes! I'm doing a trial-run this weekend. Wish me luck!

Monday, September 22, 2008

Ginge Cookies For Fall Chill

I made these for my Dad, to say thank you for taking me and my sister to Seattle over the weekend and spending all his money on us! They turned out crisp and buttery with fresh-grated ginger, and I added chopped up candied ginger for kicks too. I really thought these were going to be way more "hot" gingery but they actually turned out milder than I was hoping! Like my Grandma, I like extremely gingery flavour. Yum.

I always forget how much this recipe spreads on a cookie sheet too so while I thought I was making these cute little circular mini snaps they spread in diameter to resemble less of a snap but more of a big old gingery brown flat cookie. I "festooned" each cookie with a slice of candied ginger for decoration. This recipe was modified from the Martha Stewart baking handbook, that crazy nut Martha.

Ding dong, Fall is here. Spicy cookie alert.

Ginger Snaps with Candied Ginger

Makes a few dozen, depending on size you make em!
2 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon ground cinammon
3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup molasses
1 +1/2 tablespoons finely grated peeled ginger (or more! I used my hand-held zester thing)
1 large egg
1/3 cup (or more) chopped up candied ginger

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.

1. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, pepper and salt. Set aside.
2. Beat butter, brown sugar, molasses and ginger on medium-high until fluffed out.
3. Beat in the egg until smooth and combined, about 1 minute.
4. Add flour mixture, and beat on low speed until just combined.
5. Mix in candied ginger (really fast-- don't overmix dough!)
5. Spoon out onto parchment-papered baking sheets, about 1 inch balls.
6. Flatten with bottom side of spoon dipped in water, add candied ginger to adorn.

Bake for 15-18 minutes, rotating pans halfway through and checking cookies to ensure they don't burn. Remove from oven, then let cool for a few minutes then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.

Crunch and munch away on your homemade spicy gingersnaps!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Peaches And Cream He-Man Muffins=Crazy Delish

When I was a kid I was into both girly toys and boy toys. Barbies and He-Man. Peaches n Cream Barbie would frolick at Castle Greyskull and He-Man would take a booze cruise on his new turquoise and fuschia-maned friend My Little Pony. So naming this peaches and sour cream muffin "Peaches And Cream He-Man Muffins" is kind of a tribute that I just made up. Another story: this summer, my husband left on a three month trip with a friend, a journey whereby which he sailed from Vancouver to Hawaii and back, across the Pacific Ocean. Crazy, right? His little 27 foot sailboat was jammed up with every conceivable canned good, and, while he managed to cook at least one meal per day on the journey to Hawaii, the exhaustion of the trip led to Clif bar dinners and instant noodles on the way back (much to my nutritionally-crazy dismay!).

ANYHOO, thus our kitchen table has since been piled up with crazy canned goods which won't quite fit into the kitchen cupboards. The cans have spawned one Iron Chef-style cook-off already, with two friends making the craziest dishes they could out of the pile of food. Slowly I've been opening a can here, opening a can there, making a dual bean homous, using some tomato sauce for lasagne, etc. But what to do with two giant cans of peaches in syrup? If I had been in the competition, I thought I would make a Ritz cracker and crushed almond crust peach pie, with an oat/sugar/lemon juice topping.

A big ol can of peaches in syrup. A craving for a warm muffin. After flipping through some recipe books, I decided to create a little recipe called...


1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup oats
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup of sour cream
2 cups rinsed canned peaches, chopped into chunkers (sorry, not the most appetizing description!)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a 12 cup muffin tin, or grease and flour.

1. Sift together dry ingredients in medium sized bowl! Set aside!
2. Cream butter and sugar until fluffy!
3. Add egg, until blended! Add vanilla until blended!
4. With mixer on low speed, slowly add dry ingredients until just mixed.
5. Add sour cream until just incorporated. Do not overmix!
6. Fold in party chunks of peaches!
7. Spoon into muffin tin.
8. Bake for 25-30 minutes, turning pans halfway through, or until a wooden sticky poked into a muffin comes out fairly clean.

Yay for easy muffins that taste like peach cheesecake! Enjoy!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Vintage Baking Book Beauty

I have a growing collection of lovely and hilarious vintage baking books and even baking flyer-type things that always contain truly wonderful recipes. I love the technicolor photos and the strange, strange food-styling and photography of yesteryear!

They have some very awesome decorative tips... click on picture for zoom-in!

I inherited this 1970s Betty Crocker cookbook from my mom's collection:

This morning I was called upon to make a birthday cake to celebrate my grandma's 86th birthday. I was going to attempt a classic Chinese birthday cake with spongecake, whipped cream and melon balls... do you know the kind? Fresh, light, made with vegetable oil instead of butter. But I decided to go light and lovely lemon chiffon, with fresh whipped cream and organic strawberries! This is the "Two-Egg Yellow Chiffon Cake" but made lemon with lemon zest, from Betty Crocker to my kitchen to you!

Lemon Chiffon with Whipped Cream and Fresh Berries

2 eggs, separated
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 1/4 cups cake flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup salad oil
1 cup milk
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest

--whipped cream and fresh berries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour 2 round layer pans.
1. In a mixer bowl, beat egg whites until foamy. Beat in 1/2 cup sugar 1 tablespoon at a time; beaing until very stiff and glossy. Set meringue aside.
2. Measure remaining sugar, flour, baking powder and salt into mixing bowl. Add oil, half the milk, vanilla and lemon zest; beat 1 minute on high speed, scraping as needed.
3. Add remaining milk and egg yolks; beat 1 minute, scraping bowl occasionally.
4. Gently fold in meringue. Pour into pans.
5. Bake 20-25 minutes, rotating pans halfway through. Bake until a little wooden sticky inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean.
6. Whip your whipping cream and add sugar to taste. Slice berries for the middle and top of cake.

To assemble:
Put one cake round on platter. Cover with whipped cream and layer berries. Put second cake round on top. Cover with whipped cream and some sort of decorative berry-ness!

The lemon chiffon cake turned out very nicely lemon-y. Next time I will do mixed berries in the middle and top and add fresh mint leaves for contrast color!

Ganuts About Ganache

Sometimes a title of a post doesn't always have to make sense. I am nuts about ganache, but sometimes I even feel ganuts. Ganache is a wonderfully fancy-sounding French word that when i looked it up on an French to English translator, said the first definition was "idiot." The second definition was "ganache." So I suppose both French and English people know ganache as that lovely, smooth, shiny and rich dark chocolate creation that is used as both a filling and to ice cakes and cupcakes, and to make lovely truffles. Is ganache idiot-proof? Quite possibly! Despite the fancy name, ganache is rather simple to make, so long as you can tend a a pot over the stove. The trick is to use it quickly upon making it while it's in a pour-able state, as it will thicken and get less and less shiny as it sits... but even in the thick state, it is just as delicious!

The general gist:

2 cups heavy cream
1 pound best quality semisweet or dark sweetened chocolate, finely chopped (chocolate chips work too!)

Directions: In a small saucepan over medium-high heat, bring cream to a full boil. (Watch your pot-- the cream will bubble and boil over!) When it hits boil, turn off the heat. Add the chocolate, and swirl pan to completely cover it with cream. Let stand about 5 minutes. Slowly whisk until beautifully smooth. Let cool somewhat then go ahead and use it!

A few ganache-covered items I've made recently include the coconut vanilla cupcakes with chocolate ganache icing pictured above that I made for my brother-in-law's birthday, and this guy:

my friend Justin's grandma's and mom's special family recipe "Sock It To Me Cake" (a delightful coffee-style cake made with sour cream and a hidden crunchy yummy layer of walnuts and brown sugar inside). I baked it in a bundt pan and once it was iced with ganache and I added rainbow sprinkles, it looked like a giant Homer Simpson donut! I think it would be neat to have a chain-letter type of cake where you send a recipe to a friend or a penpal and add a little something or a little something different to it, and they do the same, and they pass it along, and along, like Fleetwood Mac's "the Chain." Actually Fleetwood Mac's song has nothing to do with chain letters or amazing cakes. For the Sock It To Me Cake, I would chain-letter name it "Sock It To Me Chocolate Ganache Homer Simpson D'oh-nut Cake." Heh heh.