Monday, 13 October 2014

Star Wars Cake


Guess what? One month to my wedding. We’ve been really busy with the final details and most of the things are done. Everyone is super excited, but is it OK that I’m not? We’ve been planning it for a year, so I’m kind of done. And I feel kind of guilty for feeling this way. Anyone else felt like this? Hopefully I get a second wind and get excited closer to the date!

In the meantime, there are a bunch of baking projects. One is a Star Wars cake for a now 6 year old (What? When did that happened??) boy. I’ve made these cupcakes and this cake for him in the past. This year he requested a vanilla Start Wars cake, which was a bit challenging because I know nothing about Star Wars. And I wanted to make a version that didn’t use fondant. Here’s the final cake! I hope he likes it!!!

Star Wars Cake
Vanilla Funfetti Cake
I used this Vanilla Buttermilk Cake originally from Sky High: Irresistible Triple-Layer Cakes 
I tossed some sprinkles on the cake batter after pouring in the baking pans and swirled it with a butter knife.

Whipped Vanilla Pudding Buttercream
Ingredients
1 vanilla pudding cup
1 ½ cups butter, room temperature
6 cups icing sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
Blue and yellow gel food colouring

Directions
1. Combine butter, icing sugar, and vanilla pudding cup in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat with a paddle to combine.
2. Add vanilla and beat on high until fluffy.
3. Divide into 3: about 1 cup for the filling, 1/3 cup for the label and stars (yellow), and the remaining for the outer layer (blue). Add food colouring and whip until smooth and blended.



Assembly
Fill the layers with white frosting. Crumb coat the entire cake with blue frosting. Use the yellow frosting to pipe stars and the Star Wars label.
*I made a stencil for the Star Wars label with acetate. I first placed the cake in the freezer for 15 minutes, then placed the stencil on the cake and smeared the yellow frosting over top. I put it back in the freezer for about 5 minutes before carefully removing the stencil.

Smearing buttercream on my stencil.




Verdict: This is my go to recipe for vanilla cake. Dense but fluffy and moist – a very pleasant texture. The frosting was a bit sweet for my liking, but an American style buttercream crusts (as opposed to Swiss Meringue Buttercream), which I needed for a smooth and sturdy cake. I was happy with the way the stenciled label turned out. Yay, no fondant needed!

Sunday, 5 October 2014

Macarons



I have made these before. And it’s never worked. Cracks, dull, no feet fails. And then it happened. It started to work. And although they’re not perfect yet, my macaron making mind is revitalized!
So macarons are supposed to have a shiny shell, with feet (not separated or collapsed), non-hollow shells, and a balanced amount of filling. That’s a lot of characteristics that can go wrong. These aren’t nearly there yet, but since they are starting to work for me, I thought I’d share. Btw, the key to delicious macarons: ripen in fridge for 24 hours before consuming. Makes a world of difference.

Macarons
An amalgamation of this and this recipe.

Ingredients
1 cup icing sugar
¾ cup almond flour/meal
2 large egg whites
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
¼ cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
Gel food colouring

Directions
1.   Line two baking sheets with parchment.
2.   Sift icing sugar and almond flour together into a bowl.
3.   Wipe the inside of a metal bowl and whisk with vinegar. Whip egg whites until frothy. Add cream of tartar and whip to soft peaks.
4.   Gradually add sugar while beating. Whip to very stiff peaks.
5.   Add vanilla and gel food colouring and whip to mix.
6.   Dump sugar-almond mixture into meringue. Set timer for 30 seconds and mix with a spatula to deflate the air.
7.   Start folding and test periodically so that if you hold the spatula up, ribbons flow off of it and gradually disappear into the batter.
8.   Put the batter in a piping bag with round tip. Pipe fairly small rounds on the parchment lined baking sheets. Remember, they spread out a bit, so try not to pipe too big.
9.   Hold baking sheet and bang on counter 2 times each to release bubbles.
10. Pre-heat oven to 300 degrees F. Let the macarons sit and form a shell as the oven is pre-heating. 15-30 minutes.
11. Bake for 10-12 minutes until the shells easily release for parchment. Cool on tray before releasing.
 
Before adding almond flour.

Strawberry Lemon Filling
½ cup butter, room temperature
2 cups icing sugar
3 Tablespoon seedless strawberry jam
½ teaspoon lemon flavouring
2 Tablespoon cream

Directions
Beat all ingredients until smooth. Adjust strawberry jam to taste. Add more cream for smoother texture.

Chocolate Buttercream Filling
¼ cup chopped chocolate
½ cup butter, room temperature
1 cup icing sugar
1 Tablespoon cocoa
1-2 Tablespoons cream

Directions
Melt chocolate over a double boiler. Take off heat and cool so that it won’t melt the butter, but is still smooth. Combine butter and sugar in a bowl. Sift in cocoa. Beat until combined. Add melted chocolate and beat until smooth. Add cream until you get the consistency you like.

Assembly
Pipe filling onto a shell and sandwich with another. Place in a container and leave in the fridge for 24 hours before bringing back up to room temperature to eat.





Verdict: The strawberry lemon macarons were delicious. The chocolate buttercream macarons were a tad sweet. I’ll have to adjust the recipe. Back to the kitchen to practice.

Btw, the next batch cracked horribly. Anyone know how to make macarons when it’s humid??

Monday, 11 August 2014

Vanilla Strawberry Ice Cream Cake


As I mentioned in one of my previous posts, I recently bought a townhouse. To celebrate, I threw a housewarming party and decided to make an ice cream cake for dessert.

Dairy Queen ice cream cakes – yay or nay? I pretty much only like the cookie fudge middle. My plate is always left with sad looking vanilla and chocolate soft serve because I just eat the middle. But I think my problem with that cake is that it’s soft serve. If it was real ice cream, I think I’d love it.

So, my ice cream cake was going to be made with real ice cream. And not that stuff from the store that has a bunch of ingredients that I can’t pronounce, meaning they really shouldn’t be in my ice cream. I’m talking about the home make stuff – with egg yolks, and real vanilla, and only ingredients you’re familiar with! And you know what? It’s going to have cake too – because ice cream cake without the cake part, is just ice cream shaped like a cake if you ask me.

The great thing about this type of cake is that the options are endless! I went simple, but you can mix and match ice cream and cake flavours and add extras like cookies, crumbles, nuts, fruit, and sundae syrup between the layers. And multiple ice cream flavours!

Vanilla Strawberry Ice Cream Cake
Parts:
Vanilla cake
Vanilla ice cream
Strawberry jam
Whipped cream frosting
*Note, this cake takes 3 days to make

Vanilla Cake (Make on day 1)
Use your favorite vanilla cake recipe. I halved this one and baked it in a 6-inch pan. Feel free to use whatever size you like!

After baking and cooling the cake, cut into two layers. Wrap in plastic wrap and freeze overnight.

Alternatively, you can buy a pre-made pound cake.

Vanilla Ice Cream (Make on day 1 or 2)
You can use your favorite store bought ice cream. Or make it from scratch! I used this recipe by David Lebovitz. 
If making from scratch and refrigerating the base overnight, make on day 1. If not refrigerating base overnight, make on day 2 (same day as assembly).

Whipped Cream Frosting (Make on day 3)
Ingredients
2 cups whipping cream
1/3 cup icing sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla
Gel food colouring

Directions
1.  Chill metal bowl before whipping. Beat whipping cream until soft peaks.
2.  Sift icing sugar and add vanilla. Beat to stiff peaks.
3.  Add food colouring to your desired shade and beat to blend.
*I added a stabilizer (like Whip It http://www.amazon.com/Dr-Oetker-Stabilizer-Whipping-Packets/dp/B000NY8OLU), but since it’s going to be frozen, I don’t think it’s necessary in retrospect.


Assembly
Day 2:
1.  If using store bought ice cream, take out and soften for about 10-15 minutes before proceeding. If using scratch ice cream, it should be in soft-serve consistency (feel free to stick in the freezer until ready).
2.  Smear a little jam on the cake plate. Place frozen cake layer on top. Spread jam on top.
3.  Wrap stiff acetate tightly around the cake and tape to secure.
4.  Spread ice cream over the cake – up to you on how much and how tall you want the cake!
5.  Spread jam on the other cake layer. Carefully place it on top of the ice cream, jam side down.
6.  Freeze overnight.
Day 3:
7.  Make whipped cream frosting.
8.  Take acetate off cake. Frost cake with whipped cream and decorate to your preference. Freeze until ready to serve.
 
Acetate around the cake.

 



Verdict: This ice cream recipe was A-MAAAzing! So creamy, rich, and flavourful! I only used ¾ of it in the cake, so I had a bit left over. And good thing too because my friends requested it and devoured it! I’m dreaming up new flavour combos!

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Strawberry Rice Crispy Pops


What is it about food on sticks that make them so fun? Is it that food doesn’t readily come on sticks on a regular basis (unless you’re from South East Asia – think satay)? Is it that we associate fun/not-so-good-for-us foods-but tasty foods with the stick delivery (e.g., lollipops, ice cream bars, popsicles, corn dogs)? I’m pretty sure I’d like certain things a lot more if it came in stick form.

Desserts on sticks are blowing up lately! Cake + stick = cake pops; Pie + stick = pie pops; get the pattern? I wanted to try the Rice Crispy Pop because compared to the cake/pie pops, they are sooo easy. And just by inserting a stick, makes them so cute and appetizing!

I found a bag of HUGE strawberry marshmallows (meant for campfires and s’mores). Invented: Strawberry Rice Crispy Pops. I made these for a one year old’s Hello Kitty themed party.

Check out the verdict at the end of the post!


Strawberry Rice Crispy Pops 
Ingredients
¼ cup salted butter
5 cups strawberry marshmallows (If using the large ones, cut them into quarters)
½ teaspoon vanilla
6 cups Rice Krispies Cereal
¾ cup white candy melts
Sprinkles
Lollipop sticks

Directions
1.  In a big pot, melt butter on medium low. Add marshmallows and melt (stirring occasionally).
2.  Take off heat and add vanilla and stir.
3.  Add Rice Krispies and working quickly, stir to combine. Pour and press into a pan (I used an 8 x 8 inch pan). When it cools slightly, use an offset spatula to press down so you get a flat surface. Cool completely.
4.  Place candy melts in a double boiler on low and melt, stirring occasionally. Set out parchment to place your dipped Rice Crispy Pops on to harden.
5.  Cut Rice Krispies into desired size. Use a ruler and take the entire thing out of the pan before cutting for uniform squares (I learned that through trial and error!).
6.  Spoon the candy melts over the squares, decorate with sprinkles, and set to dry before inserting sticks. Voila!



Verdict: I think these looked so cute! They were chewy and delicious as Rice Crispy Squares are. And not super artificially strawberry-y! Everyone kept asking how I got them pink! No need to added food colouring here!

Monday, 28 July 2014

Hello Kitty Cake


Sorry for the lack of posts lately. It’s because of something really exciting – we bought a townhouse! I’ve been busy moving and redecorating. We’re into a rustic industrial theme for the main part of the house and have been completely engrossed with finding the right pieces. It’s been fun (Right J???)!

Along with the townhouse came a gas convection oven. I’ve only used an electrical oven in the past and heard great things about convection, so I was really excited about trying it out. Um…frustrating!! I can’t get the hang it! Nothing is working! Previous recipes are completely failing! This can’t be happening! As though I don’t have enough confidence-shattering fails as it is!

Enter: My friend’s daughter’s first birthday – Hello Kitty themed. I decided/was asked to make a Hello Kitty cake and cupcakes. I started baking the night before, and of course I had to make each twice because the first ones failed miserably, and the second batch wasn’t quite like when I had baked them before, but were acceptable. 

Anyways, if you’re on good terms with your oven because you know how it works, or if you’ve just moved and want to test your oven-relationship, and want to make a Hello Kitty cake, here are some pieces that I used.

Check out this video for decorating the cake: http://youtu.be/_hvSWuLWkJ0
I used this recipe for the cake: http://bit.ly/1rxVGUS
*I used 2, 9-inch cake pans and made sure the stencil was large enough
I used this recipe for the Italian meringue frosting: http://bit.ly/1pygqJD
I used chocolate covered almonds for eyes, a stencil and pink sanding sugar for the bow, and strawberry Pocky for the whiskers.

I also made cupcakes and strawberry Rice Crispy Treats for the Hello Kitty birthday party. I halved the cake recipe to make 12 cupcakes and made the following frosting:

Strawberry Lemon Frosting
Ingredients
1 cup butter, softened
4 cups icing sugar
3 Tablespoons seedless strawberry jam
½ teaspoon lemon extract (I used LorAnne)
2-4 Tablespoon cream (depending on how soft you want it)

Directions 
Combine all ingredients and beat until fluffy. 
Pipe using a 2D or 1M tip, starting from the center of the cupcake. 



Verdict: Luckily, everyone enjoyed the cake and cupcakes! I personally really liked the flavour of the frosting – it reminded me of a Japanese candy that I had when I was a kid. We topped the cupcakes with Hello Kitty figurines. The Hello Kitty cake actually turned out! Loved the Pocky whiskers – an idea I got from friend who made a similar cake!

The birthday girl just went for it, but in a polite sort of way – she just grabbed at the edge of the ear. What a cutie!


Strawberry Rice Crispy Treats recipe to come soon.

Sunday, 8 June 2014

Rainbow Cake

Remember this baby and this cake that I made for her?  Well, she's now 4 years old (!) and wanted a rainbow cake for her birthday. I decided to try out the petal technique, which looks pretty and seemed simple to do. And I envisioned an explosion of sprinkles on top - because what 4 year old girl (or grown woman) doesn't like rainbow sprinkles everywhere??
                                                 
Plus, check out this painting she made for me for my birthday this year!


Check out the verdict at the end of the post!

Vanilla Funfetti Cake
Adapted from here.

Ingredients
1 cup + 2 Tablespoon butter, room temperature
1 ½ cups sugar
4 + ½ large eggs, room temperature
3 teaspoons vanilla
2 cups pastry flour
1 ¾ cup all purpose flour
2 ¾ teaspoons baking powder
¾ teaspoon baking soda
1.5 cups buttermilk, room temperature
1/2 cup whipping cream
2 Tablespoons sprinkles

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2. Grease and flour 3, 8 inch rounds. Place parchment on the bottom.
3. In a bowl, sift flour, baking powder, and baking soda.  Set aside.
4. In the bowl of standmixer, beat butter and sugar until fluffy with the paddle attachment. 
5. Add eggs and vanilla and beat to incorporate.
6. Alternately mix in flour and milk, starting and ending with flour.
7. In a small bowl, whip whipping cream to a soft peak. Fold whipping cream into batter.
8. Add sprinkles and fold into the batter. 
9. Distribute between pans and bake for about 30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.
10. Cool in pans for 15 minutes before cooling completely on rack.


Rainbow Swiss Meringue Buttercream
1. Make full recipe from here for 10 cups.
2. Divide buttercream into 5, with one portion a little bit bigger for the crumb coat.
3. Colour each portion with a different colour of gel food colouring.


Assembly
1. Put a small dollop of buttercream on the cake plate. Place the first cake layer on the plate.
2. Add a layer of buttercream (any colour). Place a layer on top and add more buttercream. Top with the final layer.
3. Crumb coat the entire cake with the extra portion of buttercream. Place cake in freezer for 15 minutes.
4. Place each colour of buttercream in a piping bag with the same round tip or with the tip cut to the same size.
5. Follow these directions for the petal technique or check out this video.



I had leftover frosting so I made this 5-inch rainbow cake. Thought I'd give you an alternative way to decorate a rainbow cake.





Verdict: I didn't try this cake, but the guests at the party, and the birthday girl loved it! Apparently the moms at the party initially wanted smaller portions, but ended up going for seconds! And the birthday girl's brother, who normally doesn't like cake, asked to bring it to school the next day! I'd say that's a success!

Monday, 2 June 2014

Ritz Cookies

The other day, I saw that Momofuku Milk Bar put out a Ritz Cookie. It sounded amazing! Buttery Ritz in cookie form with an explosion of salty, sweet, and chewy. Too bad I couldn't get my hands on them, and the recipe is not in the cookbook. So I decided to try to create them on my own - even though I don't really know what the real thing tastes like. Oh well, it'll be fun.

Just did a quick search and apparently the Ritz cookie came out 2 year ago. I am a bit slow.

Check out the verdict at the end of the post!

Ritz Cookies
Makes 18 large cookies
Inspired from Milk Bar.

Ingredients
1 cup butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup bread flour
1 1/2 cup Ritz crumbs - from 40 crackers (see directions below)
1/4 cup milk powder
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 baking soda

Directions
1. Make Ritz crumb by pulsing the crackers in a blender or food processor until fine and crumbly. Set aside.
2.  Beat butter and both sugars in a bowl until fluffy, 3 minutes.
3. Add egg and beat for 4 minutes.
4. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, add vanilla, and beat to combine.
5. In a separate bowl, mix flour, Ritz crumb, milk powder, baking powder and baking soda. Add to the butter mixture and mix slowly just until combined.
5. Portion dough with an ice cream scoop onto a baking sheet. Cover with foil and let marinate in the fridge for 2-3 days.
To bake
6. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
7. Place 4 on a baking sheet and press down to slightly flatten. Bake for 14 minutes until the edges are golden.
8. Let cool on baking sheet for 10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack.
 
Before baking.
After baking.





Verdict: These cookies turned out buttery, rich, and chewy! They were delicious and I'll definitely be making them again - maybe with some larger chunks of Ritz for a variation in texture.