Archive for September, 2010

She’s not quite my fictional baking spirit animal, but Angie “Bakerella” Dudley is at the very least a huge inspiration to me. If you’ve never been to, you should seriously just go now (It’s not even hard, just slide your eyes to the right a bit and look, there’s a convenient link right there!). She makes amazing things, all her posts have incredibly awesome photographs, and she’s artistic to boot! And she’s totally adorable, so she’s a huge winner in my eyes.

I don’t even really remember how I found her website, but finding it is what really lit the baking fire in me. I’d always really liked to bake already, but everything in her blog just made me want to bake all the time. Baking things she puts on her blog and having them come out like hers did always made me feel victorious. Even when they don’t come out like hers (as you’ll soon see), I just ended up admiring her more.

Woo, let me back my truck up, I don’t want to come off creepy.

She’s the closest thing I have to a hero. She’s just a girl with no real professional training (although she has taken cake decorating classes) who loves to bake and made a blog about it! Now she’s totally internet famous and has a book published and has been on TV and got to go to an Emmy Party and hug Seth Green! Do I want to be the next “Bakerella”? Good golly, no. As I’ve mentioned, this blog is just for fun and I don’t want nor do I expect anything from it other than to share my passion and make people excited about baking too. But would I take her life if she offered it to me? You bet your sweet muffin tops I would. In a heartbeat.

Oh man, talk talk talk talk talk. Let’s get to the part about the baking! I didn’t make this post just to profess my love, I made it to show off the Bakerella recipes I’ve made. It would be silly to make a whole long recipe post for each of them when you can easily find just as much detail on Bakerella’s blog. I’ll include all the links, so you don’t even have to go searching!

So just relax and enjoy~

The first Bakerella recipe I made were her signature cake balls. It was also probably my first venture into baking experimentation. The typical formula is a cake and a can of frosting, but I used a peanut butter and nutella instead. (What can I say, I’m a rebel). The peanut butter is my favorite kind of cake ball and I know a lot of you are nutella nuts, but in my opinion the flavor ended up being too subtle. If you do want to use nutella, I’d suggest not pairing it wil chocolate cake or all that chocolate will completely eclipse the hazelnut goondess.

They were really, really tasty. The best thing about the cake balls is that they’re probably the easiest thing in the universe to make, but everyone is always blown away by them. So they’re a must for potlucks and shindigs and if you want, you don’t have to tell anyone how easy they are, it can be your secret!

Then came the 4th of July and I wanted to do something really special for the picnic I was going to with my boyfriend’s family, so I attempted these special burger themed cake balls. Burgers for the fourth, it was a perfect match and oh so cute. I had no idea what I was getting into, but these specific cake balls are a lot of work. If I had only made about 30, it would have been fine, I think. But I ended up with over 100.

And I, sadly, do not have any artistic flair.

Honestly though, I was just proud they turned out resembling burgers! Sure, they’re messy and the bottoms were impossible to keep flat, but they still came out okay! And they were a big hit at the picnic!

They were super cute all nestled in their tupperware.

Okay, maybe I was a little more proud of them then I’ve let on. Here’s a little advice if you attempt to decorate cake balls:

  • When I was melting the candy melts, I tried to be all fancy with a double boiler method, but I found the microwave worked the best. I had to stir and re-microwave continually, but it still was the most effective method. And use a bowl that won’t burn your candy either. It becomes completely unsalvageable.
  • I have yet to find an effective dipping method when it comes to coating the whole thing. If you watch Bakerella’s video on how to make cake pops, she makes it look incredibly simple, but I didnt have any lollipop sticks to work with. I found that when you’re working with actual chocolate (as opposed to the chocolate candy melts), it’s smoother, so you can pop the cake ball in there and roll it around with a spoon and then pull it out with little difficulty. The candy melts, however, melt down much thicker, so it made the cake ball fall apart when I tried to get an even coating. So if you can, I would recommend using proper chocolate, like a bar of Ghiradelli’s Special Dark, for instance 🙂
  • Wonder Baker Tip: This is probably more a common sense thing, but if you ever think that maybe you can thin out your hot melted chocolate by adding milk THINK AGAIN. I thought I had a clever idea, but it ended up turning my chocolate into clumpy, crunchy, unappealing, blobs. Did I just do it wrong? I honestly have no idea, but I would recommend if you don’t know either, just avoid that altogether.

The next Bakerella recipe I went for were her Pillow Cookies.

It’s a brownie…inside of a cookie. A GIANT cookie.

The cookie dough was my favorite part of this whole recipe. It had lots of tasty brown sugar in it and molding it around the brownie was an experiment in itself. I think I decided that the best course of action was to err on the side of more cookie dough on top of the brownie because it tends to spread out to the sides and expose the brownie center. But even if your secret centers pop out, they’re still yummy!

Anyone in the mood for some Cheesecake Bars?

Bakerella’s recipe uses that very specific special cookie for the crust and if you have those cookies, let me know how they are! I just used graham crackersl. This was also my first time making cheesecake! Cream Cheese is really intense to work with in such bulk.

The cheesecake was okay, but it’s that ganache on top that really makes the whole dessert. It’s just chocolate and cream, but it’s soooo gooood. I think I could eat it by the bucketful.

Nick sure can. Fingers are the most appropriate utensil in this case, but if you have enough to take whole spoonfuls then more power to you.

And there you go! I have maybe a dozen other Bakerella recipes bookmarked, so expect another post like this some day for sure.

Now I invite you all to come and appreciate Bakerella with me! Have you ever made a Bakerella recipe? How did it turn out? Do you think she’s really great like I do? Do you have a cake pop idea you think would be amazing and cute? Do you have any suggestions on melting candy and chocolate? I would love to hear anything you have to share, so c’mon and let’s talk!

Check out the beautiful and talented Mia and her made completely from scratch chocolatey cupcakes! And you know she’s an overachiever because her icing is made from scratch too! I just love when a pretty girl really throws herself into her baking 🙂

Oh golly, it’s my first actual baking post! I bet you were starting to think there wouldn’t be any actual baking, but here’s me proving you wrong!

So let’s get this baking blog started off with a fruity bang as I bring to you Autumn’s Best Apple Cake!

This is an old family recipe that belongs to my boyfriend’s maternal family. They lived out in New England (you know, where they have seasons and fruit grows on trees and things like that), so after the year’s first apple pickin’, they would make this incredibly easy and incredibly tasty cake! And make it again and again and again, all autumn long.

The first thing you’ll want to do is gather up your ingredients! Wonder Baker Tip: It’s always a good idea to stay organized when you’re baking, so if you have everything out in the beginning, you can separate the things you’ve already used from what you haven’t! (I know that there are goldfish in this picture, but those aren’t part of the recipe. Sorry if that disappoints you).

Next, preheat that oven right up to a toasty 325F

The most important part of this recipe is of course, the apples! Granny Smith apples are your go-to apples for baking, as they are the most crisp and their flavor stays sweet when cooked down, so don’t worry about any surprise sourness. Now, the recipe calls for three large apples, but if you’re a big apple lover, I recommend using four. Not only will that give it a super appley punch, it also leaves you with enough to top off your cake, but we’ll get to that in a bit.

You’re going to need to peel the apples, of course (though personally I love apple peels and ate them all after the peeling was complete), trying hard not to take too much of the flesh. You can use a paring knife or a vegetable peeler, whatever is better for you. I like the paring knife better, but as this was my first time peeling an apple, my boyfriend’s mother took the knife away from me in fear of losing fingers. I took it back though and here I am today, ten fingers all intact. Peeling can be a little nerve-wracking, but take it slow and you’ll get the hang of it.

After you core the apples (which you can do just by taking four large chunks off from around the core), you’re going to dice them up into nice chunks. Start by slicing them up (fancy cooking term: julienning)…

(Watch those fingers!)

…and then turning your slices around and slicing the other way (fancy cooking term: Brunoise). Technically, these are bigger than your average chunks produced by a brunoise, hence dicing!

It’s going to be really hard to not just want to shove your face right in there, but please try to resist, for the cake’s sake.

Now it’s time to start working on the batter!

3 eggs

1 and 1/4 cups of vegetable oil

and a sweet two whole cups of sugar! Don’t worry about any chunks like that, it’ll all get blended up.

Take note that this part of the batter is very strange. It’s a big thick gloop that’s tough to mix, especially if you’re doing it by hand. But don’t worry, it’s supposed to be like that!

Once you have a nice blend, add 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract and then let your mixer (or your arms) whirl until you have a uniform, very thick mixture.

It’ll look something like this.

Note: I made this cake twice, the first time with my manly arms and the second time with this handy dandy kitchen aid. I found that the kitchen aid whipped much more air into the mixture than I did and it actually did affect the outcome of the cake. They were both delicious, but the cake that was mixed by hand was a little bit denser and the batter was a darker color at the end. It’s completely to your preference and means which way you prepare the batter, though my boyfriend said he preferred the one mixed by hand (but only by a little bit!).

Onto the dry ingredients! This part tends to get really messy 🙂

In a different large bowl, combine:

3 cups of All-Purpose Flour. I have a small bag of flour that is nigh on impossible to get a whole cup into, so I used this nifty little scoop! You can use a half cup or a big soup spoon if you like, or you can plunge right in. A lot little flour on the counter is nothing to be worried about.

1 teaspoon of baking soda. Another difficult extraction. I could probably make my life easier if I just opened the top of the box, but I like to just hover over the sink and hope that most of the powder falls into the spoon.

1 teaspoon of salt

and just shy of a teaspoon of cinnamon. Or a whole teaspoon, whatever your tastes are.

Give your dry ingredients a gentle whisk, just to blend it up, and then you can start adding to your wet bowl

I like to add the dry stuff in thirds, just to keep from getting flour all over myself as the mixer gets going.

After you’ve blended up your batter, it’s time to grease and flour your pan! This was another one of my baking firsts, so I had Nick’s mom show me how the pros do it.

Greasing first. For best results, you’ll want to use butter. And I mean real, made from real cream from a real cow, salted and full of delciousness butter. This will give the edges of your cake a real creamy buttery taste, and who doesnt want that?

Just rub the butter all over your pan (the recipe calls for a bundt pan, but I don’t see any reason why you couldnt make this in any cake pan you wanted. Bundt cake is just a more fun thing to say, don’t you think?), paying special care to get it in the grooves and curves. That’s where your cake is likely to stick, so grease it up good.

Next is flouring. You could use your All-Purpose Flour, but we had this nifty shaker stuff specifically for flouring baking pans and the like. Just shake it in and, working over the sink, turn and tap your pan until you have a thin even coating. You’ll be able to see the spots you missed with the butter, but a few missed spots shouldn’t be a problem.

Voila, your pan is ready to receive the batter bounty! Let’s finish it up with the good stuff.

Go ahead and toss in all your apple chunks and fold them into the batter, leaving out a decent handful to adorn the top of your cake before it bakes. To fold, just use a spatula to move the batter from the bottom of the bowl up to the top! You’re not stirring, you’re just making sure the fruit chunks get well immersed in your batter.

Then add a cupful of chopped pecans and fold those nubbins in! Ah, apples and nuts and cake, such a divine combination.

When your batter is smothering all the add ins, it’s time for the pan. Your batter is just a tad too thick to pour, so try and do a nice even scooping from the bowl to the pan. Wonder Baker Tip: If you have too much on one side, take the pan and gently spin it on the counter, if you’re confident, or the floor. The centrifugal motion should even out the batter in the pan.

The time has come for those extra apples to do their thing! Just sprinkle your remaining apple chunks over the top. Now, you may be thinking “But isn’t that the bottom of the bundt cake?”. Why yes, yes it is. But we wonder bakers don’t adhere to the strict rules of cake presentation and if we want this to be the top of our cake, it shall be!

Fruity perfection!

Pop that bad boy into your preheated oven for a whole hour and twenty minutes. Now, depending on your oven, you might want to check on it about five minutes prior, but I found that both times I baked the cake, the full 80 minutes was necessary. This is not a cake you want to undercook because it’s already pretty moist, so not cooking it fully could lead to slight sogginess (though to be honest, it would still taste amazing, so don’t beat yourself up over it). You can do the old “toothpick into the cake, see if it comes out clean” routine, a tried and true test of baking, or keep an eye out for the crispy golden brown edges of your cake signaling it’s finished.

When it’s time to take it out, first admire how beautiful it is!

Ooo! Ahh! Amazing and fragrant and gorgeous cakey greatness!

Then let it cool all the way because, as you astutely noted, you’re going to have to flip it over once you take it out of the pan. Luckily for you, your amazing greasing and flouring make it slip out with absolutely no effort at all. Just upend the pan onto a small, but sturdy, plate, then flip it again onto your serving plate or cake stand! It’s really easy, just don’t get too excited and drop the cake because I’m serious about it popping out easy.

And there you have it my friends, a beautiful and hearty apple cake that everyone will enjoy, unless they have a nut allergy. In that case, you can always forgo the nuts, but I think they add so much to the final product. This cake is really great for a snack and as a breakfast too (seriously, cake for breakfast). And it’s so easy to make, you could really whip it up any time you have apples around.

Oh it’s even prettier on the inside

Happy Eating!

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Rainbow cupcakes made by my beautiful internet wife (who has perfect taste in cupcakes among everything else), Kristin! I can’t tell which is cuter, the cupcakes or her adorable dress…I think it would have to be her.

A fantastic banner made with the help of my good friend Kelsey and her incredible shooping skills

As one of the fun and fabulous features of my not-so-serious baking blog, I decided to combine two of the things I love most: cupcakes and the female form. I know we can all appreciate a lovely lady, but what could be better than seeing a gorgeous girl photographed with the most adorable dessert ever? Nothing, that’s what!

So every once in a while, if I am provided with a lovely photographic gift, I’ll be throwing it up here for everyone’s enjoyment. But mostly mine.

This is going to be a quality blog you guys. I hope you dig it.

Oh boy, this is going to be crazy, disorganized weirdness for a bit while I get this all figured out. Blogging is srs bsns.

But if you’re here, you can oooo and ahhhh at the cute header and maybe click on the Operation Briefing and FAQ pages up there to learn more about me and what’s to come!