Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Fourth of July Flag Cake!

I can't believe a year has gone by since the last time I tried to make this cake.  This time around I think it came out SO SO SO much better!  Last year I made cake from a box...this year, given all the cakes I've been working on, I decided to do the whole thing from scratch.  While I'm still on the search for the perfect white/yellow/butter - call it what you wish - cake...the recipe that I stumbled on in the May issue of Real Simple certainly did not disappoint! 

I made five - nine inch cakes to pull this one off.  The blue layer was baked all at once while the red and white layers were split into two 9 inch cake rounds and then sliced in half. 

This is such a fun cake to make and I just love how surprised people are once it is cut open.  At first it looks like a very simple...maybe even boring cake.

Then...TA DA!!

Hope you all had a Happy Independence Day!!

Now...on to make myself a birthday cake!! 

P.S. - Here's a peek at what the cake looked like last year...

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Week 15 - Chocolate Chip Cake

We were invited to our neighbor's house for dinner and naturally, I had to bring a cake!  I cheated a little on this one...if it wasn't for me telling you my secret, no one would ever know!  Last week's Baptism cake didn't require as much actual cake as I had thought.  I still had frozen chocolate cake left and decided that I would somehow use it.  I cut the cake up so that I would have two square layers.  It was perfect.

I didn't take the time to have a crumb coat...so you can see some chocolate crumbs peaking through.  Honestly, I didn't think that it looked bad.  I used a brown sugar buttercream that tastes like cookie dough and then went crazy with the chocolate chips.  I even sprinkled mini chips on the buttercream inside of the cake.

We had a great time with our neighbors and judging by how much of the cake was left...everyone liked it!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Week 14 - Oliver's Baptism Cake

I still haven’t gotten my act together with these blog posts!  Please bear with me because I have made so many yummy things these past few months.  I have yet to fail my goal of baking a cake a week…it’s posting the results where I fall behind!  I guess it was easier earlier this year when Matt was in Afghanistan.  Now that he is back home, my time isn’t much spent blogging! 

So…here’s what was going on way back in April.  Oliver’s baptism was finally scheduled and our family and friends came down for the big day.  (Side note…Matt broke his hand around 9:30pm the Friday before the baptism!)  So here we are trying to get the house in order for a big party and I was of course trying to get a massive cake prepared.  After all, how could I miss out on this perfect cake baking opportunity!   This was probably the first party I have ever thrown in my life where 99% of the food was not made in my house.  Looking back, thank goodness we planned it that way or else we would have ended up with McDonalds seeing as Matt was down a useful hand!   There needed to be cake though.  At one point I did call my friend Leigh and asked her if it would be ok to just buy one from Wegmans.  Her response was, “Of course it’s ok…but you aren’t going to be happy with that!”  (You know what??? She was right!)

The inside of this cake was the chocolate cake I’ve been baking over and over again.  Beatty’s Chocolate Cake has not let me down yet!  This was the first time that I baked it in a 9x13 pan though.  I used a Wilton flower nail in the middle to help conduct the heat better while it was baking.  I had never done that before and was pleased with the results.  I just happened to stumble on that technique prior to popping the cake in the oven and figure I’d give it a shot!  I baked the cake in advance and had planned all along to cut and decorate it all on Saturday night.  I froze three full cakes earlier that week so it would be all ready to go when I needed it. 

Nothing really went as planned the night before the Christening.  We had lots of family and friends around and there was still much preparation to do.  Matt was pretty much out of commission and I was STRESSING OUT!!  I had the cake design in my head, but had never made a cross before or buttercream flowers for that matter!!!

I spent HOURS Saturday night getting this cake together.  The end result would never have been possible if it had not been for the arrival of my sister-in-law,Emily, on the scene.  She was gracious enough to whip up all of the buttercream that I needed.  And boy oh boy did I use buttercream!!  She must have made about four (maybe more) batches of buttercream.  It was crazy.  We had a blast working on this cake together.  Emily and I in action are quite hysterical.  My mother in law and my sister in law, Tara, pretty much thought that the two of us lost our minds.  We finish each other’s sentences and know exactly what each other needs when in the kitchen.  It’s awesome! 

I ended up teaching myself how to make the roses from watching Wilton’s clip online.  Eventually I finally figured it out.  They weren’t perfect…but I was happy.  I also tried the VIVA paper towel trick with the buttercream.  It really really worked.  I’ll get more into how that works on another post…but the bottom line is that by using the VIVA paper towel on the crusted-over buttercream you can attain an almost fondant look with your cake.  It was amazing.  Emily and I were very excited when we discovered that it worked!
Sometime after midnight early Sunday morning the cake was finished.  I was quite pleased with the end result and truly could not have done it without Emily’s help.  Looking forward to the next time we can bake together.  Only…without the added stress of company!!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Pre-School Graduation Cake!!!

Ok - I'm WAY behind (again) on my blog posts...I have so many cakes to catch you up on.  But I need to jump ahead to this current week.  I'm quite proud of this one.  I'm putting up the pictures now because if I don't do it now...who knows when I will! 

I will post all the details of this adventure..but for now...I hope you enjoy looking at this creation that I threw together for my little guy's Pre-School Graduation.  Still can't believe it's Kindergarten next year!!! 

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Week 13 - Chocolate Chocolate Chocolate (Did I mention CHOCOLATE?) Cake!

Wow - I feel like it's been weeks since I made this cake.  Oh, wait - it has!  

My friend Natalie invited us over for dinner one night and this was the dessert that I brought.  The inside contained two layers of chocolate cake and tons of chocolate buttercream.  Then I smothered the outside with more chocolate buttercream. 

I wasn't 100% pleased with that so I had to call another friend to find out if I was losing my mind.  The phone call more or less went like this: "Hey Leigh, should I cover my chocolate cake that already has chocolate buttercream all over it with a layer of ganache? ... Yeah, that's what I thought.  Thanks, See you tonight!"

There you have it.  A massive chocolate overdose.  While I am getting a little tired of making this particular cake recipe - adding both the buttercream and ganache was definitely worth it.  

This picture looks a little lopsided - sorry!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Week 12 - Pumpkin - Chocolate Chip Bars

I know - I know...It's been over a month since my last post and I was already very behind.  Not to worry - I've been keeping up with the baking side of things...it's the blogging side that's somewhat slacking. 

It's been a busy few months.  My husband returned from Afghanistan in one piece and then ended up breaking his hand the night before our little one's Baptism.  It's been all downhill ever since!  Alas, I am back.  Hopefully I will have a couple posts up in the next day or so. 

In the meantime...here's week 12's yummy creation.  Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bars.  I stumbled on this recipe last year when we were living in the Netherlands. The first time I made them was for Thanksgiving 2009.  Matt was away in Norway (I think) leaving Aidan and me to spend Turkey Day alone.  I made these as a special treat and we polished off half a batch!  They have since found their way into my "go-to" pile of recipes when I need something quick and delicious. 

This particular batch I whipped up for my super cool new neighbor.  We were invited over for a play date and I thought that these would be a fun snack.

Note to self: In the future...gift the ENTIRE batch and LEAVE with host. I selfishly saved some for me and ate the remaining bars that night.  Sometimes I simply can't help myself!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Week 11 - Chocolate Guinness Cake

Rest assured that while my blog posts have fallen slightly behind that my baking has not!  We've been very busy over the past couple of weeks and I just haven't been able to get my act together to post the yummy things that I've been working on. 

We look forward to St. Patrick's Day in our household because it's the one time of year that we make corned beef and cabbage.  We should make it more often...and I'm not really sure why we don't.  Two years ago, prior to our move to the Netherlands, our friends Brian and Rachel came over to help us celebrate St. Patrick’s Day.  They had never had corned beef before and truth be told, I think they were a little skeptical.  I’m fairly certain that they enjoyed it because this year I received a message from Brian via Rachel that they were hoping for a corned beef dinner invite.  How could we say no??!!

Now, let me tell you a little something about me.  I love to bake.  (But you knew that already.)  I really do like trying new things, but many times I am afraid to try new things without having a test run.  Enter Brian.  Brian loves to tease me about my trial runs – so for week 11 – Brian got to be the guinea pig.  I decided to make Nigella’s Chocolate Guinness Cake.  I figured that if we were going to have corned beef and cabbage boiled in beer – why not have cake that is made with beer.  


 Guinness and Butter

 Guinness and melted butter

 Guinness, Butter, Sour Cream, Eggs and Vanilla

This cake was good, different, but good.  I’m not sure that I will try to make this exact one again next year, but I’m glad that I tried it nonetheless.  The biggest obstacle that I endured was that the recipe was all in grams.  Ever tried converting a recipe from grams to cups?  It’s slightly annoying.  I actually had a scale from the Netherlands and I weighed out the ingredients.  That was an extra step that I could have done without.  Live and learn I suppose.  The worst part is that I get super stressed when I try completely new recipes.  My husband gets irritated at me because I get snippy…but I strive for perfection – what can I say!

 (We had Irish Soda Bread too!)

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Week 10 - OREO CheeseCAKE/CupCAKES

Seeing as my husband was returning from yet another trip to Afghanistan, I thought it would be nice to bake something for him.  His idea of a good home-baked cake is one from a box (preferably chocolate) with frosting from a can (preferably vanilla.) Seeing as I love to bake - his lack of cake-adventure truly drives me crazy!!

When I stumbled on this Oreo Cookie Cheesecake Cupcake (Cookies and Cream Cheesecakes) recipe I simply had to make them for him.  He likes Oreos, cheesecake and most "pop-able" foods. (READ: can POP into mouth in one bite!) How could I go wrong.  My son helped line the cupcake tin and ensured that all of the cupcake liners contained one Oreo.  He was very happy to help make cupcakes for his daddy!

This recipe was SO outrageously easy that I will be sure to make them again in the future.  I mean really...who can turn down individual sized cheesecakes?

Here's the recipe:

Martha Stewart's Cookies and Cream Cheesecakes Recipe
Makes 30

42 cream-filled sandwich cookies, such as Oreos, 30 left whole, and 12 coarsely chopped
2 pounds cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
4 large eggs, room temperature, lightly beaten
1 cup sour cream
Pinch of salt

1. Preheat oven to 275 degrees. Line standard muffin tins with paper liners. Place 1 whole cookie in the bottom of each lined cup.

2. With an electric mixer on medium high speed, beat cream cheese until smooth, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Gradually add sugar, and beat until combined. Beat in vanilla.

3. Drizzle in eggs, a bit at a time, beating to combine and scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Beat in sour cream and salt. Stir in chopped cookies by hand.

4. Divide batter evenly among cookie-lined cups, filling each almost to the top. Bake, rotating pan halfway through, until filling is set, about 22 minutes. Transfer to wire racks to cool completely. Refrigerate at least 4 hours (or up to overnight). Remove from tins just before serving.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

I made some Irish Soda Bread and some Shamrock cookies for my son's special helper day at Pre-School.  I wasn't going for works-of-art with these cookies... Just some yummy treats to share with his class.  They tasted YUMMY - but didn't look the way I would normally want them too.  I'm pretty sure that none of the kids noticed!!  Hope you have a great St. Patrick's Day! And...by the way - Chocolate Stout Cake is next...

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Week 9 - Sports Cupcakes

Week 9 presented a new challenge for me...bake and decorate 40 cupcakes for a friend to take to a birthday party.  A little stressful - but TONS OF FUN!  My friend Natalie asked me to bake some sports themed cupcakes for her nephew's 2nd birthday party and I simply couldn't refuse! She even offered to watch one of my kids so that I could devote more time to cupcake decorating...how could I go wrong??!!  I had a blast putting these together for her.  Of course there was a little anxiety over whether people were going to like them...but it turns out that they were a hit.  (Even tasted good too!!)

 The request was for some Baseballs...


And for some Soccer Balls...

And for some Basketballs...

Natalie told me that her nephew really liked footballs the best, so I made this just for him...

So...Any more requests??

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

More from Week 8 - My Nephew's Birthday!

Well...I'm going to cheat a little and send you over to check out Two Cupcakes in my Kitchen because Emily already did a great job discussing our little baking get-together (disguised as a 2nd Birthday Party!) We had such great plans - some were successful and others we simply just didn't get around to.  All in all we had a lot of fun and enjoyed WAY TOO MANY cupcakes!  (We were even treated to some homemade ice cream - but I don't have any pictures of that!)

One of the things that we wanted to check out this past weekend was how to get the cupcake wrappers to look all pretty and fun once the cupcakes were baked.  I ran into this dilemma a few weeks ago when I baked my Valentine's Day cupcakes.  It seems that while the cupcakes are baking, the wrappers get all soaked up with cake and you can't see the pretty designs.  I had decided to just pop them into fresh wrappers so that they looked pretty.  This time around we doubled the cupcake wrappers and that seemed to do the trick.  I guess there's a professional answer out there somewhere - but in the meantime...we'll just keep trying!

*Cupcakes on the left have only one wrapper and look bleh.
*Cupcakes on the right look pretty with the double wrappers. Bingo!

Again - check out this link for more details on the fun Safari Cupcakes.  I actually did do some of the baking and decorating...it was fun messing up someone else's kitchen.  (Especially when that someone else has such a great husband who kept cleaning up after us!)

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Week 8 - Half-Birthday Cake

Three and a half years ago I made this:

Expectations weren't too high for a 1st Birthday Cake.

Two and a half years ago I made this:

Little Einstein's Rocket Cake

Little Einstein's Rocket Cake
  My then two year old was pleased.  
 He thought Rocket was pretty cool 
and I was excited that I had pulled it off.

A year and a half ago I made this:

AND this:

 At three, my little guy’s response was, 
“That's cool Mom, but where are Annie and Clarabel?”
(While he really did LOVE the cake - I was slightly saddened by his lack of enthusiasm as I made this cake in 
the Netherlands – Home of NOTHING IS EASY!)

Six months ago I made this:


 My now four year old wanted a “Gordon” cake.  
(Because Gordon is #4.) 
He was impressed.

Yesterday, I made this:

Wouldn’t you know…THIS was the one that made his 4.5 years complete!!! 
  THIS was the one that I thawed out to just throw together a little celebration.   
 THIS was the one that took me less than an hour to pop together??!!  
 THIS was the one that made him smile from ear to ear and jump up and down!
Had I only known that the way to my kid’s heart was to simply cut a cake in half and slather chocolate frosting on it - 
I would have done that years ago!!!! 

I chose the green plate especially for him.
Green is his favorite color - 
because...It's Stylish! 
I always wanted to celebrate a HALF Birthday with a "HALF Birthday Cake." A few weeks ago I ended up with an extra 8 inch round chocolate cake that I popped into the freezer for this exact moment!

Well...you should have seen my little guy's face when I surprised him with this cake.  (If I was comfortable posting pictures of my kids on the web I would then be able to show you what sheer delight and excitement looked like!)  

One of the many things that I wanted to achieve with this experience was not only to try out a bunch of new recipes, but also to see how different cakes and frostings store, be it in the freezer, refrigerator or just at room temperature.  Once again, this new “go-to” chocolate cake of mine shined through.  It had been in the freezer for almost a month and was still moist and yummy once thawed.  Now, don’t you worry one bit – I’m not about to start serving you all previously frozen cakes… it’s just nice to know that you can have a standby on hand for one of those last minute chocolate cravings or for guests that show up when you are not prepared! 

While the hunt for the perfect chocolate frosting goes on, I used a recipe that I stole from Emily a few years ago.  It's called Fluffy Chocolate Frosting by The Cake Mix Doctor and it's DELICIOUS! The darker chocolate frosting that you see is Martha Stewart's Dark Chocolate Frosting.  That one didn't excite me very much. I happened to have some of that left over from the day before when I used it to frost the Chocolate Chip Cookie Cupcakes that I made.  But I will save the details regarding the cupcakes and dark chocolate frosting for another post.  In the meantime, I am going to enjoy one more piece of Half Birthday Cake with my favorite 4.5 year old!

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