Sunday, January 30, 2011

Baking with my little buddy - Viennese Biscuits!

Back in 2009, I hosted a Christmas Cookie Exchange with some of my friends in the Netherlands.  It was such a wonderful evening full of friendship and cookies.  One of my favorite things about that particular cookie exchange was that we were from many different countries.  The Netherlands, England, Canada and the USA were represented.  My dear friend, Sharon (a Canadian - living in the Netherlands), baked these yummy cookies that night and gave me the “Usborne Children’s Book of Baking” as a gift.  

The other night my son wanted to bake cookies all by himself.  He has been watching me bake up a storm in our kitchen and wanted IN on the action.   


My mom (Nanny) gave him an apron for Christmas and he really wanted to try it on and get it dirty!   

He sifted the ingredients like a pro!

Ever since Sharon gave me that cookbook, I have wanted to try out just about all of the recipes.   Seeing as it was Kid-Friendly I figured, “Why not?!”  I actually had all of the ingredients available to make the Viennese Biscuits (recipe below) and my son was excited to make a cookie that looked like a chocolate sandwich! 

What a wonderful experience, my kid and I baking together.  Well…he did most of the work.  I just tried not to stress out too much as powdered sugar soared through the air in my kitchen!  I highly recommend baking this one up with your kids when you have the time.  The biscuits, by themselves, are a little dry.  Once you sandwich the chocolate ganache between them, what a wonderful taste bud explosion!  

 And to think that my little guy baked them on his own! 
A little messy, but PERFECT in every way!  

 Thanks Sharon!

Viennese Biscuits
Makes 24 biscuits – 12 pairs
(Please keep in mind that this is an English recipe – that’s why the measurements are in grams.)

For the biscuits:
175 g (6 oz) unsalted butter, softened
40 g (1 ½ oz) powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla
175 g (6 oz) all-purpose flour
40 g (1 ½ oz) cornflour (corn starch)

For the Ganache:
75 g (3 oz) semi-sweet or milk chocolate chips
4 TBSP double cream or heavy cream

1 – Heat the oven to 375 degrees.  Line two baking trays with parchment paper.  Put the butter in a bowl.  Sift the powdered sugar over it.  Beat the mixture until it is creamy.

2 – Stir in the vanilla.  Sift the flour and corn starch over the mixture.  Stir them in until they are smooth.  Put a teaspoon of the mixture onto one of the trays.

3 – Put more teaspoons of mixture onto the trays, leaving spaces between them.  Flatten each blob of mixture slightly with the back of a teaspoon.

4 – Bake the biscuits for 12-14 minutes, until they are pale golden brown.  Leave them on their trays for five minutes, then use a spatula to lift them onto a wire rack.

5 – For the ganache, put the chocolate chips in a heatproof bowl and add the cream.  Then pour about 2 inches of water into a saucepan.

6 – Heat the water until it bubbles, then take the pan off the heat.  Carefully, put the bowl inside the pan.  Stir the chocolate and the cream until the chocolate has melted.

7 – Lift the bowl out of the pan and let the ganache cool for a few minutes.  Then, put it in the fridge for about an hour, stirring every now and then, as it thickens.  

8 - When the ganache is soft like butter, take it out of the fridge.  Use a blunt knife to spread some onto the flat side of a biscuit.  Press another biscuit on top.

9 - Sandwich the biscuits together in pairs until all the ganache and bicuits are used up.  Eat them straight away (I LOVE that the recipe says "straight away!") or keep them in an airtight container in the fridge.

10 - Pat your child (or self) on the back and ENJOY!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Week 4 – Chocolate Cake with Swiss Meringue Frosting

Once a month, my son's school has meeting that many of the parents attend.  Naturally, for it to be a good meeting, there needs to be food...and CAKE!  I was very excited to bake something that I knew wasn’t going to be consumed alone!  Because I was making something for a group of people, I was a little hesitant to try something entirely new.  Whipping up the chocolate cake from week two seemed like a great idea, but I wanted a different frosting.  
I found a little inspiration on I Am Mommy's blog.  She made a cake that had this gorgeous ruffle design by Martha Stewart, for her daughter’s birthday.  I simply had to try it.  I thought it would be the perfect design for a bunch of women.  (Sorry…I know there was a dad there too!)  Most everything these days around here is blue…so picking pink for the color seemed like a fun idea.

I needed to bake two batches of chocolate cake in order to have three layers.  I made an interesting discovery during the process.  When it comes to baking powder, I usually use Davis or Calumet.  However, despite how much I detest shopping in Wal-Mart, the only baking powder I had in the house was Wal-Mart’s store brand.  Two weeks ago, when I made this chocolate cake recipe the first time, I used that baking powder.  The cake turned out great.  Last week, when I baked the Pumpkin Spice Bundt Cake I used Rumford - Aluminum Free baking powder.  Well…we all know what a disaster I had with that cake.  It never occurred to me that the brand of baking powder may have had something to do with it.  When I made the first two layers of this week’s cake, once again I endured a slightly over-flowing mess in my oven.  Nowhere near as bad as last week, but a mess nonetheless.  So I thought about what I could have possibly done different and realized that perhaps it was the baking powder.  I made the second batch of cake with the Wal-Mart brand powder and my chocolate cakes came out perfect again.  This discovery never would have been made had it not been for my weekly baking adventures.  I’m glad that I chose to bake the same recipe more than once.  Now, I’m much more inclined to try the Pumpkin Spice Bundt Cake again.  Only this time…with different baking powder!  (There will be some further research into the various brands of baking powder.  I had no idea that it sometimes contains aluminum.  That just doesn't sound like a good thing to be eating.)

I’m not 100% sure how I felt about the taste of the Swiss Meringue Buttercream.  While this buttercream was quite buttery, it paired well with the chocolate cake because it wasn't very sweet.  I thought that this buttercream was very easy to decorate with and I will definitely try it out again sometime very soon.  I found that using wax paper worked great while I was practicing the ruffle design.  I used Wilton tip #103.  It did take a little while to get the hang of making the ruffle.  And…I must admit that I found it challenging to make the design go from the bottom of the cake to the top.  In the end, I made the ruffle go down the cake instead of going up the sides.  My design looked a little different, but if you didn’t know what it was originally supposed to look like, you would not have necessarily realized that I goofed.  When I was all finished and had some buttercream left over, I played a little more with it and figured out how it was supposed to have worked.  Of course I was aggravated that I hadn’t decorated the cake the proper way from the beginning, but that’s what you get when you have two kids to tend to all while baking and decorating a cake that you want to look presentable…in time for a meeting!

When the decorating was complete, I put the cake in the refrigerator until it was time to leave.  The cake didn’t have a chance to fully return to room temperature by the time it was served.  The frosting crumbed off the first few pieces that were cut because it was still too cold.  So, if you ever choose this buttercream recipe, please make sure that the cake is back to room temperature before you serve it. My son and I enjoyed the small piece that was left when I got home.  I had no problem cutting into it by that point and he was very excited to enjoy a slice with his mommy.  He told me it was “the most Beautiful cake EVER!”  And that’s how I knew it had been a success!

Final Notes:  While speaking with Emily the other day, she said that I should consider making a tutorial for one of these recipes.  That actually sounded like a great idea and I took pictures of almost every step during this cake baking experience.  When I got to the very end and was about to put the batter in the pans, my son knocked a glass off the counter and left me with a disaster to clean up.  The cakes went into the oven and the photos ended!  What I came to discover, once things calmed down in my kitchen, was that there is a video post of this cake being prepared by Ina Garten on The Food Network! (Picture me banging my head against the wall right now…) Anyway, while taking 1000s of food pictures can be very time consuming, it is helping me with my food photography techniques.  Once again…another work-in-progress!  It will be interesting to see how much my cake design, photography, and even web design improve by the end of this year.  This current blog is just a template set up by the folks at Google.  I do intend on designing my own page…just give me a few more weeks…

As for next week...One Cake a Week may combine efforts with Two Cupcakes in My Kitchen.  One can only imagine what we will bake up together! 

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Week 3 – Pumpkin Spice Bundt Cake

I don’t even know where to start with this one.  I guess the best place would be to tell you why I chose this cake and then describe the nightmare adventure I had baking it!  The choice was really quite simple.   
The recipe looked great and in the end – tasted pretty darn good too – but the “getting there” part – NOT SO FUN!

I’ve never had an issue with my Bundt pan before, however this time I probably should have taken notice of how large…or small for that matter, my pan really was.  This recipe required the use of a 14 cup Bundt pan.  Ok – sure – whatever.  (I'm sure you can see where this is heading...)

I mixed the batter as described and poured it into my pan.  It did occur to me that the pan was VERY full.  

Maybe a light bulb should have gone  off at that point.  I put it in the oven anyway.  Fast forward 15 minutes… I began to smell a not-so-pleasant burning scent permeating through the house.  I went in to check on things only to find out that the pan OVERFLOWED and the batter was all over the inside of my oven. I did try to salvage this creation by putting a piece of foil underneath the pan...but the damage had already been done. 

(This is embarrassing!)
Five more minutes passed.  Now all I wanted was to just open the oven, take out the pan and call it a night.  That would have been too easy.  The oven was so clearly full of smoke that had I opened it, I inevitably would have set off the fire alarm.  (At this point, my son was ready to run out the back door – because his mommy was about to set the alarm off…yet again!)  I slowly began the process of letting the smoke out of the oven every five minutes or so until the last bit of it was gone – smoke alarm free. (See – I’m learning!) I took out the pan and cleaned up my oven.  I really wasn’t sure what to do with my cake at this point.  It had baked for about 25 minutes but had another 30 to go.  I decided to clean up the sides of the pan, scoop a lot of the batter into another bowl and to give it a second chance…back into the oven it went. 
Once the cake cooled off I inverted it onto a wire rack.  I was a little apprehensive as to what I was going to find.  My luck must have changed because the end result looked pretty good.   

My friend Rachel was coming over for lunch the next day and I felt obliged to cut into it prior to her arrival.  If not for me telling you my messy secret – no one would have known what this poor cake had gone through.  It did turn out delicious…but I don’t necessarily trust that it would taste the same in the future!

Lesson learned: When a recipe specifically calls for a certain pan size, chances are that there’s a good reason!  As it turns out, my Bundt pan only holds 10 cups. Had I only known that in the beginning...

Monday, January 17, 2011

Sweet Buttermilk Cornbread

I know that cornbread isn’t actually a cake – but I really did want to share this with you.  

This past fall, my son’s teacher made us some chili and cornbread.  I’ve been dreaming about baking cornbread ever since.  She had made a Mexican version with jalapenos that was outstanding. Last week, while my mother-in-law and her sister were visiting, I thought it would be a nice treat to make.  I found a recipe on that was DELICIOUS!  In fact, it was so good that I was asked to make another batch for dinner the following night.   

There’s something not to be missed about a recipe that starts off by having you melt an entire stick of butter in a skillet!   


I choose a Sweet Buttermilk Cornbread and I’m so happy that I did.  I highly recommend this recipe!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Week 2 – Amazing Chocolate Cake with Buttercream Icing

As week two of 2011 was drawing to a close I made sure to get my second cake into the oven. What I am beginning to realize is that there are so many recipes and just not enough time! I find myself spending hours on the computer these days just searching for my next recipe. (I am pretty sure that I have enough work cut out for me to get me through the summer at this point!) Week 2’s inspiration came from I Am Baker, a yummy blog that I read. The post I read was titled, “The Best Chocolate Cake Ever.”

How could I go wrong? The most exciting component of this recipe was the fact that it called for a full cup of freshly brewed hot coffee. That right there made it the perfect choice for me! Well…the cake was scrumptious. Hands down – my new “go to” chocolate cake.

I used Magnolia’s Vanilla Buttercream Frosting that I also found on I Am Baker’s blog. The buttercream was very good AND very sweet – but that’s what you get for using 10 cups of confectioners sugar! I will definitely use this buttercream again. This frosting did contain a lot of air bubbles when I was spreading it out though. It was also quite soft when I was using it to decorate. In the future I would chose wider, less intricate tips. If you are wondering why it looks so busy, I can explain. I’ve never really fiddled with all the lovely icing tips that I have. One of I Am Baker's blog posts had a little tutorial on decorating and it made me just want to try everything! (Please keep in mind that I have difficulty drawing a stick figure!) And as far as deciding on blue was concerned…it is blue month at my son’s school – so I just went with it!

While my goal is to bake one cake per week for the entire year, I have quickly come to the realization that I cannot eat 52 cakes all by myself! That little tidbit works out great for my friends and family. I can pretty much guarantee that any time you see me throughout the next 12 months that I will have yummy goodness to share with you. So, not only do I have a goal for 2011…I have the ability to share delightful treats with you each and every single week!

Last night I had the good fortune to share this cake with my friend Natalie and her kids. While I’m sure she thought I was nuts for taking pictures of the cake at her house – a good time was had while digging into this tasty dessert!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Week 1 - Devil's Food White-Out Cake

Let me start off by thanking my bestest friend, Ann, and my sister-in-law, Emily, for giving me both the urge to bake a gazillion cakes and the nutty desire to start a blog.

Since this is my first actual cake post, I suppose I should explain that the idea to kick off the year with this particular choice was because of them. It all began when a box arrived on my doorstep - a box that I didn't even realize was for ME! This past Christmas about 95% of my shopping was done online. When this particular box arrived I didn't open it right away because I thought it was just another gift that I purchased for one of my children. A day later it occurred to me that I had no idea what was in that box. It was addressed to me...but so were all the other boxes. Out came the knife and in one big slice across some sticky tape, the most wonderful cookbook appeared. Ann had sent me Baking, From my Home to Yours, by Dorie Greenspan. I was simply giddy over getting a true surprise in the mail. The fact that it was a yummy book all about baking was a major bonus! As you can see here:

the cake on the cover looks simply incredible. I just had to bake that very one. But why? For whom? Well...for Emily of course! Guess who was coming for New Year's Eve and dinner on New Year's Day? Guess whose birthday it was as well??? And there is where the inspiration for a cake a week came from.

The cake pictured on the cover is the Devil's Food White-Out Cake. I didn't take any pictures as this cake took shape. I hadn't realized until it was devoured that I was going to start this blog, so for the lack of pictures, I apologize. The cake was actually baked on New Year's Eve. I wanted to get that part out of the way as I was expecting a house-full for New Year's Eve and Day.

I thought that it tasted quite yummy. The only disappointment was that it was much more difficult to cut than I had anticipated. It did not look as pretty as the photo in the book...but is that really important? Looking back, I wish I had taken more time while frosting. I would have been more careful in making sure that each layer was even. Had you been in my kitchen that morning, you would have understood why the cake was lucky to be decorated at all!

More fun was had while whipping up the frosting, I must say that. Many family members, including Emily and her crew, had spent the night and a few more were arriving as the frosting was being prepared.

One of the things that I hope to learn from this experience is how to make many more types of frosting. I am used to buttercream and even had my first experience with fondant this past summer. This recipe caused me a little anxiety. For some reason I find the need to try brand new recipes when I am having guests over. Why I add more stress to my life, I don't know. This marshmallow looking frosting required the use of a candy thermometer and whipped egg whites.

I had a lot of fun whipping this one together, despite the fact that I had never used a candy thermometer before and the part where you read the temperature on the thermometer melted on me when the hot sugar syrup reached about 230 degrees. (That poor thermometer is now sitting on my counter awaiting a trip back to the store...)

The cake was more dense than I expected but the light airy frosting paired nicely with it. Once the candles were blown out, Emily and I realized that we never took any photos. So you may see some little candle holes on the top. My pictures don't really do this cake justice as it had been a very busy day.

Hope you had a Happy Birthday Emily!!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Happy New Year...of CAKES!

It seems that this year, more so than ever, everyone is talking about New Year Resolutions. I must say that in the past I haven't given them much thought. So why not kick off 2011 with what I do believe may be my very first New Year Resolution! I have decided to try and attempt baking one cake each week until the end of the year. 52 cakes sounds so excitingly delicious. I don't know where my inspiration will come from as I embark on this cake baking adventure. What I do know is that I'm willing to try anything and everything. Perhaps I may make the same cake more than once in order to perfect a technique. Maybe I will make one again because it was so yummy! Only time will tell. I hope that who ever does read this blog enjoys the little journey I'm about to take in my kitchen. Happy New Year!
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