Saturday, April 28, 2012

Personal-Sized Red Velvet Cake

You may recall in my last post that I was baking for a small army event. A few days before the event, my friend organizing said event called and mentioned that one of the guests would be celebrating her 40th birthday that night. Don't you think we should have a cake for her? Of course everyone needs a cake on their birthday! So I told her I would see what I could do.

Hmmm, I didn't want to do a chocolate cake, since the rest of the group would be getting the Texas Sheet Cakes. And I didn't want to go back to the grocery store (yet again) so all of the ingredients needed to be naturally occurring in my kitchen. Ah-ha! Red Velvet Cake! That is definitely a special cake. There is nothing like slicing into a red velvet cake and seeing that red pop. I just have to smile when I see that red cake! Decision made!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Texas Sheet Cake Extravaganza

I made Texas Sheet Cakes for 150!  As in 150 people.  Yikes.  A friend asked me if I would be interested in providing dessert for a function she was planning for about 100 people.  I have never done anything like this before and must admit I was intrigued by the challenge.  So, I gave it some thought and then agreed!

Remember how I said that most Texans have no idea what a Texas Sheet Cake is?  Well, I figured this was my opportunity to educate a bunch of Texans!  Plus it is a super easy dessert to make, and you can make it a couple days in advance with no problem!  Once I decided to make Texas Sheet Cakes, I had to find the "right" recipe.  I got out my old cookbook from my parent's church and found the recipe my mom always makes.  Then I did a quick online search to see what the best recipe online might be.  You guessed it, the Pioneer Woman's recipe!  Let's compare the two recipes, shall we?  With the exception of the church cookbook substituting margarine for some of the butter and using a bit less butter in the frosting, the recipes are identical.  Ah-ha!  Well, since the recipes had such rave reviews, I knew I was set on the cake!

The next question was how to serve it?  The plates had to be pretty!  I decided to do a pool of creme anglaise on the bottom, then the cake, with a salted caramel sauce on the top.  Both the creme anglaise and the salted caramel sauce could also be made a few days in advance, so I was feeling good!  I found some recipes and got to work!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

A Keyhole Top

The Clever Girl has a shirt from her school that she has to wear on field trips.  It is a generic squarish t-shirt.  She is not a fan.  All of her "square" t-shirts stay in the closet and rarely get worn, as they are "too big" for her.  At age 3 1/2 she will already tell me that "this is not cute".  Sigh.  So I was thrilled when I found a tutorial over on Craftiness is Not Optional about changing a regular t-shirt into a keyhole top.  The tutorial shirt has cute little cap sleeves, but I made E's into an "overall shirt" aka tank top.  She LOVES overall shirts.

Don't look too closely.  I am not great at sewing with knits.  I am working on it, though.  Practice, practice!  Here is the Clever Girl with 2 of her friends on the bus on the way to her field trip at a farm.  You may note the orange button on the keyhole.  She picked that one out herself!  I was proud.  Love the pop of color!

I generally followed the instructions on the tutorial.  After totally deconstructing the original t-shirt, I realized that since the t-shirt was basically her size, I could have just altered it instead of taking it all apart!  Ugh.  I will definitely do that next time!  I used one of the Clever Girl's favorite "overall shirts" as a pattern for the arm holes for this one.  I think it turned out pretty cute!   It turned into a shirt she is happy to wear!  That's a winner!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Carrot Cake Battle, part 2 - Bunny Cake!

Bunny cakes!  Bunny cakes are part of my husband's family's Easter tradition.  However, they made theirs with banana bread on the inside.  When I entered the family equation I was totally fine with bunny cakes for Easter but thought they should be made of carrot cake instead.  I mean, bunnies are full of carrots, right?   And honestly, my husband's favorite cake is carrot cake, so why wouldn't I do BUNNY carrot cake??  Thus our family tradition is to have carrot cake at Easter time, most likely shaped like a bunny. 

Back to my tried and true most favorite carrot cake recipe ever.  It is Bill's Big Carrot Cake, by Dorie Greenspan.  Whenever I make this recipe I am again amazed at how delicious it truly is.  You might note that unlike the Confetti Cake Carrot Cake, this cake has more spices, coconut, and raisins inside.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

The Carrot Cake Battle - Mini Cakes

I didn't start off with the intention of having a carrot cake battle, I really didn't!  I love to have carrot cake for Easter, and for reasons even I don't understand, I decided to try a new recipe instead of using my tried and true.

The new recipe is the Carrot Cake recipe from Confetti Cakes for Kids.  They were easy to make, they were moist and delicious, but I just didn't like how they LOOKED.  Nothing was wrong with them, I just like carrot cake to be a bit of a darker color on the inside.  These are light, as they have only carrots and walnuts in them, so the batter itself is a bit lighter.

So instead of using this for my Easter dessert carrot cake, I decided I needed to make a new carrot cake, and this one would go to church.  I cut them into little flower shapes with a cookie cutter (about 3 inch size) to make them "personal sized" cakes.

Notice the light color?  Seriously, this is a yummy recipe.  I am just a bit silly about baking sometimes.

I iced them with cream cheese frosting and made a little golden raisin design on the top.  Voila, mini-carrot cakes for church!  They were a big hit!

Carrot Cake
adapted from Confetti Cakes for Kids
3 cups (12 oz.) cake flour
2 tsp. cinnamon
1 1/4 tsp. salt
1 1/4 tsp. baking powder
5 eggs
3 cups (21 oz.) granulated sugar
2 cups (16 oz.) vegetable oil
2 1/4 cups (15 oz.) shredded carrots
1 1/2 cups (6 oz.) chopped walnuts

Preheat the oven to 350F.  Brush the bottoms and sides of 3 9-inch round cake pans with butter and line the bottoms with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, sift the flour, cinnamon, salt and baking powder.  Set aside.  In the bowl of a standard mixer fitted with a whip attachment, mix the eggs and sugar, beating them at medium speed for 1 minute, then on high speed until they are 3 times their original volume.  This will take about 4 more minutes.  Put the mixer on low speed and slowly add the oil, mixing until combined.  Keep the mixer at the low speed and gradually add the flour mixture until just combined.  Be careful not to overmix.  Gently stir in the carrots and walnuts.

Divide the batter evenly between the 3 cake pans.  Bake 30-45 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean.  You could instead use a half sheet pan (13x18 inches), cooking for the same amount of time.  Or, make cupcakes, baking for 20-25 minutes, or until they spring back after being touched.

Allow to cool for 20 minutes.  Once it si cool, run a thin knife around the edges to loosen it from the sides of the pan, and flip it out onto a cake board or platter.  Remove the parchment.

You can store the cakes in the freezer for up to 5 days, tightly wrapped at least 2 times in plastic wrap.
Printable Recipe

Stay tuned for part two of the Carrot Cake battle!!  There is more to come!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

TWD: Baking with Julia - Lemon Loaf Cake


I have joined an online baking group called Tuesdays with Dorie and we are baking our way through Baking with Julia.  I first got this cookbook for Christmas a couple of years ago and vowed to bake my way through it.  Ahem... let's just say I didn't get very far.  So when I found this baking group, I simply had to join!  The group started in February 2012, so I am only 2 months behind.  No problem!

My first recipe is Lemon Loaf Cake, which can be found on page 252 of Baking with Julia.  Several bakers in the group baked this cake before I did, and reported that they did not find the lemon taste to be strong enough.  So I altered the recipe some, which will be detailed below!  My finished product was super lemony, just how we like it!  It is a bit on the dense side, but the book does admit to that right up front.  It would be super yummy if it was toasted a little and served with a blueberry compote!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

The Anna Easter Dress

If you are a crafty blog stalker, like me, you should really check out Craftiness Is Not Optional.  That Jess is an inspiration!  She has two little girls so has some really great ideas for girl clothes.  And since I love making the Clever Girl cute things to wear, I get all sorts of ideas from Jess's blog.   For Easter, I decided to create an Anna Dress.  There is a handy sew-along on her blog, so I won't go through all of that.  I'll just show you what I came up with!!

My Anna Dress has a much fuller skirt than the pattern states.  MUCH fuller.  That wasn't totally planned, but I figured I might as well use up the fabric instead of leaving a small bit.  And really, what is wrong with a super twirly skirt when you are almost 4 years old??  NOTHING!!  So, super twirly is what we have.

I made two other changes.  When I created the waistband, it was humongous.  I obviously had a math mis-hap along the way.  No problem, I just opened up a seam and threaded in some 3/4 inch elastic between the dress and the lining to cinch it up.  So this waistband does not lay nice and smooth like the original Anna dress, which makes me a little sad.  If I make this again, I'll get the waistband to fit better I think.  

Also, the pattern has you cut the top part so the sides go out a bit, allowing for more puffy blouse.  I didn't like how this looked on my kiddo, so I re-cut the blouse to eliminate some of those gathers.  Maybe my pattern was just a bit too big overall in the beginning?  I tend to think bigger is better when it comes to kids clothes, so that is a distinct possibility!  The Clever Girl is thin but with a little round tummy, so maybe some of these issues has to do with her overall shape.  Who knows?

The important thing is that I was happy with the outcome of the dress, and the MOST important part is that the Clever Girl was happy with the dress!  She picked the buttons herself.  Good eye, huh?

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Hot Cross Buns, Hot Cross Buns, One a Penny...

Hot Cross Buns!  Mmmm.  Now usually these are made for Good Friday, but I made them for Easter instead.  I thought they would be a great addition to the spread I and a friend are responsible for creating this month at church for the between service/hang out time.  The first resource I turned to for a recipe for Hot Cross Buns was the Pioneer Woman.  Know of her?  If not, well, you should!  I just knew she would have what I was looking for and I was right!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Safely covering food with plastic wrap: a revelation!

What do you do when you have to cover some food with plastic wrap, but do not want said wrap to touch the actual food?  This has long been a quandary for me.  I have tried using multiples (and multiples) of toothpicks all over the food item to hold up the plastic wrap, but they not only make your food filled with holes, but they often puncture the wrap so it falls on the food anyway!  Ugh.

So, I baked some hot cross buns for Easter, and needed to get them to church.
Plastic wrap + hot cross buns = disaster if I didn't think of something.  
And then, I had it!

I must say, I am pretty excited about my revelation!  The gods of baking shined upon me and a solution was found!

Friday, April 6, 2012

Ladi Tourta - Olive Oil Cake

Have you ever heard of a cake made of olive oil?  I hadn't until I went on a quest to find a Mediterranean/Greek dessert.  Let me back up.  I am part of an awesome book group, and each month one of us hosts the meeting at our homes.  Hosting means we pick the book and provide a light meal.  Honestly, the meal can be as low key as you want, but you know me... I tend to get a little crazy with things like this.  The book I picked was Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides, .  Have you read it?  It gets a bit long in parts but that is folded in with real angst and gender identity crises.  I really like it.  Anyway, this is not about the book, it is about the food, more specifically the cake!!  The story is about a Greek family (see how quickly I jumped back to the book??) so I decided the meal should have a Mediterranean or Greek theme.  The meal was easy to plan until I got to dessert.  I did not want to make baklava and that is all I could think of.  Well, that or other fried pastries drizzled with honey.  Not that I have anything against baklava or fried pastries drizzled with honey!  I just didn't want to MAKE them!  

So, I went on a quest for some OTHER dessert, and fell upon Ladi Tourta, an olive oil cake created by Iron Chef Cat Cora.  Hmmm.  I have never made a cake made of olive oil, and to be honest, I love that Cat Cora calls it "Ladi Tourta" instead of "Olive Oil Cake".  Doesn't it sound fancy?? 

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Mini Cupcakes for Easter

Parties in preschool.  Woah.  They can be something!  At the Clever Girl's school, the teacher will post a list on the door of what food/party items need to be brought, and each parent signs up for something.   Most of the time, the list is totally filled with junk, so my daughter fills up on yuckiness and sugar all day and does not take a nap.  I get to bring home an overtired, sugar-filled kiddo and suffer the consequences.  I have always thought I am just that weird parent that doesn't feed her kid junk food and sweets all the time, so I have just grinned and bared it.  After the Valentine's Day party, I happened to talk to some other parents about the party food.  Lo and behold, I am not alone in the world!  We were ALL appalled at the large quantity of junk our kids ate that day!  yeah!  Ok, for you parents out there, here is what my child ate that day:  a cupcake, an ice cream cup, cookies, a Little Debbie snack cake, Cheetos, and a juice box.  Oh, boy.  Yes, she did have some fruit and a few carrots, but there you go.  I am not sure what parent really wants their 3 year old to eat all that in one day!  Ugh.

So I decided to ask the teacher about the food selection.  I love E's teacher, by the way.  I think she is great.  Her response was that she had a hard time thinking of 12 items (one for each kiddo) for the list so she used the same lists that have been used forever.  Well, I can help with that!  I volunteered to make the list for the next party!  And here we are!  I am proud to say that there was a nice sampling of healthy snacks on the list, which included only ONE sweet treat.  That would be the mini-cupcakes that I signed up to bring!  Is it sneaky for me to sign up for the one sweet treat?  I think not, since I actually bake the cupcakes at home instead of picking them up at the grocery store!

Anyway, I digress.

On to the important part, the cupcakes!

A while back, one of my sister's friends emailed me and asked for my favorite "white" cake recipe for cupcakes.  I sent her Dorie Greenspan's "Perfect Party Cake" from Baking:  From My Home to Yours (see March 27, 2012 - Baby Bootie Cakes).  So she sent me her favorite cupcake recipe as well and I will share it with you!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Blueberry Big Crumb Coffee Cake

For the month of April, I and a friend are in charge of the "hospitality time" at church.  This means that we provide the yummy eats for people to snack on while (1) waiting for education hour to start, (2) skipping education hour to hang out and chat, or (3) while visiting before the church service.  For this first week, I decided that a coffee cake was in order.  What goes better with coffee than coffee cake??

So, I turned to one of my most favorite food blogs, Smitten Kitchen, and low and behold she has a recipe for just the thing I am looking for:  Big Crumb Coffee Cake with Rhubarb.  Mmmm.  The photos made me want to lick the computer screen!  If you are the kind of person who likes to pick the big crumbs off of a coffee cake whenever you walk by, this is the coffee cake for you.  And since it just so happens that I had all of the ingredients sitting in my kitchen waiting for me, it was clearly the recipe to bake!