Thursday, April 26, 2012

Ballerina Cupcakes

When I was a young, I used to be a ballerina.  This comes as a surprise to many people because I do not really have what you would call a ballerina physique.  Also, I am extremely clumsy.  But I loved being a ballerina and I loved watching the older girls, ones with actual talent and grace.  I loved the slippery satin of the toe shoes and the soft leather of the slippers.  I loved the smell of the studio, a combination of incense and hardwood.  I loved the music, how you could feel the rhythm in your core.  I was a ballerina for 7 years when I decided to take a summer off and pursue other interests and as it turned out my love of ponies outweighed my love of dancing and I never went back.  

But I have fond memories of dance lessons and recitals, so when my sister's friend asked me to make some ballerina cupcakes for her sister's "sprinkle" (apparently a smaller baby shower for a second baby), I had no choice but to say yes.  The cupcakes are red velvet, from a box, and the frosting is cream cheese buttercream with a little pink food coloring.  

I made the toppers the same way that I made these horse toppers and these 100 day toppers.  Choose a clip art template and put wax paper over the top.  Melt candy melts according to their directions and trace the design onto the wax paper.  Some people just snip of the end of a baggie, but I find it easier to trace with a Wilton #1 tip (super tiny round tip) and fill with a Wilton #5 tip (medium tiny round tip).  Allow to dry for a couple hours and place on top of cupcakes.  Make some extras, chocolate toppers are always delicate.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Interesting Things

Here are some interesting things I bookmarked this week:

Coca Cola Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Frosting from Sprinkle Bakes- I am a total sucker for anything with peanut butter frosting

I don't usually like bananas but these Nutella filled Banana Muffins from Bake at 350 look just fantastic.  Must be the Nutella.

The new trend of savory waffles has me quite intrigued.  Joy the Baker's Gluten Free Lunch Waffles look like the best way to try them.

Haniela's tutorial for asparagus cake makes me want to make this lovely spring dessert right away!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Homemade Vanilla Extract

I always see homemade vanilla recipes out during Christmas time.  It would make a wonderful gift.  This year I decided to try it, but lo and behold, you have to let it sit in your cupboard for 3 months.  Well, now it it spring and not really gift giving season.  I have just given some of mine away as a "hey you are cool, do you want some homemade vanilla?" gift.  Whatever works.  It certainly won't go bad anytime soon, so you could save it for Christmas.

I bought my vanilla beans on amazon, because where I live, it seems to be hard to find them.  I was very happy with them, they came nice and soft.  I read somewhere that a hard, brittle vanilla bean isn't fresh and  you shouldn't use it.  There are also 3 types of vanilla beans.  I used Madagascar vanilla beans, because that is what amazon sold at what I thought was a reasonable price for vanilla beans.  (It has taken me a long time to justify spending money on vanilla beans.  When they came, I treated them like gold and made everyone smell them).  I also used UV vodka.  It was cheap and came in a big bottle.

Homemade Vanilla adapted from Joy the Baker
1 pint vodka
6 vanilla beans

 Slit the 6 vanilla beans down the middle and place in pint glass jar.  Fill jar with vodka.  Close lid tightly and store in a cool dark place for 3 months.

After three months, you may want to dispense them in pretty jars...or not.  I totally handed my friend a mason jar full of vanilla and it was cool.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Makes My Life Easier-Baker's Joy

This stuff is amazing.  It has truly changed my baking.  I used to cut parchment paper rounds out and place them at the bottom of my baking pans.  Not anymore.  

Baker's Joy is a combination of baking spray and flour.  It makes the cake release like a dream and cuts my pan prep time to like zilch.

I just wanted you guys to know, in case you didn't.  

*The Baker's Joy people have no idea who I am.  I just kind of love it.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Berry Cake

I have baked this berry cake several times in the past couple of years and I never posted it, because the very best photo I ever took of it is the one your looking at, quickly snapped with my iPhone camera before taking it to a party.  But summer is right around the corner and spring is definitely here so I thought you should know about this beauty.  It's light and airy and wonderful.  The absolute best part of this cake is that it is super easy for a layer cake and people love it.  It is a summertime rock star.

Berry Cake adapted from Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook
1 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup cornstarch
6 whole eggs
4 egg yolks
1 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
3/4 cup olive oil

Beat together eggs, egg yolks, and sugar.  Beat until mixture is thick and pale yellow, about 5 minutes.  Add in vanilla and beat to combine.  Add in olive oil and beat to combine.  Add in cornstarch and flour and beat until just combined.  Pour into two greased 9x2" round pans.  Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes.  Allow to cool in pans for about 15 minutes and then turn out onto a cooling rack.  Allow to cool completely before assembling.  I actually find cake layers easier to cut if they have been wrapped in plastic wrap and refrigerated overnight. 

1 1/2 cups powdered sugar (you can use less if you prefer things less sweet, my family has a sweet tooth the  size of Texas)
4 cups heavy cream
2 teaspoons vanilla

Pour heavy cream into mixing bowl.  If using a stand mixer, use whisk attachment and beat heavy cream until frothy.  Add in vanilla and continue beating.  Slowly add in powdered sugar.  Beat until soft peaks form.  You are ready to go.  If you overbeat the cream by a lot you will get butter.  Don't do that.

Fruit Topping
1 pint strawberries (cut up most of them but leave a few whole for the top)
1 pint blackberries
1 pint raspberries
1 pint blueberries
springs of mint (optional)

To build the cake: Cut layers in half.  You  can use a knife.  I use a piece of wire.  Place one of the now four layers on your serving plate.  Spread 1/4 of the frosting onto the layer.  Sprinkle berries over the frosting.  Add next layer.  Repeat until all the cake is used up.  For the top layer, I like to use whole strawberries and a few sprigs of mint.  The mint is totally optional, I just have a ton of it growing in my yard.  I also like to use extra frosting for the very top to give it some height so maybe save a little extra of the frosting back for the top.  You may have some leftover berries.  That is ok, put them in a fruit salad.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Easter Desserts

Easter is right around the corner, and by right around the corner, I mean next weekend. I don't know about your family, but my family's Easter dinners (and yes, I am from the Midwest so when I say dinner, I mean lunch) vary wildly.  Sometimes it's just my immediate family and sometimes all the aunts, uncles, cousins, second cousins all gather together.  I sometimes make a couple desserts, one for the kiddos and one for the grown ups.  This year, I'm not signed up to make any Easter treats, so here is a roundup of past desserts that would be tasty at any Easter dinner:

Nutter Butter Chicks: easy, cute, and delicious

Chocolate Dipped Oreos, also cute and delicious

Pavlovas: lighter and a bit more sophisticated fair
Mini Goat Cheese Cheesecakes
Pear Cake: would be so delicious with a scoop of ice cream following Easter ham
Lemon filled cupcakes
Strawberry Patch Cupcakes: don't be intimidated by the basket weave
Hope these ideas are helpful for choosing an Easter dessert.  Tell me, what are your Easter plans?

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