First thing’s first…  I WANTED to work on making gum paste flowers last weekend, but I spent a week reeling with excitement after seeing my steak cake featured on Yummly.  You probably already know about it b/c I spammed the crap out of everyone I knew to look @ the April Fool’s Yummly article showcasing cakes that looked like savory food  =)  I wouldn’t have known about it if my site didn’t send me emails to notify me regarding pingbacks and comments.  I received an email just as I was packing up my stuff @ work on Thursday, March 29 to go meet Vin for dinner, and it said that some site had linked my steak post.  I clicked the link and it took a couple minutes to register that I was looking @ a hugely popular food site and that third one down, right under Duff Goldman’s/Ace of Cake’s bag o’ bagels cake, was MY steak cake.  Initial reaction: “Wait. *gasp* Is that–holy f*cking sh*t my cake! That’s my cake! Oh my God! AAAAAAAAHHHHHHH!!!!!” =D

Here's a screenshot for those of you who are too lazy to click the link... or if you've seen it I'm going to make you look @ it again anyway <3

The weekend came and I was still on a super giddy high about the cake feature. I had a couple baking orders for old coworker friends: one was for chocolate cupcakes with swirled pink and blue frosting for a relative’s birthday party (I threw in some hand piped rose minis for the hell of it); the other was for a red velvet cake with cream cheese for another friend’s birthday (actually on April Fool’s Day!) and I was just really happy to be able to see them in person and share the fun news.  And I was honored some of my F&F gave me props on their Facebook pages and told their F&F about it.  I was even kind of offered an assistant pastry chef position!  Unfortunately, the pay doesn’t come close to my day job, so sadly, I had to pass on that.  I was just thrilled and humbled to have this kind of recognition =)

Pink and blue swirl for V's grandmother's birthday and a frosting rose for good measure. I asked L if he happened to take any pics of the red velvet and cream cheese cake and he said he and his staff "dove right in" as soon as they smelled the frosting. hahaha

 

This past weekend, Vin and I celebrated Easter with his family.  It was a madhouse with the food and the babies all over the place and the weather was so nice… tons o’ fun in the sun on Sunday.  I spent the last few weeks trying to decide WTF to make for dessert and nothing really special came to mind.  My cousin T suggested I make a Peep cake but I wasn’t feeling the idea (or “fillin’ it” as they say on ABDC).  The day before Easter rolled around and I was like, “I GUESS I’ll make macarons…?”  Vin and I were out most of the day on Saturday on a photo excursion, and by the time we got home, we were pooped.  I took a nap and didn’t start measuring the almond flour and weighing egg whites until… ohhhh… I don’t know… 130 am Saturday night/Sunday morning.

A nest of Easter rabbit macarons

I saw some holiday dessert ideas and wanted to try making the macs in the shape of bunny rabbits.  It got really annoying trying to pipe the ears because the more I handled the egg-almond-sugar mixture, the more “liquid” it became.  My first attempts @ bunnies came out so much better than the blobular final attempts.  After I while, I just gave up on piping bunny shapes and just made circles.

I put lighter colored tiny blobs on some of the circles so they’d look like fluffy rabbit tails.  HOWEVER, they seemed to resemble other things, mostly b/c I wasn’t thinking @ 2 am and should have used food coloring to dye the mix another color.  Seriously, I looked @ the tray after I took them out of the oven and there were rows of what looked like boobs and just thought, “… oh sh*t.”  I was too tired to make more tails in another color so I just kept them anyway.  And I’d like to keep my site relatively PG soooo… please keep your comments to yourselves about the baked bunny backsides.  =D

A close up of the cute faces and the... uh, tails.

Anyway, I was getting fed up with having to individually place all the sprinkles on the rabbit faces with tweezers and they’d either fall off or sink into the cookie, so I ended up with only a handful of rabbits.  Vin asked if they were Asian Easter bunnies b/c he thought the top whiskers were eyes.  haha   (I JUST remembered I have eyeball sprinkles I could have used; they would look more freakish than cute though b/c the eyeballs are pretty big…)  I used double chocolate frosting as the filling and sandwiched the salvageable bunny faces with the nipple-like tails and put them into the fridge so I wouldn’t have to look @ them.

For some reason, I wasn’t sure if this batch of macarons came out right and I was concerned they were overbaked (they ended up being perfectly fine; I just worry too much), so I decided to bring back up desserts if the macs were a complete flop.  Remember the extra chocolate mini cupcakes I put in the freezer from the 1920s charity event that I said I’d save for a rainy day?  I felt like it was practically pouring in my kitchen last night.  I took out the rest of the mini chocolate cupcakes and the mini red velvet cupcakes left over from last week’s baking order and used the rest of the pink, blue, and cream cheese frosting to put different designs and swirls on each cupcake.

Blue vanilla-rum blossoms on mini chocolate cupcakes

I did a basic swirl of blue for a bunch of them and thought it looked kinda “blah” and plain for Easter, so I mixed a little green frosting (blue –> green = easy!) and piped some leaves and tweezered on some edible beads to make them look more like springtime flowers.  I piped pink frosting on the rest of the chocolate minis and started to place white sugar beds on them, but then I got sick of tweezing them on one by one so I left the rest.  And the red velvet minis? I piped the cream cheese frosting on @ factory machine speed just so I could be done with all this and catch some Z’s.  haha

Red velvet mini cupcakes with cream cheese and chocolate mini cupcakes with pink vanilla-rum frosting

Since special occasions call for special displays, I took brought my prized cake stands to Easter dinner (my precious–es…).  One of my cousins gave me this beautiful light blue plate that had little birds on it and it was absolutely perfect for spring.  I showcased the macaron bunnies and round cookies atop a cushion of festive yellow “grass”.  The pink-chocolate mini cupcakes and the red velvet ones were stacked on my glass tiers, and the flower-like blue minis were placed on the white ceramic stand Vin’s mom gave me.  After spending so much time on these, dessert was the last thing I wanted to look @, but I’m glad Vin’s fam liked them.  The plate of macs I brought was practically empty by the end of dinner.  I had some extra macaron cookies (I was extra critical and called them “rejects”) and decided to whip up some peanut butter frosting and use some leftover chocolate icing.  The result? Reese’s macs.  They were oh-so-tasty and I had quite a few leftover (I can only forcefeed Vin so much dessert) so I brought them in for my new work buddies.  It was a win-win situation for all; I got my fridge space back and people are now obligated to be nice to me when I audit them b/c I gave them delicious baked goods.  (Juuuuust kidding!)  =D

Platters of all my Easter goodies!

But yeah, next Easter I think I should just make a basic Peep cake so I can actually get some sleep before the fun festivities. =)

 

**Vin took all the really nice pics… thanks baby!  <3

Guess who had a full day of work and was still behind on writing cards and wrapping presents and still had not made Christmas Eve dessert by Friday afternoon on December 23?  MEEEEE!!!  That break I had the week before was more like a short gasp of air; there was so much to do @ the office before everyone else was trying to escape for the holidays.  Fun.  When I got home I couldn’t even think about making dessert @ the time and just rushed to wrap all the gifts for Vin’s family and tried to @ least sort out gifts for my family.  I took a break to give Vin the rest of his presents (super awesome knife cufflinks, shoes, tickets to see pro bull riders @ MSG,  Japanese thermal long johns).  Our romantic pre-Christmas dinner @ Maloney and Porcelli was my gift to him the day before (I don’t care if you’re vegetarian; you MUST get the crackling pork shank!).  Vin gave me mine super early: I got a second 6-quart KitchenAid stand mixer (I have now christened them Thing 1 and Thing 2) and some neat baking pans a week before Christmas =P

I woke up early on Christmas Eve to get started on the cake balls.  I had a clear vision in mind for this Christmas dessert, and it was basically making really fancy, hand-decorated cake balls that were to resemble ornaments on this wooden tree stand I bought from Godiva last year.  The tree came with wrapped chocolate truffles, but those are long gone and all that remains is this simple wooden display.   Although these aren’t my favorite things to do, I admit I’m getting quite adept @ making cake balls now.  Plus, I had some leftover cupcakes from last weekend, and what better way to salvage dry cupcakes but to process them into cake ball dust?

White cake ball with red and green Christmas trees

I took out a Godiva truffle to gauge what size to roll out the balls (1 Tbsp scoop) so that the wooden tree display would cup the balls ever so snugly.  I had a bit of candy coating leftover from last month’s wedding favor order to cover a few balls, and broke open a package of white candy coating to make different colored “ornaments”.  I made the white balls first one @ a time: dipping, setting them to dry, artfully arranging Christmas tree sprinkles, and wash, rinse, repeat with the remainder of the yellow and green coating.  The candy coating dries rather quickly (man, I thought the white coating was fickle… no way, the green coating dries super fast!), so I couldn’t just dip a few balls @ once or the decorations would never stick.  And I couldn’t just throw all the sprinkles on or it would look like crap.  These were delicate, handcrafted, ornate cake balls with a coating that dried pretty damn quick.  I’d liken this to decorating a Fabergé egg, but on speed.  haha

The three final designs were:  white balls with red and green Christmas trees, yellow balls with clear/red/green sugar sprinkles, and green balls with white snowflake sprinkles.  I WANTED to make a fourth design: red balls with crushed peppermint sprinkles, but my downfall was not having actual red candy chips. I thought I was being sooooo innovative and smart by adding red food coloring to the white coating after making several white balls…  but I overheated the candy by just a tad and didn’t have enough time to fix that mess.  It was 1055 am and Vin was already hovering over me to pack this up and get ready to go, so I just brought a not-so-Christmassy variety pack of balls.  I mean, yellow?  Come on now… =/

Hand-decorated cake ball Christmas tree

We set it up @ the T house and it did look nice. Someone said it was a really great cake ball dispenser and Vin’s crazy cute nephew Patrick was very adamant on having a “gween ball wif white snowfwakes!!!”  I made extra balls to refill the empty spots on the tree and hoarded some to bring to my parents’ house for Christmas Day.  My mom, dad, and grandma had never had one before and said they were good, my sister and her boyfriend were quite familiar with my baked good experiments, and my brother just popped the whole thing in his mouth, grinned, and ate it.  =P

And with that, I give you the end of Christmas 2011 baking. (Phew!)

Happy 2012!

Things @ the office are JUST starting to slow down as we’re approaching that holiday lull where nothing gets done b/c frankly… everyone I need to  harass work w/is out on vacation.  Normally, I like being super active and multi-tasking, but it was getting a bit out of control.  The breathing time is quite welcome b/c I needed to get my crap together for the holidays, too!

I’ve been staying up late and using ANY free time I have @ home to organize gifts to ship out to faraway friends and family and addressing our awesome, one-of-a-kind Christmas postcards using Vin’s photography.  I figured we should have two sets made: one for “adults” and one completely nonsensical, weird set for people who are OK with our unique sense of humor =)  I spent a LOT on stamps and shipping gifts this past week, but thanks to baking orders and selling stuff on eBay, it wasn’t a big deal.  After bypassing the ridiculous line @ the post office on Saturday to send out 10 boxes of gifts to friends and family (thank youuuu, Click ‘n Ship!), Vin and I went to the supermarket to pick up ingredients for baking time.

chocolate minis with red peppermint frosting and vanilla minis with green vanilla frosting

This weekend’s order was very important.  A very nice woman found my site online and asked if I could make cupcakes as Christmas presents to deliver to her loved ones in LI since she wasn’t able to visit them for the holidays.  I definitely couldn’t say no.  We decided on making a mix of chocolate cupcakes with red peppermint frosting and vanilla cupcakes with green vanilla frosting.  I made a dozen minis to deliver to each house and added Christmas sprinkles to make it more festive.

chocolate minis with eggnog frosting and chocolate frosting

Then I also made a bunch of chocolate cupcake minis with chocolate frosting and eggnog frosting.  And then meticulously placed more Christmas sprinkles on these, too.  (I seriously love being able to use all these cute sprinkles!)

I made some extra chocolate minis and brought in leftover eggnog frosting to bring to co-workers.  I didn’t have time to decorate before bringing them in to the office, so I rushed to squeeze every last drop of frosting on the cupcakes and put one Christmas tree sprinkle on each during my lunch break.  There were a lot of gift baskets and store-bought baked goods out in the office, but I’m glad everyone still had room for my cupcakes.  =)

 

 

PS.  After I take the baked cupcakes out and let them cool, I dump them out on cooling racks and then line then up to make room for more batches. As I was straightening up the chocolate minis, I saw that one of the cupcakes kind of looked like it had my initials.  I swear I didn’t try to make it look like that!  I thought I was seeing things so I showed Vin and he said, “Yeah… it DOES look like there’s ‘KT’ on it!”  oooooooohhh… it’s a sign I was meant to do this, huh.

 

I completely forgot about posting this.  I made a TON of cream puffs for Thanksgiving over 2 weeks ago.  I guess it was glossed over since it’s been crazy @ work and the photos are forgettable and this wasn’t a big deal; I’ve made these before.  Ain’t nothin’ special.

I was on a puff-making spree the morning of Vin’s family’s Thanksgiving dinner and made hundreds of little puffs.  I just kept going and going and all my racks were overfilling and I lost count after 250.  I made this many with the intention of bringing some for the T house dessert, then bringing them for my family’s post-turkey dinner on Saturday, and then doling out the rest to coworkers.

Pistachio puffs

I made pistachio filling for the T house puffs.  No, pistachio filling is not naturally green; a bit of food coloring gives it that lovely processed pastel shade.  And there were bits of nuts in there, too.  I also made chocolate filling and vanilla filling, but as usual, Vin likes to get to his parents’ house early so I didn’t have time to change tips and refill pastry bags to do multiple flavors.  I REALLY wanted to construct a tower of puffs (croquembouche), but there definitely wasn’t any time for that.  Meh.

TONS o' puffs

I brought about 60-70 puffs to the T house and brought along my nice cake stands to assemble them, but I was preoccupied with our new little niece for a few hours. She was so cute and peaceful sleeping on me that I didn’t want to move and wake her up to arrange cream puffs and hold her @ the same time, so Vin’s mom set them all up on one platter.  There were extra puffs so Mom T froze them.  (I was told she took them out to eat 2 weeks after Thanksgiving and they held up well and were still good.)

For my parent’s house, I packaged the dry, baked puffs in a bag and didn’t fill them till we got to the house.  I didn’t want the puffs to be soggy.  And it was a much more relaxed setting so I just sat down @ the dining table and took my time filling the assortment of pistaschio, chocolate, and vanilla while my siblings, cousins, aunts and uncles, and my dad eyeballed the process and commented on the “messy ones that needed to be eaten right away.”  hahaha  It was a nice sampling dish… I think I made about 80 for my mom’s family feast and they were all gone by the time we left.

plate o' puffs - chocolate, vanilla, and pistachio

And I REALLY wanted to bring some for my coworkers and teammates since we were finishing up a big group project and this would have been a nice treat, but I just didn’t have time to make more filling before then.  So frustrating.  Now I have another 150+ empty, frozen puffs in my freezer, so maybe I can make a small caramel croquembouche tower for later.  In addition to the awesomely fun idea I have in mind for the Christmas…  stay tuned…

Here's lookin' at you, kid...

On off weekends, Vin and I catch up on all the shows we missed during the week and one day, we got reeled into watching “Along Came Polly” with Ben Stiller and Jennifer Aniston.  It’s not a must-see, but there’s a memorable scene where the man-of-a-million-voices Hank Azaria shows up as this jacked up scuba instructor in a Speedo with a super thick French accent who tries to assure Ben Stiller nothing will happen to his new wife.  He’s like, “Louban [Ben Stiller’s character’s name is “Reuben”], look to me in my eyeballlluuuuhhh, I promEESE you I take care of LEEsa…”  When Vin imitates Hank Azaria and says that line, it makes me laugh and I was reminded of it when I made these cake balls.

I wanted to make these last weekend for Halloween but just didn’t have time.  There was too much going on @ work for both of us and we just weren’t that into it this year.  No parties, no dressing up… total lameness, I know.  We didn’t get that many trick-or-treaters last year, so I only bought one regular bag of candy in anticipation for the holiday. Vin and I didn’t get home till close to 8 on Monday night and all the kids were done trolling for sugar by then, and since no one showed up we’re stuck with a bowl full of Whoppers, Reese’s PB cups, Take 5s, KitKats, and Jolly Rancher lollipops.

bloodshot crazy eyes

We had some time yesterday before heading to the T house so I decided I’d try out these eyeballs.  Just b/c Halloween is over doesn’t mean I can’t still make weird cake balls, dammit!  I wanted to test  out some sizes and designs for cake balls anyway b/c I have a wedding favor order to fulfill and wanted to triple check they’d fit in the favor box with a fondant design on them, too.  I took out some homemade fondant and colored and rolled tiny chunks of it, then cut out circles for the iris and pupil pieces.  I made an assortment of brown, green, blue and yellow eye parts, and as soon as I put the brown eye pieces on the cake balls, I started giggling to myself.  I laid out the pieces to make a crazy yellow eyeball and hand painted some gel for the bloodshot eye vessels.  That made me chuckle, too.  I made a bunch of different colored eye sets looking in all different directions, and I kept cracking myself in the kitchen.

Cake eyeballs and eyeball parts

Vin hears the giggling and thinks I’m chatting with my sister online and we’re making silly jokes. It’s almost time to leave (he likes getting to his parents’ super early so he can play with the dog) and he comes into the kitchen while I’m still laughing to myself and he’s all exasperated and goes, “Baby, you’re TOTALLY not ready–oh cool!!!” when he sees what I’ve been working on.  Then he heads straight back into the office to get his camera to take pics.  I grab his 80s computer guy/pedophile glasses and put the yellow googley eyes behind them and I’m laughing hysterically @ my creation while Vin’s snapping away.  It just looks too funny AND freaky @ the same time.  I go and get my glasses and put the other eyes behind them.  They look creepy, but I think it’s so hilarious and I’m so proud of myself b/c they DO look realistic. I brought them over to the T house and Vin’s fam thought the balls were fun, too.  His mom looked @ me like I was nuts for making creepy edible eyeballs, but she smiled and it was a loving look that said “no wonder my son loves you.”  <3

Fleur de lis cake ball

I also did a few quick prototypes for the wedding favors, and they came out just the way I wanted so I was extra psyched about this cake ball experiment.  =)

Coconut banoffee pie

Oh, and I decided to make a variation of banoffee pie, but this time I made coconut whipped cream instead of regular whipped cream. That sh*t was GOOD.  I brought 2 little pies to the T house and Vin’s brother and his wife loved it.  They ate one and took the other home.  Vin’s OK w/that just b/c he knows I have the rest of the homemade coconut cream and toffee @ home in the fridge and can make him his own deconstructed coconut banoffee pie parfait later. haha

AND, last but not least, a few weeks ago, a friend of mine asked if I could help out with baked goods for a play she was involved in, and I was more than happy to oblige.  The play is “The Laramie Project” and proceeds from the sale of the cupcakes are going to support a great cause.  I made a whole bunch of mini cupcakes with colorful frosting and delivered them to the director herself on Friday.  My friend told me the cupcakes were awesome.  I’m just glad I could help out and benefit The Matthew Shepard Foundation and Interweave.  The last performances of the production are next weekend (November 12-13) so check it out if you have the chance.

A rainbow assortment of cupcakes

Next weekend and week after will be cake ball mania @ my house.  And then it’s Thanksgiving and it’ll be cream puff mania.  And then it’s Christmas.  And sometime in-between now and New Year’s I hope to get some sleep.  Even better if I was sleeping AND catching some rays on a nice, warm beach, but thanks to Paul Sarbanes and Michael Oxley, the odds of that happening before year end are mathematically impossible.  And now, it’s the end of Sunday funday…

Beach cupcakes and cutting cake... complete with shells, sand, and sea!

After this weekend’s baking project, I wish I were on a nice beach instead of creating mini edible vacation scenes.  A friend of a friend is getting married and the theme of her bridal shower: her honeymoon in the Caribbean.  As soon as I heard that, I had the perfect idea in mind.  I suggested doing a beach theme: half sand and half ocean with a couple seashells scattered on the cupcake.

Fondant starfish

This was one of my more organized baking endeavors. The execution went just as planned (save for one minor design kink, but that’s what test cupcakes are for) and I finished an hour ahead of schedule.  The baking went smoothly, the frosting wasn’t a complicated fiasco, and cutting and shaping the fondant was a breeze.  Why?  B/c I used my homemade fondant for this.  I really don’t know why I keep thinking that MAYBE using ready made store bought fondant would be better; it’s like I keep going back to it thinking it’ll be easier and faster than making my own, thinking that hey, maybe this overpriced factory processed fondant will work this time, maybe it’s changed for the better and won’t try to piss me off so quickly or be so difficult… but no.  Purchased fondant is just like that bad relationship you can’t get rid of until you meet this NEW wonderful home made fondant and learn to open up to it.  How’s THAT for an analogy, eh?  Life lessons AND pretty baked goods all in one website.  hahaha

Spending the day at the seashore... rather, spending a day recreating a whole bunch of tasty seashores.

 

 

Back to the cupcakes.  I rolled out homemade yellow fondant and punched out stars and then hand shaped them into little starfish.  I felt like the tiny starfish wasn’t enough, so I cut out forms to hand shape into those skinny, long, swirly-looking shells (kind of like conch shells… but not…).  I took a couple of the “reject cupcakes” (smaller or misshapen cupcakes) and used them as test subjects.  I frosted half of the cupcake and then patted brown sugar on it to resemble the “sand”.  (BTW, graham cracker crumbs will also work, but the texture of brown sugar is much closer to sand.)  Then I piped wavy rows of  blue frosting for the water, and then pressed one of each shell onto the cupcake.  It looked pretty much as I imagined in my head  =)

 

The beautiful arrangement at the bridal shower... it looks fantastic! (Photo credit: one of the bride's friends took this shot.)

 

 

 

I was also requested to make a small cake for the event in the same design as the cupcakes, so I cut out larger stars to shape into bigger starfish.  I pressed the brown sugar on the cake first, then piped the ocean waves.  And I used extra icing to “glue” the fondant shells onto the top and side of the cake.  Pretty cute, right?  I was happy about how these came out.  The bride texted and said they were amazing and perfect and my friend (one of the maids of honor) said they looked awesome and tasted delicious.  I think I can say from the sound of things, this was a job well done.  haha

 

 

Putting extra frosting, cupcakes and fondant stars to good use

 

 

 

I punched out extra stars and made some extra cupcakes to donate for this West Islip Family day event.  They’re going to give my cupcakes out as one of the prizes and my cards will be passed out.  I’m not really looking for more business or press around here since I’d like to be out of this house soon, but I have a ton of cards so I might as well distribute them.  Couldn’t hurt, right?  And I don’t feel too shabby about helping a good cause, either.

Taking a hiatus from baking for a couple weeks.  This has been too exhausting with work.  I need to recharge…

Last Mother’s Day I made two small vanilla cakes for Vin’s mom and decorated them with some of the first frosting roses I’ve ever made.  I remember one had chocolate frosting with pink roses cascading down the side, and the other had white vanilla frosting with lavender roses.  I didn’t take any pictures @ the time b/c I considered it to be practice and didn’t think I’d really continue decorating cakes and baking.  Oh well.  I guess if anyone orders a wedding cake from me in the near future, I can make basic tiers with borders and *drumroll please* cascading roses.  Because I haven’t tried anything else.  haha

It’s weird to think that a year has passed since I took up this hobby.  I don’t feel like I’m significantly better @ it since I haven’t really had a chance to practice or learn any new techniques, and to be honest I really don’t think I’ll ever have the time to ever take legit cake decorating classes.  I guess being meticulous and adventurous helps make the baking look and taste good.  And having a photographer for a husband and a studio in the basement isn’t a bad thing, either.  But I do strive to make things that are slightly out of the ordinary or challenge myself to make things outside of the cake mix box, so to speak.  Being that it’s Mother’s Day, I had to make something special for Vin’s mom that was better than last year’s cakes.  (Unfortunately my mom is too far away to get the same gift; the best I could do was have flowers sent  =(  Boo.)  With my current work schedule and still being tired/achy, I didn’t have time to construct a cake masterpiece.  So I thought, what could I do that’s relatively simple yet still be spectacular? What am I good @? Cupcakes… frosting roses… I’ll make huge rose cupcakes!

 

um, I guess I went overboard...

I made some chocolate cupcakes… well, 96 chocolate cupcakes to be exact, since I also had to fulfill another Mother’s Day order and had another request for Lakers-themed cupcakes (and I always bake extra).  It was a pretty big baking weekend for me, but it felt good diving headfirst into the deep end again.  It made me feel “normal” again.  That and baking in wedge heels = I was back in business.  (I used to bake and decorate barefoot but spending hours flat on my feet really hurt and I’ve since worn 4″-heeled wedge shoes to put less weight on the balls on my feet… b/c wearing sneakers would simply be too obvious of a solution  =)

I crushed some chocolate, graham cracker and pretzels in the food processor to simulate “dirt” in the planter for my mother-in-law’s baked gift.  And I was going to make green fondant leaves to put it instead of green icing since I figured, hey, might as well go big or go home (wait…). Unfortunately, the rest of my awesome plan didn’t work out so well.  I kneaded green food coloring for the fondant leaves to put around the pot, but everything else took so long that the fondant started drying out before I could place it where I wanted.  And then I couldn’t get the perfect frosting flavor + consistency (again, the balance between taste and stiffness drove me up the wall) so my icing flowers came out a little softer than I liked.  And then I didn’t put enough stabilizing sticks in the planter so the cupcakes didn’t stay on the pot.  My original plan to put 6 roses in the pot surrounded by fondant leaves turned out to be a disaster b/c I was out of time (had to make a delivery for a customer and head to the T house for dinner), I was THIS close to smashing the clay pot since this really shouldn’t have been this difficult.  So with Vin’s assistance, we ended up with one single rose cupcake in a planter as a quick fix.

Et voila…

Single rose cupcake in flower pot

Here’s to constantly one-upping myself all the time…  this may kill me if I keep it up.  haha

Happy Mother’s Day to my mom and grandma, too!  <3

Cover of Real Simple magazine.  Just kidding. Vin’s just really good @ this photography thing <3

I have to warn you; there are “TWSS” situations coming up.  =D

I’m sorry for the lack of new posts.  I’ve been out of commission for the past month+ due to medical issues. I’m pissed @ myself for missing out on two wonderful opportunities (cupcakes for a gallery show and for an off-Broadway play… my sincere apologies to Mogan and Sunflower!) b/c I was physically incapable of baking and decorating.  Lifting a 6-quart metal mixing bowl filled with cake batter or frosting, slaving over cake pans and bending over to decorate cupcakes were not feats I could do less than 2 weeks after being discharged from the hospital.  I mean, forcing myself to go to work less than a week after surgery was tough enough.  Ugh.  I had to bide my non-baking time by wandering Michael’s, HomeGoods and Costco like a listless zombie spending $$$ on cake decorating supplies and butter and sugar.  But almost 6 weeks later, I’m doing MUCH better (I can walk @ my normal “get the F out of my way, tourists!” pace and do a few crunches, thanks to Aleve), and my foray back to the oven was for Easter/little Patrick’s birthday. With cake pops.  Which I THOUGHT would be an easy stepping stone to get back into real baking…

Please stop reading here if you’re a diehard fan of cake pops b/c I’m probably the only person in the world who doesn’t really care for them and yet, I will attempt to bake anything and make it look and taste damn good.  Still, I’m not in the mood to argue over sugar and feel that, as levelheaded human beings, we’re all entitled to our opinions… but note that this IS my blog  =P

Vin’s sister mentioned she saw these a while back and I figured I might as well give them a shot for her son’s birthday since I don’t have enough energy to construct a statue of Woodyor Buzz out of cake for Patrick.  I’ve been trying to avoid making these cake pops for several reasons.  I’ve never made them before and usually I’m all for trying new things, but I’m just not a huge fan.  I mean, don’t get me wrong; they solicit “ohhh, that’s so cute!” reactions and they look nice and I’m fascinated by the cake pops book my aunt got me for Christmas and think all the designs are really neat, and if you love them, that’s great, fantastic, bully for you, who am I to stop you, I will never stand in the way of anyone’s specific sugar craving, etc. etc., but they’re just not my bag, baby.  First and foremost… I really don’t need to be purchasing more supplies that aren’t already part of my frosting/real cake arsenal. I feel like this is a bit of a cutesy fad, and cakes… well, call me old-fashioned, but I feel cakes are more timeless.  My mom gave me her cake decorating supplies, and many items are older than me and are probably of better quality than the tools I’m buying for myself now.   Second, I’m not a big fan of the mushy consistency and taste… not that I really eat these anyway.  Basically, a cake ball is mashed up cake (already sweet) mixed with frosting (sweeter) and doused with candy coating (reeeeally sickeningly sweet) with more sugar sprinkles or candies (omg cavities!) on top.   If you like sugar, then by all means, go for it, but personally, it took a lot to find a good balance with what cake and frosting creations I’ve made to make them NOT too sweet.  If my customers and taste testers say “they’re grrrrreat”, I don’t need to go around and f*ck up perfection.  =D  And the most important reason… these things are tiny.  One-bite, look-at-what-I-can-fit-in-my-mouth tiny, but in a way that is NOT the same as mini-cupcake tiny.  Allow me to explain: I love decorating with buttercream frosting.  I’m quite proud of having taught myself what little I’ve learned with frosting and concoct the flavors and designs that I’ve made. With a cake ball, the frosting is hidden and smushed à la Jersey Shore with cake.  You can still decorate with frosting on the outside, but the design area is very, very small and very, very not flat and stable.  Cake pops also come with more steps and time constraints, and with more processes come more clean-up (as Vin knows all too well) and with rushing comes stress.  I already make a huuuuuge mess when I bake, and for pops, you have to bake the cake, crumble up the whole damn thing, make the frosting, mix together the cake and frosting, shape tons of messy balls and put them on sticks, get all these containers out to melt the chocolate coatings, melt the candy JUST so, skillfully dip the ball in the mixture, quickly and carefully put those sprinkles and candies on before the coating completely dries, buy some Styrofoam or drill pegs into a board so the pops can set, and wash, rinse and repeat for each pop, the individual little divas that they are.  And you kind of have to do this all @ once or the candy coating dries up on the ball.  With cakes, I can bake one day, make frosting another day, and take my damn sweet time decorating and making flowers the next day, and the best part is if I mess up with the buttercream, I can fix it before it hardens. Of course, this is in an ideal world and things rarely ever happen that way, but I will say anything to defend my cakes.  haha

I need to confess that since I was pressed for time and not really into this thing…  I used a box of Betty Crocker’s cake mix and ready made frosting.  *gasp*  Not one of my proudest moments, but it saved some time instead of making everything from scratch and I guess it’s actually recommended to use store-bought cake mix for these pops.  I baked the “vanilla” factory-processed cake concoction, but I wasn’t thinking properly b/c I had to take time to cut off the baked browned edges to not contaminate the white cake pieces.  While that was cooling, I tried to lighten the flavor/texture by whipping more cream into the frosting to tame the sweetness.  I also used less of the frosting since the candy coating was already sweet.  Next step: mashing together the crumbled cake and frosting to make 39 little balls.  While those chilled in the fridge, I prepped the Styrofoam and poked 25 holes for the pops, covered the counter in wax paper, and set up the candy coating.

I made a mess with the white stuff

Being that it’s Easter and such, I bought pastel candy melt colors in green and blue.  Yep, blue coating.  Which means yes, I made blue balls.  I wasn’t used to working with this melty, sticky stuff and it took a while to coat one. ball. at. a. time.  And then rap it against the container so the excess drips off and deftly swirl it so the candy doesn’t dry in a huge glob on one side and hold it in the freezer for a bit to chill faster and constantly reheating the candy melts and… this took much longer than anticipated.  I think it was b/c 1) I was a noob @ this cake pop thing; 2) I’m a perfectionist and my balls look better than the ones from the book; and also 3) obviously I’m biased and I prefer my cakes.  haha  But, the chocolate was interesting to work with; it took a little time for me to get used to it and what temperature it needed to be for ideal dipping and decorating.  Because of that learning curve, the white chocolate designs on a few of the pops look like… a mess.  Well, OK I’m being a little hard on myself; Vin said they look awesome but a couple pops look a little sloppy to me.  The white chocolate cooled down much faster than I expected in the piping bag and just spurted out all over the place so a couple of the pops had slightly blobular stripes on them. Decorating the balls was a much easier process once I learned I had to pipe out the stripes within a couple minutes of heating the chocolate and those actually look professional  =D

I fit 25 pops in an Easter basket and we weaved yellow “grass” around the pops to make it look like a nest.  The leftover balls were arranged on my glass cake stand “nest” with some jellybeans.  I think that Vin’s family thought these were just part of the Easter decorations on the table and weren’t edible.  Once it was pointed out that these were “cake + frosting + chocolate,” they were a hit.  (I kind of hope not TOO much of a hit b/c I’m not exactly looking forward to doing this again…  haha) The biggest fans of the pops: the babies!  There were little toddlers double-fisting the pops; a green one in one hand and a blue one in the other.  I think I was happiest to see that those little guys loved them, especially the birthday boy.  Happy 2nd birthday, Patrick!

This looks like it belongs in Martha Stewart Living or something, doesn’t it? Yeah, I thought so, too.

This first experience with cake balls was a pain in the ass.  Next time, as I’m sure there will be, hopefully I’ll be more adept with the entire process.  I now can legitimately say I’ve made them and I’m still not terribly fond of them.  Anyway, I will make cake pops for orders and I will guarantee their awesomeness, but don’t expect me to really make these “for fun” again.  For me, “fun,” “cake,” and “balls” don’t belong in the same sentence.  hahaha

OK, this post is a day late, but that doesn’t mean the cake doesn’t taste good!  I took a couple weeks off from baking because my butter and sugar supply had depleted to nothing and because this little project damned near wiped me out.  We went to Costco over the weekend and I restocked on butter and powdered sugar, so impending panic attacks were averted and we were good to slowly get back in the game.  The suggestion to make a king cake for Mardi Gras was perfect for what I’d like to call my “physical therapy and recovery” phase.  haha

Vin took me to New Orleans a couple years ago for my birthday and we ate and drank our faces off.  Un/fortunately, I’ve never experienced full-fledged Mardi Gras insanity in the Big Easy before Ash Wednesday and making this king cake is probably as festive as I’m going to get for it.  I’ve never made it before (really, like nothing else in this blog is about first time baking experiments) but I remember having it in elementary school and that it was basically bread with colored sugar and some kid almost broke their tooth and choked chomping down on the plastic baby Jesus inside.  We learned AFTERWARD that you were supposed to have good luck for the year if you got the Christ child in your piece of king cake.  Luckily, I don’t have a little figurine to sneak inside the cake so your teeth are safe. 

Purple food coloring tastes terrible.  Even in sugar.  Eww.

There are several variations of king cake: plain or filled, usually with cream and/or fruit.  I picked strawberry and cream cheese filling since it sounded delicious (thank you, Danielle).  And the consistency is more like bread than cake.  I made the bread dough from scratch and felt obligated to use the mixer (the monster looked dusty and lonely and was giving me this forlorn “you don’t love me anymore” look) so I used the bread hook attachment.  It probably took the same amount of time as it would if I mixed this by hand with a wooden spoon.  Whatever.  I waited an hour for the dough to rise and prepped the cream cheese and strawberry fillings in the meantime.  After flattening out the dough and layering the fillings on top, I rolled the mess into a Bundt pan and let it rise again before popping it into the oven.  Meanwhile, I worked on the sugar icing and colored sugar topping.  Vibrant yellow, green, and purple drops of food coloring went into the sugar cups and I made a slightly runny glaze to drizzle on top of the cake.  I admit I was worried with sugar being included in every step of this, but as my sister said, “wow, this sounds amazingly unhealthy.”  Enjoy the gluttony before Lent! 

Apologies for the sloppy decorating.  And because of the soft filling, it looks pretty unappetizing inside, but all I can say is that it’s supposed to be ooey and gooey and it tastes awesome and one slice covers 200% of your daily recommended intake of sugar.  haha  If you ask nicely I’ll bring you a piece!  No boobs or beads necessary, thanks.  =D

I’m planning on making something this weekend, not necessarily Irish-themed since I already made these a couple months ago…  I’ll get back to you on that and will have a new post on Monday!

Thank goodness Christmas is done and over with!  I was on a baking binge for the past week.  I just couldn’t stop making SOMETHING and I made almost one item a day.  Insane!  I feel like confectioner’s sugar, flour, and butter are seeping out of my pores.  I think I need to detox now.

 

For Christmas eve dinner @ the T house I made another Bundt loaf of savory monkey bread.  Personally, I think it came out better for Thanksgiving because I used more butter.  Seriously, what was I thinking trying to cut down on the butter for Christmas?  It was still good.  There was about half the loaf left by the time the 14 of us were done eating.  Vin and I packed up some leftovers but left the bread for Mom T.  I can easily make some @ home for us (more on this below) and she loved it the most, so it’s the least I could do  =)

 

I brought over the eggnog crème brûlées for Christmas eve dessert and they were a hit. Vin helped me torch the sugar just before serving and went around telling everyone to eat them and basically shoved the ramekins in their faces.  (Aww… my #1 fan  <3)  I introduced one of my brothers-in-law to it since he had never had crème brûlée before, and another one was raving about it all night (then again, he and Vin had a lot of scotch so it could have been the liquor talking  hahaha). I didn’t try any during Christmas eve, but today I had a little bit of the last ramekin we saved.  The custard consistency was perfect and the flavor of my improvised eggnog was on the money.  It was so money it was like Guy Fieri and his permanent sunglasses tan.  Now, what other flavors can I infuse into the next batch of crème brûlée… HHHMMMmmmm…

 

So I lied and broke out mixer again before New Year’s.  Poor baby.  The little monster probably thinks I hate it because I’m so abusive.  Whatever.  It’s still protected by the warranty and I needed to make frosting.  I still had plenty of leftover chocolate cupcakes and we were going to make rounds to see other family, so I decided to whip up frosting and quickly ice two dozen cupcakes and a dozen minis.  I have a tendency to rummage and be impulsive, so on a whim, I made Bailey’s mint-flavored frosting.  Yes, you read that correctly: Bailey’s.  With mint.  And it was delicious!  I swirled it on the cupcakes and sprinkled some red/green/white sugar on top and voila!  Instant awesome desserts.  We brought a dozen to each of Vin’s sisters’ houses.  I have to say, I always like watching everyone’s reactions when they eat my baked goods because I always worry it doesn’t come out well or they don’t like it, so when people say, “This is the best chocolate cupcake I’ve ever had!” or “The frosting is perfect!” or “Oh my God I’m soooo full but I ate the whole thing it was so good!”… I just love it!  It’s all I need.  As long as I have fans who like eating my baked goods, I’ll keep having fun  =)

The view from our front porch @ 8 pm
Today is the day after Christmas and it’s been snowing alllll day.  It’s coming down hard and it’s so windy the house is creaking… like there’s someone walking around in the attic *shudder!*  We had the fire going today, and I made more savory monkey bread just for the two of us.  This time, I added crushed red pepper for some kick and Vin chopped up some green olives and pimentos to incorporate in the bread.  And I used smaller square pans.  And more butter =P  They came out flawless this time.  There’s a wonderful crust along the edges but a fantastic chewiness inside and the flavor of the olives just takes it to another level.  I wasn’t intending on baking today, but it was nice to have the oven on the warm the house.  Or… smoke up the house because the butter bubbled over and burned in the bottom of the oven, which made smoke come out and the detector to go off and Vin laugh @ me and ask, “What is going on in there?”  hahaha  Oooops.  Either way, the kitchen smells awesome.
The roaring fireplace in our sick living room.

Right now Vin is playing with his Christmas present.  Let’s hope it doesn’t fritz out on him or I’d be pissed.  And I don’t even know where to start with mine.  It’s a crazy awesome machine that’s “1) a very mysterious and powerful device and 2) its mystery is only exceeded by its power”. (Ten points if you know where that’s from. Hint: it’s my favorite movie.)  I think I’m going to let it sit in the box for a while (you can even see it on the left in the pic of our living room) and let the idea of my owning a crazy Cricut Cake machine fester.  I don’t even know where to start with this.  It’s like… if I take it out, it’ll force me to go to the next step: using fondant.  That’s unknown territory I’m not quite ready for yet…