Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Fondant or Fondon't??

Well, this was my very 1st EVERYTHING with fondant: My first time handling it, my first time making it and my first time tasting it. Yes, I admit it. I've NEVER tasted fondant before. I come from a world of whip cream fantasies and buttercream dreams. Even my wedding cake was made of buttercream. I was completely turned off by the idea of having Play-doh on a cake. I mean, that's what EVERYONE always said it tasted like. So, experimenting here and there with baking, in general and what not got me to thinking about the fact that if I want to become a professional cake decorator then I have to learn how to work with fondant. What better time than the present ,right?

Here's the recipe I used:


Here is a tweaked, slightly cheaper version of the original w/ step by step photo's of course:

1 (.25 ounce) package unflavored gelatin
3 tablespoons cold water
1/2 cup corn syrup (Caro Syrup)
1 tablespoon glycerin
2 tablespoons shortening
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
8 cups sifted confectioners' sugar

Combine gelatin and cold water; let stand until thick.

Place gelatin mixture in top of double boiler and heat until dissolved.

Add glucose and glycerin, mix well.Stir in shortening and just before completely melted.

Remove from heat and stir in vanilla. Mixture should cool until lukewarm. Place 4 cups confectioners' sugar in a large bowl. Make a well in the center.

Using a wooden spoon, stir in the lukewarm gelatin mixture.

Mix in sugar and add more a little at a time, until stickiness disappears.

Knead in remaining sugar.

Knead until the fondant is smooth, pliable and does not stick to your hands. If fondant is too soft, add more sugar; if too stiff, add water (a drop at a time). Use fondant immediately or store in airtight container in fridge. When ready to use, bring to room temperature and knead again until soft.

Whew.....okay, now that we've done that it's time to roll out this sucker and lay it on the cake.

The frosted cake

The fondant rolled out

The fondant on the cake (before trim)

The fondant on the cake (after trim)

Color being added to the leftover fondant

Colored fondant being cut into shapes

At some point, my hands became far too sticky so the step-by-step photo's had to cease for the better benefit of my camera, lol. Okay, don't laugh but....here's the finished product:

Well, needless to say, I've got ALOT of practice work ahead of me. Tomorrow I will post about my errors, mishaps, opinions of fondant and ways to possibly improve. In the meantime, I'm going to go finish celebrating my 2nd anniversary with my hubby!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Knock, Knock....Who's there?

Hey guys. I just want to check in with everyone to let you know that I am fine. The past month has been interesting to say the least. As stated in my previous post, I started a new job. My hours are helacious (1:30pm-10pm) which has been very hard getting adjusted to and I encountered a brief health issue (thank goodness it was brief) and now I'm back @ 100%. I am pleased to say that posting will resume back to normal this weekend. I just want to thank everyone for checking up on me and for still peeking in to the blog to see if there have been any updates. I haven't given up on that dream one bit you guys. I just got side tracked for a bit. I can't wait for my new project this weekend!! Not baking has been absolutely disturbing to me!! My KitchenAid stand mixer actually has dust on it......Yeah, that's right people, dust!!

Once again, thanks for sticking with me and I can't wait until the weekend! It's 2am right now in my neck of the woods so I'm going to hit the hay now!

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Checking in on the dream

I realized that I do quite a bit of posting about the SWEET but not much posting at all about the DREAM aspect in this journey of mine. It feels kinda nice to just write about this journey and the obstacles that I've overcome along with the ones that are ahead of me. I know this post may not be as interesting as something slathered in chocolate or swiss meringue buttercream but it's certainly therapeutic for me!

Well, I was accepted into the Orlando Culinary Academy, something I am very excited about. Attending will give me soo many opportunities, including a change of scenery.......BUT....there are few obstacles that have me a little worried, mainly the cost of the education. It's pretty steep and while the idea of being a Certified Pastry Chef is very exciting, the idea of being in debt is not so exciting. There are other options out there that I could obtain for a fraction of the cost but is it worth it? I recently started a new job that I'm rather fond of (at the moment anyway, lol) that requires 6 months of employment in your current position before you can become eligible for transfer so that gives me more time to look over my plans and make possible readjustments. I plan on using this time to look at what other institutions (community colleges or other culinary programs) may have to offer. Spending more time researching this could save me thousands of dollars and I'm always down for saving money.

The great thing about all of this is that I have an amazing husband who's supportive of my plans and is more than willing to pack up and move to the destination of my choice to pursue my dream. The new company I work for has various locations throughout the U.S. (and abroad) so I can go practically anywhere. I'm a southern gal so I don't plan on going too far away. Atlanta? Texas? Who knows!

No matter the choice, they better be ready for me because once I arrive there will be no stopping me!

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Daring Bakers Challenge: Cheesecake Pops

Let me just start by saying, YUMMY!!!! Okay, this month's challenge was delicious cheesecake pops. I was pretty excited about this challenge for two reasons:

1. This is my 2nd DB challenge.
2. I've NEVER made cheesecake before!!

My baking desires have always led me in directions other than cheesecake. I can honestly say I've never even thought about making it up until I saw the proposed challenge. This recipe has totally changed that for me. I was somewhat surprised at how simple it was to make cheesecake. I was NOT surprised at how difficult it would be to roll those pesky little balls.

As much as I would've loved to take photos of me actually rolling the balls, I care about my camera a little to much to get cheesecake stuck in every nook and cranny of it. Anyhoot, I decided to go with a blue and brown color scheme (my favorite color combination) for my challenge.
Here's a few pics of the different toppings I used which included chopped pecans, candy crystal sprinkles, chocolate jimmies and graham cracker crumbs.

Check out the recipe below:

Cheesecake Pops

Makes 30 – 40 Pops

5 8-oz. packages cream cheese at room temperature

2 cups sugar

¼ cup all-purpose flour

¼ teaspoon salt

5 large eggs

2 egg yolks

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

¼ cup heavy cream

Boiling water as needed

Thirty to forty 8-inch lollipop sticks

1 pound chocolate, finely chopped – you can use all one kind or half and half of dark, milk, or white (Alternately, you can use 1 pound of flavored coatings, also known as summer coating, confectionary coating or wafer chocolate – candy supply stores carry colors, as well as the three kinds of chocolate.)

2 tablespoons vegetable shortening

(Note: White chocolate is harder to use this way, but not impossible)

Assorted decorations such as chopped nuts, colored jimmies, crushed peppermints, mini chocolate chips, sanding sugars, dragees) - Optional

Position oven rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 325 degrees F. Set some water to boil.

In a large bowl, beat together the cream cheese, sugar, flour, and salt until smooth. If using a mixer, mix on low speed. Add the whole eggs and the egg yolks, one at a time, beating well (but still at low speed) after each addition. Beat in the vanilla and cream.

Grease a 10-inch cake pan (not a springform pan), and pour the batter into the cake pan. Place the pan in a larger roasting pan. Fill the roasting pan with the boiling water until it reaches halfway up the sides of the cake pan. Bake until the cheesecake is firm and slightly golden on top, 35 to 45 minutes.

Remove the cheesecake from the water bath and cool to room temperature. Cover the cheesecake with plastic wrap and refrigerate until very cold, at least 3 hours or up to overnight.

When the cheesecake is cold and very firm, scoop the cheesecake into 2-ounce balls and place on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Carefully insert a lollipop stick into each cheesecake ball. Freeze the cheesecake pops, uncovered, until very hard, at least 1 – 2 hours.

When the cheesecake pops are frozen and ready for dipping, prepare the chocolate. In the top of a double boiler, set over simmering water, or in a heatproof bowl set over a pot of simmering water, heat half the chocolate and half the shortening, stirring often, until chocolate is melted and chocolate and shortening are combined. Stir until completely smooth. Do not heat the chocolate too much or your chocolate will lose it’s shine after it has dried. Save the rest of the chocolate and shortening for later dipping, or use another type of chocolate for variety.

Alternately, you can microwave the same amount of chocolate coating pieces on high at 30 second intervals, stirring until smooth.

Quickly dip a frozen cheesecake pop in the melted chocolate, swirling quickly to coat it completely. Shake off any excess into the melted chocolate. If you like, you can now roll the pops quickly in optional decorations. You can also drizzle them with a contrasting color of melted chocolate (dark chocolate drizzled over milk chocolate or white chocolate over dark chocolate, etc.) Place the pop on a clean parchment paper-lined baking sheet to set. Repeat with remaining pops, melting more chocolate and shortening (or confectionary chocolate pieces) as needed.

Refrigerate the pops for up to 24 hours, until ready to serve.

I chose to halve the recipe since I didn't desire to add an additional 10lbs onto my derriere this weekend. This can be done in a standard 8inch cake pan. Even after cooking half of the recipe it STILL took about 1 hour to cook. After reading that some DBers had trouble along the way I was a little worried but I must say I thoroughly enjoyed this recipe and the entire process of turning the cheesecake into pops. Maybe I have somewhat of an unfair advantage due to my past Cake Ball experiments but this truly was a breeze. I mean, the cheesecake is definitely sticky and a bit of a pain to roll into balls but it was more amusing than it was frustrating.

Thanks to Elle and Deborah for choosing such a fabulous challenge. I can't wait to see what's in store for the next challenge!!

*update* These little cuties have been featured on Tastespotting's Best of the Week list!! Whoo Hoo!

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Chocolate Chip Blondies

No.....not THOSE Blondie's, THESE Blondies!!

These were very tasty and didn't make it through the weekend. I made these on Saturday and they were non-existent by Sunday evening. Turns out these happen to be a favorite treat of my DH (dear husband). The best thing about all of this is the free promotion that I receive when he takes my goodies to work with him. I've developed quite the reputation down at his workplace which feels kinda nice. Check out the recipe below:

Chocolate Chip Blondies

1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp butter
2 cups brown sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
2 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Place butter, brown sugar, eggs and vanilla in mixer bowl. Mix for 1 minute, scraping the bowl when needed. Add flour, baking powder and salt. Beat 15 seconds. Stop and scrape bowl then continue to blend for an additional 15 seconds. Add walnuts and chocolate chips, mixing just until combined. Press dough into 13x9x2 inch greased and floured pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes. Cool in pan then cut into bars.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Shortbread fingers

Have I ever mentioned how much I love shortbread?? I mean, it's the most simple thing to make yet it's soo tasty! I make it quite often and to be honest with you, it's simplicity stopped me from posting about it.......until this morning when I made some and decided I should share it with you! Check out the step by step instructions below WITH photos.

1/2 cup butter, softened
1/4 cup powdered sugar
2 tablespoons firmly packed brown sugar
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder

1/3 cup caramel ice cream topping (or make your own like I did!)
1/4 cup slivered almonds, coarsely chopped
2oz. milk chocolate, chopped

Preheat oven at 325 degrees. Line an 8-inch square pan with foil (be sure to leave some hanging over the edge).

Combine butter, powdered sugar and brown sugar in large bowl. Beat at medium speed until creamy.

Reduce speed to low, adding flour, baking powder and salt, beating until combined.

Press dough into prepared pan and prick with fork in even intervals.

Bake for approx. 25 minutes or until light brown. Using foil, remove shortbread from pan.

Immediately cut into desired pieces. Place caramel topping in small saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until caramel has slightly thickened, (about 3 minutes).

Remove from heat and drizzle caramel over cookies. Sprinkle with almonds.

Allow to cool completely. Melt chocolate until soft, using microwave or stovetop. Stir until smooth, drizzle over cooled cookies. Let stand until set.

The result: A tender, sweet, chocolately treat with a hint of salt that takes the edge off the added sweetness. Morning coffee approved!! Reminds me of a Twix somewhat.

Monday, April 7, 2008

We're back up....for now!

Thanks to all of you that emailed me in regards to my site being down yesterday and today. My website is going through a few changes but due to technical difficulties those changes have been postponed. Thanks for your patience.

I will have a new post up this week so thanks for reading!!

Friday, April 4, 2008

Happy Birthday to you!!

So, today was my DH (dear hubby) birthday. I will be kind to him and not mention his age. Well, his one request was to have chocolate cupcakes with peanut butter frosting. Now, I must admit, I was somewhat bummed out because it didn't present a challenge BUT it was well worth it for my honey bun.

Happy birthday, sweetie!!

Chocolate Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Frosting
The Barefoot Contessa


12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup light brown sugar, packed
2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk, shaken, at room temperature
1/2 cup sour cream, at room temperature
2 tablespoons brewed coffee
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup good cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Kathleen’s Peanut Butter Icing, recipe follows
Chopped salted peanuts, to decorate, optional


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line cupcake pans with paper liners.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter and 2 sugars on high speed until light and fluffy, approximately 5 minutes. Lower the speed to medium, add the eggs 1 at a time, then add the vanilla and mix well. In a separate bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, sour cream, and coffee. In another bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt. On low speed, add the buttermilk mixture and the flour mixture alternately in thirds to the mixer bowl, beginning with the buttermilk mixture and ending with the flour mixture. Mix only until blended. Fold the batter with a rubber spatula to be sure it’s completely blended.

Divide the batter among the cupcake pans (1 rounded standard ice cream scoop per cup is the right amount). Bake in the middle of the oven for 20 to 25 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes, remove from the pans, and allow to cool completely before frosting.

Frost each cupcake with Peanut Butter Icing and sprinkle with chopped peanuts, if desired.

Kathleen’s Peanut Butter Icing:
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
1 cup creamy peanut butter
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/3 cup heavy cream

Place the confectioners’ sugar, peanut butter, butter, vanilla, and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Mix on medium-low speed until creamy, scraping down the bowl with a rubber spatula as you work. Add the cream and beat on high speed until the mixture is light and smooth.

Monday, March 31, 2008

Daring Bakers Challenge - Perfect Party Cake


So, I am officially a Daring Baker! I completed my first challenge Easter morning but since I just got back in town today, the post is somewhat late (2 days to be exact). Thanks to all of my readers who have been patient during my absence. I had the honor of being Matron of Honor in my best friend's wedding so, duty called! lol

Anywho, this month's challenge was the Perfect Party Cake from Dorie Greenspan's Baking: From My Home To Yours. The recipe is for a lemon cake layered with raspberry filling and lemon swiss meringue buttercream. The recipe was right up my alley with the original combination of flavors so there was no desire to alter it. I must admit that after seeing last month's challenge of French Bread, I was kinda worried. Luckily, they chose cake this month! Woot!

Courtesy of Dorie Greenspan’s Baking from My Home to Yours (page 250).

Words from Dorie
Stick a bright-coloured Post-it to this page, so you’ll always know where to turn for a just-right cake for any celebration. The original recipe was given to me by my great dear friend Nick Malgieri, of baking fame, and since getting it, I’ve found endless opportunities to make it – you will too. The cake is snow white, with an elegant tight crumb and an easygoing nature: it always bakes up perfectly; it is delicate on the tongue but sturdy in the kitchen – no fussing when it comes to slicing the layers in half or cutting tall, beautiful wedges for serving; and, it tastes just as you’d want a party cake to taste – special. The base recipe is for a cake flavoured with lemon, layered with a little raspberry jam and filled and frosted with a classic (and so simple) pure white lemony hot-meringue buttercream but, because the elements are so fundamental, they lend themselves to variation (see Playing Around), making the cake not just perfect, but also versatile.

For the Cake

2 1/4 cups cake flour (updated 25 March)
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 ¼ cups whole milk or buttermilk (I prefer buttermilk with the lemon)
4 large egg whites
1 ½ cups sugar
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
1 stick (8 tablespoons or 4 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
½ teaspoon pure lemon extract

For the Buttercream
1 cup sugar
4 large egg whites
3 sticks (12 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
¼ cup fresh lemon juice (from 2 large lemons)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

For Finishing
2/3 cup seedless raspberry preserves stirred vigorously or warmed gently until spreadable
About 1 ½ cups sweetened shredded coconut

Getting Ready
Centre a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter two 9 x 2 inch round cake pans and line the bottom of each pan with a round of buttered parchment or wax paper. Put the pans on a baking sheet.

To Make the Cake
Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt.
Whisk together the milk and egg whites in a medium bowl.
Put the sugar and lemon zest in a mixer bowl or another large bowl and rub them together with your fingers until the sugar is moist and fragrant.
Add the butter and working with the paddle or whisk attachment, or with a hand mixer, beat at medium speed for a full 3 minutes, until the butter and sugar are very light.
Beat in the extract, then add one third of the flour mixture, still beating on medium speed.
Beat in half of the milk-egg mixture, then beat in half of the remaining dry ingredients until incorporated.
Add the rest of the milk and eggs beating until the batter is homogeneous, then add the last of the dry ingredients.
Finally, give the batter a good 2- minute beating to ensure that it is thoroughly mixed and well aerated.
Divide the batter between the two pans and smooth the tops with a rubber spatula.
Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until the cakes are well risen and springy to the touch – a thin knife inserted into the centers should come out clean
Transfer the cakes to cooling racks and cool for about 5 minutes, then run a knife around the sides of the cakes, unfold them and peel off the paper liners.
Invert and cool to room temperature, right side up (the cooled cake layers can be wrapped airtight and stored at room temperature overnight or frozen for up to two months).

To Make the Buttercream
Put the sugar and egg whites in a mixer bowl or another large heatproof bowl, fit the bowl over a plan of simmering water and whisk constantly, keeping the mixture over the heat, until it feels hot to the touch, about 3 minutes.
The sugar should be dissolved, and the mixture will look like shiny marshmallow cream.
Remove the bowl from the heat.
Working with the whisk attachment or with a hand mixer, beat the meringue on medium speed until it is cool, about 5 minutes.
Switch to the paddle attachment if you have one, and add the butter a stick at a time, beating until smooth.
Once all the butter is in, beat in the buttercream on medium-high speed until it is thick and very smooth, 6-10 minutes.
During this time the buttercream may curdle or separate – just keep beating and it will come together again.
On medium speed, gradually beat in the lemon juice, waiting until each addition is absorbed before adding more, and then the vanilla.
You should have a shiny smooth, velvety, pristine white buttercream. Press a piece of plastic against the surface of the buttercream and set aside briefly.

To Assemble the Cake
Using a sharp serrated knife and a gentle sawing motion, slice each layer horizontally in half.
Put one layer cut side up on a cardboard cake round or a cake plate protected by strips of wax or parchment paper.
Spread it with one third of the preserves.
Cover the jam evenly with about one quarter of the buttercream.
Top with another layer, spread with preserves and buttercream and then do the same with a third layer (you’ll have used all the jam and have buttercream leftover).
Place the last layer cut side down on top of the cake and use the remaining buttercream to frost the sides and top.
Press the coconut into the frosting, patting it gently all over the sides and top.

The cake is ready to serve as soon as it is assembled, but I think it’s best to let it sit and set for a couple of hours in a cool room – not the refrigerator. Whether you wait or slice and enjoy it immediately, the cake should be served at room temperature; it loses all its subtlety when it’s cold. Depending on your audience you can serve the cake with just about anything from milk to sweet or bubbly wine.

The cake is best the day it is made, but you can refrigerate it, well covered, for up to two days. Bring it to room temperature before serving. If you want to freeze the cake, slide it into the freezer to set, then wrap it really well – it will keep for up to 2 months in the freezer; defrost it, still wrapped overnight in the refrigerator.

Playing Around
Since lemon is such a friendly flavour, feel free to make changes in the preserves: other red preserves – cherry or strawberry – look especially nice, but you can even use plum or blueberry jam.

Fresh Berry Cake
If you will be serving the cake the day it is made, cover each layer of buttercream with fresh berries – use whole raspberries, sliced or halved strawberries or whole blackberries, and match the preserves to the fruit. You can replace the coconut on top of the cake with a crown of berries, or use both coconut and berries. You can also replace the buttercream between the layers with fairly firmly whipped sweetened cream and then either frost the cake with buttercream (the contrast between the lighter whipped cream and the firmer buttercream is nice) or finish it with more whipped cream. If you use whipped cream, you’ll have to store the cake the in the refrigerator – let it sit for about 20 minutes at room temperature before serving.

As stated above, I chose to keep everything 'as is' since I never had the cake before and after tasting it I'm glad that I didn't alter the recipe. The only alteration I made was toasting the coconut on the side of the cake and I made my own raspberry filling .

Raspberry Jam

1 bag frozen raspberries
1/4 cup sugar
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp cold water
1 tbsp cornstarch

Combine raspberries and lemon juice in a sauce pan. Bring to a boil over medium heat and cook until raspberries have broken down (if you prefer the filling without seeds, poor mixture through a strainer). Combine cornstarch and cold water in a small bowl then add mixture and remaining ingredients to the raspberries. Bring to a boil over medium for about 1 minute. Allow to cool completely before use.

I was fortunate enough to not have experienced any issues with the cake (other than adding one stick of butter too many). I loved the firmness of the cake and the subtle sweetness of the buttercream. This was my 1st time making swiss meringue buttercream and I must say that it is now officially my favorite (once you get past the thought of eating 3 sticks of butter, lol)!

The cake was a hit. So much so, that I have 3 requested orders for it! It makes me extremely excited that someone is willing to pay me to do something that I absolutely love doing! There were many other cakes sitting at the table, some store bought and others homemade but mine was the 1st to end in a mess of crumbs.

Thanks to Morven for choosing this awesome recipe! Dorie is awesome! I'm soo thrilled and can't wait for this Month's challenge!!

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Easter "Eggs"

One of these things is not like the others,
One of these things just doesn't belong,
Can you tell which thing is not like the others
By the time I finish my song?

With boredom comes creativity, I suppose. Saturday afternoon was rather uneventful (the polar opposite of today, hence the late Easter post) so I decided I'd give these cake "eggs" a shot. I used the same cake ball recipe to create these. With these cake "eggs" being merely a thought in my mind, I was pretty worried about the outcome.

To make the "yolk", I used yellow cake mix and a little yellow food coloring to make the appearance more yolk like. Freeze the "yolks" for approx. 1 hour or until firm.

For the egg whites I used a white cake mix. After you have prepared the white cake mix, wrap the frozen "yolks" with a enough white cake mixture to fit right in the palm of your hand.

Dip them in white almond bark OR white chocolate and continue with the cake ball instructions as follows.

I had alot of fun with these. I didn't get the opportunity to take photos of the step by step process but trust me, these are a breeze so long as you follow the cake ball recipe.

Now, I know that Easter is basically over for most of us but once again, Happy Easter!

P.S. Am I the only one that thinks the last photo (above) looks like egg salad (below)?? lol

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