Sunday, July 22, 2012

Edible Art!

Happy Sunday!   I’m really excited about some cakes I have to share with you over the next few weeks and about some up-coming events!  But, first, this week’s blog…. 

I got to design some sweet treats for Robin's Gallery, an art gallery and home d├ęcor shop owned by my friends, David and Jessica.  They were celebrating 32 years in business!  And you can’t celebrate without dessert! 

For their open house event, I made an artist’s palette cake, complete with a cookie paint brush, and a couple of dozen artist’s palette sugar cookies too.

For the cake, I started with a round cake and cut it down a little bit to get the shape more like an actual palette (I think it looks a little like an upside down pac-man at this stage, ha!)  

Then I covered the cake in "wood grain" fondant to make it look even more realistic.  

I finished off the masterpiece by adding some blobs of “paint” (colored fondant) and the paint brush (sugar cookie).

For the cookies, I found a great distributor for high quality cookies cutters.  Look at these beauties...they are hardcore!

I made a double batch of my favorite sugar cookie recipe (sorry, this one is a secret!  It's that good, I can't let just anyone searching the web get a hold of it!). 

Then I used the same cookie cutter to cut the design out of fondant, and laid that on top of each cookie.

Finally, each cookie got its blobs of "paint" too.

 I took a ton of pics of the cakes and cookies, and some of them turned out really well, so you get to see them from everyone possible angle!

You can also order these goodies for one of Robin’s Gallery’s Create It! parties.  Contact David or Jessica for more details!  And tell ‘em I sent ya!

Happy baking this week!

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Recipe of the Month: Strawberry Cake From Scratch

Happy Sunday!  This month's recipe is perfect for summer!  I mean, who doesn't love strawberries?  Mmmm.....

I had a special request several months ago for a strawberry cake.  A quick Google search revealed lots of recipes, but almost all were made with cake mix and strawberry jello.  These aren't necessarily bad, but I wanted a completely from-scratch cake using only fresh strawberries.  

After a little more searching, I came across this recipe which looked quite promising.  It is based off of the Cook's Illustrated white cake which I have used before, so I knew it had to be good.  I was not disappointed!   It tastes just like fresh strawberries!  The texture is tender, but still holds together well.

The best part about this recipe is how versatile it is!  I've made layer cakes with both vanilla buttercream and cream cheese frosting.  This weekend, I made strawberry cupcakes and topped them with lemon buttercream for a strawberry lemonade cupcake. 

I've also topped the cupcakes with a rum buttercream and sprinkled lime zest on top for the perfect strawberry daiquiri cupcake.  

Strawberry goes well with so many other flavors...citrus, chocolate, vanilla, cream cheese....The possibilities are endless!  Now that I've made you really hungry for strawberry cake, here's how I make it: (the full recipe is below)

I started by pureeing frozen strawberries until compltely smooth.  I have used both fresh strawberries and frozen berries and both turned out equally as delicious.

The original  recipe called for adding the strawberry puree to the wet ingrediants, but I just added the milk, eggs, and vanilla to the blender and gave it a quick pulse instead of using an extra bowl.  I'm all about saving on dishes (I make enough dirty dishes as it is!)

After combining the dry ingredients with the butter, I added the strawberry mixture.  I think the batter is the most beautiful delicate pink color.  If you want it a little more colorful, you can add a drop or two of red food coloring at this point.

The batter will deepen slightly in the oven.  The cakes on the right just came out, while the cakes on the left are getting ready to go in the oven.

Everyone was so excited about the cake, I didn't have a chance to get a picture before they cut it!  But I guess you can see the inside this way :)

On a side note, when I bake/cook, I'm usually making an extra large batch, so the amounts in pictures will look like more than what the recipe calls for.  I always scale the recipes down to a normal amount since I imagine most of you aren't making a triple batch of cupcakes!  So, go by the amounts in the recipes, not by what you see in the photos.

Strawberry Cake
Approx. 8 oz strawberries, either fresh or frozen
1/4 cup milk, at room temperature
4 eggs, at room temperature
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 1/4 cup cake flour
1 3/4 cup sugar
4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
12 Tbsp unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks), at room temp

Place strawberries in a food processor or blender and process until completely smooth.  Measure ¾ cups of strawberry puree and return to the blender.  Discard extra or use for another recipe.  (I recommend pouring it over vanilla ice cream…yum!)

Add egg, vanilla, and milk to the blender and mix on medium speed until smooth and creamy.  Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine cake flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt and mix to combine. Continue beating at slow speed and add butter. Mix until combined and resembling moist crumbs.

Add strawberry mixture and beat at medium speed for about 1 minute. Stop mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl, mix for 30 seconds more.
Note: The batter will not get any pinker in the oven so if you prefer a deeper color, add a drop or two of pink or red food coloring.

Divide the batter evenly among the pans or cupcake tins.

Bake for about 25 minutes for layer cakes or 18 minutes for cupcakes. Let cakes rest in pan for about 10 minutes and turn out onto wire racks. Let cakes cool completely before frosting.

Happy baking (and eating!)  As always, let me know if you have questions about any of my recipes.  I love hearing from you!  You can email me or post on Facebook.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Rockstar Drum Set

Happy Sunday!  For living in Nashville my whole life, I’ve actually done a surprisingly few musically-themed cakes.  Aside from the very popular “Grammy Cake” as everyone calls it now and a groom’s cake, this week’s featured cake is the only other one I’ve made.

I created this cake for a little girl turning 8-years-old who thinks she’s a rockstar!  Her mom wanted to get her a drum cake for her birthday.  So, I sketched some ideas for her, and she picked the full drum set!   (I found out after I sent the sketches that the birthday girl HATES pink!  Oops!  So, we went teal for the actually cakes)

I made four 6” cakes and covered each one with fondant.  To really make the drums look dramatic, I painted some of the details with edible silver dust so they would really shine! 

The base drum in the middle is actually made out of rice crispy treats.  Cake would be much too soft to stand up like that, but the rice crispy treats are firm enough to hold up.

The cymbals are made from gumpaste, a sugar paste similar to fondant, but it dries rock hard.  The drum sticks are made from gumpaste too.  So everything is edible!

The cakes were a huge hit, but we ran into a little trouble on delivery….   I make sure all my cakes will fit in a standard residential refrigerator, but this family had a custom fridge built into their cabinets, and, unfortunately, the size was different.  So, it took a little, uh, rearranging (and some removing of the shelves in the door) to get it to fit.  There's never a dull moment!

 Happy eating!  Stay tuned next week for a from-scratch strawberry cake recipe that is AMAZING!