Thursday, July 22, 2010

Seeing. Baking. Tasting. "Red" (★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆)

The month of June is a busy birthday month for me. There are three people in this very house who all have birthdays within 5 days of each other, and the month caps off with the birthdays of my very best friend Marina and her brother Thomas. Oh, what great excuses for more baking!!

I had planned to make a Nutella cake for my dad on his birthday. It's one of his many sugary vices. I thought I was going to be so ingenious for thinking of such a delicious treat and making it for him...but NoooOoOoo. Come to find out he wanted my mom to make him a plain chocolate cake with chocolate buttercream frosting--even AFTER he found out about my amazing vision. WTeff?! Since it WAS his birthday after all, I let this happen...but, of course, not without making my sentiments on the matter painfully obvious. Boycotting the "sell-out" cake seemed an appropriate response. So resist I did.

Besides this unfortunate incident, the month of many birthdays passed without another confectionary glitch. As mentioned before, my bestie's birthday was at the end of the month and we already had big plans...we're talking sequence, fro's, and disco. Thomas' birthday is just a few days after...and being the humble guy that he is, his idea of a great birthday is having no one notice (unless it's just to allow him to spend all day locked in his room playing guitar :). But this is not, not at all. If nothing else: there must be cake. His fiance is an AH-maz-ing cook, but she's not too big on baking so I decided to make special cupcakes during our college home group to celebrate.

I really just wanted to try something different and maybe a bit more elaborate. I found this recipe for "Creamy Red Velvet" cupcakes. At first I was a little wary because 1) my sister got sick from this type of cake due to the high concentration of dye, and 2) the coloring seemed a little feminine and Valentine's-esque. But after reading the recipe and finding out it required a cream cheese mixture in the center...I was hooked. My friend would just have to take what he could get...I mean it's free cake after all!

Method to the Madness:
  • For this recipe I pretty much followed the directions to a "T."
  • It's from the Duncan Hines website so I bet you can guess what brand of cake mix it suggested...yep, Duncan Hines Red Velvet.
  • I made the cream cheese mixture from scratch and used store bought cream cheese frosting for the tops.
  • As decorations, I used chopped up chocolate chips and toasted coconut shreds. They came out amazing! (Unfortunately, I wasn't smart enough to take more pictures from a camera better than my cell phone).

    *A quick side note: the cream cheese, chocolate, and coconut mixture will rise to the top of the cupcake. It looks a little weird, but it tastes great and once you frost them no one will ever know that the tops once looked like the shriveled ear of an old man.

    To get the full recipe go to: Creamy Red Velvet Cupcakes

    It asks for a box mix and store-bought frosting!! Seriously, it couldn't get much easier.

    Happy Baking!!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Vampires! And Werewolves! Oh, ya! (★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆)

I can't believe it's only been a little over a year since my obsession with Twilight began. I don't even like vampires. I'm a princess-loving, dress twirling kinda girl. But there was just something about the trailer that one fateful day, that spoke to me and made me feel like, "this is different. this is big. see this."

Obviously, it wasn't a huge feeling because I totally forgot all about it. I only ended up renting it because no one else was home one night and I had a spare dollar for the Redbox. Even then I wasn't really affected. It wasn't until my sister convinced me to read the books that the infection began to germinate and take hold. And I can honestly say, I've never been the same.

I work at a church and people generally like me, so I have access to a whole mess of cool stuff that normal people have to rent. Last summer I had my heart set on setting up a projector and screen in my backyard to watch movies...and once the vision is cast in my mind it's hard to stop me from trying everything I can to make it happen. I intended to use it for a week, but ended up planning all kinds of movie nights and facebook inviting everyone I knew...all summer long.

Well with this type of movie-watchege going on, it was inevitable that I would have a Twilight movie night. But it had to be different than the others. I couldn't just throw some chairs on the lawn and wait for it to get dark enough--at exactly 8:49pm--to start the movie. No. This was special. And I wanted to give it the attention it deserved.

At the suggestion of my best friend Marina (who at the time was just a girl who liked Twilight), I endeavored to find out how to make "Vampire Cupcakes." Being as I was uneducated in the workings of the "undead", let alone making treats worthy of them, I relied on Marina's emotional support alot. I guess you could say it was Twilight that first brought us together. :)

I found all kinds of different recipes: some with toy vampire teeth, some with cherry pie filling... But all these seemed too gruesome. I mean, it's a movie about so-called "vegetarian" vampires who are against violence. Plus, I generally like my cupcakes to taste good (I understand not everyone feels the same way). But I'm not really down with a cupcake that oozes gross, syrupy, fake cherry glop.

Soooooo, I decided to stick with simple chocolate cupcakes (made from a box of course) and cream cheese frosting (it's the only kind I can stand from a's not super sweet). For the decoration we decided to go with the classic and eerie "bite."

After making the cupcakes, I was still a little apprehensive about how to get the bite marks to look real without destroying the cupcake with an over-zealous poke or red smear. We decided to put a drop of gel into each hole...but it was Marina's genius to have just one, spine-tingling blood-red drip falling from the bite mark.
We bought red decorating gel from the supermarket. It's pretty easy to use and doesn't run. With Marina manning the blood, I took charge of the bites. I found that the perfect sized holes came from using a meat thermometer. It was easy to, accidentally losing it in the cupcake (i.e. the curse of the toothpick). An added plus--it was just the perfect size for the red gel.

I was really impressed with how they turned out and they were delicious...I ate at least 3. This was one of my first attempts at cupcakes in general so I was a little worried, but they were super easy. It was actually these cupcakes that helped reinvigorate my love for baking. I'll take any excuse to try something different and challenging now.
  • 1 Chocolate Cake Box Mix (make according to instructions)
  • 1 Container of Cream Cheese frosting
  • 1 Tube of Red Decorating Gel
  • 1 Meat Thermometer (or a kebab stick would've worked just as well)
P.S. I ALWAYS use cupcake saves so much time and it's less messy.
If you'd like to try the blood-filled cupcakes, here is where I got my inspiration: Vampire Cupcakes

Peanut Butter + Chocolate = Heaven On Earth (★ ★ ★ ★ ☆)

It was my sister's boyfriend's (now husband) birthday in March. Now, my sister "doesn't" cook or bake and James...well, he "can't." So with my parents being out of town, my "eldest child" syndrome kicked in and I took it upon myself to present him with some sort of edible item for his birthday. What a better excuse than to whip up a cake?! I remembered that James loves Reese's peanut butter cups so I set out to find a chocolate-peanut-butter cake recipe.

I found a sour-cream-chocolate cake recipe that sounded amazing. Anytime I see a recipe that calls for sour cream or plain yogurt, I'm hooked. It makes the cake super moist and gives it a creamier flavor. The recipe also called for homemade peanut butter frosting. Score.

I made the cake by taking a devils food box mix and adding about a cup of sour cream to it. It's supposed to be a 8' triple layer cake, but I just followed the 9' two layer recipe on the back of the box mix. The peanut butter frosting, however, I wanted to be delicious as I followed the recipe exactly. And boy was it GOOD!

The recipe I found also calls for a "chocolate peanut butter glaze," which I did not want to do. It looked too tricky and I didn't want to mess up the one cake I was making as a birthday present. The risk seemed too high. BUT my friend Trevor was here, and after making him help me and listen to Devo's "Whip It" over and over, he insisted we make it. I like to have things planned out and done properly, but when you ask for help you've got to give I gave him full reign on making the glaze. I even let him put it on the cake hurt me to do it, but I got over it eventually.

I didn't want to add peanut butter into the glaze because I didn't want the cake to have an over- powering peanut butter taste and we didn't have any of the other items. So we ended up just melting a bunch of chocolate chips over the stove. It tasted great, but as you can see by the picture--it was VERY thick.

Sadly, at this time in my life I was trying to suppress my "true self" by forgoing all sugary treats. So I only allowed myself to sneak one bite. But everyone else said it was really good. I'm of the mindset that one should know from experience before touting a baked good's praise, however, in this one case I have to go based off of second-hand information. But don't worry, from then on--I've personally taken the time to enjoy each of my baking matter the cost.

To make this cake yourself, please visit my source: Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake
Her pictures are much better...and the glaze is thin and super shiny.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Baking: The Obsession, The Desire.

Cousin #9 and me!
I love desserts. No it goes deeper than that. It's an all-out, all-consuming passion. Ask anyone who knows me...they'll tell you (or just roll their eyes in agreement).

In either case, this obsession began long before I was given the authority to resist.

I got my Easy Bake Oven at 7. Much to my disappointment I wasn't able to make a batch big enough to feed...well anyone, I mean, if we're being honest.

My grandmother always had more baked goods around for us kids than should be legal. Ah, the good old days of the "cookie jar." I remember shaking the clear glass container in hopes of finding a hidden treasure. My grandmother had us so strung-out that my brother began referring to our visits with her as "cookie days."

As I got older, I discovered that not only did I enjoy eating desserts (which really is a great and wonderful discovery in and of itself) but I also enjoyed making these delectable treats. I was 8 or 9 when I started making muffins from scratch on Saturday mornings. I remember knocking on my parents door, waking up my mom to ask her baking questions. Still to this day I don't understand why one must make a "well" in the flour mixture in order to mix in the eggs, etc.

...Skipping to the present. I love to bake. And I love to try new things. I'm not afraid. That's one of the reasons I love baking because you can take a risk. Nothing earth-shatter or life-altering will happen as the result of a failed baking attempt. AND as an added bonus--most baking disasters still taste GOOD, even if it is "runny" "lumpy" "grey" or has contracted any other host of baked good diseases.

While it's true I enjoy trying new things, I also enjoy making things easier on myself. I've been through the whole "must make everything from scratch to be legit" phase and frankly -- I'm over it. It makes baking such a chore when you spend all day on a cake that should've taken an hour. I'm all about buying the boxed cake mix and pre-made frosting and then dressing up the desserts to give that special "touch."

That's what I'll be doing with this blog. I'm going to be chronicling my adventures in baking: one cupcake, cream puff, and creme brulee at a time. Hopefully, you will get inspired yourself to take some risks and to get creative. And don't be afraid to take little shortcuts...if it will make the experience more pleasant then I say--DO IT.

If all else fails, at the end of the day, we'll at least have a bowl of delicious tasting--albeit strange looking--goopy goodness with which to drown our baking sorrows.