Baking, In The Kitchen, Sunday Somethings

Sunday Somethings

I have made several attempts to post in the past week but simply haven’t had a chance. I worked all week – 3 days were scheduled off but I got called in all 3 days, mostly to help with things other than what I normally do. Yesterday was meant to be sample duty again but instead I found myself helping out in another department entirely. Which I hope to not have to do again. It wasn’t completely awful but I definitely didn’t like it, and wanted to be either handing out samples or back in the bakery. 

Today I finally have a day off that seems to be remaining a day off. As much as I want to sit and do nothing but relax I have had things waiting to be done (that I planned to get done over those three days off that didn’t happen) so I’ve been tackling household chores. 

It’s a nice day, weather-wise so early this morning before too many neighbors were up and about I took the opportunity to go outside with a rag and a bucket and cleaned my car. It still needs a proper cleaning via a carwash but till I feel up to going to the one I would like to use, a quick “wash” with some vinegar water and a small bit of dish soap works well enough. I use this mixture to clean my windows and it works fabulously and my aunt mentioned it works to clear away that bizarre film that shows up on the inside of the car windows so I tried it for that and she was right. All that in mind I figured it would probably be a good solution for a quick wash of the entire car. 

I was also able to finally tackle the Christmas baking I had been wanting to do. I made a recipe that has been passed down in my family that we always (or, almost always) make for Thanksgiving or Christmas, often both holidays. It’s one of those special recipes that you never want to actually share with anyone. Even when you know with the internet the exact same recipe is probably out there somewhere for whoever wants it. I don’t know why folks can be possessive of certain recipes like that. It’s silly, truly. Yet I myself am that way with a handful of recipes and these nut rolls are one of such recipes.

 If I remember correctly my grandma got the recipe from a cousin, or maybe it was someone at church. Not sure. All I know is she got the recipe when she was young and it’s been passed down through the family ever since. Her original recipe card where she wrote it out was a glorious thing that nobody outside the family would be able to follow as she didn’t bother with specifics like oven temperature or anything like that. It was made often enough she just knew – and as it was passed down the specifics were simply verbally passed on with the ingredient list and basic instructions written just as is on her recipe card. It’s been modified slightly in more recent years; the original recipe called for a cake of yeast. That is no longer a commonly found ingredient, so now we make it with active dry yeast instead. (Which, is it just me or is this now becoming a bit more scarce as well?) Also, this year for the first time ever I used my electric mixer to make the dough. It’s always been hand mixed before. But my wrists have gotten so bad even though it is a very light, soft, easy to mix dough… I just couldn’t do it by hand this year. I’ve written the recipe down in my own recipe box with the full instructions for whoever I pass my own recipes down to, likely one of my nieces though I am not sure either of them will ever put a single one of them to use. Younger folks just don’t cook or bake anymore.

I don’t know what ever happened to my grandma’s recipe box. I think my sister has it though she will swear up and down she doesn’t. I know it is not in my possession and hasn’t been for many years, and my mom no longer has it. The last I can clearly remember any of us using it was at my sister’s. I am sure it is still there, but it’s been lost among all my sister’s family’s things. Hopefully it can be found some day soon. We would all like to have it around. Mostly me, I think. Those recipes were really all I had of my Grandma – she passed away before I existed so I only know her through stories and those recipe cards. I still have and use some of her old bakeware but the last few times I have used them I’ve realized I really ought to invest in new pans. My grandma’s have certainly provided MANY years of use and it sure shows. Part of me loves the idea of shopping for all new things. But part of me dreads it. I’m a very sentimental creature. I don’t want to throw out my grandma’s things. 

Well Princess is pitching a fit about something so I best investigate, and I do have cleaning up to do after my baking session. 

Merry Christmas Eve, y’all . xoxo

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Baking, In The Kitchen, Melting Pot, Recipes

Swedish Coconut Cookies

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My oh so impressive photo, taken while the cookies were cooling on the counter. Yes, this is the only picture I took of them. *shrug* What can I say? I’m no food stylist.

On the hunt for a little something that could be made with some ingredients we have on hand that need to be used up, I found this recipe for Swedish Coconut Cookies. Both J and I are fans of coconut, so I figured I’d give the recipe a try.

It’s sort of like a cross between shortbread cookies and sugar cookies, leaning further toward shortbread cookies, but with the added bonus of some yummy coconut.

The dough comes together quickly and easily, and you only need one mixing bowl and a couple measuring cups and spoons. Low mess baking is a rarity, and one of my favorite things since usually when I bake it involves turning the entire kitchen into a disaster area I hate having to clean up once all the fun stuff is over. lol

You start off by mixing together all the ingredients except for the coconut – initially it’ll look dry and crumbly like when you make pie crust, but just be patient and give it a couple minutes and it will come together. Then stir in the coconut, shape the dough into 1-2 logs (depending on how big a batch you’ll be making/what size cookies you ultimately want) and wrap in wax paper then chill in the fridge for about 2 hours till the dough is firmed up. Slice it up and bake, and leave the cookies to cool on the pan for about 2-3 minutes before removing them to cool completely. And did I mention they only require seven ingredients total?

I told you. EASY.

I only made a half batch, and got about 2.5 dozen cookies from it. 29 cookies total, to be precise. Granted I totally ignored the size suggestion in the recipe when shaping the log of dough – I just went for what looked like an ideal cookie size to me, and sliced them into half inch thick slices when ready to be sliced and baked off. (If you have multiple logs of dough to work with, leave the ones you’re not slicing and baking in the fridge till you’re ready for them, otherwise the dough will soften up and become difficult to slice and the cookies will spread out WAY too much while baking.) I was able to place eight rounds of dough onto each cookie sheet perfectly, with none of them running together as they baked. They do spread a good bit so do NOT ignore that “2 inches apart” instruction. I’d even scoot them a wee bit further apart than that, if you’ve got the room on the sheet to do so. Also worth noting I baked mine on parchment lined sheets. I bake pretty much everything on parchment lined pans, because parchment paper is just amazing. If you’ve never used it to line your cake pans or cookie sheets before, I highly recommend you pick some up on your next trip to the grocery store to give it a try. Just know it can be finicky to tear a piece off, and it rolls right back up on itself, so it’s a little bit of a PITA to work with. But it is SO worth it!

Anyway. J’s not had a chance to try any of the cookies yet (work) but I’ve had a couple and I have to say they’re quite tasty. They are a bit more crisp than I’d prefer – almost lace cookie-like in a way. Even the ones I pulled from the oven a couple minutes sooner in an attempt to get them softer while still baked through were just a bit more crisp than I’d really like them to be. I could probably drop the bake time by a couple more minutes to get them to my liking. Next time. Not a fault of the recipe by any means – just a personal preference that requires some testing to find what bake time works to get there. While I do not find them to be particularly amazing, they are quite good, and I’m likely to make them again in the future. I can’t help but wonder if they’d benefit from using coconut extract in place of (or in addition to) the vanilla extract. And throwing in a bit more of the flaked coconut wouldn’t be a bad idea either. 😉

Get the recipe by clicking here.

Until next time. xoxo

Baking, In The Kitchen, Recipes

Caramel Stuffed Chocolate Chip Cookies

I’ve been having a bad weekend. What better cure for a crummy string of days than some cookies? Well, actually I can think of several things right away but I’m working with what I’ve got, folks. That means baking cookies.

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I had been wanting to bake these particular cookies for a while but somehow the chocolates for the “stuffed” aspect kept vanishing before I ever got around to baking cookies. Mystery… *innocent look*

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Anyway. Everybody likes their cookies a certain way so let me tell you first and foremost what kind of cookies this recipe is going to give you: soft, chewy, THICK cookies. If you like your cookies thin and/or crispy, keep walkin’ cause this is not that kind of recipe. I’m not convinced that those kinds of cookies will work for “stuffed” cookies but since I do not make them I really can’t say but if you want to give it a go then by all means don’t let me stop you. My only advice to you would be to only stuff and bake one cookie first just to see what happens. If it works out well then you can keep on going; if not you can bake off the rest of your dough as plain ol’ chocolate chip cookies as if that was the plan all along and you’ll have only sacrificed a single cookie to the Cookie Gods.

If, however, you agree with me that cookies are best when they’re thick and soft and chewy with only the slightest hint of crispness at the very outer edges then read on as there’s an excellent chance you’ll love this recipe. I’m not going to promise you will definitely love it because hey, you never know. But you just may agree with me that it’s the best chocolate chip cookie recipe ever. I came up with it myself (via altering other recipes to suit my preferences) though I have a sneaking suspicion it exists as it is for others out there too. I mean, chocolate chip cookies are kind of popular afterall.

Of course, you can make this recipe minus the “stuffing” and you’ll have fabulous plain chocolate chip cookies. I actually did half plain half stuffed today. But I’ll leave that up to you. Have I mentioned that this recipe is also ridiculously easy? I made these (unstuffed) a while back rather spontaneously one day and J commented on the short amount of time it took for me to go from “I want cookies” to sitting down eating cookies while the dishwasher did it’s thing cause I was totally done baking.

What you’ll need:

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened

1 cup light brown sugar, packed

1/2 cup granulated sugar

2 eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

3 cups all purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

11.5 oz milk chocolate chips

1 bag Dove Caramel & Milk Chocolate chocolates

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350° F. Unwrap the Dove Caramel & Milk Chocolate chocolates and place unwrapped chocolates in a bowl and set aside.

In a small bowl, stir together the flour, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

In a large bowl, cream together the butter, light brown sugar, and granulated sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs and vanilla till well mixed.

On low speed, gradually add the flour mixture, scraping down the sides of the bowl a couple times if needed. Once all the flour mixture has been incorporated, stir in the chocolate chips.


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Line cookie sheets with parchment paper. Scoop out 1 Tablespoon of dough; shape into a ball and gently flatten it a bit. Place one of the Dove chocolates on the dough, then take another 1 Tablespoon scoop of dough and place it on top of the chocolate. Gently press the dough closed around the chocolate to form a ball; place on the parchment lined cookie sheet and press lightly to flatten it slightly. Repeat with the remaining dough, placing cookies about 2 inches apart on the sheets.

Bake for 10-14 minutes until edges are golden brown and tops look mostly dry. Ovens vary and some run a little higher or lower in temperature, so check the cookies after 10 minutes and add on a minute or two at a time as needed till the cookies are done. Allow the cookies to cool for 4-5 minutes on the sheets before removing to wire racks to cool completely. Store at room temperature in an airtight container.

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I even (finally) learned how to make a printable recipe for y’all. Probably not the easiest way to do it but what the heck it works. Or, it SHOULD. Someone will have to verify it and let me know. If it doesn’t work… I have no idea what I’m doing so I can’t fix it, sorry. No, I have no shame… not about my complete lack of technical prowess anyway. Click the print button below to print this recipe. Hopefully. I’ll keep my fingers crossed for you…

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(Yes, I even took time to design my own print button. Because existing ones I found were ugly. Mine is pretty.)

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Until next time. xoxo

Baking, Cake Decorating, In The Kitchen, No Filter Friday

No Filter Friday (Halloween Cupcakes)

A little something different for No Filter Friday this week!

Last year I had posted about some Halloween cupcakes I’d made, to try glow in the dark icing for the first time. Click here if you want to see that post. If you’re not that curious, here’s a condensed version: glow in the dark icing was NOT to my liking any nobody else that ate them cared for it either so IMO while glow in the dark icing sure sounds cool, skip it and stick with something that tastes good. As for the decorative aspects of those cupcakes, I had specific things in the pantry I wanted to use but the results were… well. Also not to my liking.

I realized the other day I never did get around to updating on those cupcakes or the fact that I made them a second time, for a family friend’s daughter to take to school for her class Halloween party. I changed things up with the second batch; I just made my usual American buttercream icing, and used different decorative items for a FAR better finished look!

I am particularly proud of these cupcakes. Especially the witches – they were 100% my own creation and NOT something spotted on pinterest or in a magazine etc. Sure, it’s entirely possible with how many bakers there are in the world that someone else thought them up too, and surely someone has a version that is even better. But that does not take away from the fact that I thought them up on my own, without having seen them anywhere else first. The ghost cupcakes were easy to think of but they’re also kind of a Halloween standard for bakers. I mean, blob of white icing plus something for the eyes – no brainer right? The monsters, I honestly can’t be sure. I want to say I thought those up myself too but there’s a nagging thought in my head that I’d seen them in some magazine years ago and filed the idea away for future use.

Anyway. I feel like a dope for not having updated last year with the second batch pictures as they are far superior to the first batch that got posted. But I am posting now, and maybe if you’re on the hunt for something cute to make for Halloween this year this will be your solution!

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I also did black, orange, and purple swirls on some but for some reason I can’t find the picture of those ones.

Anyway. Obviously you can use any cupcake recipe you like, and while I prefer my homemade American buttercream icing any decorator icing you like will work as long as it’s good for piping (not too thin, so that it can hold its shape).

The ghosts again are a total no brainer – use a large round tip (1A or 2A preferably) to pipe a big swirl of white icing. Pop a couple small black sugar pearls on for eyes and voila!

The monsters are the next “least involved” – tint the icing with whatever color(s) you like (really wish I could find the picture of the second box of cupcakes; I made some monsters with multi-colored “hair”!) then use a multi-opening tip (233 or 234) to pipe strands of “hair” all over the cupcakes. Place some candy eyes around in the icing, and your little monster cupcakes are done!

The witches are more involved, but still simple. You can use whatever colors you like, of course, but I’ll explain the process with the colors I used as examples. You’ll want to start by making the hats. To do this, use a small amount of melted chocolate to adhere Hershey’s Kisses to the tops of Oreo Fudge Cremes cookies. Pop them into the fridge or freezer for several minutes so the melted chocolate can set and hold them together. Meanwhile, with green icing and a large round tip (again, 1A or 2A) pipe a large dollop of icing on just half of each cupcake to create the witch’s “face”. Use an icing spatula to smooth the surface if desired. Then with a multi- opening tip (233 or 234 again) and purple icing, fill in the other half of the cupcakes by piping “hair” for your witches. Place one hat on top of each cupcake. Then use the green candies from a box of Mike & Ike candy to make the witch noses. Finish off your witches with small black sugar pearls for the eyes.

Sprinkling some or all of the cupcakes with some iridescent edible glitter is optional. I don’t think you can tell in the picture, but I opted for doing so. Glitter makes everything better. 😉

I hope you enjoyed this little venture away from the normal No Filter Friday, and if you make any of these Halloween cupcakes yourself I’d love to see how they turned out!

Until next time. xoxo

Baking, In The Kitchen, No Filter Friday, Recipes

No Filter Friday

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A little bit of a different photo for this week’s No Filter Friday, but I could not help myself with this one. =)

As y’all know I love my cinnamon, and as such cinnamon rolls are one of my favorite treats. However, for many years I could not find a recipe for a homemade cinnamon roll that I really liked. As crazy as it sounds, the canned ones from the grocery store were better. Well, I finally found a recipe that is fantastic! I made two batches, two days in a row. The bulk of them went into vacuum sealed bags and into the freezer to be baked off another time – it is the nature of them to dry out quickly and when you only have two people to cook/bake for, baking up a full batch at once is not the best approach. I’ll be making up another batch soon, probably, to have more in the freezer. While they are not quite as good baked from frozen as they are from fresh, it’s darned close. Close enough that if you did not know for a fact they had been frozen, you would not be likely to figure it out on your own that they were not freshly prepared. You can’t decide last minute you want some cinnamon rolls – you do still need to plan a bit in advance so they have time to thaw out and rise before baking when you pull them from the freezer. But it is still a lot faster and easier than starting from scratch, and this particular recipe is much better than those store bought ones I used to rely on! You can find the recipe and tips on freezing them on Mavis Butterfield’s blog by clicking here.

Baking, Cake Decorating, In The Kitchen

Galaxy Mirror Cake

If you have not heard about mirror cakes, they are the latest “in” thing in baking. I had first heard about them several months ago but I honestly was not impressed by any of the ones I had seen to feel it was worth getting a recipe and trying it myself. Basically they are simply cakes that have a very shiny glaze poured over them after the buttercream has had a chance to set up. Cool enough, but not really a must-try, right?

Recently a video popped up in my recommendations on youtube that totally changed my mind! Turns out, you just need to be a little more creative about how to use the mirror glaze to make it more interesting. Why I did not think of it myself I don’t know – I guess because I had not bothered to look into it enough to see the possibilities. To see the video that changed my mind, which includes the tutorial for the galaxy mirror cake as well as the mirror glaze recipe, click here.

Of course, I could not dive right into making my own galaxy mirror cake. Besides the cake pans and ingredients for the cake itself and my American buttercream, I did not have any decorating items at all, not even the only one you really need for this cake: gel food colors. I shopped around online a bit, found a company with the best prices I have ever seen on my preferred brand of gel colors (FYI this is Americolor) and hemmed and hawed over whether or not to order. As you may have guessed by now, I ended up talking myself into it. I also picked up the optional disco dust (because I love glitter and sparkly things so much) and I knew I would need a good, sturdy cake board for this cake so I got a foam core board as well.

I checked the tracking information compulsively, as is my habit when I order things online. When the delivery date was updated for today I knew that meant the day before delivery task was baking the cake so it would be ready to go once I had my gel colors. I spent the day both giddy and impatient while I waited for the mail to be delivered.

Once I had my new goodies in hand, I cleaned off the foam core board, whipped up a batch of icing, filled and frosted my cake and popped it in the fridge to set up. The two hour wait from that point was pretty agonizing. You can not make mirror glaze in advance – it must be made immediately before it will be used. But I knew the icing had to set up well for the glaze to work, so I did my best to stay otherwise occupied till the two hours were up and I could make the glaze.

The process was very simple, and while it does not smell too appealing while making it (unflavored gelatin just does not smell pleasant, there is no way around that) I did end up tasting a bit of the still-warm glaze and can promise you that it does taste good.

Glaze complete, I divided it among five bowls, putting small amounts into three of them for the accent colors, and keeping the majority in two other bowls for the main colors. I added my gel colors and tried not to create too many air bubbles while stirring them in, and then the fun began!

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I ended up forgetting a step recommended in the video to blend the colors together a bit, but that is ok. I think that step is totally optional. My pink and purple ended up looking almost the same once they were on the cake, which I think may have been due to the glaze still being a tiny bit on the warm side when I poured it. The end result is still pretty darned awesome if I do say so myself!

I would DEFINITELY make another mirror glaze cake in the future, and I would also not hesitate for it to be another galaxy cake though I have some other ideas churning now that may look awesome with this glaze. But those will be for another day.

Have you made a mirror glaze cake?

Baking, In The Kitchen

Apple Roses

As previously mentioned,  a friend recently shared a video that a page had posted to facebook and I had to try what was shown in that video.  I did that this weekend. 

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Apple roses!  How pretty are those?  And they are so much easier to make than you might think by looking at them! 

I probably could have used just one apple instead of the two called for in the recipe,  as I had quite a few slices leftover.  Since I had an extra sheet of puff pastry left as well,  I rolled out the puff pastry a bit and cut it into wedges as for croissants then spread them with butter, sprinkled them with cinnamon and brown sugar,  and rolled them up (again, as for croissants) with a couple of the leftover apple slices in each one.  (Sorry. Didn’t take pictures of those.  They were not nearly as pretty.)

I used some of my aunt’s peach jelly in place of apricot preserves.  I figured why spend the money on preserves if I have a suitable product already. 

One important note on prepping and cooking the apples: make sure you cut the apple slices very thin,  and as evenly as possible. I am not typically a stickler for cutting things evenly,  but in this case it really is necessary. If you accidentally cut a couple slices significantly thicker or thinner than the rest,  consider them a snack and just eat them. You don’t want thinner slices over cooking or thicker slices under cooking.  Overcooked apples have a very unpleasant texture,  whereas for this recipe under cooked slices will simply not work.  Whether you cook them in a microwave or on the stove,  check them frequently and just keep adding one or two minutes and cook them just until they have softened enough that you can roll them without them breaking. For me this took about seven minutes in the microwave,  but my microwave is only 900 watts so it usually takes a fair bit longer to cook things than recipes indicate.  I know this about my microwave and expect the adjustments needed.  Don’t just go with three minutes and call it a day because that is how long the recipe says it takes.  Depending on your microwave you may only need two minutes or you may need more time like I did.  Just take a slice out and start rolling it up – if it breaks cook them some more,  if it rolls easily they are done.

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These really were so fun to make. I will absolutely make them again in the future! 

For the full recipe and tutorial please visit the Cooking With Manuela blog: click here to go directly to her post with this recipe. 

Baking, Cake Decorating, In The Kitchen

Halloween Cake

I had been wanting to try making swiss meringue buttercream (henceforth referred to as smb) for a couple of years, but I just never got to it. It uses a lot of butter and egg whites and I typically do not have enough on hand for any spur of the moment baking for the smb recipe. And the few cakes I plan ahead for tend to have specific requirements for flavors which rules out the smb. I finally decided to plan for a cake with smb over the weekend, though.

It took two batches. The first batch didn’t turn out. I had used liquid egg whites as the consensus from Google seemed to be that while perhaps not quite as good as fresh eggs they would work fine for making meringue. Maybe it was user error but my meringue never got thick enough – it remained a slightly thickened sticky soupy mess. I tried again using fresh egg whites and that batch was successful! The meringue still did not quite fluff up the way it should have based on the recipe/tutorial I was using but it got far enough along that I was able to add the butter and finish making the icing.

The design for this cake was very simple. It is from My Cake School, and there is a free tutorial on their blog.

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I first set aside some of the smb to tint green then used the untinted icing to fill and frost the cake. I placed the mellowcreme candies around the base of the cake then with the green icing I used a #2 tip to pipe vines all around the bottom between the candies. Then I used tip #352 to add leaves to fill in the base. I filled the top of the cake with orange sanding sugar, leaving about half an inch open to pipe a leaf border along the top of the cake. My trick-or-treating ghost was done differently than the tutorial. I have not had luck using rice krispy treats for cake decorating so instead I made a cake pop using the smb and a bit of my cake (I baked a single cupcake along with the cake itself for this purpose). And I prefer modeling chocolate over fondant so that was what I used to cover the cake ball and create my little ghost. I didn’t want to buy icing writers (food color markers) because I don’t have much use for them and you can only buy a whole pack not a single color. So I just used black decorator icing and a #2 tip to pipe the eyes on the ghost/trick-or-treater and for the face on the little treat pail. I secured the bow onto the ghost with a dab of melted white chocolate. I cut a length of a drinking straw (I didn’t measure, just a couple inches) and pushed it down into the center of the cake just till the top was level with the icing, then slipped the lollipop stick the cake pop ghost is on into the straw in the cake. The straw just helps ensure a little more stability to keep her from falling over.

It sounds like a complicated cake but it was really super simple. Mine did not come out perfectly and there are a few things I would tweak if I ever revisit this design but overall I am happy with how it turned out. I think it is a very cute design and it is great for novice decorators to introduce some simple fondant work (or modeling chocolate, if you are like me) and get a little piping practice.

Baking, In The Kitchen

Baking Large Cakes Evenly

Edit: May 14th,  2015 – I have just been looking at my stats (something I don’t do as often as I probably should) and discovered this is the most-viewed post I have ever made here.  I never would have imagined that any of my posts would be so popular. I am so thrilled so many have found this post,  and I hope it has been helpful for you! xoxo

If you’ve ever had to bake a large cake, you might have had problems with it baking unevenly. When using larger pans (like sheet pans for example) the outside of the cake will tend to bake faster than the middle. By the time the middle is done, the edges can be very over baked and dry.

To evenly bake larger cakes, all you have to do is invest in a heating core. Click here to see the one available from Wilton.

The heating core is a small metal cone. You prepare it both inside and out the same way you do your cake pan, by coating it with some cake release, greasing and flouring it, whatever your preferred method of prepping your pans may be. Then you place the heating core, open end UP, in the middle of your cake pan BEFORE filling the pan with batter. Then add a small bit of batter to the center of the heating core as well. The heating core will heat up and help distribute more heat to the center of the cake so that it bakes more evenly than it would if you were not using a heating core.

When your cake is ready to be turned out from the pan, gently remove the heating core first. Slide the bit of cake that baked up in the heating core into the hole in the center of the cake where the core had been. Turn the cake out of the pan to cool completely then frost as usual.

ALTERNATIVES

There are a couple alternatives to using a heating core, should you find you need to bake a larger cake before acquiring the heating core or if you don’t bake large cakes often enough to feel it is a worthwhile investment.

Metal Flower Nails: This is what I use to bake large cakes evenly.  It is by far the simplest substitute for a heating core, and if you’re into cake decorating at all you’ve probably already got some of these on hand so no additional money needs to be spent.  Prep your flower nail by coating it with cake release all over. Place it in the center of the pan flat side down, so the “nail” of the flower nail is sticking up. Hold the nail in place while you pour your batter into the pan and around the flower nail. (This can be a little tricky to do on your own, you might want a helper to either hold the nail steady or to fill the pan with the batter for you.) Once the baked cake is turned out from the pan, simply lift the flower nail from the center of the cake.

Large Metal Tips: For the baby shower cake I recently made, I had to do my baking at a neighbor’s house. I forgot to grab a flower nail to place in the center of the cake. However I did have some of my decorator tips with me. I grabbed the largest tip I had with me, which was the 1A Round tip, and prepped it and treated it as a heating core, placing it wide end down in the cake pan then carefully putting some batter down inside the tip as well to bake the cake. It wound up having cake baked over it, but once I turned the cake out of the pan it was easy to lift the tip from the center of the cake and slide the cake from the middle of the tip out and pop it into the middle of the cake. It worked in a pinch, so if all else fails you can use your 1A to bake a large cake more evenly! Tip 23o might be a viable option here as well. 8B might also work in a pinch but I don’t own this one yet so don’t take my word for that one.

Metal soup or vegetable cans: If none of the above will do, soup or vegetable cans to the rescue! Pretty much any size will do. Cut both the top and bottom off the can, remove the label and wash it well. Prep it inside and out with cake release, place in the center of the cake pan, fill the pan with batter and put some in the middle to bake inside the center of the can as well. Gently hold the center of the cake in place as you remove the can after the cake has baked and cooled.

Another option is to use “bake even strips“.  I’ve never used these so I can’t vouch for them, but I know people love them.

Another thing that can help cakes (of any size) bake more evenly is simply to bake them for a longer period of time at a lower temperature. Many cake recipes have you baking at 350°F – try reducing the temperature to 325°F instead, and increase the bake time a bit.

Hopefully this information will help someone out. I know when I was younger I had to bake a couple larger cakes and could never figure out how to get them to bake more evenly, and I ended up baking smaller cakes then putting them together on the cake board for the illusion of a larger cake just so there would be no dried edges and under-baked middles! I wish someone had provided me with this information when I first started baking instead of me having to figure it out on my own! Though, I suppose the fact that I did figure these things out on my own speaks for my cleverness? Nothing wrong with a little pat on your own back once in a while right? 😉

Baking, Cake Decorating, In The Kitchen

Club Penguin Puffle Cake Tutorial

I noticed that a lot of views were a result of people searching for puffle cakes. Considering the cake I have already posted about is a layer cake with a buttercream transfer of an image of some puffles I decided to do a tutorial on making puffle cakes. That is… cake that looks like a puffle as opposed to a basic cake with a picture of puffles. =)

My niece has not played CP in a long, long time. But I *think* that the annual Puffle Party is happening soon, isn’t it? Well. Either way if you want a puffle cake to celebrate a little CP love in the real world it’s really a lot easier than you might think.

The key to making puffle cakes is simply to have the proper baking dish for the job. Start by pre-heating your oven as designated in your recipe, and whipping up your favorite cake batter. (Or totally cheat and used a boxed mix. Which is what I did for this tutorial… nobody’s judging.) Then select your bake-ware. Because I was making two puffle cakes today, I used a 1 quart glass bowl and a 1.5 quart glass bowl. They are shaped a bit differently, with the larger capacity one being a bit deeper. (Which ultimately I preferred.) If you’re only making one puffle cake I’d say to use a 2.5 quart bowl, OR you could use the smaller bowl and just put the remaining batter in some muffin tins and make cupcakes. Your call. (The cupcakes could be decorated to look like mini puffles… totally cute and fun idea, isn’t it?) Whatever you end up using to bake your cake(s) in just be sure that the dishes you use are oven-safe and prep your baking dish with some cake release/Pam for baking/butter & flour. I like cake release. In my opinion it works best.

The bowl on the left is the one that yielded the better results, in my opinion. Whatever you use just keep in mind the fact that puffles are NOT perfect little circles. They are more like somewhat flat ovals…

Fill your dishes up to within about an inch or so of the top of the bowl(s). Give or take a bit, depending on how much batter you have.

Then of course bake them off till a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. The 1-quart cake was done in about 36 minutes and the 1.5 quart one took about 45 minutes. Let the cakes cool in the bowls for about 15 minutes before turning them out to cool completely. Be careful when you turn them out as there WILL be steam released in the process of flipping the cakes out of the bowls!

When the cakes are cooled completely, trim the bottoms off so they will sit flat on your cake plate/serving platter.

Because I didn’t quite like the size of the cake from the 1-quart bowl, I popped the trimmed portions of both cakes on top of it before frosting to build up the height a bit. It wound up working nicely since then there were no scraps left-over. I don’t like being wasteful.

Tint your frosting as desired and frost the cooled cakes smooth all over. Then I used a large leaf-tip (# 112) to pipe the “hair” on the tops of the cakes. My frosting was a touch thick and it didn’t quite end up with the look I wanted but it still worked and looks cute. You could use a different tip if you prefer; this is just the one I thought wold work best of what tips I own.

Then I fitted a # 5 tip onto a tube of black Wilton Decorator Icing. (Trust me that if you need small amounts of black frosting for such things, invest in these tubes of ready-made stuff. It will save you a LOT of heartache…) Use this to create  your puffle’s face.

Now go back in and add any finishing touches needed. I used some white frosting and a # 2 tip to make the little white dots on the eyes and also to fill in the eyes of the purple puffle.

See? Simple.

Excuse the fact that I didn’t bother keeping the plates clean. I didn’t feel like fussing with wax paper. If you are making a puffle cake for a party or you just want the cake plate to be clean when you’re done all you have to do is slip a few strips of wax paper just under the edge of the cake all the way around; when you’re done gently remove the wax paper strips and voila – nice clean cake plate!  Also, if you want the puffle’s body to be perfectly smooth, use the paper towel trick I posted in the frozen buttercream transfer tutorial.