Blog-forest cake

Haha. Couldn’t come up with a better title… rely on the good ‘ol puns!

I’m home for Thanksgiving break (love it) and Dad does so enjoy the Black Forest cake (Chocolate cake with cherry filling, often soaked in Kirsch. [Definition: Kirschwasser (pronounced /KIRSH-VAHS-ər/, German for “cherry water”) is a clear, colorless fruit brandy traditionally made from double distillation of morellos, a dark-colored cultivar of the sour cherry.] Copied and Pasted verbatim from: Wikipedia’s definition of Kirsch.

Before I got into the whole “only making things from scratch,” I used box cake mix and jazzed it up a bit… and that has become the standard for Black Forest. So why not, it works and is an easy dessert for holidays.

The Cake (from Jean Pare’s “Almost a Scratch Cake” recipe)

  • 1 box Devil’s food cake mix
  • 1 small box of instant pudding mix (vanilla or chocolate both work)
  • 1 c. water
  • 1/2 c. oil
  • 4 eggs

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Whisk together. Bake at 350 degrees for 40-50 min depending on the size of the pan. This time I did two loaf pans (9×5) and 40 min worked well. Usually I’ll do one 10″ round and that takes around 45-50 min. Use a toothpick to test for done-ness.

For the cherry filling, I use a can of cherry pie filling and add a few tablespoons of sugar to taste (sometimes it’s really tart). Optional is some sort of liquor, like Kirsch, Sherry, or Rum. My parents like the flavor, so I’ll add in maybe 1/4 cup.

For the frosting I just use a tub of Cool Whip! Easy 🙂

Cut the loaf into 3 layers. This time I used a dish of the same size and did it tiramisu-style- adding layer by layer instead of making it more of a cake, which is what I usually do. (Again, going for the easy-factor).

Layers go like so: Cake–Cool Whip– Cherry mixture–Cake–Cool Whip–Cherry–Cake–Coolwhip (Top). If you decided to do a stand alone cake, same thing, except in the last step you’d cover the entire outside of the cake.

(3 layers)

If you do it nicely (unlike my image), it can turn out to have a very pretty layered effect, almost like trifle.

Today’s lunch was cake and black cherry ice-cream… 🙂 yumm… with a cup o’ tea!

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Diabetic coma and Scones Galore!

I got a little Costco-happy… with the wedding project, all the fondant that I’ll be making, butter cream, and icings… let’s just say, I had to get some extra help to haul this purchase up 3 flights of stairs:

Indeed. 5 lbs regular sugar, 25 lbs flour, and 50 lbs of confectioners sugar…

It’s obsessive. But also marking a serious step forward in my commitment to baking.

Next up: Scones for a Bridal Shower. The theme was “tea and tarts..” What better than a variety of scones?! Yum. My first time making scones! They went over pretty well for two recipes that I adapted, so I’ll post those here.

I had a request for Pumpkin Scones, and I do love the pumpkin. I heard on the radio that there might be a shortage of canned pumpkin this year because the weather was so brutal that pumpkin growers had a hard time making their quotas. So I shouldn’t feel bad about indulging right now, if pumpkin is going to be hard to come by next year! I adapted the recipe below from Pinch my Salt, just changing some ingredients. Her method is the same (I just paraphrased a bit.)

Mini Pumpkin Chip Scones

  • 1 C. all purpose flour
  • 1 C. cake flour
  • 1 1/2 t. baking powder
  • 1/2 t. salt
  • 1.5 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
  • 6 T. unsalted butter
  • 1/2 C. cinnamon chips
  • 1/3 C. pumpkin puree
  • 1/3 C. sour cream
  • 6 T. brown sugar
  • 1 t. vanilla

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Get out a baking sheet and line with parchment paper. Cut the butter into small pieces, put it in a small bowl and put it back in the fridge. In a medium bowl, combine both flours, baking powder, salt, and spice. Whisk together well. Place bowl in freezer.

2. In another bowl, combine pumpkin, sour cream, brown sugar, and vanilla. Whisk together well. Put this bowl in freezer. Take the other bowl back out. Get the butter pieces out of the fridge and dump them into the bowl with the flour mixture. Cut the butter into the flour using a pastry blender or rub it in with your fingertips until it resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in the cinnamon chips.

3. Get the liquid mixture out of the freezer and pour into the flour mixture all at once. Stir with a spatula until just moistened. Turn the mixture out onto the counter and push the pile together with your hands. Knead it just a couple of times until it comes together, but don’t knead it too much or the dough will get too sticky and you’ll lose the flaky pastry layers.

4. Pat the dough out into a rough rectangle, 3/4 to 1 inch thick. (My picture is a circle because I messed up first)… Cut into 8 rectangular pieces. Cut each of these in half on the diagonal forming two triangle pieces. Place pieces on the baking sheet so that they are not touching. Bake scones for about 9 minutes at 425 degrees. They should be light brown on the bottom; the tops will darken as they cool.

(Pre-bake):

Post-bake:

Cream Cheese Icing

  • 2 TBLS milk (I used 1% at least. Don’t go skim)
  • 1-2 oz. cream cheese
  • 1 C. powdered sugar
  • Dash of Cinnamon
  • Squirt of Honey
  1. Put milk and cream cheese in a small bowl. Microwave for 10-20 sec., or until cream cheese can be whisked with milk into a smooth mixture.
  2. Gradually whisk in the cup of powdered sugar (sifted probably leaves less lumps, but I was lazy.)
  3. Add cinnamon and honey to taste.
  4. Spoon into a piping bag or Ziploc bag, cut the tip, and make pretty designs. Or if lazy, drizzle with your whisk or spoon.

With Frosting:

Tasty, flaky, bursting of spice and pumpkin, I love these mini scones. They aren’t too sweet and perfect with tea or coffee.

Chocolate-Chip and/or Cranberry-Orange Scones

(This recipe forms the base dough, then you can add whatever flavor you like)

Ingredients

  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 egg

Directions

  1. In a small bowl, blend the sour cream and baking soda, and set aside.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  3. In a large bowl, mix the flour, sugar, baking powder, cream of tartar, and salt. Cut in the butter. (I rubbed it in with my fingers)  Stir the sour cream mixture and egg into the flour mixture until just moistened.
  4. At this point I divided the dough into two bowls. To one bowl I added half a cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips. To the other bowl I added 1.5 tsp grated orange rind, the juice of half of an orange and ½ cup of craisens.
  5. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface, and knead briefly. Roll or pat dough into a 3/4 inch thick rectangle. Cut into rectangles/squares (roughly 2 in. x 3 in.) and then cut on the diagonal to make small triangle scones. Place 2 in apart on baking sheet.
  6. Bake 12 to 15 minutes in the preheated oven, until golden brown on the bottom.

Orange Glaze (for Cranberry-orange scones)

  • 1 c. powdered sugar
  • Juice from 1/2 orange
  • 2 tblsp milk
  • Same method as above

Cranberry-orange dough rolled out:

A sampler of the three scones:

Finally- set out at the Bridal shower! Cranberry up top, chocolate on bottom:

and Pumpkin on top:

Back to basics…

Chugging along on this cake project… and making the most of motivation while it lasts! Today I returned to the cake itself, minus the fancy decorations- the vanilla base, simple syrup, and buttercream, while working on a little side experiment (groom’s cake stuff). So here was my to-do list:

  • Taste test the from-scratch wedding cake
  • Make a batch of buttercream
  • Make simple syrup
  • Dye white chocolate chips blue (for Groom’s cake)
  • Outline plan for the Groom’s cake

I completed the first four, still working on the last one. I made a small two-layer 6″ diameter test cake from a recipe found in a wedding book, and was disappointed by the lack of aroma while baking, plus the dry-look of it as it came out. So I left it wrapped in the fridge… but was pushed to shed my defeatist attitude and just taste test it. To my surprise, it was pretty tasty, although a bit on the dry-crumbly side.

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Anyways, I followed the next steps in prepping to get some practice in, knowing that this may very well have to be done to a cake more than twice the diameter of this one!

Next- Leveling and trimming the cake:

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Since it was relatively dry, I added the moistening syrup as recommended in the cake book… then brought on the buttercream. Here are some photos that I took during the process, since I’m always referring to this buttercream-meringue process all the time.

Interlude: the buttercream…

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Part 1: 3 egg whites, 2.5 sticks softened butter, and a stand mixer

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Part 2: 1/4 c. Light Corn Syrup, 1/2 C. white sugar, and a pot on the stove

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Combine corn syrup and sugar in pot…

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Heat until you see bubbles break the surface…

Meanwhile…. Beat your egg whites until white and frothy… and slowly add the hot sugar mixture a little at a time into egg whites while the mixer is on… it should start looking opaque….

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Run your mixer until the bowl feels cool to the touch. Then cube up the 2.5 sticks of butter and add a tablespoon at a time. Voila! Buttercream to die for.

…Sad, I’ve memorized the recipe.

Back to cake…

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Layer one… crumb layer and then filling to follow…

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Second layer added…

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And done… back to the fridge to chill. Tomorrow we shall fondant… take 2. Whew. Enough for a Wed. night!

Monkey Food…

I almost never finish a bunch of bananas before they start getting too soft and brown to eat… so I’ve had a few trials with banana cupcakes.

I wanted to replicate the roasted banana cupcake I had in San Francisco at Kara’s Cupcakes… so tried roasting bananas and then adding them to the batter (recipe from Martha Stewart’s Banana cupcakes).

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Cut banana’s lengthwise…

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Brush with melted butter…

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Roast them in melted butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, and honey in a 400 degree oven for 15 min. or so.

After they cooled, I mashed ‘em up with a fork and folded them into the batter.

The combination of Honey-Cinnamon and Cream Cheese in frosting sounded so enticing that I decided to experiment a bit. Wanting a light consistency other than simple buttercream (powdered sugar and butter), I opted to add a slight twist on buttercream made with whipped egg whites, boiling sugar syrup, and butter. I cut back on the 2.5 sticks of butter and added 1/3 c. cream cheese. Then a few squirts of honey and a generous sprinkle of cinnamon.

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The result was a light and fluffy cream cheese frosting. The only thing is- the cupcake turned out more muffin-like and too dense for the frosting.

Second time’s the charm, right? I adapted this banana cupcake recipe from The Cupcake Project:  

The Banana Cupcake Recipe (Makes 16)

  • 1 stick butter
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 2 c. all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 3-4 bananas, pureed

Cream butter and sugar
Add eggs
Add sour cream, flour, and baking soda
Add vanilla and pour in bananas.
Bake for 20 min at 350

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I adjusted the sweetness factor (the original was too sweet for me) and also upped the banana content, because I happened to have more at the time. I also used my handy dandy Magic Bullet to puree the bananas, because I didn’t want to risk having dense chunks that turn cupcake-into-muffin.

This time, I just did the regular cream-cheese buttercream frosting, with ratios slightly off and in favor of the cream cheese, because I had leftover whoopiee pie filling!

Frosting:

  • 4 oz cream cheese
  • ¼ cup butter
  • Approx. 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • Dash of cinnamon (to taste)
  •  Squirts of honey (to taste)

Cream butter and cream cheese together. Add powdered sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, and honey. Whip until light and fluffy.

I got some good feedback on these guys- I liked them myself texturally- quite light and more cakey than muffin-y. Though overall a bit too sweet for me. Next time… perhaps caramel?! Yummmmmm.

Hey there pumpkin.

I love Fall for the flavors… I guess it’s not Fall anymore, but I’m still in a pumpkin-y mood. A few weeks ago my friend Megs had Fall Fest at work, and since she’s from PA, wanted to do some pumpkin whoopie pies! I jumped at the opportunity to try something new. I used Rachael Ray’s recipe– the faster the better!

These little guys were a bit spongy/dense/chewy for me. I’m no expert on whoopie pies but was under the impression that they’d be softer. Oh wells. I also re-made them yesterday during the wedding cake frenzy and decreased the amount of flour. Verdict? Still spongy. I’ll get used to it, I guess. The rest of the world has already bought into Rachael Ray, I might as well also.

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The individual cookies… yummm pumpkin.

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Piping bags are by far the most useful tool in the world. Even though the recipe says to spread the cream cheese filling, I went with the piping bag. Clean, easy, and makes great swirl patterns!

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Whooooopie!!!!

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Yum. 🙂 Oh yes, this is one of those random tid-bits (non-wedding-related) that I’m including.

Monday night activities…

I’ve realized what a sporadic blogger I am, in addition to the wide range of topics that my entries cover. I think I’ll try driving this in a more consistent direction, instead of the “hit-or-miss” random entry style of word-vomit that usually develops.

Similar to other blogs, like “Cupcake Project,” or “52 cupcakes,” I’m going to do this Julie & Julia style and work slowly towards a goal. Not quite the most original idea, but rest assured I’m sure some random tid-bits will find their ways in, especially with all the holidays coming up. Plenty of opportunities to bake!

Anyways, my friend Karen is getting hitched in January and I’m making a cake for her… as mentioned probably 5 months ago. I have been researching and reading up on things, trying recipes here and there, but now is crunch time! Here goes nothing!

Today’s experiment is marshmallow fondant. I’ve used store-bought before (Wilton brand), and it doesn’t taste good, but is pretty user-friendly. I’ve heard some great things about this marshmallow fondant and it seems to be pretty easy. Thanks to some super googling by my friend Amy, I followed this tutorial: Cakexperiment on WeddingBee

To be honest, my experience was a bit different than described in pictures. To keep it short, my fondant was much drier- not sticky at all after adding the powdered sugar, and I actually ended up having to add quite a bit of water and Crisco to get it smooth and elastic. However, some success was to be had, as I used it to practice covering a fake tier.

I started with two fake tiers: 10”x 4” and 6”x4”. Didn’t want to be too ambitious so stuck with covering the 6”… and since I bought some pretty thick dark blue ribbon (matches the bridesmaids) I opted for the 4” thick. Other supplies are pictured below, and include:

  • 2 little mounds of marshmallow fondant
  • A brand new bottle of silver dragees (little silver decorating balls)
  • Quilting and embossing tool for fondant
  • Domo Cup from 7-11 for moral support

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Didn’t include a photo of the fondant roller, but that was pretty essential. Here are a few first-time covering photos, including my quilting pattern that was obviously eyeballed for accuracy. First time, I’m allowed 🙂

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Since it’s a winter wedding, Miss K suggested a snowman topper, so I played around with that. It turned into a somewhat whimsical and childish play-dough experiment, but fun nonetheless. I have to figure out how to better mark the eyes and small features. This time ‘round I used skewers and Wilton food coloring. Not a good idea, as I look like I got in a fight with a rainbow and it won, plus it’s difficult to control color application.

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Oh yeah, the little figure at the bottom is their puppy 🙂

Here’s the final product (a few views/shoddy photos). My camera was pretty much covered in Crisco by this point. I also only took photos from one view because the other sides were pretty craptastic… 🙂 The fondant was really lumpy where I coverd the Styrofoam with saran wrap so I could re-use it, and my quilting pattern definitely was off. Overall, not too disappointed with a first try… I just have to keep practicing. Next will be the 10” diameter layer, and perhaps some piping.

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Whomp whomp… it’s going to sit there until I get tier two done. -___-