Friday, March 14, 2014

Happy Friday!

Earlier in the week I had extra cake batter.  Normally I freeze my extra batter (*see note below!) but I already have a few containers of frozen batter, so I decided to bake off my leftover instead into 8" rounds.  I've been thinking all week what I wanted to do with the layers, and finally decided this afternoon to throw this cake together.  I often like to use up little bits of things I have around, so this cake ended up being vanilla layers with chocolate ganache, chocolate frosting, decorated with crushed Oreos and topped with whole Oreos. 

A few years ago I was the head baker at a start up cupcake shop. Until this point my whole baking career had been based around scratch recipes.  When I walked into the kitchen at the cupcake shop I saw a whole shelf of cake mixes.  A few weeks later I tried to switch the shop to scratch recipes, but I realized that even though I had great scratch recipes, it just didn't work.  The shelf life of scratch cupcakes is terrible.  And, to put it simply...customers are too used to grocery store cakes.  I needed to come up with something that was in between.  So that's exactly what I did.  Instead of having a "doctored cake mix" I created a "doctored scratch mix." My only issue with the following recipe is that it creates a rather large batch, but I am often used to baking in large quantities so it works for me.  At some point in the future I'm going to work on cutting the recipe down.  The recipe might seem a little odd, but it really is fantastic.  And the great thing is that it's a wonderful base recipe, especially because you can switch out the vanilla box mix for other flavors.

Vanilla Cake
1 cup butter (for cupcakes) or margarine (for cake)
2 cups sugar
1 TBS vanilla
1 vanilla cake mix (I've found that Betty Crocker work the best)
7 eggs
1/3 cup oil
2 1/4 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
2 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1 1/4 cups water
1 TBS white vinegar plus enough milk to equal 1 cup

For cake:

Cream together margarine and sugar.  Add cake mix, vanilla, eggs and oil.  Mix in baking powder, salt, flour, water (cold), and milk/vinegar (cold) mixture until batter is smooth, well combined, and all the lumps are out. 

Bake at 350 degrees until the top is slightly brown and it bounces back when you touch it.

For cupcakes: 

Melt butter.  Heat milk/vinegar mixture.  Use HOT water.  (*See second note!)

Mix together all ingredients EXCEPT eggs (if you include eggs with hot butter and other hot liquids, you most likely will scramble your eggs!)  Once ingredients have mixed together, slowly start to incorporate eggs until they are all blended into the batter. 

Bake at 325-335 degrees.  Bake until the tops are just slightly golden and they bounce back when you touch them.

For cake, I can usually get a good 3 9" rounds, for cupcakes at least 4 dz. 

*Note One* Did you know that you can freeze cake batter?  Fill microwave safe containers with the batter, and when you are ready to use it, just heat it up to thaw!  Make sure you microwave it in increments (I usually do 1-2 minute) and stir in between.  Another cool thing with this is what my kids like to call "Magic Cake."  They take an ice cream scooper and scoop out some frozen batter, microwave for about 30-45 seconds (depending on the size of their scoop,) stir to even it out, then microwave again for another 30-45 seconds.  Easy single sized cake portions!

*Note Two* For the longest time I couldn't figure out how to get nice, rounded, domed tops on cupcakes.  I tried everything, and finally figured's the temperature of my ingredients!  When you have a cold batter, you will have flat cupcakes that run into each other or run over the cupcake pan.  If you liquid ingredients are nice and hot, making a warm batter, you will have nice, pretty topped cupcakes!

Happy weekend baking!

Cowboy Cake

I did this cake for a friend this week.  The bottom tier was dark chocolate with chocolate ganache and the top was vanilla vanilla.  Cute!

Friday, March 7, 2014


I am not a big fan of ice cream.  Milkshakes, cream, no.  However, one of Adam's favorite treats is a Chipwich.  I've been wanting to make them for a long time, so yesterday I decided to throw them together quick. 

For these chipwiches, you will need chocolate chip cookies, vanilla ice cream, and mini chocolate chips.  Easy, right? 

I really love and highly recommend Cookie Base #1 that I blogged about a few posts back.  I was able to use it with these chocolate chip cookies, and it took no more than maybe 10 minutes to mix them up and have them in the oven.  And, of course, they are crazy good.  I chose to use one regular size (11.5 oz) package of milk chocolate chips as my add in for the cookie base.

Once my cookies were baked and cooled, I thought I was going to be all cool and pipe on my vanilla ice cream.  Unfortunately the top of the cookie slid right off and I had a big mess on my hands (literally.)  I ended up throwing my cookies in the freezer for about 15 minutes, and used a cookie scoop for the ice cream. 

In the end, I found it worked like a charm to place a small scoop of ice cream on one chilly cookie, top it with a second chilly cookie, and roll the edges in a bowl of mini chocolate chips. It would be a great idea to have a tray with waxed paper set up in your freezer so when you are done with each cookie, you can pop it right in and it doesn't have time to melt. 


Saturday, March 1, 2014

Assemble the Minions!

Quick and easy Minion cupcakes for my daughter's birthday party that we had at a local pottery place.  I placed them on an artist palette (like paint.)  Cute!

Death By Chocolate Meets Tye Dye

I found this pin on Pinterest three or four weeks back, and couldn't resist going right to town making them.  Chocolate cupcakes.  With a brownie baked inside.  With fudge frosting. And chocolate chips.  Say whhhat??  The girls adore dark chocolate.  For me it's too much, so I was unsure if the finished product was overkill.  When I took them to my taste testers, I guess they were anything but overkill ("They're BANGIN!") That first time I chose to stick to the recipe pretty closely.  See the original recipe for Brownie Batter Chocolate Fudge Cupcakes here. The only thing I really didn't care for with these cupcakes was that the brownie fell when it baked, and created kind of a hole inside the cupcake (which I just filled with the frosting, so all turned out well and good.)  Still, I felt the need to try and tweak (as I usually do because I can't leave anything alone.)

I'm still not 100% happy with the cake part but the frosting really is out of this world.  If you like  super dark chocolate I suggest to follow the recipe as written on the above link. 

Here's how I made it for these cupcakes...

Chocolate Fudge Frosting

5 sticks butter, softened
6-8 oz confectioners sugar (start with 6 and adjust to taste)
1 cup cocoa powder (not the special dark)
1/4 tsp salt
1.5 cups corn syrup
1 tbs vanilla
16 oz milk chocolate chips

In 30 second intervals, melt chocolate chips (stir in between each interval.)  Set aside.

With a mixer, mix together butter, corn syrup, salt, and vanilla.  Add confectioner's sugar and cocoa a little bit at a time (if you add too much at once you'll be wearing it.)  Once all combined, add chocolate until frosting is blended and smooth. 

My daughter's 9th birthday was Friday, and she requested these death by chocolate cupcakes for her school treat.  I found these tye dye liners that I knew she'd like, but they totally didn't fit the theme of death by chocolate.  In the end, I decided to color white chocolate and make little tye dye decorations to match the liners.  I watched 22 3rd graders devour them like maniacs and rave about them, so I guess they went over well!

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

It's a boy!!!

I have been wanting to do a gender reveal cake forever!!!  I finally got the chance this week.  A previous co-worker found out that she was expecting, and decided to get a cake for the office to let everyone know what she was having.  The only bad thing was that I was pestered like crazy after everyone knew that I had been let in on the secret!!!  What is normally a two day cake making/decorating process had to be cut into one just so I could stop the stream of text messages coming in about it!  (However maybe if I had held out there would of been some monetary bribes?!)

Congratulations Sophie!! 

Monday, February 24, 2014

Cookie Base #1

I love finding and creating base recipes.  Maybe it's a bit of laziness, but I do partly think of it as my sneaky little make one big batch of cookie dough and see how many different cookies I can make out of it without anyone realizing.  "Wow, made ALL THESE in just a few hours?!"  Work smarter, not harder right? 

Years ago I came across this recipe for chocolate chip cookies.  Award Winning Chocolate Chip Cookies  As you can see from the reviews, it's a fantastic recipe.  However, I always have had a difficult time keeping the cookies from sticking together when plated or trayed. They really are great cookies, but just too soft.  I've tweaked it many times, and finally today I think I might of perfected it.  The best part of this's an AMAZING base.  There are so many ways you can change this recipe up, from simply changing out the chips to something else (like I did today) to using different pudding mix combinations.  I've even left the chips out altogether and made them into sugar cookies (and sugar cookie bars with frosting.)

Cookie Base #1

1 1/4 cup all purpose flour
1 cup bread flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 cup butter, melted
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup white sugar
1 (3.4 oz) pkg instant vanilla pudding mix
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In mixing bowl, mix together melted butter, brown sugar, white sugar, pudding mix, and vanilla. (If butter doesn't look like it's fully mixing together with the sugar, don't will be fine once the flour is added.) Blend in both flours and baking soda until mixed together. ** Add eggs until completely incorporated. At this time, stir in your "extras " (chocolate chips, nuts, dried fruit, etc etc.) 

**Note:  Normally eggs ARE added before flour.  In this case, however, I'm adding them at the end to give the dough time to cool down in case the melted butter was pretty hot.  (Most people don't like scrambled eggs in their cookies!!  ;) ) 

Your yield is really going to depend on how much you add of your "extras" and what size scoop you use. You can see from my picture of the raw dough balls that I used a pretty big scoop.  With this batch, I ended up with about 16 of those large size cookies. 

I didn't have any chocolate chips, so I raided the cupboards and found an unopened bag of mini peanut butter cups that I had hidden away.  After my cookie base was together, I mixed in about 3/4 of the bag of the peanut butter cups (with the mixer) so that some had been chopped up and blended into the dough.
   I thought they looked awfully plain, so I dipped them in some melted milk chocolate and chopped up the remaining peanut butter cups to sprinkle on. I tend to like to stripe cookies, so I finished them off with a dark chocolate drizzle.

  I think Thing #1 approves...