Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Week 12 :: Alpha Options Cookies

Hello readers!  No new recipes this week, I had a specific project in mind.  My Dad has spent the last year or so on a project for NASDAQ--Alpha Options.  Next month he's been invited to ring the NASDAQ opening bell and he's taking my Mom and me!  I am so excited and I wanted to do something to celebrate, so I tested out some Alpha Options cookies using the Sugar Cookie and Royal Icing recipes.  After a few attempts, this is what I got:

That's the alpha logo from the index!  I certainly went through plenty of uglies to get these...here's the trick to make any pattern you want on iced sugar cookies.....
1.  Print out your image the size you want it.
2.  Trace it on a disposable plastic lid.
3.  Cut out with x-acto knife or scissors, so you end up with a stencil.
4.  Lay the stencil on top of DRIED, iced cookie.
5.  Using piping consistency royal icing, pipe in the stencil.
6.  Level icing with a toothpick.
7.  Remove stencil. Rinse excess icing off before the next cookie!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Week 11 :: Guinness Cupcakes with Bailey's Irish Cream Frosting (and Irish whiskey ganache)

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

This week I made a handful of treats for St. Patty's day.  I didn't just make the "Irish Car Bomb" Cupcakes, but I used those same recipes to make the cake below and I also made the iced sugar cookies from last week.  I clearly love holiday baking!  All of these recipes were a hit so I hope you give them a try!  Happy Baking!

These "Irish Car Bomb" Cupcakes originated in the Smitten Kitchen.  What a great website and source for some incredible recipes that will amaze you but are fairly easy to make!  I'd like to think I am a talented baker, but I have nowhere near the amazing creativity and skill this chef has at creating unique recipes. Other recipes from the Smitten Kitchen site I hope to try in future weeks are the Apple Cider Donuts and Gateau des Crepes.  

"Irish Car Bomb Cupcakes"
Guinness Chocolate Cupcakes with Bailey's Frosting
Prep Time :: 30 minutes
Bake Time :: 17-19 minutes
For the Cupcakes
  • 1 cup Guinness
  • 1 cup unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2/3 cup sour cream
For the Ganache Filling 

  • 8 ounces bittersweet chocolate
  • 2/3 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons butter, room temperature
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons Irish whiskey (optional)
For the Baileys Frosting

  • 3 to 4 cups confections sugar
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, softened
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons Bailey's

  1. Make the cupcakes: Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 24 cupcake cups with liners. If you have a pattered cupcake liner you want to use, double up in each cup. 
  2. Bring 1 cup stout and 1 cup butter to simmer in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add cocoa powder and whisk until mixture is smooth. Cool slightly.
  3. Whisk flour, sugar, baking soda, and 3/4 teaspoon salt in large bowl to blend. Using electric mixer, beat eggs and sour cream in another large bowl to blend. Add stout-chocolate mixture to egg mixture and beat just to combine. Add flour mixture and beat briefly on slow speed. Using rubber spatula, fold batter until completely combined. 
  4. Divide batter among cupcake liners, filling them 2/3 to 3/4 of the way. Bake cake until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean, about 17 minutes. Cool cupcakes on a rack completely.
  5. Make the filling: Chop the chocolate and transfer it to a heatproof bowl, add butter. Heat the cream until simmering and pour it over the chocolate. Let it sit for one minute and then stir until smooth. (If this has not sufficiently melted the chocolate, you can microwave in 1- second increments until melted.) Add whiskey (if you’re using it) and stir until combined.
  6. Fill the cupcakes: Let the ganache cool until thick but still soft enough to be piped (the fridge will speed this along but you must stir it every 10 minutes so it doesn't harden). Meanwhile, using a 1-inch round cookie cutter or an apple corer or knife, cut the centers out of the cooled cupcakes (about 1 inch around and 1 inch deep, once cut these can be scooped out easily with a spoon).  Put the ganache into a piping bag with a wide tip and fill the holes in each cupcake to the top.
  7. Make the frosting: Whip the butter for several minutes with an electric mixer. You want to get it very light and fluffy. Slowly add the powdered sugar, a few tablespoons at a time.  Once you have a creamy consistency, add the Bailey's and mix until smooth.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Week 10 :: Sugar Cookies and Royal Icing

Gavin's Lightning McQueen Cookies!

I made these by special request for my sweet nephew Gavin!  Hopefully I will be able to add a pic of him with the cookies when he gets them!  These are great for shipping as the icing dries hard overnight and holds up pretty well.

I got the design idea from Sugar Mama Cookies who has so many cute ideas!  I am just amazed at the many baking blogs out there that have such great ideas.  I am continuously inspired by them and the wonderful thing is, when I botch something up I can send them a message and they'll let me know how to fix it!

Both the cookies and icing are super easy to make...the decorating is certainly the hardest part to these cookies, and I still need some practice but I think they turned out well!  The dough and icing are both very simple and the recipes are below.  The dough can be made in advance and saved in the fridge for a week or so and the recipe below makes a LOT of dough.  Happy Baking!! 

Rolled Sugar Cookies
All recipes
Prep Time :: 15 minutes
Chill Time :: 1 hour +
Bake Time :: 6 to 8 minutes


  • 1 1/2 cups butter, softened
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 5 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. salt
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Cream butter and sugar together until smooth.
  3. Beat in eggs one at a time and beat well after each addition.  Add extract.
  4. Stir in flour, baking powder, and salt and mix just until consistent.
  5. Chill dough for at least one hour or overnight.
  6. Roll out dough on floured surface 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick and cut into desired shapes.
  7. Place on ungreased cookie sheet 1 inch apart.
  8. Bake at 400 degrees for 6 to 8 minutes.  Cool completely on wire rack.

Royal Icing
All recipes
Prep Time :: 5 minutes

  • 4 egg whites
  • 4 cups confectioners' sugar
  • 1 teaspoon extract (almond, vanilla, lemon)
  1. Beat eggs whites in large bowl at high speed until foamy.  Gradually add sugar and extract.  Beat on high speed until thickened.
::Note::  I used Meringue powder in place of eggs whites for these cookies since they are going to my little nephew and I didn't want to use raw eggs.  You can find Meringue powder at any craft or baking store (maybe even some grocery stores).
::Note::  Add more sugar to thicken for piping icing.

Here are some other pictures of the same recipes I made this week for Kristen's birthday, including some St. Patrick's cookies!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Week 9 :: 80's Themed Cake

Happy Birthday Christy!

This week a friend of mine turned 30 and the occasion involved dinner and an 80s cover band, Guilty Pleasures!  So how about an 80's themed cake?

Not going to lie....this cake took a lot of time, but it really isn't that hard to make a themed cake!  So while this post is long it talks you through make this cake, including a couple new recipes, along with many of the cake decorating tips I learned along the way.   

There are three staple recipes that you definitely need: cake, a crusting buttercream icing, and fondant.  You need at least those three...beyond that you can be creative.  For this cake I used my Moist Chocolate Cake recipe for the base and modified the Crusting Buttercream below for a Kaluha flavored filling.  For the top tier I used the Yeloow Cake recipe below and made and almond buttercream by adding almond extract.

Cake :: For this cake I did two 8" rounds and two 6" rounds and layered them.  When the cakes come out of the oven I let them cool for 5-10 minutes in the pan, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.  I then use a serrated knife to cut off the "bump."  No need to be perfect...you can always level it out with some extra buttercream, just as close as possible.  Once the cakes are cooled and leveled you can fill them or layer them with buttercream, if you choose to use a filling such as a fruit compote or caramel, first create a buttercream "dam" around the edges--just trace the perimeter of the bottom later and put the filling in the middle.  This keeps the filling from running out once you put the top layer on.

Icing :: The next step is to "crumb coat" or "dirty ice" the cakes.  This isn't meant to look pretty, it's just mean to add flavor, make the fondant smoother and stabilize the cakes.  Use a Crusting Buttercream for the crumb coat so that it hardens slightly and helps holds the shape that you want when you add fondant.  I use the Wilton #789 icing tip found here to crumb coat the cake (I spin the cake on a turntable), then smooth with a spatula.  Now is the time to make things as smooth and even as possible with sharp edges.  When you are satisfied, place the cakes in the fridge for 20-30 minutes (or overnight if you are making early, once you decorate with fondant, do not put in fridge).  This is what a crumb coated cake looks like:

Decorating :: When ready to decorate.  Roll out fondant to cover cake tiers.  I use the MAT from Sweet Wise and wouldn't use anything else because it saves a ton of time and looks amazing every time.  Otherwise, dust your surface and rolling pin with powdered surgar and dust it good....and keep dusting.  When it sticks, you have to start all over (and trust me....after it sticks a few dozens times you will just order the $15 mat).  Sweet Wise has a video on their site of the MAT method including how to cover the cake with fondant.

You can use premade fondant or make your own.  My go-to recipe for Marshmallow Fondant is here, but a true black fondant can be a mess and near impossible to make, so I also used Fondx elite fondant found at Sweet Wise for the black and pink to save time.  It also has a great taste!

Now decorate however you want, and be creative!  To adhere soft fondant pieces to the cake paint the adhering surface with water.  If you have make the decorations in advance (up to 2 weeks) and they have dried, apply them with piping gel (it's like a baker's super glue).  Wilton makes a ton of cookie cutters to make all sorts of great shapes, but you can always use an x-acto knife to cut out any shape you like.  I also covered the cake board with a layer of fondant and hot-glued a ribbon around the edges.  Lastly, I used toothpicks to support the TV and "mini Christy."  You can attach the figures before you transfer the cake (just use a little extra piping gel to secure) but I recommend waiting until you are at your final destination to attach. 

Here's a close-up of the cake:

If you have any questions, just shoot me a message--I will help as much as I can and I hope I provide you with some motivation to try!

Happy Baking!

Yellow Cake
All recipes

::Prep Time:: 10 minutes
::Bake Time:: 45 minutes
::Yields:: 24 servings

  • 1 cup Crisco
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 3/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 Tbsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 3/4 cups milk
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease and flour (1) 9x13" pan or two 8" round cake pans.
  2. Cream together shortening and sugar.  Beat in eggs well, add vanilla.
  3. In a separate bowl combine flour, baking powder, and salt.  Add to creamed mixture alternating with milk.  Mix well.
  4. Pour batter into prepared pan(s).
  5. Bake for 45 minutes (or until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean) rotating pans half way through baking time.
  6. Cool in pan for 5-10 minutes.  Remove cakes and cool completely on wire rack.
Cake Central is an another great resource for any cake-making recipes and questions.  Below is the crusting buttercream recipe used for the VIVA method you can read about below--I use it under my fondant to hold shape and adhere to the fondant.

Crusting Buttercream
Cake Central

::Prep Time:: 10 minutes
::Yields:: 30-50 servings

  • 2 lbs. sifted powdered sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 1/2 cups Crisco (vegetable shortening)
  • 2 Tbsp. clear vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp. almond extract
  • 1/4 to 1/3 cup water
  1. Cream butter, shortening, and extracts until creamy and smooth.
  2. Gradually add powdered sugar and water.  Adjust the amount of water from 1/4 to 1/3 cup for desired stiffness.
  3. Mix thoroughly on medium speed with a hand mixer (slow speed for stand mixer) until smooth and creamy consistency.  Do not overmix or mix on high speed.
Note :: If you want a true white, you can purchase butter without dye at places like whole foods.  This icing can be refrigerated for up to two weeks in an airtight container, or at room temp for 2-3 days.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Week 8 :: Red Velvet Cupcakes

Yum! Yum! Yum!  These cupcakes are my favorite so far.  I used Paula Dean's Red Velvet Cupcake recipe (so it couldn't be bad, right?) and iced them using Cream Cheese Frosting, and crumbled some of the cake on top.  You can decorate with nuts, sprinkles, or fondant cut outs.  I found these damask muffin cups at Sweet Wise, my new favorite store in Nashville.  It has everything a little baker could dream of!

Red Velvet Cupcakes

::Prep Time:: 10 minutes
::Bake Time:: 20-22 minutes
::Yields:: 24 cupcakes

  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
  • 1 cup buttermilk, room temperature
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 2 Tbsp. red food coloring
  • 1 tsp. white distilled vinegar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Fill (2) 12-cup muffin tins with liners.
  2. In a medium mixing bowl, sift together flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, and cocoa powder.
  3. In a large bowl gently beat together oil, buttermilk, eggs, food coloring, vinegar, and vanilla with an electric mixer.  Add the flour mixture slowly until thoroughly combined.
  4. Fill 24 muffin cups 2/3 full with batter.
  5. Bake for 20-22 minutes (or until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean) rotating pans half way through baking time.
  6. Cook completely on wire rack.