Adventures of a Cake Diva

A Blog About Adventures in Baking and Cake Decorating

Hopes + Cake Dreams 01/02/2013

Filed under: Baking,General,Inspiration,Reflections — acakediva @ 10:36 PM
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Wintery via Adventures of a Cake Diva

   I’ve never made a New Year’s resolution.  Ever.  The very idea just seems too limiting and narrow.  I’m a “bigger picture” kind of gal. Instead, January always has been a springboard to launch my highest of hopes and my biggest of dreams.

Snowy via Adventures of a Cake Diva

   This year, I’ve decided to be bold in the kitchen.  I’m going to be more daring.  I’m challenging myself to create beautiful baked things you have never seen.  And I’m developing unique cake recipes to ignite your taste buds.  In essence, I want to flex my creative muscles more than I ever have before.  I want to be the artist that I know I can become.

  Woodsy via Adventures of a Cake Diva

   I am so glad that I made my 39 List a few months ago.  I think these “bucket list” items are helping me to take some small, tangible steps toward these dreams.  And, in case you’re wondering, I’ve narrowed down #25 from my 39 List to the pictures in this post.  (Take one of my photos and get it made into a print.  Hang it up in my abode.)  I think it’s a good start for a year that is filled with endless possibilities.

   What are your hope and dreams for this new year?

 

We have a winner! (Yay!) 09/23/2012

Filed under: Giveaways — acakediva @ 7:19 PM
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Carolsue Anderson has been randomly selected as the winner of this cute cupcake prize pack.  Congratulations!  Thanks to everyone who entered for making my very first giveaway so much fun!

 

Good Things are Happening: The Big Reveal & Inspiring Blog Award 08/12/2012

Filed under: General — acakediva @ 11:42 PM
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Next month, this humble little blog will celebrate its first anniversary.  (Woo-hoo!)  The coolest thing about this milestone is that I never really thought I’d get here.  A year ago, I had no clue if I could write about my caking adventures in a way that would connect with readers.  More than that, while my now defunct baking biz always received rave reviews, I was unsure if my baking was ready to share with the world.

But, you have embraced and encouraged me every step of the way.  Thank you from the bottom of my heart.  I am still blown away by each and every e-mail and comment that I receive.  And I still do a little happy dance every time that I make it onto Photograzing or someone pins one of my creations on Pinterest.

I also did a little happy dance when at350degrees, a fellow blogger, kindly nominated me for the Inspiring Blog Award.  Thank you so very much!  I am truly honored to receive this award.  I am so very thankful to have supporters who share my love of baking.

Award Rules:

  1. Thank the person who nominated you.
  2. Share 7 things about yourself.
  3. Nominate 15 other bloggers that you admire or inspire you.
  4. Go leave a comment and let the people know you have nominated them.

Seven (Random) Things About Me:

1) When I was a kid, I dreamed of becoming either a soap opera actress or a teacher.  (I am neither.)

2)  While I’m a heck of baker, I’m not so hot at cooking real food.

3)  A couple of months ago, I set off the smoke detector while I was boiling pasta in hot water.  (See #2, above.)

4)  I write just like I talk in real life.  I frequently use uncommon words/phrases, such as “yikes,” “no biggie,” “happy dance,” “easy peasy,” “baloney,” or “dilly-dally.”

5)  I fervently believe that the Foo Fighters are the best band ever.

6)  I don’t have cable TV.  If I did, I would watch the Food Network, 24/7.

7)  Although my apartment building has a laundry room, I prefer to go to the Laundromat, which is a couple of blocks away.  It has a giant flat screen TV that always has on the Food Network.  (See #6, above.)

Fifteen Bloggers Who I Admire or Who Inspire Me:

Domestic Diva, MD, corkandspoon, At Home for Dinner, Made by Mike, $35 a Week, Frugal Feeding, A Lot on Your Plate, Super Generic Girl, annashortcakes, Mydearbakes, The Hungry Mum, A Village Pantry, A Kitty and Her Cakes, susandalzell, and Pretty Baking by GerCongratulations!

I guess the best way to say it is that, over the past year, I’ve grown.  My little blog has developed (and is still developing) its own voice.  I think it’s time that, visually, this blog align with its voice.  So, kids, here’s the big reveal—the new face of Adventures of a Cake Diva.  I like it, a lot.  I hope you do, too.

 

Super Quick Tip: A Scale Is a Baker’s BFF. No Lie.

Grab a pad of paper and a pen.  I’m going to share with you a super quick tip that will instantly make you a better baker.  No lie.  Are you ready?

A kitchen scale is a baker’s BFF. 

I’m sure this isn’t the first time you’ve heard this piece of advice.  In fact, during my first year of baking, I’ll bet I read this tip at least 20 times.  But, I was convinced that I was a careful measurer. (Baloney.)  And, it seemed like it would be too time-consuming.  (It’s not.)  Yet, my cakes were inconsistent.

I’d bake a cake, and it would be perfectionA few weeks later, I’d follow the same recipe to a “T”, but the texture would be a little off.  Or the cake would be dry.  Guess what happened when I started weighing my dry ingredients using a cheap, but accurate, scale?  Problem solved.

Also, I used to divide the batter into my cake pans by simply “eyeballing” it.  Big shocker here—my cakes never baked to the same size.  Guess what happened when I started weighing my cake pans so they’d have the same amount of batter?  Problem solved.

When my cheapo kitchen scale died, I started using (and still use) my old postage scale from when I owned a small business.  Maybe someday I’ll pony up for a fancy kitchen scale, but in my humble opinion, you don’t need one.  As long as it’s accurate, it will get the job done.  Give it a try.  If your kitchen scale is your new BFF, I’d love to hear from you!

 

Funfetti Cake (from Scratch) and a True Confession 06/16/2012

I decorated the cake with fondant elephants to match the invitations. You can (kind of) see one of the invites in the lower right-hand corner.

I’ve got to get something off of my chest.  (We’re all friends here, right?)  I offered to make a little cake for my friend’s baby shower.  When I learned that she had been craving Funfetti cake, I panicked.  I thought this meant that I might have to consider using a box mix.  Yikes.  I’m a die-hard scratch baker.  It’s who I am.  Yet, I refused to stand in the way of a pregnant woman and her cake cravings.  What to do?

After a little recon, I felt a wave of relief when I learned that Funfetti is simply a white or vanilla cake with rainbow sprinkles mixed into the batter.  Whew.  I’ve spent, literally, years of my life experimenting with different white cake recipes.  Thank goodness I’ve got a good one.  It’s so light and airy, that it borderlines as a dense Angel Food. Yet, it’s moist and has a good vanilla flavor.  This recipe is amazing, whether you decide to toss in the rainbow sprinkles or not.

Sometimes, I think pictures (or at least my pictures) don’t really show you that a cake is beyond good.  I wish that you could reach into your computer screen and snag a little taste.  I have no doubt that you’d want another bite of this cake, particularly when it is paired with this smooth, creamy Vanilla Buttercream.

Now, when it comes to buttercream, I fully realize that cakers usually fall into one of two camps.  Either you prefer a non-crusting recipe, like this Vanilla Buttercream, or you only use crusting recipes, like my “Bakery Style” American Buttercream.  Choose whichever recipe best suits you.  Either will pair nicely with this yummy Funfetti cake.

Yep, I said it.  This scratch baker thinks that (scratch) Funfetti cake is pretty yummy.  I never thought I’d try Funfetti, and I’d never dreamed that I’d find it to be delish.  But, I do.  True confession.

Funfetti Cake

Yield: Two 8” round cakes

Cake Recipe Inspired by: The Whimsical Bakehouse

1 ½ sticks butter, unsalted

2 cups superfine granulated sugar

1 teaspoon salt

3 1/3 cups cake flour

1 ½ teaspoon baking powder

¾ teaspoon cream of tartar

1 ¼ cup milk

1 ½ teaspoon vanilla bean paste

1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons rainbow sprinkles

¾ cup egg whites

Pre-heat oven to 325 degrees.  Prepare pans by spraying them with non-stick baking spray.  In a medium bowl, sift together the cake flour, baking powder, and cream of tartar.  Set aside.  In a large measuring cup, stir together milk and vanilla paste.  Set aside.  Next, in a separate bowl, beat together the butter, 1 ½ cups of sugar (reserve ½ cup), and salt until light and fluffy.  Add the sifted dry ingredients to the butter mixture alternately with the milk mixture.  Then, add the rainbow sprinkles, and continue mixing until well-combined.

In a separate bowl, beat together the egg whites until foamy.  Then, continue beating the egg whites and add ½ cup sugar.  When stiff peaks form, use a rubber spatula to completely fold the egg whites into the cake batter.  Pour the batter into the cake pans.  Bake for 30-40 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cakes comes out clean.  Cool on wire cake rack.

Vanilla Buttercream

2 sticks butter, unsalted – chilled, but not straight from the fridge

1 cup all-vegetable shortening

4 tablespoons milk

1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

5 cups powdered sugar, sifted

In a large bowl, beat the butter and shortening until smooth.  Next, while you continue to beat the mixture, add the milk and vanilla.  Then, add the powdered sugar, one cup at a time.  Beat until smooth.  Lastly, before using, take a rubber spatula and stir the frosting thoroughly to eliminate any air bubbles.

 

Skip the (Bad) Necktie for Dad: Lemon Cupcakes

Filed under: General,Recipes — acakediva @ 2:43 PM
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   I’ll admit it.  Over the years, I’ve given my father a few bad neckties.  I’ve also made him a few gifts that, as an adult, make me laugh and cringe at the same time. (Yes, that’s possible.)  When I was about eight years old, I used my hand-cranked knitting machine to make him a “scarf” for Father’s Day.  It was an ugly brown, and it wasn’t long enough to fit around his neck.  Never mind the fact that the temperature outside was a sweltering 90 degrees in the shade. 

   If you’re struggling to find a Father’s Day gift, or if you’d like to make him something with your own two hands, here’s an idea.  This year, bake him something.  Bake him these lemon cupcakes.  They have a subtle lemon flavor that is well-balanced by the buttercream.  This frosting is not one-dimensional.  It’s sweet and buttery with just a pop of tartness.  In a word?  De-lish.   

   What if you’ve never baked anything from scratch?  No worries.  Take a deep breath.  Crank up your favorite tunes for a little inspiration.  Then, just follow these directions, step-by-step.  You can totally make these little darlings, and your father will love that you took the time to bake him something special.  And, I’d hazard to bet that he just might breathe a sigh of relief that, at least this year, you didn’t get him another bad necktie.   

      

Lemon Cupcakes

Yield: 24 cupcakes

Adapted from: My Baking Addiction

2 ¼ cups cake flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 ¼ cups buttermilk
4
large egg whites
1 ½ cups fine granulated sugar
1 tablespoon freshly grated lemon zest
1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

   Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees.  Prepare your muffin tin either by using cupcake liners or spray with non-stick cooking spray.  In a medium bowl, sift together the cake flour, baking powder, and salt.  Set aside.  In a separate medium bowl, whisk together the buttermilk and egg whites.  Set aside. 

   Place the sugar and lemon zest into a large mixing bowl, and use your fingers to rub them together until the sugar is moist and fragrant.  Next, add the butter to the sugar/lemon zest mixture.  Beat them at medium speed for a full 3 minutes, until the butter and sugar are very light.  Then, beat in the vanilla extract and lemon juice until incorporated.  Next, while continuing to beat on medium speed, add one-third (1/3) of the flour mixture.  Beat in one-half (1/2) of the milk-egg mixture, then beat in one-half (1/2) of the remaining dry ingredients until they are well incorporated.  Add the rest of the milk and eggs, beating until the batter is smooth, and then add the last of the dry ingredients.  Then, continue to beat the batter on medium speed for another 2 minutes to make sure it is thoroughly mixed.   

   Divide the batter evenly into the cupcake tins.  Bake for 18-22 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the centers of the cupcakes comes out clean. Cool on a wire cake rack. 

Lemon Buttercream

2 sticks unsalted butter, chilled but not straight from the fridge

4 cups powdered sugar, sifted

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

1 ½ tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 tablespoon freshly grated lemon zest

Dash of salt

1-2 drops yellow food coloring (optional) 

   Place both sticks of butter into a large mixing bowl and beat on medium speed until light and fluffy.  Slowly add the powdered sugar, one cup at a time, and continue to beat until mixture is smooth.  Next, add the lemon zest, lemon juice, vanilla extract, and salt until well combined.  If you’d like yellow frosting, add food coloring and mix until the color is well incorporated.

 

Super Quick Tip: How to Soften Rock Hard Brown Sugar 05/10/2012

Filed under: General,Science of Baking / Baking Tips — acakediva @ 6:39 PM
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   Last night, I was tweaking a new recipe that called for brown sugar.  When I pulled out the bag from my pantry, the sugar was pretty hard.  Actually, it was like a giant glacier of sugar.  No biggie.  I learned a super quick fix to this problem a couple of years ago.

   Simply place the opened bag of brown sugar in your microwave with a small bowl of water, and microwave them for one minute.  Then, check to see if the sugar is soft enough to use.  If not, just continue to microwave in increments of 30 seconds until the rocks have disappeared and the sugar is soft.  The bag of brown sugar will be hot after microwaving, so be very careful. 

   I’ve used this tip to salvage quite a few bags of brown sugar that I would have otherwise tossed out.   It’s never failed me.  Give it a try!

 

 
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