Adventures of a Cake Diva

A Blog About Adventures in Baking and Cake Decorating

Super Quick Tip: How to Toast Shredded Coconut 12/02/2012

Filed under: Recipes,Science of Baking / Baking Tips — acakediva @ 9:01 PM
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Beautifully toasted coconut

   Don’t be like me.  Don’t avoid recipes with toasted coconut, because you think it’s too tricky or that you might burn your house down.  That’s just silly.  Instead, be brave,  Try something new.  Surprise yourself.  It’s not too tricky, and you won’t burn your house down.  (Where did those silly thoughts come from, anyway?)

   Here’s the run-down:  Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Take one cup of shredded coconut and spread it out on the sheet.  Place the sheet in the oven for 3 minutes.  Then, pull it out of the oven and stir it around, keeping it evenly spread on the sheet.  (It won’t have browned yet.  That’s okay.  You’ll get there.)

Stirring coconut while toasting   Put the sheet back into the oven for 3 more minutes.  Pull it out of the oven, and stir it around again.  (See how it’s starting to brown?)  Put it back into the oven, this time for 2 minutes.  Since oven temperatures slightly vary, it might be done now.  Or, you might need to stir it around again and put it back into your oven for another minute or so.  Watch it carefully, though.  Once the coconut starts to brown, it can quickly burn.  As long as you keep a close eye on it, you should be good to go.

   Isn’t it fun to try new things?  Have you ever shied away from baking something because you weren’t sure how to go about preparing one of the components, like toasted coconut?

 

Ginger Carrot Cupcakes with Orange Cream Cheese Frosting 11/23/2012

     A couple of years ago, I received a blank journal from my sister.  It’s become my cake journal, where I collect some of the ideas that are floating around in my head.  For a while, I’ve had penned in this book to take my favorite carrot cake recipe and add freshly grated ginger.  But, it wasn’t until this week that I knew it was time to give this a try.

    Sometimes, inspiration strikes in the most unlikely of places.  Earlier this week, I went for a run (jog, really) after work.  It was dark and turning fairly chilly outside.  Ugh.  As I trudged along my usual route, my mind began to drift.  Out of seemingly nowhere, the idea of orange cream cheese frosting popped into my head.  By the time I got home, I knew that I had a gem of an idea.  Ginger Carrot Cupcakes with Orange Cream Cheese Frosting.

     The beauty of this cupcake is that it’s a pure carrot cake with just a hint of ginger.  No nuts, raisins, or anything extraneous that might be found in a “classic” carrot cake recipe.  It doesn’t need any of that stuff.  (I promise.)  The orange zest and fresh juice add a slight tang to the rich and creamy frosting.  Yet, in every other way, this frosting remains the familiar favorite that is so well loved (and expected) with a carrot cake.  I’ve got to tell you, I love this slight twist to the traditional flavors.  This recipe is a keeper, for sure.

Ginger Carrot Cupcakes

Yield:  2 dozen cupcakes

Adapted from:  Mary Mary Quite Contrary

2 cups (11 ounces) all-purpose flour, sifted

2 cups (14 ounces) ultra-fine sugar

2 teaspoons baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons freshly grated ginger (or 3/4-1 teaspoon ground ginger)

1 cup applesauce

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

6 egg whites (use large eggs)

3 cups peeled, grated carrots

   Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  Line muffin tins with cupcake liners.  Add all of the dry ingredients to the bowl of your stand mixer.  Using a whisk, mix and combine the dry ingredients in the bowl.  Add the applesauce, oil, and vanilla.  Start your mixer on low speed.  Add the egg whites.  Stop the mixer and use a rubber spatula to scrape down the sides of the bowl.  Add the grated carrots.  Beat on medium speed for two (2) minutes.  Using your spatula, scrape down the sides of the bowl.  Divide the batter evenly into the cupcake liners/muffin tin.  Bake 18-22 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the centers comes out clean.  Cool completely before frosting.

Orange Cream Cheese Frosting

Adapted from: Spinach Tiger

12 ounces cream cheese, room temperature

5 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature

orange zest from one orange

3 tablespoons orange juice , freshly squeezed

5 cups powdered sugar, sifted

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

   Mix the orange zest and powdered sugar in a mixing bowl.  Set aside.  Using the paddle attachment to your stand mixer, combine the cream cheese and butter until smooth.  Add the orange juice and vanilla.  Then, add the powdered sugar, one cup at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula after each addition.  Lastly, before using, take a rubber spatula and stir the frosting thoroughly to eliminate any air bubbles.  Enjoy!

 

Happy Birthday, My Coffee-Loving Friend: How to Make a Coffee Cup Cake Topper 11/16/2012

Most of the time, whenever I’m baking, I’m in my happy zone.  If I’m just making a cake for the sake of doing so, it’s no biggie if it doesn’t work out.  (It’s been known to happen.)  But, if I’m making a special cake for someone, I always get a tiny case of butterflies in my stomach.  Just a little nervous flutter.

If you’re a caker, too, you know what I’m talking about.  (Just take a peak at some of the forum posts on Cake Central.)  The butterflies don’t go away until the cake is delivered and the recipient is delighted.  Then, after I return home and clean up the disaster that I created in my kitchen, I’m itching to do it all over again.  Call it a “caker’s high,” if you will.

I got my caking fix this week by making this cake for my coffee-loving friend’s birthday.  The cake was a Mocha Mud Cake with Chocolate Buttercream.  Although my guinea pigs co-workers thought is was really yummy, I’m still tweaking the recipe.  Keep your eyes open for it in a future post.  I made a fondant figurine of my friend seated by her beloved cup of coffee.  (She’s a fan of Biggby Coffee, so the design on the cup is a bit of a riff from their logo.)  Guess what?  This cup of coffee was super-duper easy to make.

Using cereal treats, form a cylinder shape. Take your time to get the height of the cup right and to mold the shape of the cup, as best as you can.  Then, taper the cup ‘s shape by carving the cylinder. Easy does it, though.  It’s better to carve it, little by little.

Once you’re satisfied with the shape, set it aside.  Next, roll out your fondant and cut it into a rectangular shape.  Cover the sides of the cup with buttercream and apply the fondant.  Smooth with your fondant smoother.  Then, make a fondant rope for the lip of the cup and apply it with a dab of water.  Decorate the sides of the cup as desired.  Lastly, pipe a big ‘ol dollop of buttercream on top for the “whipped cream.”  See how easy that was?

Do you get a case of the butterflies whenever you make a cake? Tell me about your “caker’s high.”  I know I’m not the only one who’s addicted to it.

 

How to Bake with Tea: Apple Chai Spice Cake with Honey Vanilla Buttercream 10/13/2012

Nothing warms me up like a cup of tea.  Last Saturday, I made a pot of Chai Spice tea after a chilly morning of apple picking.  With every sip, I marveled at how the black tea, peppered with cinnamon, cloves, ginger, and cardamom, ignited my taste buds.

I started thinking about what I might do with the peck of apples I had gathered. Then, inspiration struck. Apple Chai Spice Cake.  Oh, my…

My past attempts to bake with tea have been a bit disappointing.  I’ve struggled to capture anything more than a subtle tea flavor.  After a little research, I’ve learned the best way to infuse my cakes with a potent (but not overpowering) tea flavor and aroma is really quite simple.  Steep the tea in butter.

It’s best to use loose leaf tea, since the tea leaves are a bit bigger.  If you’re a true tea connoisseur (I’m not), you’ll probably shudder at my suggestion that you can use bagged tea for this recipe.  I had plenty of good quality Chai Spice tea bags in my cupboard, so I cut these bags open and used the leaves.  If you don’t mind that some of the tea leaves will, inevitably, make their way into the cake batter, I say go for it.

Place 2 1/2 sticks (20 tablespoons) of unsalted butter into a saucepan over low heat.  Add 6-8 teaspoons of Chai Spice tea leaves.  Melt the butter and tea leaves, stirring occasionally.  (This is different from the tea to butter ratio suggested in the above link.  Don’t worry, the tea flavor is splendid.)  Once the melted butter starts to darken from the tea leaves (about 6-7 minutes), remove the saucepan from your stove.  Place the saucepan on a trivet or other heat-safe surface, and allow the tea to steep for about 7-8 minutes.

Place a sieve over a bowl.  Pour the tea butter mixture into the sieve.  Most of the liquid will strain through the sieve.  Since I used bagged tea leaves (smaller than loose leaf tea), I poured the tea butter through the strainer twice to minimize the amount of leaves remaining in the butter.  If you use loose leaf tea, you may have to use a wooden spoon to press the leaves against the fine mesh.  Allow the tea butter to come to room temperature.  It’s now ready to use.

I like to use some of the cake’s ingredients as a garnish.  I think it’s a bit of a teaser of the cake that my guests are about to partake.  I decided to sprinkle a few Chai Spice leaves all over this cake and then top it off with a couple of cinnamon sticks.  It was simple, yet elegant, cake that smelled absolutely amazing.  It tasted even better.

Have you ever baked with tea? What did you make?

Apple Chai Spice Cake

An Original Cakediva Recipe

Yield: Two 9″ round cakes

2 ¾ cups (10 ounces) of all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon of baking powder

1 cup (8 ounces) of tea butter – See recipe, above.  I used 2 ½ sticks of butter to make the tea butter, since some of the butter will stick to the tea leaves remaining in your sieve.

2 cups (14 ounces) of ultrafine granulated sugar

2 teaspoons of pure vanilla extract

5 large eggs

1 cup (8 ounces) of milk

1 teaspoon of salt

½ teaspoon of cinnamon

½ teaspoon of ground cloves

½ teaspoon of ground ginger

½ teaspoon of cardamom

2-3 apples – cored, peeled and grated (about 1 cup, heaping)

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  Prepare your cake pans by spraying them with a non-stick baking spray.  Sift the flour into a large bowl.  Add the baking powder, salt, and spices, and use a whisk to combine them with the flour.  Set aside.  Next, put the sugar and tea butter into the bowl of your standing mixer with the paddle attachment.  Beat on medium speed (4 on your Kitchen Aid) until light and fluffy.  This may take a bit longer than usual, since the tea butter is not firm.  Turn your mixer down to a low setting (2 on your Kitchen Aid) and slowly add the vanilla and eggs, one egg at a time.  Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides with a rubber spatula, and re-start your mixer on low to fully combine the ingredients.

Next, alternate adding the dry ingredient mixture and the milk into the butter mixture, stirring well after each addition.  Then, bump up the speed on your mixer to medium-high (8 on your Kitchen Aid) for about 15 seconds.  Turn off the mixer.  Remove the bowl from the stand mixer.  Slowly fold the grated apples into the cake batter until well combined.  Pour the batter into cake pans.  Bake for 30-40 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cakes comes out clean.  Cool on wire cake racks.

Honey Vanilla Buttercream

An Original Cakediva Recipe

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

4 tablespoons of all-vegetable shortening

3-4 tablespoons of milk

2 tablespoons of pure vanilla extract

3 tablespoons of pure honey

dash of salt

4 cups of powdered sugar, sifted

In a large bowl, beat the butter and shortening until smooth.  Next, while you continue to beat the mixture, add the vanilla, honey, and salt.  Then, add the powdered sugar, one cup at a time.  When your mixer starts to strain, add one tablespoon of milk at a time, until the buttercream reaches your preferred consistency.  (The more milk you add, the creamier the frosting.)  Beat until smooth.  If the frosting is too sweet for your liking, add another dash of salt and mix until combined.  (Keep doing this until it reaches the desired amount of sweetness.)  Lastly, before using, take a rubber spatula and stir the frosting thoroughly to eliminate any air bubbles.

 

Are You Ready?: S’mores Hi-Hat Cupcakes 09/27/2012

I was delighted by autumn’s arrival this past weekend.  I’m ready for a change.  I’m ready to breathe crisp, clear air.  I’m ready to be amazed by varying shades of reds and yellows bursting from the trees.

I’m ready to be so awestruck by the morning sky that I can’t help but pull over to take a picture.  Even if it makes me late for work.

I’m ready to traipse through a pumpkin patch and to get lost in an apple orchard.  I’m more than ready to huddle around a bonfire and to roast many, many marshmallows.  Oh, yes.  And I’m majorly ready to stuff my face with S’mores.

And, while I wait until my first bonfire of the season, I shall eat these S’mores Hi-Hat Cupcakes. Grahamy-graham cupcakes topped with marshmallow frosting that is piped super tall and then dipped in chocolate.  Oh, yes.  I’m ready for Fall, delicious cupcakes, and everything this season has to offer.  How about you?  Are you ready?

 

Graham Cupcakes

An Original Cakediva Recipe

Yields: 18 cupcakes

2 sticks (1/2 cup) of butter, room temperature

5.25 ounces (3/4 cup) of ultrafine granulated sugar

2 ounces (1/3 cup) of light brown sugar

3 large eggs – separate the eggs (you’ll use both the yolks and the whites)

2 tablespoons of pure honey

1 1/2 teaspoons of vanilla extract

5 ounces (1 cup) of graham cracker crumbs (use food processor)

7 ounces (1 cup) of cake flour

2 teaspoons of baking powder

1/8 teaspoon of salt

3/4 cup of milk

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Line muffin tins with cupcake liners.  First, cream together the butter and both of the sugars until light and fluffy.  Then, beat in the egg yolks, honey, and vanilla extract.  In a separate bowl, whisk together the graham cracker crumbs, cake flour, baking powder, and salt. Next, alternate adding the dry ingredient mixture and the milk into the butter mixture, stirring well after each addition.

In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites (room temperature) into soft peaks. Then, gently fold the egg whites into the batter until well combined.  Divide the batter evenly into the cupcake tins.  Bake 18-22 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the centers comes out clean.  Cool completely before frosting.

For the Marshmallow Frosting and Chocolate Coating, I love, love, love Elinor Klivans’s recipes, which I found HERE.

I was so focused on dipping the cupcakes into the chocolate that I totally forgot to snap any pictures.  If you need a little guidance, Bakerella has a great photo tutorial, which you can find HERE. (She’s so fabulous!)

For the Marshmallow Garnish/Topper:

Turn on the broiler to your oven.  While it’s warming up, line a baking/cookie sheet with parchment paper.  Pour about two dozen (24) mini-marshmallows onto the sheet.  Sort of spread them out.  Otherwise, you’ll end up with one big pile of goo.

Place the baking sheet with marshmallows into your oven for no more than 8 seconds.  Seriously, if you do much longer than that, they will be charred.  Let them slightly cool before you garnish your cupcakes.  Otherwise, the marshmallow will melt the chocolate coating.  No joke.

Enjoy!

 

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!

 

The 39 List + White Chocolate Cake with Blueberry Curd 09/19/2012

   My birthday was last week.  I love celebrating everyone else’s birthday.  When it comes to my own?  Meh.  In a little less than one year, I’ll say goodbye to my thirties.  I’ve got a hang-up about it.  I need to get over it.  So, I’m taking a cue from Mike, who blogs at Made by Mike.  He created (and posted!) a list of 39 things for him to do the year before he turns forty.  I’ve made my own 39 List, and I’ve dedicated a page on my blog just for this project.  Click HERE to see the what I’ve set out to do in the next year.  I’ll update this page each time I cross off something from my list, too. 

    My brother-in-law’s birthday is just a few days before mine, so we had a little family get-together to celebrate both of our birthdays.  Inspired by some oh-so-lovely blueberries that I scored from the Farmer’s Market, I baked for him this White Chocolate Cake with Blueberry Curd and White Chocolate Swiss Meringue Buttercream.

   This cake is pretty deceptive.  Just looking at it, you wouldn’t guess that it is packed with so many flavors and textures that blend together beautifully.  The cake is moist with a tender crumb and a distinct, yet delicate, white chocolate flavor.  Each bite is delightfully balanced by the smooth blueberry curd and the white chocolate buttercream.

   Oh, my.  The buttercream.  If you’ve tried Swiss Meringue Buttercream before and felt like you were eating a stick of butter, you really should give this recipe a try.  It uses less butter than most recipes (three sticks instead of four), which makes a big difference.  The butter compliments, and does not overpower, the sweet meringue, vanilla, and white chocolate.

    After my brother-in-law took his first bite of cake, he smiled and said, “Oooooh.  This is gooood.”   He’s right.  In fact, I’m planning to make this cake again before blueberries are out of season.  It really is that good.

   Just a ReminderDon’t forget to enter into my very first giveaway, if you haven’t already.  It closes this Saturday, September 22nd at 11:59pm, EST.  Click HERE and scroll to the bottom of the post for all the details. {Giveaway is now closed.}

White Chocolate Cake

Inspired by: The Whimsical Bakehouse

Yield: 2-8” layers or 3-7” layers

1 ½ sticks butter, unsalted

14 ounces (2 cups) ultrafine granulated sugar

1 teaspoon salt

17 ounces (3 1/4 cups) cake flour

1 ½ teaspoon baking powder

¾ teaspoon cream of tartar

1 1/3 cup milk

3 tablespoons pure vanilla extract

6 egg whites (large eggs)

2 ounces of white chocolate bar, chopped and melted

   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 extract.  Set aside.  Next, in a separate bowl, beat together the butter, 12 ounces (1 ½ cups) of sugar (reserve 4 ounces or ½ cup), and salt until light and fluffy.  Add the sifted dry ingredients to the butter mixture alternately with the milk mixture.

   In a separate bowl, beat together the egg whites until foamy.  Then, continue beating the egg whites and add 4 ounces (½ cup) of sugar.  When stiff peaks form, use a rubber spatula to completely fold the egg whites into the cake batter.  Then, gently fold in the melted white chocolate until combined.  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.

   Note:  When the cake has cooled, the top of each cake will have a raised or sort of bubbled crust.  (That’s the best way I can describe it.  I’ll have to take a pic.) It’s kind of weird, but this is completely normal, at least for this recipe.  Simply level the top of your cake and you’ll find a lovely, moist cake beneath. 

Lovely, Lovely Blueberry Curd – Click HERE for recipe.

Simple Syrup

1 cup water

8 ounces (1 cup) ultrafine granulated sugar

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

   Put the water, sugar, and vanilla in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir until the sugar has completely dissolved.  Using a pastry brush, liberally brush the top of each cake with the simple syrup.  This will help keep your cakes moist.  You should use a simple syrup on every scratch cake, not just this recipe.  It just occurred to me that, for prior recipes, I hadn’t mentioned this, but it’s really important.   

White Chocolate Swiss Meringue Buttercream

From Anonymous on Cake Central

12 ounces (3 sticks) of unsalted butter, room temperature

5 egg whites

7 ounces (one cup) ultrafine granulated sugar

2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract

1.5 ounces of white chocolate bar, chopped and melted

   Combine the egg whites and sugar in a heat-proof bowl that will fit your stand mixer, and place the bowl over a pot of boiling water on your stove.  Stir continuously until this mixture reaches 160 degrees (use a candy thermometer) and the sugar has dissolved.  Remove from heat and place the bowl under your stand mixer with the whisk attachment in place.  Beat the mixture on high speed until it holds stiff peaks.  Continue beating the mixture until it is fluffy.  Then, remove the whisk attachment and place the paddle attachment onto your mixer.

   Start your mixer on medium-low speed (4 on your Kitchen Aid), and add several butter tablespoons at a time, beating well after each addition.  After all of the butter has been added, the frosting will appear to separate.  Bump up the speed on your mixer to a medium high speed (6 on your Kitchen Aid), and keep beating for about 3-4 minutes.  It will come together beautifully. Then, add the melted white chocolate and reduce your mixer speed to the lowest setting (2 on your Kitchen Aid) until combined.  Finally, stir with a spatula until the frosting is smooth.

 

 
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