Adventures of a Cake Diva

A Blog About Adventures in Baking and Cake Decorating

Holiday Gift Guide: 5 Cool Tools for Bakers and Cakers 12/14/2012

   If you’re struggling to find a gift for the baker or cake decorator in your life, here are five cool tools to check out.  And, because I’m a budget conscious gal, the most expensive item is just under $50.

   Except for my last suggestion, I own all of these products, love them, and use them just about every time I’m in the kitchen.  The last item is on my Christmas wish list for this year.  (I sure hope Santa is reading this…)

Kitchen Scale

  1.  OXO Food Scale – This digital scale is my BFF.  To find out why, click HERE.  What I like most about this particular scale is that it has a tare feature, so you can weigh multiple ingredients in a single container.  Also, the display pulls away from the base for easy reading.  (You don’t have to crouch down to the scale to read the weight.  Score!)

Nielsen Massey Vanilla

2.  Nielsen-Massey Pure Madagascar Vanilla Extract – I first tried Nielsen-Massey’s vanilla extract a couple of years ago, at the suggestion of a baking buddy.  Since then, I won’t use anything else.  It really is that good.

Sliding Measuring Cup3.  Sliding Measuring Cup – I bought this measuring cup about 10 years ago.  It’s in great condition, even after a lot of use.  The measuring cup has an adjustable plunger that slides to cleanly eject solid ingredients.  I use it religiously to measure the shortening for my “Bakery Style” American Buttercream recipe.

Bench Scraper4.  Stainless Steel Bench Scraper – This is one product that I refuse to live without.  Sounds kind of dramatic, but it’s true.  For an awesome tutorial on how to use this tool to frost your cakes, click HERE.  Most bench scrapers have a handle that extends beyond the blade.  This one doesn’t, which makes it much, much easier to achieve a smooth, even finish on my cakes.

Culinary Torch5.  Culinary Blow Torch –  This baby is on my Christmas list for this year.  I’m super jazzed at all of the possibilities.  I’m also chomping at the bit to toast marshmallow frosting that’s piped atop some delish chocolate cupcakes.  (Please Santa, I’ve been good this year.  For the most part.)

   Hope these ideas help.  Have a wonderful holiday season!


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?


Super Quick Tip: A Scale Is a Baker’s BFF. No Lie. 08/12/2012

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!


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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