Birthday cake … yum! {baking}

Friday was Ben’s birthday and I just cannot let a birthday pass without baking a cake. Unfortunately for me all of my most favorite birthday cakes have two things in common – 1. They are baked on sheet trays and 2. They contain buckets and buckets of butter. These two traits are a problem because 1. Our new house (while super fabulously amazing) has a doll sized oven. Ok… maybe a bit larger than doll sized but it doesn’t hold my sheet trays (boo hoo! I cannot wait until we can put in a massive oven in a few years!) and 2. I am currently not eating any dairy since I’m nursing a baby with a milk protein intolerance.

So what’s a lady to do?

I started searching around on a few of the blogs that I read for a dairy free cake (because it doesn’t have to be *vegan* just dairy free… I can still have eggs) and didn’t find any that tempted me but I DID find this cake which looked simply amazing – Forgiving Martha’s vanilla buttercake with strawberry icing. I had first seen her blog thanks to a facebook post by a friend for her chavocado pudding (and yes, it sounds weird but it is delicious as well!) and knew that she posts a lot of vegan recipes… but this butter cake was anything BUT vegan (hello, butter!) I decided to try it anyway, using earth balance (a butter substitute) and just following the rest of the recipe exactly. The batter actually reminded me a lot of the batter for my favorite sheet tray but I was skeptical as to how it would turn out. Ben suggested we test out the convection setting on our oven (hey, at least if it has to be tiny it’s somewhat fancy) and to my shock and amazement the cake cooked perfectly evenly all the way through. It was also not too dense or too dry… just simply delicious! Mmmmmm.

I tried to make the frosting as well (because it looks SO good) but let’s just say that the earth balance and strawberries did NOT want to mingle. No matter what I tried I couldn’t get an emulsion out of them, just a gloppy mess. Maybe it was my fault and the temperature was off, or maybe it’s just a fact of using a butter substitute but, but that whole batch went straight to the trash can. I decided instead to make a variation on the icing I’d made for Ben’s birthday cupcakes for work earlier in the week (mmm cupcakes). It’s a recipe for vegan chocolate mint cupcakes but I altered it to be an almond icing – substitute almond extract for mint and leave out the food color. This kind mixed up much much better.

I put a layer of icing and a layer of strawberries between the two layers of cake, coated the whole thing in icing and decorated with strawberries.

The effect wasn’t quite exactly the same (no fluffy pinkness in the icing) but still pretty mouth-watering if I do say so myself. Mmmmmmm cake. I’m glad that even with a tiny oven and non-dairy requirement I was still able to make a tasty cake

(photo via instagram… I didn’t have time once it was finished to take a picture with my camera… oops)

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Birthday cake … yum! {baking}

some things I’ve made lately {baking}

With all this posting about my wardrobe (probably excessive amounts of posting, but that’s what a one a day challenge is for, right?) you’d think I haven’t been up to much of anything else. Actually the opposite is true. I’ve been up to lots of something elses. I am almost done knitting Amelia a new fall jumper dress. I’m also painfully close to finishing Paul’s quilt (although it’s taken way, way too long) and I also made the kids Halloween costumes. Plus I’ve been baking. A LOT. We’ve had at least one kind of muffin and one kind of cookie or treat every week for the past three weeks. Some weeks we’ve had two kinds of muffins. Crazy, I know. These are some of the latest (and tastiest) things I’ve cooked up.

Fall muffins. Based on this post at joy the baker. I made a few small changes. First, I made muffins (obviously) because we didn’t have a loaf pan and the kids love muffins anyways. That meant I needed to bake them for less time. I didn’t add the nuts because I still worry about the kids choking on nuts. I didn’t have any maple syrup so I used honey, and since honey is thicker than syrup I added a smidge more water. I also threw in an egg just for kicks, because, you know, I’d changed so much already I thought “why not?” They turned out DELICIOUS… some of my favorite of all time. I am glad that there are so many (the recipe made 2 dozen) because now I can eat them for breakfast, lunch and dinner. And snacks. Mmmmm, muffin snacks.

The second thing I made is a batch of carrot cookies. I know that carrots and cookies might not *seem* like a natural combination but they actually go quite well together. Especially with a delicious citrus glaze. Just to make things complicated for you if you’re trying to make the same thing at home (it seems I can’t leave a poor recipe alone) I used less oil and more carrot (I used 5 whole carrots as someone in the reviews suggested) and I also made a lemon glaze instead of an orange glaze since we didn’t have any orange juice. They turned out delicious and fluffy and irresistible. I have been eating at least 2 a day since I baked them. They also make a delightful breakfast 🙂

Aaaand… mini pie. These might be my favorite and also might make an appearance at Thanksgiving (I’m dreaming of a whole spread of different flavors of mini fruit pies) I can’t say enough good things about these. You should just go make them. You won’t regret it. Mine might not be as photogenic as the one in the tutorial but I promise you it’s as tasty.

some things I’ve made lately {baking}

tasty muffins for my lady {baking}

Amelia is addicted to muffins – or rather maybe she’s just a muffin hound. She can’t really be addicted since she’s not capable of going and getting one for herself. All I know is she gobbles them up whenever presented with them. The trouble is most muffins (from places like Starbucks, which I am sad to say she’s had many a muffin from) are loaded with lots of fat and sugar and junk that aren’t really staples to a well balanced diet. I tried making some “healthy” muffins at home a while ago and they were not delicious. Amelia did not love them. A few weeks ago however, a friend of mine sent me the link to these oatmeal applesauce blueberry muffins from a blog called Joy the Baker. I do have to say though, do not go visit the link unless you want to be absorbed into a frenzy of clicking and oohing and ahhing and a desire to make each and every baked good on the blog. Don’t say I didn’t warn you. Most of the goodies she writes about are loaded with the aforementioned fat and sugar but these, well these are more on the healthy side. They just happen to be delicious as well. And Amelia loved them 🙂 I will definitely be making them again

Mmmmm

tasty muffins for my lady {baking}

happy belated birthday, and a cake {baking}

Ben’s birthday was in the end of March. I didn’t get around to making his cake in time for the birthday since I was sick the day before (boo) but I did get the cake done in the same week (yay). What I didn’t accomplish that week however was blogging about the cake.

Back in 2006 I went through a bit of a career crisis, I wasn’t happy with the job I had but I didn’t know what I wanted to do instead. One of my favorite shows was “Ace of Cakes” and it pretty much seemed like the most awesome job ever to make cool cake for a living, so I decided to take a class. I spent a lot of money on professional baking equipment and tools and taking classes to learn to become a professional baker/decorator. I must say it was a LOT more work than I ever imagined and even compared to being a photographer it was a LOT of time on your feet. I just wasn’t cut out for it. What I did discover was that I love baking as a hobby and I jump at every chance I get to whip up a fabulous cake. This time (since I have this new and sadly neglected blog longing for post content) I set out to write a long tutorial-esque post about how to make one of these cakes, taking photos all the way. What I realized in the process however is that #1 these are actually not my recipes to give away and the person who came up with them probably wouldn’t want me to share them (sorry) and #2 there are WAY to many steps and complicated nuances to making a cake like this that the blog post would be about a mile long by them time I was finished with it. That and your cake would probably still not come out just right because I’ve been practicing these ever since I learned them in class I’m *still* not 100% perfect at it.

So instead, here are a few pictures and a few of the reasons why I love baking …

Pretty much the first thing that everyone asks when I show up with one of these cakes is “how did you do it?” meaning how did you get the thin even layers with the filling in between. Well the secret is you actually bake the cake in thin layers in sheet trays and then cut the shape of the cake (I usually do circular cakes because they’re easier to ice since they don’t have corners) out afterward. The bonus about this method of baking is you end up with a big pile of extra cake scrap at the end that you can either eat (yum) or make into something else delicious like crumb biscotti

The second thing people say is “I don’t usually like icing but this is so good” – now if you know me in person and you like to eat my cakes you might want to close your eyes for a minute, because I’m about to disclose the secret to why it’s so good… and you might not want to know. Eyes closed? Good … the secret to the delicious icing is

AN ENTIRE POUND OF BUTTER

Well it is called buttercream, what did you expect? I love love love making buttercream. At first I was scared of it because it’s such a temperamental icing to make. If you get the temperature or speed wrong the whole thing turns to a curdled mess, but once you get the hang of it there is nothing more satisfying than a batch of perfectly made and fluffy delicious icing. The kind I make is called Italian meringue and it involves boiling sugar and pouring it over whipped egg whites, finished off with (of course) a hearty dose of delicious butter. YUM!!

For the filling this time I chopped fresh strawberries and boiled them down with a bit of sugar and water to make some tasty gooey goodness

Once all the components are ready you just stack up the cake, lining the edge of each layer with a thin ribbon of buttercream to hold in the filling, and then ice and *voila*… cake! Delicious.

Happy belated birthday Ben… I love you!

happy belated birthday, and a cake {baking}

two kinds of cookies {baking}

I keep meaning to post these on the blog but I have been constantly interrupted by my children waking up from their naps … how dare they 🙂

I am pretty sure that one of the main reasons Ben keeps me around is that I provide him with lots and lots of baked goods, and those baked goods make him a hero at work. The last two batches of cookies I baked have both been from new recipes (normally I stick to the tried and true favorites) and both turned out to be smashing successes.

First I baked these sugar cookies from made. I love this blog mostly for the sewing. Who knew she was a baker as well? I liked the idea of this recipe because normally sugar cookie recipes have a part in there where you “let the dough rest” in the refrigerator. I am not a patient person when it comes to baking. Letting things “rest” or “chill” is not my strong suit. I always end up taking them out early and botching the whole endeavor. But this recipe made no mention of a break between making the dough and rolling it out so I was intrigued 🙂 They turned out delicious! I am not a big fan of iced cookies so I just left mine plain. I also didn’t have any fun cookie cutters so mine are just circular.

The second batch of cookies was inspired by a bit of television watching. Ben and I don’t watch much tv (other than Lost) and when we do it’s usually the food network. One of our favorite shows is Good Eats… probably because it’s nerdy and entertaining at the same time. I love hearing all the “food science” tidbits and most of the time the food looks decent as well. He also bakes a lot, which earns bonus points with me. Last week he had an episode where he made cookies with pureed lentils. It just sounded to weird to pass up. Here’s the recipe. They were actually really good.

My next baking project will certainly be a belated birthday cake for my dear husband Ben (happy birthday!) whose birthday is today … I would have liked to have it done on time but was sick all day yesterday. He stayed home to take care of me and the kids so I could rest in bed. Did I mention I have the best husband ever? He certainly deserves (and will get soon) a fabulous birthday cake. At least I got him a birthday donut for breakfast 🙂

two kinds of cookies {baking}