Everyone knows that you can bake your own cakes (or at least, I hope everyone visiting this site knows that). But did you know that you can make your own cake mix, too? And cupcake liners? And confectioners' sugar?
I made an awesome roundup for Craftsy of some of the coolest DIY baking ingredient hacks.
I don't know about you, but I'm a sucker for a showoff cake.
By "showoff cake", I mean a cake which will make people jealous of your amazing kitchen prowess.
This cake, my friends, is an official showoff cake. It's from the cool new book Surprise Cakes by Marsha Janine Phipps.
In the book's overview, it says this:
"The impact of your cake--traditionally lost upon cutting - will go on to surprise your guests with hidden designs baked baked directly into the sponge, or through clever use of frostings or jam. With recipes, baking tips, and frostings, you'll be guided through the easy, step-by-step process from the very start of your project to the finish."
See? Exactly like I said. Cakes for showing off. Here's one of my favorite ones from the book, with permission from the publisher.
Hidden Passion Minicakes
This is the perfect treat for a romantic dinner date. Red love hearts attached to the outer layer hint at what’s inside, and once cut, your loved one won’t be able to fathom how you achieved the vertical stripes! The pretty hearts are an addition inspired by my friend Davina.
Preparation Time: 45 minutes plus baking and chilling | Servings: 4
- 1 ¾ oz (50 g) red gumpaste
- Confectioner’s sugar, to dust
- ½ cup (4. oz/125 g) unsalted butter, softened
- ¾ cup (5. oz/150 g) superfine sugar
- 1 extra-large egg, at room temperature
- 1 ¼ cups (5 oz/140 g) allpurpose flour
- 1 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
- ½ tsp baking soda
- Pinch of salt
- ½ cup (4. fl oz/125 ml) buttermilk
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 tsp white wine vinegar
- 2 tsp red gel food coloring
- 2 tbsp water
- ½ x batch Classic Buttercream (see below)
- 1 lb 10 oz (750 g) white ready to use fondant
Preheat oven to 350.F (180.C). Line a jellyroll pan that’s roughly 14 x 9 inches (35 Å~ 23 cm) with parchment paper.
Roll out the red gumpaste on a work surface dusted with confectioner’s sugar. Use a heart-shaped cutter that’s roughly ½ inch (1 cm) tall and wide to cut out 20–25 hearts. Set aside.
Fit the paddle attachment to a stand mixer. Set the mixer to a medium speed, then blend together butter and superfine sugar until the mixture is pale. Add the egg and mix it in thoroughly. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl.
In a medium-sized bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt.
In a small jug, mix together the buttermilk, vanilla extract, and white wine vinegar.
Add half of the dry ingredients to the butter, sugar, and egg mixture in the bowl of the stand mixer and blend on a low speed. Once incorporated, add half of the buttermilk mixture. Once incorporated, scrape down the sides of the bowl and repeat, adding the rest of your dry and liquid ingredients to the bowl in the same way.
In a small jug, stir the red gel food coloring into the water, ensuring the gel is completely dissolved and that there are no lumps. Pour this into your mixture and blend in the color on a slow speed until it is evenly distributed throughout.
Spoon the colored mixture into the prepared pan, ensuring it reaches the corners. Bake for 20 minutes, until the center of the sponge bounces back when touched.
Dampen a dish towel with cold water and place it on top of the cake. Flip over the pan (use a dry dish towel to handle the jellyroll pan as this will be hot). Gently and slowly peel away the parchment paper. Tightly roll up the cake up, starting the roll along one of the longest edges, in the damp dish towel, then leave for at least 30 minutes to allow it to cool completely.
Carefully unroll the cake—it will be very moist so do this slowly, to avoid tearing the sponge, but don’t worry if it does tear, as the cake will still roll back into shape. Spread the buttercream across the top, starting from the middle and spreading outward until it reaches . inch (1 cm) from the edges. The cream should be approximately (5 mm) thick, which is roughly the same thickness as that of your cake. Now carefully reroll your cake.
Slice your swiss roll into 4 equal pieces. Sit these upright on a plate and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Using an angled metal spatula, apply a thin crumb coat (see page 20) to your cake and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Roll out the white fondant to a thickness of . inch (5 mm) on a work surface dusted with confectioner’s sugar. Make sure the surface area is large enough to cut out 3 large circles with which to cover your cakes. Cut out 1 circle, then remove 1 cake from the refrigerator and cover it with the fondant. Now set the cake in position on your presentation plate. Repeat with the remaining cakes.
Apply your hearts around the base of the cakes, using a dampened paintbrust to stick them in place. When serving, slice down the center of the cake for the best visual impact.
Quick and simple and absolutely delicious, this buttercream continues to be a favorite frosting with bakers around the world. It is rich, sweet and firm, so it forms a nice base for fondant decoration, and is perfect for decorating cupcakes. This recipe can be easily adapted by choosing different flavors of extract, or cocoa powder for chocolate buttercream.
Preparation time: 10 minutes
Portion: Enough to fill and cover an 8-inch (20-cm) cake with 3 layers or top at least 12 cupcakes
3 ½ cups (1 lb 2 oz/500 g) confectioner’s sugar
1 cup (9 oz/250 g) unsalted butter, softened and cubed
1 tbsp milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
Gel food color (optional)
1. Pour the confectioner’s sugar into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and set to medium speed. One by one, add the cubes of butter and allow them to be slowly mixed into the sugar. It may take a minute or two for the buttercream to begin to form, so be patient.
2. Once all the butter is incorporated, add the milk and continue to mix on a medium speed. Once the milk is incorporated, leave the mixer to continue blending the mixture on a high speed for about
5 minutes until the frosting is light and fluffy.
3. Add the vanilla extract (or another flavoring of your choice). If you are coloring the frosting, use gel food color. Reduce the stand mixer’s speed setting to slow and add small amounts at a time using a toothpick (allowing the stand mixer to blend the color for you) until you have the desired shade.
Who would you make this cake for?
DIY Pudding mix. Yes!! (CakeSpy for Craftsy)
The cutest and most delicious infographic ever! (CakeSpy for Craftsy)
From "Broken Angel" to condos. This was a building very familiar to me, built by a strange but wonderful man I befriended at Pratt. It was bittersweet to read. (NY Times)
Ever heard of goetta? Not sweet but interesting. (NKY Tribune)
Sweet potato biscuits. Can you even handle it? (CakeSpy)
Rhubarb "big crumb" coffee cake. Take a big bite, mouth! (Eggs on Sunday)
A definitive guide to flour. Handy! (Huffington Post)
Deep-fried cupcakes on a stick. YES! (Serious Eats)
A history of how food stamps have tried to ban junk food. (Think Progress)
Banana coconut cream popsicles. YES! (Spoonful of Flavor)
How to make your own coloring book. (Craftsy)
Chocolate cake with basil buttercream (Vanilla Bean Blog)
How to store baking baking ingredients. (CakeSpy for Craftsy)
Strawberry shortcake pudding. YES. (Something Swanky)
Book of the week: Biscuits: Sweet and Savory Southern Recipes for the All-American Kitchen. I shared a sweet potato biscuit recipe from this book the other day, and every other one in the book looks just as good. For instance...Tavern Biscuits. Ever heard of 'em? I'm intrigued, and that one is my next recipe conquest!
How to draw fruit. Don't say I never taught you nuthin'.
How to draw vegetables. Yes: I teach you the important stuff, people.
How to pair alcohol and cake. Some interesting methods!
Vintage desserts that simply must make a comeback. I decree it!
How to make seven minute frosting. It's heavenly!
Essential supplies for oil painting. For making sweet art!
How to draw from memory: two easy methods.
How to draw trees. You need to know this!
Umm...did you know that you can make your own pudding mix? It is awesome for gifts. It is also awesome for making sure that you can make a dessert for yourself in minutes.
CakeSpy Note: I was super excited to receive a review copy of the awesome new book Biscuits by Jackie Garvin in the mail. I mean, everyone loves biscuits. But I might just love biscuits slightly more than the average bear.
In particular, there was a recipe that caught my eye for sweet potato biscuits. This brought back some big-time carb-filled memories of the sweet potato biscuits I used to buy every day at Fairway in New York City, when I lived there. They were roughly the size of your head plus mine together, and while in one regard they were supermarket-caliber biscuits, there was just something about them that kept me coming back. So I've always taken an interest in sweet potato biscuits in the media.
These ones are stellar and worth your time, people. But I'll let you read it yourself, in this sweet excerpt from the book.
The goodness created when sweet potatoes marry homemade biscuits is the stuff about which movies are made. The flavors of sweet potato and spices bring personality to the biscuits without being overpowering. The biscuits are more like your favorite cousin and not like your least favorite great uncle.
Sweet Potato Biscuits
Yield: about 24 (2½ inch) biscuits
3 cups self-rising flour
¼ cup light brown sugar
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
½ cup unsalted butter, cubed and chilled
1 average-sized sweet potato, baked, cooled and peeled
1 cup half-and-half
Preheat oven to 450.
Mix together flour, and next four ingredients. Cut in butter until flour mixture resembles coarse ground meal.
Add sweet potato. Mix with dry ingredients.
Pour in milk and mix, with spoon or hands, until incorporated. Dough will be wet and sticky.
Turn out dough onto a well-floured surface. Keep sprinkling flour on dough until it’s no longer sticky and holds its shape. Roll out to 1-inch thick. Cut with 2½-in. biscuit cutter dipped in flour.
Place 1 inch apart on a sheet pan that has been sprayed with nonstick spray or covered with a baking mat. Brush tops with cooking oil or butter.
Bake in a 450° preheated oven for 12 to 15 minutes or until tops are golden brown.
Serve with Cinnamon Honey Butter.
Cinnamon Honey Butter
To make, combine:
- ½ cup softened unsalted butter
- 1 tablespoon honey
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
Do you like sweet potato biscuits?
How to draw vegetables. (CakeSpy for Craftsy)
Or if you prefer sweet healthy treats...how to draw fruit. (CakeSpy for Craftsy)
Peanut butter cup cheesecake. Let's be naughty. (Broma Bakery)
Satsuma pistachio dacquoise with buttercream. Delicious-sounding and stunning. (Tartelette)
Brown sugar swirl cake with brown sugar frosting. So good you will DIE. Not actually. (CakeSpy)
In case you missed it: peanut butter mousse served in cups made of peanut butter. (Peanut Butter and Co)
Is your soft-serve toxic? If it's from McDonalds, the answer is probably. (Food Safety Blog)
Let me teach you something useful: how to draw trees. (CakeSpy for Craftsy)
Twice-baked pistachio and chocolate croissants. STOP IT. (A cup of tea solves everything)
Not literally sweet...but totally sweet. The ultimate breakfast sandwich. So worth clicking over. (The Spiffy Cookie)
Four citrus shortbread bars. SERIOUSLY. (Blogging over Thyme)
In case you missed it: me on the Food Psych Podcast. So worth listening to. (Food Psych)
21 vintage desserts and baking techniques that should make a comeback. (CakeSpy)
Book of the week: Ruby Bakes a Cake. Why am I telling you to buy an I Can Read Book? Because my awesome mom illustrated it, and it involves cake. BUY IT NOW.
Seven-minute frosting. If you’re a cake decorator, chances are you’ve at least heard of the stuff: A fluffy, cloud-like cake topping which sets firm and tastes delicately of marshmallows.
Today’s the day to try your hand at making this unique topping with this easy-to-follow tutorial for how to make seven-minute frosting. It tastes great with chocolate milk poke cake!
No, I haven't gone macabre on you. A Dutch Baby is actually a type of oven pancake--no actual baby included in the batter.
More importantly than the name though is the experience of eating it. It's awfully delicious. This version is extra special since it's made with olive oil, which makes it taste fancy and interesting, and filled with dark chocolate, which nobody will ever, ever complain about (trust me). I was proud to develop this sweet recipe for Colavita and Perugina Chocolate!
CakeSpy Note: I thought it was about time to share this excerpt from my awesome book, The Secret Lives of Baked Goods. If you find the witty repartee engaging and the dessert tantalizing, well then, maybe you should buy the book.
The Story of Baked Alaska
It wouldn’t be so crazy to assume that this dramatic dessert, characterized by a chilly core of ice cream with a thick coating of snowdrift-like meringue, hails from Alaska. But, alas, you’d be wrong. Baked Alaska may take its name from the Last Frontier, but it was born many miles away and many years prior to the state’s annexation.
The idea of cooking a cold dessert encased with pastry is documented as early as the 1700s in China. At that time, the desserts would have borne little resemblance to what we call Baked Alaska today—they would have been more like frozen ices or creams coated in breadcrumbs. However, when Chinese delegates introduced such treats to the French, the concept excited pastry chefs, who adapted it in a most delightful sugar-, cream-, and egg-filled way. America’s first famous Francophile, Thomas Jefferson, may have served something along these lines as early as 1802.
But it’s an eccentric genius named Count Rumford (born Benjamin Thompson) to whom we owe a big, sweet thanks when it comes to further developing this showy dessert—he’s the one credited with introducing the meringue coating in the 1800s. Rumford was an interesting fellow—he was an American physicist living in Europe (and a former spy, to boot). Apparently in his free time he tinkered with food science—and while experimenting with dessert techniques, he realized that while pastry would conduct a lot of the heat and protect a cold core, a layer of meringue would do so to an even greater degree. He created a dessert that he called “omelette surprise,” which was also dubbed omelette à la norvégienne or “Norwegian omelette,” in reference to its snowy appearance.
The dessert’s popularity caught on during the Victorian era, and these elaborate confections, often called bombes, were made in various fancy shapes.
In 1876, the dessert made a stateside splash at Delmonico’s Restaurant in New York City, where Charles Ranhofer prepared it to celebrate the newly acquired Alaska Territory. Originally dubbed the “Alaska-Florida” (inspired by the cold-hot duality of the dessert), the name was eventually shortened to Baked Alaska. It became known as a dessert for
the privileged, and was popularized in well-heeled destinations as far away as Monte Carlo.
After the blown-out bluster of the Victorian era and the dull austerity of the Depression and war years, the dessert enjoyed a renaissance in the 1950s, when Alaska was granted statehood. It was quite the popular hostess dessert and piece de resistance throughout the ’60s. One flamboyant variation called Bombe Alaska calls for dark rum to be splashed over the Baked Alaska. Lights are then turned down and the whole dessert is flambéed while being served! Exercise caution if you decide to try this at home.
Makes one 9-inch dome (12 servings)
- 10 cups (5 pint-size contain- ers) ice cream, slightly softened (all one flavor, or several flavors)
- Brownie Base (recipe follows)
- 6 cups Meringue Coating (recipe follows)
To make the ice cream dome, place a 3-quart mixing bowl (with a diameter of about 9 inches) in the freezer to chill. Line it with plastic wrap. Fill the bowl with ice cream; smooth and level the top surface. Cover the surface with plastic wrap and freeze until the ice cream is very hard, at least 4 hours, or up to 24 hours. Note: To make miniature Baked Alaskas, you can split the ice cream between multiple small domed bowls (with diameters of about 3 inches).
Set the brownie layer out on a large, flat, ovenproof plate. Unmold the ice cream dome on top of the brownie layer, but leave the plastic wrap on top. Trim any bottom edges of the brownie layer to make it flush with the ice cream. Place this big, cold blob into the freezer.
Make the meringue cover, then take the ice cream dome from the freezer and remove the plastic wrap. Spread the meringue onto the ice cream dome, covering it completely. Use the back of a spoon to flick and pull little peaks up from the surface (for a nubbly texture when it bakes). Freeze for at least 3 hours, or overnight.
Near the time you’d like to serve your Baked Alaska, heat the oven to 500 degrees F, making sure there’s enough clearance to fit the dessert. When the oven is at temperature, remove the assembled bombe from the freezer, set it on a parchment-lined baking sheet, and put it into the oven. Bake for 3 to 5 minutes, rotating the dome once or twice, until the peaks turn a golden brown color. Let the cake stand at room temperature for about 15 minutes before serving (this will ensure that you’ll be able to slice through it without the crust getting all gooey and oozey). Slice and serve; freeze any leftovers for up to 5 days.
(note: you can use whatever brownie recipe you like, baked in a 9-inch cake pan)
- 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
- 8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped (about 1 cup)
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1⁄2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1⁄2 teaspoon salt
- 4 large eggs
- 2 cups sugar
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- Heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour the bottom and sides of a 9-inch round cake pan; line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper.
- Heat the butter and chocolate over low heat, using either a small, heavy-bottomed saucepan or a double boiler. Stir occasionally until melted. Set aside to cool.
- In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt until combined. Set aside.
- In a large bowl, whisk the eggs, sugar, and vanilla until well combined. Add the slightly warm chocolate mixture to the eggs and whisk to combine. Add the flour mixture and stir with a wooden spoon until just combined. Spoon the batter into the prepared cake pan; use an offset or rubber spatula to smooth and level the batter.
- Bake for 45 to 55 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out mostly clean. Set the pan on a wire rack until the brownie layer is completely cool.
8 egg whites, at room temperature
1⁄4 teaspoon cream of tartar 1⁄8 teaspoon salt
3⁄4 cup sugar
Using a stand mixer with a clean, dry bowl and fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the egg whites, cream of tartar, and salt on medium-high speed until the whites form soft peaks. Increase the speed to high and add the sugar in a slow stream, continuing to whip until stiff, shiny peaks form.
Have you ever tried Baked Alaska?
Like fashion, the world of dessert is subject to trends and changes in taste.
But just because a sweet food has fallen out of vogue doesn’t mean it should be forgotten; on the contrary, it’s cause to preserve its memory. To celebrate the desserts of yesteryear, I've delved through recipe archives and come up with the ultimate collection of vintage desserts and baking techniques that should make a comeback.
Even if you don't know or care what a drishti is, you might have fun with this helpful yoga guide as presented by Yogacorns.
A drishti is the direction of the gaze in a yoga pose, intended to help boost concentration. Of course, if you don't care much for yoga, you can enjoy the cute unicorns and then fix your own drishti on the next delicious dessert!
The magic never ends here, and this is your proof: magical cups made of peanut butter--the perfect vessel for peanut butter chocolate mousse!
You'll find the entire recipe and tutorial in all its glory on Peanut Butter and Company's website.
Cinco de Mayo! I really hope you're going to make white chocolate cups that look like margaritas. (CakeSpy)
Margarita Jell-O Shot Cake is also acceptable. (CakeSpy)
Margarita pudding cups also sound tasty. (Sweet Cuppicakes)
How to pair alcohol and cake. A fantastic article by ME. (CakeSpy)
An interesting historical look at yogurt. (Detroit News)
"New Coke"? Big flop. (History.com)
Orange blossom pistachio milk. Sounds amazing! (Kale and Caramel)
Syllabub! It's fun to say and delicious to eat, so let's revive this lost dessert. (History.com)
Homemade sprinkles. Seriously! Amazing! (Craftsy)
Chocolate lasagne meets tiramisu. Heaven! (An Italian in my Kitchen)
Ever tried natillas? Ever HEARD of natillas? (Just a Pinch)
Remember that time I went to Nanaimo, to celebrate and explore the hometown of my favorite bar? (CakeSpy)
The best cornbread recipe, ever. Bold words! I'm intrigued. (In Jennie's Kitchen)
Peanut butter melting moments with caramelized banana cream. OMG. (Dessert First Girl)
Book of the week: A World of Cake by Krystina Castella. It explores cakes all over the world, complete with recipes, lore, and history. From European stollen to honey fritters in Africa to delicious cassata cake in Italy, this is the most delicious sort of armchair travel!
When I was first introduced to this recipe in my yoga training in Asheville, NC, the name made me titter. "Golden milk" made me think of something that would be discussed on Sex and the City, not something that you'd consider preparing as a health-friendly potable.
However, since I was in yoga training, I did my best to not crack up and instead bowed my hands in prayer, said "Om nom namaste", and drank the stuff up.
Debatable name aside, I highly suggest imbibing this golden milk. Because while yes, it is healthy, the primary fact is that it is delicious.
This recipe starts by making a "tea" of turmeric boiled in water to release its flavor; then, you add milk (I used whole milk, but you can use whatever type you like, dairy or not) and sweeten it with honey to taste.
Since it's used quite sparingly, the turmeric is not overpowering--it's quite subtle, making the milk taste just a little mysterious with an unusual but pleasant nutty-spicy flavor. The honey works beautifully with this fascinating flavor, but if you prefer to omit you can; the natural sweetness of the milk will be enough for some drinkers.
I should probably tell you that it's not just a delicious beverage--it also does boast some health benefits. Turns out, turmeric is super-super good for you, with a bevy of benefits including the one that fascinates me most: It helps reduce brain plaque. I don't want brain plaque, do you?
So, go ahead. Whether you want a tasty thing to drink or want to reduce brain plaque, or BOTH, enjoy this easy and accessible yoga-people recipe that non-yogis can enjoy, too.
This recipe was given to me from one of my yoga teachers, who uses a recipe from Siri Ved Kaur Khalsa's book From Vegetables With Love. I made some adaptations to the recipe to simplify and suit it to my taste. I love warm milk, so I like it served hot, but if you prefer it chilled, that is fine too.
Makes 1 serving (can be doubled, tripled, etc)
- 1/4 teaspoon turmeric (original recipe calls for 1/8 but I found 1/4 was really not too much)
- 1/2 cup water
- 1 cup milk (whatever kind you like)
- honey, to taste
- In a saucepan, bring the turmeric and water to a boil. Reduce to a simmer; let simmer for 8 minutes.
- Add the milk, and continue heating until the milk is as warm as you'd like. Add honey to taste.
- Serve warm.