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Friday
Jan102014

Baker's Dozen: A Batch of Sweet Links!

How to make glow-in-the-dark buttercream. I gave it a try!

I'm intrigued...could they be the best in the world?

How to use sugar sheets.

I think we should all start calling cream puffs "mini eclair balls".

OK, the subject matter is not sweet, but it's totally sweet that I wrote it: olive oils for sauteing.

How to make browned butter: it makes everything taste fancier. 

This made me laugh, though I'm not sure if that was the intent: How to Eat Like a Lady. Includes bonbons, bacon, and candied peel.

No-bake white chocolate and mango cookie dough bites.

How to make a dessert from one of Japan's elite restaurants. My head is spinning!

Strange Japanese candies. Whoa. 

Creative doughnuts. Yum.

Cute store for cake and candy supplies: Yolli. 

The Secret Life of Pie Town (a real place in the USA!).

Thursday
Jan092014

It's Not My Birthday: Marvelous Marble Swirl Cake Recipe

Taste of home cake

I understand that sometimes you want a pinkies-out, delicate and beautiful dessert.

And other times...you just wanna stuff your face with cake.

A week or so ago, I was having one of those days. And almost as if it was a sign from the heavens, I opened up Taste of Home Magazine--you know, to gaze at the feature which included my mini pies. Here I am with the spread:

Listen. The cake in the magazine looked like this.

I am not a photographer...but here is mine.

Taste of home cake

The photos in this post prove that. But I hope that my words can convince you that in spite of the "not ultra pinnable" images, this cake is worth giving a try. Because gosh-darn was it good. It is such a rich cake that I am honest, a slice will do it for you. It's almost like the cake part of a crumb cake, swirled with chocolate. So buttery, so creamy.

And then, the frosting. I sort of improvised with it, and decided to try a sort of sour cream frosting. It was a good decision--the slight tang of the frosting worked so beautifully with the rich cake. The overall result was richer than a king's ransom, and far tastier. 

The decorating was fun, too. Swirling chocolate in the frosting was surprisingly easy, and looked pretty. It also gave a wonderful flavor contrast, adding a solid, dark undertone to go with the sweet and buttery stuff.

Please, please tell me you'll try this cake. It's like having your birthday again, no matter what day of the year. 

Taste of home cake

Marvelous Marble Swirl Cake

Adapted from Taste of Home

For the cake

  • 4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 1 tablespoons, plus 1 1/4 cups butter, softened, divided
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 5 eggs
  • 3 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips

Frosting

  • 3/4 cup sour cream
  • 6 3/4 cup confectioners' sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • some milk on hand, to thin if needed
  • 2 tablespoons chocolate chips

Procedure

  1. In a metal bowl over barely simmering water, melt the chocolate and 3 tablespoons of butter; stir until smooth. Cool to room temperature.
  2. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375 F. Line the bottoms of two 8-inch round baking pans with parchment paper; grease the paper, too.
  3. In a bowl, cream the remaining butter with the sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the vanilla. In another bowl, whisk flour, baking powder, and salt; add to creamed mixture alternately with the sour cream, beating well after each addition.
  4. Remove 2 cups batter to a small bowl; stir in cooled chocolate mixture. Drop plain and chocolate batters by tablespoonfuls into the prepared pans, dividing the batter between the pans. 
  5. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in the pans 10 minutes before removing to wire racks. Peel off the parchment, and let cool completely.
  6. When you have a feeling the the cake will be cool soon, begin on the frosting. In a large bowl, cream the sour cream with the confectioners' sugar until nice and smooth but thick. If it gets too thick and stiff, add the milk as needed to thin. 
  7. If the cakes have rounded tops, level them with a serrated knife. 
  8. Place one cake layer on a serving plate; spread with 3/4 cup frosting.
  9. Top with remaining cake layer. Apply a thin crumb coat and let chill for 20 minutes to lightly set. 
  10. Now, put a nice dollop on the top of the cake. Drop the remaining chocolate on top, and spread the frosting in a circle so that it is woven with chocolate, too. Yum.
  11. Ice the sides with the remaining (plain) frosting. 

Enjoy.

Wednesday
Jan082014

Happy Birthday to Elvis: Banana Peanut Butter Croissant Doughnuts

What would Elvis eat? Um, these. For sure.

Wednesday
Jan082014

CakeSpy for Craftsy: How to Use Sugar Sheets

What is a sugar sheet and how do you use it? Find out here. 

Tuesday
Jan072014

CakeSpy for Craftsy: Chocolate Covered Cherry Stuffed Cupcakes

National Chocolate Covered Cherry Day has come and gone (sorry, yo) but you can keep the good times coming with these cupcakes, stuffed with chocolate covered cherries! Yes! Recipe here.

Monday
Jan062014

Oh My Tasty: Church of Cupcakes, Denver CO

Church of Cupcakes

I tell you, sometimes fact is stranger than fiction. And so here is a tale that involves not only delicious cupcakes, but my big burly dad, a tricycle, and maybe a little sweet gosel. Yep: here is the tale of how my big burly dad found himself fixing the cupcake trike at Church of Cupcakes in Denver.

I was in Denver, among other reasons, to visit the Craftsy HQ. I have written a number of scintillating articles on important subjects such as How to Make Nanaimo Bars and How to Make Crumb Cake and How to Make Butter at Home for these people, and I wanted to meet them. It was a great experience! Here I am with the editorial staff I usually work with. Cute, right?

My dad was with me in Denver, and since we were a little early for my appointment with Craftsy, we decided to get our cupcake on. Naturally, we headed over to Church of Cupcakes. Don't you already love them based on the name?

We knew we'd found the place when we saw this outside.

Church of Cupcakes

Well, technically I've already been here, but it had a different name the last time I went: Lovely Confections. That name was sweet, this one is cheeky. I love them regardless of the name. 

As we got there, we saw proprietress Porsche fiddling with the cupcake tricycle, their mobile cupcake delivery system.

Church of Cupcakes

Immediately, my manly-man dad stepped in to see what he could do.

Dad at Church of Cupcakes

My dad is a tinkerer. When we were little, he was a garbageman--wait, I think you're supposed to use the word sanitation worker now?--and he loved to collect...well, junk. But he'd turn the junk he collected into treasures, such as the coolest bikes ever, which he pieced together from a wheel found here, handlebars found there. Seriously, they were the coolest bikes on the block, as well as the next block over. 

While he tinkered, Porche met Porkchop the pug for the first time (she's long admired him on facebook), and I ogled the cupcakes. 

Cupcakes

Oh, what cupcakes. We picked up a box of four: vanilla-vanilla, pumpkin ("Oh my Gourd!"), chocolate-salted caramel, and honey. Not long after, me and daddio busted into the box. He had the salty caramel frosted chocolate; I had the lavender-infused cake with honey-lemon frosting. 

I should also pause to tell you how funny and cute everything is in Church of Cupcakes. Cute tees, glitter everywhere, funny puns. I am in love!

Church of Cupcakes

Tees Church of Cupcakes

Listen. I'll be straight up with you, and I would say the same to my dad: he's not what one might call a "mindful" taster. This puppy was gone in 2 bites.

But from his expression, and the fact that he said "that was very good" or something to that tone, it must have been great. The taste I was gifted was awesome: dark chocolate. Light, buttery sweetness. And yummy salt. Perfection.

Church of Cupcakes

And listen. The lavender-honey-lemon variety. Believe it or not, I had without thinking about it chosen the exact thing I had chosen last time. And it was still so, so good.

It had a soupcon of lavender, but it wasn't perfumey by any means. It was delicate. But gawd, was it buttery. The honey-lemon made it taste slightly fancy, but it still had the simple appeal of vanilla. It was a cupcake that made me smile. 

Church of cupcakes

The other two varieties were devoured by my sweetest guy (not Porkchop). He ate both in about 2 bites (so like my dad!) but proclaimed them beautifully done.

Here I am with the owner.

Church of Cupcakes

I think that if you are in Denver, you need to visit. It's sweet and cute there! Perfect.

Church of Cupcakes, 1489 Steele Street, Denver; online here.

Sunday
Jan052014

Beignet, Done That: Cafe du Monde, New Orleans

I'd love to keep you in suspense about what I ordered at Café du Monde in New Orleans, but if you've ever been there (and perhaps even if you haven't), you will already know the answer: beignets.

Beignets

Not only are they the only foodstuff on the menu, but they're also the dish, accompanied by cafe au lait, for which the establishment is famous.

Qu'est-ce c'est, le beignet?

These heavenly bits of fried dough are related to doughnuts, but they’re far Frenchier. In their purest form, they are simply fried rectangles or triangles of sweet dough that puff and become pillowy when fried. They are served with copious amounts of confectioners’ sugar. More adventurous bakers will offer different flavors and even filled varieties in New Orleans, but it's pretty straight-up at Café du Monde.

More about Cafe du Monde.

Beignets, cafe du monde

Perhaps the most famous beignet maker in town is this Café du Monde, which has been beignet-ing it since--believe it--1862. It is open 24 hours a day in the historic French Quarter and specializes in beignets and coffee laced with chicory. Are they the best in town? Locals have varying opinions, but it’s a singular and necessary experience in New Orleans. To be sitting "courtside" in the covered outdoor seating area and watching buskers, local vendors, and passers-by, and just generally seeing the world go by, is as evocative a New Orleans image as eating a croissant in Paris, or having tea in the UK.

Listen. Not that you asked me, but the 'Monde has several locations that you shouldn't bother with if your time is limited. The true experience is at the original location, on Decatur street, in the French Market.

How it works

Cafe du monde

Café du Monde runs a tight machine. You arrive, and you sit. Your napkin holder is also your menu. Of course you want beignets, but what to drink? Cafe au lait (do it)? Or just plain chicory coffee? They do other, fancier drinks, too, but don't bother. 

The beignets will arrive, three on a plate, with an almost comical amount of confectioners' sugar forming mountaintop peaks on top. The sugar partially dissolves into the fried pastries as you eat, but it is pretty much guaranteed that you will leave the establishment looking like you have a serious cocaine problem. You know, from what I have seen on TV. 

You may think to yourself that you won't finish the beignets, but you will. Because even if you've heard that there are better beignets in town, it is hard to beat this experience and they are quite good. If there are two of you, you might just order more. Just let it happen--you're in New Orleans, after all. It's a good place to let it all hang out, and everyone deserves a treat. 

Beignet, done that

Cafe du Monde, 800 Decatur Street, New Orleans. Online here.

Friday
Jan032014

Baker's Dozen: A Batch of Sweet Links!

Thursday
Jan022014

Simple and Sweet: Homemade Vanilla Pudding

Pudding

What in the world do you do after you've just made Pavlova and find yourself with four unused egg yolks?

Here's an idea: you make pudding. Delicious, rich, not low-fat pudding. And you top it with sprinkles, as above. And you think to yourself, "why isn't topping pudding with sprinkles a thing?". Seriously, why not?

Why don't people put sprinkles on pudding?

Pudding

But anyway, back to the pudding. I did find myself with a few extra yolks, so I decided to pudding it up. I adapted a recipe by Baking Bites, but made it eggier with one extra yolk and didn't fuss with a vanilla bean this time (I wanted this to be quick, after all). 

The pudding came out unbelievably rich, and was especially pleasant served warm. Custardy and comforting and cozy. 

About pudding...

It makes me wonder: what are your thoughts on pudding? I used to be bored by it, but I guess you could say I have a somewhat newfound appreciation. It's so simple, but is capable of being so comforting, hitting the spot in a way that isn't as assertively sweet and cold and creamy as ice cream, but is more satisfying, sweet-wise, than yogurt.

As I made the pudding, there were little flecks that remained when I tempered the eggs. I had a few spoonfuls and thought "meh, it tastes fine".

But then, just as I am thinking, these little bumps are not a big deal, a thought crystallizes in my mind about what they actually are: eggy bits. Instantly, I can't get past it. Eggy bits, outta my pudding!  Luckily, there is a solution. Press the pudding through a mesh strainer. Push with the back of a spoon or a spatula. Strainer

The pudding will strain through with minimal eggy bits, which will all form a deposit on the inside of the strainer. That's right: stay outta my pudding! Down the disposal with you lumps.

Vanilla Pudding

Makes 2 or 3 servings

  • 2 teaspoons good quality vanilla extract
  • 2 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1/4 tsp salt

Ingredients

  1. In a medium saucepan, combine the vanilla, milk, and sugar. Bring to a low boil. Remove from heat.
  2. Boil
  3. Now, whisk together the yolks, cornstarch, and salt in a medium bowl.
  4. Whisking constantly, pour this into the hot milk mixture in the saucepan.
  5. Incorporate
  6. Put the saucepan back on heat, and cook on medium heat until it comes to a simmer, stirring frequently with a rubber spatula. Cook for 2-3 minutes at a simmer, or until the pudding thickens. Remove from heat. Pudding 
  7. If there are eggy bits, strain the mixture through a mesh strainer to remove them. Eggy bits
  8. Place in serving dishes. It tastes best served warm, in my opinion. 

 

Have you ever made pudding at home?

Tuesday
Dec312013

2013 Was Totally Sweet: 50 Amazing and Sweet Things That Happened

Best year ever

 2013, you were better than keen! You were amazingly great and delicious. I traveled a ton, I did a lot, I had a book come out, and I ate, ate, ate sweets.

Here are a mere 50 of the greatest moments of the year...no particular order. 

Upon reviewing after finalizing my list...could 2014 possibly be any better than this amazing year? I hope so, for me and for you, sweeties!

  1. My second book came out! The Secret Lives of Baked Goods: Sweet Stories & Recipes for America's Favorite Desserts!
  2. I went on book tour. It was awesome.
  3. Why cupcakes are nutritious. Important and relevant, always.
  4. Buttermilk drops in New Orleans. They're not munchkins, they're not doughnut holes, they're their own thing.
  5. Angelo Brocato in New Orleans. A new beloved.
  6. Actually...everything I ate in New Orleans.
  7. Whoo's Doughnuts. Especially the pistachio lemon white chocolate variety.
  8. Jeni's Splendid Ice Cream. Favorite flavor? Banana cajeta. As fun to say as it is to eat.
  9. Horrifying but gratifying: Easter candy pie.
  10. Crumb cake I made. The world's most perfect food?
  11. The tasty scones at Whisk Bakeshop, St. Louis
  12. Gooey butter cake I made. Yes.
  13. Watergate cake: a historically interesting pistachio cake.
  14. 10 layer peanut butter cake. As amazing as it sounds.
  15. Smith Island cake. Amazing, worth trying at least once. Or ten times.
  16. Tunnel of fudge cake: a Pillsbury icon. 
  17. Katharine Hepburn brownies: tasty, and with an interesting story (featured in my book).
  18. Biscuits from The Wandering Goose Cafe. Just look at that thing.
  19. Chocolate walnut pie on a shortbread crust. Derby-style pie with a shortbread crust? Yes, please.
  20. Ice cream from Bassett's, Philadelphia. The post is old but I enjoyed their ice cream anew in 2013.
  21. Hoffman's ice cream, Jersey Shore. Like #20, one I enjoy each year.
  22. Frog cupcakes from What's for Dessert, Spring Lake NJ. A classic!
  23. The mural I painted in Delaware! It was a fantastic project.
  24. Everything pinon in Santa Fe. There's so much pine nut stuff!
  25. Cupcakes from Dream Cakes, Santa Fe. Truly dreamy, and very unique.
  26. Boston cream shortcake. What part of that is not completely right?
  27. My birthday cake, from Dulce in Santa Fe. It's funny and true! I turned 32!
  28. Cupcakes from Swirlz in Chicago for my book signing.
  29. A soy milk daydream. It's sweet n dreamy.
  30. Crumb cake I made: yes, this is the second time it appears. A true favorite!!
  31. Doughnuts from Nickel Diner, Los Angeles. They're awesome.
  32. Peach pie I made. It tastes like summer.
  33. Shortbread cookie truffles. Seriously--crack filled.
  34. Banana coconut cream pie from Jambo Cafe, Santa Fe NM
  35. Homemade brown sugar. Who knew you could make your own?
  36. Parker house rolls. Carb-o-licious.
  37. Church of cupcakesCupcakes from Church of Cupcakes in Denver. Too amazing!
  38. Pie, enjoyed in Pie Town (it actually exists).
  39. Stolen cadbury creme eggs. So much tastier when forbidden.
  40. Sweetened condensed milk Funfetti cake. The name says it all.
  41. Southern grits pie. It's like breakfast and pie all at once!
  42. Muffins from Linda's Seabreeze cafe, Santa Cruz, CA. Much ado about muffin.
  43. The chocolate-filled streets in Hershey, PA. The streets are paved with dreams!
  44. Almond croissant from La Boulange. I love them.
  45. Lady baltimore cake. Fiction, fact? Who knows which is which with this cake.
  46. Food for thought: does cake taste different depending on your state of mind? I vote yes.
  47. Frozen hot chocolate from Holy Cacao, Austin TX. Creamy, dreamy, delicious.
  48. Every single thing from Sugar Mama's Bakeshop, Austin TX. Such talented bakers!
  49. Salted butterscotch cashew shortbread bars. Yes, yes, yes.
  50. Ryba's fudge from Macinac Island, Michigan. It's unlike anything else.
  51. BONUS: Also, every single thing I ate at Huckleberry in Santa Monica.

Not that you asked, but I also have a Most awful thing: Mac n cheese cookies. Oh, no! I wish I could forget them.

Oh, and since I feel like my publisher would want me to say it, buy my book: The Secret Lives of Baked Goods: Sweet Stories & Recipes for America's Favorite Desserts!

Happy 2014, my sweets!

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