Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Daun's Baby Shower

Baby girl. Good friends. Yummy food. Pretty decorations. Lots of presents. Perfect afternoon.
I was asked to make the cake. My first thought: Woo hoo! I get to bake and decorate a cake! My second thought: Wow, I'm completely honored. My next thought: Utter horror. I'm such a perfectionist. I'm such a people-pleaser. And while I bake for other people all the time, I have never decorated a cake for anyone other than my own daughter. And let's be honest --> she doesn't care if everything isn't just right, as long as I let her eat as much as she likes.

That being said, I had a lot of fun creating a fun cake - or I should say cakes - for the shower! Check out my inspiration. Not that I followed the recipe, or any of the suggestions. It was just a starting point.

So here we go... I started a week early and made the candy decorations. Baby candy molds, check. Pink candy melts, check. Melt candies, fill up the molds, tap to get out the air bubbles, refrigerate for about 15 minutes, pop out, repeat. (I also wanted to spell out B-A-B-Y but couldn't find candy molds of letters. So I printed off some templates from Word, put parchment paper on top of the templates, and piped the candy into the shape of the letters.) 
No need to get the candy into all the crevices when filling the mold -
just tap the mold against the counter a couple times and it spreads out on its own!
The next day I baked the cake. I cheated. I used a boxed mix. I'm ok with that. However, at this point I made a mistake that I paid for later --> I used an extra-moist mix, one with pudding. When I was icing the cake I vaguely remembered reading somewhere that these were not good for decorating. It's possible, it just takes more effort since there are more crumbs.
My little taste-tester
I wrapped up the cake and took a couple days off... but the entire time I was thinking that the sheet cake was not quite thick enough to cut in half to add the filling.

I ended up making a second sheet cake. Better to have extra cake than not enough.

After the second cake had cooled, I used my favorite tool - the leveler - to cut the tops off both cakes. I slapped on some canned cream cheese frosting (Yep, cheated again. Still ok with it.) and inverted the second cake on top. Then I measured off 2" squares and sliced away. I seriously felt like I was on an episode of Ace of Cakes. I've never sculpted a cake before. Not that this was exactly sculpting, but it was more cutting than I've ever done on a cake.

I stuck all of these little squares in the fridge overnight, determined to finish strong.

Saturday morning I spent some time with my husband and little girl. They had been so good about letting me work on my project, so we headed downtown to Gus' Pretzels (Olivia called them doughnuts!), and then to Cherokee Street to do some antique window-shopping. It was a nice break. And I picked up some great ideas for another shower coming up later this summer... but I'm getting off track. Nap time brought us back home, and found me back in the kitchen.

I made frosting from scratch for the decorating - yep, good ole' buttercream. It took me a full 3 hours to crumb-coat all of those crazy little cakes. I'll be honest - I've always skipped this step in the past. But I watched a great tutorial that made it look so easy and really convinced me to try it. I will say that even though it took me what seemed like forever, it was completely worth it. (I wonder how much easier it would have been without the extra-moist cake mix...?)
Crumb-coating seals in the crumbs. Then you refrigerate the cake to harden the icing.
After a break for supper, I started in on the actual frosting. The final coat of frosting went on so much faster and spread out so much easier thanks to the hardened crumb coating. Then came the fun part - decorating. I made some chocolate buttercream and piped on the "edges" of the blocks. You can tell I was winding down at this point since I didn't take pictures of the in-between steps. :-) Finally I was able to add the finishing touch of the candies, stuck on with a little more buttercream frosting. {Disclaimer -- if you don't like frosting, these are not the cakes for you!}

The finished product!!!
After putting together the cakes, it was so much fun to relax with the girls at the shower and catch up. Can't wait to meet Daun's little baby girl!
The girls: Beth, Angelica, Allison, Daun, Amanda, Amy, Renee, Marcy, and yours truly
Happy baking!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Crockpot Apple Crisp

When I asked the hubby what he wanted for his Father's Day breakfast, he first said "cereal is fine." I gave him the "wrong answer" look and reminded him that I feel jipped when there's a holiday and I am not able to cook or bake for it. Then true to form, he requested apple cobbler. For breakfast. {This should not surprise any of his family members!} And a second later, he said - "In the crockpot. Like with granola on it." Leave it to Adam to describe something I have not made before and is different from his original request. No worries, I'm used to it. And it gave me a chance to combine a couple of recipes to create just what he wanted.

Crockpot Apple Crisp

Several Granny Smith apples (enough to fill up the crock pot)
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup old-fashioned oats
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup chopped pecans

Peel, core and cut up apples into wedges. Drizzle with a bit of lemon juice if desired. Add the sugar and toss to coat.

In a medium bowl combine the oats, brown sugar, flour and nutmeg. Cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in the nuts. Sprinkle mixture over the apples.

Cook on low 3 hours or high 2 hours. Serve warm with ice cream.


Saturday, June 18, 2011

Cornbread Salad

What?!?! Two posts in less than 24 hours?!?! I know, it's crazy. And more to follow... there was a stretch of time where I had very little extra time, and it was too hot to turn on the oven when I did have time, so I definitely got the itch to bake and create.

While this isn't a dessert by any stretch of the imagination, I can still justify its existence on a baking blog because I *did* have to bake the cornbread before throwing it all together. And besides, it's my blog and I can put on it what I want, right? :-) I had this salad a few years ago at a friend's house a few years ago and fell in love with it, as did my cornbread-lovin' husband. I was super excited when I found the recipe in a cookbook I have had for about 5 years! (I guess that goes to show how much I browse through the salad section... feeding a 2-year-old really changes how health-conscious I am about what I make.)

Cornbread Salad

adapted from Westside Nazarene Church Cookbook

1-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup corn meal
1/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 egg, beaten

Heat oven to 400°. Grease 9" pan. Combine dry ingredients. Stir in milk, oil and egg, mixing just until dry ingredients are moistened. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake 20-25 minutes until light golden brown and toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Allow to cool. Break in pieces and place in serving bowl.

1-1/2 cup mayonnaise or salad dressing
1/3 cup sweet pickle juice
15 ounces red kidney beans, rinsed
1 cup green onions, diced
1 green pepper, diced
2 medium tomatoes, diced
1/2 pound turkey bacon, skillet-fried and chopped

Cream together mayonnaise and pickle juice. (I didn't have this on hand - a simple alternative that worked well is equal parts vinegar and water, about 2 tablespoons sugar, and a dash each of salt and pepper.) Pour dressing over cornbread. Layer all other ingredients on top of dressing and refrigerate until ready to serve.

This is going to be perfect for our Father's Day picnic tomorrow evening!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Strawberry Pretzel Salad

This is THE perfect salad in my books --> that's because it tastes like a dessert, but since it's listed in the salad section of the cookbook, I can justify eating it before my meal, too. (Or as my meal, for that matter!) This was at many potlucks and most family gatherings when I was growing up, but it wasn't until I moved far away from my hometown that I actually made it myself. It quickly became a favorite at our house, too.

Strawberry Pretzel Salad
adapted from Westside Nazarene Church Cookbook

3/4 cup butter, melted
3 tablespoons sugar
3 cups pretzels, crumbled (I like some "crunch" to mine, so I crushed about 3 cups, and then broke up some more to add into the crust mixture.)

1 cup sugar
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
8 ounces whipped topping
1 cup miniature marshmallows

6 ounce package strawberry Jell-O (this is the big box!)
2 cups boiling water
16 ounces fresh strawberries, sliced

Mix butter, sugar and pretzels and pat into a 9x13" pan. Bake at 350° for 10 minutes. Cool.

Cream together sugar and cream cheese. Fold in whipped topping and marshmallows. Spread evenly over crust, pushing all the way to the egdes to seal. (This is important so the topping doesn't seep through before it gels.) Store in the refrigerator while preparing the topping.

Pour the boiling water over the Jell-O and stir to completely dissolve. Cool 25-30 minutes in the refrigerator - it should be cool enough to not melt the cream cheese, but not starting to gel yet. Place the sliced strawberries over the cream cheese filling. Slowly pour the cooled Jell-O over the strawberries. Chill until firm.

If you don't have fresh strawberries, you can use frozen strawberries: Instead of putting the strawberries directly over the cream cheese filling, stir the still-frozen strawberries into the Jell-O before cooling. Reduce the cooling time to 15 minutes since the strawberries will cool off the mixture. Be v-e-r-y careful about pouring the Jell-O mixture over the filling so that you don't make holes in the filling and cause the Jell-O to seep through. Still yummy, just not as pretty!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Fruit Salad

I know, I know, this isn't something I baked. In fact, there isn't even a recipe. But don't you love the colors of summer? And the tastes? I normally don't get overly excited about fruit, but there's something about the juiciness of a fresh pineapple, or the tartness of a fresh kiwi, or the sweetness of a fresh strawberry... good stuff. I just had to share --> and now I'm going to enjoy my fruit salad.