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Everett, WA, United States
I love trying new recipes and baking for my friends and family.
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Monday, August 29, 2011

Baking Love

I am in the middle of uploading photos from some of the recipes I've been working on lately and I was thinking about baking and why I love it so much...

I love combining ingredients together and knowing that something good will come out of it.

I love smell and texture as butter and sugar blend together when I start the batter for a cake or cookies.

I love the way egg whites are magical and can make meringue, an omelette, a shiny wash to top bread...

I love the smell of anything homemade and wonderful in the oven. It makes the whole house smell good and feel cozy.

I love finishing a cake or cupcakes and standing back to admire it. Even if it doesn't turn out perfectly, it is always such a great sense of accomplishment.

Most of all, though, I love the way baking makes people feel. As a little girl, I can remember the wonderful, special feeling of blowing out birthday candles on a cake made just for me. I love sour cream cookies made with Matt's great-grandma Hazel's special recipe. There is love in those cookies and you can taste it!

A little while ago, my mom sent me this picture of her and her sisters on her 3rd birthday. I think it is one of the cutest pictures I have ever seen. Look at that beautiful chocolate cake and the look of absolute delight on my mom's face as her sisters sing to her. It is such a beautiful moment. I'm not sure if it was my Grandma or one of my aunts who made the cake, but I am sure that love went into it. That is what baking is all about for me.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Strawberry Cupcakes

This has to be one of my favorite cupcake recipes ever. White cake dotted with strawberry pieces and topped with strawberry meringue buttercream.... mmmm. These cupcakes taste just like strawberry shortcake. They are delicious.

Both the cake and frosting recipes come from Martha Stewart's cupcake cookbook. I made a combination of regular and mini cupcakes for a little barbeque that Matt and I hosted at our house. It isn't the easiest recipe, but it is so fun to make and it is worth it for the deliciousness of these sweet little cupcakes. Here is the recipe!

2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cake flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature
2 1/4 cups sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
3 large eggs, plus 1 egg white
1 cup milk
2 cups finely chopped strawberries

Preheat oven to 350 and line muffin tins with paper liners. Sift together both flours, baking powder, and salt.

With an electric mixer on medium high speed, cream butter, sugar, and vanilla until pale and fluffy.
One of the best pieces of advice I've read about baking is that the creaming of the butter and sugar is something that needs lots of time. Some recipes say 3 minutes. I usually cream the butter by itself first and then add the sugar and go for another 3 minutes. You can't over-do this part of the mixing. The lighter and fluffier the butter and sugar, the lighter and fluffier your cake! Isn't it nice to hear you can't mix it too long at this point? I am always worried about mixing it too much or not enough, but this step is pretty fool proof. Whew!

Add the eggs (and single egg white) one at a time, beating until each is incorporated. Reduce speed to low. Add flour mixture in two batches, alternating with the milk, and beating until well combined. Fold in chopped strawberries by hand.

Divide batter evenly among cups, filling each three-quarters full. Bake until golden and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out cleanly. I baked the mini cupcakes for about 15 minutes and the full-size cupcakes for 25 minutes.

Allow the cupcakes to cool completely before frosting.

And now, for the wonderful frosting. This frosting is the best part of the cupcakes, in my opinion. It has a beautiful, silky texture, isn't too sweet, and gets its pretty pink color from the strawberries alone... no added food coloring.

Strawberry Meringue Buttercream

1 1/2 cups fresh strawberries, coarsely chopped
4 large egg whites
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 1/2 (3 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature

Puree strawberries in a food processor... looks like beautiful jam, doesn't it?

Combine egg whites and sugar in the heatproof bowl of a standing mixer, set over a pan of simmering water. Whisk constantly by hand until mixture is warm to the touch and sugar has dissolved.
I usually lift up the whisk and rub the mixture between my fingers to make sure I can't feel any grains of sugar. If it is smooth and feels warm, it's ready.

Attach the bowl to the mixer with the whisk attachment and gradually increase to medium-high speed. Mix until stiff peaks form. Continue mixing until the mixture is fluffy and glossy and completely cool, about 10 minutes.

One way to check if the meringue part of the frosting is ready is to try the upside-down beater test. If the egg whites stand on their own in a little peak, you are ready to add the butter.

With the mixer on medium-low speed, add the butter a few tablespoons at a time, mixing well after each addition. Once all butter has been added, scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula and switch to the paddle attachment. Beat on low speed until all air bubbles are eliminated, about 2 minutes.

At this point, you could add vanilla and have a basic swiss meringue buttercream, which on its own is delicious and makes a great basic frosting for cakes and cupcakes.

Add strawberries and beat until combined. Frost your beautiful strawberry cupcakes with this frosting and enjoy!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Lovely Lemon Cupcakes

I made some lemon cupcakes this weekend to take to Matt's parents' open house. Lemon is so light and summery! Especially in a mini cupcake. I decided to try out another one of my "cake mix doctor" recipes since the chocolate cake turned out so well for the cake pops. I wasn't quite as happy with this one. I wish I had gone with a from-scratch lemon cake recipe that I've used before. Oh well... baking is all about trying new things and learning from them, right? My saving grace on these cupcakes was the lemon buttercream frosting. Yum! It was a perfect blend of tart lemon and sweet frosting.

I like the idea of the cake mix doctor recipes, but I've tried 3 now and only been happy with one of them. This one wasn't bad, but it wasn't wonderful either. You start with a store bought cake mix and fancy it up a little with some home-made touches. For this lemon recipe, I used a yellow cake mix and added:

1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
3 large eggs
1/2 cup lemon juice
1 tablespoon lemon zest

Mix all ingredients on medium-high speed of an electric mixer for 1-2 minutes. Bake at 350. (I did about 12 minutes for the mini-cupcakes and 20 minutes for the regular size cupcakes).

The cupcakes came out pretty moist, but I could taste a little of the cake mix flavor and not enough lemon. I think when you have a lemon cupcake it should really taste like lemon. Luckily, this frosting added some nice lemon flavor. I halved a recipe from my Magnolia Bakery cookbook and it was a perfect amount to frost my 4 dozen mini cupcakes and 6 regular cupcakes.

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
4 cups sifted confectioners sugar
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 tablespoon lemon zest (ok... this part of the recipe I did not cut in half, but I think it was better with more zest. More zest is the best!)

Blend all ingredients on medium-high speed of an electric mixer until fully incorporated and smooth, about 2 minutes.

I put the frosting into a ziplock bag with a star tip and piped little swirls on each cupcake. One of the best tips I've learned about making cupcakes is that piping a swirl on top is way easier than it looks. It just adds that extra special and pretty touch to the top of a cupcake. I sprinkled each cupcake with some white sugar sprinkles for a little bit of sparkle.

Overall, the cupcakes were a hit at the open house. There were only a few left by the end of the night!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Adventures with Cake Pops

The other day, Autumn had the great idea of making cake pops. We've never tried it before, but decided to go for it. First of all, I have to say that cake pops are delicious. You get this little bite of rich cake coated in a hard chocolate shell. These are definitely not an every day kind of treat because they are a little more work to make. We studied up by following Pioneer Woman's tutorial and this Bakerella video. The video was really helpful for showing us the dipping and tapping technique (more on that below).

The first step was to bake a plain cake. The tutorial we followed recommended using a cake mix, so I decided to go with a chocolate mix. I used a recipe from my "Cake Mix Doctor" cookbook. This recipe basically takes a plain chocolate cake mix and gives it a little extra homemade flavor. Here is the essence of it:

Add to one box of plain chocolate cake mix:

1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/3 cups buttermilk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
3 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Mix all ingredients together in an electric mixer. Pour into a 13 by 9 inch sheet pan and bake for 35 minutes at 350.

We let the cake cool completely (while we ate a delicious grilled salmon dinner and tried roasted fennel for the first time. It was an adventurous night for us!)

Next, we whipped up a batch of cream cheese frosting. I thought cream cheese would be a good choice because it is not quite as sweet as buttercream and it has such a good flavor. Basically, it is one of my favorite frostings, so I figured it would make our cake pops extra delicious. We used a basic recipe:

1 - 8 ounce package of cream cheese
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
3-4 cups sifted powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

First, make sure the cream cheese and butter are softened, at room temperature. If you don't think ahead and leave them out long enough, like me, you can put them in the microwave for 30 second intervals on low power (like level 2) until both are nicely softened, but not melting.

Beat the cream cheese and butter in an electric mixer with the whisk attachment until the two are fully blended together. Next, add the sifted powdered sugar, a cup at a time, until the frosting has a nice, spreadable consistency. Finally, mix in the vanilla extract and stir until blended. Now take a lick when no one is watching because this stuff is delicious.

The next step in our cake pop adventure was creating the cake balls. That's right, cake balls. Basically, we crumbled up the chocolate cake and mixed in the frosting until the mixture was sticky enough to form into balls, but not too mushy.

Please notice my personal sidekick in the bottom left corner. Just waiting to see if any of that crumbled cake will land on the floor. Sorry, Zeke, no chocolate for you!

We only used half of the frosting for the cake balls. The rest should keep for about a week in a container in the fridge.

Next was the fun and messy process of rolling out the cake balls. We weren't too picky about making them all a perfect size. We just started rolling out the cake mixture and placing the balls of cake on a wax paper covered cookie sheet. We were able to make about 50 from our cake and frosting mixture.

The cake balls need to be chilled before you can dip them in chocolate, so we sped up this process by putting them in the freezer for about 15 minutes and then moving to the fridge so they don't freeze (Bakerella's suggestion).

Once the balls were chilled we brought them out to begin the dipping process! First, we melted our candy melts in the microwave according to their package directions. We used 3 kinds - milk, dark, and white chocolate.

Next, we took our lollipop sticks and dunked just a little chocolate on the end to secure it in the cake ball. Once we had the sticks in, we dipped the whole pops into the chocolate. I would definitely suggest watching the Bakerella video for this technique. After the cake balls were fully coated, we lifted them out and tapped off the extra chocolate by gently tapping our hand that was holding the cake pop. A little tricky, but we got the hang of it! One suggestion is to make sure that the cake balls stay cold before they are dipped. We had a few that got a little loose and one that was lost in the chocolate that we had to eat. Such a shame.

The final step was pretty fun... decorating! We had to work quickly because that chocolate coating dries right away. We experimented with sprinkles, sugar sparkles, coconut, and drizzling another color of chocolate on top. I think my favorite were the ones with the rainbow sprinkles. To let them fully dry, we put the sticks in a styrofoam block on the counter.

Our beautiful and delicious cake pops! Thank you, Autumn, for not only joining in with the girls to encourage me to start this baking blog, but also taking all the photos of our cake pop extravaganza.

Who wants to come over for a cake pop party?

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Welcome to Bake Fancy!

With the encouragement of my wonderful and supportive friends, I've decided to start a baking blog! My goal is to have a place where I can share recipes I am trying out and baking projects I am working on.

Ever since I was little, I have loved baking. When I was 8 years old, I got an Easy Bake Oven for my birthday. I loved the magic of mixing ingredients together and watching it become something delicious. Is there anything better than the smell of cake, cookies, or brownies baking in the oven?

Now I love baking for my friends and family. I hope you enjoy following along in my baking adventures!