Friday, December 31, 2010

Best of 2010

Seeing everyone's best of 2010 posts this week inspired me to take a trip down memory lane myself.  For my year end round up, I decided to feature a few of your favorites as well as a few of my favorites for 2010.

Fans Favorite Five Posts

hello kitty cake 1

My Five Favorite Posts

1. Chocolate Peppermint Whoopies: Chocolate and peppermint is one of my favorite dessert pairings.  This post was only my second tribute to Whoopie Pies.  I definitely need to tackle more Whoopie Pies next year.

little mermaid cake - front

2. Little Mermaid Cake: This cake led the way into cake decorating for me.  I knew nothing about how to stack a cake, how to fill a cake, nor how to work with a timeline when I cranked this cake out from start to finish in less than 24 hours.  It's crazy to think about how much I have learned and am continuing to learn since then.

3. Pralines and Cream Ice Cream: Receiving an ice cream maker for my birthday along with the Perfect Scoop changed my life.  Pralines and Cream was the house favorite but I've made everything from Mint Cookies and Cream to Rocky Road to Horchata Ice Cream.

4. Strawberry Rhubarb Pie:  After discovering the best pie crust ever, I finally tackled my first fruit pie.  It was the most amazing thing ever.  I couldn't stop making fruit pies for a straight month, almost.  I can't wait for next summer!

Cake4Kids Cake - Lego Theme

5. Lego Cake: This was one of my favorite cakes.  Looking forward to more cake requests through Cake4Kids for foster children and children in need.

Have a safe and Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Burnt Almond Cake, Take 2

burnt almond cake

So, a few changes since my last attempt at a copy cat version of the best burnt almond cake I ever had.  I made a doctored French Vanilla cake mix cake; however, the texture/crumb wasn't as fine as I wanted.  Next time, I'd probably make a white cake from scratch using cake flour.  For the frosting and filling, I based it off of this mousse filling recipe.  I used Pastry Pride instead of milk and heavy cream and a box of French Vanilla pudding.  I couldn't stop sampling it; it was so good.  As for the crunch, I should've realized there's a reason why they sprinkled powdered sugar all over the top of their cake.  So, I toasted the sliced almonds with powdered sugar in a skillet over medium heat until the sugar melted and the nuts were slightly brown.

burnt almond cake

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Chocolate Peppermint Whoopies

Merry Christmas!  Christmas wouldn't be complete without showcasing a chocolate and peppermint dessert!  I've been eyeing these since I received the Whoopie Pies book.  Was able to make these for a dinner party last night with friends.

The batter was thicker than cake batter but thinner than brownie batter.  Was manageable with my 1 tablespoon cookie scoop.

I painted streaks of red food dye inside the pastry bag before I filled it with the buttercream. When I piped it out, it created a nice candy cane effect.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Burnt Almond Cake, Take 1

A few weeks ago, my friend let me tag along with her and her fiance as they tasted some cakes in search for a baker for their wedding cake next year.  At one of the bakeries we visited, I took home a slice of their infamous burnt almond cake.  It was the best thing I ever had and I had to try to replicate it ASAP.

burnt almond cake

My go-to sources didn't yield any definite answers on this recipe but I figured it might be a white cake with swiss meringue butter cream and an almond brittle crunch.

I have a favorite go to white cake that I've used here and here with no issues.  But, for some reason I let myself be swayed to use a brand new white cake recipe, the White on White Buttermilk Cake from the Pastry Queen by Rebecca Rather.  This cake tasted more like a vanilla cake than a white cake.  It was also moist and dense.  Nothing like what I was trying to achieve.

Then, I was in a rush to get the cake to my boyfriend's family dinner that I slapped on the SMBC while the cake was partially frozen.  The SMBC did not thaw to room temperature by the time it was served.  Cold SMBC tastes like a sweet stick of butter; not a good thing to me.

For the crunch, I found this recipe from Tish Boyle Sweet Dreams.  She said it was suppose to be reminiscent of the crunch on those Good Humor ice cream bars but I felt as if there was too much brittle and not enough almond.

In the end, it wasn't anything like the burnt almond cake I tried at the bakery but it made a good tasting vanilla cake with SMBC and almond brittle crunch.  The leftovers made yummy cupcakes too.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Caramel Popcorn with Roasted Almonds

My boyfriend talked me out of buying a $20 tin of popcorn while at Costco yesterday.  Still wanting some caramel popcorn when I got home, I did a little research on making it myself.  I had no idea it was this easy!  I didn't even have to leave the house for the ingredients.

I roasted the almonds for 8 minutes for 350 degrees before adding it to the bowl of popped popcorn but I don't recommend this step.  The almonds ended up tasting a little bit too toasted compared to the popcorn after baking for an additional 45 minutes.

Caramel Popcorn with Roasted Almonds
slightly adapted from All Recipes
Makes about 10 cups

1/2 cup butter
1 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup corn syrup
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
10 cups popped popcorn
1 cup of raw almonds

Preheat oven to 250 degrees F (95 degrees C).  Place popcorn and almonds in a very large bowl. 

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt butter.  Stir in brown sugar, corn syrup and salt.  Stop stirring once everything is dissolved.  Let mixture come to a boil.  Boil without stirring for 4 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in baking soda and vanilla.  Pour in a thin stream over popcorn and almonds, stirring to coat.

Place in two large shallow baking dishes and bake in preheated oven, stirring every 15 minutes, for 45 hour.  Remove from oven and let cool completely before breaking into pieces.  Store in an airtight container.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Hello Kitty Cake

hello kitty cake 1

I absolutely love how this cake turned out! I don't do a lot of cake carving, so I'm happy I didn't screw it up. This cake was for my brother's coworkers' birthday party.   It's achocolate cake filled with chocolate buttercream frosting.  I used both marshmallow fondant (home made) and buttercream fondant (store bought) to cover/decorate the cake.  In order to get the bow to be in relief, I made it two days ahead and stuck a wad of saran wrap in the loops to make sure it dried that way.

hello kitty cake template

hello kitty cake carve

hello kitty cake crumb coat

hello kitty cake bow hello kitty cake 2

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Chocolate Pecan Butter Toffee Bark

The other day, I was flipping through the Williams-Sonoma catalog and found myself ohhing and ahhing over their candy gifts section.  Peppermint bark seemed like the more practical idea for a candy making newbie like myself but of course I skipped right to making butter toffee bark.

After scouring my go to cookbooks, blogs, and food sites, I came up with a few good tips that made it all possible.

I didn't have any almonds on hand, so I used pecans, which tasted all the same in this recipe.  I made sure to toast them first for 5-10 mins at 350 degrees, shuffling them around at least 2 times.

Once the butter toffee comes together, you have to be ready with your toppings. So, I made sure to have my pecans finely chopped and chocolate measured out.

I settled for the recipe from the BH&G New Cook Book which I tweaked a bit by adding some salt to the sugar, butter, water, and corn syrup.

I stirred the mixture only until the sugar dissolved. Then, I left it at a steady boil on medium heat. It took about 15 minutes before it came anywhere close to 290 degrees.

Holiday Baking Repertoire

I am so ashamed.  For someone who loves to bake, you'd think I would have accumulate quite a list of go to sweets for the holidays.  I definitely need to step it up this season.  Stay tuned for some great new ideas.  In the meantime, here's a flashback of some oldies but goodies.

This red velvet cheesecake cake won me first place at a company holiday bake off.  What's not to love about it; it's two layers of red velvet cake "filled" with an entire original NY cheesecake and then frosted in vanilla bean cream cheese frosting.

These are definitely the best brownies I ever made.  For the holidays, I like to mix Andes baking chips into the batter or pour half the brownie batter into the pan, lay a handful of York peppermint patties down, and then pour in the remaining batter.

Pecan pie bars were just added last year to my repertoire.  They were quite the crowd pleaser at my family Christmas party as well as the Cake4Kids table at the SCS Annual Auction last week.

I've made these red velvet cupcakes with vanilla bean cream cheese frosting for many different holiday parties over the past few years.  I've alternated between a few different recipes but my favorite one to date is this one.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Pandan Coconut Waffles (Green Waffles)

In my town, everyone is familiar with these "green waffles" that most Vietnamese bakeries and sandwich shops sell.  I've been meaning to try and replicate them for the longest time and finally got around to it over the weekend.  I didn't quite get the distinct pandan taste to stand out as much since I was only able to find pandan juice rather than pandan extract but I think I'm really close to replicating the infamous waffles.

Pandan Coconut Waffles
A Baked By Jen Original
Makes 12-16 (4-inch) waffles

1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
4 tablespoons white sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
2 eggs, whites/yolks separated
1 5.6 fl oz can of Chaokoh coconut milk
1 cup pandan juice
1/2 cup cooking oil
1/2 cup shredded coconut (optional)
1-2 drops of green dye (optional)

In a medium bowl stir together flour, sugar, baking powder, cornstarch, and salt.  Make a well in center of flour mixture; set aside.

In another medium bowl beat egg yolks slightly; stir in coconut milk, pandan juice, and oil.  Add egg mixture all at once to the flour mixture.  Stir just until moistened (batter should be slightly lumpy).

In another small bowl whisk the egg whites with a fork until it forms bubbles. Gently fold the egg whites into the batter.

Fold in the shredded coconut and green dye, if using.

Pour 1 to 1 1/4 cups batter onto grids of a preheated, lightly greased waffle maker (use a regular or Belgian waffle maker).  Close lid quickly; do not open until done.  Bake according to manufacturer's directions.  When done, use a fork to life waffle off grid.  Repeat with remaining batter.  Serve immediately.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Train and Airplane Cake ( Cake

I baked and delivered another cake today.  The child requested trains and airplanes which I was happy to oblige.  I can't believe I forgot to dye the frosting blue and to make sure there was enough room for train tracks though.  Hopefully, I'll be able to revisit this theme as I have lots of different ideas! Cake Cake

Cake was a doctored Betty Crocker white cake mix cake with vanilla buttercream frosting and marshmallow/buttercream fondant decorations.

The Betty Crocker brand cake mix had a funny after taste in my opinion.  I think I will be sticking to Duncan Hines and Pillsbury brands from now on as I had no problems with them here and here.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Pecan Topped Pumpkin Pie

Pumpkin pie will never be the same in my house any more.  It will always be made with the pecan streusel topping as suggested by the recipe from the BH&G New Cook Book.

Only regret was not making my own pie crust.  Given this was the fourth pie I made this week, I think I'll let that slide.

Vanilla Bean Cheesecake

I have never tasted an authentic Junior's cheesecake slice but if what I'm producing from the book is any indication, I am truly enamored.

However, I did make my own graham cracker crust as last year, no one cared too much for the Junior's signature sponge cake layer.

Love the contrast between the vanilla bean specks and the cheesecake batter.

Double Layer Pumpkin Cheesecake

I love Thanksgiving as I get to do a lot of baking! So far, I've made not one but two double layer pumpkin cheesecakes.  One for my sister and one for my brother to take to separate dinner parties this weekend.

Instead of buying a prepared graham cracker crust, I adapted the recipe from my Better Homes and Garden New Cook Book.

Mix 1 1/4 cups graham cracker crumbs, 1/4 cup white sugar, and 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon together

Add 6 tablespoons melted butter

Press mixture into a 9-inch pie pan

Bake for 4-6 minutes at 375 degrees

Happy Thanksgiving!

Double Layer Pumpkin Cheesecake
from All Recipes

2 (8oz) packages of cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs
1 (9in) graham cracker crust - prepared or homemade
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 pinch ground cloves
1 pinch nutmeg 

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C). 

In a large bowl, combine cream cheese, sugar and vanilla. Beat until smooth. Blend in eggs one at a time. Remove 1 1/2 cups of batter and spread into bottom of crust; set aside. 

Add pumpkin, cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg to the remaining batter and stir gently until well blended. Carefully spread over the batter in the crust.

Place the pie in a roasting pan.  Pour enough hot water into roasting pan to reach halfway up the sides of the pie plate.

Bake in preheated oven for 35 to 40 minutes, or until center is almost set. Remove pie from the water bath.  Allow to cool, then refrigerate for 3 hours or overnight.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Pecan Pie Bars

Cake4Kids is providing mini desserts at the Sunnyvale Community Services Annual Auction this year and I volunteered to make pecan pie bars.  The event isn't until Dec. 2nd but I wanted to do a trial run as I haven't made these since last Christmas season.  Tweaked the original recipe a bit as I wanted to scale back the sweetness.  I don't think anyone noticed.  Got rave reviews from my brother's coworkers.

Pecan Pie Bars
slightly adapted from All Recipes
Makes about 36 bars

3 cups of all-purpose flour
1/2 cup of white sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup butter

4 eggs
1 1/2 cups corn syrup
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Lightly grease a 10x15 inch jellyroll pan and line it with parchment paper or foil, making sure it hangs over the rims. 

In a large bowl, stir together the flour, 1/2 cup sugar, and salt. Cut in 1 cup of butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Sprinkle the mixture evenly over the prepared pan, and press in firmly. 

Bake for 20-25 minutes in the preheated oven. 

While the crust is baking, prepare the filling. In a large bowl mix together the eggs, corn syrup, sugars, melted butter, and vanilla until smooth. Stir in the chopped pecans. Spread the filling evenly over the crust as soon as it comes out of the oven. 

Bake for 25-30 minutes in the preheated oven, or until set. Allow to cool completely on a wire rack before slicing into bars.
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