Thursday, January 27, 2011

Another Cake for

Cake4kids.or Cake

An emergency cake was requested by Cake4Kids last night to be delivered today.  Created quite the stir as we're usually notified at least one to two weeks in advance.  I happened to be baking a cake for a separate project due this Saturday, and I figured I had enough time to remake the cake, so I quickly voluntered for this last minute request.

Normally, I would have doctored a box cake mix as I find people are more accepted to those flavors but I just took what I already had out cooling on my racks.  The cake was a white cake with chopped oreos, a personal favorite, with vanilla buttercream frosting and a mix of marshmallow and store bought fondant accents.  I should've spent a little bit more time on trying to smooth out the frosting; the impossible to get sharp corners are one of the reasons why I prefer circle cakes over square cakes.  Also, I haven't figured out the best way to get the fondant out of the ABC cutouts.  You can see the marks from pushing them out with a rounded stick.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Vanilla Bean Macarons with Dark Chocolate Ganache

After reading through numerous step by step tutorials on baking macarons, I finally got enough courage to tackle the infamous high maintenance macarons.  They weren't difficult to make at all.  They just required a few extra steps even before getting started: making vanilla sugar a week in advance, aging the egg whites for 24-48 hours, and definitely, owning a scale to weigh all the ingredients.

I couldn't believe I actually had macarons with feet!  A few things I learned along the way: I should've sifted the ground almonds as I still had a few chunks after pulsing for a few minutes and I need a better handle on using the piping bag as I piped a few HUGE macarons.

Vanilla Bean Macarons with Dark Chocolate Ganache
Adapted from Helen Dujardin (Tartlette)'s Demystifying Macarons article in Desserts Magazine

90 - 100 grams of egg whites (3 eggs)
50 grams granulated sugar stored for 1-2 weeks with a split vanilla bean
200 grams powdered sugar
110 grams blanched slivered almonds

In a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment whip the egg whites to a foam, gradually add the sugar until you obtain a glossy meringue.

Combine the almonds and the powdered sugar in a food processor and give them a quick pulse if you use already ground almonds.  It will break the powdered sugar lumps and combine your almonds with it evenly.  If you use whole almonds, pulse thoroughly for a minute or so.

Add them to the meringue and start to give quick strokes at first to break down the mass and slow down.  The whole process should not take more than 50 strokes.  Test a small amount on a plate: if the tops flatten on its own, you are good to go.  If there is a small beak, give the batter a couple more folds.

Fill as pastry bag fitted with a plain tip with the batter and pipe small rounds (1.5 inches in diameter) onto silpat baking mats.

Preheat the oven to 300F degrees.  Let the macarons sit out for 30 minutes to harden their shells a bit and bake for 10-12 minutes, depending on their size.  Let them cool completely before filling.

Pipe or spoon some of the ganache on one shell and sandwich with another one.

Dark Chocolate Ganache
4 ounces of bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
3/4 cup of heavy cream
In a heavy saucepan, set over medium heat, bring the heavy cream to a boil.

Remove from the stove and add the chocolate to it.  Let stand 2 minutes and then stir until fully combined.

Let cool until firm enough to put in a small piping bag.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Red Velvet Cupcakes Comparison

red velvet cupcakes

With Valentine's day around the corner, I noticed a lot of red velvet cupcakes posts popping up around the blogosphere lately.  I have a pretty good go to red velvet cake recipe; however, I noticed a lot of people were praising Cakeman Raven's recipe.  Because I had a tub of cream cheese frosting begging to be used soon, I decided to do a quick comparison.

The two recipes are nearly identical except for the use of cake flour vs all purpose flour, oil vs butter, and teaspoon vs tablespoon for cocoa powder.  I did a smashup of the two recipes and came up with the following to compare BUTTER vs OIL.

Red Velvet Cupcakes
A Baked By Jen Original
Makes about 24 cupcakes

3 cups cake flour
2 tbsp cocoa powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 cup butter or vegetable oil

1 1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs
1/2 teaspoon red gel-paste food color

1 cup buttermilk
1 tsp vanilla extract

1 tsp vinegar

Preheat oven to 350.  Line 2 muffin baking pans with 12 standard size baking cups.

Sift dry ingredients together and set aside.

Place butter/oil and sugar in bowl of electric mixer and beat at medium-speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Beat in eggs, one at a time. Dissolve the gel paste into the vanilla. With the mixer on low, add mixture. Add vinegar.

Add flour mixture alternately with buttermilk in two batches. Scrape bowl and mix just long enough to combine. 

Pour batter into prepared pans and bake for 16-18 minutes or until toothpick inserted into the center of cupcake comes out with a few crumbs clinging to the toothpick.  Cool in pans for 10 minutes and then place on cooling rack to cool to room temperature.

red velvet cupcakes
butter vs oil - top view

red velvet cupcakes
butter vs oil - side view

red velvet cupcakes
butter vs oil - inside view

The batch made with oil looked a lot better, a nice dome and even appeared to look more moist with the shiny top.  However, in my opinion, the batch made with butter was much more superior in taste.  Also, the cake was fluffier, more tender with a tighter crumb.

Photo Credit: Dennis Ha Photography
(Disclaimer: Patches didn't actually eat the cupcake.)

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Chocolate Chip Cupcakes

This past weekend, I made a quick batch of cupcakes for my friend's purple and black themed bachlorette party.  I even made a matching cupcake tower using Annie's simple and easy directions here.  However, instead of gluing two cake boards together and then covering it in construction paper, I used silver cake drums.  Definitely helped cut my time in half.

The chocolate chip cupcakes were adapted from my favorite white cake go to recipe.  Frosting was made from Pastry Pride non dairy whipping cream dyed purple.  The cupcakes were topped off with the remaining mini chocolate chips.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

CSN Stores $25 Giveaway!

Happy New Year!  I'm starting the new year off right by offering my first giveaway, brought to you by CSN Stores.  For those of you who don't know, CSN Stores has over 200 online stores.  You can find anything from modern dining room furniture to pots and pans and even dog beds!  Free shipping on most items too!

CSN Stores have offered to give one of my readers a $25 gift certificate to be used on any of their products.

To enter, leave a comment telling me what you would love to spend the gift certificate on at CSN Stores.  Contest is now closed.

The winner will be announced here on this post on January 12th.  Please leave a valid email address for me to contact you.  Winner will be chosen using the random number generator.  If the winner does not contact me within 48 hours, a new winner will be chosen.

Good luck!

The winner is Katie who wanted to get a springform pan!  Congrats!  Thank you everyone for entering.
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