Friday, February 18, 2011

Cake Pops



I had my first cake pop during Gob Day at the Galleria in Johnstown.  It was strawberry shortcake flavored and I fell in love.  I searched them out online and found this site:  http://www.bakerella.com/.  I enjoyed all the cute little designs and ended up buying the book on Amazon.com.  
I decided to try the heart shape because it seemed to be pretty straightforward for a beginner.  I chose chocolate cake and frosting for the inside, seemed appropriate for Valentine's Day, and Wilton pink candy melts for the outside.  The author suggested using boxed cake mix and ready made frosting, but I like to use less processed ingredients, so opted to try out the book recipe.  The cake looked and tasted good and frosting was thick, butter-creamy, and chocolatey.  I crumbled the cake and mixed it with the frosting as instructed.  I then rolled the mix into 1 inch balls and stored them in my "outside refrigerator," my kitchen deck, overnight.
The next day, I took a small heart shaped cookie cutter and shaped the cake balls into hearts.  I put the hearts into the freezer for a few minutes to firm them up for dipping.  I melted the pink candy in the microwave in a glass bowl.  Having all my supplies and ingredients out, I took the lollipop stick dipped into the melted candy, stuck it into the bottom of the heart, and dipped the heart into the pink candy, shaking the excess back into the bowl.  I dried the pops upright in a piece of foam I taped to the table.  I bought Wilton fine tip, edible markers to write on the hearts because that is all Walmart had.  

The Verdict:  They are very sweet, which was to be expected.  The center was moist chocolate cake and the outside was a nice firm pink chocolate.  The markers did not work very well, the tip was not soft enough for the chocolate.  I think a felt tip marker would be better.  I am not used to working with melted chocolate, so that will take some practice.  I got little cellophane bags with metallic twist ties to package them which made them look extra cute.  All in all it was a fun experience and when I have more time, I will attempt them again.


Sunday, February 13, 2011

Butternut Squash Bread

In continuing on my quest to make a baked good for as many birthdays as I can this year, I made my grandma's boyfriend Butternut Squash Bread, as he is a fan of quick breads.  I actually bought a whole butternut squash, halved it, and roasted it in the the oven for an hour after covering the exposed areas in butter.  I then spooned out the warm flesh of the squash and pureed it in the food processor.  I recently got a 7 cup Kitchen Aid food processor to make baby food and it is fabulous.  I cooled the squash overnight in preparation to make the bread the following morning.

I got up the next morning and was a multitasking extraordinaire.  I made my husband an omelet, made the dog chicken and rice, since he was sick and on a bland diet, and made a batch of this bread using this recipe:  http://www.seasonalrecipes.com/rec/recipe196.butternutsquashbread.html .  I chose this recipe because it had gotten several good reviews.  The bread was really easy to make, except I had to make 1 loaf at a time because I only have 1 loaf pan, you pretty much just mix everything together. 

The Verdict:  Comparable to pumpkin bread.  If I were to change anything, I would cut down on the amount sugar.    

Butternut Squash Bread

 
 


Makes 3 loaves

3-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3 cups granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cloves
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon ginger
1 cup water
1 cup vegetable oil
2 cups butternut squash, cooked until soft & cooled
4 large eggs Grease and flour 3 9" x 5" loaf pans. Pre-heat oven to 325 F.

Combine dry ingredients. Add water, oil, eggs and squash. Fill each loaf pan half full with batter. Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Blackout Cake

I have decided to practice baking by making birthday cakes/pies/brownies, etc. for my family members.  My first cake was a Chocolate Blackout Cake using this recipe:  http://sundaynitedinner.com/chocolate-blackout-cake-revisited/.  The cake part was pretty standard, I used an 8 inch round cake pan and an 8 inch spring form pan lined with foil because I only had one actual cake pan.  Thankfully, it did not leak.  The pudding was a little more difficult.  I used chocolate chips instead of block chocolate.  The food processor worked really well for chopping the chocolate up.  The only thing that was sort of weird was adding the eggs to the hot chocolate mix.  I tempered the eggs and followed the instructions exactly, but the egg still made it a little bit chunky.  I know the Barefoot Contessa always says about adding eggs to warm things and how not to scramble them.  Some of the other recipes I looked at suggested straining the pudding after cooking, but I just used it as is and it was fine.

After it cooled completely, I refrigerated the pudding over night.  I also let the cakes cool completely, covered them with dishtowels, and let them cool overnight.  I assembled the cakes the next day splitting the two cakes as directed and spreading 1/4 of the pudding between each layer.  The pudding was thick enough that it did not squish out between the layers and the cake stacked nicely.  I covered the top with mini chocolate chips because I didn't have wafer cookies and did not want to make the trip to the store.

I took the cake to my parent's house to celebrate my mom's birthday, which is Saturday, while my niece was with her dad, my brother.  The cake was fantastic and everyone seemed to like it.  The cake was very rich and moist. 

The Verdict:  Death by chocolate.  I enjoyed the pudding rather than icing, it added to the moistness.   I know it says serve at room temperature, but I enjoyed it slightly chilled.  The chocolate chips were also a nice touch decoratively and texturally.  All in all it was a very pretty and tasty cake. 

Note:  The baby was irritable the entire time I was baking so I am very surprised this actually turned out as good as it did :)

Chocolate Blackout Cake Recipe

Pudding Ingredients
  • 3 cups milk
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 4 tablespoons cocoa (preferably Dutch processed)
  • 2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 8 ounces semi sweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
Cake Ingredients
  • 1 1/2 cups plus 1 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup cocoa (preferable Dutch processed)
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 cup brewed coffee, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 dozen chocolate wafer cookies
Directions
  1. To make the chocolate pudding: Combine 2 cups milk with 4 tablespoons sugar in a small saucepan and bring to just under a boil.
  2. In a mixing bowl, combine remaining sugar with salt, cocoa, and cornstarch. Whisk in remaining 1 cup unheated milk. Gradually whisk cocoa mixture into hot milk. Heat, over medium heat, stirring, until mixture thickens and starts to bubble.
  3. Whisk together eggs and egg yolks in a small bowl. Temper the eggs by adding a few tablespoons of the heated milk. Add the tempered eggs to the saucepan and stir for 30 seconds. Remove from the heat and whisk in chopped chocolate and butter. The pudding should be relatively thick and will firm up when cooled. Cool, cover with plastic wrap and reserve in refrigerator.
  4. To make the cake: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly butter 2 (8-inch) cake pans and line with parchment. Butter the parchment and flour pans, shaking out the excess.
  5. Sift together flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Reserve.
  6. In a mixer with a paddle attachment, beat eggs and sugar until thick and lemon-colored. Beat in vegetable oil. Alternately add dry ingredients with buttermilk, scraping the bowl once or twice. Add the coffee and vanilla to form a thin batter. Divide between prepared cake pans.
  7. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of a cake comes out clean, about 40 to 45 minutes. Cool in pan for 15 minutes. Invert onto cooling racks, peel off paper and cool completely.
  8. When cool, split each cake in half with a serrated slicing knife. Spread bottom layer with 1/4 of the reserved chocolate pudding. Repeat with remaining layers, ending with pudding on top.
  9. In a food processor, pulse the cookies into crumbs. Sprinkle on top of the cake.
Makes 12 servings