Friday, June 11, 2010

Cake Tips and a Recipe

Among my friends talking about cake mixes around me used to be taboo. For some reason they thought I was going to judge them for using a box mix.

I realize not every one views cooking and baking as therapeutic and fun like I do. I even realize that there are some people that have the exact opposite view on cooking and baking as I do. Which is good, it keeps me employed : )

I have no judgement against cake mixes (other than my hydrogenated oil phobia). It was all my mom used growing up and my first experiences in cake making. You can make a decent cake using the box mixes and following the directions. But really...who wants just a decent cake? Obviously I think you can get a superior cake from scratch (and if y'all just knew how easy it was you wouldn't be the least intimidated!), but there are also some things you can do to cake mixes to get a pretty good cake out of them too. I'm going to share my wisdom with you so you never have to eat lackluster cake again (made by you any how).

Don't follow the directions. All the oil and water, eh. There are only two cakes I make using oil and neither of them are any thing vanilla based or chocolate based. You can find the cake mixes that call for butter. GET THEM. Butter makes every thing better. Seriously. Once equipped with the right kind of cake mix, continue to ignore the directions. You are going to be asked to add water. DON'T DO IT. You could pretty much add any thing else in your refrigerator and it will taste better than adding water. Here are some suggestions:

Sour Cream
Whole Milk
Guinness Beer

Sour Cream
Whole Milk
Coconut Milk
Any type of citrus juice (obviously it will flavor your cake)

Just add the substituted ingredient in the amount that the cake calls for and you can follow the directions from there.

If there is one area that I promise will take your cake to the next level it's making your own frosting. Again, for some reason people find it super intimidating, but I promise it's ridiculously easy. If the thought of butter cream intimidates you, you could start off a bit easier with something like a ganache or just using homemade whipping cream. A frosting 101 post may be coming soon.

However if you think you may be up for trying a cake from scratch that takes about the same amount of effort as a box mix, you MUST try this cake! It's ridiculously easy and super tasty. It's perfect for summer as well because it's light and fruity. Plus, if you make it right...almost healthy.

I'd been hearing people rave about yogurt cakes and hadn't ever tried one, so I wanted to give it a go. It being a different cake base than I was used to I used a trusted recipe as a starting place. However I wanted to do some thing differently. So here is the recipe I ended up using:

1 cup sour cream
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil (normally I would recommend just regular olive oil but I didn't have any, I like the extra depth it added to the cake)
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup lime juice
2 eggs
1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

Strawberry Sauce:
I don't have an exact recipe, these are guesstimates, if you like less sugar add less, more add more.

20 strawberries sliced and hulled (or 1 bag frozen strawberries)
1/3 cup sugar
squeeze of lemon juice

Place strawberries in a container with sugar and lemon juice (I may be known to occasionally add a drop of Grand Marnier as well) stir slightly and refrigerate over night. Puree with blender, or food processor. To obtain a thicker sauce, boil for a few minutes on the stove, adjust sweetness to taste.

For frozen strawberries, defrost and them place them in saucepan with sugar and lemon juice, bring to a boil, and let boil until desired thickness, tasting and adjusting sweetness to taste. Cool then puree in blender or food processor.

The sauce takes more time but I always make a lot of it and freeze it when fruit is fresh in season. I do the same thing with peaches and will use the fruit purees to make home made ice cream, and to add to cupcakes.

Not so good iPhone pic of the final result

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Secret Desire

So I have this secret desire which I occasionally get to entertain: to be a party planner. I love planning things, and apparently I am "dual brained" which gives me the ability to be creative and attentive to detail. So when my own childrens birthday parties come up, or we have people over my husband gets the not so easy task of reigning me in.

Thankfully this time he didn't have to work too hard. My oldest (Josh) and I are both born in May. Two days apart as a matter of fact (and if you were wondering, yes it is kind of a bummer to have to spend two of your days...Mothers and Birth, making my sons day special. But it's worth it, right?).
Being in the baking business, May is a busy month. Between weddings and showers and Mothers Day and birthdays, I'm going non-stop. This May was no exception. So when we were trying to pick out a time to have Josh's birthday we ran into a bit of a conundrum. Do I have to after a wedding, or...after a wedding? Pretty much leaving me 48 hours to get every thing ready for his party. EVERYTHING. Like buying every thing too.
Some how we managed to pull together and give my son the superhero party of his dreams. He had no idea about all the great ideas mommy wished she had time to execute (like the superhero emblem on the driveway, or the sign that said "welcome to superhero training camp", or the mask decorating table, and the very grand city block cake with all of his favorite superheros on it I was going to make...). Either way he loved every minute of it.

The final cupcake product. Like I said, I had some thing grander in mind, so this was kind of my cop out, but I think it turned out pretty well.
The "tablescape". We were decorating superhero star cookies
After I made these my husband told me I had a sickness. Apparently he thought napkin rings were unnecessary for kids parties. Huh.
In case you are wondering about how I made them I had them custom made for me from etsy. I printed them and then used a special pinch to cut them out. Easy and cheap.

Iron man loved his cupcakes. He likes pretty much any thing with sugar. We had a bunch of fun and played games like superhero training course (which was a failed to attempt to tire out the boys) and practiced our shooting skills. That was a big hit, we had Iron Man and Spiderman waterguns for everyone (which late became part of their goodie bags) and I made an awesome bubble recipe (may come soon). They had to shoot down the bubble with their water guns. Boys and guns. You can't really go wrong there.
So for 48 hours I was happy, my secret desire got it's fill for the time being, or at least until my youngests birthday now 20 days away...gulp.