January 21, 2017

Oh Baby Shower Cake

My friends Claudio and Julia are expecting their first baby this spring, a girl.  For their baby shower they asked if I could make the cake and I was more than happy to oblige.  These are the exact occasions where I love to put my baking skills to good use.  

For the cakes themselves Julia had requested her favorite, carrot, for the bottom tier and I suggested red velvet for the top since it was Claudio's favorite.  As for the theme Julia had in mind something similar to this pink and grey themed creation she found on Pinterest.   Lucky for me it didn't look too complicated once you deconstructed its parts. 

Don't be intimidated by the design because it's a bit easier than you might think.  Once I filled and crumb coated the three layers of carrot cake I simply piped large rosettes all around the outside with pink hued Swiss meringue buttercream.  For even the novice baker this is achievable with beautiful results.  Admittedly, the top tier of red velvet did require a bit more patience and skill in order to get the buttercream perfectly smooth and even.  Once that was achieved I decorated with grey and pink fondant circles and applied a thin fondant ribbon at the bottom.  

One trick I did learn from watching numerous episodes of Ace of Cakes is to use large boba straws as supports when doing a tiered cake.  This provides structure so that the top tier doesn't sink in to the one below.  The straws are so much easier to use than wooden dowels and they're super cheap too.  I picked up a packet of 50 straws from the local restaurant supply store for under $1!

Congratulations Claudio and Julia!

January 13, 2017

Zebra Bundt Cake

If you peeked in to my pantry you'd think I was trying to set up my own kitchen housewares shop.  I can't help it - I'm the first to admit I'm a total addict.  Call me a sucker for the latest cake pan or baking equipment out there.  

The inspiration for this Zebra Bundt Cake stemmed from my recent acquisition of NordicWare's Kugelhopf pan.  I'm a huge fan of this company and love all their bundt pans.  Over the years I've amassed quite a collection because they never seem to fail in terms of quality and aesthetic.  I call it effortless baking when the pan does all the cake decorating work for you.   

My intention was to make a marble cake and when I happened upon Bakers Royale's Zebra Bundt on Pinterest it immediately caught my eye.  I just love how the alternating stripes of vanilla and chocolate batter make the cake look so interesting and inviting.  When I took a closer look at the recipe I was even more pleased because it was based on one from Tish Boyle's The Cake Book.   Tish's cookbook is one of my favorites so I knew it was going to be a winner.  I wasn't wrong.

The crumb on this cake is really incredible, so tender, moist and melt in your mouth.  I was a tad bit concerned that the depth of the bundt pan would require extra baking time, leading to a drier cake, but this was not the case at all.  I'll definitely be making this recipe again!

January 7, 2017

Kanelbullar (Swedish Cinnamon Buns)

Have you heard of hygge?  When the weather turns chilly hygge is all the rage.  But what exactly is it?  In a nutshell, hygge is the art of being "cozy"...think candles, cashmere and warm fireplaces.  On a cold, dreary and grey day I have to say there's nothing better.  The Bay Area was bracing for a major storm this weekend (it's ok, we need the water!) and nothing sounded better to me than staying at home and baking.

I love a good cinnamon bun and the Swedish version, Kanelbullar, has been on my to do list for a while.  They evoke not only hygge, but also fika, the Swedish slang for coffee breaks.  To be perfectly frank I was really drawn to them after seeing this gorgeous photo on Edd Kimber's (aka The Boy Who Bakes) Instagram feed.  There was something about the twisted treats topped with pearl sugar that looked so appealing...I had to make them!

I found the recipe for the kanelbullar on SwedishFood.com.  The dough is similar to any other cinnamon bun recipe except it has the addition of cardamom, a very popular spice used in Scandinavian baking.  The other distinction is how the buns are shaped.  Rather than being rolled up in a log and cut the dough is stretched, twisted and shaped in to a striped round.  I found a great video here on YouTube that shows you how to do this. 

These kanelbullar are so good!  Straight from the oven I devoured two of them as they were the perfect accompaniment to a hot cappuccino.  Storm, schworm...I say bring it on!  I'll be inside gettin' hygge with it.

January 1, 2017

Millionaire's Shortbread


If you've never made Millionaire's Shortbread before, no better time than the present to give it a try!  Trust me, you won't regret it.  While Scottish in origin, millionaire's shortbread is basically a delicious homemade Twix bar with it's crispy shortbread cookie base, soft and chewy caramel filling all topped with rich chocolate.    

I'd seen recipes for this treat before on various UK-based sites and actually attempted making them in early 2016 with less than stellar results.  That all changed when I saw the version from Cook's Illustrated in the November issue of the magazine.   They've never failed me before and this time was no different. 

The instructions couldn't be easier to follow and I was delighted with the final cookie.   I veered a bit from the original recipe and sprinkled Malden flakes on top of the caramel layer to add a nice salty/sweet contrast.  I have to admit that my one trepidation with this recipe was in slicing the bars but in the end my concerns were unfounded.  When you're dealing with chocolate it can be a bit finicky but the method CI used to temper the chocolate worked out fantastic and I had no issues whatsoever in portioning the bars.   

I gifted the millionaire's shortbread to some friends for the holidays and they were immediately devoured.  While I do prefer bittersweet chocolate I think the next time I make these cookies I'll switch it up and use some semisweet or milk chocolate.

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