Thursday, May 31, 2012

Fail: Red, White, & Blue - Cake In A Jar (★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆)

Oh, the creative ideas you find on the web.  They're so adorable.  So simple.  

That's pure genius!  Why didn't I think of that myself?

And yet so often I find myself piled high in flour, hair disheveled, cursing the very mind I just idolized...the Betty Homemaker who is incapable of anything but perfection...while I dump yet another "experiment" in the garbage.  

Well, this week I had one of those days.  
Don't let this picture fool you.  This is a fail post remember?

Cake In A Jar.  Sounds intriguing, right?  I found out about this idea after following a trail of Pinterest recipes -- funny how those things work out. 

I couldn't believe I hadn't heard of this sooner.  Suddenly fragile baked goods were portable.
Rainbow Cake. S'more Cake. Lemon Meringue Pie Cake.  All conveniently packaged in their own individual jar.  (Okay that last one I made up, but if you were a real Betty Homemaker you could find a way to whip up a pie/cake combo!)

I had to do it.  And Memorial Day was just the occasion I needed.  

It was all planned out.  The red, white, and blue layers.  The quart sized jars for the gloriously large servings.  And the pièce de résistance...a Marine to send one to.

Oh, the patriotism!  (This same Marine heinously charged me with exploitation and I took great offense.  But that is besides the point.)

I wanted to make each layer a distinct flavor:

Red Layer: Red Velvet Cake
White Layer: Golden Vanilla Cake.
Blue Layer: Blueberry Cake (white cake with strained blueberry pie filling, and blue gel food color)

I must say, the flavors were great.  Especially, the blueberry.  Very unique.  

Alas, that's where the happy part of this post ends...

Little did I know that my trouble actually began weeks before, when I was enticed by the quart sized mason jars at Ace Hardware.  They were so glisten-y and voluptuous.   Who wants a pint, when you can have the pleasure of digging into a mound of delicious cake?  You don't have to finish it...just having the option is reason enough.

These are the things I think about, guys.

Well, I should've thought a little harder.  The recipe I used had instructions for cakes half this size.  I figured I would just cook them longer.


The outside and tops were overcooked before the red velvet layer had even begun to set.

I tried to compensate for this by lowering the temperature and increasing the time on the oven.  After an hour, the kabob skewer I was using to test the cakes came up relatively clean.  It wasn't perfect, but I was so worried about the tops (they were almost crunchy...and overflowing) that I made an executive decision to take them out and hope the very bottom layer would continue to cook a little longer.

As you can deduce from the second picture in this post, it seemed like I had made the right decision.  I assumed the cakes would settle back into the jars as they cooled and I could just slice off what little of the tops were still protruding out.

Thinking of nothing but sunbeams and butterflies, I left for the day.

What I found when I returned were pathetic, deflated versions of the cakes I had made.

Apparently, what I considered "cooked" clearly wasn't.

They could've used at least another half hour in the oven, but at grave risk to the blueberry layer.

Epic Fail.

What little I was able to taste was SUPER moist.  Too moist, if that's a legitimate problem for a cake to have.  The undercooked batter probably didn't help this situation much.  No frosting needed.

It's frustrating that these didn't work out.  They have so much potential.  I know what I can improve upon for the next time, but getting past all this wasted effort and wanting to try again is going to take some time.

Insert situation appropriate idiom here:

  • Don't bite off more than you can chew.
  • If at first you don't succeed, try, try again.
  • Don't cry over spilled milk.
  • Gluttony is one of the seven deadly sins

Feel free to message me with suggestions.


And Happy Memorial Day!  I am so grateful for all the men and women who were willing to give up time with their families, the luxury of an unregulated lifestyle and, ultimately, their lives for me and for you...for us.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Dark Chocolate Cherry Cookies (★ ★ ★ ★ ☆)

True to my word, here is this Thursday's post.  The Dark Chocolate Cherry cookie.

Honestly, I don't even know what to begin to say about these.  Words just jumble up when I try to write.

They were that good.

I wanted to make something to bring to work.  You know the whole "winning friends and influencing people" thing.  And not only that, by getting them out of the house immediately it keeps the baking binge (you know...the just a bite here and the just one more cookie there) to a one day maximum. No leftovers. It's a win-win really.

All I knew is that whatever I made had to be dark chocolate.  I had visions of chocolate cookies so dark they were almost black...just like my Deep Dark Chocolate Cupcakes.

That's when I came across these Dark Chocolate Cherry Cookies.  Just one look and I knew these were the cookies for me.

Deep chocolate cookie.  Dark chocolate chips.  And to spice things up...sour cherries.

To get the super dark look, you need to use Hershey's Special Dark Cocoa powder. 

All cocoa powder is essentially dark chocolate because no milk has been added, but I've found that it's only this brand that provides the extra dark coloring.  

And don't be fooled into thinking it's because it says "dutch processed."  I've read that too.  But after I spent $12 on an imported box of "dutch processed" cocoa from Whole Foods, I learned a valuable...and semi expensive lesson.  For taste, maybe imported is best, but if you want the darkest cookies you need to go with Hershey's.  Plus it'll save you $7.

Cherries are kind of expensive.  If you want to use cranberries they might save you some cash and they're easier to find.

These were pretty tart, especially in contrast to the rich cookie.  Surprisingly, I think that substituting the cherries for cranberries would actually sweeten up the whole ensemble, if tart isn't really your preference.

I splurged and bought the best dark chocolate chips I could find.  I mean, go hard or go home right?  Believe me, it was an utter chore to keep from snacking on these.

Thick delicious batter.  The.  Best.  Chocolate.  Cookie.  Dough.  Ever.


You can't tell me you're not drooling right now.

These turned out so good, I almost didn't want to share.  

But then something came over me and I had to share.  I had to get these into the hands of any person who was willing to give them a try.  And if they weren't, it was suddenly my job to convince them that they were committing a grave mistake.  

This is the type of cookie that ruins people.  Beware. 

I ate one...or several...every day for three days.  Just to see how they would hold up.  :)

The verdict?  Pretty well.  Pretty, darn, well.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Oreo Cheesecake Cupcakes (★ ★ ★ ★ ☆)

I'm not joking about this blog thing.  Yes, I stopped blogging for a while...took a siesta if you will - a long siesta.  But since I started blogging again, I forgot how much I love baking for people.  And having some left over for myself isn't so terrible either. 

So I've committed to baking consistently and I will be posting a new entry every Thursday.  It may not always be about something I baked, but it will be about something sweet.  I might do a food review or recommend something I've come across that I feel all my baking loving readers should know about.  Who knows?  The possibilities are endless.  

This entry marks the beginning of my current baking adventures.  All I had posted about before, were old entries that I had just never gotten around to publishing.  Enjoy!

Pinterest is an interesting beast.  Yes, I chose that word deliberately.  Here is the process:

1) Hear about it from a friend.  
What is it?  
It's this site where you post pictures you find online.
Sounds....interesting.  I mean I like pictures. 

2) Must apply for an invitation.
What is this!?  An invitation?  It's a place to stick pictures.  Seriously, what's the big deal?

3) Acceptance!
Sweet victory!  I'm in!  Okay, let's see if I can figure this thing out.

The next thing you know, you're in bed and it's an hour after you were supposed to be asleep.  You've already spent a good three hours "pinning" pictures, but there is a world of images you have yet to discover and share with your devout "followers."

Ya, that's pretty much how it goes down.  BUT there is one aspect of Pinterest. It's the "recipes."  There are so many delicious things to see.  
-Things I would have never thought of on my own.  
-Things my friends would have never thought of on their own.  
-Things that even my grandparents wouldn't know to pass down from generation to generation.  

It is literally the best collection of recipe ideas I've ever come across.  And that is where I found this little gem: Oreo Cheesecake Cupcakes

These individual cheesecakes were SO easy to make and delicious!

For the crust, you plop one single Oreo into the base of a cupcake liner.  Seriously...that's it.

Cream cheese batter prepared...awaiting the Oreo crumble. 

The cheesecake batter ready for the oven. 

Killing time.  My hair has gotten so long that a simple "put my hair in a low pony for baking purposes" doesn't cut it anymore.  A more glorious bun adorns my head now.  

Fresh out of the oven, the tops should be slightly puffed up.   As they cool, they will flatten.  

I didn't want to leave the tops bare so I melted some chocolate chips, cut the tip off of a Ziploc bag and went to town. 

Viola!  Sooooooo good. 

Even Archie, my cat, approves:
This is the face he makes when he smells something so good it overwhelms his senses. :)

I'll admit.  For this one, I had a slight ulterior motive.  It was my friend's birthday and he loves cheesecake.  

So I syphoned off a few specifically for him...

If you like cheesecake and easy recipes.   Look no further.  This one is for you.

Check back next Thursday for a new entry!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Smallville Extravaganza (★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆)

It was the summer of 2011 and I had fallen in love...

...with Superman!

This is not something I'm proud of--being in love with a character of fiction.  And I've never even picked up a comic, but Smallville hooked and reeled me in like nothing had in a long time.  I picked it up on a whim because I thought the lead actor was pretty cute and I ended up watching 10 years worth of television in 3 months.  Once again...all things I should probably keep to myself.  But this obsession led me to my next baking assignment, proving that everything does happen for a reason.

To celebrate the series finale, I decided to make some Superman inspired cupcakes.  I invited my fellow  Smallville enthusiasts (It's a real thing! The number of attendees outnumbered the fingers on my hand.)  to an outdoor screening of the last episode.

Now, I knew I wanted to do something awesome, but I didn't know exactly what that entailed.  There are just so many ways you can go with a broad theme like Superman.  I mean do you include bald cupcakes for Lex Luther who is such a big part of the show?  Do you make faces with eyes crossed out to signify what you wish they actually did to Lana's character?  Or do you throw everyone for a loop and make Brainac and Lois cupcakes from Earth 2?  But I digress...

Needless to say, I needed some outside help for this one.  I enlisted the help of my friends and together we agreed that sticking to the basics was best: The Superman Emblem and Kryptonite.

It became a group baking event.

Since we were making two sets of cupcakes, I split the cake batter and frosting recipe into two bowls.

For the Kryptonite cupcakes, I dyed the batter and frosting...guess what?  Green.  Yes, green.

The Superman cupcakes were dyed blue.

Now, here is where the real creativity came in.

For the Superman emblem we needed a yellow/gold diamond for the base.  I'm no chocolate molder and fondant doesn't taste what on earth were we going to use? After scouring the grocery aisles, we came across these "Golden" Oreo Cakesters.  

The color was...close enough.  And since they were little "cakes," we decided it would be easy to scoop out the cream center and cut the remaining pieces into the needed five-sided diamond.

I picked up one of those red icing "bottles," which helped immensely with the emblem outline and "S."

For the cupcakes, green rock candy ended up being the perfect topping.  I bought a couple sticks and my baking helpers turned them into perfectly sized bits of Superman's worst enemy.  

So what is the distance that must be maintained between these two cupcakes?  Did a strict 6-inch rule need to be enforced?

Since Smallville was always lax on the subject...I mean Clark Kent drank Kryptonite Gatorade...drank in, it went into his blood stream...I decided taking this next picture couldn't possibly be all that cruel.

Our cupcake baking was a success!  They were fun to eat too.  Although the cakester was awful (picked it off) and a huge mouthful of rock candy wasn't the most pleasant experience (eat candy first, devour remaining cupcake after), as long as you knew the system they were thoroughly enjoyable.

The finale was fantastic as well...I knew you were wondering.  Watching it outside upped my excitement level ten-fold...AND Clark Kent flew.  

How can it get better than that?

Thursday, May 3, 2012

"Best" Frosting Ever (★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆)

If you like the taste of sweet butter, then you will love this recipe.  If you don't, then definitely take my advice...this frosting is not for you.  

I am continually searching for delicious to-go baking recipes--especially frostings.  Ones that are fluffy and not too sweet.  I came across this recipe on a blog awhile back and after reading how she and her daughter raved about it, I was sold.  The "Best" Frosting I've Ever Had

The only thing I needed was an opportunity. 

My best friend was at my house...actually, when is she not?...and she mentioned that she wanted to make some cupcakes for her coworker's birthday the next day.  

*Light Bulb* Bing!  
I knew just the thing!

I used a chocolate box mix because this wasn't about a cupcake to me.  What I needed was a base to try my frosting on. 

I was pretty excited.  I don't know why, but I just "knew" this was going to be the frosting that rocked my world...haunted my dreams.

Classic "Pic of the Bestie lingering at the cupcakes" Shot

At first, the frosting was good.  Definitely not too sweet.  But by the time I had frosted all of the cupcakes and had my obligatory 4-6 "safety check" tastes, I felt like I had eaten a whole stick of butter.

The frosting wasn't all that fluffy and was even slightly grainy.  It reminded me of the sugar-butter mixture you make before you add the flour to cookie dough.

I thought that maybe it was just a frosting overload.  I mean, after six spoonfuls of anything that fattening it's only natural that something would start to taste a little off.  But even the next day when I had it on a cupcake all I could taste was butter.

I wouldn't consider this a total flop.  The cupcakes turned out really cute.  We rolled the edges in colored sprinkles.  But butter flavored frosting isn't really what I had been so longing to find.  Needless, to say I was a bit disappointed.

I have yet to find the "best" frosting, but I know it's out there.  I have faith.


                                                          Dear Frosting,
                                                          I am here waiting for you when you are ready.
                                                          Patiently yours,