Valentine’s Day Cake

I will pretty much celebrate any holiday if it means I get to bake. Pair that with access to a photographer and I will bake a million things! So, in continuation with the blog post from the past couple days, I am going to continue with another Valentine’s Day treat.

I turned to my trusty cook book, BakeWise by the wonderful Shirley O. Corriher. I love this book because, not only does it have incredible recipes, but the explanations on why you want to do something a certain way and tips on how to actually do them, are  unmatched. So, I wouldn’t be doing the cookbook justice if I didn’t strong encourage you to get a copy for yourselves. The recipe that I used for the cake was the magnificent moist golden cake – it is a moist and sweet cake that was easily sliced into three layers.

I had much more success with this cake, as compared to my last; however, it was still far from seamless. After baking for 40 minutes, I open the over door so that I could insert a toothpick into the cake to see if it was done. Unfortunately, when I opened the door, the middle of the cake dropped. I saw it happening and quickly shut the door and continued cooking the cake for another 5 or so minutes. I seemed to limit the damage, but there was a slight sink hole in the middle of my cake and when I sliced it open, you could see that the middle was slightly undercooked. So while I’ve progressed and aren’t overflowing my cake pans anymore, it seems as though I still a bit of practicing left to do before I achieve perfection!

Up next was my favorite part – frosting and decorating. I decided to make Shirley’s Crusting Confectioners’ Sugar Buttercream because I was intrigued by the smoothing technique she described that called for using a Viva paper towel (I know, now you are probably intrigued too!)

Crusting Confectioner’s Sugar Buttercream

Make about 4 cups (*I made a half recipe and had plenty to frost a three layer cake)

1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups Crisco or other shortening with emulsifiers
1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract
2 tablespoons clean vanilla flavoring (if you can’t find this, regular works – just know your icing won’t be bright white)
8 cups confectioners’ sugar
2 tablespoons meringue powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 to 5 tablespoons water
plain white Viva paper towels

  1. With the paddle attachment of a mixer, whip the butter until soft, and then whip in the shortening. Beat in the extract and flavoring on low-speed.
  2. Sift the sugar through a large strainer with medium mesh just to remove any lumps. Beat the sugar and the meringue powder into the fat mixture on the lowest speed. Scrape down the sides as needed.
  3. Stir the salt into the water to dissolve and mix it into the icing thoroughly on low-speed only.
  4. Adjust consistency to a spreadable icing with a little more water or confectioners’ sugar. Do not over mix or mix on high-speed.
  5. For a very smooth cake, similar to a cake draped with rolled fondant, let the icing dry just until a dry Viva paper towel touched to the side does not stick, 10 to 15 minutes, depending on the humidity. To create an absolutely smooth surface, use a plain white Viva paper towel  and start with the sides. Place the towel against the side and smooth up and down gently with your fingers or palm. Do not allow the towel to pleat or fold. If desired, smooth a contour edge and smooth the top.

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I decided to add chocolate piping around the top and bottom (similar to the design that I did on my last cake). I then finished it off with some shaved milk chocolate on the top – with a hearth silhouette for Valentine’s Day.

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I was happy with the way it turned out but as I said earlier, I still have  a long ways to go before I can compete on Cupcake Wars or start can claim to be the next Cake Boss :) Unfortunately, for my co-workers, that means a lot more cake tasting!

Happy Valentine’s Day! I hope yours is filled with love and baked goods.

Englehardt version 2.0

How amazing is my litter sister-in-law???

Halloween Cake and Cupcakes!
Cupcakes for a Baby Shower - almost makes me want to get pregnant!
 
Now, can someone tell my why Matt didn’t get any of these skills? I guess second borns are just a lot more advanced than first borns!
 
 

Birthday Celebrations!

I love Birthdays. When I was younger, I would start planning my birthday months in advance and I was normally able to spread my birthday celebration out over a few weeks. I consider this particularly impressive considering my Birthday normally falls around Thanksgiving and many times, holidays can trump birthdays. But not me, forget the turkey, pilgrims and Indians, come the end of November, I was the center of attention.

My mom threw awesome childhood birthdays. They were always held at home and full of fun activities. We would play games, do some sort of craft (make your own t-shirts, puff paint pillow cases, sand art, etc), do a candy hunt, eat “dot cake” and end with an incredible scavenger hunt around the house. Sometimes things got a little wild (mostly thanks to Ryan, Mark and Chris – the 3 boys who were invited to every party) but everyone left our house happy! I definitely miss those days.

Another birthday tradition in our household would be birthday dinner. Not an unusual tradition, when it was your birthday, you were able to pick whatever you wanted for dinner that night. Well every night since I can remember, I had spaghetti, caesar salad and garlic bread. Even when I turned 21 on Thanksgiving, my mom made me a special plate of spaghetti while everyone else ate turkey. And while this seems a little “over the top” I absolutely loved that my mom didn’t let my special day get overlooked. I will always remember that birthday/Thanksgiving and be so thankful for my caring family.

This year, I celebrated my birthday in typically “molly fashion” (i.e. many times!) I started the day with Matt’s family – we had grilled muffins for breakfast (one of my favorites) and opened some very thoughtful presents. Before we jumped on our train to head home, Matt’s mom presented a cake with swirly candles and I was treated to “Happy Birthday” by the Englehardt trio!

Then after a 4.5 hour train ride, Matt cooked me an amazing spaghetti dinner while I set up the Christmas tree. After dinner I opened some presents that my mom had sent me and listened to the Christmas album my sister sent me on iTunes. It was lovely.

THEN, the celebration continued at work today with a mid-afternoon ice cream party!

    

And the party continues with a birthday dinner on Friday that Matt is organizing with some of my friends. You only turn 29 once, why not celebrate it for a full week?

Thank you so much to all of my friends and family members who make me feel so incredibly special for being born!

I heart KitchenAid

I love getting things in mail. The sense of excitement I get when I open the mail box and see something inside is great. Over the years, I have signed up to receive various catalogues so now, it is a very rare occurrence for me to open the mailbox and see nothing inside. I am embarrassed to say that most of the time, the catalogue goes unread and finds its way into the recycling bin rather quickly. My favorite things to receive in the mail are cards, wedding save the dates and invitations and of course packages. Today was a great day, as I came home to find a package, from a loyal blog reader, waiting and I had no idea what it was.

I brought the box upstairs to our apartment and hurried to open it. Inside was something I have been obsessing over for longer than I would like to admit – a glass, anniversary edition KitchenAid bowl (and just when you thought I couldn’t get any dorkier…)

I have wanted a KitchenAid for years. Basically, as soon as I found Martha Stewart owned one, I wanted one for my own kitchen. Growing up, my mom baked a lot, but for some reason she never upgraded from her hand mixer to a KitchenAid. Once I graduated and got my own apartment the thought of buying myself a KitchenAid as a house-warming present, entered my mind. I just couldn’t justify spending so much money on a present for myself, especially when I wasn’t baking that much. Like my mom, I settled for a hand mixer and added it to my Christmas list that year.

However the thought of the mixer lingered and I visited many Macys, William Sonoma and Bed, Bath and Beyond stores to “visit” the glorious machines. A year ago, I told myself that if I found a new job, I would reward my hard work and finally buy a mixer. I picked out the size and color and was ready to drop more than 300 dollars, so that I too, could bake like Martha. Last June, at the beginning of the month, I was offered my current job. While I had met the requirements I set forth for myself, I still couldn’t bring myself to buy the mixer. Matt and I were moving into a new apartment and I didn’t want to overwhelm him with countless kitchen supplies and tools (Silly me, I actually cared about his opinions back then!)

Well, lo and behold… my mom came to the rescue. She realized that I, much like her, couldn’t justify spending so much money on something that I didn’t really need – the hand mixer worked just fine. Macy’s had a sale one weekend and she purchase me the cobalt blue KicthenAid mixer as a housewarming gift. When it arrive in the mail, it was love at first sight.

Right around the holidays, my parents came to visit me and we stopped in at William Sonoma. I spotting the anniversary edition KitchenAid mixer right away. At first, I wasn’t impressed. The mixer was red, which doesn’t really get me too excited; however, then I noticed the bowl. Unlike my mixer that came with a stainless steel bowl, this one came with a glass bowl. As soon as I saw it, I had to have it. Unfortunately (or fortunately according to Matt) the bowl was not sold separately and I was NOT going to buy another mixer, no matter how much I wanted that bowl.

I have searched for the bowl on google, kitchenaid.com, amazon and eBay. Sadly, all of my searches came up empty. I told my mom of this sadness, which she clearly understood.  I told myself that the stainless steel bowl was perfect as it matched my appliances and I eventually moved on.

However, when I came home from work today and opened this unexpected package, all of my original feelings came rushing back. I immediately washed the bowl and started searching my refrigerator and cupboards to see if I could scavenge together enough ingredients for ANY of my baking recipes. Thankfully I ALWAYS have the basic baking ingredients on hand (flour, sugar, vanilla, eggs, etc) and I was able to bake a vanilla cake.

I am now sitting on the couch, perfectly content with my new glass bowl and my beautiful cakes, which are cooling on wire racks in the kitchen. The delicious smell of melted butter has taken over our apartment and I am happy.

Stay tuned to find out if the cake actually tastes good (Matt will be the judge of that as he is typically my taste tester). I will post pictures tomorrow after I have decorated the cake. Please leave suggestions for decorating ideas. Just remember that I am not Duff from Ace of Cakes, although I wish I was.

From Scratch

As a result of my new-found love of blogging, I’ve started to follow various blogs, mostly about DIY type projects, wedding ideas, and cooking. It is impressive to see how many fellow bloggers there are out there, most of whom have very interesting things to say or talent to share with the world. With each new blog I come across, they have at least 5 or 6 more blogs listed on their site, of places they like to visit when they aren’t busy blogging. It is a vicious cycle that eats away at my day… which isn’t really a bad thing since I have been spending most of my work day sitting at my desk feeling uninspired to actually do work. It is quite perfect that my new obsessions with blogs has come along just as I’ve run out of things to google (you know you are bored when you start googling, “google” just to see what comes up!)

Once of the blogs that I check periodically has inspired today’s post. The blog, “From Scratch” posts a few times a week about various recipes that the blogger has made. The recipes are usually unique and fun and it has inspired me to spend a little more time in my kitchen (I plan to make the tomato sauce tonight!) I really do like to cook and I LOVE to bake, but finding the time, inspiration and energy to do these things isn’t always easy. However, last night I decided that I would spend a little time getting in touch with my 1950/60s housewife-self, pearls and all!

Matt and I have been watching a lot of “Mad Men” lately and I have fallen in love with Betty (Bets) Draper. So last night, I channeled my inner Betty. While Matt  loves Don Draper (what guy doesn’t) let’s hope he doesn’t start channeling him!

Matt informed me that he would probably be able to leave work at a decent hour and that we could eat dinner together. He offered to take me out, but I decided to treat him (although he would argue that isn’t always a treat!) to a home cooked meal since he has done so much work around the apartment for me lately, and to make up for that whole 1:30am fire alarm incident thing.

I prepared a delicious meal of steak, potatoes and asparagus. It turned out great and I am happy to report that the smoke alarm didn’t go off! I felt like such a good fiance, making a meal for my hard-working man. I know my feminist mother would be proud!

I capped off my domestic diva evening by baking a cake, from scratch. This is something that I used to do often, back when I decided that I was going to move to Baltimore and work with Duffy at Ace of Cakes; however, I haven’t made one in a very long time. I made a vanilla cake with buttercream frosting, following a recipe that is apparently what New York’s Magnolia bakery uses for their cakes and cupcakes. The recipe wasn’t very difficult, but I did substitute the “self rising flour” with cake flour, salt and baking powder.

The cake turned out a little denser than I would have liked. I blame this on my oven – I have convection oven settings which always seem to screw things up for me (clearly I accept no blame for this). I have officially swore them off and promise to use the regular temperature settings from here on out! I finished the cake off with the frosting and pink fondant flowers. I can never get the frosting to be as smooth as they do on Ace of Cakes or Food Network Challenge, even when I attempt to do a crumb coating.

 While the cake looks good, my hands are now covered in pink food dye (note to self, use gloves when handling food dye).

I brought the cake into work today and it just happened to be someone’s birthday in my office – how perfect! Now all I need is for my co-workers to post comments about how delicious the cake is. Stay tuned…