Cake Decorating Class – #3

So, yesterday I had my third cake decorating basics class. It went really well except that by the end, my hand was exhausted. It is kind of like when I was learning how to knit. Muscles that have never worked in a certain direction are being forced to do work that they’ve never done for hours at a time. I am not a professional cake decorator. However, not that I’ve gone this far I can honestly say, professional cake decorators must have the most amazingly fit arms!

After all of the recent baking that I’ve done, I decided to take it easy for class.  I got some help from Betty Crocker.  And I’m thinking that I’ll do the same for my final cake next week.

As you have guessed from the photos, last night’s class was all about cupcakes.  Yummy yummy cupcakes.  I think that they all turned out rather nicely.  The photo made the color look a little weird because the cupcakes with the small white flowers were actually violet.  The photo looks like they were some kind of brownish purple shade.

Yum. Yum. And yum.

The little white flowers are my new favorite.  They turned out really nicely.  And I learned that making leaves out of frosting is actually fairly easy.  We learned three different types of leaves.  They all look pretty similar.

The blue flowers are a little weird looking.  My frosting was definitely too thick so they didn’t come out the way that they are supposed to.  Ryan said that they were really cute sea anemones.  So, I know that if I am ever going to do an ocean themed cake, my sea anemones are going to be awesome.

Lots and lots of cupcakes

I brought all of the cupcakes to work.  They were completely gone in a couple of hours.  I thought that they turned out really nicely.  I guess everyone else thought that, too.

Baking My Way Through Baked – The Ninth Recipe

For my next Cake Decorating Basics class, I needed to bring one cake with my choice of filling. I happened to have a jar of lemon curd in the fridge and thought that a lemon cake might be nice. Luckily, Baked has a recipe for Lemon Drop Cake that I decided to bake for this assignment.
For class, I needed to bring my “class icing” and one layer cake. This cake bakes in three separate pans, so I would have extra to enjoy at home. Since I had to bring in my “class icing” I wasn’t going to make the lemon drop frosting. However, I planned on making a batch of the lemon curd filling for this recipe to use on the one cake layer that would stay at home.

This was a very easy cake from beginning to end.  Since I don’t actually bake a lot of cakes (I frequently make cookies or pies instead) I had kind of forgotten just how simple a cake can be.

The batter was very light and smelled faintly of lemons (the batter has lemon zest in it).

Light and lemony batter

The cakes are ready to go to class

I brought all three layers to my class just in case I would need them.  I only ended up using one.   And, it’s not so bad for my first real attempt at decorating a cake.

Here fishy, fishy, fishy, fishy, fishy..... Bonus points if you know the Sesame Street character that yells that while fishing.

I brought the decorated cake to work with me and put it in the break room with a note asking people to eat it.  A coworker said that she loved the lemony taste in the cake and that she loved my decorating.  She also said that it would be great for a wedding cake.  I’m assuming that she meant that it would be great for a wedding cake if it didn’t have a fish covering the top.

I assumed that most of the strong lemony flavor would come from the lemon curd and the lemon curd frosting.  I fully intended to make the curd and frosting some time during the week.  However, as the week went on, I came to the conclusion that I would not actually be making the lemon curd or the lemon curd frosting.

You know when you have one of those weeks?  When you don’t want to do a single thing when you get home?  Well, that was this week.  When I actually felt ambitious enough to make some curd, that feeling lasted only about two minutes.  So, I decided to just let this one go.  And I am certain that this cake will be just fine without fancy homemade curd and fancy homemade curd frosting.  I am also certain that if I eat a piece for breakfast each morning that I will eventually finish off all of the cake.

Plus, after you’ve had one of those weeks, is there any better way to start you day than with a big piece of cake?

Cake Decorating Basics class – Session 2

The last class dove a little further into cake decorating by actually allowing us to decorate an actual cake. I brought in my Lemon Drop Cake and was really excited to learn some icing techniques beyond the stars that we learned in our first session.  We worked on filling techniques, frosting the outside of the cake, squiggly lines, borders, dots, and transferring images onto the cake.

I didn’t bring any small containers to mix colors in so my cake is all white.  Yes, the fish would look totally cute in a bright blue or green but I’m happy to know that it looks like a fish.

For my first actual attempt at decorating a cake, I’m pretty proud of the results.

Oh, and the cake?  I took it to work and put it in the break room so that my coworkers would eat it.  And that was a definite success.

Happy Valentine’s Day – Nothing says love like a plate of fried chicken

It’s Valentine’s Day once again.  I love Valentine’s Day.  I always have.  When we were little, Valentine’s Day breakfast was served on the red Valentine’s Day placemats and always had a small little present included on the plate.  When I got older, Valentine’s Day was an excuse to do some baking for those that I love, and for myself of course.

Now that I’m married, Valentine’s Day is when we make plans months in advance to have a delicious dinner and a lovely date night.  Since Valentine’s Day is a Monday this year, we made our dinner plans on Sunday night.  For my birthday last year, we went to Table 52.  It was delicious.  However, my birthday dinner was on a Saturday and that meant no fried chicken.  For Valentine’s Day, Ryan and I wanted fried chicken.  (Table 52 serves fried chicken on Sundays and Mondays only.)  Thank goodness it was Sunday!

This meal was one of those meals that change your life a bit.  We’ve eaten at Table 52 before and it was delicious.  But this time was different.  When you have an all-time favorite food (my Papa’s fried chicken) and you eat something that instantly takes you back to that food, it’s a little shocking and a bit emotional.

Food can be an emotional experience.  And that’s not me being some sort of food snob.  I promise you.  Think of the food that you ate on Sundays when you were little.  Imagine the taste.  Remember the smells.  Hear the sounds.  If that can redone in a new environment, I promise you will feel emotional about it.

And that brings me back to Valentine’s Day dinner.  Is  Chef Art Smith‘s fried chicken the best chicken I have ever eaten?  Well, no.  But it’s the closest to Papa’s fried chicken that I have ever found.

And that may be the best compliment that I could ever give to a piece of food.

Cake Decorating Basics Class – Session #1

So, as you already know, I signed up for a couple classes at Jo-Ann after Christmas. After the crochet class, my next was Cake Decorating Basics class. I’ve got to tell you, you should take this class. I have no idea if it’s the teacher, the materials, or if I have some actual talent for it, but this was really fun. The first session actually flew by really quickly. And I learned a lot! Seriously.

The finale for the first session was decorating cookies using “stars.” I’m super excited about the next session already as we will be decorating and filling our first cake. Woo-hoo!

Yum! Frosting!

Baking My Way Through Baked – The Eighth Recipe

In addition to making the Lemon Lemon Loaf for breakfast, I decided to make some muffins as well.  I love blueberry muffins and we have a lot (!!!!) of frozen blueberries in the freezer that need to be used in something.  It worked out nicely then that Baked has a recipe for muffins that has blueberries as an ingredient.  So, Orange Almond Blueberry Muffins were my eighth recipe as I bake my way through Baked.

They seemed pretty complicated when I read the recipe.  However, they actually didn’t take that much time.  With that said, I don’t really like getting out extra pieces of equipment for just one step.  Using the food processor to grind the almonds?  It did make a nice almond powder and it did make the entire kitchen smell like almonds but for the actual amount of almond powder in the recipe, I’m just not sure that it was worth it.

The almonds were the biggest taste in these muffins.  I actually didn’t taste the orange at all and the blueberries were a bit lost.  Next time, I might add even more orange and blueberries than called for in the recipe.

I tried to make these look very pretty.

And most of them still looked pretty after baking.

The results?  The texture is a perfect muffin texture.  They were soft but kind of chewy on the top.  Perfect.

These were a big hit.  Not nearly as big a hit as the lemon loaves were, but the bowl of muffins was empty pretty quickly.

Snowtorious B.I.G. and Da Blizzard of 2011 – Or, I want cookies

When I was little, snow days meant a day full of hot chocolate, watching tv all day long, and getting to eat whatever we wanted out of the fridge. Now that I’ve grown up, snow days mean frigid temperatures, walking the dog when he doesn’t want to go outside any more, and digging the car out of the snow drifts. This winter will live on as the year in which Chicago was hit by Snowmageddon, Sno.M.G., Snowtorious B.I.G., Snoprah, Da Blizzard, lots of snow. It also is the first time in years that I had a real snow day. In fact, I had two real snow days in a row.

Ryan and I dug out the car Wednesday morning and then a snow-bulldozer finally came to our street around 4pm.

To give you an idea of what the snow looked like in our neighborhood:

Our backyard - there are trash cans somewhere out there

I only saw one car trying to get to work on Wednesday. They ended up giving up.

Puck had a pretty good time. And then he jumped into the backyard and was swimming in snow. He likes playing in snow until it is over his head.

Don't worry. Ryan eventually found the trash cans.

When it was announced that I was going to have a snow day on Thursday as well, I decided to make my second snow day as productive as my first snow day.  Snow day number 1: cleaned out the fridge, did dishes, did three loads of laundry, did some knitting, and then mopped the kitchen floor.  Snow day number 2: bake cookies.

However, snow day number 2 had a few speed bumps.  The biggest speed bump was buying a new battery for our car because the battery that we had did not like cold temperatures.  In fact, when there was a cold temperature the car would decide not to start.  By the time that we got back from the dealership with a new battery in the car, I was not in a mood to bake.  So, the cookies had to wait one more day.

On Friday, I finally got around to baking the chocolate chip cookies that I (and Ryan) had been wanting for days.  I used the chocolate chip cookie recipe from my copy of Martha Stewart’s Cookies.  I love looking through this cookbook.  The pictures are beautiful and all look delicious.  At some point, I may attempt to bake my way through this cookbook like I am doing with my copy of Baked.

I made these cookies before and they turned out wonderfully.  This time was just the same.

The dough is yummy by itself.  As I was enjoying spoonfuls of the raw cookie dough, I could hear my mom’s voice telling me not to eat raw dough because of the raw eggs.  But, I just couldn’t help it.  I couldn’t stop!

Yum! Yum! Yum!

When the cookies came out of the oven, they were quite puffy and had expanded quite a bit more than I had remembered.  I was a bit worried.

Puffy cookies

But when the cookies cooled, they flattened out just a bit and became nice and chewy on the outside and perfectly soft on the inside.  This, is a great cookie.  It’s a great dessert to end blizzard week 2011.  I discovered, as I finished this blog entry, that it’s also a great breakfast item.

Dessert. Snack. Breakfast. Lunch. Dinner.

Baking My Way Through Baked – The Seventh Recipe

At work, every Friday, someone is in charge of bringing in breakfast for the entire staff.  This past Friday was my Friday.  I decided to do some baking.

I love breads.  And I love lemon loaves for breakfast.  So, I thought that the Lemon Lemon Loaf in Baked would be a great next recipe for me to conquer.

All in all, as long as you don’t have an issue with the food processor leaking all over the table, this is a pretty easy recipe.  The recipe asks you to throw almost all of the wet ingredients into the food processor.  This would be fine if my food processor was about ten times larger than it is.  But since I have a standard home kitchen food processor and not a fancy-giant-professional kitchen food processor, there was a bit of a problem with leaking.

Also, as has been a problem with most of the recipes so far, the baking time was way off.  I’m beginning to think that there is something seriously wrong with our oven.  Perhaps I need to buy a separate thermometer to go inside the oven.  I had to bake the loaves for almost ten minutes longer than was called for.

With all of that said, these looked really good.  Even before I added the sugar/lemon juice combo, these looked really good.

Just out of the oven

Then, I turned the loaves upside down and attacked them with toothpicks.  I then brushed the breads with a lemon juice/sugar combo.  Since I had attacked them with toothpicks, the syrup soaked right in.

Mmmmmmm.....syrup soaking

Once the loaves had been glazed, I became quite excited.  They looked absolutely delicious.

Yum. Yum. Yum.

The outcome?  They were really refreshing and fresh tasting.  You could really taste the fresh lemon.   Plus, I added a lot more lemon juice to the glaze than was in the actual recipe.

These were a big hit during the office breakfast.  Two coworkers asked me for the recipe so I’m thinking that everyone liked them.