Monday, August 29, 2011

Starry Night cake

As I was browsing through some favorite baking blogs the other day, I happened upon some cakes that Amanda of I am Baker had made using a Wilton #233 grass tip.  When I saw her ocean scene, I immediately thought of the painting Starry Night by Vincent Van Gogh. 

One of my favorite paintings.  I have it on my mouse pad.  It's on my bucket list to see in person (Museum of Modern Art in NYC).  Love, love, love. 

First we must discuss the cake itself.  Using the perfect vanilla cupcake recipe painstakingly created by Glory from Glorious Treats blog, I tweaked the ingredients to make a pumpkin/vanilla butter cake. 

Amanda and Glory are two of the most talented bakers imaginable - you could spend HOURS oogling their sugar art!  Many thanks to them both for the inspiration!

Following Glory's recipe,  I doubled it to make a 7 x 11 inch rectangular cake.  I divided the batter in two, and to one half added:

1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ginger
1/2 tsp nutmeg
2 drops copper amerigel food coloring

To the other half of the cake I added:

1 tsp. vanilla butter emulsion (T J Maxx purchase!)
2 drops of electric yellow amerigel food coloring. 

After spraying the pan, I added the two batters in swirls and globs (highly technical baking terminology).  Into a 350 degree oven for about 28 minutes or until a toothpick in the center comes out clean.  I cooled it on a rack in the pan for five minutes and then removed it from the pan to cool completely. 

This is what it looked like after the globbing and swirling and before baking.

After licking the batter off the spoons, I decided that this was going to be one REALLY GOOD cake.  And for such a great tasting cake, I wanted to make an interesting and not overly sweet mousse to fill it with. 

3/4 cup apple cider
1 envelope unflavored gelatin
1 tbsp. rum (or you could use rum extract)
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla butter emulsion
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 tsp. ginger
1/4 tsp. allspice

Dissolve gelatin in apple cider.  Whip heavy cream and powdered sugar till soft peaks form.  Gently add remaining ingredients and chill.  Once again, I licked the spatula and declared it a winner.  I could really see using these components  together to make a trifle at the holiday.  Hmmm, needs a third ingredient.  Any ideas out there?

Now for the tricky part - splitting an already thin cake.  It wasn't pretty, but I got the job done. I then covered the cakes and put them in the fridge for a couple of hours to make them easier to handle. 

While they chilled I exercised to make up the all the batter licking. 

To put it all together:  I gently topped the bottom layer with the mousse and placed the top layer, well, on top.  As for the icing, any buttercream or Swiss meringue would work for this.  I used a standard buttercream this time, because my beloved SMB was going to take me too long and I didn't have enough butter on hand.  A quick crumb coat

and it was back into the fridge while I colored the icing.  As you can see, the crumb coat was done in a medium blue.  I tinted the remaining icing dark blue, black, white, yellow, and goldish orange. 

It was then time to load my pastry bags and give those Wilton #233 grass tips a try.  I placed my Starry Night mouse pad in front of me, took a deep breath and dove in.  And you know what?  It was fun.

And now a few words about my muse.  Vincent Van Gogh was a Dutch impressionist painter.  He suffered from anxiety and mental illness (attacking Gauguin with a razor and subsequently cutting off part of his own ear...) and took his own life at the age of 37.  Starry night is perhaps his greatest work, and certainly his most recognized. 

I think if he were alive today and seeing this cake, he might come after me with a razor.

But if he did, I would cut him a slice of cake - it is fantastic in flavor; light and delicate in texture.  With the mousse filling, it is just heavenly. 


And then just to be safe, I would hide my serving knife  ;)

Linking with
Stonegable on the menu Monday
Sunday Showcase
My Romantic Home
Miz Helen's Country Cottage
Between Naps on the Porch
The King's Court 4
Gingersnap Crafts
Lady Behind the Curtain
Savvy Southern Style
Sweet Little Gals
All Thinz Related
Chef n Training
Sweetology 101
Running with Glitter
A Stroll Thru Life
Funky Polkadot Giraffe
Today's Creative Blog

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Left over icing and graham crackers

Four things led to this little project.

Number one: I had a situation developing in my refridgerator.  There were a zillion little containers of left over icing and I had to get rid of them.  Because I am cheap thrifty, I didn't want to just throw them out.

 Number two: in my pantry there were a couple of boxes of graham crackers that looked suspiciously old.  Not bad, just not as fresh as they could be. 

Number three: I was also planning a day of major cooking in the kitchen and so I really didn't want to roll out and bake any sugar cookies.

 Number four:  (and I am not making this up)  I heard an owl hooting in a tree outside my house. 

What is any reasonable person to do?  Make a snack for the kids!

Get it?  Hoo instead of who - I crack myself up sometimes. 

Kind of cute aren't they?

My linebacker 16 year old and his 6' 2" brother who is home for a visit and my field hockey playing daughter are going to descend on the kitchen when they get home from practice.  Hubby will also be here for our after work cup of coffee in the garden.  That's HOO wants a snack.

Sharing this post today with
Tatertots and Jello
Sweets for a Saturday
Chic on a Shoestring
Tidy Mom
Friday's Unfolded
Everyday Tastes
It's a Keeper

Gooseberry Patch
Miz Helen's Country Cottage
Between Naps on the Porch

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Birthday plate of cookie love

This birthday love was for a friend of mine.  There are chocolate iced sugar cookies and mini macarons (I had a tough time making them little - got to work on this).  These little macaron treasures are filled with Swiss meringue buttercream laced with a touch of almond extract and chambord - a French black raspberry liquor.  To make them EXTRA special, they are topped with royal icing butterflies and flowers.  In the past I have made my butterflies with white chocolate because they are much sturdier, but I was feeling brave yesterday.  Only one broke, so it was a major victory.  The cookie message was:

Happy 50th birthday Nancy!  The party girl was resplendent last  night in a tiara complete with peacock feathers - why didn't I bring my camera? 

And as a side note, I am thoroughly opposed to flowers dyed funky colors like the ones I used.  You will hear me rant about poinsettias sprayed with blue and purple glitter this holiday season.  When I saw these babies at the store, I had a large internal battle. The color was SO PERFECT with the cookies.  In the end, the  turquoise colored daisies won and I loved them on the plate. 

Linking with:
Sweet Little Gals
Lolly Jane Boutique
Tatertots and Jello
Sweet as Sugar
Inspiration Friday
Chic on a Shoestring
Tidy Mom
Friday's Unfolded
My Romantic Home
It's a Keeper

Miz Helen's Country Cottage
Between Naps on the Porch
Savvy Southern Style
Night Owl Crafting
The Creative Spark
A Stroll Thru Life
Sweetology 101
Funky Polka Dot Giraffe
Today's Creative Blog
Reasons to Skip Housework
Lady Bug Blessings
Stone Gable
Home Savvy A to Z
Dittle Dattle
Masterpiece Monday
The Tablescaper
The Sunday Showcase

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Thank you cookies

My Romantic HomeHow do you say

to some wonderful people?  If you are me, you make sugar cookies with chocolate royal icing.

People who do nice things for my children are special.

When I need to say thank you, I am happy for you, I am proud of you, I am thinking of you, and I love you, I seem to say it best with cookies. 

Hugs work well, too. 

And by the way, it is super easy to make chocolate icing.  I just add cocoa powder to the icing along with the brown food coloring.  The first time I made brown icing and it tasted vanilla, it really confused my brain - it did not compute at all.  I can't handle it without the cocoa powder...

So to these special friends, many thanks and love from Lisa and Isabelle!

Sharing my cookie love with
Savvy Southern Style
The Creative Spark
A Stroll Thru Life
Sweetology 101
Stone Gable
Home Savvy A to Z
The Tablescaper
Sunday Showcase
Tatertots and Jello
Sweet as Sugar Cookies
Tickled Pink Friday
Simply Sweet Home
Tidy Mom
Miz Helen's Country Cottage
No Minimalist Here
Carolyn's Homework
Between Naps on the Porch
My Romantic Home

Monday, August 15, 2011

More macarons

Now that I kind of have the hang of making them, I have a bad case of macaron-aholic-mania.  Yes, I made that word up.  These aqua cuties were for Drew and Genevieve.

It is so much fun to think up flavor combos and color the batter.  For these, I used a white chocolate base flavored with amaretto for the filling.  The almond flour pairs quite nicely with amaretto! 

On a recent trip to a mennonite store, I spied some pecan meal.  You know where this is going, right?  How about using pecan instead of almond flour in the macaron batter?  A couple of good reasons for this experiment - one, I like pecans more than almonds, two, it is LOTS cheaper, and three, I like breaking rules and not following recipes to the letter.

 Sad, but true.

So for this new cookie, I simply replaced the almond meal with pecan meal.  It behaved exactly the same in the baking process, and I loved the flavor.  Speaking of flavor, I decided to pair it with a brown sugar maple buttercream.  I do not measure when making icing but what I did was cream softened butter with brown sugar.  Then added pure maple syrup, some cream, and powdered sugar till I got a nice consistency. 

This is tasty.  Really tasty.  If you like maple syrup, pecan pie, or blondies, this is the macaron for you.  Or should I say pecaron, or macaran, or pecanaran? 

I like making up words AND recipes.  This could keep me busy for a long time...

Linking with

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Sis' cookies

Not my usual sugar cookie, is it?  Since I recently gave you the recipe for the best cake in the world, I thought it appropriate to share the best cookie in the world.  Before I left for Iowa, I was in a baking frenzy.  Macarons for Drew and Genevieve and Sis' cookies for Ted and his room mates.  Ted's buddy Luke is an intern at the White House and got us a tour last Saturday (Thank you again Luke!).  It was a fairly large hassle for him to arrange, so only the best cookies would do as a thank you.

When I pull out the big guns for cookies, this is my go to recipe.  It was given to me by my mom and given to her by her best friend and first cousin, Sis.  You need to know that Sis was the mother of seven kids and could cook like nobodies business.  These cookies are rich and chewy, easy to make, and are perfect for sending in the mail (many a box has been sent to my kiddos in college).  It also makes a large amount, and with five kids and four of them being boys, this is a very good thing.  The only adjustment I made was to use white chocolate chips instead of semi sweet.

Sis' cookie recipe:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees

3 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 1/2 cups softened butter
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
6 oz. package instant chocolate pudding mix
3 eggs
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 package white chocolate chips

Sift together dry ingredients.  Cream butter and sugars till light and fluffy.  Add eggs one at a time, combining well.  Add vanilla extract.  Slowly add in dry ingredients.  Stir in white chocolate chips.  Drop onto ungreased baking sheet and bake for 8 - 10 minutes.  Prepare to be amazed. 

By all means, feel free to use butterscotch chips, peanut butter chips, Heath bits, or semi sweet chocolate.  There is no going wrong with this one.  I do have to say, though, that the white chocolate is my family favorite.
My cousins (Sis' kids) are incredible cooks as well - I have been the lucky recipient of some fabulous food this week!

You must try these.  Oh,and remember to add a cup of coffee or tall glass of milk - oh yeah.

Linking with my friends
Gooseberry Patch
Sweetology 101
Stone Gable
Tatertots and Jello
Foodie Friday
French Country Cottage
Savvy Southern Style
Between Naps on the Porch
Somewhat Simple
My Romantic Home
Chic on a Shoestring
Tidy Mom

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Honey stack cake

Have you ever sort of forgotten a cookbook that was one time a favorite?  Well, that is what happened to me - before the Barefoot Contessa, there was Marcia Adams.  I ADORED her.  This intelligent, articulate, down to earth woman collected heirloom recipes across the country.  She wrote several cookbooks and had her own program on public television.  Not only did I hang on her every word, but I recieved her cookbook Marcia Adams' Heirloom Recipes for Christmas 1996.  Every recipe I tried was a winner, and I so loved her interesting narratives.  Here is her blog.

But gradually as I added more cookbooks to my collection, discovered the Food Network, and an overwhelming amount of food ideas online, Marcia got just a bit forgotten.  Not very nice of me, I know.  I got thinking about her for some reason yesterday and did an internet search, only to learn that she had passed away at age 75 this past Febuary.  And I felt awful. 

So with Brooke coming to dinner tonight to celebrate her birthday, I knew I had to break out the old cookbook and remind myself why Marcia was so special.   Dinner was Jonathan chicken - chicken, apples, tarragon, flaming brandy (almost burned down the kitchen), and cream. Scrumptious.  And for dessert, honey stack cake.

The cake:
1 stick butter at room temperature
1 cup sugar
2 large egg yolks
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
3/4 cup milk at room temperature
2 tsp vanilla extract

The syrup:
2/3 cup honey
1 tbsp. butter

Freshly whipped cream
Chopped walnuts (my family doesn't go for nuts so I omitted them)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line the bottom of an 8 inch pan with parchment paper and grease both the paper and sides of pan.  In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar for 3 minutes.  Add the egg yolks one at a time and beat 1 minute.  Wisk dry ingredients together in a separate bowl.  Combine milk and vanilla extract.  Add dry ingredients to butter and sugar alternately with the milk mixture, beginning and ending with the dry.  Spread the batter evenly into the prepared pan and bake for 35 minutes or until the top is golden.  Cool the cake for 10 minutes then turn onto cooling rack.  Cool completely. 

For the syrup: Combine the honey with the butter in a small deep saucepan and simmer over low heat  for 2 to 3 minutes.  Remove from heat and cool completely. 

After the cake has cooled, split into  two layers.  Spread the bottom layer with the whipped cream and place the second layer on top.  Drizzle with half the honey syrup, top with walnuts, and drizzle with other half of syrup.  Cover and refridgerate.

I did mine a bit differently.  I drizzed the bottom half with some syrup and then the whipped cream and repeated the process with the top. 

This cake is unbelievably delicious, but kind of underwhelming in appearance.  I felt the need to bling it up a little.

Mu ha ha!  Sugar, water, and corn syrup boiled until amber in color and then swirled onto the cake and in crazy designs on parchment paper. 

Gently placed into the whipped cream, the sugar gives this short cake some height and drama.  Tastes like the topping to creme brulee.  Need I say more?  My kids claimed this cake to be the best tasting EVER.  Dense, rich, but not overly sweet.  Run to your kitchens and try this cake! 

So here is my homage to the wonderful Marcia Adams.   And this is one incredible cake.

I am linking with these fun parties:
Gooseberry Patch
Pink Saturday
Feathered Nest Friday
Sugar Bananas
Chic on a Shoestring
My Romantic Home
House of Hepworths
Between Naps on the Porch
Paisley Passions