Sunday, October 30, 2011

halloween cookies - jack-o-lantern pumpkin spice cookies

I was recently invited to participate in McCormick's Halloween baking blogger contest through KitchenPlay, and since I love baking how could I resist?  For my inspiration, I chose the pumpkin cookies from Peabody of Culinary Concoctions, except that I modified a few things:

  • I substituted the cookie mix for homemade sugar cookie dough
  • Instead of using a container of vanilla frosting, I made royal icing to decorate it with.
  • Instead of adding the pumpkin pie spice to the cookie dough, I added it to the icing.

I also added a jack-o-lantern face, similar to the ones on my Halloween Cupcakes from last year.

After adding a few jack-o-lantern faces, I decided to make cookie replicas of the jack-o-lanterns that we carved with the kids this week!

From left to right - daddy's scary jack-o-lantern, mommy's hello kitty jack-o-lantern, Melodie's classic jack-o-lantern (with a little help from mommy), and Matthew's funny jack-o-lantern (drawn all by himself!)

Hope you have a Happy Halloween!

*** Update:
You can now find my recipe for Hello Kitty Pumpkin Spice Cookies in my new book, "The Hello Kitty Baking Book"! Enjoy!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

roses cake

I've been wanting to make this rose cake from I Am Baker for some time now, and celebrating our friend Cindy's birthday was the perfect opportunity!  Cindy's favorite color is purple, so I decided to make her cake in a pretty shade of lavender.

For the cake, I made two 6-inch layers of chocolate cake, and filled it with strawberry whipped cream (since the birthday girl loves strawberry whipped cream!).  For the frosting, I wanted to do a cream cheese frosting because I love the way it tastes, but after the cream cheese frosting mess from my Superman Birthday cake, I opted for a modified half cream cheese, half buttercream frosting which would stand up to the piping.

After first applying a crumb coating to the cake, I piped large rosettes all over the cake with a Wilton 1M tip, and filled in the spaces with little swoops and swirls.  Although I thought the piping could have been a little neater, I loved the end result.  I hope Cindy did too!  Happy Birthday!!!

Monday, October 17, 2011

superman cupcakes

My son Matthew had three different celebrations for his fourth birthday!  Lucky boy!  First, we went out for jamba juice (his favorite) and a pizza dinner the evening of his actual birthday.  Then that weekend, we had a big party for him with Superman cake and Superman cookie favors.  And in between those two celebrations, we also had a party at his preschool with all of his classmates!

For his class party, I made vanilla cupcakes (using the same recipe as his Superman cake), and topped it with a swirl blue cream cheese frosting.  I also initially wanted to fill the cupcakes with strawberry whipped cream, but I ran out of time and dropped that idea when it was about 1am and I wasn't done making the cupcakes yet!

The final touch was a Superman logo that I had piped with royal icing ahead of time.  It was exactly like piping royal icing on a cookie, except that I piped it on waxed paper instead!  And then I just peeled them off (carefully) and placed them on top of the cupcakes.

While I watched the kids eat their cupcakes, I realized that they all had almost the same strategy - first, carefully remove the Superman logo and devour it.  Then lick all of the frosting off of the cupcake.  Finally, eat the cupcake (although most of them just licked off all the frosting and the went off to play!)  But I was proud of my Matthew, he ate his entire cupcake!  (Which meant that he liked it, since he normally doesn't like cake).

I also made a SUPER MATTHEW banner to decorate the classroom with, and my husband made a Superman pinata (well, he actually patched one up an old one).  But more on that in my next post. :)

Hope you had a wonderful birthday, Matthew!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

superman cookies

To go along with the Superman cake that I made for my son Matthew's 4th birthday, I made Superman cookies to include with the party favors.  Originally I was going to just do letter cookies ("M" for Matthew) as well as a Superman logo piped onto a round cookie, but my husband offered to make me a custom Superman logo shaped cookie cutter, and of course I couldn't refuse!

Once the cookie cutter was ready (it took him about 5 minutes to make this one!), I made my favorite homemade sugar cookie recipe and cut out my Superman logo cookies.  After the cookies had baked and cooled, I piped the Superman logo detail in black royal icing, and the filled it in with red and yellow royal icing.

I also made the originally planned round cookies with the Superman logo piped on top, which was inspired by Matthew's favorite Superman t-shirt.

Matthew loved the cookies, and I hope everyone else at the party did too!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

superman birthday cake - white cake filled with whipped cream and strawberries and covered with cream cheese frosting

My son Matthew normally doesn't like to eat cake.  I know.  I don't get it either.  But we were recently at his friend's birthday party, and when all the games had ended and it was time to eat, he finished his pizza and then promptly told me he wanted to go home.  I said we couldn't leave until we'd had birthday cake, to which he declared he didn't want any cake!  I told him that he didn't have to eat any of it, but that he had to stay long enough to sing happy birthday and watch his friend blow out the candles.

When his friend's mom was passing out the cake, she offered me two slices, but I only took one and told her that we'd share (since I knew Matthew didn't want cake).  But when he saw that the cake was filled with whipped cream and strawberries, he asked if he could eat my strawberries.  After he had eaten all the strawberries off of my plate, he still wanted more.  So I got him his own piece of cake, and to my surprise he devoured the whole thing, cake and all!  And that's when I knew what kind of cake I would make him for his birthday.

I used the same white cake recipe as I did for his dad's "heart surprise" birthday cake,  and since I was making a 12 x 18 inch cake I had to make four of these in 9 x 13 pans!  (Which took quite a long time since I made them one at a time and the batter is more complicated than my regular cake recipes, as it requires folding in whipped egg whites to make the cake fluffy).

After baking and cooling all four cakes, it was time to assemble.  I placed two of the cakes side by side after slicing off the connecting edges, and then covered it with a thick layer of homemade whipped cream.  Then I topped that with sliced strawberries, and then another layer of whipped cream.

After letting it set in the fridge, I topped it with the last two cakes, and then covered it with blue cream cheese frosting.  Now here's where I realized my mistake in judgement.  While I love the taste of cream cheese frosting (especially compared to buttercream), it just doesn't hold up as well as buttercream.  And no matter how many times I tried to smooth out my cream cheese frosting, it was just gloppy.  And runny.  And melty.  I think on a regular 8 inch cake it would have been fine - but on a gigantic 12 x 18 inch cake?  There was no way I could get it to work.  Next time I make a cake this large, I'm definitely using buttercream!!!

But it was too late, and I had to just roll with it.  So I piped my superman logo outline in black, and then filled it in with red and yellow frosting using a star tip.  I wanted to do some sort of decoration on the sides, but my favorite basketweave design just didn't seem to fit with the whole Superman theme.  So I just used a frosting comb to make a design on the sides.  And then it was time to pipe the border in white.  But since my frosting was already goopy and melty, the border on the top edge started drooping (sigh).  But at this point it was past 3am and I was too tired to do anything about it.  So I just left it alone.

In the end, it didn't matter anyway, because while driving to the party we had to brake really hard at one point, and most of the borders got smashed against the box!  Argh!

When I finally tasted the cake, I loved the combination of all the flavors, but I thought the cake itself was a little bit dry.  However several people asked for seconds, so I guess they must have liked it?  And most importantly - the birthday boy loved it.  And that's all that really matters, right? :)

*** Update: I also made Superman cupcakes and cookies!  You can find the cupcakes here, and the cookies here!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

coffee bean ice cream

My friend Reggie's husband LOVES coffee ice cream, and since they were coming to visit I wanted to make them a batch.  Normally I make my coffee oreo ice cream for them, but this time I wanted to try serving them a new coffee bean ice cream recipe that I found in my David Lebovitz ice cream book.  I had made it once over the summer and I think I like it even better than the coffee oreo!

This ice cream starts with infusing warm milk and heavy cream with whole coffee beans.  I let mine steep for over an hour before continuing with cooking the egg yolk custard base.  The final step was to add a teeny bit of finely ground espresso bean before letting that mixture sit in the fridge until cold, and finally churning it in the ice cream machine.

I love the look of the flecks of ground espresso bean!  And the ice cream came out smooth and creamy, and rich with deep coffee flavor.  I hope this becomes their new favorite coffee ice cream too!