Thursday, September 8, 2011


This has absolutely nothing to do with baking or reading or writing... but look at that adorableness!! I couldn't NOT post it... d'awwww.. I wuv him. 

P.S. You should go to Kroger right now and buy sea salt caramel truffle ice cream because it is, to put it simply, the bombdiggity. That is all. 

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

10 (hopefully) helpful tips for cake baking!

Hello friends, I figured since my last post was mostly cake preoccupied, I might as well pass along some helpful notes about baking cakes...  Oh and show you this: 

I made that for one of my friend's mom's 50th birthday. It's one of my all-time favorite chocolate cake recipes with chocolate ganache and rich chocolate frosting. I garnished it with homemade whipped cream and toasted almonds. This is not my own recipe, it can be found at this place >>> 

That cake recipe IS a little bit more involved but it's TOTALLY worth it and is very extreme chocolatey goodness. 

Anyways... I know I've talked a lot about cake recently, so I'm gonna share some tips for baking cakes that I have found make the whole process lots easier. 

Ten tips for your average bear… er… cake baker:

1. To ensure wonderful taste, make your cake from scratch. HOWEVER, if you do not have the time, money or energy to put towards baking a "from-scratch" cake, then you may use a "doctored up" box mix. Yep, you can have the ease of making a cake from the box without the box taste! I follow three simple steps to ensure my box cakes have "homemade" quality. Add a small amount of vanilla extract to the batter, add more water than it calls for and bake for a little less time (regardless of how the lil toothpick looks when you stick it in the center). This never fails to make these box mixes taste just a little better!

2. In general, I find it's best to not cook any cake for as long as the recipe calls for. You never want your cake to dry out and the quickest way that happens is if it's in the oven for too long. So, always set your timer for about 5 minutes less than the recipe calls for and check your cake. If the toothpick/cake tester comes out with a few crumbles on it, you're golden. 

3. Don't panic! If one of your perfect layers decide to break in half, panicking doesn't help (been there, done that). Basically, you can fix pretty much every cake disaster with frosting and a wee bit of patience. 

4. ALWAYS use a crumb coat of frosting. What is a crumb coat, you ask? Well, a crumb coat is a very thin, fine layer of frosting that you want to spread all over your cake. This thin layer serves to seal in all the little ugly crumbs that would normally get stuck in your beautiful frosting. After administering a crumb coat, if you can stick your cake in the fridge for a few minutes, it will be perfect and ready for the "real" layer of frosting!

5. Try to use room-temperature ingredients. This includes things like eggs, butter, cream cheese etc. The more room temperature the ingredients are, the better they combine together and create delicious goodness. 

6. If you use whipped cream as a center frosting (for in between layers) be sure to let your cake set in the refrigerator for awhile or else the layers could fall off when the cream gets too soft. 

7. ALWAYS let your cake cool COMPLETELY before frosting. The absolute best solution for this is to make your cake the night before it needs to be served and stick it in the fridge or freezer overnight. Frozen cake layers are the easiest to work with. 

8. When a recipe says "grease and flour pans" be sure to do just that. The last thing you want is to deal with cake that won't come out of the pan. Be sure to get a nice even coat of flour all over the pans. For even easier removal, line the bottom of your cake pans with parchment paper. 

9. When it comes to removing the cakes from the pans, I always use a big plate that I rest on top of the cake pan, loosened cake underneath, then flip it over holding the edges of the pan and the plate together. This way, the cake gets a nice solid plate to land on and it makes it easier to transfer to the cooling racks.

10. If you are making a two or more layered cake, always place the top layer bottom side up. This side is less crumby and more conducive to frosting.  

And there you have it. 10 tips to help make some great tasting cakes. Happy baking! :)

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Forgive me?

Ok so it turns out.. I'm not so great (actually quite horrible) at this whole updating my blog on a regular basis thing. I know it's been like... over a month since I last updated. I feel terrible and am on my knees BEGGING your forgiveness for my remissness in blogging (perhaps this is a wee bit of an exaggeration, but you get the idea).


Anyways, I think we're all adults here and can move past my lack of blogging-ness. That being said, I just want to clarify that I HAVE been making all sorts of desserts and stuff over the past month. The problem is that I've either A) not had my camera with me at the time (and who wants a blog post with no pictures, right??) or B) I've forgotten to take the pictures until after the item(s) have been consumed. SO I just want to summarize really quickly what I have actually made over the past few weeks but again, forgive the lack of pictures.

Late June/ Early July are heavy on the birthdays in this family. My dad's is June 25th, my sister Katie's is July 9th and then your's truly's is July 11th. As such, the call for many much cakes and like items is high and I managed to be the provider of such treats. For my dad's surprise party, I made a yellow cake with a rich fudge frosting and yellow cake cupcakes with a chocolate buttercream frosting and whipped cream (all from scratch, of course). This cake was an experiment because I made SO MUCH of it and did bigger bottom layers and smaller top layers so it looked like a two tiered wedding cake, almost. It was fun to make and I'm pretty sure some pictures were taken of it buuuuuut where those pictures are, I have no clue.

So for mine and my sister's birthday, I made a 3- layer devil's food cake with a vanilla buttercream frosting, chocolate ganache and whipped cream. I also made during the birthday weekend the BEST (no lie) homemade chocolate chip cookie recipe. This recipe, for those of you who are curious, is the New York Times recipe and produces, quite honestly, the best cookies I've ever put in my mouth. EVER. If you look up the recipe, you will see that it calls for the cookie dough to rest 24-48 hours in the refrigerator before you even bake them. DO NOT SKIP THIS STEP. I skipped it once because the people I was baking for wanted their cookies immediately. The result was not horrible but it wasn't any OH MY GOSH WOW GEE GOLLY  WHIZ WOAH kinda thing. Ergo, if you decide to make this recipe, stick yo dough in da fridge. Are you picking up what I'm putting down?? Okay good. Moving on.

I'm pretty sure (again) that pictures of the cake I made for me and my sister are.. somewhere? But I have no access to them and therefore none to show you. Sorryyyyy. As for the rest of the month, I made some cake pops that essentially failed (word to the wise: don't EVER add food coloring to candy coating) and I also made these cream cheese cookies that were pretty good.

So, now for something that I DO have pictures of (can I get a cheer please? *cheer*). Today Katie had her writer's ring friends over for a lil party and Molly is turning 16 on Friday soooo she wanted to make a cake for her. Molly likes chocolate, lots of chocolate. Oh and more chocolate. So I made her this:

It's chocolate cake, from scratch, with a layer of whipped cream and chocolate ganache in the center and a chocolate buttercream frosting with chocolate ganache over the top. I wasn't able to take pictures during the process. Nor before the hungry ones managed to dive in.

Here's a close up of a piece so you can see the layers of whipped cream and ganache...

ummmm chocolatey much??

Yeah, that's my fork. Approximately 2.7 seconds before it helped me shovel all that deliciousness into my mouth. Also, sorry about the blurry picture. I tried unsuccessfully to get a nice, in-focus shot... buuuut it wasn't happening and that cake was staring me in the face and I grew impatient.

The recipe for this cake happens to be on the back of Hershey's Cocoa Powder. I had never tried the recipe before and it looked really simple. I used my own recipe for the chocolate buttercream, ganache and whipped cream which basically means... I kept mixing ingredients until they tasted right. :) I tend to make all my frostings this way. Since this post has had a lot to do with cake, I thought I'd post a simple buttercream frosting recipe that I like to use for pretty much any type of cake... it's also good for eating by itself (but we don't do that in my house, of course.... *cough*).

Easy Buttercream Frosting

2 sticks of unsalted butter, softened but still cool

3 cups of powdered sugar (more or less to taste)

2-3 tablespoons of whipping cream or milk

1 1/2 teaspoons of vanilla extract

Whip butter with electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add powdered sugar and whipping cream/milk alternately, a little bit at a time. Stir in vanilla. If the mixture is too thick, add more cream/milk.

Well, seeing as this post has reached a very lengthy point, I think I'll call it quits. I will do my very bestest to post again soon... until then, much merriment to you in all you do!

Friday, July 1, 2011

Interesting smoothies and delicious books... wait... reverse that

So, food blogging. Hm. This is new to me. I kept thinking yesterday about my blog and wondering what the heck I was gonna put on here. Don't get me wrong. I have plenty of recipes I want to share, it's just figuring where to start that is the hard part! 

For today, I decided to stick with something simple, healthy and oh so delicious. 

A fruit smoothie. 

Nothing says summer like a good 'ole fruit smoothie. Hands down, the BEST aspect of fruit smoothies is that you can be as creative or uncreative as you want. You make up the components and it's really hard to go wrong here. That being said, this is my version of the best (yes, really) fruit smoothie ever. 


I used a frozen fruit mix of strawberries, pineapple, red grapes, peaches and mangoes. Also, not pictured here, I threw in some frozen blueberries because I like extra berry flavors in my smoothies. I use frozen because I like not having to use ice (too much water) to make my smoothies cold and thick. I also used vanilla yogurt for flavor, cottage cheese for protein and a little bit of turbinado sugar for a tiny bit of sweetness. Oh yeah, this is a great opportunity to throw in some spinach to get that oh-so-good for you green vegetable antioxidants and NOT be able to taste it (I put some in mine, forgot to take a picture of that.. oops). 

Throw it all in a blender... fruit first!

Mmmm yummy fruits. 

Next, spinach (if desired):

So many colors! 

Next add the cheese and yogurt:


Oh yum. Once all the ingredients were well incorporated, I stirred in my sugar and served immediately.

Voila!! Very thick, very fruity. Just the way I like it! 

Mixed Fruit Smoothie:
1-2 cups of mixed frozen fruit 

a handful of fresh spinach leaves, washed and dried (optional)

1/3 cup of cottage cheese

1/2 cup of vanilla yogurt

1/4 cup of water (more or less, depending on how thick you want your smoothie)

1 1/2 tablespoons of turbinado sugar

Throw fruit, water, spinach, cheese and yogurt in blender and blend on high speed until smooth. Stir in sugar, add more or less to taste. Serve immediately. If wanted, garnish with a dollop of whipped cream. Enjoy! 

And as a final note, I bought these lovely additions to my library the other day:

Food in History  by Reay Tannahill  and The New Food Lover's Companion by Sharon Tyler Herbst and Ron Herbst. I've already learned so much from the thousands of entries in Companion. So far, one of my favorite parts is the section of the appendices that shows a breakdown of pork, beef and lamb and where certain cuts come from the animals. Very informative. It was recommended to me by a list of books to have/read before going to Culinary school. I anticipate it being very helpful in the future.

I picked up Food in History because it takes a look at the impact of different foods throughout history. One interesting tidbit the back cover tells me is that black pepper somehow contributed to the fall of the Roman Empire. Hrmm fascinating. Also, I expect my other culinary book to arrive today. I literally cannot wait to get my hands on that one... *glances towards mailbox in anticipation*...

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

And so it begins...

Welcome to my new blog. For many months this has been in the back of my mind as something that I wanted to attempt. As a recent graduate from Kennesaw State University, I have had more time on my hands than I am used to. With such freedom comes great responsi... er, the opportunity to expand my creative outlets. Hence, the creation of this blog. 

For as long as I can remember, I yearned to be in the kitchen. I recall being six years old, grabbing a stool so I could reach the stove top and setting a large pot of water on top to "boil." I would proceed to make the tastiest soup, consisting of a huge conglomeration of only the most superior ingredients (also known as my mom's old spices) that I found in our cabinets. Eager to share my new creation, I would serve it up for any who would indulge my whims.

Flash-forward about 6 years. Anyone remember the popular PBSkids show "Zoom?" I used to be addicted to that show. My favorite part was, you guessed it, the recipes they showed. I would watch and then run to the kitchen to divvy up my ingredients in separate bowls just so I could pretend I was on the show too. I would talk to the air as I added each carefully pre-measured element of my recipe. I dreamed of being on television and doing that for real one day.

In highschool, I was faced with answering the question "What do you want to be when you grow up?" many times. My answer, while varying from time to time, always came back to food. Culinary school. I wanted to go to culinary school. Come graduation, however, the problem remained that Culinary school was too expensive. So, I decided after much deliberation that I needed to go get a bachelor's degree in something so I could save for Culinary school. That's when Kennesaw State came onto the scene and my new degree in English studies. My decision to study English came not from a love for teaching but rather a decided interest in writing and literature. If there was one thing growing up that rivaled my passion for food, it was my preoccupation with books.

So now here I am. A college graduate without a "real" job because if you don't want to be a teacher with an English degree, theeeeen... there is no hope. Just kidding. It just feels like it. I've unsuccessfully searched since January for something, anything and yet the coveted job remains elusive. I do still hope to get to culinary school someday and ultimately combine this passion I have for food with my degree in English and do food writing. That, however, is going to take hard work and plenty of patience. In the meantime, I want to share my passions with you, my readers. I am the designated baker in this family and will be sharing some of my favorites here as well as new recipes I discover, test, tweak and love. On the occasional day, I will be posting information about books I have read or am reading and what I am loving or not loving about them. For instance, I recently ordered The Making of a Chef: Mastering Heat at the Culinary Institute of America by Michael Rulhmann, set to arrive this Friday. And oh, I will be devouring that the moment it arrives on my doorstep.

That's all for now I suppose.

With high hopes for the future,