Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Sparkly, Pretty Girl!

So, how do you follow a 7-layer, 9 pound rainbow cake for your girl's second 5-yr birthday celebration? Well, with a very large mermaid cake of course. Courtesy of Family Fun, we had a decent map of how to construct this cake, although I wanted to use more cupcakes (the easy-to-serve to preschoolers factor). We also chose to add arms, hands and a nose to our mermaid girl, and (of course) accessories and some edible flowers (Nasturtium, Borage and Squash blossom) to jazz her up!
The girls loved helping decorate, and they both had some great ideas to embellish this gal (shells, necklace, bracelets). Their favorite decorating item was the Wilton gold edible "glitter" stars. They are really cool, and looked neat in the mermaid's hair and on her tail. I used my new favorite Swiss Meringue Buttercream recipe to frost her, and needed one and a half batches. The tail took 3.5 rolls of Necco wafers, and I covered it with Wilton green edible spray since M wanted a green tail. And, I'm very thankful that I had this heavy-duty white poster board with my craft supplies because this sparkly, pretty girl was way too big for anything else. Miss M, and all her school buddies loved this mermaid gal, and she was really fun to make. Check out more specific instructions on Coolest Birthday Cakes right here.
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Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Madeline's Super-duper "Super Epic" Rainbow Birthday Cake

What to make for a rainbow-loving girl who is turning five? Well, a seven-layer rainbow cake, of course! I got the idea here, but I had to add a pink layer since that's how our Madeline sees the rainbow — it always includes pink!

And, in an effort to cut back on the butter just a little, I used a Swiss Meringue Buttercream recipe from here instead (two batches, total), and let me tell you, it's the best frosting I've ever tasted. Not just ever made, but ever tasted. It's that fabulous! I ended up using about a batch and a half in the end. I added chocolate extract, vanilla, a touch of almond, and a little orange-flower water, so the flavor was complex and excellent.
It was good to have 20 people to share this cake too, it weighing in at 4 kilograms and all... really. I weighed it. There was about 9 oz. of batter for each layer before baking, plus the frosting, so it's understandable.

Happy birthday, sweet girl!!

Swiss Meringue Buttercream

(adapted from The Domestic Goddess)

5 large egg whites
1 1/4 cup sugar
2 tsp. salt
1 lb. (4 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 tsp. vanilla extract, 1/2 tsp. chocolate extract, 1/4 tsp. almond extract, and a splash of orange flower water

1-2 cups confectioners’ sugar (optional for sweeter version, taste as you go)

Mix the egg whites, sugar and salt in a double boiler set over a pot of simmering water. Heat, whisking frequently, until the mixture is hot to the touch – about 3 minutes and the sugar has dissolved (until you can't feel sugar-grit in the whites).

Transfer the mixture to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat on medium-high speed until stiff peaks form and the mixture has cooled to room temperature, about 10 minutes.

Reduce the speed to medium and add the butter, 2 tablespoons at a time, adding more once each addition has been incorporated. The frosting might get to a point where it looks curdled, just beat on low speed until thick again, about 5 minutes more (be sure not to overbeat it) . Add extracts and mix until combined. Taste the frosting – if the taste is sweet enough for you – you’re done. If you like it sweeter, add up to 2 cups of confectioners’ sugar to sweeten. Tint with gel icing color as desired (not liquid coloring).

If using frosting within several hours, cover bowl with plastic wrap, and set aside at room temperature in a cool environment. Or transfer to an airtight container, and store in the refrigerator, up to 3 days. Before using, bring frosting to room temperature, and beat on the lowest speed with the paddle attachment until smooth, about 5 minutes.

Yield: about 5 cups

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Friday, July 9, 2010

A Very Merry Year: July

So, instead of going crazy with holiday baking last year, I decided that it would be much more fun to spread the joy out over the year and gift someone each month with something lovely from my kitchen.
This month, our cookie gift goes to Miki, who is due any day now with her 3rd kiddo, a boy — Rhys (the traditional spelling/Welsh spelling of Reece). Miki loves candy like Heath bars in her Cold Stone ice cream, so I thought of adding toffee bits to chocolate chip cookies. There was a "Brickle Drop" cookie recipe on the bag, but I took the excellent name and looked for a proven recipe on the Smitten Kitchen blog. Deb never fails me, and this recipe was no exception. I altered it a bit, of course...

Happy Birth-month Miki! We can't wait to meet your newest little "brickle."

Brickle Drop Cookies
adapted from Crispy, Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies on Smitten Kitchen

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 egg
1 egg yolk
1 1/3 cups Heath toffee bits and 2/3 cups mini semisweet chocolate chips

1. Preheat the oven to 325°F (165°C). Grease cookie sheets or line with parchment paper.

2. Sift together the flour, baking soda and salt; set aside. In a medium bowl, cream together the melted butter, brown sugar and white sugar until well blended.

3. Beat in the vanilla, egg, and egg yolk until light and creamy. Mix in the sifted ingredients until just blended.

4. Stir in the chocolate chips by hand using a wooden spoon. Drop cookie dough 1/4 cup at a time (for giant cookies) or a tablespoon at a time (for smaller cookies) onto the prepared cookie sheets. Cookies should be about 3 inches apart.

5. Bake larger cookies for 15 to 17 minutes, or 10 to 12 minutes for smaller ones (check your cookies before they’re done; depending on your scoop size, your baking time will vary) in the preheated oven, or until the edges are lightly toasted. Cool on baking sheets for a few minutes before transferring to wire racks to cool completely.

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