Summer Cakes in Pretty Pastels, Dots and Ruffles...

http://www.curlygirlkitchen.com/2013/05/summer-cakes-in-pretty-pastels-dots-and.html


In a moment that some would consider to be pure insanity, I decided to impose upon myself the task of baking and decorating not one but three cakes one Saturday....  just for practice and the fun of it.

I've been wanting to try the ever so popular "ruffle" technique, so I came up with a few designs that I thought were pretty, girly and summery.

My first design, "Pearls and Ruffles", reminded me of a lady's vintage dress with a string of pearls, and it was by far, my favorite one that I did that day.  This was a 3-layer chocolate cake, with almond filling and buttercream.  I had actually intended the buttercream to be baby blue, but it ended up as more of a seafoam green, which was still really lovely.



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http://www.curlygirlkitchen.com/2013/05/summer-cakes-in-pretty-pastels-dots-and.html



I named my next design "Sweet Daisies", and this is a tart lemon cake, filled with lemon curd, and covered in lemon buttercream.  I was a little tired by the time I decorated this one, later on that evening, and didn't spend much time trying to smooth out the frosting, so it's a little more "rustic".  I just did a simple design of dots to create the illusion of pretty flowers and daisies all over this little 6-inch cake.



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http://www.curlygirlkitchen.com/2013/05/summer-cakes-in-pretty-pastels-dots-and.html

http://www.curlygirlkitchen.com/2013/05/summer-cakes-in-pretty-pastels-dots-and.html



And the last design, "Pretty in Pink", is another small 6-inch white cake, filled with fresh raspberry filling, and frosted with pink raspberry buttercream.  The rows of ruffles and dots around the sides of the cake remind me of a little girl's summer dress.

In retrospect, I can see areas in each design that I would change or improve the next time, but I think any one of these would be so beautiful for a bridal shower, baby shower, or girl's birthday party!



One Year Ago:    Sweet Potato Chips
Two Years Ago:   Lemon Blueberry Buttermilk Waffles with Homemade Lemon Curd



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Summer Cakes in Pretty Pastels, Dots and Ruffles...


“Pearls and Ruffles”

Chocolate Cake:
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 4 eggs (room temperature)
  • 1 cup milk (room temperature)
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
Almond Buttercream:

·         2 cups (4 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
·         4 cups powdered sugar
·         2 tablespoons meringue powder
·         1 ½ teaspoons almond extract
·         4 tablespoons milk

Almond Filling:
·         1 cup almond buttercream (above)
·         8 ounces almond paste

Bake the Cake:
Preheat the oven to 350.  Spray the bottoms only of three 8-inch cake pans with non-stick spray, line with parchment paper, and spray the paper also.  Set aside.

In the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the dry ingredients.  Add the wet ingredients and beat for 2-3 minutes, until well combined.  Divide batter between the pans and bake for 25-30 minutes, until a toothpick in the center comes out clean.  Cool completely on wire racks, covered loosely with a clean kitchen towel.

Make the Buttercream and Filling:
In the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the butter for one minute.  Combine the powdered sugar and meringue powder, and with the mixer on low, add the powdered sugar a spoonful at a time.  Add the almond extract and milk, and beat on medium high for 4-5 minutes until light and fluffy.  Add food coloring, if desired.

Beat one cup of the buttercream with the almond paste until smooth.  Set aside.

Assemble and Decorate:
Remove the cakes from the pans and level the tops, if needed.  Place one of the cakes on a pedestal or cake board and top with half the filling.  Add another cake and top with the rest of the filling.  Add the last cake.  Frost all over with a thin crumb coat of buttercream, and chill for 15 minutes in the refrigerator before frosting with a final layer of buttercream.

For the pearls and ruffles, I used a small round tip to pipe white buttercream in rows of small dots, then a medium rose tip to pipe the ruffles in tinted buttercream, from the bottom edge, up to the top center, alongside the dots.  Hold the piping bag with the wide side of the rose tip against the cake, and the narrow side facing out, to create the ruffles.  It’s a good idea to practice on a plate to get a feel for the design, before piping onto the cake.


“Sweet Daisies”

Lemon Cake:

·         ½ box white cake mix
·         2 eggs
·         1/3 cup buttermilk
·         ¼ cup lemon juice
·         ¼ cup oil
·         Zest of 2 lemons

Lemon Buttercream:

·         1 ½ cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
·         3 cups powdered sugar
·         2 tablespoon meringue powder
·         Zest and juice of 1 lemon
·         Milk, if needed

Lemon Filling:
·         ½ cup lemon curd

Bake the Cake:
Preheat the oven to 350.  Spray the bottoms only of three 6-inch cake pans with non-stick spray, line with parchment paper, and spray the paper also.  Set aside.

In the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment beat all of the cake ingredients for 2-3 minutes, until well combined.  Divide batter between the pans and bake for 15-18 minutes, until a toothpick in the center comes out clean.  Cool completely on wire racks, covered loosely with a clean kitchen towel.

Make the Buttercream:
In the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the butter for one minute.  Combine the powdered sugar and meringue powder, and with the mixer on low, add the powdered sugar a spoonful at a time.  Add the lemon zest, juice and milk, and beat on medium high for 4-5 minutes until light and fluffy.  Add food coloring, if desired.

Assemble and Decorate:
Remove the cakes from the pans and level the tops, if needed.  Place one of the cakes on a pedestal or cake board and top with half the lemon curd.  Add another cake and top with the rest of the lemon curd.  Add the last cake.  Frost all over with a thin crumb coat of buttercream, and chill for 15 minutes in the refrigerator before frosting with a final layer of buttercream.

I used a small round tip to pipe all the dots around the sides of the cake, for the centers and petals of the daisies.  Then I piped the large daisy on top with the same round tip.



“Pretty in Pink”

White Cake:

·         ½ box white cake mix
·         2 eggs
·         ½ cup whole milk/cream
·         ¼ cup oil
·         1 teaspoon vanilla

Raspberry Buttercream:

·         1 ½ cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
·         3 tablespoons seedless raspberry jam
·         3 cups powdered sugar
·         1 tablespoon meringue powder
·         1 teaspoon vanilla
·         2-3 tablespoons milk

Raspberry Filling:
·         ½ cup raspberry buttercream, above
·         6 ounces fresh raspberries

Bake the Cake:
Preheat the oven to 350.  Spray the bottoms only of three 6-inch cake pans with non-stick spray, line with parchment paper, and spray the paper also.  Set aside.

In the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment beat all of the cake ingredients for 2-3 minutes, until well combined.  Divide batter between the pans and bake for 15-18 minutes, until a toothpick in the center comes out clean.  Cool completely on wire racks, covered loosely with a clean kitchen towel.

Make the Buttercream and Filling:
In the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the butter and raspberry jam for one minute.  Combine the powdered sugar and meringue powder, and with the mixer on low, add the powdered sugar a spoonful at a time.  Add the vanilla and milk, and beat on medium high for 4-5 minutes until light and fluffy.  Add food coloring, if desired.

Mix ½ cup of the buttercream with fresh raspberries, for the filling.

Assemble and Decorate:
Remove the cakes from the pans and level the tops, if needed.  Place one of the cakes on a pedestal or cake board and top with half the filling.  Add another cake and top with the rest of the filling.  Add the last cake.  Frost all over with a thin crumb coat of buttercream, and chill for 15 minutes in the refrigerator before frosting with a final layer of buttercream.

For ruffles, I used a small rose tip to pipe the ruffles around the sides of the cake.  Hold the piping bag with the wide side of the rose tip against the cake, and the narrow side facing out, to create the ruffles.  It’s a good idea to practice on a plate to get a feel for the design, before piping onto the cake.  Then I piped the ruffles on top of the cake, starting at the center and moving to the edge.  I then used a small round tip to pipe white buttercream dots between the rows of ruffles.


Recipes and Designs from Curly Girl Kitchen




Irish Whiskey Espresso Brownies

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After picking up a few groceries the other day, my last stop was the liquor store, where I grabbed a bottle of Jameson Irish Whiskey for these brownies, as well as a bottle of Cupcake brand chardonnay to drink with our dinner of steamed mussels and Thai tuna burgers that evening.

The guy at the counter looked at the bottles, then at me, and said, "That's a weird combination."

And, ironically enough, I realize after looking at the plate I chose to photograph the brownie on - a white, lacy-edged plate - that it might also be an odd choice for a dark chocolate, whiskey-laced brownie.  But maybe it's completely appropriate, considering the unlikely pairing of chardonnay and whiskey bottles I brought home.


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Maybe chardonnay sippers like me are unlikely to pour a glass of whiskey to enjoy after dinner, or maybe that's just a stereotype.  Well, the truth is, I can't stand whiskey on its own - it tastes like medicine and makes me feel like I must be sick and it's time for me to go to bed.  But, like bourbon and scotch, I suspected that the flavor of whiskey would be pretty good in something baked, so I paired it with dark, dark chocolate brownies with a generous dose of espresso powder.  The whiskey, chocolate and coffee made such a fantastic combination, and we topped our brownies with a scoop of ice cream.  Because that's simply the best way to eat a brownie.

Now, if you're not a whiskey drinker, and you're not sure you'd even like it in these brownies, then I beg you to make this recipe anyway, and just use milk instead of whiskey.  Aside from the whiskey, the brownies, their texture, their richness, their gooeyness... are possibly the most perfect ones I've ever made, and it's a recipe I will be making again very soon, in many variations.

I'm imagining it with coconut, with mint, with salted caramel, with a mocha buttercream, with peanut butter cups...



One Year Ago:     Popcorn Peanut Cookies with Grapefruit Soda
Two Years Ago:   Date Swirl Cookies



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Irish Whiskey Espresso Brownies

Batter:
·         6 tablespoons unsalted butter
·         2/3 cup granulated sugar
·         1/3 cup Special Dark cocoa powder
·         1 egg
·         1 teaspoon vanilla
·         ¼ cup milk
·         ¼ cup Irish whiskey
·         1 tablespoon espresso powder
·         ¾ cup all-purpose flour
·         ½ teaspoon baking powder
·         1/8 teaspoon baking soda
·         1 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
·         ½ cup chocolate chunks
·         ½ cup chopped pecans

Glaze:
·         1 cup powdered sugar
·         2 tablespoons Special Dark cocoa powder
·         1 tablespoon espresso powder
·         1 tablespoon Irish whiskey
·         1 teaspoon dark corn syrup
·         ½ teaspoon vanilla
·         2 tablespoons hot water

Note: The espresso powder and whiskey are optional.  The espresso powder can simply be left out, if desired.  And for a non-alcoholic version, simply substitute milk for the whiskey.

Preheat the oven to 350 and spray a square baking dish with non-stick spray.

In a saucepan, heat the butter over medium heat just until melted.  Stir in the sugar and cocoa powder and remove from the heat.  Whisk in the egg, vanilla, milk, whiskey and espresso powder.  Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a separate bowl and stir into the batter just until moistened.  Stir in the chocolate chunks and pecans.  Spread batter into the pan.

Bake for 15-20 minutes, until the top is cracked and the edges are set but the center still looks slightly wobbly, then cool on a wire rack.

While the brownies are cooling, prepare the glaze by whisking together the powdered sugar, cocoa powder, espresso powder, whiskey, corn syrup and vanilla, drizzling in just enough hot water to reach the desired consistency.  Drizzle glaze over the warm brownies.  Cool completely before cutting into squares.

Yields 8-10 brownies.

Recipe adapted from Key Ingredient

Our Sunrise Adventure and Morning in the Park...



It's officially spring here, and I couldn't be happier.  It took a while for the spring snow storms to dissipate, and although we still have some afternoon thunderstorms which I don't mind in the least, the sky is mostly bright blue, clear and sunny.  The trees are getting fuller and greener, and I'm excited to see some flowers blooming.

For today's post, I'm taking a little break from the baking, and just sharing a few photos from last weekend.  On Saturday morning, I thought it would be fun to get up and watch the sun rise.  I realize that someday, when a crying baby wakes me up at 3am against my will, the thought of actually getting up that early by choice will probably be laughable.  So it's something I wanted to do while it still seemed fun and romantic.

We woke up in pitch blackness, got dressed and sleepily carried a few essentials to the car - water and snacks (which we completely forgot about) and of course, my camera and tripod.  After a quick stop at the gas station across the street for coffee and doughnuts, we drove to Cherry Creek Park, which has a man-made reservoir with a marina and a little swim beach.

It was chilly out in the early morning, and the sun was coming up much too quickly, so by the time we drove around the park trying to figure out the best place to park, it was already fairly light out.  There didn't seem to be any ideal spot that would show the sun rising up over the horizon, so we just picked one of the beach spots.  My feet, in flimsy red sandals, squished into the sand which was so cold on my toes.

I had envisioned an artful photo of us at the beach, the sun rising behind us...  but the reality was that I brought the wrong piece to attach my camera to the tripod, and after messing with it for too long trying to make it work, we gave up and just tried to balance the camera as best we could.  We got a few photos, but not quite what I was hoping for.

We saw all sorts of things washed up on the sand - a little lock and key, a small animal's skeletan - and we lingered there for a few minutes before driving around to the marina on the other side of the park to take a few photos of the boats.  It was almost fully light out then, and although the park was still fairly quiet as it wasn't even 7am yet, fishermen were starting to arrive at the dock to get an early start before the place was packed full.  It was going to be a pretty day out, although a little overcast.








Next we drove to DeLaney Community Farm, which is part of the Denver Urban Gardens community supported agriculture project in Aurora.  As we drove through Aurora down Colfax Avenue, I looked at the slummy areas and thought about the things that I take for granted.  Like owning a car and living in a nice suburban area.  Having meat with dinner and lots of fresh vegetables.  Having cable, internet and an iPhone.  Buying new clothes.  Baking and decorating a cake just because I feel like it.

But there were the days that I shopped at the Dollar Store, Good Will and Big Lots for groceries and makeup.  There were the times that I used the free computer lab at the library because I couldn't pay for internet access at home.  My family grew up eating lots of rice and beans because we couldn't afford meat, and now Jamie and I eat fish or chicken or beef almost every night at dinner.  And although I can't afford to shop at Whole Foods every day, it's not out of the question to buy a few specialty items there now and then.  These things that I take for granted would be a privilege to so many people.

There wasn't much happening yet from the farming aspect since it's too early for anything to be growing yet, so we just took a few photos around the historic buildings there, and I liked the rustic backdrop they contributed.









Our next stop was Cheesman Park, a city park in a gorgeous part of Denver where the grass is green and lush and the streets are lined with beautiful old homes.  We parked along one of the streets and then walked a little bit to the Grecian style pavilion in the park.  I had never been here, and even though the flowers weren't yet blooming and the fountains were empty and dry, I was awed by the beauty of the place.

The park has a reputation of being haunted, as it was originally a cemetery.  In the late 1800s, workers were assigned to dig up the graves in order to relocate the remains, but there were reports of disrespectful activities in regards to the remains.  Eventually, the work was stopped, and there were many graves that were never moved.  They say the ghosts of those remains still haunt the park, as well as the Denver Botanic Gardens which also shares some of the original land.











It was still only about 11:00 am, but we'd already been up for almost 8 hours, so hungry and a little tired, we ended our sunrise adventure at Crepes n Crepes for a late breakfast.  One of their daily specials was "Heather's Favorite Strawberry Crepes"...  so of course, I had to order it.  The coffee they served was silky and rich, and possibly the best cup of coffee I've ever tasted...



One Year Ago:    Caramel Glazed Doughnuts filled with Chocolate Cream
Two Years AgoChocolate Caramel Croissant Bread Pudding