Archive | November, 2009

Cake-y Gift Ideas (Part 1)

29 Nov

Once again, I have limited time to bake cakes and this time it is because I am working on my holiday shopping list. Since the holidays are basically here and everyone is getting in the mood for Christmas shopping and decorating, I decided to find cake related gifts for all of the peeps on my shopping list. I have decided that most of my gift shopping will be done at small independent stores/online this year….These folks need our support even more this year and it feels good to help the small stores and independent sellers keep their businesses going.

If you plan to get cake (or other  sweets-related) gifts for your family and friends—feel free to use this handy checklist and your shopping will be done in a snap!

First on my shopping list, is my little niece.  She is so easy to buy for since she is too young to have developed interests and she looks so darn cute in everything.  She will be extra adorable in one of these cupcake hats, made by my friend Kristi, you can find her stuff here. Just look at this cutie:

My sister and brother in law, are impossible to buy for—so I decided I would get them something for their house:

This old fashioned cake board, made by jennysbakeshop, would look great in any kitchen, or any room of the house for that matter.  Actually, I think it would good in my kitchen too—so I may have to get one for myself (or maybe I can pass it off as a gift to my husband?). Yummy!

For my mother, I found this very cool book from Japan.   You see, my mom loves to crochet (maybe she doesn’t really love it, she just has a lot of time on her hands) and she makes us blanket after blanket.  They are wonderfully soft and very pretty blankets—we just have a lot of them.  So,  I hope this book will inspire her to use her crochet skills to make some other interesting items, like this crocheted, kiwi topped, cake on the cover:

Check out this great print from anagram press.  It has a great message and a beautiful wedding cake.  It would be a great present for anyone’s home.  (I already have one.)

We recently bought our daughter an EZ Bake oven as a reward for ending a bad habit (More on this later) and she really enjoyed making the tiny cakes and sugar cookies.  Now, she is asking for a  cupcake maker and I just might have to get it for her:

This little toy allows the kids to make cupcakes in the microwave and then frost them professionally…….In my cynical adult eyes, it looks like a bunch of plastic junk that will be sold for $1 at the neighborhood yard sale in three months….but she REALLY wants one.  I could get it for her in the name of cupcake research or I could just buy her some decorating bags and mix up a batch of frosting.  Yikes, $50.00!  Okay, that decision has been made….no cupcake maker this year.  Maybe I can find one at a yard sale before her birthday.

For the has-everything, lives-far- away, hard-to-buy for-person on your list (like, my dad)-check out these fresh made to deliver cupcakes from the Saint Cupcake bakery in Portland, OR.  You can go to their website and order a cupcake kit for anyone, anywhere.  You get to chose three cupcakes, three frostings, and three sprinkles.  You can even send  little trinkets for special occasions  It gets packaged into a super-neat-o package and shipped off.  You can even get vegan cupcakes and frostings!  If you are looking for a gift for me, this is definalty on my list!

That’s it for now.  I’ve got some shopping to do!  I’ve got some more posts coming up including an EZ Bake oven review, chocolate peanut buter cupcakes, Cake-y Gift Ideas (PArt 2) and a review of the Barefoot Contessa cupcakes.  I’ll also be baking at least one cake this week.  Stay tuned.

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Cake Number 2:The Dump-It Cake

23 Nov

I love excuses to bake cakes and the winter season is perfect for that…  There are birthday parties, work parties, school parties, neighborhood parties, cookie parties, gifts for neighbors, teachers and friends.  And, don’t forget the need to have lots of sweets in the house at all times (it IS the holiday season, you know. And what would a holiday be without cakes, cookies or candy?)

This morning really felt like Christmas-y to me…I was up early making chicken adobo for my son’s school “Feast of Nations”–He chose the Philippines as his country to report on and we were supposed to bring a dish from the country.  My brother has just moved to the Philippines and I talk constantly about our upcoming trip to visit him–so Sawyer decided to study the country before we go there.  (Did you know that in the Philippines there are monkeys that stand 6 inches high and have enormous ears?) 

Anyway, it was very foggy outside and it almost felt cold (about 70 degrees!)……There was a freshly frosted cake (number 2!) on the counter and the smell of cooking food just made me feel all warm and festive.  However, my Christmas-y spirit disappeared when I stepped on our rotten pumpkin on the front steps (it is a science experiment now…how long will it take for the bugs to eat it away?) And, unfortunately Nova is too sick to go to her Thanksgiving feast today so, although we dropped off the amazing looking cake–we won’t get to try any.  Doesn’t it look pretty?:

The cake recipe I followed was one for “Dump-It Cake” that I heard on NPR about four years ago.   I was driving home from work when I heard the segment and was so inspired that I immediately went to the grocery store for the ingredients and a kitchen supply store to  get a bundt cake pan.  As soon as I got home, I baked that cake.  And it was delicous…..especially right out of the refrigerator. 

By the way, if you do a search for dump cake, you will find a bunch of recipes for cake that consist of “opening a bunch of canned goods and dumping them into a pan”.  That is NOT this cake.  I am not really sure where it gets the”dump-it” name as there is not any more dumping in this cake than in any other.  Hmmm.  I suppose it is not important.  What is important is the recipe, here it is. 

Oh, by the way, Nova did get to did her thanksgiving performance and the cake was devoured.  When I picked up the retro cake stand (thanks Jennie!), the parents raved about it.  When I picked up the pot for the adobo, no one said a thing.  And, the amount of chicken left-over just solidifies my decision to focus on sweets rather than savory.

One down, 39 more to go…..

16 Nov

I did it! I made my first of 40 cakes……and this one met all of my criteria.

It was…..

1) Made from quality ingredients: For this recipe, I had to go to three different stores to track down quality white chocolate and crystallized ginger. And quality equals pricey; I spent about $25 for all of the special ingredients that I didn’t already have.

2) Simple in form: Yep, just a cake with frosting (and a little bit more).

3) Family/friend connection: My husband loves the Starbucks version of these and I thought he might need some extra sugar to keep him alive these last few weeks of school.

4) Cakes that push my comfort level-both in creating,: The cake and frosting were fairly easy to put together—no problems there. But, once the cake is frosted, the directions state to “drizzle melted white chocolate chips on the cake using a cake decorating bag.” Well, melting the white chips (they aren’t chocolate so why do we even call them that?) was not easy for me. I tried in the microwave once and got this result.
burnt white chips

I tried once on the stove and got another horrible burnt mess –that is still waiting for attention. Finally, my last attempt in the microwave worked OK. Instead of the cake decorating bag (I have one but it seemed like a hassle), I tried to drizzle it on with a fork and resulted in some nice diagonal lines (very artsy!) and some huge globs of white (not artsy!).
cake2 globs
Another problem I ran across was the pan. I have very few cake pans, actually very few pans of any kind. So, I had to use what I have and that was a 9×9 square pan. I am now adding to my wish list a 9×13 inch pan which would have made these a bit thinner and more like the bliss bars from Starbucks.

5) and eating: This one pushes my comfort level for sure! It is filled with cranberries and candied ginger (which are a good combination) but it also contains a bunch of white chocolate (which I hate!) and cream cheese (which I don’t love). My husband described it as kind of “like a cheesecake with an extra thick crust.” (I think I am the only person alive that does not like cheesecake.) 

Here is the finished product:

cake

I was a good sport and tried a small slice, for the sake of experimentation, and did not love it. However, my family did and was begging for more. If you like white chocolate, cranberries and cream cheese—you will like this.

If not, check back for more adventures in cake-baking. Later this week, I’ll be making something for Nova’s school Thanksgiving potluck. (I’m thinking something apple-y or pumpkin-y, and a bit more pretty.)

This is proving rather difficult.

13 Nov

cranberry bliss barsI am disappointed to say that I still have not baked a cake. I started a blog —with the anticipation of baking cakes, 40 of them to be exact, and I have yet to bake even one. In my defense, I have been very busy—with work, company, birthday party planning (I’ll have to make a cake for that), more company, and training for a marathon (another reason to celebrate). Not to mention the surplus of sweets that have been in our house since before Halloween…..But, I will start baking soon—heck, I have to– the holidays are coming. In the meantime, check out this recipe for cranberry bliss bars (you know, the Starbucks treat that only comes out during the winter)…..I plan to make these this weekend to cheer up my hard-working, hardly sleeping, zombie husband.

5 Nov

Mom, Halloween, Cake 029

 

My mom and I went to IKEA to buy a brand new dining room table (I really am turning into a grown up!) and had to sample a slice of their cake. I was pushing for the apple crumb cake but since my mom had never been to IKEA, she won with her choice of the chocolate cake. In my opinion, the mousse to cake ratio is too high….and I would prefer less mousse more cake. She loved it though.