Monday, June 28, 2010


I feel better.  I still had some batter from the disaster cake so I made 6 cupcakes.  I baked them at 375 instead of 350 and they turned out right.  I filled 4 with raspberry buttercream and 2 with lemon curd.

And then I topped all of them with raspberry.

And now we're enjoying them steadily. :)

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Rose, Sweet Rose ....

.... hard hearted harbinger of CAKE MESS!

Well, the 2 6" cakes I needed to make did not work out .... AT ALL!  I've been wanting to try 'Woody's Lemon Luxury Layer Cake' from Rose's Heavenly Cakes. I made them Friday night. It looks so delicious and lemony in the book.  To be honest, I've kinda been dreaming about this cake for a while.

 (Here's a little preview of the horror.)

So I went for it.  In addition to the 2 cakes there was enough batter to make 24 mini cupcakes.  I filled my 6" cake pans half full, or so I thought.  At first everything looked good.  The smell coming from the oven was simply amazing.  After about 10 minutes in the oven the minis started to develop some serious muffin tops.  A minute or two later the dam broke.  The cakes started running over the edges of the pan, dripping in giants glops onto the bottom of the oven.  This is not a cheap cake to make so I tried very hard to remain optimistic.  "That's ok, they'll just require some extra trimming.  No big deal." ..... and then it got worse.  The cakes started to fall and fall hard!  They were now about an inch to an inch and a half high in the middle and a little over 2 inches around the edges.  Roughly 35 minutes into baking they were almost done.  This is much longer than the 25 minutes they are supposed to take.  Despite this hurricane of terrible I waited patiently until I could unmold them, thinking that I would turn them over and they'd pop right out of their pans and I'd somehow be able to trim them and save the project.  While I was waiting for them to cool I tried one of the minis.  The flavor was amazing but they clung to the cupcake liners like sticker burrs to a coarse haired dog!  Very discouraging.  I ran a blade around the edge of the cakes and flipped them over.  Then I started to cry as I stared at the huge bits of cake stuck to the sides and bottom of the pan and the sunken pile of lemon disaster on my cooling rack.  I threw everything into a large storage container and tried to figure out what went wrong.  Maybe my butter was too cool?  It had been on the counter for an hour in my 78 degree house and it creamed well but who knows.  Maybe I measured 4 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder instead of 4 1/4?  I admit to needing new contacts so it's a distinct possibility that I read the recipe wrong.  I measure all the big stuff by weight.  If the recipe offers a weight that's what I go with so I know all of that was right.

Saturday I went shopping AGAIN.  I bought more white chocolate, more milk, more eggs and more lemons.  I came home and started this all again.  This time I let my butter sit on the counter for 3 hours.  I brought the eggs to room temp in a bowl of water.  I marked the insides of my pans to be sure about that "half full."  I measured my baking powder very carefully.  Being sure that I'd done everything right this time I put my cakes into the oven.  The minis still rose but not near as much.  When they came out and cooled they were a tiny bit tough but they came off the paper so I felt pretty good.  Fifteen minutes into baking the cakes were still looking good, and then it happened!  DRIP!  Right over the edge they went!  "Not again!"  I waited patiently hoping that somehow they wouldn't fall this time.  They dripped less than the night before but dripped away all the same.  In the oven they only fell a little.  When they were finally done I set the pans on the cooling rack and watched in horror as they sunk rapidly right in front of my face.  As this point I came over to my convenient Google machine and typed in the name of the recipe.  I found 3 people who'd made this cake with amazing success and 2 who'd had the same problems I did.  One of those mentioned that she'd also made her's twice and that she'd used 6" pans.  Is the problem in the pan size?  That's the only thing I can figure out.

These cakes unmolded ever so slightly better than the previous ones.  I decided to torte all 4 cakes (the 2 from Friday and the 2 from Saturday) and use an inch of each.  They were going to require some miracle buttercream attention to make the sides look smooth but I was willing to put in the work just to make it work.  Down goes a layer of cake and then a layer of lemon curd.  OH!  The lemon curd is delicious by the way.  Down goes another layer of cake and then a layer of the raspberry buttercream I made.  Looking good.  Ok, maybe not good but looking passable.  Another layer of cake and another layer of lemon curd.  When I torted the final cake it fell completely apart.  I tried to stick it on top and mold it to stand up nicely and I almost thought it would work and then a big chunk of the top layer just slid off and landed on the cake board.  (I may have yelled an expletive at this point.)  This is when I finally gave up.  I called my friend and told her there would be no cake.  This is not a call I wanted to make.  I felt nothing but shame as I explained to her that I'd tried, twice.  She was gracious about it, laughed and said she wouldn't have bothered with the second try.

I cut myself a piece of this hideous pile of cake and took a bite.  Let me tell you, this cake is absolutely delicious!  This makes it even more frustrating.  I know the cake would have been a big hit, had it only worked out.  I kept coming back to it to take just one more bite.  I would love to say that I learned a lesson, that I got something out of it but I didn't.  I honestly have no idea what went wrong TWICE.  I was so careful to do everything right, especially the 2nd time.  I guess I did learn that I can be very persistent (stubborn?) when I'm determined to get something done.  I tried everything.  I just feel like failures are meant to teach us.  If I can't learn from my failures they're a total loss.  I put a whole lot of money into this cake.  Each recipe cost about $20 not including flour, sugar and other dry ingredients.  $20 twice.  OUCH.  I wasted $40, two days, lots of energy and I learned nothing.

I know you want to see so you can share in my pain.  I have since placed a large round container upside down over the cake and flipped the whole thing over.  I put the lemon curd over to the side and put the whole thing in the fridge.  As ugly as it is this cake is just too yummy to throw away.

My sweet sweet husband told me to leave the kitchen as I was standing over the sink starting to clean up.  He told me I was frustrated enough and he would save me from the aftermath of my failure.  I was grateful as I laid down on the couch to take a much needed nap.

Friday, June 25, 2010


Very soon I will run to the store for eggs, milk, lemons, white chocolate, raspberry jam, butter and whatever else I need.  I LOVE ingredient shopping.  Somehow it's much more fun than grocery shopping.  I'm trying to tackle one baking project at a time but I'm just so excited about everything I have coming up!

By the way, I saw an ad for these beater blades the other day.  They scrape the bowl for you!  How amazing is that?  Not having to stop to scrape in the middle of mixing would be great.  Not that it's really all that much trouble to do it but being able to skip it sure would be nice.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Busy Future!

Right now is the calm before the storm!  Tomorrow I will bake 2 6" round lemon cakes, make the lemon curd filling, the raspberry filling and the buttercream.  I will torte and fill the cakes and then let them rest (read squish here).  Saturday I will frost and decorate it on Saturday and then deliver it to my friend's party that night. 

Sunday my sister comes into town and we're making sour dough bread Sunday night or Monday.  I'm using Peter Reinhart's recipe again.  Last time I made the faster version which is supposed to have a milder flavor.  This time I will make the slower one and see how much more sour it really is.  Don't worry, I'll let you know.

Tuesday I'm making some cupcakes.  I know that they'll be vanilla.  I'm tempted to try different fillings in some of them.  Of course I'll post pictures of those once they're done.  I have some ideas for decorating them but I haven't hammered out all the details yet.

Also on Tuesday I'd like to make 2 more loaves of Many Seed Bread.  One will be to take to my mom and the other will be to leave home with the hubby and his brother.  This time I will leave the sesame seeds off the top because they just kept falling off and making messes everywhere.

My sister and I seem incapable of hanging out without baking chocolate chip cookies so there is a great danger that may happen as well!  I'm sure we won't need them with everything else there is to make and eat but it's tradition.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Anthony Bourdain

The other day a friend suggested that I read Anthony Bourdain.  He was reading Medium Raw and asked if I was familiar with his books.  I'm not.  Next week I'm going on a road trip with my sister and then flying home alone so I believe I will be in need of some reading material.

Here's a question I will pose to all of you.  Which one should I start with?  Which have you read?  Which do you like best?  OR .... What other culinary books would you recommend?  I'll throw some of his books on my wishlist so you can find links that way if you'd like.  Otherwise simple or complex answers to those questions will be greatly appreciated.

BTW, I have some sour dough starter going on my counter!  YUM!  There will be sour dough bread in time for the road trip!

Monday, June 21, 2010

tomato soup

'Tomato soup' may seem like an odd title for a baking blog entry but you'll understand soon.  Since I didn't bake anything yesterday (I can't bake every day, I have a waistline to think of here) I'm featuring a cake I made a while back.  This cake was a chocolate and tomato soup cake I found in Rose's Heavenly Cakes.  The tomato soup replaces the salt and gives the cake an odd but tasty zing.  I filled and frosted it with chocolate buttercream and decorated it with regular buttercream.

It was a humid day and for the life of me I couldn't get my roses to stand up nicely, they just wanted to wilt.

Since the purposes of this cake were to try this recipe and practice decorating I consider it a success despite a few decorating faults and the one friend that must not have liked it as evidenced by the 3/4 of a piece I found abandoned and sitting on a plate.

I like Rose Levy Beranbaum's book and I'd love to also have The Cake Bible and The Pie and Pastry Bible.  Her recipes are well tested and yield good, predictable results.  I'd would also love to have Bake Wise by Shirley O. Corriher.  She's so cute when she shows up on Good Eats.  Her book has lessons to go with each recipe and explains exactly why you add this now or stir in that then.  Once you understand things like that you can go off on your own tangents and create your own stuff.  Oh, and just a little tid bit .... all 3 of those books are on my wish list which I've place conveniently to the right ;-)

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Many Seed Bread

OK, I've finished the "Many Seed Bread" from Artisan Breads Everyday by Peter Reinhart.  I made one sandwich loaf and some rolls.  Hubby greatly approves and I happen to think they're pretty amazing too.

The dough started out a little dry but with an extra teaspoon or two it was just right.  I let it rise over night, all morning and most of the afternoon in the fridge and then shaped it and let it proof for a couple of hours on the counter.  I baked the rolls first to give the loaf a little extra time to rise.  Please enjoy the (almost) step by step photos since you can't enjoy the bread.

Before rising in the fridge.

After rising close to 18 hours.

Set out to proof for 2 hours.

Rolls done!

Loaf done!

Oven's revenge!

Most Frustrating Sugar Cookie Recipe Ever!

Last night, a little before midnight, I decided to make sugar cookies for the hubby.  Sugar cookies are among his favorites and I was itching to bake something.  I decided to go with "Ultimate iced sugar cutouts" from 1001 Cupcakes, Cookies & other Tempting Treats (edited by Susanna Tee).  Sadly this book isn't offered on my beloved  I made up the dough in a flash and stashed it in the fridge for its 1 hour chill.  That didn't seem long enough but it's what the recipe said.  Had I been more awake I might also have realized how loose the dough was.  It was closer to a batter than a dough.  The recipe calls for:

6 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
cup superfine sugar (I assumed that the lack of a number meant one level cup)
2 large eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
scant 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting
1 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt

Looking back at it of course I realize that this is not near enough flour to compensate for all the liquid but last night I was tired.  When I went to roll out the dough it stuck to the counter, even though it was generously floured, and to the rolling pin.  Lifting them wasn't even an option, they just rolled up into clumps of goo.  I added A LOT of flour so that the dough just barely stuck to my fingers and threw it into the freezer for 10 minutes.  So much better but still not quite there.  I added a little more flour and then popped the dough back into the freezer for 5 more minutes.  Success!  After much fussing around with it I finally had successful sugar cookies.  I guess I've been spoiled by Rose Levy Beranbaum and Peter Reinhart who give me weights as well as measurements and tell me exactly what consistency I should see.  Anyways, here are the sugar cookies.

The cookies are all the same except for the toppings.  The green is almond flavored, the yellow is orange flavored and the yellow with green sugar is straight icing with nothing added.

Friday, June 18, 2010

old and new

Today I have something old and something new to show you.  First, the old.  These are "21 and Over Cake Balls."  The darker ones are spice cake with irish cream in a chocolate shell and the lighter ones are chocolate cake with creme de cacao in a peanut butter shell.

The new is the bread I'll be making this weekend.  It's "many seed bread" from Peter Reinhart's Artisan Breads Everyday, which I bought from for well below cover price!  It contains pumpkin, sunflower, flax, sesame and poppy seeds.  I will start this bread tonight and then it will have a slow rise until  I make it sometime tomorrow.  I've never made this bread but I've had success with every other bread I've made from his book so I'm looking forward to it!

I'll let you know how it turns out!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Still trying to make the editor put pics where I want them.

Well, I tried this for a while yesterday and it kept behaving like the old editor.  Now I'm going to try again.  Wish me luck (or offer help.)

Maybe if I have another paragraph?  HA!  Maybe we're getting somewhere!  The next few pics are of cupcakes I made while practicing making buttercream flowers on top of cupcakes.  The cake itself is a yummy spice cake.  This one was my favorite, kind of a gerber daisy.

Here are a few more.

Thanks for looking.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Hello Everyone!

I've decided to start a new blog dedicated to cakes, cookies, breads and whatever other yummy things I decide to make. I'll decide on a format and all that later. The current plan is to work with it and let it evolve. For now let's just look at a few things I've made recently while I figure out how to make the pictures go where I want them.