Holiday Treats!

Happy 2014 everyone!

For this post, rather than give an in-depth look at everything I baked this holiday season, I thought I’d give you an overview of the cookies and cupcakes I made. This is partly because some of the cookies I made are extremely basic and don’t warrant an entire blog post, and partly because there would be a lot of posts to cover everything. So I figure it’d be simpler to put it all into one holiday treats post, so you can feast your eyes on what I baked (and maybe keep to your resolutions too).

Holiday Cut-Out Cookies

I made these as the end-of-year treat for my colleagues. I actually spent an entire week on them, baking them the previous weekend, and decorating them a little bit every evening.

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I made nearly 120 cookies. I then personalized some of the stockings and the stars, with the first initial of my colleagues, and separated out the cookies.

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Each person got 4 cookies. I placed them into a holiday bag, with a note from myself and Josh.

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Old-Fashioned Butter Press Cookies

I went home for a few days at Christmas, so I had to make some cookies there too! Since I left my KitchenAid mixer and everything at my place, I made simple, hand-mixed, butter cookies. These were Mom’s favorites.

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My dad found a new cookie press tucked away in a corner, and to my delight, it had a tree form! (and a pumpkin, but that’s for a different holiday). I decorated these simply, with red and green sugar.

British Pudding – American-style

Actually, these aren’t mini British Christmas puddings at all. They’re leftover chocolate cake and icing, which I transformed into cake balls. I had a bit of white candy melts left, so I whipped these up and topped with festive sprinkles.

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Apple Pie

Okay, so maybe it’s not that festive, but it was one of my contributions for our annual Christmas dinner at some very dear friends of ours, so I figure it deserves it’s place here.

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My apologies for the bad-quality photo, it was hastily taken before I put it out on the buffet.

New Year’s Eve Cupcakes

My last festive piece of baking, were these pink champagne, New Year’s Eve cupcakes. What else would you need to finish off the year with a flourish?

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These were quite the hit at the party I took them to!

And so here ends my first blog entry for 2014. I can’t wait to see what new baking adventures the year brings me! In the meantime, one of my resolutions is to form healthier eating habits… so I guess whatever I bake, I shall have to bring in to work ^_^

Thanks for reading!

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Fruity Muffins

I’ve surprised myself a bit with this post, although it is late already, and I’m not sure how much it’s worth. I’ve been sick the last few days, so my motivation to bake (or do anything for that matter) has been pretty low. But I had these kaki/persimmon fruit in my fruit bowl and they were looking pretty ripe, so I pulled out my Cupcake recipe book and had a look at what Gail Wagman had to offer.

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While her recipe originally includes nuts, I omitted these because 1) I’m not a fan of nuts in cakes, and 2) I had no nuts in the apartment.

The cupcakes turned out quite good, moist and mostly tasting of the cinnamon and ginger spices that went into the mix, rather than the kaki fruit. My hunch is that the fruit was actually too ripe to do anything with, but I thought I’d give it a try before putting it all in the bin. So the cupcakes are yummy, and I mixed up the frosting to go with it: orange cream cheese.

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It looked fine, and I chilled it for the required 1 hour, but everything went downhill after that. As I scooped it into my piping bag (I thought I’d make some pretty swirls, as I’ve got a swirly cake planned for later next week), it started dripping out the bottom. Clearly, the icing was the wrong consistency. I tried to swirl it on to some of the cupcakes anyways, but it just dissolved into a generic blob.

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So I shall keep my cupcakes nude, and therefore rename them muffins. I don’t doubt they’ll disappear quickly, as they’re good enough to eat for breakfast!

I will be back on form with a proper cake next weekend, as it’s my birthday on Thursday, and I’ve been dying to bake a red velvet cake (for any occasion). So there, you have a sneak idea of what’s coming next!

Thanks for stopping by, and see you next week for a more exciting cake!

Pears & Almonds

Hello everyone!

Autumn has well and truly arrived in Luxembourg. It’s rainy, foggy, and chilly, which makes me happy to stay inside and bake. A part of me loves autumn for the changing leaves, sweaters, boots, and warm drinks, but part of me really does miss the warm summer days.

Last week, I tried to stick to my updating schedule (once a week) even though I hadn’t baked. That turned out to be a bit of a flop, as you lovely people seem to be more interested in my actual baking products than the tools that help me along the way. That’s totally fine, but it does mean there might be the odd week where there is no update because I haven’t baked anything worth posting about.

So without further ado, here we go with some pear and almond cupcakes.

The recipe is from the book Cupcakes Galore by Gail Wagman, and I mainly wanted to try it out because it looked delicious and I had some pears that needed to be eaten/cooked this weekend.

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The batter was easy to mix up, and included ground almonds as a partial flour substitute, which I always find interesting. It doesn’t alter the consistency very much, and provides extra taste.

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Originally, the recipe is for making jumbo cupcakes. As I don’t have a jumbo cupcake pan, only a regular one, I made regular-sized cupcakes. When it came to cutting the pears into quarters and pressing them into the cupcakes, the quarters had to be rather small. But no pear went to waste, for the parts I cut off, I ate ^_^

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The recipe did not include an icing recipe; rather, it called for making caramelized almond slivers, to top the finished cupcakes. So, I cooked these, and ended up with PLENTY to spare:

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I am definitely making a note in the book that the topping can be halved! Since I had so many, and I didn’t want any to go to waste, I deviated from the original recipe, and whipped up a small batch of almond buttercream frosting. This was also because the cupcakes didn’t look very pretty with just some sprinkled almonds over the top, and the pear sticking out. By covering it with the buttercream, I provided a sticky surface for (some) of the caramelized almonds to stick to, and generally upped the appearance of the whole cupcake.

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And finally, I took a leaf out of Theresa Helmer’s book. She is a cook and food photographer I follow on deviantART, and her presentations are always so beautiful. I had a few autumn accessories on hand, so I decided to set up my finished cupcakes with a bit more flourish than usual.

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Thanks for reading!

Happy Friday Rainbows!

Hi everyone!

At the school I work at, we like to celebrate birthdays. So much that we have a volunteer teacher in charge of organizing something called Birthday Break once a month, to celebrate that months’ staff birthdays. It takes place during the morning break time, and about seven to ten staff members are asked to bring in a savoury or sweet treat to share (obviously, these are not the same staff members whose birthdays we are celebrating – that would just be mean).

A few weeks back, I came across a photo of a great rainbow cake, and I’ve been dying to try it out. I opted to not put the candy filling in, because it would have been too messy to cut otherwise. So when I saw I was on September’s list of preparers for Birthday Break, I decided that the cheeriest cake to make would be this one.

I started by making a batch of my favourite vanilla cake (The Hurry Up Cake) and a half-batch of classic vanilla buttercream frosting.

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I then cut each one in half, and stacked them. When I tried to stand them on the flat end of the semi-circle, I ran into a problem – the two outer layers were falling off! The icing was too soft to keep them together, so I stuck the whole cake in the freezer for about five minutes, to solidify the icing.

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I was then able to set it on it’s side and cover it in the remaining icing. Satisfied with the crumb-coat and shape, I decided I had time for one attempt at making my own marshmallow fondant again. I had found a different recipe online that seemed promising and not too complicated. My dad was bringing me store-bought fondant the next day anyway, just in case this ended up not working.

So I made the fondant, and coloured it pale blue for the sky:

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This fondant was really easy to work with, elastic but didn’t tear, and comfortable. I think I will be using this recipe in the future (I just need to get lots of mini-marshmallows!) I prefer marshmallow fondant to store-bought mostly for the taste. Store-bought has a kind of “fake” sugary taste, whereas marshmallow fondant has more flavour.

After covering the cake, I sat and made six smaller balls of coloured fondant: pink, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple. The pink was meant to be red, but after adding alarming levels of red gel colouring and the fondant only getting a brighter pink, I decided to leave it at that. Besides, real rainbows in the sky don’t have a vibrant red, they’re more pinkish.

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I rolled the fondant into long snakes, and applied them using my recently-bought edible glue. It works really well, much better than water would. After getting all parts of the rainbow on, I made some clouds out of white fondant both to hide the messy edges of the cake and the rainbow, as well as to tie it all together.

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Then my wildly overactive mind suggested I make rainbow cupcakes as well, because there are a lot of people on the staff, and maybe the cake won’t be enough for everyone. I used the same recipe for the cupcakes, but my original idea has been to use that ‘rainbow’ stripy candy instead of making the rainbow out of fondant. This would have been great had I actually been able to find that candy. So the cupcakes ended up being miniature versions of the cake.

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It was a lot of fun making these, and I was really pleased with how the cake and the cupcakes turned out.

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The only slight problem with the cake was that it was dryer and more crumbly than usual. I think this was because of it’s five minute stint in the freezer, so I will need to look into preserving moistness if I know a cake will need to be flash-frozen to solidify the icing. Other than that, it was very good, and there was no cake left at the end of the Birthday Break. I had also decided to keep the cupcakes in reserve for anyone who didn’t get a slice of the cake. When I brought the cake into the staff room, there was just no room for both, and it would have looked like I’d tried too hard. But hey, more cupcakes for us!

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Thank you for reading 🙂

 

The Arlésienne Cupcakes

Hello again,

My apologies for the lack of posts in the last couple of weeks. I was away on holiday with no opportunities to cook, but plenty to eat good food. The freshness and deliciousness of Greek food is leaving me hungry for more, although I certainly ate more than my fair share while I was there.

Upon my return, I wanted to bake something light and summery, so I leafed through my favorite cupcake book: Cupcakes Galore by Gail Wagman. It was a birthday gift from my boyfriend two years ago, and I am still discovering new recipes.

I chanced upon The Arlésienne cupcakes, which are inspired by the summer fruits and flavors from Arles in France: apricots, raspberries, and almonds.

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The batter was standard, if a bit thick, and almond-flavored. I love using almond extract, it has such a sweet scent to it. Then, we added chopped dried apricots and ground almonds to get more of that delicious summery taste.

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And then, the cupcake came together with fresh apricot for a topping, with raspberry jam nestled in the hollow, and a peeled almond.

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Something I love about these summery cupcakes is the lack of overly sweet icing. While icing on a cupcake can be such a delight at a special occasion, in the winter with a cup of hot chocolate, or a glass of milk; in the summer it’s just too sweet. Of course, the apricots shriveled slightly in the cooking process, and the jelly ran a bit, but even a day later, they still taste delicious.

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All this writing about cupcakes has made me hungry for one- time to skedaddle! ^_^

Pre-Wedding Cupcakes

Hello again,

About a year ago, my boyfriend and I got an invitation to a colleague and friend’s pre-wedding garden party. She was getting married this summer, but wanted a big get-together with all the people that wouldn’t attend the formal wedding. A few weeks ago, I was chatting to one of her friends who was on the committee to help provide the food and drinks. That’s when I found out that this committee were all contributing to part of the culinary aspect of the garden party, and they wanted my advice on where to get cupcake decorations, tips for icing, and recipes. So I gave them my go-to basic vanilla cupcake recipe (you can’t go wrong with it!) and offered to make some fondant roses as decorations. I wanted the practice, and I thought this would be a nice way to help out.

Somehow, miscommunications ensued and I got put on the list to bake and decorate 20 cupcakes. My colleague said she was awful at decorating, so she suggested we team up – she would bake 40 cupcakes, and I would decorate them. Since I had just ordered a 1M piping tip from Wilton, and I was making the roses anyway, I agreed.

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So this entry is more about my epic decorating job than actual baking. It took me 3 days to make the fondant roses (I made my way through 4 Disney movies – Cinderella, Princess & the Frog, Wall-E and Tangled) and about 3 hours of piping and decorating. But I was very pleased with the results.

I made chocolate and vanilla buttercream, and iced half the cupcakes in each, so people could have some choice. The theme colours of the garden party were purple and yellow. I took a short-cut with the fondant and used store-bought yellow and pastel yellow. The pink was left-over from the pink champagne cake. Since I find purple a difficult color to blend into fondant (and preserve the color richness) I decided pink would do just fine.

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The garden party was lots of fun, and Michaelynn loved her eclectic mix of cupcakes in lieu of a pre-wedding cake!

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Can you spot my cupcakes? 😉