Thursday, June 24, 2010

Sour Cherry Slab Pie!

So, I'm not really a pie fanatic.  Well no, make that, I wasn't really a pie fanatic.  I have seen the light.  Hallelujah!  This sour cherry slab pie is, well, it's incredible.  I would make this pie once a week, but these gorgeous cherries are only available for two extremely narrow weeks per year.  They are sour cherries, grown locally and once they're gone, they're gone until next June.    

A slab pie?  Yeah, it's a big ol' slab of pie.  That's a 10"x15" baking pan, not a 9" pie plate.  Besides the incredible taste and tender crust, the best thing about this pie is that you can slice it into squares, pick it up and eat it just like that, from your hand.  No fork, no spoon, unless of course you're like, "Hey, I know!  Ice cream!" 

The recipe calls for a glaze on top, just a plain confectioner's sugar glaze, but I decided to forego it and let the tartness of the cherries pop, unadulterated by any more sugar than what's baked inside.  Admittedly though, it does look a little prettier with a glaze.  Pretty is overrated. 

Wanna try it yourself?  Do it up!  Have at it!




Just a little pastry tip made short work of pitting 10 full cups of cherries!  Viola!

    

P.S. I wish I could feed this pie to President Obama.  He loves pie

Saturday, June 19, 2010

That's Really Orange!

These shockingly orange cuties were for a graduation party for a Pitman High School grad.   They are chocolate cake with vanilla frosting and black sugar sprinkles in honor of the school's colors, bright orange and black. 

Is it just me or do you expect orange frosting to taste like orange? 




Thursday, June 17, 2010

Happy Birthday Andrew!

Andrew is a friend from work.  Don't tell him, because he has a big enough head already, but he'll always be special to me.  He became my mentor at my very first job after graduation and generously taught me everything I needed to know.  His belief in me helped me find the confidence I needed to get my feet under me.  He's a straight shooter and always chooses practical action over abstract theory.  He's the guy you call when you need to know how to get it done.  Seriously, don't tell him I said so, but there's hardly anything he doesn't know a whole lot about.  

For Mother's Day for his lovely wife, he ordered her favorite, vanilla/vanilla.  So, for his birthday, I made him what I know to be one of his favorites, chocolate/chocolate as a fun birthday surprise.  Here they are, just some summertime joy, cupcake style.  

 

Monday, June 14, 2010

Creative Control

I love it when people don't really know exactly what they want.  Maybe for some bakers that's frustrating, but I love the opportunity to bake whatever I feel like whipping up and I draw confidence from the trust bestowed upon me when people say, excitedly, "Just make whatever you want!"  Sometimes the end result is simple, like these fun cupcakes for Jane, but the creative control gives me room and motivation to try something new.  For this order, Jane knew she wanted chocolate cake but trusted me to handle the rest.  She ended up with 3 dozen chocolate cupcakes with both chocolate & vanilla buttercream.  Simple, but well suited to purpose, a birthday celebration in her office. 




Tax Law is So Much More Manageable with Cupcakes

Veena is a new friend who is brand new to the oh-so-exciting world of tax law, so we met up for the afternoon to talk shop.  A primer on tax law is a tough sell, so obviously there needed to be cupcakes.  Since it was Veena's birthday just a few days before, I let her call the shots.  She chose chocolate with vanilla buttercream and professed her love for the color blue, any blue but teal to be precise.  I decided on a denim blue and swirled together a few very similar shades to give definition to the curls of frosting I'd heap on top.  As a finishing touch, I sprinkled on a few silver nonpareils.


Saturday, June 12, 2010

No More Blasts From the Past

All of the very first posts to this blog, each dated June 12, 2010, have been cakes from my recent past.  I've posted some of my favorite projects to get the blog started, but I recognize that the quality of many of the photos is just awful.  This is because in many cases, I took the pictures on my phone, for my own personal collection, with absolutely no intention of ever publishing them. 

But here I am, publishing them.  From this point on, I'll post about my current projects and do my very best to capture decent photos.  Enjoy!

Sunday Brunch

My friend Erin, you remember her from the jam post, comes to visit me a few times a year on holiday three-day weekends.  She lives about two and a half hours away so obviously that justifies the baking of cake!  As if I needed an excuse.  Humor me. 

Most recently, Erin visited over the Easter weekend.  These were the cakes we celebrated with.  We brought some to our friends Matt & Jenn, a ridiculously cute couple we brunched with at the world's best brunch spot, Honey's Sit & Eat in Philly's Northern Liberties neighborhood.  If you haven't been, stop what you're doing and go there.  On second thought, the hour wait for brunch is long enough.  Nevermind, go to Chili's, forget I said anything. 




How many kinds of chocolate can you fit into one cake?

For my friend Alissa's 35th birthday, I made a a three-layer chocolate cake with chocolate buttercream, chocolate truffle frosting, chocolate ganache, and chocolate chips.  I guess I could have shaved some chocolate on top or maybe baked in some chocolate chunks to pack in some additional chocolate, but it was already out of control, so I'm gonna go ahead and say 5 is most individual types of chocolate one should fit into a cake.  Final answer. 





I also made some favors for the party.  She's a serious Phillie phanatic.


Strawberry Season!

Mmmmm!  There's almost nothing better than fresh strawberries grown out in the sun.  The shortness of the season makes them even more precious, but it just feels so unfair that there's really only 3 weeks per year to get plump, juicy, ripe, local strawberries. 

This beauty is a spin on strawberry shortcake, vanilla cake filled with vanilla pastry cream topped with fresh whipped cream and topped with a plump strawberry. 




Flavors!

On the left, that right there is a chocolate cake with peanut butter buttercream frosting and a quarter of a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup.  On the right, that's dark chocolate cake with raspberry buttercream made with seedless raspberry preserves. 



These here are chocolate mint, two ways.  On the left, classic chocolate chip mint with chocolate cake, green peppermint buttercream and chocolate chips.  On the right, a chocolate cake with a white peppermint buttercream and crushed meltaway mint candies.  That one tasted just like a York Peppermint Patty.  Yum!



Ahhh, red velvet.  It took me about 10 recipes to find the red velvet that I like.  I still think there might be some room for improvement, but that might just be because I love to experiment.  It's like wanderlust but for baking.  On the left is classic red velvet with cream cheese frosting.  On the right, that right there is a little bite of heaven.  Those are red velvet truffles, red velvet cake mixed with cream cheese frosting, rolled into little balls and dipped into milk, semi-sweet or white chocolate and drizzled with a contrasting chocolate flavor.


Mocha is one of my all time favorite flavors.  It's a heavenly intersection of the richness of chocolate, the tartness of espresso and the sweetness of buttercream.  I added some chocolate chips for texture, but they don't need any help in the flavor department.  Delicious! 


Neapolitan!

For my Aunt Lorie's birthday, I made her a neapolitan cake.  It's a vanilla layer cake wth chocolate buttercream frosting and strawberry buttercream border & monogram!  Fun!


I Love Bread!

I love bread.  Good bread is heaven.  I am so not cut out for those carb-free diets.  Despite my oft-professed love for bread, I have only once, and only very recently, baked a loaf.  Okay, that's not entirely true.  I had a bread maker that I used once or twice.  But I didn't like that bread.  I found it mealy and not at all worth the effort, time and clean up.

The "almost no-knead" bread below was hand kneaded only a few times, with a mixing assist from my beloved KitchenAid stand mixer and its trusty dough hook, and baked in a lidded dutch oven.  The result was stunningly delicious.  I got the recipe here, but it's all over the web if you want to give it a try.  I'm making another loaf tonight! 

I also love scones.  They count as bread, right, a kind of a cake/bread hybrid?  Below you'll find a batch of cranberry pecan scones and some lemon scones with lemonade frosting.  On the bottom, there's my favorite, a cheddar jalapeƱo scone. 




Baby!

My friend & coworker Natasha had a beautiful baby girl recently.  I was excited to make the cake and the favors for her baby shower! 


Earth Day!

My fiend Jessica recently moved to a new place.  Her housewarming party was pretty close to Earth Day so when she asked me to make some cake for the party, I had my theme, green and blue swirls, inspired by the Earth.


Chocolate Peanut Butter Butterfinger Birthday

My friend Chris, partner to bacon-loving Andy, mentioned in a previous post, is a big fan of Butterfingers and the classic chocolate & peanut butter combination.  I was more than happy to oblige for his birthday last month.  I baked a chocolate layer cake.  Between the two layers I spread chocolate truffle frosting and sprinked a few bars of cruhed Butterfingers.  Along the top and sides, I smoothed on a thick layer of peanut butter buttercream.  Then, I piped on a border with more truffle frosting and covered the top with even more crushed Butterfinger candy bars.  


Here's a shot of their beautiful son helping blow out the candles.  Apologies for the blurriness, but the lights were off as we sang Happy Birthday.



Heres' the inside of one of the most decadent cakes I've ever made.  I couldn't get a picture to come out well with the chocolate on chocolate innards, but here's the best shot:


Speaking of Fruit

My last post on strawberries and peaches reminded me of my other summertime favorite, blueberry cake.  I work with farmworkers who brought several cases of blueberries into the office last year.  Of course I had to honor their gift in the best way I know how, by baking cake!  Here is the fruit of our labor.  (Sorry, I had to!  I do love a pun!)


I had no idea how much I love jam!

My friend Erin asked me to make her jam for her birthday.  I did not let the fact that I have never ever made jam, or canned anything for that matter, stop me from agreeing instantly.  Since I am surrounded by farms and her birthday is in June, it seemed like a reasonable request.  And lets be honest, I was flattered by the fact that the request was made without being prefaced by, "Do you know how to..."  Erin's unfettered faith that of course I could make jam sealed the deal.  I'm pretty sure she had no idea, but that was wicked smooth if she played me like that.  Touche! 

But I soon got tired of reading all about canning, the odd tools it requires and the tediousness of the methodology.  I was ready to give up so I whined a bit to my mom who is from the South where learning canning is essentially a right of passage for girls, the Southern version of a bat mitzvah.  Mom told me to suck it up and follow the procedures in my beloved BH&G cookbook.  And that's where I discovered freezer canning, which basically means make the jam and put it in your freezer and forget about all that weird boiling of jars and making sure they seal right.  So, I got some strawberries grown under the sun about a mile from my house and some just-picked peaches grown even closer and pulled a few sprigs of rosemary from my garden and got to work.  I made Erin some strawberry jam and some rosemary peach jam.  And by "some" I mean close to a dozen pints. 


Now, if you've never had homemade jam, stop right now and make yourself some.  It is amazing.  I have never ever been a jam or jelly person.  I don't even like it on a peanut butter sandwich, I prefer sliced banana or even just good ol' pb all by itself.  But homemade jam?  Get outta town.  It's ridiculously delicious. I've never eaten so much jam as in the weeks after I made it from scratch.


But wait!  You might still be hung up on the rosemary part.  Slow it down and hear me out.  Martha Stewart told me to do it.  She may be a convicted felon, but she knows what's up in the kitchen, so I gave it a try.  You would not believe the harmony between peaches and rosemary.  In this jam, the rosemary is subtle but present at first but lets go completely fairly soon into a lovely, calming peach blanket over your entire palate.  It will knock your socks off.  In my opinion, the best way to eat it is spread on top of some Laughing Cow cheese on a thick slice of fresh sesame seed artisan bread.  But really, you could eat it on an insole and it would still be delicious. 


Now, you might be saying to yourself, "I thought this was a cake blog?"  So here's the juridictional hook, as it were.  I love to make fruity buttercream.  But, when I add sliced peaches or fresh strawberries to a buttercream recipe, the frosting doesn't ever set right because it's too watery.  Its' still fantastic and delicious, but if you want to make it as pretty as regular buttercream, use jam or preserves in place of the milk or cream.  This method gives it the right amount of flavor without wateriness.  There you go!  Plus, don't even get me started on how you can pipe fresh jam into the center of a cupcake or spread it between the layers of a cake.  Remind me to add strawberries to my grocery list...

I Do Love Lime!

I make a killer lime pie.  Sometimes with key limes, but it's just as good with regular ol' limes, and that's a whole lot less limes to press.  I think my favorite is to make mini lime pies with a graham cracker crust because the crust to filling ratio is just right and they just look so cute.  They must be topped with fresh whipepd cream though or else no deal.  Here they are:




In their pre-whipped cream nakedness: 




And here are the carcasses of the fresh pressed limes that gave their lives for the sake of pie. 


Happy Valentine's Day?

Valentine's Day ranks just below Groundhog's Day on my list of favorite holidays.  Don't get me wrong, I love love, but Valentine's Day is so contrived that I see it as the wax museum version of love.  Although I'm normally not prone to displays of Valentiney devotion, this year I took it over the top as my homage to the overinflated testimonial the day has become.  Ladies and gentlemen, I give you my Valentine's Day cupcakes:



That right there is a dark chocolate cupcake topped with strawberry buttercream (made with seedless strawberry preserves) and a double chocolate pecan brownie cut out in the shape of a heart and dipped in white chocolate.  Here's the play-by-play:



I baked a double batch of double chocolate pecan brownies and cut them out with a heart shaped cookie cutter. 


Next I melted some white chocolate and dipped half of each brownie in chocolate.



Then I frosted the dark chocolate cupcakes with the strawberry buttercream and placed a brownie on top of each. Viola!


*This picture along with several others with this same note were taken well before I ever contemplated starting a cake blog. Expect much better image quality in posts to come!