Saturday, November 29, 2008

Daring Bakers: Caramel Cake

Daring Bakers is another blogging bakers group I joined a few weeks ago. Daring Bakers are given a recipe each month that can be modified, accessorized, and individualized any way you like. Thousands of bakers around the world all using the exact same recipe, but getting different results. I love this connection with all these bakers so close yet so far away!
This months challenge is Caramel Cake and comes from Shuna Fish Lydon at challenge was chosen by Delores at with co hosts Alex (at and Jenny (at

I was in a pomegranate mood, and thought it would be a fabulous complement to caramel. I still think it's a good complement, but this is not going be a recipe I'll make again. It is sooooo sweeeet! Don't get me wrong, I love sweet. Obviously. So for me to say this is too sweet, I really don't know how you're supposed to eat it. Other Daring Bakers have been discussing this problem the last few weeks, so it's not just me. You'll have to really like sugar to be able to handle this cake. The cake is a basic yellow cake with caramel mixed into the batter.
The frosting is a browned butter caramel frosting. I love browned butter frosting, but I don't think it is a good choice for this cake. First of all, it is a strong flavor, and with more caramel in the frosting on top of a caramel cake, whew! Way too much. Second, it's a beige frosting on a brownish cake. BOR-ing. That's where I thought the pomegranate would come it particularly handy. I made a separate pomegranate buttercream to add to the browned butter caramel buttercream. A tart flavor and different color to offset all the yellow and caramel. Unfortunately it was around midnight when I got to actually frosting the cake. I'm not an artist, I'm a baker. So the late hour and my lack of artistry added up to quite an ugly cake. Especially after seeing Cannelle Et Vannile's cake. Blah, ok, here it is...There was a second, optional part to this months challenge, Golden Caramels. These caramels call for an ingredient called Golden Syrup,

From what I've read from other Daring Baker's, I'm lucky to have actually found it, just sitting there at Albertson's (though I doubt it's at Acme!). According to a little reseach on the nets, Golden Syrup is essentially light molasses. While I don't doubt the necessity of molasses in gingerbread and I'm an Anglophile in many ways, I don't think I'll ever be convinced of molasses. I added pomegranate juice to these caramels, also, but the molasses flavor overwhelms and makes the pomegranate indetectable. It was a fun expirament with a different recipe and ingredient, but I'll stick to my caramel recipe in the future. Oh, well. Here's to a less controversial challenge next month!

Don't forget to vote for my cupcakes here!!!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Iron Cupcake: Earth CRANBERRY!

This is my first month as an Iron Cupcake: Earth Challenge Baker. I only discovered this group a few days ago, and was accepted on Saturday evening. My cupcake has to be submitted today, so that left about one hour to come up with an idea, one hour to shop, and a few hours before and after church yesterday to do all the baking. It's like really being on Iron Chef! Craziness!
The challenge for November is cranberry. Gingerbread was the obvious cake base to me. After that it was a little harder. I'm not really the most creative baker; I steal most of my recipes and ideas from Martha Stewart. But no cheating this time, these cupcakes were going to be all me. Thus was born the Cranberry Gingerbread Cupcake with White Chocolate Buttercream.
The point of all of this is to convince you to vote for me!!! over at No One Puts Cupcake in a Corner. Voting begins Sunday, November 30. You can check out the other entries here. The winner of this month's challenge wins prizes from these fabulous people:

Lollipop Workshop
Cookie Sunshine
Lots of Sprinkles (cupcake earrings)
Sweet Cuppin Cakes Bakery and Cupcakery Supply
Head Chefs by Fiesta Products
Hello Cupcake by Karen Tack and Alan Richardson

Cupcake Courier
Taste of Home books

Cranberry Gingerbread Cupcakes with White Chocolate Buttercream

Make 12 cupcakes


1 ½ c flour

¼ t baking soda

¼ t salt

1 ½ T ginger

1 ½ T cinnamon

¼ c molasses

1 c water

6 T butter

6 T sugar

2 eggs

Cranberry sauce

1 Whisk water and molasses; set aside.

2 Beat butter and sugar; add eggs.

3 Mix dry ingredients. Add flour mixture in thirds alternately with molasses mixture to egg mixture.

4 Spoon batter into cupcake cups. Drop ½ teaspoon cranberry sauce into each cup and loosely swirl with a toothpick. Bake in 350 °F for 15-18 min.

Cranberry Sauce

6 oz fresh or frozen cranberries

½ c water

½ c sugar

In a saucepan dissolve the sugar in the water over medium heat, about 3 minutes. Add the cranberries, let cook another 10 minutes until all the cranberries pop. Stir occasionally. Remove from heat. Sauce will thicken as it cools.

White Chocolate Buttercream

½ c butter

½ c shortening

½ c melted white chocolate

4 c powdered sugar

~ 3 T milk

In a standing mixer, beat butter and shortening until light, about 4 min. Add white chocolate and mix until combined. Add powdered sugar slowly. Add milk until desired consistency is reached.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Another try at Cheesecake

A few weeks ago when I made a cheesecake I mentioned that it wasn't exactly what I was looking for in a cheesecake (Cheesecake Factory being perfection, of course!). Hillary over at Hilary's Random Thoughts suggested that I try this recipe on the Food Network. Yesterday I was trying to think of blueberry recipes since the frozen bags of 'em are taking up too much room in the freezer. So this was a perfect opportunity to try the new recipe and use some of the blueberries. (I also made blueberry scones for breakfast. If you've never had English scones, not the fry bread kind, they are fabulous.)
The only differences between this recipe and others I've tried are that it calls for more sour cream, and less egg white. The baking time was the biggest distinction. I think this might be a typo, though? Are you really only supposed to bake it for one hour at 250 F? Does this work for you, Hilary? My cheesecake was still just soup after I'd followed the baking instructions. I turned the oven back on (it calls for you to let it sit in the turned off oven for another hour after baking), and checked it every half hour hoping to see it set up. After another hour and a half of no change, I gave up and turned the oven up to 350 F. This finally yielded results. I kept it cooking until I was too tired to keep watching it (around 12:30 am), and gave up. I just left it in the turned off oven until the morning, hoping it would work out. Fortunately when I checked it this morning it had set up just fine. I think the problem with my cheesecakes is not the ingredients but the baking method. So unfortunately this did not solve that problem. As I do with most baked goods, I tend to over bake. But with cheesecake it's so hard to tell, so I have no idea how long I'm over baking.
It didn't, however, crack, which is a feat for cheesecakes. It fell a little, but not as bad as last time, so maybe it is getting better. If you haven't noticed, though, the Cheesecake Factory always covers their cheesecakes in whipped cream, so I suspect it's nearly impossible to get a pretty looking cheesecake. In any case, that's what I did, too. They say appearance is 90% and taste is the other 10%, so if that's true this cheesecake is right on. Ok, it's not that bad. The crust is made from ginger snaps from World Market, and the stripes are just pureed blueberries. Perhaps it's more 70/30 (I'd rather go 50/50), and that's pretty good for now.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Lemon Drops

I've been in Holiday mode for over a month now, and, well, I guess this is why most people wait until Thanksgiving. I needed a break. I was in the mood for a little bit of summer, a little bit of lemon. These are just shortbread with lemon rind in the dough, and a lemon frosting. A supremely simple, yet solidly satisfying summer sweet. In the middle of November. ;)

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Harvest Season

It's that time of year when you finally have to give in and pick anything left in your garden before the frost gets to it. We rake in the leaves, cut down the dying stalks of summer flowers, mulch the flower beds and lay aside the autumn harvest for the long winter months. That last part isn't as important as it was a hundred years ago, but the sentiment and idyllic motions of a harvest are just as, if not more appealing now that it isn't necessary. Most days I get so wrapped up in what I'm doing on the computer at work, I forget where I am. I exist only on the interblag. I love going out into the garden in the evening just to water my herbs and flowers. I need that quiet physical connection with reality. So it makes me sad that part of my day is gone for the next six months, but this time of year, at least, I get to enjoy the literal fruit of my summer labors.
I attempted raspberries, strawberries, blueberries, tomatoes and eggplant this year. Lessons learned: raspberries like sunshine, but not too much of it. Strawberries are susceptible not only to birds, but to potato bugs. Blueberries need acidic soil and probably won't grow in Utah, but I won't know until next summer if it survives not only the cold but the soil here. Tomato plants should not be bought at Walmart. I have no lesson from the eggplant. If someone wants to clue me in as to how to make your eggplants grow bigger than the "egg" in their name, please let me know.
Herbs: the best part! I have a sage bush that is threatening to take over now. The oregano and thyme will be replanted next year so as not to be literally overshadowed by the sage. The rosemary, parsley, lemon balm and bergamot grew beautifully and without reserve. My basils, sweet and cinnamon, grew just fine until October, when they up and died in the space of just a few days :S. This is the first year I've tried chamomile, and while the plant grew great, I only got two almost flowers. They never actually bloomed. Another mystery if anyone has an answer for me. And, the most varieties of mint I've tried yet: 7! Apple mint, pineapple mint, peppermint, lime mint, chocolate mint, grapefruit mint, and spearmint. The differences between them all are very subtle, but you do notice the undertones that their names imply. Lovely!
As you might have noticed, I love tea. Drying my herbs for tea, then, is the obvious result. I got some other herbs and berries from Whole Foods and in the next few weeks I'll be making and testing homemade teas to give to friends for Christmas. Friends that are close by, I hope you like the teas, and friends far away, if you want a couple tea bags I could mail them to you. Let me know if you want them :).

Monday, November 10, 2008

Scary Cheesecake!

Ok, so it's not really scary. But it is pretty cool, right?! I can say that because, again, I stole the idea from Martha Stewart. Oh, Martha. Why do I love you and love to hate you? Anyways, my cheesecake isn't as good as Cheesecake Factory, but someday it will be. And in the mean time, at least it looks good!
And now on to holiday baking!!!!

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Halloween Cookies

Martha Stewart may not be the most personable tv cook out there (I tried to find an old episode from her pre-prison days where she has Conan O'Brien on her show - amazing!, unfortunately, I couldn't find it.) However, she has undoubtedly built a fantastic empire, and she and her creative staff know what they're doing. Her website has a "Cookie of the Day" section, that I love! I picked two recipes to try out: Cookie Art and Dulce de Leche Bat Cookies.
The Cookie Art cookies I didn't use the recipe, I just used the "art" part of the recipe. Instead I used shortbread as my palate. All you do is put a few drops of food coloring on an unbaked cookie and blow on the drops to create a splash-like pattern.Again, I altered her recipe a little for the Bat cookies, but only in that I didn't use a bat cut out, because I don't have the tools for it. These cookies are fabulous, though! I've never had dulce de leche before, and I had assumed it would be something like sweetened condensed milk, but it's not. It's completely it's own flavor. These will definately be worth doing any time during the year.