Tuesday, May 29, 2012

A Long Weekend, A Trio of Cupcakes

This Memorial Day weekend, although initially having quite a bit of free time, we ended up filling up nearly every moment of it with gettogethers and other obligations.
With a fairly packed weekend, I wanted to bake desserts that were fun and creative. What better option than a cupcake medley - three different cupcakes made from the same batter but each completely different in flavor and presentation.

The first cupcake was a lime cupcake - a fluffy vanilla cupcake filled with lime curd I had made last week and topped with a lime curd American buttercream. The second cupcake was a tiramisu-inspired cupcake - the same vanilla cupcake drenched in a coffee syrup and topped with a delicious coffee infused whipped mascarpone frosting and sprinkled with chocolate chips. The final cupcake was a funfetti cupcake topped with a chocolate American buttercream. These three cupcakes were fit for a go on Cupcake Wars. Yes, I'm shamelessly in love with this show...!

Funfetti Cupcake with Chocolate Buttercream
After last week's overabundance of yolks which resulted in a shelf-full of delicious lime curd in my fridge, I didn't want to be posed with the same problem again this week. So, I bought a container of liquid egg whites, which are 100% pasteurized. This was my first time using this product and I loved it. Liquid egg whites are great for baking and keep quite nicely in the fridge and the no-waste solution is always a plus for me.

Lime Curd-Filled Cupcake with Lime Curd Buttercream
It was nice to give my friends the option of dessert rather than have just one. A lot of them sampled the different flavors, so it ended up being a fun experience for all.

Tiramisu-Inspired Cupcake
Despite getting sick towards the end of the weekend, it was nice to enjoy a few days with friends.
Later this week, I've got an amazing homemade brownie recipe for you all...! Dare I say, it's rivals those boxed brownie mixes that we all love so much!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

An Angry Birds Birthday Party

Angry Birds... This is what my daughter said when asked what the theme of her birthday cake would be this year. This from my very girly daughter who spends her free time dancing ballet and playing piano and frolicking around like the sweet 8-year old girl that she is. Angry Birds. Maybe it was in part because we recently adopted a bird named Phoenix of whom my daughter cannot get enough of. Or maybe it's because Angry Birds has quite an impact on most kids, these days. Not only kids, I might add. I found myself hooked on the game for about a month not so long ago and if I remember correctly, so did my hubs. In the times of children getting Ipods and tablets as holiday and birthday gifts, this game is near the top of my kids' list of things to play in a day. And if you go into almost any store, you'll likely see Angry Birds paraphanalia displayed in some form or fashion.
So it's no wonder my daughter chose Angry Birds as the theme of her birthday cake this year as she turns 8. She gave me a scene to base the cake on and I was excited to take on this challenge and hopefully have a successful Angry Birds cake under my belt. The interior of the cake was a white cake with strawberry filling and a light chocolate American buttercream. Working with fondant is always an enjoyable and creative experience for me and this time, I used crispy rice treats for the textural effect of the boulders and cement blocks.

This cake was loads of fun to make and my daughter loved the finished product. Her birthday party was a success with all the kids enjoying the Angry Birds theme. After donning some Angry Bird tatoos, we faux-tie-dyed tee shirts, hats, and scarves and the weather was lovely.

Earlier this week before the harriedness of birthday party prep began, I looked in my fridge and found about 20 limes. Turns out I had purchased limes on sale at the fruit market two weeks in a row and hadn't realized it. Coincidentally (or not) I had 11 egg yolks sitting in my fridge from the white vanilla cake I had made for my daughter's birthday cake that I needed to do something with. Citrus and yolks.... There could be only one path out of this excessive ingredient situation - lime curd.

Curd can be made one of two ways - using cornstarch as a thickener or using yolks. The cornstarch method produces a curd that is slightly gritty on the tongue and not as smooth and rich as the yolk method. It's a quick fix in times of necessity, but the yolk method creates a far higher quality result.
Citrus curd can be made using any citrus fruit - oranges, limes, lemons, grapefruit. I would love to make an orange curd as oranges are my favorite citrus flavor. But this time, I needed to use up all these limes. This lime curd is has such a smooth mouthfeel. There is quite a tartness from the limes but it is so pleasantly complimentary to the creamy sweetness and richness from the added sugar, yolks and butter. This curd is wonderful on toast, bagels, in a tart, as a filling in cakes or cupcakes, in between sandwich cookies or just by the spoonful. I especially love mine on plain graham crackers. Yum! I urge you to try this recipe. It's a keeper.

Lime Curd
(*This recipe can be successfully halved or doubled; to halve the recipe, use 5 egg yolks)

1 cup fresh lime juice (about 4-5 limes) (you can also use any other citrus fruit or combination thereof)
zest of 2 limes
11 egg yolks
1 cup sugar (for sweeter citrus such as orange, reduce the sugar to 1/2 cup)
12 T butter, unsalted and cut into 12 slices

In a saucepan, combine lime juice, zest, sugar and 6 T of butter. Whisking constantly over medium-low heat, this mixture will start to thicken. Once you can leave a clean trail through the curd on the back of a wooden spoon with your finger, the curd is ready to take off the stove. At this point, add in the remaining butter and whisk until the butter is completely melted and well incorporated. Run the curd through a sieve to strain any unwanted egg pieces and all of the zest for a smooth product. Let the curd cool. It will continue to thicken. Transfer it to an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 2 weeks, if it lasts that long.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Jewelry Cookies

Jewelry parties are all the rage these days. I know so many people who are hosting them. I'd consider it if I wore costume jewelry on a regular basis, but I'm one of those people who consider this too much work. I've got a few simple pieces that make up my pretty basic ensemble for most every day. My sister-in-law who is a big fan of costume jewelry and all things beautiful and glamorous hosted one of these parties and asked me to make her some jewelry cookie favors. These necklace pendant cookies were sugar cookies with some pizzazz. Wear your jewelry and eat it too... I like the concept. 

Sunday, May 13, 2012


It's the moment I've been waiting for.. Since nearly the beginning of the birth of my blog, I came to terms with the fact that my camera was not up to par for a food blog. Have you been to some of those sites? The recipes are second to the amazing pictures that are displayed lending truth to the saying: "you eat with your eyes first."
Well, after a stint of ill-fated camera mishaps including leaving our last camera on a return flight from Aruba (those precious photographed memories gone..), we purchased a cheap camera that would capture those important moments in our life without much else. The camera just barely met the requirements to take decent pictures and video. But I was definitely deserving of it after my track record..
Well, I think I paid my dues because for Mother's Day this year, my husband and kids surprised me with a new camera.. and not just any camera -the very well-reviewed and highly esteemed Canon EOS T2i digital SLR! Thanks, guys!
Aah, the dreams I have had in the past week of all the shots and angles I'd capture of everything from my baked creations to my kids to sunsets and beyond. And now my dreams will become a reality.... Well, maybe not quite.. This camera is loaded with functions and learning it through and through will take months, I'm sure. And then there's the question of skill... hmm, I guess only time will tell.
Until then I'd like to leave you with some of the first images from my camera..

This week I felt like cupcakes. So I made a bunch. The first was a fluffy vanilla cake with a strawberry filling, topped with a light and airy milk chocolate buttercream.

I love a cake where you can see the specks of vanilla bean.

There's a heart of strawberry filling here.. See it?

The second cupcakes were for Mother's Day so I made them pretty and pink! They were strawberry cupcakes topped with strawberry cheesecake frosting. They were the perfect cupcake for these cute strawberry liners!

My fluffy marshmallow was happy I got the new camera. She was posing for me every chance she could get. Here's a cute one of her lazing around in the grass...

Happy Mother's Day!

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Miniature Cakes

I draw inspiration from everything around me. This week it came to me at the grocery store. Embarking on my weekly shoppping trip, I came across miniature tiered cakes - small enough to fit in the palm of my hand. They were little jewels of celebration - what a great idea!
Who doesn't like miniature things? I have to say I am a sucker for them. This cake would feed up to 4 partygoers - a perfect size for a small family or a small group of friends. They could even be a unique and special wedding favor. After seeing this, I had to try to make one myself. The top tier was only 3" and the bottom was a whopping 4". I used leftover ingredients from my celebration cakes from last week and voila... Good things do come in small packages..