Monday, July 23, 2012

Kid Bites: Baked Donuts

My children must be spoiled.. At least in the "dessert-and-other-sweet-treats" sort of way. Every morning without fail, my son comes downstairs half asleep and asks me through barely open eyes, "Mommy, can we have cinnamon rolls for breakfast?" If I answer no, which is most days of the year, he'll proceed to list his favorite breakfast items (muffins, crepes, french toast, pancakes, scones, etc) hopeful that I'll say "yes" to one of them. Most days I don't (most technically means greater than 50%..) but when I do, the eyes open wide and a big grin spreads across his face..

One such morning happened upon us the other day and my son asked "Donuts?" He was pleasantly surprised when I said, "Sure!" I'd made his day. He was even more excited when I told him he'd be making them.

Always trying to be as healthful as I can while juggling my love of baking and raising two kids, I decided to bake, rather than fry, these donuts. Which is one of the reasons this recipe is so kid-friendly - no pot of splattering hot oil. Another plus - no kitchen appliances needed. Just mix the ingredients together by hand and bake them off. It will take you 10 minutes from start to finish (that's factoring in the kids)!
These donuts were soft and fluffy and a marvelous start to the morning alongside a cup of coffee or a tall glass of milk. Remember that when *baking* donuts, the end product will not have the crispy sort of outer layer that a traditional donut usually does, since we are not frying it. But that was a-okay with my family as they helped themselves to seconds and thirds (which of course, weren't allowed).

Baking with your kids is great fun as long as you know there will be plenty of messes and spills and that preparation time will most likely be at least doubled. But those things are temporary. The memories will last forever.

Baked Donuts
(Recipe by: Leelabean)

Yield: 10-12 regular-sized donuts OR 40-45 mini donuts.

1 1/4 c all-purpose flour
3 T light brown sugar
2 T granulated white sugar
1 t baking powder
1/2 t baking soda
1/8 t nutmeg
1 large egg
3 T oil
1/4 c buttermilk
1 t vanilla extract
2 T maple syrup (you may omit this and substitute an extra tablespoon of sugar, here)

4 T unsalted butter, melted (for coating the donuts in cinnamon sugar)

Cinnamon Sugar

1/2 c granulated white sugar
3 t ground cinnamon

Preheat your oven to 350F. In a bowl, combine the flour, sugars, baking powder, baking soda, and nutmeg. Whisk together until well incorporated and any lumps from the brown sugar are broken up. In a separate bowl, combine the egg, oil, buttermilk, vanilla extract, and maple syrup, if you are using it. Whisk to form a homogeneous mixture. Pour this mixture into the dry ingredients and stir with a wooden spoon until the batter is even. Be careful not to overmix.
Liberally coat your donut pan with cooking spray. I used the Wilton regular and mini donut pans. Fill each cavity of the regular-sized donut pans with 2 level tablespoons of batter. Fill the mini-sized donut pan with a heaping 1 teaspoon of batter. You do not want to fill the donut sections more than 1/2 full because they will overflow and look more like muffins sporting a holey bottom than donuts.
Bake the mini donuts for 8-10 minutes and the regular donuts for 10-12 minutes. They will become a golden brown when they are ready and a toothpick inserted into the thickest part of the donuts will come out clean. Let them cool on a wire rack for about 10 minutes.
While the donuts are cooling, make your cinnamon sugar by combining the sugar and cinnamon in a bowl. Take a cooled donut and brush it with melted butter. Then toss it in the cinnamon sugar to coat. These are best eaten the day they are made.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Celebration Cakes: Submarine Cake

This weekend, one of my dear friends asked me to make her son's 5th birthday cake, a submarine cake, for his birthday party. This particular friend of mine is an amazing chef - the best I know - and I knew the food she would make for the party would be out of this world, and indeed it was. (You are so talented, Natalie!)

I wanted a cake that would fit right in alongside all of that delicious food. So, I created a 3-layer chocolate cake filled with a luscious strawberries and cream filling made with fresh strawberries. When I make celebration cakes I can't usually get a pic of a slice of the cake. This time, I made sure to take a picture of the interior of the cake for you to see.

The whole cake was frosted in vanilla buttercream and decorated with fondant. The submarine was made out of rice crispy treats. This project was exciting to put together since working with rice crispy treats is something I am starting to do more and more. I really enjoy the moldability and versatility of this medium.

Thanks to Natalie, Scott, and Chase for allowing me the pleasure of making a cake for you on this very special day..! Happy 5th Birthday, Chase..!

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Kid Bites: Sparkly Dip

*If you have not checked out my previous post on freezing cake batter, please do - it's quite a useful tip if you bake a lot!*
Now, on to sparkly dip!
The other day, my daughter came across a recipe that she wanted to try in one of her American Girl books. "Sparkly Dip" seemed fairly easy to make and was to be accompanied by fruit and graham crackers - a healthy and fun snack. She made the dip easily, under my supervision, and was ready to give it a try within five minutes. It was a simple recipe from a doll's book, which made it hard to believe how delicious it tasted!

With the addition of a little vanilla, this dip really hit the spot. It was cheesecakey and just sweet enough for all the fruits and graham crackers we had to dip into it. My kids didn't realize it but ate quite a bit of fruit that day. I was a happy mom.

Sometimes, recipes will surface from the strangest places. Give them a try - it may be just want your tastebuds desire.

Sparkly Dip
(Adapted from American Girl's Bitty Twins' Snacks & Treats)

1/2 c marshmallow cream/fluff
1/4 c cream cheese (low-fat is ok)
1/2 t vanilla extract
Handful of sprinkles (nuts, raisins, or chocolate chips will work, too)

Combine the first three ingredients in a medium bowl until they are well mixed. Top the dip off with sprinkles or any other add-ons you have. Enjoy with cut up fruit - strawberries, bananas, apples, pineapple, grapes - and graham crackers.
For mini strawberry cheesecake bites: Spread some dip on a graham cracker and top with sliced strawberries. Scrumptious!

Freezing Cake Batter... Yes, It Works!

Last week I baked a cake and I must have been in a preoccupied state, because I made an error in calculating exactly how much batter I'd needed. I ended up with way more than was necessary and I couldn't bake the extra batter into cakes or cupcakes and store them in my freezer. You see, my freezer has a space issue. My obsessive desire to bake along with my intense love of a place you may know called Costco leaves me with no freezer space whatsoever.
So, what's a girl to do with cups and cups of leftover batter? I scoured the internet for some hope and found something quite nearly life-changing... (for me, anyway).
You can freeze batter! Did you know that? I know what you're thinking - yeah, right. Well, I was of the same mindset but figured now was as good a time as any to try. So I froze the batter expecting to throw it out at some point in the near future...

Do you want to know what happened when I decided to bake them a week later?

Delicious, fluffy, moist, utterly fresh cupcakes. No one who had one of these cupcakes could tell that they were baked from frozen batter that had been in my freezer for a week. Sucess. Big sucess.
Do you ever want fresh baked cupcakes with minimal time? Are you ever knee-deep in batter that you don't intend on using immediately? Do you sometimes find yourself with no space in your freezer needing to store unused cake batter because something came up that you hadn't planned for and you had to run out of your kitchen and quite possibly your house covered in a layer of flour? If any of these instances have happened or may happen in the future, do the following:
Grab a quart-sized ziploc freezer bag and fill it with about 2 cups of batter. Push out all the air and seal the bag. You may double bag it if you are unsure of the strength of your bags. Store the filled freezer bags , slightly flattened, in your freezer. Within an hour or so, the batter will solidify and wait patiently (taking up very little space) for the day you decide to bake them off. According to the source, this batter will last up to three months without any deterioration. Once you are ready to bake the batter, throw the frozen bag into your fridge to thaw, or if you need it sooner, go straight to your kitchen counter. Once thawed, snip the corner of the bag and squeeze out the batter into your baking pan of choice. This will be the neatest possible way to get the batter out of the bag. While you are doing this, preheat your oven as directed in the recipe. When the oven is ready, pop the prepared baking pans in! If the batter is cold, tack on a couple of minutes to your baking time. If it is room temperature, bake as you normally would. Your cake will come out perfectly, you'll see! In fact, when they bake up, they are exactly as light, fluffy, and delicious as they would have been if you were to prepare and bake the batter as you normally would, without any freezing! I honestly couldn't believe my eyes when I tried this!
In considering the types of batter to freeze, I would stick to batters where there are no add-ins such as chocolate chips, fruit, nuts, etc. You want a fairly homogeneous batter when you are freezing since you aren't sure how these add-ins will freeze or if they will alter the batter in an unpredictable way. If you have to add in ingredients such as chocolate chips, fruits, or nuts try defrosting the batter and then lightly folding them in right before baking.
Although I'll most likely only be using this method as an emergency option, it's still nice to know freezing cake batter is a viable option.
Hope this tip has been helpful!

Sunday, July 8, 2012

A Baby Shower Cake

This week I had the pleasure of making a baby shower cake to coordinate with a beautiful invitation which had fuchsia and green accents.

The cake was 3 layers of vanilla with a strawberries and cream filling. The whole cake was enrobed in vanilla buttercream and covered in fondant.
Real strawberries were requested for the filling and this one turned out to be delicious. I whipped some cream, sweetened it a little bit and folded in a few cups of fresh, diced, mascerated strawberries.

Strawberries are in season now, so picking up one of those club packs from the grocery store is a great idea. If you ever find yourself with too many strawberries, just hull them, rinse them, let them dry completely and freeze in an airtight ziploc bag. They will be good for up to a year in smoothies, as purees for cakes and cupcakes or frostings and fillings.

This filling is very adaptable - you can substitute any mascerated berry for the strawberries and have a wonderful berries & cream filling. You could even do a combination. I am loving the strawberries and cream theme - it's very "Wimbledon," which happens to be going on right now and is my very favorite tennis tournament. Go Roger!
The baby shower cake was decorated very simply with polka dots and a big celebratory bow on top.

Next week, a submarine cake! Stay tuned...

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Red, White, & Blue Sheet Cake

Sheet cakes could very well be the most perfect cake. They are baked in cookie sheets that have a 1" lip resulting in a cake with a lot of surface area. Frosting lovers know what that means.. Eating sheet cake is a dream because the frosting to cake ratio is quite high. For me, it's the perfect amount of frosting to cake and you are never left trying to strategize how exactly to take your bites so as not to run out of frosting and be left with a naked piece of cake.

This week, I chose to make a sheet cake for Independence Day. Initially I wanted to do a simple flag design atop the cake, but I changed my mind and am pretty happy with the results. I swirled red and blue into white frosting and topped the frosting with a sprinkling of red and blue stars. Suggestively patriotic.

The cake is a red velvet cake, fluffy and intensely red. I had wanted to try out a powdered dye that I purchased a while ago and it proved to be quite powerful in pigment. I was pleasantly surprised.

As for the frosting, I chose a classic pairing - cream cheese frosting. I whipped it into a frenzy with a bit of whipped cream and it came out fluffy, with a light and airy texture. My husband likened it to ice cream - of the non-melting sort. Ice cream and cake... works for me. :-)

Happy Birthday, America and Happy 4th to all!