Sunday, September 18, 2011

Beach Themed Birthday Cake

Last year I made a flip-flop cake for our friend's mother's birthday. This year she came back to me for another cake for her mother's birthday. This time I did a vanilla pound cake with raspberry jam and white chocolate buttercream. Since her mother loved the beach, we did a beach themed cake.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Baby Shower Cupcakes

A friend of ours asked me to make cupcakes for her sister's baby shower at the end of July. Her sister did not find out the gender of the baby, so the cupcakes could not be either boy or girl colored. She wanted to have pacifiers on the top of each cupcake in green, blue, pink and yellow. The cupcakes were swirled chocolate and vanilla. I also swirled chocolate and vanilla buttercream on top. The pacifiers were made out of colored chocolate poured into a plastic mold.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Dan's Graduation Cake

It has been a while since I have posted and have a lot to catch up on. This past June, Dan graduated from Lehigh University with his MBA. He had been working on this since before we got married. I was very proud of him and wanted to give him a cake for his party that was both appropriate and celebrated the occasion. He said a simple stack of books would be fine, but I thought he deserved something grander--not just a few books, but a laptop computer, a fondant figure of Dan, and some other chocolates too.
The bottom two books are chocolate cake with peanut butter cream filling and covered in chocolate buttercream. The computer is a vanilla cake with a white chocolate raspberry filling. The cakes were covered with fondant and the figure is also out of fondant.

The hats around the edge of the board are Reese's peanut butter cups attached to Ghirardelli chocolate squares. I attached them together with melted chocolate. Once the chocolate cooled, I flipped them over and piped on the tassels with yellow tinted royal icing. Lehigh's colors are brown and gold so I could use chocolate as is. If the colors were different I might have melted down colored chocolate into molds to make the hats.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Beach Themed Congratulations Cake

Dan had a co-worker getting married and his team was throwing a party for him. Dan, of course, volunteered me to do the cake. He changed the date on me twice and was not very clear on what he wanted at all. What was nice was that it was a small simple cake that did not take long at all to complete. Dan finally decided on a beach themed vanilla cake with chocolate buttercream, since he was heading to a tropical destination for his honeymoon.

I freely admit I was not the easiest customer, but my coworkers are always asking me to bring in something my wife made, and this was a great opportunity to show off her magic. Of course, she did an amazing job!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Fondant Dog Cake Toppers

Last month, I was contacted by a nice woman who was in a major cake dilemma. She had ordered a cake for her father's 70th birthday party from a bakery. Just one week before the party, the bakery told her that they would not have time to make the fondant dogs she had ordered for the top of the cake. So she went online and found my post about the fondant dog I made for another cake. The other problem was that the party was in southern Maryland, I am in Pennsylvania, and she was flying from Michigan. She contacted me to see if I could make these dogs and ship them to Maryland for the party that week. I did some research and found that fondant decorations could be shipped if packaged properly, so I agreed to help her out--but it was the first time I ever tried to ship fondant.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Brunch - Cinnamon Buns

Brunch is my favorite meal, and what is a brunch without cinnamon buns? I make these for our Christmas morning brunch and this year I also made them for Easter brunch. Everyone loves this recipe and it makes a great leftover too. 
And you can NOT beat the smell that fills your house when these cinnamon buns are baking! Of course that was also torture when Laurie made them for Easter which of course happened to be during Passover...but she was nice enough to make an extra batch for me to enjoy the following week too.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Almond Macaroons with Orange Buttercream Filling

The last (and my personal favorite) macaroon that I made this year for Passover was an almond macaroon with an orange buttercream filling dipped in semi-sweet chocolate. I think the almond, orange, and chocolate combination was wonderful and surprisingly light. These were also the first cookies to be finished in our house, way before Passover ended.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Chocolate Macaroons with Peanut Butter Buttercream Filling

Since I knew that Dan and his cousin loved the chocolate/peanut butter combination, I decided to make a passover macaroon I knew they both would love: a chocolate peanut butter macaroon. The chocolate macaroons are a Jacques Torres recipe which I got from the Food Network site. The Peanut Butter Buttercream recipe comes from the book Cupcakes by Shelly Kaldunski. And they are actually very easy to make.

My cousin called these a passover peanut butter cup and I agree. French macaroons are a really popular dessert right now in general, and this would be great any time of year, not just for Passover. These were just fantastic. They got rave reviews from family, friends, and coworkers alike. But my 3-year old goddaughter gave them the best review of all. To quote her, word for word ... "yum yum yum!"

Monday, April 25, 2011

Coconut Macaroons

For Passover this year I made a variety of macaroons for Dan's family Seder. I made this same Coconut Macaroon recipe last year. It's an Ina Garten recipe from the Food Network website. From the comments on the site, I knew the cookies would spread a bit, but they spread much more then I thought. Way more than they did last year. Because of this, the edges were a bit over cooked but the middles were perfect. In order to fix this problem, I cut off the over cooked edges and dipped the cookies in semi-sweet chocolate, and then drizzled more chocolate over the top too.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Brunch - French Toast Casserole

I am a huge fan of brunch. You get the best of any meal. Sweet, savory, or any combination of the two is allowed. I make brunch every year on Christmas morning. The last few years I made french toast and ended up standing over the stove all morning flipping the bread. This year I decided to do something different. I found a recipe for a french toast casserole on the internet and added my own touches. To reference the original recipe go to Below is how I changed the recipe to add more spices and use heavy cream instead of milk. If you want to make it a little healthier you can use low fat milk but I think the heavy cream gives it much more flavor.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Birthday Cakes

Birthdays are pretty big in our family. We usually always get together for dinner and (of course) cake! My mother's and sister's birthdays just passed recently and I thought I would feature their cakes in this post. Family birthday cakes are always fun to make. You get to design something for someone you know well and love. You also get to show some of your affection and love for them in cake. Birthday cakes come in all shapes and sizes. These are just two very basic cakes but you can go as far as your imagination will take you.

For my mother's cake, she wanted chocolate cake with vanilla buttercream. We were having her cake the same night as the suitcase cake was made. Of course that was vanilla cake with chocolate buttercream so I couldn't use leftovers from one on the other or just double the batches. My mother likes anything I make, but I wanted to do something special and pretty. I got the idea from this cake from a Wilton idea book. I filled and crumb coated the cake with the plan vanilla buttercream. I then colored the remainder of the vanilla buttercream with a light purple and dark purple food coloring. The cake is coated with the light purple. The flowers are drop flowers and were piped with two different sizes of star tips and drop flower tips. The middles of the flowers, the writing and bottom border is done in the darker color. I did the writing and bottom boarder first so I knew where I could place the flowers. This is a 9 inch round chocolate cake. It was a bit too large for our small dinner party. I should have done a 6 inch cake and it would have fed everyone with minimal leftovers. This cake was enough for each of the 6 people to have one slice after dinner and take one home for the next day. Another trick I learned was when making a chocolate cake dust the pan with cocoa powder instead of flour. It prevents a flour flavor and gives you a more chocolate flavor. My mother loved the cake and the leftovers. It was a great way to celebrate her birthday.

For my sister Brynn's birthday, she went back and forth on what kind of cake she wanted. We agreed that banana cake would be perfect. I thought that a chocolate buttercream would taste a bit strange with the banana cake and a fudge frosting would be better. I learned my lesson from my mother's cake and made this a 6 inch round. It was the perfect size for our small party. The frosting on this cake is very rich and usually good with a glass of milk. I tried to decorate this cake with royal icing balloons along the edges, but they just looked funny. I didn't like it at all. I scraped them off and put fudge icing flowers on the spots. I decorated the edges with two different star tips with the fudge frosting. I then used the light blue royal icing to write on the top of the cake and add accents. This time I made the royal icing with meringue powder, water and confectionary sugar. It does prevent you from using raw egg whites but I think it also gives a much sweeter and a bit of a tangy taste. I prefer the egg whites and confectionary sugar version to this one. Since there was a minimal amount of the royal icing on this cake it didn't really effect the flavor of the cake at all, but I think it would effect the flavor if used in a greater amount. My sister loved the cake.

1) There is no need to make more cake then needed for a small party.
2) Family will love anything you make so don't stress too much.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Sugar Cookies

Sugar cookies are my favorite cookies. Not only are they tasty but they can be made for any occasion. I make them every year for Christmas. This year I also made them for Hanukkah. I also made sugar cookies shaped as wedding cakes and decorated in our wedding colors as favors in the hotel bags for our wedding. I have spent years trying to find the perfect sugar cookie recipe. I have tried recipes using different types of flour, sugar and other ingredients. It may not be perfect but this is my favorite so far.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Grasshopper Pie

I know, I know, it sounds gross but actually it is very good. If you like chocolate and mint you will absolutely love this pie. Grasshopper Pie is basically an Oreo crust with a chocolate pudding, mint mousse, whipped cream, and garnish--a great blend of textures and flavors, and the airy mint mousse is very refreshing, so it goes great after a big meal. I often make it around Christmas time, mostly per my mom's request. This year my sister was visiting over the holidays and took lots of pictures while I baked. I originally got this recipe from the Creative Cook's Kitchen, but as usual I have made a few changes. I have not converted this recipe yet to weight and tested it so after the jump is the recipe in cups with lots of pictures to guide you through it.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

How to Make a Fondant Dog

Finished Fondant Dog sculpture For my suitcase cake, I had to make a dog for the top of the cake. Since it was my first time making one, I chose to make it out of fondant since it takes longer to dry out (compared to gum paste or modeling chocolate) which gave me time to fix mistakes. Another option would have been to make it out of a 50/50 mix of fondant and gum paste. 
Fondant Dog sculpture with model picture First I started out with a picture of the dog printed out large so I could see all of the details. I kept this photo handy through the whole process.
Fondant dog sculpture in progress Since the dog was mostly white, I started off with a large round ball of white fondant. From there I started rolling it in my hands to make it longer and more narrow. I then, started to pull out the head, feet and tail. I also trimmed down the back of the dog since he was looking a bit fat. In the picture I am using a fondant tool to pull and work out the top leg.
Fondant dog sculpture in progress with color Once I had the dog the shape I wanted I started to add color. First his spots and then his nose and collar. Eyes and ears were also added at this time.
Fondant dog sculpture with details being added The last step was to add the pads on the bottom of the dogs feet. Once this was done, I placed him on the top of the cake and made his favorite ball to put between his front legs by rolling a ball of blue fondant (which you can in the first picture, up top). And tada, cute fondant dog that our friends absolutely loved!

30th Birthday Suitcase Cake

A good friend of ours asked me to make the cake for his 30th birthday party. He wanted it to reflect his personality and interests. He gave me a list of all the things he likes and wanted represented on the cake (he sent me emails of all the logos/symbols he wanted included). Since it was such a jumble of unrelated things, I gave him three options on how I thought we could incorporate them onto the cake and have it still look cohesive. First, I could make a basic sheet cake and just cover it will symbols of all his favorite things. Second, I could go with a tiered cake and make each tier a different theme to represent his likes. Third (and the one we went with) was to make a cake shaped like a suitcase and put all his favorite things on like stickers all over the suitcase. He also wanted a figure of his dog on top. It was a big order for me and I was really excited to try it. I had never made a carved cake like that or a figure of a dog, so not only was it a large cake but it had some new challenges for me in it too!

30th Birthday Suitcase Cake

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

Back in my earlier years at my current job, I had the great fortune to work with a really wonderful couple, Andy and Jen. They've since moved across the country, but luckily they live near Laurie's family and we get to visit with them almost every year. They were one of my first culinary inspirations--they even helped me plan the menu for the meal I made the night that I proposed to Laurie! They'd always bring in tasty snacks for everyone in the office, especially around Christmas. Tons of different cookies and treats. But by far, the best were always their chewy chocolate chip cookies. These were perfect cookies that stayed nice and chewy no matter how long they sat around.

One of Andy and Jen's gifts to me was the recipe for the cookies--it's Alton Brown's perfect chewy chocolate chip cookie recipe with some additional pointers and suggestions from them. While I freely admit that I have never made a batch as incredible as the ones that they would bring to the office, I am pretty proud of just how good these cookies are. Even Laurie admits that they are pretty darn good. When Laurie decided this year that she was only going to make a smaller variety of Christmas cookies, and that variety didn't include a chocolate chip cookie, I offered to bake up a batch of mine. Maybe it's a few weeks past Christmas now that I'm getting around to posting this, but c'mon, there's never a bad time for a chocolate chip cookie!