Thursday, July 31, 2008

Graduation Cake II

It's over. Monday was my last class for Wilton's Course II. I am taking the month of August off and will not continue on to Course III until September at which time I will be taking the third course with a new instructor. I feel bad but as I mentioned in previous posts my instructor leaves something to be desired. In Course II it became obvious that her cake decorating skills were shaky and what skills she did have she could not pass along to me or my classmate, Wendy. Both Wendy and I agree while we "like" her we were not learning what we needed to get to the next level. Don't get me wrong neither one of us is looking to decorate cakes for a living but we were not leaving the class confident in what we learning. I took the courses to improve the overall look of the cakes I was baking for my friends and family. While I did get better and learn some it was due in large part to the reading and practicing I did at home. In looking at blogs online which took the same courses I would see cakes that were decorated in their class none of which we did in our class. The Wilton's courses are VERY structured no matter where you take it all the same materials and (supposedly) learning techniques are used. With that said here's my graduation cake. My instructor left before I was actually done placing all of my flowers.

grad cake I grad cake II

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Two for one

Yesterday was the birthday of my twin boys, Devon and Jalen. They turn 12 yrs old and so to celebrate their day I made two different desserts.

The first was Bakerella's Simple Sprite Cake with her recipe for buttercream. I followed her recipe exactly and was not disappointed nor will you be so try it. With the buttercream frosting instead of using vanilla extract, I used vanilla bean paste but added the same amount called for in the recipe. I've had it for a little bit and have been dying to try it. It was worth the purchase...cheaper than actual vanilla beans but you still get those yummy vanilla bean specks. I'm sure there is a difference in the taste between the vanilla beans and the paste but at this point I've yet to used actual bean pods so I don't know the difference.

The Twins didn't want to wait for me to beautify their cake with my new found cake decorating skills courtesy of Wilton's Cake Decorating (I. & II.) so I just threw some candles on it and we sung them Happy Birthday. Joe, the Twins, and Babygirl all loved the cake but Babygirl said the frosting was gross. Yes, those were her exact words. In my house they don't mince words. The kids give it to you, um, me straight. Here's another one to make you cringe, Devon's told me that if I continue to gain weight not to worry 'cause he'll still love me. I'm a SIZE 4! Okay, mind you I have gained some weight but if anything in the past I was underweight. I should also tell you this is coming from someone who has about 2 or 3 percent body fat. He's only 12yrs but he totally cut up. The guy has an eight pack! Okay, anyway, getting back on track. With the exeption of Babygirl and her "gross", the cake and frosting was a hit. This is deffinitely one of those recipes you can tweak to make different flavor combos and not go wrong. No matter how gross Babygirl thought the frosting was it's a keeper. More for me is what I say! Though I am shocked as she normally loves frosting.

The second dessert I made was a brownie recipe I found on the blog, The Crepes of Wrath. I made it my own, sorta, by adding a cream cheese marshmallow "floater" filling that I found on So Sinful it's Sweet. It is the filling for her The Devil Made me Do It cupcakes but the moment I read cream cheese and marshmallow I knew I had to use this in something. I was not disappointed.

*Cream Cheese & Marshmallow Floater*

8 ounces softened cream cheese
½ cup confectioner’s sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla
pinch of salt
1 cup small marshmallows

Cream together cream cheese, sugar, and egg. Add vanilla and salt stirring and stir well. Fold in marshmallows.
**Side note: If using again for the brownies I'd add MORE marshmallows!

Saturday, July 19, 2008

The Dark Knight, 5 Stars and 2 Thumbs Up!

My brother Ryan is a movie lover and goes at least once a week. He's usually there opening weekends especially for all the "blockbusters". Very often he takes my three along with him and his son, Ryan, Jr.. Last night he calls a little before 10 and wants to know if Jalen (the only twin home right now) and I wanted to see the movie, The Dark Knight but that we would have to hurry as all the movies times except the 10:20 and later where sold out. Jalen and I get there ahead of Ryan and Ryan so I buy us the tickets. Only they're for the 10:50 showing as the 10:20 is sold out. I'm thinking cool no line! Holy cow is what I'm thinking a few minutes later! The line to get into the theater to sit down is wrapped around and around AND around the lobby! They have a cop helping to keep the line in order!!! Once I find my way to the back of the line my next thought is this movie better be good and boy was it GOOD!! Well, worth the rush to get there, the $33.00 for 2 adults and 2 children, an the line that would not end! Go see the movie!

Photo Question

How do I move my pictures around on my post? It took me several hours to get them (sorta, not really) where I want them. It drove me BANANAS! Ha-ha, you think I'm kidding but I'm not. Seriously! And how do you guys get those neat labels on your photos? Does everyone go through this in the beginning? I gotta tell you this (blogging) is a lot more work then it looks. I'm really impressed not only do you guys bake like dream and your photos are top notch but you're computer blogging, posting savvy! What the heck am I thinking I'm barely a beginner!

Going Bananas!

Before I start on my actually post I wanna say how excited I am today! While I have posted some over the past two months I feel as if this is my first. Hopefully, I don't bore you and I while I now have photos I know they are not what most of you have been accustomed to but hopefully I'll get better over time.

Bananas are a staple at my house so you can usually find a few hanging from my banana holder (is that what's it's called?). With Devon in SC playing baseball (Go Sting) our smoothie making has dwindled and so I have more bananas than normal browning. Which means something yummy with bananas will be coming from the oven. With sooooooooo many yummy banana recipes out there it took me a few days just to decide on one but finally I went with this recipe from the blog, The Crepes of Wrath and I used Joy the Baker's Brown Sugar Cream Cheese frosting. For the most part I followed their directions with a few exceptions unfortunately those exceptions may have played a role in my going bananas! It seems every time I bake with bananas I can't seem to get the timing right, either it's undercooked or overcooked. I just can not seem to get it right. Does any body else have this problem? What do you think I'm doing wrong? Feel free to jump in at this point with helpful hints. My first batch came out....undercooked. They had a nice crust but were a bit undercooked and they sank in the middle.

Here's a photo of my sunken banana cupcakes....
You can see that they are browned nicely but after cooling a moment they slowly sank and were still a bit mushy in the middle at the top. The cake recipe called for a 375degree oven and a bake time of 20 minutes. Maybe I should have lowered it?

The cupcakes while good were in my opinion more of a frosted muffin than cupcake. Again they were quite good and received thumbs up from my critics (My kids will flat out say when they think I've stunk it up!) but I thought the banana flavor was over shadowed by another. Here's where it might have gone wrong. I used freshly ground nutmeg instead of the kind out of the jar and perhaps my dash of ground cloves was too big a dash? I really couldn't tell which spice was dominating. (I don't have that refined a palate.) I'm hoping someone with a bit more knowledge will take pity on me and give me their opinion on the various place I might have gone wrong.
Now for the frosting. It was finger licking, bowl licking good! At first I thought it was a bit gritty and thought it might have been from not using the full amount of butter called for in the recipe. I used 1 1/4 cup instead of 1 1/2 cups In thinking about it for a few days I'm pretty certain it was because I put the frosting in the freezer to firm up so that I could pipe a pretty swirl on my cupcake. DUH! I never let the frosting come to room temp before gobbling down the cupcake nor the ones I ate over the next couple of days as I kept the cupcakes in the refrigerator. Once realizing my mistake and being more patient the grittiness was no more! The finished product!

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Happy Birthday to Meeeeeeeeeeee!

It' my birthday! Yea, me! Guess what? I got a camera from my honey! It's a Sony Cybershot 7.2 mega pixels. I don't know anything about cameras but I think it will do the job. I'll have no excuse now not to post any photos. Well, I better get to reading the manual and practicing with it!

Friday, July 11, 2008

Crazy week

Okay, it's been pretty crazy around here and when I've had a free moment and it's only been a moment, believe me, I've just been too tired.

Last week I mentioned the awesome blog, BakingBlonde in my post. I made one of her recipes and was not disappointed! I had never had a blondie before and after trying one could not understand what took me so long. I made mine with white chocolate chips, toffee bits,and macadamias nuts. The only problem I had was the one I created myself when I over did it with Pam. Sorry, I had every intention of taking some pictures but I'm still a newbie at this, baking, photo taking, posting, and blogging thing, that I forget to take my camera into the kitchen with me. It also doesn't help that the kids tend to hover around when they smell all the yumminess coming from the oven. I actually made these for a 4th of July block party. Well, guess what? They were the only dessert to be totally eaten!

On Monday (7/7) I started Wilton's Course II. My instructor was prepared and did not bring her children or get off track. Maybe it wasn't a mistake to continue on with her. This class is working with royal icing and making lots of flowers. At the end of it I'm supposed to transform a two layer cake into a basket filled with flowers and two birds.

On Wednesday (7/8) I found another good blog, The Crepes of Wrath. I scrolled through most the recipes and they seem doable. I am as always most interested in the desserts. I tried this one Simple S'mores. I love desserts with melted marshmallows. I love their melty gooeyness. I didn't make any changes to the recipe. I took them on Thursday to our Sting (Devon's teammates, their parents,and coaches) family and it got a thumbs up! Once again, I failed to take any pictures and I finally found one of the digital ones. I now have two so I really don't have an excuse anymore.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Blonde, Baking, and Bars

Okay, I know you're thinking what's with the Blonde. Blonde as in blondies? Yes and no. Blonde as Bakingblonde the person, blog, and bar. Yesterday I found her blog and what a find! She has so many wonderful recipes most of them, bars and cookies..... yummy, inexpensive, easy to make and transport AND they usually feed a crowd! I have children and find that some of the recipes out there while really good are not kid friendly. Before I continue to go on and on about the recipes I have to admit that I have yet to actually make one but I plan on starting tonight with her Basic Blondies recipe and will mix it up with one of her add in ideas.

I intend to take photos (I'm going old school....found my old 35mm, who knows what happened to our digitals ones) and will post with my thoughts in a few days (I'll have to develop the film). Check her out and let me know what you think!

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Wilton Cake Decorating Course II

In my excitement of posting my first pictures I forgot to mention that I'm moving on to Wilton's Course II. I'll be making flowers galore and working (mostly) with royal icing. Keep your fingers crossed as I believe Wendy (my cohort in cake decorating) and I are going to stick it out with our present instructor.

Guess what?

I have MORE photos! Two to be exact. These are pictures of my graduation cake from Wilton's Cake Decorating Class I. I'm not satisfied with the final cake but considering how unstructured things were in class I'm not totally embarrassed to post the pictures.

Unfortunately the pictures are not as nicely done as the ones that are posted on the sites that I LOVE but hey it's a start. The colors on the cake are difficult to make out. The roses (done all by myself w/frosting too stiff) and top border (dots) are blue. The vines, leaves, and lettering are green and the bottom shell border is purple.
Okay, I'll say it again.....I need feedback!!! In order to get better I need to hear/read your comments. You won't hurt my feelings. Plus it gets kinda boring talking to myself! :-)

I have a picture!!!!

YEA!!! I have pictures. I hope this works!
This first picture is of the cupcake tower I did for my brother's engagement party. If you'll remember I drew with white candy melts their initials entwined and covered in silver dragees. It's not the best picture but it's a start. I'd love to hear back from you guys with comments and suggestions. So whatta ya think?