Sunday, October 30, 2011

Cake Assembly and Decorating

Akk! Where did this weekend go? I've been busy visiting with friends and attacking my to-do list and I'm still nowhere near done.  But, I've been productive, and feel good!  Ever have a day where it feels like you'd get a lot more done if work didn't get in the way?  This weekend went way too fast, but lately they're all feeling that way.

Tomorrow's Halloween!  Yaaay! I shopped smart, and bought give-away candy that I don't like, so I won't be tempted to eat it.  What I was tempted to eat is the chocolate cake I've been showing you, so it was given away to save it from me.  I was told it was good!

Steps to assemble and decorate my Halloween cake:
Put your cake on a plate.
Pipe icing around the edge to keep the filling in.
Fill the cake.

Stack on the second later.
Ice the cake.
Smooth the icing.
Decorate the cake.
And, if you want... give it away.

Happy Halloween everybody!!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Wilton Chocolate Buttercream Icing

 Earlier this week, I posted the chocolate cake that will be the base of my final cake decorating class project.  Today, I'm offering up the icing I used to frost my cake.  It's basic Wilton buttercream decorating icing, but chocolate instead of plain vanilla, because I wanted to tint it for my cake design.  The dye is very potent stuff! You don't need much to dye the frosting whatever colour you choose.  Plus, it gets darker the longer it sits, so sometimes it'll surprise you.

Wilton Chocolate Buttercream Icing
Makes: 2 1/2 cups

1 cup solid white vegetable shortening, room temperature
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
7-8 tsp plus 1-2 Tbsp water, separated
1 lb powdered sugar (about 4 cups)
1 Tbsp meringue powder
3/4 cup cocoa

Cream shortening, vanilla, and water on low speed of hand-held electric mixer.  Add dry ingredients and mix on medium speed until all ingredients have been thoroughly mixed together, adding the additional 1-2 Tbsp water as needed to incorporate all powdered sugar.  Blend an additional minute or so, until creamy.
Last step -- dye the icing black for my final cake class project!  Very Halloweeny, huh?
Source: Wilton Lesson Plan - Decorating Basics.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Chocolate Layer Cake

In light of all the junk food that comes with the month of October, I have a feeling November will be more of a health kick.  However, since it's still October, I'm posting more cake!  For my final project in my cake decorating course, we were asked to plan out a design for a cake using skills we'd learned in class.  Given my apparent lack of talent with the flowers, and our current proximity to Halloween, I decided I wanted a festive cake.

The first cake I made for my course was red velvet.  It was good, but I wanted something a little different this time.  I tried a butterscotch brownie, but well, that didn't go so well... so I started looking for another option, and stumbled on this one.  Perfect!  Minus the icing, it's perfect for my class assignment.

Chocolate Layer Cake
Makes: 2 8-inch cakes

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups white granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp sea salt
1 1/2 cups buttermilk (or 1 1/2 cups milk soured with 1 tbsp lemon juice)

Preheat oven to 350 F.  Grease two 8-inch round metal cake pans (can line bottoms with parchment or waxed paper). Set aside.

In large bowl, beat butter with sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, 1 at a time; beat in vanilla. In separate bowl, sift together flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and sea salt.
With wooden spoon, stir into butter mixture alternately with buttermilk, making 3 additions of dry ingredients and 2 of buttermilk. Spoon into prepared pans, smoothing tops.

Bake in centre of 350°F oven for 30 to 35 minutes or until cake tester inserted in centre comes out clean.
Let cool on racks for 20 minutes. Remove from pans; let cool completely on racks.

Source: Canadian Living  

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Chewy Butterscotch Brownies

Remember when I said not everything I make turns out as expected? ... Yeah, I've got one for you.  I needed a cake for my last cake decorating class.  I'm supposed to bring it to class iced, ready to go.  So I was dreaming up ideas, and realized that I had some butterscotch chips leftover from a project a while ago.  So why not make a brownie cake, instead of a regular cake?  That could be fun, right?  I found this great recipe, made it up, had this yummy looking and yummy smelling butterscotch brownie right out of the oven.  I cooled it the ten minutes they recommend for cakes, and flipped it over to release it, and the darned thing split on me.  It's in two pieces, the top came off, and the edges stuck to the bottom!  What's a girl to do?

I decided to tear it all up and stick it in a freezer bag for now.  It'll make a great stir-in for an ice cream batch in the future.  Mmm butterscotch-blondie ice cream :)  A delicious mistake for sure!

Chewy Butterscotch Brownies
Makes: 2 brownies in 8-inch cake pans

2 1/2 cups whole wheat flour 
1 tsp baking powder 
1/2 tsp sea salt 
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened 
1 3/4 cups packed brown sugar 
1 tbsp vanilla extract 
2 large eggs 
1 cup butterscotch chips 
1 cup chopped nuts (optional)

Preheat oven to 350° F.
Combine flour, baking powder and sea salt in a medium bowl.
Beat butter, sugar and vanilla extract in a large mixing bowl until creamy. Beat in eggs.
Gradually beat in flour mixture. Stir in chips and nuts (I omitted them because there are kids in my class, and I don't know about allergies). Spread into ungreased baking pans.
Bake for 30 to 40 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan on wire rack.  
Source: adapted from Nestle Toll House.

Saturday, October 22, 2011


I have to confess... This post isn't actually about food. (Don't hate me!)  It's just to tell you all that I did it -- I walked my first half-marathon today, in the 9-Run-Run!  Whoo hoo!  It started off cold -- just a couple of degrees above freezing, and went on to only warm up marginally.  There was wind, and a little rain, but nothing worth getting discouraged over. But I had great company, and a great time.  Overall, I'd call the day a success.  I'm sore, but not injured, and tired, but not exhausted.  It's a good pain, I guess :)

I've got a new personal best to beat for the next race.  Well, maybe not the next race -- it's tomorrow morning. But for the next half marathon, at least!

Call me crazy, but I'm heading to bed early tonight.  I have to be up for a 5k tomorrow!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Baked Pumpkin Oatmeal with Bananas

It's cold and raining today.  The kind of weather that makes you want to curl up in bed with a good book and not go anywhere.  I rebelled and got in a great workout even if it was just at home.  I'm trying to stay positive, motivated, and warm in preparation for Saturday's race.  And Sunday's race!  So, to help me think warm thoughts I took a nice, long, relaxing shower after my workout and made this: comfort food for breakfast!

Baked Pumpkin Oatmeal (with bananas)
Makes: about 10 1-cup servings

1 cup steel cut oats
6 Tbsp unsalted butter, divided
4 cups almost-boiling water
2 medium bananas, sliced
1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp. brown sugar, packed, divided
2 1/4 tsp cinnamon, divided
3 cups old-fashioned oats
1/4 cup real maple syrup
1 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp nutmeg
dash ground cloves
1/2 cup pumpkin puree or canned pumpkin
1/2 cup milk
2 tsp vanilla extract 

Preheat the oven to 350˚ F.  Place the steel cut oats in a large bowl with 4 tablespoons of the butter.  Pour the hot water over the oats and cover the bowl.  Let stand for 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, make the caramelized bananas.  Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter in a medium skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the bananas, 2 tablespoons of sugar, and 1/4 tsp cinnamon to the pan.  Toss gently and cook briefly, about 2 minutes.  Remove from the heat and let cool.
After the steel cut oats have finished soaking, stir in the old fashioned oats, remaining brown sugar, maple syrup, salt, remaining 2 teaspoons of cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves.  
In a small bowl or liquid measuring cup, whisk together the pumpkin, milk and vanilla.  Stir the pumpkin mixture into the oat mixture.
Spread the bananas over the bottom of a lightly greased 2 quart-ish baking dish.  
Pour the oatmeal mixture on top of the bananas.  
Bake for 35-40 minutes.  Remove from the oven and let cool slightly before serving.

Source: only slightly adapted from Annie's Eats.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Salmon Patties

Today was an off-day.  It took me forever to wake up, get up, get dressed and drag my butt to work.  Once there, everything was in slow-motion.  Now that I'm home, I wanted a quick, easy, no-brainer supper that wouldn't take up much time.  I'm actually thinking of heading to bed soon just to get this day over with!!  Good thing these days aren't very frequent!

Salmon Patties
Makes: 4 servings

1 medium onion, diced
1 6-oz can salmon packed in water, without bones or skin, drained
2 egg whites, whisked
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1/2 cup whole-wheat bread crumbs

In a bowl, mix together onion, salmon, egg whites, Dijon, and bread crumbs.
Using your hands, form mixture into 4 large patties, each about 4 or 5 inches in diameter.  Heat a large nonstick or cast-iron pan over medium-high for 1 minute. Mist with cooking spray.
Place all 4 patties in pan and cook for 2 1/2 -3 minutes on each side or until lightly browned. Remove patties from pan and set aside. (Experiment with the time -- I find 2 1/2 minutes doesn't cook 'em well enough, and 3 minutes run the risk of burning them.)


Source: adapted from Clean Eating Magazine.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Brownies with Peanut Butter Frosting

Saturday was Carol's birthday.  She'll argue it's a birth month, but sadly for her it sounds like she's only getting one party this year.  My contribution, as per her request, was to bring chocolate peanut butter cupcakes.  I decided, since I know Carol's a big fan of Halloween, to use my skull and crossbones cupcake liners.  The only downside is that they're for mini-muffins so the end result would be more like two-bite cupcakes instead of big ones.  I figured if I was going to be making minis I needed them to be super flavour-packed minis: brownies with peanut butter frosting.  Oh yeah, I'm all over that!

After some quick googling to see how I could convert my favourite brownie recipe into a mini-muffin recipe, I was good to go.  I made the brownies the day before in case they didn't work out... I wanted time to bake something else if I needed to.  The end result was that the brownies have a slight crust where the liner meets the icing.  I suspect, if you were to ice the brownies while they were still a little warm, like I usually do when it's a whole tin, that the icing and brownie would melt together so you don't have that little crust.  But it's up to you.

Best Brownies (mini-muffin-style)
Makes: 24 mini-muffins

 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted
1 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs
1/2 cup whole-wheat flour
1/3 cup cocoa
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/2 cup nuts (optional)

Heat oven to 350°F. Line your mini-muffin tins, or spray with non-stick spray.

Mix  together butter, sugar and vanilla in bowl. Add eggs; beat well with spoon. Stir together flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt; gradually add to egg mixture, beating until well blended.  Stir in nuts, if desired. Spread batter evenly in prepared muffin tins.  (I used my small ice cream scoop for this.)

Bake 10-12 minutes. Cool completely in pan on wire rack. Prepare frosting.

adapted from Hershey, minus the icing.

Peanut Butter Icing
Makes: about four cups*

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened 
1 cup creamy regular peanut butter
4 cups icing sugar
1/3 cup cream

In a large bowl, beat butter and peanut butter until light and fluffy. 
Slowly beat in 1/2 of the confectioner's sugar. 
Mix in 1/4 cup of the cream. 
Beat in the remaining icing sugar. 
If necessary, add a little more cream or milk until the frosting reaches a good spreading consistency. 
 (I had to add two more tablespoons of cream because my kitchen was cold.)
Makes enough to frost one 2 layer 9 inch cake or one 9x13 inch cake. 

Source: All Recipes.

* Since this frosting recipe makes about four times as much icing as I needed, I froze the rest in a log for use as a stir-in for future batches of ice cream.  I made a log about the diameter of a quarter, and froze it, so when I want to use it all I'll have to do is slice off some chunks and stir them into the ice cream.

The end result was portable brownies for the party!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Wilton Red Velvet Cake, Iced

Here's the finished result, an iced (albeit beginner) version of the Wilton cupcake.  You can't even tell it's red velvet underneath!

 The angled shot shows off the border.
PS. Bonne fête Ghislain! This cake picture is for you.

Added October 20th, cupcakes from the third lesson: flowers on cupcakes.  Too bad I forgot to colour the frosting!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Wilton Red Velvet Cake

This week, my Wilton class is going to ice and decorate a cake.  Something about transferring an image onto the cake.  If I remember, it's between a cupcake, a fish, and a hamburger design.  We were instructed to bring a cake layer, 8-inch, any kind.  I contemplated chocolate, since that's what the teacher made last week, or just plain old white or yellow cake, but then, alas, I was out of ingredients.  I usually have everything I need on hand because I usually have a very well stocked pantry and fridge.  But, since I yesterday was a holiday, and I did some baking yesterday ( a fail, for the record ) I was out of certain ingredients that are required for a chocolate or yellow cake.

So I googled, and googled, and stumbled upon a Wilton recipe, of all things, for red velvet cake.  Yum!  And what would be so perfect for decorating, than a bright red cake?!  My icing is white, so it's perfect -- it'll show if I miss a spot, so I'm sure to get it all iced.  Sweet! 

The recipe's easy to make.  And all minus the buttermilk was already in my stock.  I fudged the buttermilk using leftover cream and a tablespoon of lemon juice to sour it.  So it's a little thicker (and I would assume denser) than it should be.  But hey, that probably makes it easier to ice, no?  Guess I'll soon see.

Wilton Red Velvet Cake
Makes: 1 8-inch cake & 12 cupcakes

2 cups whole-wheat white flour
2 tablespoons cocoa
1 tsp sea salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 eggs (room temperature)
1 cup buttermilk*
1 tbsp red icing colour
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tbsp white vinegar

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Spray a 9-inch pan with cake release or butter.

In a medium bowl, stir together flour, cocoa and salt; set aside.
In large bowl or electric mixer bowl, beat butter, sugar and vanilla until light and fluffy.
Add eggs and red icing color; mix well. 
Add flour mixture alternately with buttermilk to butter mixture, beating until well blended. Stir baking soda into vinegar and fold carefully into batter. Pour batter into prepared pans.

Bake 35 - 40 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Cool 10 minutes; remove from pan to wire racks. Cool completely.

Repeat for cupcakes, giving 20 minutes baking time.
 Red, red, red!


  • It was Terra Cotta that I had, not Wilton's red, so my cake & cupcakes are slightly orange.
  • Also, I'm a little in love with the Bake-Even strips I bought -- see 'em wrapped around the cake pan's base? They made the cake come out flat and even, instead of domed and cracked.  Love it!
  • Lastly, the reason the cake's on parchment is so that it doesn't sink into the cooling grate and get stuck to it, or get lines in it.  It's a trick I learned in class last week.

Source: Wilton.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Seafood Lasagna

My family and I ate our Thanksgiving dinner yesterday.  So, today's statutory holiday was a plain-old day off from work for me.  It's been a catch-up day, largely going after errands that have been on my list for whenever I get a spare minute, or nice weather, or both.  Actually I kind of wish tomorrow was a day off too, just so I could have a relaxation day... but that's another story.  Probably I'd just find other chores to do, haha.

After the big turkey dinner yesterday, I was trying to think up what I could make for meals this week.  I'm planning a turkey wrap for tomorrow's lunch, but really, for me, turkey twice in a week is enough.

I started looking through my recipes, and found a relatively simple one I can make with things that are more-or-less normally found in my pantry and fridge.  The one exception: crab meat.  I had one can (probably bought when it was on sale) instead of the two required for the recipe.  But really, I don't think it shows.  I just stuck in more shrimp!

I decided to try a little experiment with it, too.  I had had a friend tell me a while ago she doesn't pre-cook her lasagna noodles -- she just sticks 'em in dry when she's putting together the layers, and they soften up while it's baking.  I didn't think it'd work.  Really, I didn't.  Why else would every lasagna recipe tell you to pre-cook (to soften up) your noodles?

But, turns out, so long as you really coat the top layer, the noodles soften up!... I wouldn't say it's exactly the same, or that I'd always use this cheat, but if you're in a hurry, go for it.

Seafood Lasagna
Makes: 12 small servings (says the recipe) or 6-8 medium / large pieces

3 tbsp butter
3 tbsp flour (I used whole-wheat)
3 cups milk
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
1 300 g package frozen chopped spinach, thawed, drained
1 cup cottage cheese
1 cup Mozzarella cheese, shredded, divided
1/8 tsp nutmeg
9 lasagne noodles, cooked, drained (I used whole wheat, uncooked)
1/2 lb (225 g) cooked cleaned medium shrimp (I used 3/4 lb small shrimp)
2 cans (120 g each) crabmeat, drained, flaked (I used 1)
Preheat oven to 350°F.

Melt butter in large saucepan on medium heat. Whisk in flour until well blended. Gradually stir in milk. Bring to boil on medium heat, stirring constantly; simmer on low heat 3 to 5 min. or until thickened, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Stir in Parmesan; set aside.

Mix spinach, cottage cheese, 2/3 cup mozzarella and nutmeg.

Spread 2/3 cup Parmesan sauce onto bottom of 13x9-inch pan. Cover with 3 lasagne noodles and layers of half each of the shrimp, crabmeat and spinach mixture; top 2/3 cup of the remaining Parmesan sauce.

Repeat layers, starting with noodles. Top with remaining noodles, Parmesan sauce and mozzarella; cover.

Bake 45 min. or until heated through, uncovering after 25 min.

Let stand 10 min. before cutting to serve.
After baking: Before/after sitting out for 10 minutes

SourceKraft Canada. 

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Maple Pumpkin Pie

It's almost Turkey Day, and the weather here couldn't be better!  It's sunny, warm (25 degrees C with a humidex!) and beautiful.  I got to do a 23.6 kilometer walk this morning to soak it all in, and enjoyed every minute of it.  The leaves were beautiful, my company was wonderful, and I did my second entire half-marathon distance.  Plus, this time it was the trail we'll follow for the 9-Run-Run, so we're ready for the real thing.  Today was a fantastic day, and that was just before noon!

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving dinner on the farm.  I've got to make a point to remember my camera.  The farm's beautiful this time of year, and I'd be disappointed to miss my opportunity to get pictures of all the changing leaves.  My sister's making dinner tomorrow, and my contribution is pumpkin pie.  I decided not to brave the grocery stores today, so I adapted from an existing pumpkin pie recipe using ingredients I had on hand.  And not just any pumpkin pie, but one from The Happy Baker Chick's The Happy Baker cookbook: "I need a real man, Maple Pumpkin Pie."  I get such a kick out of Erin, and the recipes haven't let me down so far.  I've made this one before, and a few of the biscotti batches.   There are a few more recipes in the book, so I'm sure they'll pop up here at some point.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Maple Pumpkin Pie
Makes: 1 pie

1 1/2 cups (canned) pumpkin
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 1/4 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ginger
1 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp cloves
1/2 tsp sea salt
2/3 cup pure maple syrup
1 1/4 cup half-and-half cream
3 eggs

Thaw crust (if using frozen) and preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a mixing bowl or electric mixer, combine pumpkin, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves, and salt.
Mix slowly until combined.

Stir in maple syrup.

Stir in half-and-half cream.

Stir in eggs, one at a time.
 Before / after eggs were mixed in
Pour filling into crust.

Bake whole pie for one hour or until centre is set.

At the same time: Bake tarts on a baking sheet for 40 minutes or until centres are set. Cool on a wire rack.

Note: I shut the oven off at the one-hour point and let the pie cool in the oven.  This ensured that my cats didn't get at it! and that the centre set since I was checking periodically on the tarts and ended up letting out some heat.  Cooling it in the oven or on the counter top lets the residual heat keep cooking it. If it's stuck in the fridge, this won't happen, and you might end up with a soggy, under-cooked pie.

Note also: The Happy Baker Chick's recipe is intended to make one pie.  I used a purchased pie shell because I was out of graham crumbs to make her graham crumb crust, so I think it may have been smaller than the called-for 9-inch one.  To compensate for the extra filling, I made 7 tarts.

Source: Heavily adapted from The Happy Baker: A Dater's Guide to Emotional Baking by Erin Bolger, page 79.