Sunday, April 29, 2012

Autism Ombre Cake

While it's always Autism Awareness Day in my house, the end of April marks the end of National Autism Awareness Month.  So, I offer a celebratory cake in Autism Awareness blue.

This little cake is my variation on the rainbow cakes so popular right now.  It's almond flavor is subtle, so as not to be too jarring with the color.  And, of course, is iced with my favorite German Buttercream - courtesy of the Brave Tart.  This time, flavored with almond extract.

The first step was to get Geraldine ready to go:

What?  A kerchief keeps a girl's hair out of her eyes and out of her way.  Note, Geraldine's kerchief leaves her vents free.  And it helps keep the cold gel pack in place that sometimes is necessary to keep her cool when she's being overworks.  And friends, a 6 layer cake AND buttercream might just make her cranky.
The next step is to line your pans.  I happen to have a set of four 9" pans.  Which means that I can make one batch of batter, then wash pans, then mix another 1/2 batch.  I not only grease and flour my pans, I line the bottoms with parchment paper.  Since I'm too cheap to buy precut circles, I cut them from a roll.  Cut a strip of parchment at least 9" wide.  Then, fold down one corner and fold on the diagonal:

Fold the outside corner to match the opposite corner.

Continue folding into progressively narrower triangles:

Trim the triangle to 4-1/2" inches in length.

Open up the new "circle" and make sure it fits

Now, remove the paper again, grease the pan, then put the paper back in and grease the paper.  THEN flour the pan.  I prefer sweet rice flour for this.  Now your pans are ready.

Almond Ombre Cake

4 egg whites
1/4 c. sugar
1/2 c. almond meal
2 cups Fancy Flour Blend, other GF AP Flour, or
1/4 c. millet flour
1/4 c. sweet rice flour
3/4 c. white rice flour
1/2 c. + 2 Tbsp tapioca flour
2 Tbsp potato starch
1 Tbsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp xanthan gum
1 c. sugar
1/4 c. + 2 Tbsp shortening
1 c. milk
1 tsp almond extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Prepare pans as directed above.
Whisk together almond meal, flour, salt, baking powder, xanthan gum, and 1 c. sugar.
In a bowl, beat egg whites to soft peaks.  Gradually add 1/4 c. of sugar, beating continuously.  Continue to whip egg whites until stiff peaks form.  Set aside.

In the bowl of the stand mixer, cream shortening (you can use butter if you want, but Spectrum non-hydrogenated shortening isn't really that bad).  Add 1/3 of dry ingredients.  Then alternate small amounts of milk and the remaining dry ingredients, beating well after each addition.  Incorporate all of the milk and the almond extract, then beat for 2-3 minutes on medium.  Fold in beaten egg whites very gently.

The easiest way to get even layers is to scale the batter.  I weighed my mixer bowl before I started.  Then weighed it with the batter.  Subtract the weight of the empty bowl from the weight of the full bowl - then subtract another 20 grams (you'll never get ALL the batter out).  Divide the remaining amount by 4, and put that weight of batter in each pan.  Fill the first pan, then add a drop of blue food coloring to the batter, folding in gently.  Fill the next pan.  Add more coloring, until you have filled each pan with successfully darker blue batter.

Bake for about 18 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
Make an additional half batch of batter, and bake two more, even darker layers.

Stack the layers from darkest to lightest, layering about 3/4 c. buttercream in between each layer.  I admit, with these thin, rather fragile cakes, it's pretty difficult to get them lined up and level.  Just do your best and fill in the rest.

Coat the cake with the remaining buttercream (I tinted mine slightly) and place in the refrigerator.


Saturday, April 28, 2012

Pantry Peach Shortcake

I have a thing for browsing old magazines and ads at antique stores.  I'm particularly fond of "Ladies' Home Journal."  This little gem caught my eye on my last foray, and I had to bring it home.

Down in the corner is a recipe for Dutch Peach Cake.  I had to try it out.  With a few minor modifications it makes a great peach shortcake, using canned peaches.  This time of year in Michigan, fresh fruit is in short supply.  When these recipes were written (this one dates to 1922), most fruits weren't available out of season.  Therefore, canned fruits helped many a baker serve fruit desserts in the winter and early spring.  I had home-canned peaches.  I had the basic pantry staples required.  So I had to share it with you, my friends:

Pantry Peach Shortcake

2-1/4 cups Fancy Flour Blend, other GF AP flour, OR
1/4 c. millet flour
1/4 c. sweet rice flour
1 c. white rice flour
1/2 c. + 2 Tbsp tapioca flour
2 Tbsp potato starch
4 tsp baking powder
2 Tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp xanthan gum
5 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 c. milk
1 can peaches in light syrup
1/3 c. sugar
1 tsp cinnamon

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Treat a 9" round pan with nonstick cooking spray.  Set aside.

Combine flour, baking powder, 2 Tbsp sugar, salt, and xanthan gum.  Cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse meal.  Stir in milk until all of mixture is moistened.

Pour into prepared pan and spread evenly.  Drain peaches and cut into quarters.  Place peaches on top of batter, covering as much of batter as possible.  Stir together remaining 1/3 c. sugar and cinnamon.  Sprinkle entire amount generously across shortcake and peaches.  Bake for 35-40 minutes.  As cake cools, the remaining sugar will continue to absorb moisture.

Serve with some lightly sweetened whipped cream.

Hope you enjoy the recipe, and a taste of the 20's.  I'm still experimenting with the "vintage look" photos, and would like to know what YOU think.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Berries'n'Cream Cupcakes

So, I'm trying something new, and you'll have to tell me how you like it.  Soon, I'll be sharing with you the images from some of the vintage ads and cookbooks that I get my inspiration from.  Just for the fun of it, I've run my photos through some filters and tweaked them here and there to give them a "vintage" feel as well.  What do you think?

Now, this post is part of the Berry Love bloghop, hosted by the lovely Junia Kim at Baker Street.  Living in the Northern Latitudes, it's still WAY too early for berries, so I resorted to frozen.  However, this recipe should work equally well with fresh berries.

In the meantime, let's get down to the recipe.  If you're a frequent visitor you might even recognize the recipe.  Yes, it's my favorite white cake recipe.  Yes, I tweak it around in a dozen different ways to suit my purpose.  It's just hard to beat Whipped Cream Cake.

Strawberry Swirl Cupcakes

3/4 c. + 2 Tbsp heavy cream
3/4 c. + 2 Tbsp sugar
2 eggs
1 egg yolk
1 3/4 c. Fancy Flour Blend or other gluten free AP flour OR
1/4 c. millet flour
1/4 c. sweet rice flour
3/4 c. white rice flour
1/2 c. + 2 Tbsp tapioca starch
2 Tbsp potato starch
3/4 tsp xanthan gum
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp almond extract
3 Tbsp milk

(If you want more pictures of this, go see the original cake post here)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line cupcake pans with paper liners - this recipe makes around 18.
I'll just re-iterate, with this recipe, make sure you have all your ingredients out and ready to go before you start.  Things start moving pretty fast and it's very easy to overwhip the cream, etc., if you're not paying attention.

In a bowl, combine flour, salt, xanthan gum and baking powder.  Place sugar in another small bowl.  In a third, beat eggs and egg whites until light and foamy.
Meanwhile, in the bowl of your stand mixer, beat cream until soft peaks form.  Add egg mixture and beat a little more until foamy.  Add sugar and flavorings, then dry ingredients, gradually.  With mixer still on low, add milk, then turn up to medium and beat until smooth.
Portion batter into liners with a 2 oz disher.  Fill a squeeze bottle with strawberry filling (recipe below).

Place the nozzle of the bottle well into the batter in each cup, and squeeze and swirl a small amount of filling into each cupcake.

Probably a couple teaspoons, at most.  Bake for 20-22 minutes, or until lightly browned.  They WILL fall somewhat, because of the filling, so err on the side of slightly overbaked.

Cool completely.  Frost with the Brave Tart's German Buttercream (Yes, again).  Take what strawberry filling remains (probably around 1/3 c.) and add 1 Tbsp cornsyrup to the bottle.  Shake well.  Add a little water, if necessary, to reach drizzling consistency.  Drizzle over frosting.

Strawberry Filling

2 c. frozen strawberries
1/3 c. sugar
1 Tbsp lemon juice
2 Tbsp cornstarch

Thaw berries.  Process in a blender until pureed.  Strain into a saucepan. (much in the way of seeds or lumps will clog the squeeze bottle).  Stir together cornstarch and sugar.  Add to berry puree along with lemon juice.  Cook and stir until mixture boils and begins to thicken.  Cool and place in a squeeze bottle.

This recipe would be just as good with blueberries, raspberries, or blackberries.  The soft, creamy cupcakes and the fluffy buttercream make these the perfect "fresh berry" snack cakes.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cupcakes

This is an example of "inspired laziness," if you will.  Today's goodies were an exercise in what I can make without having to leave the house.

The recipe for the cakes themselves came from an old Dromeyer Mixer cookbook - though I made a few changes.  Like a number of older recipes, it calls for baking soda and buttermilk or soured milk.  This is an acid/base reaction, so don't try to just substitute milk - your cupcakes won't rise.  If you don't have any buttermilk, place 1 Tbsp of vinegar in a glass measuring cup and add milk to the 1 cup mark.  Stir and let it sit.  Now you have 1 cup of soured milk!

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cupcakes

1/4 c. unsalted butter
1/3 c. peanut butter
 1 c. + 2 Tbsp sugar
1/2 c. good quality cocoa powder
2 c. sifted Fancy Flour Blend Or gluten free AP flour OR
1/2 c. millet flour
1/4 c. sweet rice flour
3/4 c. white rice flour
1/4 c. + 2 Tbsp tapioca starch
2 Tbsp potato starch
1/2 tsp xanthan gum
3/4 tsp salt
1-1/4 tsp baking soda
1 tsp vanilla
2 eggs
1 c. buttermilk or soured milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line cupcake pan with paper liners - expect 20-24 cupcakes from this recipe.
Cream together butter, peanut butter, and sugar.

With mixer on lowest setting, add cocoa.  Gradually turn up to medium and beat until combined.

Beat in vanilla and eggs.  In a mixing bowl, combine flour, xanthan gum, salt, and baking soda.  Add flour mix and buttermilk alternately to cocoa mixture, beginning and ending with milk.  When all milk is combined, beat on medium for 2 minutes.  Portion batter into liners using a 2 oz disher.  Bake for 18-20 minutes, until tops are smooth and a toothpick inserted into center comes out clean.

Cool completely.

Peanut Butter Buttercream

2 Tbsp butter
1/3 c. peanut butter
1/2 tsp salt
4 c. powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla
5 Tbsp milk

Cream together butter, peanut butter, and salt.  Add 1 c. of powdered sugar and beat until incorporated.  Beat in vanilla and 1 Tbsp milk.  Continued adding milk and powdered sugar alternately, beating well after each addition, until a fluffy consistency is reached.  Pipe onto cupcakes.

Chocolate topping

8 oz. chopped dark chocolate
2-3 Tbsp canola oil

Melt together until chocolate is the consistency of cream.  Dip cucpakes into chocolate and refrigerate.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Bake Together: Margarita Cupcakes

And, if you're familiar with Abby Dodge's Bake Together, you might know that this month's recipe is Tangerine Angel Food Cake.  Possibly, you're wondering how I got here from there.  You kind of have to live in my brain to get there, but follow along.  There'll be a little chemistry and a little craziness, but you can take it!

Now, angel food cakes and I have a chequered past.  I've ruined more than one.  So I was less than inclined to fight with my tube pan tonight.  (I'm crabby - it's snowing.  What can I say?)  Cupcakes are more my speed just at the moment.  And, while buttercream is maybe a bit heavy for angel food - with the salt, it kind of works.

First, go visit Abby's page for the original recipe.  I'm not going to tinker all that much with it.  Replace the flour in her recipe with 1 1/4 c. of your favorite gluten-free AP flour.  You can use mine, or King Arthur Flour's version - just don't choose something that uses bean flours.  That will go badly in this recipe.  You won't need any xanthan or guar gum, as the egg whites provide more than enough binding capacity.  So, follow the directions and sift together your powdered sugar, flour, and salt.

Meanwhile, whip the egg whites until the beater is leaving tracks.

Add the juice of 2 small lemons.  (Do NOT add any zest at this point.  I did that the first time.  My egg foam went *foomp*.  For the record, *foomp* is a bad thing.  Let's not go there).  Omit the cream of tartar - you've got enough acid from the limes and you don't need it.  Follow the standard recipe for adding the superfine sugar and working up to a proper meringue.  At the very end, add the zest of those same 2 limes, and 2 Tbsp of Tequlia.  Beat until just combined, then fold in the dry ingredients, 1/4 at a time.

Portion into cupcake liners.  I used a 2 oz disher, expecting more expansion than I got.  I also had left over batter.  In hindsight, 3 oz of batter/cup would have been better.

Bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes, until tops are lightly browned.  You don't need to cool your cupcakes upside down.  The paper liners will provide enough "hold" to keep them from collapsing.  I promise.

Lime Agave Buttercream

This is a riff on The Brave Tart's German Buttercream.  I know.  Again.  Don't tell her I converted to volume - she hates that.  But I was too lazy to weigh out the agave.

1 c. whole milk
1 egg
1 egg yolk
1/2 c. sugar
2 1/2 Tbsp cornstarch
2 Tbsp agave nectar
juice and zest of one small lemon
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp salt
1 lb unsalted butter

In a small saucepan, heat the milk till steaming.
Meanwhile, stir together the sugar, salt and cornstarch.  In a small, heatproof bowl, beat together egg and egg yolk.  Whisk in the sugar mixture.  Add agave nectar and whisk till combined.

Temper the egg mixture into the hot milk.  (If you're not familiar, this just means that you add small amounts of the hot milk to the egg mixture and whisk in thoroughly until the egg mixture is warm.  Then add this back to the remaining milk.  It helps avoid suddenly "cooking" the egg and getting little bits of scrambled egg in your icing.  That's not tasty).  Cook the mixture till it thickens.

Place this mixture in the bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment.  Beat on medium until cool.  Add the butter, 1 Tbsp or so at a time, until it's all combined.  Beat till fluffy.  At the end, add zest, lime juice, and vanilla.

Pipe on top of cupcakes and sprinkle with coarse sea salt.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Little Faux Peeps Cupcakes

Occasionally I just lose my mind utterly and completely.  And a number of factors, from April's First on the First challenge to the coming holiday added up to this little bit of insanity.

Say, "Hello!" to the Little Faux Peeps cupcake.  And take just a moment to go see the piping of the chicks in my last post.  While the chicks aren't marshmallow, the filling is.

So let's walk through the recipe.  The cakes are an adaptation of yet another recipe from Kate Smith chooses her 55 Favorite Ann Pillsbury Cake Recipes.

Sno-White Cupcakes

2-1/2 c. Fancy Flour Blend OR
1/2 c. millet flour
1 c. white rice flour
1/4 + 2 Tbsp sweet rice flour
1/2 c. tapioca starch
2 Tbsp potato starch
1/2 tsp xanthan gum
1 Tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 c. shortening
1-1/4 c. sugar
4 egg whites
2/3 c. milk
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp almond extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a bowl, sift together flour, xanthan gum, baking powder, and salt.  Set aside.
Cream together shortening and sugar.

Add egg whites and vanilla, and blend thoroughly.  Add flour mixture alternately with milk and then beat on medium-high until smooth.

Portion into cucpake liners and bake for 20 minutes or until raised and golden.

Remove from pan and set aside to cool.

Marshmallow Filling

This makes enough to fill 2 batches of cupcakes, and then some.  But there's a downward limit to how small a volume of liquid Geraldine (my KitchenAid Mixer) can handle and effectively whip air into.

1 c. water, divided
2 pkts unflavored gelatin
1-1/2 c. sugar
1 c. corn syrup
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
yellow food color

Place 1/2 c. cold water in the bowl of a stand mixer.  Sprinkle gelatin over water and allow to bloom.  I really, really don't advise trying this with a handmixer.  The sugar syrup is too hot and there are just too many things to handle to do it safely.

In a saucepan, combine the other 1/2 c. water, sugar, corn syrup, and salt.

Bring to a boil.  And, if you, like me, have chosen a 1 qt. saucepan and find it boiling over - move to a larger saucepan.  Then, boil the mixture until it reaches 240 degrees, stirring occasionally to prevent burning.  It's really important to hit this target mark, and not go over or under by more than a degree or two.  Welcome to the joys of candy-making.  The temperature signifies a specific viscosity and behavior of the sugar.  I'm a science geek, and I could go into the chemistry but you probably don't really care while you're boiling sugar on the stove.  When it's ready, it looks a bit more like this.

Now, turn the stand mixer on, then slowly pour the sugar syrup down one side of the bowl.  You'll find there's a bit of a "sweet spot" where you're not pouring the sugar straight down the side of the bowl (where it will stick and harden) nor into the tines of the whisk attachment (where it will fly around and turn into cotton candy.  Kind of).  Be very careful with this syrup, as it's basically sugar napalm.  If it hits your skin it will stick and burn you much worse than boiling water would.  The heat of the syrup will begin to melt the gelatin and the mixture will come together into a smooth liquid.

Now turn the mixer all the way up and let it beat.  Steam will come off.  The bowl of your mixer will be very, very hot.  See why I don't think you should try this with a hand mixer?  Beat on high until the mixture will hold soft peaks and gets light and fluffy.  Near the end of the beating, add vanilla and some yellow food color.  I recommend Americolor's Egg Yellow.  But at least use a gel color.  It will take a lot more than you think to get much color at all in the marshmallow.  If you try to use liquid color, it will probably take you the whole bottle and you run the risk of watering down the marshmallow.

Put the warm marshmallow into a piping bag fitted with a large star tip.  Use this to fill the cupcakes.

Chocolate American Buttercream

3/4 c. salted butter
3/4 c. cocoa powder
1 Tbsp vanilla
1-1/2 lbs powdered sugar
1/4 c. + 2 Tbsp milk

Cream butter until fluffy.  Add cocoa powder and mix until thoroughly blended.  Start the mixing on the very lowest speed or you'll end up with a cloud of cocoa and might die of chocolate lung.  Which might not be the worst way to go, but still.

Add about a cup of powdered sugar and blend.  Then beat in the vanilla.  Now, alternate the sugar with the milk until all ingredients are fully incorporated.  Stop, lower the bowl, and scrape it down.  Then beat the frosting until it's light and fluffy.
You can see the darker chocolate on the center of the beater where a blob of un-whipped frosting remains.  In this case, it's OK to leave the frosting a little streaky.  Spoon the frosting into a pastry bag fitted with the star tip of your choice.  Pipe the frosting in loose, sloppy circles around the edges of each cupcake.  Look, nests!
Previously, I had piped two sheet trays of "eggs" and "chicks" in Royal Icing.  I removed the chicks to safer quarters, then splashed the "eggs" with a little brown food coloring mixed with rum to speckle them.  They've had a day to dry, and now it's time to take three eggs and place them along the inside of the nest.  Once the eggs are placed, pipe another blob of buttercream in the center, right over the filling and place a chick on top.

Et voila!
These are just so stinkin' cute, I'm probably being a little ridiculous.

 Yellow chicks, blue chicks, and eggs of all colors.  Plus, yellow marshmallow filling.  If you were VERY ambitious, you could certainly tint the marshmallow different colors.  Be forewarned, though, that if it cools off much it will set up and you'll never be able to pipe them.  Filling the cupcakes with the marshmallow is a sticky, messy business as it is.  Add to the chaos at your own risk.  It's really tasty, though.  I'm still too enamoured of these to let it go yet.  Go make your own.

Tada!!  Tell me what you think!