my kid takes kakes for kids

This creation is by my 11-year-old son C., who recently took a Wilton Kakes for Kids project class at our local Michael’s store. He iced a single-layer Devil’s Food Cake (recipe courtesy of Zoe Bakes) with ready-made icing and used icing tubes (all from Wilton) to decorate the cake. The design he came up with was badminton-themed, which is fitting because badminton is one of our favorite summer pastimes. First he added a leaf border using a leaf tip (obviously). He outlined the racket and the strings (including a contrasting logo) with a round tip, and filled in the handle with a star tip. The birdie was made using round and leaf tips to make the feathers and round and star tips for the red cork base. And finally C. added a blue bird that he modeled from fondant in class (a la Morty). Sadly, he wasn’t feeling well after class so I stuck the cake in the refrigerator when we got home. By the time he was well enough to eat cake (a few days later), the little bird had suffered from being refrigerated. Fondant creatures + fridges = sticky, soft, squishy mess.

C. did an excellent job with his cake and I was really impressed with how he came up with his own design and used all the techniques he learned in class to execute it. I’m really looking forward to our next project — C.’s birthday cupcakes!

brownie truffle mousse cake

For L.’s birthday cake, he chose this cake from Nestlé’s Very Best Baking site. Nestlé rates this recipe as “challenging,” but I would say it’s more laborious and time-consuming than challenging. (Although it becomes challenging if, like me, you don’t read the instructions carefully — I left out the flour on my first attempt — don’t ask how!)

The cake starts with a brownie base, which is then topped with a layer of chocolate ganache, followed by a layer of chocolate mousse. The sides of the cake are made with chocolate rolled wafer cookies (I used Pepperidge Farms Chocolate Creme Petite Pirouettes). Finally, the top is drizzled with some of the reserved ganache and garnished with cut strawberries.

As gorgeous as this cake was, it tasted even better! The brownie bottom was more cake-like (but dense) than fudgy, and was somewhat light on chocolate flavor. This was actually a good thing since the other layers were so rich. The crunch/chewiness of the wafer rolls added an interesting texture to the smoothness of creamy layers, and the flavor of the strawberries played nicely with the chocolate. Nestlé says the cake serves 12, but I think one could get away with smaller pieces than what is suggested. I cut the cake into fairly slim pieces — 16 slices total — which was just about right, given how rich and chocolatey the cake is. This cake is definitely one I’d make again to impress any chocolate lover. My birthday boy certainly loved it!

birthday blueberry muffins

My eldest turns 15 today. One birthday several years ago, he decided he would like blueberry muffins for breakfast and the tradition stuck. Occasionally his special day would fall during our vacation week and he’d have a blueberry muffin from a Cape Cod Dunkin Donuts instead of a homemade one, and the years we were home, very often the “homemade” muffins were from a boxed mix.

This year’s birthday muffin recipe is the Our Favorite Blueberry Muffin from the King Arthur Flour site. It’s a little different from many that I’ve looked at — a little almond extract, no lemon zest, and the muffins are topped with a sprinkling of cinnamon sugar. They are very tender and light, and very fitting for a special birthday breakfast. Happy Birthday, L.!

english muffin toasting bread

More fun with overproofing here. I thought I was being super watchful but I misjudged how warm my kitchen was and how quickly the bread was proofing — it was ready a good 15 – 30 minutes earlier than expected and I was caught with an unheated oven — doh! But enough about that; let me tell you about this bread!

I first read about the English Muffin Toasting Bread on the Baker’s Banter last winter. I’m not sure what made me remember it now, but we were running low on bread and it sprang to mind. Much like English muffin batter, it’s made from a very wet dough and contains both yeast and a smidge of baking soda for leavening. The inside of the loaf pan is dusted with stoneground corn meal. The result is a bread which, tastewise, bears a remarkable resemblance to an English muffin, but without the messy dance of flipping half-cooked batter and muffin molds on a hot griddle. When sliced and toasted, the bread’s exterior is slightly crunchy and the interior is smooth and creamy. The crumb wasn’t as open and craggy I was expecting, but that’s probably due to the loaf’s sinking in the oven. But the best part of this recipe may be the quickness with which one can whip up this bread — a mere 90 minutes from start to finish! I’m looking forward to trying this one again — I’ll let you know how it goes!

bread baker’s apprentice’s white sandwich bread

We’re staycationing this week and (this is really unrelated) we’ve been trying to eat down our fridge and pantry (and stay out of grocery stores). We ran out of bread (all those sandwiches we’ve been making for our beach days!) and so I whipped up the white bread (variation 1 for those of you with the book) from The Bread Baker’s Apprentice. I was super-diligent this time and kept a close eye on the bread so that it did not overproof. Still, the loaves were not super tall — I was expecting more oven-spring — but they were a beautiful golden-brown and had a rich buttery flavor. This morning P. made fried egg sandwiches (with cheese and bacon) on toast from this bread. Yum! 🙂

damn the anadama

The story goes that Anadama Bread was created when a crusty old New Englander came home after a long day’s work to discover his wife Anna had run off and all that was left for his dinner was a pot of cornmeal mush and molasses. He tossed some flour and yeast into the slurry and baked it, cursing “Anna, damn ‘er!” (“Anadama” to non-Yankee ears) all the while.

This is my first try at Anadama Bread (from The Bread Baker’s Apprentice) — I decided to give it a whirl after hearing great things about the results from BBA Challenge participants. Alas, I overproofed my loaves and they turned out rather sunken and flat. I can’t win sometimes — either my kitchen is too cold or too warm, depending on the season. I’m sure the Anadama will be great for our sandwiches today, though. Our crazy New England weather has finally cleared up after weeks of rain, so we’re heading to the beach!

obsessed with flowers

Ever since I began learning how to make flowers in my Wilton classes, I’ve become rather preoccupied with thoughts of flowers. Their relative size, color(s), shape, construction… it’s all suddenly become fascinating to me. C. has been attending day camp for the past two weeks and during my 17 mile drive to and from camp twice a day, I passed hundreds of blooming day lilies, just as I was learning how to make Easter lilies in class. I’ve always loved those vibrant orange to copper-hued day lilies, so I made a bunch out of royal icing for my finale cake. I didn’t end up using them for that, but they will undoubtedly make their way on to another cake this summer.

wilton course 3 finale cake

Today was the final day of my Wilton Course 3 class. It was also the last class of all the Wilton classes offered at my local Michael’s, since I have already completed Course 1 and 2 and the Fondant and Gum Paste class. However, lest I get too big for my britches with all this cake decorating know-how, the cake gods made sure just about everything that could go wrong in my prep for today’s class went wrong. A brief (and partial) accounting follows. My cake layers (I made extra) bubbled over in the oven, making a smoky, burnt mess, which I then had to chisel out (this happened twice!). My layers crumbled and/or broke (yes, every single one of them) when I removed them from the pans to cool. My crumb coats of icing were full of crumbs (which is supposed to happen), as were my final coats (not supposed to happen). By the end of my baking and frosting day yesterday, I was sick to death of this cake, and I hadn’t even had class yet.

Rear view

This morning, I somehow managed to transport the cakes to class without further damage. We spent the morning assembling the tiers and decorating our cakes with the royal icing flowers we had made and dried in advance. All in all, I’m satisfied with the results — it isn’t quite what I had envisioned but I’m mostly relieved that it’s finished and we can finally eat it. 🙂 The cake is the Chocolate Fudge Groom’s Cake from the Wilton site, iced with the Buttercream Icing (half shortening, half butter — a compromise over the all-shortening Class Buttercream which I’ve been whining about since I started my first Wilton class back in February). It’s a good combo — I ate enough trimmings yesterday to know. The purple petunias were for C. — I promised him a purple-themed cake a while back.

Flower detail

When I started my first Wilton class last winter, all I wanted was to learn a little something about cake decorating so I wouldn’t make too big a fool out of myself when I did my cake classes at Johnson and Wales. I didn’t expect to love it, or even be good at it. To my surprise, I found the classes to be really enjoyable and personally gratifying. As my mother-in-law said to me recently, “Those classes really worked out for you, didn’t they?” As always, a million thank you’s to Evelyn for being the best teacher an uncoordinated, unartistic person could hope for — positive, supportive, patient and most of all, always good-humored. I am so grateful we crossed paths.

garlic bread sticks

C. is a huge devotee of garlic bread sticks. And as a result, we’ve sampled many different recipes. Actually, I guess we’re all fans, because we have a tendency to turn almost any individually sized baked good into some sort of garlic bread stick variation — garlic pretzels, garlic biscuits, garlic knot rolls.

I bookmarked this recipe for the Bakers’ Banter’s Soft Bread Sticks a couple months ago. They compare them to Pizza Hut’s bread sticks, which I’ve never had, but if these bread sticks are any indication, they must be very tasty. This recipe is a variation of BB’s Blitz Bread (which I made last summer). The texture of the bread sticks is reminiscent of a focaccia, but unlike a traditional focaccia, these are super fast and super easy to make — from start to finish in just a couple of hours. The bread sticks are light and have a little crustiness to them, thanks to a second turn in the oven, and are rather addictive. I actually baked them for C. to take to camp for lunch tomorrow but we couldn’t help sneaking several. But no worries — the recipe makes 3 dozen!