love bake create

Second Time Lucky February 21, 2013

Filed under: Holiday Cakes — lovebakecreate @ 6:41 AM
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I’m not one to be defeated. So after the gong-show of an attempt at double baking a cake I did some poking around the internet to see if there were any other techniques I could use and maybe make it a slightly less painful process. The result was a success!

February 17, 2013 017

We have a cake!! There’s surprise hearts inside! Yay!

Now, before getting to this point of delicious cake, there were several hiccups and A LOT of work.

Let me explain…

Since there were going to be cookies inside, I had to… bake cookies. Heart shaped pink ones since it’s still February. It took quite a few to fill the pan.

February 17, 2013 010

Sorry about the random blob of cake mix; I forgot to take a picture of just the cookies

105 to be exact. Not that it was an issue, because my paranoid self made 185 cookies. Take that Christmas!

So the cookies were baked and lined up the night before using a simple sugar cookie recipe.

The next morning I snuck out of bed early (abandoning Eric and Ella) so I could mix up a batch of Red Velvet cake. I know, it should be red, but I thought the pink hearts would look better against a brown cake.

It did come out a little thicker than I expected, so after plopping the mix into the pan, I used the back of a spoon to poke the batter, getting it between the cookies. Totally unnecessary. After it heats up in the oven, the mix becomes quite liquidy and fills the spaces all on its own.

February 17, 2013 011Even with a gigantic 13″ springform, I had batter left over, so I went to town making six extra cupcakes and a smaller heart shaped cake. Why not?

Now, I’m just about convinced my mom’s oven is possessed has hot spots because it took FOREVER to bake this monstrosity. The recipe called for an hour to 90 minutes at 325°F. Since it has a tendancy to be too hot, I lowered it to 300°F as usual and happily set the timer. I also left the extra cakes out, being slightly smart, knowing they would bake faster than the giant cake.

After an hour, I grabbed a skewer, opened the oven door and poked.

Raw.

The middle was freakin’ raw! Not ‘little bits of cake were on the skewer’ but like ‘gooey batter sticking to the skewer’ kinda raw.

Deep breath.

Turn up the temperature to 325°F, re-set the timer for another 30 minutes, and quietly give the oven the finger as you walk away. Maybe it was that last step?

I ended up doing this three more times with the temperature ending up at 350°F and that cake sitting in the oven for just over two hours! At least I was able to bake the other cakes in the meantime.

Once cooled, I could decorate! The plan had been to cover the whole cake in swirly roses but I didn’t have nearly as much icing sugar as I needed and I didn’t want the cake to be overly sweet, so I settled on covering just the top. Sadly, my MacGyver-ed equipment wasn’t up to the task.

February 17, 2013 014Since I left all my piping and decorating equipment in BC, I had to use what my mom had. Yes, that is a plastic bag. Sturdy one, though. She did have a few piping tips but no couplers. Seeing as I didn’t want the tip to come rocketing out of the bag mid-squeeze, I secured it with tape. Cow print scotch tape, to be exact.

Starting with the top of the cake, I layed on the roses and made my way around the edge. I love this technique because it’s relatively easy but still looks pretty.

I had enough stiffer buttercream icing to make one circle. The rest was supposed to be done with the slightly softer whipped cream but when I went to pipe it on…

February 17, 2013 015It came out looking like a pink and white turd.

Plan B; smooth the whipped cream over the top and sides, and be done with it.

As for the cupcakes and heart cake, I piped on some turd-like mounds and put cookies on them.

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February 17, 2013 018I think this is it for our Valentine’s baking this year.

I’m also super excited to be heading back to BC tomorrow and having my own kitchen again!

The promise of warmer weather, cross country trips and seeing friends again, whoo!

Enjoy!

 

Happy Valentine’s Day! February 14, 2013

Filed under: Baking fails,Holiday Cakes — lovebakecreate @ 11:04 AM
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Not just for love, chocolates and all the commercial stuff, but Valentine’s Day is also my Grandma’s day! In Poland you get to celebrate not only your birthday, but your saint’s Name Day. Seeing as my Grandma’s name is Valentine …

So I had a beautiful idea; bake a red cake, cut little heart shapes out of it and then bake another white cake around it. When you sliced into the cake, you’d get little surprise hearts. Delightful, heart warming and not too difficult. Not quite how it went down though.

First, I made a simple cake batter and dyed it red with food colouring. I poured it into some mini silicon loaf pans (which I’d never used). After about seven minutes in the oven, the train started coming undone. See for yourself. It was such a disaster that I had to introduce it to YouTube.

The end result.

The end result.

To sum it up, the outer part of the cake was baked long before the middle, to the point that a little volcano formed, spurting raw batter out the top, forming that lovely looking protrusion on the cakes.

Hoping that not all was lost, I carried on with my plan and cut the volcano cake into hearts.

I cut the loaf into slices...

I cut the loaf into slices…

... then cut hearts out of the slices.

… then cut hearts out of the slices.

February 14, 2013 045

Once all the heart slices were cut and arranged, the plan was to fill the pan with white cake batter and bake. “Here, use this,” smiles my mother as she hands me a box of cake mix. Sure, it’s easy and quick, what could go wrong? Well, when you’re not sure if the box of cake mix is still good to use, it can go horribly wrong. The first issue was that the white cake mix didn’t quite cover the hearts.

The red bits are candy that was in the cake mix.

The red bits are candy that was in the cake mix.

Notice the bottoms of the hearts poking up through the mix. I figured the cake has to rise, right? The bottoms will get encased in cake, right? Wrong.

February 14, 2013 050Those burnt little peaks in the middle? Yup, those would be the bottoms of the hearts.

I should mention, the same volcano effect was seen with this cake, so I have to question several things:

  • Was the box mix out of date?
  • Did I use the correct temperature?
  • Does the oven have hot spots?
  • Did I use to much baking soda with the first cakes?

Regardless, I kept going (brave or stupid, I’m not sure which) and turned the cake upside down to take it out of the pan.

February 14, 2013 051 *Insert explitive*

It was right about now that I realized I had neither greased nor floured the pan. Makes sense that a chunk of cake welded itself onto the bottom.

My ever helpful mom scraped it off the bottom with a spatula, held it up so we could assess the damage (and take a picture) and then we promptly fixed it.

 

 

 

February 14, 2013 053Tada! Perfect!

Frustrated by the numerous issues, I decided to wait to ice the cake.

Curiousity got the better of us and we wanted to see how the secret hearts turned out, so we decided to cut into the middle. You could always ice over it, no one would be the wiser. So we cut into the cake to find …

 

February 14, 2013 054

Hearts surrounded by raw cake.

*Insert swearing and table flip*

That was last night. This morning I toyed with the idea of getting up early, doing it all over again, maybe getting the result I wanted ….

And then got lazy decided to boost my confidence and make scones instead. With a Valentine’s twist ofcourse.

February 14, 2013 056

Who better to share all this with than a happy family?

Seems Eric was camera shy this morning

Seems Eric was camera shy this morning

Hope everyone has a wonderful Valentine’s Day!

ENJOY!

 

 

Love is in the air January 23, 2013

I know it’s always said that Christmas decorations come out earlier and earlier every year, but I’m pretty sure the same can be said about Valentine’s Day. Maybe I was just naive as a child and didn’t notice, but this year while scouring the aisles for tea, I came face to face with shelves packed with pink and red t …  a month ago. I understand trying to get a head start on things, but seriously, the woman ahead of me at the checkout was still buying for New Years!

So even though the Valentine’s Day goodies have been on the shelves for a month already, I’ve managed to put off any planning until as late as possible (surprise). On top of that, I’m faced with an exciting opportunity this year; not only do I get to bake for Valentine’s Day, which is only a week after my anniversary (which will include baking) but this year I get to be in the same city as my best buddy Krysti-Anna, whose birthday is this coming Monday(and will include cake, naturally).

All that said, I have (brace yourselves) a plan.

Take a moment, please. I needed one. Hell, my head is still swooning a bit from the shock.

So with all this … planning… going on, I’ve decided that today I’m going to look back at last year’s anniversary/Valentine’s cake. Yes, there was only one, because we had just moved to Squamish and I was in no mood to make two cakes. Don’t worry, I’ll make up for it this year.

Without further ado, last year’s cake.

phone pictures 948

Don’t be fooled by the picture, he was small in stature; about the height of a pop can.

phone pictures 947

phone pictures 946

Also, please feel free to ignore the screwdriver, hydro bill, bolts and random bits of paper on the counter. I was still finding places for everything after moving in and the day I made this, I wanted to get it done while Eric was at work (it was his surprise cake).

The squirrel was made of pound cake that was poured into a bear mold. After baking, his feet and ears were chopped to go from bear to squirrel. The tail and heart were made of sugar cookies. Naturally I made about ten of each. In case of breakage.

The rest was  royal icing made from icing sugar and varying amounts of milk to get the consistency I was after. Everything that has a smooth finish like the eyes, nose and icing on the heart was icing so thick I handled it like modelling clay.

All the fur was piped with a star tip, slightly smaller for the body and slightly larger for the tail fur. The icing was quite thick since I didn’t want it to droop, resulting in several breaks; my forearms cramped up and my whole arm started shaking at several points. Much respect to those who do this for a living.

So how did Eric feel about the squirrel?

Well….

phone pictures 952

phone pictures 953

After he chomped off each ear, the cookie (sadly) fell on the floor, so our deaf squirrel was left to announce the he was “Nu_s About You”. There was only one thing left to do.

phone pictures 954

Much like our squirrelly friend, this season of love is brief, so …

ENJOY!!!

 

Christmas!!! It’s not too early! November 17, 2012

Filed under: Holiday Cakes — lovebakecreate @ 8:59 PM
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Christmas 2010 in Dublin. I remember Eric’s mom telling us to be “really excited about Christmas”. Pfft. We didn’t even have to try.

I have to admit, we are a bit of a Christmas loving family. For all the time Eric and I have done the long distance thing, our one rule has always been to have Christmas together. No matter what. At least two jobs and $4000 worth of plane tickets have made sure that we spend Christmas together.

Last year was the first time it was just the two of us, plus cat. We bought our very first Christmas tree as a couple … and had it up on October 30th. That’s right, we beat Starbucks. Even when we were in Dublin with zero money for a tree (we did, after all have a wedding to fund) Eric went out and splurged on two very tiny LED Christmas trees that were about three inches tall. Why two? That’s what came in the package. Turns out they were supposed to go into one of those little Christmas villages. Well, they went on out coffee table instead.

This year has been slightly different. With a new member of the family, this luxury called time seems to have gone into hiding. Add that to the fact that we’re going back to Manitoba for Christmas and the house is looking rather bare. There’s no tree, no lights out and no snow outside (not that I’m complaining too much about that last bit). So last night, I declared that I would be damned if there wasn’t going to at the very least be some Christmas baking in this house!

So I made some Egg Nog logs

 

 

These are cookies that were absolutely mandatory at my mom’s house during the holiday season, but seeing as I haven’t been there for Christmas since 2009, I’ve been missing them. This is the first year I attempted to make them on my own, remembering my mom saying something about them being a pain in the hole to make. They were actually quite quick and easy … at first.

The first step is to make the dough with this recipe:

Ingredients

1 cup of butter, softened

3/4 cup of sugar

1 and 1/4 tsp nutmeg

1 egg

2 tsps vanilla extract

3 cups flour

*the original recipe also calls for 1 tsp rum extract but that wasn’t in my cupboards so I didn’t use it. Really didn’t change the taste as far as I’m concerned but, as always, feel free to experiment.

In a mixing bowl, cream together the butter and sugar. The butter should be at about room temperature and like most people I keep my butter in the fridge, so I cheated and microwaved it for ten seconds at a time until it was soft but not melted. Continue mixing, adding the nutmeg, egg and extract(s). Once everything is  mixed together well, add the flour. You might have to stop the mixer and do this part by hand. My mixer struggled and slowed, poor thing. When everything’s mixed together you should have what looks and feels like play dough.

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degree Celsius. Take your (play) dough and roll it into thick log -like dough sticks. The original recipe (and my mom) tell you to make sure they are uniform in length and thickness. Bah. Thickness, sure, so they bake equally. Length? Make them whatever length you want. This is what I ended up with.

For anyone wondering why there is a pig staring at the logs, that is my oven mitt. You know, one of those silicone deals.

Moving on, as you can see some of the logs are stumpy, others are quite long. If you’re going to serve these at a party and someone says it’s not fair because someone got stuck with the stumpy ones, well, they should have made it to the dessert table sooner.

These need to bake for about 15 minutes or until they’re slightly browned.

You could leave your logs like this, essentially making them sugar logs, but there is one more step to elevate these to the level of Egg Nog logs. That’s right…..

 

FROSTING!

This is a Christmas recipe, so naturally it needs frosting with the highest fat and calorie content possible.

Ingredients

1/4 cup butter, softened

2 cups + 1 cup icing sugar (they need to be separate)

1 tsp vanilla extract

2 tblsp cream (I used whipped cream)

Cream the butter until it looks light and fluffy. Add the first two cups of icing sugar and the extract and keep mixing. Add in the cream and, yup, keep mixing. Add the last cup of icing sugar and keep mixing. You want to end up with very thick icing that looks like something you could plaster the wall with so once everything is mixed together well, you may have to add more cream or icing sugar. Do so slowly! A tiny bit of cream goes a long way!

Again, when you add the vanilla extract you can also add a 1/2 teaspoon rum extract (or actual rum, depending on who’s coming to dinner) but it’s up to you. I had neither, so it didn’t go in. In fact, I sadly realized I had about two tablespoons less a full cup of icing sugar so I wouldn’t be able to make quite so much icing. I did a bit of math to adjust for my lack of ingredients and made this much icing.

 

 

Yeah, sad, I know. Didn’t help that my natural instinct when baking is to stick my finger in to check that it tastes right so I had even less to work with than what you see.

With whatever icing you have at this point, slap it onto the chilled cookie logs. Nothing fancy, just slap it on there. Then, with a little fork, scratch into the icing to make it look like bark. Final added touch? Add a bit of nutmeg. I like the big chunks you have to grate yourself as you can see from the photo.

 

Yes, it’s that brown lump beside the grater, not left overs from the Halloween cake, I promise.

Like I said, I taste things along the way. However, nothing quite prepared me for that first bite of this little log once it was all put together. The taste instantly took me back to my childhood Christmases. Ah, let the Holidays begin!

Oh, a quick word about the name; I have absolutely no idea why these are called Egg Nog logs. There is egg, they are logs, but there is nothing egg-nog-y about them. I also said it was a recipe from long ago; originally found in Country Woman magazine, November/December issue from 1992. That’s right, I’ve been lucky enough to have these for Christmas for twenty years (minus a couple years when I was in Ireland and Vancouver).

 

Happy baking!

 

 

Happy Halloween! November 2, 2012

Filed under: Holiday Cakes — lovebakecreate @ 12:46 PM
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Something to spruce up your day, which judging by the weather, is likely a rainy day. I give you a litter box.

Ew! Why would I show you that?

Relax. It’s cake.

No really, it’s a Black Magic cake with cream filled cookies crunched up and piled on top. Oh? The kitty treats? Some of them are chocolate covered raisins. I know, appropriate. The, um, long ones, are Tootsie rolls. Heat them in a microwave for about 10 to 15 seconds and mould them in your hand so they look, well, authentic.

Oh, and put it all in a kitty litter tray for kicks.

Yes! You need to buy a brand new one!

Geez, you’re sick.

Happy baking!

 

All aboard the Pumpkin Train! Destination? Fall! October 19, 2012

Filed under: Pies — lovebakecreate @ 12:01 PM
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It’s pumpkin time! Even Jack, our cat, is getting involved this year, checking out the strange gourd that found itself in our apartment. It may look small from the photo, but this was no tiny pumpkin, I assure you. Taking a knife to it and cubing up all the flesh, we managed to fill the roasting pan and two mixing bowls. So you know what that means….

Pumpkin pie, Pumpkin soup, Pumpkin tarts, Pumpkin brownies, Pumpkin bread

and maybe, just maybe a Pumpkin cake.

The most tedious part is getting the pumpkin ready. Lots of cutting….

What’s that? Why yes, it does look like those seeds inside need to be roasted! Spread on a baking sheet, dose in salt. About 20 to 30 minutes at 350 degrees with a violent shake part way through.

Oh, there was a night filled with cutting into the pumpkin, cutting off the orange skin and then cubing it up. This was paired with “Here, she needs to be fed/changed/rocked/ cuddled” at which point Eric and I would switch between Ella and the pumpkin. Hard to say which one was harder to tend to, but the pumpkin made less noise.

After being cut to pieces, there was boiling of the little cubes.

It’s kinda nice that I can toss the pumpkin in, set the temperature, and go do other things. As long as it’s on a low boil, it’s really hard to over cook the pumpkin, plus you get a nice smell in the house. That is, as long as you like the smell of pumpkin.

Last step before baking with this gourd is to drain and purée the pumpkin. There are a few ways to do this but I decided to use a hand blender which can be used while the pumpkin is still hot. If you’re using a glass blender, Magic Bullet or anything that has to be closed to blend PLEASE let the pumpkin cool down first! I made that mistake last year and found that a few things can potentially happen;

  1. The heat will cause the screw on blade of a Magic Bullet to magically become sealed and a team effort will be needed to unscrew the lid
  2. If the pumpkin is hot enough the plastic or glass might crack creating unsafe situations and leave you with one less blender and messy pumpkin guts everywhere

Just pour cold water over the pieces if you’re in a rush.

Now (it’s FINALLY) time to get down to some pie!

I decided to make my own crust as well, using the following recipe:

Crust

5 1/2 cups all purpose flour + 2 tsp salt

1 lb lard or shortening (chill a little in the freezer so its easier to work with)

1 tbsp vinegar

1 egg, beaten

cold water

Once you’ve mixed the salt and flour, cut in the lard. I like to cut up the lard itself first and then mix it into the flour with my hands. Whatever way you do it, make sure it looks like course oatmeal before moving on.

In a one cup measure, combine the egg and vinegar. Why use vinegar? Makes the crust lighter and fluffier. Don’t worry, it won’t taste like fish and chips. Add the cold water to the egg and vinegar to make just less than one cup. Dig a well into the flour mixture and pour it in. Here’s where it gets messy. Mix everything together until it’s a dough. If it looks dry after mixing you can add a bit more water, but be careful! If the dough is too tacky and just falling apart, you can add a little bit of flour but try not to – too much flour makes for a heavier crust and takes away from the pie.

Now, this does make a lot of crust (enough for 6 9″ round pies) so wrap it in plastic and save it in the fridge, freezer, give it to a friend to use or make a lot of pies.

I decided on the last option and made pie plus tarts.

You can press the pie into your forms or, what I did, was to roll it between two pieces of wax paper. No wax paper? Save the bag from your cereal (and wipe out the left over cereal crumbs) so you can use that instead. Press or lay the dough into your forms.

With a fork, I poked holes into the crust, so air doesn’t get trapped and create a bubble under the crust or in the pie.

Only thing left to do is make some filling and load it into the crust. The filling I use is an adaptation from a recipe I found in my mom’s cupboards about 10 years ago.

Filling for Pumpkin Pie

2 cups pumpkin purée

3 eggs

1/3 cup of sugar + 1/8 cup flour

a couple pinches each of cinnamon and nutmeg

1/3 cup of cream (coffee cream or whipping cream works)

1/3 cup of hazelnut coffee cream

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Beat together all the ingredients except the cream until the mixture is nice as smooth (no gooey egg bits falling off your beaters). Now, the cream should be added slowly, especially if you’ve decided to use whipping cream. Whipping cream gives a nice fluffy and creamy taste to the pie, but if you go crazy and beat it till the mixture is thick, your pie will taste more like an omelet. Also, I love using the hazelnut cream, but if that’s not your thing and you want more pumpkin to come through, use 2/3 of a cup of cream and 2/3 of a cup of sugar and no flour. Just play with it and make it your own.

So now with a runny mixture, pour or spoon it into the pie shell. I had help from my wonderful husband since Ella demanded my attention at this point (and Eric didn’t want to wait any longer for pie).

Really, who could deny that face?

Bake the pie for about 55 minutes, or until you can stick a toothpick in and it comes out clean. It tastes wonderful either warm or cooled, but we prefer it cool with a bit of whipped cream on top.

Now, a tiny disclaimer as to why this post is so freakin’ late. Before I had a chance to take a picture of the finished pie and tarts, I noticed that several tarts and a quarter of the pie were missing. Seems as though they found their way into Eric’s mouth and stomach before my camera found them. My move was to make another pie, naturally, as I’d promised one to friends of ours for Thanksgiving (October here in Canada). Sadly, this one also made it into mouths before my camera found it. After that, it simply took another two weeks for the stars to align exactly right, making it possible for pie + picture to work itself out. I present, finally, pie.

I got fancy on this one and dug up some pie shapes, cutting out left over crust dough and arranging them onto the edges of the pie plate. Also made a pumpkin cut out so I could cover up the hole I poked when checking if the masterpiece was done.

Oh, and the tin foil? About 20 minutes into baking the pie, I noticed the shapes were a lovely brown and the pie was absolutely NOT ready. Giving it a tin foil scarf lets the pie continue baking while the shapes stay un-burnt. I also used the cookie sheet after putting on the tin foil so that it was easier to take the pie in and out of the oven without cracking off any leaves.

So there’s my intro into fall (better late than never, right?). And since there was some extra pumpkin (kept in the freezer so it wouldn’t spoil), I feel some cookies need to be baked.

Happy baking