The Easiest Pumpkin Cake in the Universe.

In my last post, I mentioned that I was going to bake a pumpkin cake, because I can. so I did. It was a pumpkin-shaped pumpkin cake, to be precise. It ended up looking like this:

Pumpkin shape; pumpkin cake.

Pumpkin shape; pumpkin cake.

It started off looking like this:

It's a cake in a box.

It’s a cake in a box.

Yes, that’s a boxed carrot cake mix. I told you this was easy. You open the box, pour the mix into a bowl, and blend in the three ingredients on the back of the box:

Mix as directed.

Mix as directed.

In addition to these, all you need is 1/2 cup of pumpkin puree, so add that in, too, and mix well. Pour the batter into two greased 8″ pans, and bake at 350 for about 25 minutes. While the cakes are cooling, make the pumpkin frosting, which is also super easy:

2# conf sugar

1 cup shortening

1/2 cup pumkpin puree

1 tsp cinnamon

2 tblsp water

Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl, until smooth and creamy. The frosting will be the perfect orange color as is.

When icing the cake, keep the layers rounded, and keep the rounder one on top.

waiting to turn into a pumpkin.

waiting to turn into a pumpkin.

Add your decorations (stem, leaves, whatever you desire) and there you have it. A pumpkin-shaped pumpkin cake.

Easy and delicious.

Easy, festive, and delicious.

I love fall baking. So much pumpkin, so little time…

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Kosher Brownies vs. Jewish Apple Cake: a Dessert Duel.

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So here’s a little story for you.

Last week, my fiance and I were invited to a Passover Seder. The hosts, knowing that I was a baker, asked us to bring a dessert. I of course jumped at the chance to make something for this special occasion, and I started going through some recipes, thinking of what I could bring. I settled on a Jewish Apple Cake, since not only do I love it, but I hadn’t made it in quite some time! The one thing I love about my recipe is that it always turns out perfect! I was so pumped to present it as our contribution at Seder.

Perfect for Passover.

Perfect for Passover.

It started off excellent. The batter was perfect, the apples were crisp and tasty. It looked great when I put it into the oven. As it was baking, it still looked great, but it seemed to be taking a long time to cook all the way through. I took it out, and had to put it back in the oven, because it wasn’t done yet. Finally, it was done, and it looked a little….flat. This wasn’t the end of the world, since it wasn’t supposed to be super fluffy – the apple cake is very dense. I let it cool in the pan for a bit, and then went to flip it out onto the cooling rack, and nothing. The cake did not come out. It was stuck in the pan, like REALLY stuck. I did what I normally do in this situation – I ran a knife along the sides and center. Bundt pans seem to be the worst at sticking, so I wasn’t too surprised at this. The knife usually does the trick. Not this time. After going around the perimeter multiple times, the cake still would not budge. Finally, after one more time around and practically digging the knife completely underneath the cake, it began to come loose. And then, boom! Half of the cake fell out. And then a bunch of crumbs. And then the other half (in pieces, I might add). And just like that, my perfect for Passover Apple Cake was ruined.

The good news – I had made the cake a day early, so I had time to try again. I really didn’t feel like making a whole new apple cake, though. So what should I do? I suddenly remembered seeing this box of cake mix in the kosher section at the grocery store, so I snagged it.

a quick mix fix.

a quick mix fix.

Now I knew this cake mix would not equate to the glory that is my scratch Apple Cake, but it looked good, and I was getting short on time. The next morning, I opened the box, ready to create an easy second cake for the dinner that evening.

Yes, it was easy.

Yes, it was tasty

Yes, it was way too small.

Not much bigger than an apple.

Not much bigger than an apple.

There was no way I could show up with this tiny cake! It would barely feed just me and my fiance! Now I was starting to panic. I had started becoming comfortable with the resignation that I would  have to actually purchase an already made dessert, when I had one last idea. Brownies. I don’t know where it came from, but there it was. I googled “Easy Kosher Brownies” and sure enough, found what I was looking for. And to top it off, I just so happened to already have all of the ingredients. I headed back into the kitchen for the third time, and hoped that three times really was the charm.

once, twice, three times the brownie.

once, twice, three times the brownie.

It was. The brownies cooked perfectly, were big enough, and when I cut them and removed them from the pan, they retained their shape perfectly.

redemption.

redemption.

I had been redeemed. My faith in my baking had once again been restored. As an added unexpected bonus, a few people wound up telling me these were the best brownies they ever had. So I guess it was meant to be in the end.

brownies for the win.

brownies for the win.

The brownies were the clear winner here, and I can honestly say that I’m glad the Apple Cake fell apart. Sometimes things fall apart for a reason. We just have to be patient and remember to never give up, because Good Things Come to Those Who Bake. 🙂

A Celebration of Pi (with Pie).

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Over the past weekend, on 3/14/15 to be exact. I went to a Pi Party. How does one celebrate Pi? With pie, of course! Everyone contributed a pie of some sort in honor of Pi. As you can imagine, there were so many pies there, I almost couldn’t handle the deliciousness. Almost.

My personal contribution was a Key Lime Pie. I started off with a cornmeal crust made from scratch, baked it for about 8 minutes, filled it with pie, and baked it for another 15 minutes. And although I absolutely love this particular Key Lime Pie recipe, I feel like it’s not green enough. So…I helped it reach maximum greeness with a couple drops of food coloring.

it's not easy being green.

it’s not easy being green.

I wanted to put some kind of topping on it, but I didn’t have any heavy cream. I did however, have all the ingredients to make a meringue, so I started whipping one up.

do the meringue.

do the meringue.

It was going really well, until my hand started getting really really tired. Then I remembered just how long it takes to whip meringue, and realized I should have used the stand mixer,  not the hand mixer. But it was too late to turn back now, so I whipped on, as best as I could. The result was not the best meringue I’ve ever made, looks-wise, but it sure was tasty.

beautiful on the inside.

beautiful on the inside.

I really really really wanted to add a slice of lime to the center, but at this point, I was crunched for time, so it would have to go lime-less. I brought it to the party, feeling sightly disappointed. I am a bit of a perfectionist when it comes to my desserts, but there was no way I could redo the pie and still make it to the party in time. And showing up to a Pi Party without Pie was just unthinkable.

The party was a blast. The pies were all a huge hit, including mine. So much so, that by the end of the night, my faith in my desserts had been restored.

things are looking up.

things are looking up.

The best part about the pie party? We got to take home slices of all the pies, in what I affectionately dubbed a “Super Pie.”

the super pie.

best. pie. ever.

The moral of the story is no two pies are exactly alike. But that doesn’t make them any less delicious. Pie to infinity!

Shoo-Fly Pie For the Win.

shoo fly pie4

I recently made a Shoo-Fly Pie for the first time. I had never made one before, and really didn’t even know where to begin, so I started with a basic recipe I found online, here. I did, however make one key change — I made my pie shell from scratch (find the recipe at the end of this post). After making the dough, rolling it, cutting it, and placing it into the pie pan, I began crafting the pie innards. I poured the mix into the crust, and it was so THIN I assumed I must have done something wrong.

not so shoo-re of this pie.

not so shoo-re of this pie.

I had come this far, and there was no turning back now. So I went ahead and sprinkled the crumbles on top, popped it in the oven, and hoped for the best. I opened the door to this:

if it looks like a pie....

if it looks like a pie….

In all appearances, one could assume this was a mighty fine pie. But I hadn’t tasted it yet, and wouldn’t actually be tasting it until dinner at my parents’ house. It smelled great, so that was another plus for this dessert-to-be.

I packed it up, put it in the car (and by put it in the car, I mean forced my fiancé to hold it precariously in his lap for the entire ride) and headed off to my parents’, hoping all the way that it didn’t suck.

it's a pie in a box.

it’s a pie in a box.

After what seemed like an eternity, the time of coffee and dessert finally arrived. I removed the pie from it’s protective vessel (i.e., the box) and placed it gingerly in the center of the table. Based on looks alone, my mom offered up the “fancy” dessert plates for serving. I went ahead and cut the first slice.

piece out.

piece out.

After we each had a piece in front of us, we simultaneously took the plunge. “We’re all in this together,” I thought, “in delicious bliss or nauseating horror.”

Delicious bliss, it was. The pie was a shoo-in all along! 😉

 

As promised (of course I didn’t forget!), here’s the recipe for my from-scratch pie dough, if you’d like to give it a whirl.

Pie Dough.

What you’ll need:

10 oz flour

7 oz shortening

3 oz cold water

1 tsp salt

1/2 oz sugar

What you’ll do:

Sift the flour into a large mixing bowl. Cut in the shortening, until the mixture is the consistency of cornmeal. In a separate small bowl, dissolve the salt and sugar in the water. Add the water to the flour mixture, and mix gently by hand, until everything is combined. Do not overwork the dough! Roll the dough into a ball, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least two hours before using. When it’s ready, remove the dough, roll it out until it’s 1/4″ thick, and cut a large enough circle to cover the bottom and sides of a 9″ aluminum pie (which is what I used). Bake as directed in the pie recipe. You should have extra dough for more pies!

Cupcake Decorating Teacher for Hire!

cupcake class flyer

The Lamb Cake Gets a Makeover.

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Easter was over a week ago. I know. I’m a little behind…again. But seriously, this time I have a legitimate excuse – I have a wedding to plan! And although I’m writing a week late, I did actually make the Lamb Cake for Easter, I just haven’t had a chance to tell the world about it yet. This is the 4th year of the Lamb Cake; the 4th year since my Aunt Cetta gave me the lamb-shaped pan, and I decided to make it my job henceforth to bake the traditional Easter Lamb Cake every year going forward.

the pan where it all started.

the pan where it all started.

Over the years, the Lamb Cake has evolved, Year 1, I was just learning how to make this thing happen. Year 2, I played around a little and made some adjustments, Year 3, I had a near disaster, but managed to save the Lamb and maintain good form. This year, I was tired of the same old Lamb. I wanted something a little different. Plus it was also my fiance’s (I’m still getting used to saying that) birthday, so I wanted to make the Lamb out of things that he would like. He’d been asking me to make him a red velvet cake for a while now, so, I seized the opportunity to make the inside of the Lamb red velvet. Why didn’t I think of this before! Anyway, with red velvet insides, I needed something that worked on the outside. Instead of piping the Lamb with swirls of buttercream, I flat-iced it with a thin layer of my signature buttercream , then coated it with coconut flakes.

flakey.

flakey.

The coconut complimented the red velvet innards quite nicely, if I do say so. I put the Lamb in a box, and we carted it off to my parents’ house for Easter dinner. When it was time for dessert, I added a little something extra, to make it a little more birthday cake-like.

birthday lamb.

now it’s a party.

We devoured it as usual, until only the head remained (I will not subject you to the gruesome photographic evidence).

Until next year….

Two Cookie Cakes, One Recipe.

I’m all about saving time and reducing waste. So last week, when I realized I had to make not one, but two cakes for two entirely separate events, I started thinking of ways I could somehow lessen the work and the waste, while still pleasing both cake recipients. Event #1 was my anniversary; the recipient of this cake being my boyfriend. Now at first I thought maybe I would just make him a batch of cookies – he absolutely adores my chocolate chip cookies. Event #2 was my dad’s birthday; the recipient of this cake being (obviously) my dad. My dad is not a dessert fan, but he does have a few things he enjoys – gingerbread, lady fingers, cookies.. COOKIES! There was the common thread. But I had really wanted to make my dad an actual cake that I could write on….COOKIE CAKES! And so it was written.

My standard chocolate chip cookie recipe made two cookie cakes – one 10″  and one 8″. As they cooled, I started mixing up some colors for the decorating portion of tonight’s show.

the colors of the wind (or icing).

the colors of the wind (or icing).

I decided to use the larger cake for the anniversary, for two reasons: 1. like I said, my dad doesn’t eat too many sweets, and 2. I wanted to eat some too. I went with the blue theme for this one.

i guess that's why they call it the blues.

i guess that’s why they call it the blues.

I went with a complimentary dark purple for accents and writing.

complimentary.

complimentary.

Don’t for a second think that I wasn’t thinking ahead here. For my dad’s cake, I chose light yellow.

they call me mellow yellow.

they call me mellow yellow.

Which also looks great with a dark purple.

purple planning.

purple planning.

Both cakes were a hit! My boyfriend liked his so much, he ate a piece for breakfast.

the breakfast of champions.

the breakfast of champions.

And then asked me to marry him. 🙂

must've been something in the cake...

must’ve been something in the cake…

I guess it’s true what the say about the way to a man’s heart. 😉

 

The Making of a Birthday Cake: One Cake’s Story on How it Became a Birthday Sensation.

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So, I made a birthday cake for my mom – her birthday was yesterday. As I was making it, i took a ton of photos and documented it’s progress from generic un-decorated cake layers, to celebrated birthday star. Here is one cake’s journey, in photos, from average unknown plain jane, to birthday stardom.

Stage 1: assemble the layers.

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Top one layer with buttercream, spread it out evenly, and place the other layer on top.

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Stage 2: Ice the entire cake.

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Smooth it out, but be sure to save some icing to color for decorating.

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Stage 3: adding shell border and flowers.

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Color your icing as you see fit. I chose a kind of mauve-y tone for the flowers and border, and a light green for the leaves.

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Stage 4: Personalize.

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This cake was for my mom, so I added the appropriate message.

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Stage 5: eat and enjoy!!

More Fun With Chocolate Pumpkin…

pumpkin cake

I was so pleased with how the Chocolate Pumpkin Muffins turned out, that I decided to use the same recipe to make a birthday cake for a friend (minus the cream cheese filling). I made a small 6 inch cake, cut into two layers, and iced it with a chocolate buttercream. I went extra light on the chocolate in the main icing, and used a more chocolate-y darker icing for the piping details to make them stand out, giving it that kind of two-tone effect.

it's deeper shade brown.  yeah, yeah.

it’s deeper shade of brown. yeah, yeah.

Being that the cake was, in fact, made with pumpkin, I thought I’d add some pumpkin-themed decorations as well. So I crafted a small pumpkin out of fondant, and surrounded it with fondant leaves in fall colors. I forgot just how much I love playing with fondant…it’s like edible Play-Doh. I guess in theory, actual Play-Doh is edible. At least, I think most kids have eaten it at some point. But either way, it’s not as tasty as fondant.

fall fondant fun.

fall fondant fun.

So, The cake turned out pretty close to the way I had envisioned, and I proudly presented it to my friend on his special day. And then we cut it, ate it, and lived happily ever after (for at least the rest of the day).

There’s Always Time for Key Lime Pie.

I really wanted to make a pie for the 4th of July this year. I had a few parties/barbecues to attend, and thought a pie would be a perfect contribution. Cupcakes are great, but I just made two batches recently and really felt like trying something I hadn’t done in a while. And I hadn’t made a pie at home from scratch since probably at least Christmas – so a pie it must be.

Deciding on what type of pie was another story. I thought, hmm…blueberry is probably the most traditional for this time of year. I have a good recipe for it, too. But it just didn’t feel quite right. It was a good choice, yes – but it wasn’t making my toes tingle or my eyebrows raise. But then, I thought of it – the king of summer pies – the pie to lead all other pies into pie battle – the Key Lime Pie.

pie 1

o captain, my captain.

I used a combination of this recipe I found online, but I altered the method of production based on previous pie baking experience, including whipping the egg yolks until they are light yellow before mixing in the other ingredients.  And…I made the crust from scratch using my favorite crust recipe.

Having never made a Key Lime Pie at home before, I was just a little bit nervous – especially since my plan was to whisk this one out the door and to a gathering immediately upon completion – so there was no room for error.  When I removed it from the oven, it appeared to be intact – the best way to tell with a key lime pie is to lightly shake it back and forth – if it doesn’t jiggle, it’s done. It passed the shake test.

baked and shaked.

baked and shaked.

However, I couldn’t just bring it without anything on top. I wanted to make whipped cream – but I really had no time. What I did have, was some leftover lemon buttercream, from my last baking project…..I had an idea.

I didn’t want a heavy topping, but the lemon buttercream would be perfect, flavor-wise. So, I compromised.

a little dab'll do ya.

a little dab’ll do ya.

It worked. The pie was a hit, the buttercream was a perfect fit, and we even got to see some fireworks. All in all, a great 4th of July weekend was had in 2013 – and the pie definitely played a “key” role in that (ha ha – see what i did there?).