baking, cooking

Hey! You got your chocolate in my peanut butter!

I try very hard to adhere to my Birthday Cake Rule (longtime readers, you know what I’m talking about!), but every so often, a wrench gets thrown into the works.  Take my dad’s July birthday; the first thought that popped into my head was, “Ugh, it’s too darned hot to bake!”

(In all fairness, I had that same thought last year and took what I thought was an easy out by ordering an ice cream cake from Dairy Queen.  Their regular decorator was on vacation – though no one told us this when we special-ordered it a week in advance – and the resulting dessert fell firmly into the “can’t-sleep-clown-will-eat-me” nightmare category.  But hey, all cats are grey in the dark, right?)

To my credit, I had a plan this year.  I had made the Peanut Butter Cup Icebox Cake from the Brown Eyed Baker for Father’s Day, and it was a resounding success.  Chocolate and peanut butter appear to be the way to his heart – so why not make it again?

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I’ve started to think of this as my “cardio cake” (which is really stretching to make something sound far healthier than it really is): because the instructions indicate that each layer needs to chill in the fridge while the next one is prepared, and because there’s never a 9 x 13″ chunk of spare real estate in the upstairs fridge, I had to keep running it down to the basement fridge for its solitary confinement and then back down to retrieve it when I was ready to proceed.

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But was it worth it?  Just look at those layers of chocolate-peanut butter-y goodness!

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It does generate a lot of dishes – and necessitates the dirtying of that clunky monster, the food processor – but for a cool and creamy finish to your meal, you could do a lot worse!

As always, thanks for looking! 🙂

baking, Cross-stitch and Embroidery

Happy Birthday from the Muskrat

I know I’ve disappeared for the last month – January seems to have gotten away from me, but I was quite pleased with myself for having been able to post at least one handmade/home-baked item per month last year, and had no intention of letting my streak disappear!

My mom celebrated a birthday recently, and those of you who follow me regularly know my Birthday Rule.  Obviously there was going to be a homemade cake of some kind; it just took me a while to decide which kind.  I had contemplated tiramisu (vanilla cake, coffee, Kahlua, chocolate shavings) in all its adult glory, but finally decided I needed something chocolate-based.  No matter how fancy I get, she always seems to like my plain chocolate cake/cupcakes best of all.  I got the idea to make a chocolate buttercream frosting laced with raspberry syrup (the latte kind, not the pancake kind), with fresh raspberries for garnish.

Cake 1

Cake 2

But the true stroke of genius, in my obviously completely unbiased opinion, was to place some raspberries on top of the bottom layer once it had been frosted.  It reminded me of some of the fruit tortes from store bakeries, and adds a really nice bit of flavour and texture where one might not expect it.

Cake 3

I also had the perfect birthday card in mind: a Margaret Sherry illustration from The World of Cross Stitching a few months back.  It features a sweet little mouse presenting his hedgehog friend with a birthday cake.

Hedgehog Mouse Card

When I showed it to one of the other party guest, he commented, “Aw, look at the cute little muskrat!”  I’m not sure he was joking.

Also, update on my grammar hoop: I finally got to give it to its intended recipient this week, and he loves it.  He’s displayed it proudly at work, only to have one of his coworkers ask him: “Do you really do it silently?”  Maybe not always…

baking, Cross-stitch and Embroidery, Other Crafts

Pink cake and orange cat

Hello there!

My mom had her birthday at the end of January, but due to work scheduling, I wound up having to make her cake the weekend before.  I saw the basic idea in an old issue of Woman’s World, which is a magazine that I would generally never, ever buy – except that this issue had featured adorable Hello Kitty cupcakes on the front cover, and I had been unable to resist it.  They also had a layer-cake version of the cupcakes inside, but their recipe used something like four egg whites in the batter and another two in the icing, with no mention of what to do with the yolks, so I quickly dispensed with that idea and instead used my trusty vanilla cupcake recipe from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World as well as the fluffy buttercream icing from the same.  I also thought I might leave the kawaii characters off the cake, and maybe give it a more mature vibe.  Because nothing says “mature” like pink cake, right?

Ombre Cake 1

I, of course, did not think to get a picture of it while it was intact and free from candle holes.

Ombre Cake 2

Holy ombre, Batman!  I used varying ratios of gel food colours to get the different shades, and they worked like a charm.

Ombre Cake 3

That’s a chocolate-cream cheese filling between layers.  Since the cake itself is just vanilla and not overly sweet, it provided a nice balance and helped keep it moist for the next few days until we could get it all eaten.

She had to wait a couple more days to get the rest of her birthday goodies.  I always try to make a handmade card of some sort:

Surprised Hedgehog

And when I first saw this design on Urban Threads, I knew it had to be made into a t-shirt:

Meow Shirt

I did him in orange to look like her big ol’ furbaby.  He’s painted on – not embroidered – and I think the blue really makes him pop!

Thanks for looking – have a wonderful weekend!

baking, Cross-stitch and Embroidery

Take me right back to the track, Jack!

Where does the time go?  One day, I was stitching up Christmas ornaments, and now, poof!  Finals, summer birthdays, that feeling of irritation that occurs when you upgrade your operating system only to find out that none of your (admittedly embarrassingly rudimentary) Windows XP software will run on Windows 8.1….

But I digress.

My dad celebrated a birthday a few weeks back, and in keeping with my Birthday Cake Rule*, I knew I had to come up with something good.  I had seen this cake on the Brown Eyed Baker some time ago and had been wanting to try it for a while.  Here’s my take:

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Since my dad is just a wee bit (ha!) older than the BEB’s birthday boy, I passed on the rainbow cake in favour of something just a little more adult.

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This is my modification of the basic chocolate cupcake recipe from…wait for it…Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World.  It’s rich and moist without being too sweet, nice and light, and goes down easy.  Absolutely worth skipping a half-day of classes to make!

I also took a break from needling away at the rather large needlepoint project that’s been occupying my leisure time to stitch him a card.  I saw the pattern in an issue of The World of Cross Stitching, and he rather reminded me of my parents’ cat.

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*The Birthday Cake Rule, for the uninitiated: If you really love someone, you’ll make them a birthday cake, or pie, or cookies, or other dessert of choice, from scratch.  None of this store-bakery sheet-cake stuff.

baking

The Faux-stess with the Mostess – Birthday Edition

What happened?  One minute I was basking in the glory that is a month off from any real grown-up responsibility, and the next thing I know: Wham!  I’m thrown headfirst into school, and all the assorted homework and studying that accompanies it.  I’m still not sure what happened to January.

My regular readers will be familiar with my Birthday Rule; that is, if you don’t make someone a homemade cake/cupcakes/pie/cookies/whatever, you don’t really care about them.  So, school craziness aside, I knew that last weekend I’d be whipping up something for my mom’s birthday.

I had toyed with the idea of a blue velvet redux, using a different recipe and significantly less food colouring than the last time, but my mom is one who, if I make marble cupcakes, will ask why there’s so much more white cake than chocolate.  So, chocolate it was.  My mock-Hostess cupcakes always go over so well, that I decided to try a layer-cake version.

Hostess Cake 1

That’s two layers of deep, dark chocolate cake (the basic chocolate cupcake from VCTOTW, doubled and baked in 8-inch round pans), with a generous layer of vanilla buttercream in between, and smothered in rich ganache.

Hostess Cake 2

All purtied up…

Hostess Cake 3

The Pac-Man shot. 🙂

The birthday girl loved it; I picked up some vanilla ice cream to go with it, just for her, and within a few days only a few crumbs were left.

baking, Cross-stitch and Embroidery

Birthday Quickie

Ha!  You thought this was going to be something salacious, didn’t you?  Get your mind out of the gutter; this is a wholesome, family-friendly post.  Literally, actually, since it was my mom’s birthday the other day, and I’ve only just gotten around to posting pictures.

Since the birth-flower for January is the carnation, I snapped up this mini-kit when I saw it at my local needlework shop a few months ago, figuring it was a card just waiting to happen:

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The corally-pink card, although not exactly a match for the flowers, matches almost exactly the top I bought her.  She claims this was a deliberate theme; I claim coincidence.

But what’s a birthday without cake?  After all, you don’t really care for someone if you don’t bake them a birthday cake, yadda yadda, you’ve heard this before.  After drooling over pretty much all the cakes in Kris Holechek’s Have Your Cake and Vegan Too, I decided on the Almond Mocha Cake.  It’s like an almond mochaccino in cake form!

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Layers of moist almond cake with a rich chocolate ganache in between, and topped off with a coffee buttercream?  Yes, please!

We started the day with banana-split French toast, but that disappeared before I could get my camera…

And now, I’m off for a piece of cake…

baking

There’s a little fun in every bite

Remember my theory that if you don’t make homemade birthday dessert of some sort for someone, you don’t really care about them?  Well, a while ago, knowing that a certain someone had a birthday coming up, I asked him what his absolute favourite dessert was.  You know the one I mean – you could be in a restaurant, totally stuffed from a huge dinner, but when this rolls by on the dessert cart, you have to have it.

Why ask him so far in advance?  I wanted to give myself time to locate/perfect/veganize a recipe if necessary.  If he had replied, “Chocolate soufflé” or, “There’s this really awesome cake that my mother used to make – I don’t think it has an English name; my copy of the recipe is in its original German”, I was going to be prepared, darn it!  You can only imagine my surprise when, after mulling it over for a few seconds, he offered, “You know, I’m kind of partial to vanilla.  Not a big fan of chocolate, but there’s something about vanilla.”

Don’t get me wrong; I totally understand the appeal that is the blank canvas of an unadulterated vanilla ice cream cone.  It’s simple, pure, and wonderful.  But vanilla for a birthday cake just seemed so…uninspired.  (And frankly, not much of a challenge, but this isn’t about me.)  Still, if it was vanilla he wanted, it was vanilla he was going to get.  I only wished there was some way I could jazz it up a little bit.  A week or so later, it hit me: homemade funfetti cake!  He’d still get all the vanilla flavour, but with a far more celebratory look!  (It probably goes without saying that this is the basic vanilla recipe from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World, my staple for all things delicious and cupcake-y.)

A little blue raspberry icing to seal the deal and make them look a little more manly (?).

A closeup.  Besides looking manly, the blue frosting complemented the blue ice cream cones on the liners.

The inside!  The coloured-sugar sequins I bought to use as confetti melted during baking for all the colour without the crunch.

All packed up and ready to deliver to the birthday boy!

By now, you might be asking, “Yo, Witty Child, what’s up with your cake toppers?”

I chose Gummi Bears because the birthday boy likes them (this is about him, after all), but also because I saw this cake at Marble Slab Creamery and thought it was pretty:

Birthday Bonanza Cake

(But soooo not worth the cost, or the dairy/cholesterol factor.)

Oh, and the Saran-Wrapped coins?  This particular birthday was the double nickel, so two 2012 five-cent pieces seemed appropriate.

baking

A birthday without a cake…

…is like pillaging without burning?  No, that can’t be right…

But I do have a theory that if I don’t make somebody a birthday cake (note: cupcakes, cheesecakes, and pies are all perfectly acceptable alternatives), I don’t truly care about them.  So for my dad’s birthday a few days ago, I made him the Peanut Butter Chocolate Dream Cake from Kris Holechek’s Have Your Cake and Vegan Too.

It’s a fairly standard chocolate cake with a peanut butter filling in between the layers and topped off with a chocolate-peanut butter ganache – garnish as desired.  The recipe was easy to follow, and the cake easy to assemble; if and when I do it again, the only thing I’ll do differently is grease-and-cocoa the pans instead of greasing-and-flouring them, to avoid that flour residue (since it’s not frosted all over, it does kinda show).

And yes, I probably will make it again.  Not only did the birthday boy love it, but it went over extremely well with my omnivorous coworkers, too.  Such is the power of chocolate and peanut butter together.

baking

Margarita Cupcakes – After Dark

I remember now why I like quick, small crafty projects: instant gratification.  For example, right now I’m working on a rather large (14″ x 14″) needlepoint.  Although I’m genuinely loving every stitch, and it really is progressing at a reasonable clip, I still have nothing completed to show for my efforts.  Ditto my recovering project.  Waiting for my not-so-silent partner to hold up his end of things means I don’t yet have an awesome “finished” photo.  For someone who blogs about her crafty exploits, it can be frustrating.

Thank heavens for cupcakes.  Who doesn’t like foodporn photos of cute, tender little cups of love?

And look!  With a different finish than usual!  I usually follow the prescribed decorating from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World; that is, a demure little layer of icing spread evenly on top while coloured sugar coyly mimics the salted rim of a real margarita.  (This can be seen in an earlier post.)  Somehow, though, the fluffy piped swirls and haphazardly sprinkled sugar just scream, “Fiesta!”  Perfect, since I’ll be taking four to a coworker who has just a) turned the big 6-0 and b) announced her rapidly approaching retirement.

Public opinion will determine whether this flirty new approach sticks.  I’m sure my test subjects can hardly wait.

baking, Cross-stitch and Embroidery

Paws up for birthday cake!

What is it with Margaret Sherry and cute cat designs?  While flipping through a back issue of Cross Stitcher magazine on New Year’s Eve (is that a debaucherous evening or what?), I found the perfect design to turn into a card for my mom’s birthday.  While the red velvet pancakes were charring cooking, she opened a rather unassuming white envelope to find this staring back at her:

I used 18-count fabric instead of 14 as called for by the magazine to get it to fit in the card, and used random colours that looked close enough to those on the model – perfect way to use what I had laying around.  I love the concerned look on his face, and promised to use fewer candles on her birthday cake – if only by one.

(Please excuse the “arty” shot.)

I don’t think the cake could have been any simpler to make: a double batch of the basic chocolate cupcakes from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World, divided between two round layer pans, topped with a coffee-and-Kahlua’ed version of the chocolate buttercream frosting from the same.  Because I had serious doubts about my ability to wield a tube of decorating gel, I had the foresight to trace the words onto the top using a toothpick, and then follow the lines.  Hey, it may not be terribly skillful, but it worked.

And now that it’s all over, I get to breathe easy again, at least until Mother’s Day.