Sunday, June 28, 2009

My first "real" cake

This past Sunday was Father's day and we took the opportunity to also celebrate my wife's brother's (Mark) birthday. I decided to practice some of my new cake knowledge on the family and give me a little practice before I have to make my son Victor's birthday cake in July.
I didn't know what Mark's favorite Disney character was so I had to come up with something else. Mark is a union pipe fitter. I didn't know exactly what a pipe fitter looked like on the job but you can see what I came up with. The grey/black border to the cake is supposed to be pipe. The little guy has a welding mask and is holding a candle as a makeshift welding torch.
The cake was a yellow cake and it turned out a lot better than the past few cakes I had made. I was almost ready to turn to a box cake after the past two scratch cakes I made. I filled the cake with a fresh strawberry french cream. The frosting is all the Wilton buttercream recipe only with a lot less Crisco and a lot more butter ( not as pure white but it taste better). The welder and tank were made from a fondant/gum paste mix. Doesn't look like an Ace of Cakes cake but I was very happy with how it came out. I think it looked pretty good and it tasted good as well - especially the strawberry cream.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Barefoot Bloggers: Gazpacho

As I said in my last post Gazpacho is not something my wife would go for. She is not a tomato person and she doesn't like peppers at all. I did kind of want to try this though and not just skip the recipe. I decided to make it on father's day when we had other people over that could try it.
The recipe was very easy - you just throw everything in the food processor (one at a time) and give it a few pulses.
I should have thought about it a little because the recipe makes a lot - a least if you are not serving it as a main course. I wasn't really making it one of my main dishes on father's day since I knew a lot of people would not like it. I just figured I would let those that wanted to try it have it as a little appetizer. Well I totally forgot about it. While I was cleaning things off the table I noticed the bowl in the fridge so it was a little bit of an after thought. I tried it along with my Mom and my sister. I don't think anyone really loved it. I thought it was OK but it wasn't anything that I would just gobble up because it was sooo good. My sister thought it would have been better as a dip than as a soup. I think I agree with that - add a few hot peppers and it would be a good salsa.
I did still have a lot left over and my wife thought it might go over at her work. Well apparently it did. Everyone finished it off and we even got a few requests for the recipe. I guess she got the dip comment there as well. It won't go on my list to make in the future but I am glad other people liked it.
Thanks to Meryl from My Bit of Earth for this months recipe. I will be watching to see what she thinks of the recipe.

Serves 4 to 6

  • 1 hothouse cucumber, halved and seeded, but not peeled
  • 2 red bell peppers, cored and seeded
  • 4 plum tomatoes
  • 1 red onion
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 23 ounces tomato juice (3 cups)
  • 1/4 cup white wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup good olive oil
  • 1/2 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
  1. Roughly chop the cucumbers, bell peppers, tomatoes, and red onions into 1-inch cubes. Put each vegetable separately into a food processor fitted with a steel blade and pulse until it is coarsely chopped. Do not overprocess!
  2. After each vegetable is processed, combine them in a large bowl and add the garlic, tomato juice, vinegar, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Mix well and chill before serving. The longer gazpacho sits, the more the flavors develop.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Wilton Fondant Class: Final Cake

Well here it is - the final cake for my Wilton Fondant class. As a lot of people know fondant is not the most delicious frosting. It looks better than it tastes. In the class we were told to buy the pre-made Wilton fondant. For my final cake I thought I would try to do something different to see if I could make a fondant cake that I liked. If you look there are a lot of different fondants you can buy or make. The class instructor said making fondant was a lot of work but I found a recipe online that didn't seem too difficult. You just melt marshmallows and knead in a lot of confectioners sugar.

You can see the final outcome in the cake above. The homemade fondant was probably a little harder to work with - a little "stretchier" than the store bought Wilton fondant - but it was still pretty easy to use. I can't say it was easy to make. If you have ever mixed rice crispy squares by hand you know how messy it can get kneading melted marshmallows. I would have to say it
was worth it though. The fondant tasted a little better in my opinion, basically straight sugar taste so still not as good as some other frostings. It was a lot more tender than the store bought so you didn't feel like you needed to chew your frosting as much.

I've also got some photos of different gum paste items we made in class. I kind of doubt most of these will come in handy making
birthday cakes for my son but maybe I will get to use them someday. For anyone thinking they would like to get a little better at cake decorating I would highly recommend these classes. There are four separate classes (I have only taken two) and they are offered at Michaels and Joann stores here. I think you can find local classes at the site.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Barefoot Bloggers: Curried Couscous

I was a little worried about this months Barefoot Blogger recipes. They are both recipes that I knew would be scary to my wife Lara. This is the first of the scary recipes. I knew it would be scary for several reasons:
  • She doesn't like yogurt.
  • She doesn't like nuts.
  • She doesn't like curry.
  • She doesn't like raisins.
I think that's the whole list but I think that makes more things that she doesn't like than likes in this recipe - not very good odds.

The recipe calls for raisins or dried currents. I have no idea where you would find dried currents so I decided to mix it up a little with dried cranberries. When I went to put everything together Lara sees me and asks if I was going to leave out the dressing, dried cranberries, nuts, and onions for her! I compromised and left out the nuts for her but left everything else.

The salad was a surprise hit. Lara even said it was good. The curry flavor was very muted and wasn't at all scary. There was only a 1/4 cup of yogurt so it was not even noticeable - just added a little moistness. Lara even said the dried cranberries were good in it. I think even though it had a lot of things she would not eat by themselves there was not too much of anything and all the flavors blended very well.

I enjoyed the salad a lot too. I think I will probably have to make it for a picnic or two this summer and see how it goes over. The dried currents sound good but if you can't find them I think the dried cranberries were a nice substitution - and they added a little bit of color.

Thanks to Ellyn of Recipe Tester and Collector for this months selection. It looks this recipe is a family favorite for her - thanks for sharing with all of us.

Curried Couscous
(Source: The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook, page 94)
Serves 6

  • 1 1/2 cups couscous
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 cups boiling water
  • 1/4 cup plain yogurt
  • 1/4 cup good olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon curry powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup small-diced carrots
  • 1/2 cup minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/2 cup dried currants or raisins
  • 1/4 cup blanched, sliced almonds
  • 2 scallions, thinly sliced (white and green parts)
  • 1/4 cup small-diced red onion
  1. Place the couscous in a medium bowl. Melt the butter in the boiling water and pour over the couscous. Cover tightly and allow the couscous to soak for 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork.
  2. Whisk together the yogurt, olive oil, vinegar, curry, turmeric, salt, and pepper. Pour over the fluffed couscous, and mix well with a fork. Add the carrots, parsley, currants, almonds, scallions, and red onions, mix well, and season to taste. Serve at room temperature.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Wilton Fondant Class: FrankenCake

I took the Wilton I course a couple of months ago and it was a lot of fun so I decided it was time for a little more. I decided to check out the fondant and gum paste class. Fondant is the stuff they make a lot of wedding cakes out of and it is the stuff they use to make those perfect cakes on Ace of Cakes if you have ever seen that.

In the class you use rolled fondant and gum paste (or a mix of the two) for everything. Rolled Fondant is stiff and you can mold it or roll it out. Gum paste is the same but a little stronger and dries hard as a rock in a couple of days. The cake above is one that I made in the second week of class. It is a bit of a franken cake - it was more just to practice technique than to make a pretty cake. The blue covering for the cake is fondant and the embellishments are a 50/50 mix of fondant and gum paste. It is the gum paste that makes it stiff enough to let you do things like the draped sheet look in the above cake.

One thing the class makes you realize is that you would never want to make a cake like this. A lot of people don't really like fondant. It is not that it taste bad - it is mostly just sugar. It does have a stiff, chewy texture which I don't think is real pleasing on a cake.

A major reason I am taking these classes is because of my 22 month old son. I am going to be making a lot of birthday cakes in the future. I probably won't make any fondant covered cakes but I may be using some fondant/ gum paste to make little animals or people or whatever. Plus, I assume kids may not care that the texture is not great for frosting if it has enough sugar in it!

Watch next week for my final cake of this class.