Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Sealing Dessert Bar~ Pumpkin Spice w/ Honey Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting, Vanilla Dipped Rice Krispie Treats and Chocolate Fudge Cake Pops

I had the wonderful opportunity of making a dessert spread for my friends' sealing reception a few weeks ago. They were sealed together in the Bountiful Temple. What a great day!...especially when food and dessert is involved!

They had the reception at their private pavilion next to their cozy country home. The setup was beautiful with the rustic wood and brick complimented by the gorgeous granite! It made for a really great background for the dessert bar. The theme we were working off of was "Autumn Inspirations" so naturally the party planners chose Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes with Honey Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting. For a chocolate element we threw in some Chocolate Fudge Cake Pops tied with some festive fall colored ribbon and added some delicious Rice Krispie Treats Dipped in Vanilla because....Why Not?! It was beautiful.

I have been wanting to make some cupcake toppers so I figured this would be the perfect opportunity! I made 3 different toppers customized to the event and they turned out fabulous. I used Microsoft Publisher to design the toppers and printed them at Kinkos on white cardstock. I used a 2 inch round punch to cut them out. InkSpot WorkShop provides a nice beginner tutorial on how to make cupcake toppers that can help get you started. After that you can play around and get creative! I got my inspiration for the cupcake topper designs from The TomKat Studio
Thanks for assembling the cupcake toppers, Jill!
A sillhouette of the Bountiful Temple
These cupcakes were a hit!

 As I have said before, Vanilla Dipped Rice Krispie Treats make the PERFECT dessert bar selection because they are super fun, really easy to make and most important of all.... the TASTIEST! These are usually my favorite item at the dessert bars. Do you honestly know anyone who would turn down a delicious rice krispie treat?!

 Chocolate Fudge Cake Pops are always a favorite. I guess you really can't go wrong with chocolate in general ....right? Slap a stick in some chocolate fudgyness, tie a bow on it and you're good to go....well almost. ;D  I love how these turned out. Magnifique!

It was great to have help drizzling and
assembling the cake pops. Thanks Hope!
What a memorable day filled with family, friends, fun and desserts!

Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes with
Honey Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting

Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes
Yields ~24 cupcakes
1 box spice cake mix
15 oz. can pumpkin (not pumpkin pie mix)
3 large eggs
1/3 cup unsweetened applesauce (or oil)
1/3 cup water
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp pumpkin pie spice

Honey Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting
1/2 cup butter, softened
4 oz. cream cheese (can use reduced fat or regular) 
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 Tbsp. honey
2-4 cups powdered sugar (grocery store brand)
1-2 Tbsp milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 24 muffin cups with cupcake papers.
Blend together the cake mix, pumpkin, eggs, applesauce, water, cinnamon, and pumpkin pie spice on low to medium speed until fully incorporated. Do not beat for too long or the batter will incorporate too much air creating a lighter, spongy texture (unless you like it that way). I prefer these cupcakes to have some solid structure. Pour the batter into the prepared muffin cups about 2/3 full. These do not rise a lot in the oven.
Bake for 12-15 minutes (6-7 minutes for minis) or until it passes the toothpick test.
Remove from oven and allow to cool in pans enough to touch them without burning yourself. Remove from pans and cool completely.

To make your frosting:
Cream the butter and cream cheese until soft and uniform. Add the honey and cinnamon. Gradually add about half the powdered sugar and beat until smooth. Add 2 Tablespoons of milk for a smooth texture. Continue adding powdered sugar until the cinnamon and honey flavors start to fade and the frosting starts to become sweet. I actually do not measure the powdered sugar but adjust to taste usually. It needs to be thick enough to hold up after being piped so if your frosting is still pretty soft and runny then you probably need to add more sugar.

To decorate your sweet cuppin' cakes:
Using a ½ inch plain round tip in a piping bag (or huge ziplock), swirl on the frosting starting from the outside and swirling in. Release the pressure and pull up to create the pointy top. Assemble your cupcake toppers using lollipop sticks and tape and then push into cupcake all the way to the bottom making sure they are straight up and down. Voila!

Vanilla Dipped Rice Krispie Treats

10.5 oz bag of mini marshmallows
6 cups Rice Krispies (Use the original Kellogg's Brand so they stay Rice Krispies and don't become Rice Soggies)
3-4 Tbsp Butter
Vanilla Melting Wafers ( I use Guittard Vanilla Apeels because they are good quality, easily colored and melt to a thin consistency so the shells aren't too thick.)

Put your mallows and butter in a BIG ol' microwave safe bowl and nuke at 30 second intervals, stirring in between with a silicone spoon, until melted thoroughly. Dump in the rice krispies and quickly mix until uniform. Dump the mixture out onto a greased sheet pan (or another container). Remove jewelry, butter up your hands and press the mixture to compact it enough to hold together but not so much that it becomes too dense and hard. The top of the sheet pan edges seem to be the perfect height for these treats. It will take about 3 batches to fill an entire pan but you can just press it into a corner if you only want 1 batch. Let them cool.
Once cool, cut them into whatever size you want. These were about 1.5" x 3". They don't have to be perfect. I just eyeballed it. There might be scraps after you have cut your squares out...again, please test the product for quality assurance purposes.
Allow the marshmallow to set securely before dipping (an hour or two would be nice). Prepare another sheet pan with parchment paper. When ready to dip, melt the vanilla wafers (not to be confused with Nilla Wafers) however you prefer. If you are wanting to color the melt, use oil-based coloring ONLY. Add a little at a time until the desired shade is achieved. Dip the end of the Rice Krispie into the melt about half way and then shake off the excess. Drag the edge of the rice krispie against the bowl to take off the excess. Place onto the parchment and allow to dry. Repeat.
Once they are all done and fairly dry, take the left-over melt and place in a ziplock baggie. Zip the top, twist it to push the melt into a corner and snip a very small piece of the corner off. While pressing evenly, zig zag back and forth over the dipped part of the rice krispie treat. Let dry and Enjoy.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Bridal Shower Desserts~ Pink Ruffle Cake and Rose Cupcakes

Pink Ruffle Cake ~ Yellow Cake with Strawberry Frosting
My best friend, Sonia, just got married! Well, it was almost a month ago but time sure has flown. I threw a bridal shower for her a week before her wedding and the theme was "Sunday, her Prince will come" (based on how her husband proposed to her) so naturally everything had to be Pretty Pretty Princess Pink, from the napkins to the cupcakes!
I just had to do a pink Ruffle Cake because they are so darn cute and perfect for any girly party. This was so much easier than I expected it to be! I will definitely be doing a lot more of these cakes and actually will be doing one for my 2 year old niece's birthday party this weekend!
For this mini cake, I used a 4 inch pan and it turned out absolutely adorable. Of course you can make this any size you want. The flavors were yellow cake and strawberry frosting. I should have shown a picture of the inside. There were 4 layers with strawberry frosting in between.

....and I love my cake stand!

Here is a Tutorial on how to decorate a Ruffle Cake
by My Sweet and Saucy owner.
Click HERE.

I also did Rose Cupcakes out of the same cake and frosting just to make things extra dainty. Again, super easy and it produced a delicious cupcake to frosting ratio.
Rose Cupcakes! Yellow Cake with Strawberry Frosting

I must admit that I did not make the rest of the treats. I bought them. GASP! My brownies died (again....but now I know I can't double that recipe!) so I had to run out and purchase some finished tasty looking fudgy brownies. Luckily, people said they preferred mine... :D
Cream Cheese Brownies
Fudge Brownies
Back to our Fairytale....Sonia's husband proposed to her at Disneyland using this engraved glass slipper (see below). It says, "Myron & Sonia" "Happily Ever After" and the date of their engagement. Sonia loves Disneyland so this was perfect. Way to go Myron! I thought the glass slipper would be the perfect finishing decoration for the ruffle cake.... and Sonia did too when she saw it! Simply elegant and meaningful.

No, I did not make those pink fluffy confections on the left side of the picture below....they are pink snowballs I found at the store and had to put on the table because they were....well....pink. :)


Happily Ever After Dessert Table

Sonia cutting the cake

We set up outside and the day was beautiful! We couldn't ask for much more than that.

Congratulations Sonia!
And finally, the long awaited....

Yellow Cake Recipe:
Yields: 2 x 4 inch cakes and 12 cupcakes 

1 cup unsalted butter
1 ½ cups sugar
8 egg yolks
¾ cup any milk
1 ½ tsp pure vanilla extract
8 oz (2 cups) cake flour
1 tsp baking powder
½ teaspoon fine sea salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease two 4 inch round cake pans and place cupcake liners in 1 cupcake tin. Mix together the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg yolks one at a time. Stir in vanilla. Beat in the flour mixture (3 portions) alternating with the milk (2 portions). Start and end with the dry ingredients. Mix only until incorporated. The batter will be thick.
Pour batter into cake pans half full and divide into cupcake liners filling half full as well.
Bake all pans in the oven for 25-30 minutes (cupcakes will be done in ~12 minutes) or until the tops springs back when lightly touched or the cake passes the toothpick test. Cool completely in the pans.
Once cool, turn cakes out onto flat surface. Cut the round top off of the cakes using a long serrated knife and cutting horizontally. Eat the scraps for quality assurance. :) Cut the cakes in half horizontally to create a total of 4 layers. To make the frosting process easier you can refrigerate the cakes now but it is not absolutely necessary.

Strawberry Frosting
Yields: Enough for 2 dozen cupcakes or a 4 inch mini ruffle cake and 12 cupcakes

5 oz (1 cup) fresh or frozen strawberries (thawed)
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, firm and slightly cold
1 cup butter flavored shortening
Pinch of salt
875 g (7 cups) confectioners' sugar (Can use less if desiring less sweetness)
1 tsp pure vanilla extract

*NOTE: Your strawberry frosting will only be as good as your strawberries. If your strawberries don't have much flavor, that is how your frosting will taste also. Make sure your strawberries are in season.*
Puree strawberries in a food processor. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the butter and salt on medium speed until soft. Reduce speed and slowly add the powdered sugar; beat until well combined. Add vanilla. Add about 3-5 tablespoons strawberry puree or until desired flavor is reached making sure you don't put in too much puree that your consistency changes or your frosting breaks. Mix until well blended.
This frosting recipe can be very sweet as well as tart from the strawberries. It is extremely flavorful and tasty! A trick to make it less sweet if desired is to use the store's cheaper brand of powdered sugar because it has less sugar and more cornstarch than C&H sugar.
The frosting color in the photos is naturally pink from the strawberries but you may add food coloring to achieve your desired shade of pink.

Assemble the Cake:
Place the first cake layer on a 6 inch round cake board and pipe or spread a thin layer of frosting on top. smooth out with an offset spatula. Place the 2nd layer and repeat until all the layers are stacked and covered in frosting. Pipe or spread frosting along the sides of the cake by holding the spatula vertically attempting not to get crumbs mixed up in the frosting (this is just for good practice really. This cake wouldn't matter if you had crumbs in the "prime coat" of frosting). Smooth all the edges out as well as the top. This is easiest done with a turntable. Make sure the top looks nice if you are not going to cover it with another layer of frosting like in my pictures above. Place the cake in the freezer or fridge until it is firm to the touch (overnight is fine). Once you reach this point you are ready to decorate the cake with ruffles as shown in the video above.

Decorate the Cupcakes:
To frost the cupcake you will want a 1M (or 2D or similar) tip in a piping bag. Beginning in the middle of the cupcake, hold the bag vertically and pipe evenly around in circles until you reach the outside of the cupcake and then release the pressure and drag the tail around so it is sort of hidden. That's it! Viola! A Rose! Crazy Easy, huh!?

Birthday Chocolate Caramel Macarons

My friend's mom had a birthday recently! So I whipped up some Chocolate Caramel Macarons because she has never had a macaron and wanted to try these.

After accidentally neglecting my boiling caramel (oops!), I tried to short-cut and buy premade caramel sauce but it just wasn't the same. The caramel tasted completely different than mine. I should know better.....tsk....tsk... They were still pretty tasty of course....and were devoured quickly.
Happy Birthday Susan!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Sara Samples Scotland 2011

Finally! I am finally posting about my trip to Scotland over a month ago! I have been so busy with bridal showers and weddings... but more on those later.
....was oh so amazing. It was sooo much better than I even imagined for so many reasons. I absolutely love the culture and the people and let me tell you, their food was absolutely AMAZING!
I know, I know, Scotland really isn't known for their fine cuisine but when it comes to comfort food, you can't beat it.... not even Paula Dean and her extra stick of butta.
I will just tell you some of the amazing foods I tried and then we will move onto the course you are all waiting for.... dessert. 

On the Menu: 
Haggis (yes I loved it... both times!), Neeps and Tatties
Chicken Goujons
Steak and Ale Pie
Fish and Chips
Gammon with Fried Egg or Pineapple
AmazAZing Onion Rings
Breaded Mushrooms
Sausage Rolls
and last (and definitely one of the best) Crumpets!

And so we begin.....
We started off our adventure with a lovely stroll through the Gallery in Glasgow in which my radar sensed a baking store. I was like a kid in a candy store!....well I do go crazy in candy stores too but never you mind. Of course I had to explore.... and buy something.... and so I adopted a lovely set of crumpet rings.
Sara in front of a cooking/baking supply store in the Buchanan Galleries
Next to George Square in Glasgow is the "Style Mile"....a bunch of fancy pants clothing stores, but amidst the rough I found a diamond.... down a dark and shady alleyway..... under a striped tent! My friend here sold a million different types of fudge, gummy candies and more! I asked him what his best sellers were and he said the Bailey's and Chocolate Covered Fudge.... he wasn't lying! I paced myself and only bought the two types of fudge and some delectable bon bons. One of the many things I loved was how they sell their sugary treats in little plastic baggies. A little sketchy but So cute!
One of the few vendors that allowed me to take their picture!

I bought some Fudgelicious Homemade Fudge ~ Baileys
You can see below that many of the fudges were made out of different types of alcohol especially whisky. :)
Chocolate Coated Creamy Fudge.
In case y'all didn't know. Bon Bons and I go way back. Ever since I started selling them in French class.... I have been addicted. I think I ate more than I sold. Bon Bons have a special place in my heart.... and stomach.
Raspberry Bon Bons.
On the way home from church on Sunday, we stopped for tea (dinner) at a little cafe called BeanScene. My subconscious radar must have been on because little did I know I would be walking into a shop that held one of my favorite treats of the trip. Chocolate Tiffin. It is made of crumbled digestibles (biscuits), raisins and chocolate (among a few other minor ingredients). Sounds gross I know but it was oh-so-amazing. I couldn't believe it. It was rich heaven in between my fingertips. This is one recipe you may be seeing in the near future if I can find one that does it justice.
I had an awesome hot dog on a baguette and it was so tasty and smokey. Mmmmmm.

Jillian decided to feast on a tart for dessert. It was tasty as well.
I loved browsing the aisles in the local shopping market because they had such funny and interesting candy and treats that were often a similar version of one in the US.

Mambas or Maoams?!
Some of the interesting candies I found while I was over there. I noticed that most of their gummy candies were very bland and really not very sweet or sour. It lacked the luster that I love so much but it was fun to try!

Another of my most sacred finds was the caramel shortbread, which they had everywhere! This was the hot shortbread to sell in your cafe or restaurant... and for good reason! I will also being trying to find an amazing recipe for this one! Doesn't it just look amazing (you will have to excuse the appearance, it was in a take home bag. It was beautiful when it went in!)
Caramel Shortbread
Next to the Galleries there was  a very long road of very busy shops. Amongst them was a cute bakery and tea room! The front end had a traditional bakery but in the back of the store was a neat little tea area where you could sit and have tea and a pastry. I love the idea.

One thing I love is sausage rolls. Back in the day I worked at a bakery (Leslie's French Pastries) as a bakery girl and I loved their sausage rolls! The owners were actually Scottish so they sold meat pies and sausage rolls along side their petit fours and eclairs. :)
What is a sausage roll you ask? Below you will see me partaking of said sausage roll. It was tasty.
One happy puppy!
Delicious sausage in a flaky pastry pocket
You can sea the sign in the back that says "Tea Room"

The front bakery was so cute!

They sold some things that were similar to American bakeries such as cupcakes, cakes, cookies, petit fours but they also had a very large selection of truffles, chocolates, tarts, cream filled donut things, shortbread (not as much as I thought though) and other desserts I couldn't even identify. I loved it!

Cupcakes on display in their front window
6 cupcakes for 4.99 pounds. This is about $8.50 USD

Along the same strip was another shop but it was closed already (All the shops close at 6pm!). I just thought the name was really cute. They had another location in the gallery and they sold chocolates....obviously. 
When I saw this store (below), I busted up laughing! Americandy. I wanted to check it out to see if they really had stuff that we sold here. They did! The most intriguing part of this visit was actually the beverages they sold. Apparently you cannot buy Root Beer or Mountain Dew anywhere in Scotland except for the imported shops like the one below. A single can of Mountain Dew goes for 1.50 pounds. That's $2.55 USD! A single can! A 12 pack was marked as 16 pounds or $27 USD. I could not believe it. We spoke to a young man who happened to be purchasing a can of Mountain Dew and asked him if it was worth it. He said it was definitely worth it. He could live off of it. After we told him that we get it for like 25 cents or 15 pence he said "That's reason enough to move there!" He couldn't believe it. Anyway, they sold a lot of candy that I have never seen before as well as the normal candy bars we carry. They also had some more gummy candies in baggies. I thought the Blues Brothers and Wonder Woman was a nice touch for the front of the store.

As I said, one of my favorite new experiences in Scotland were the crumpets. They were amazing. period. I bought some crumpet rings and tried to make them in my flat but it just wasn't working with not having measuring cups, a frying pan, oil...you know, the necessities. I will try them again here though soon! Mmmmm......sooooo good. Just a fine shmear of butter and I am in heaven.

From Thornton's Chocolate Bar, mint and toffee chocolate bars! Can't go wrong with these flavors.
You will notice a few things in the next picture.
Exhibit A- The bag says "Walkers" but looks EXACTLY like a Lays bag. Hmmmm......
Exhibit 2- Yes, the bag does say prawn cocktail.
Exhibit C- Yes, they tasted exactly like I thought they would....
The popular local drink over there is IRN-BRU. It's their Coke or Pepsi but with a million grams of caffeine in it. Of course I had to try it. It tasted like bubble gum, orange soda, fresca and another ingredient I can't put my finger on all combined with an aftertaste of nasty.....so it was ok.

We high-speed trained it on down to Ediburgh for a day and fully soaked in the culture and the atmosphere. It was so full of energy there. Truely awesome...not in the "awesome like a hot dog" sense but I was actually in awe of the history of the town. 
This was a cool shop in Edinburgh on Cockburn Street.

I bet you can't guess where I bought these fine looking chocolates.

We ate the chocolate on the way home from Edinburgh on the train but it was almost gone before I could get my camera out!
One thing I found hilarious was the number of Italian restaurants in Glasgow. I bet you can find 4 italian restaurants for every normal scottish restaurant. They love their Italian! 
Strawberry and Pistachio Gelato at an Italian restaurant. It was great!

My first taste of Sticky Pudding was a success!
So, I may not have mentioned the reason for my visit to the homeland. I went to compete in the World Pipe Band Championship with my bagpipe band! (I play the tenor drum not the bagpipes) Wow! What an amazing opportunity it was! I really loved every minute of it. This is a vendor at the actual championship. There were actually quite a few candy vendors there. I'm ok with that. :)

I was so excited I thought I was going to pass out!
They had so many different kinds of treats crammed into such a tiny space! 
Well the 9 days I was there was a huge succes and I certainly hope to go back their again. It was an experience to remember!