Thursday, June 26, 2014

Double Chocolate Layer had me at "double chocolate."

'tis the season for parties...birthdays, anniversaries (my own, yay!), graduations, baby showers, bridal showers, bachelor/ette parties to scratch the surface.  Which means my friends and family are kind enough to ask me to do their cakes!  This past weekend I got to make my friends baby shower cake (posted to FB, as most of y'all saw!) and it was a HIT!  And there was seriously no leftovers, crazy...i would have never guessed, usually folks pass on dessert!

This was one of the better cakes I've made...I wish the writing were better but the damn piping frosting kept breaking on me and I just kept getting more n more frustrated.  The tractor/fence came from amazon, the sugar flowers I ordered a variety pack a while ago (, but yea everything else came from these two hands.  I made the carrots and pumpkins from fondant...and the haystack was Andy's moms idea of dying shredded coconut yellow.  It seriously looked like grated cheddar cheese!  Oh well, next time i may have to add a smidge of brown dye to make it less bright.

So the recipes for the cake are as follows!  enjoy...

Double Chocolate Layer Cake
The following recipe is a Miette recipe, but it was published a couple years back in their cookbook, but for me it's just easier to weigh everything out with my scale...the only difference here is they use 70% dark chocolate, I use 60%.  Everything here is exactly as I make it; this recipe makes a lot though...

1-12"x2" cake
1-10"x2" cake + 1 9" single layer
probably makes 2-8"x2" cakes

it makes a lot.  Adjust bake times accordingly; if I'm making a 10" or bigger cake I put a rose needle in the center so it bakes from the outside in and inside out so nothing burns.  I think my 10" took 45min this way.  Cupcakes are around 20-25min depending on how much batter is in your molds.  Cool completely before de-panning, and then wrap in plastic wrap and throw in the freezer for easier slicing later.  Unfortunately it's a bit crumbly on the edges; I recommend using gloves when your assembling/slicing.  It's also a really yummy batter; beware...

MDC/Dark Chocolate Ganache
This recipe also comes from Miette and makes a generous amount of ganache.  You could probably half this recipe if you want less, but it keeps a while and is versatile.  The ganache was very carefully/strategically poured on top of the cake so that it would just delicately drip off the sides of the cake onto the board.  I went slow so I made sure I got it to look just right, so take your time (but not TOO much time, lol.)  I made the ganache ahead of time because my week leading up to the shower was insanely busy, so I just warmed up a portion of the pre-made, refrigerated ganache in a microwavable 4c. measuring cup and when it was the right temp (i didn't want it liquid hot!), i used my immersion stick blender to liquefy it completely and make sure there were no lumps before pouring it on the WELL-CHILLED cake.  if the cake isn't cold enough (30-60min in the fridge) the ganache might pull the frosting and make it ugly.  However, if the exterior of the cake is ALL ganache (like a ganache shell), you'll warm a warmer liquefied coat for the initial pouring, then adding a second, thicker (read: cooler temp) ganache layer for the final presentation layer!

Dulce de Leche Frosting (link: recipe!)
This was a first time trial with the frosting...I was SO excited to try this, and then I did more research to find out that I was able to make it a swiss meringue buttercream!  So next time I will try it that way, but for this cake I wanted to stick to the recipe...

- 1 can Dulce de Leche (i think mine was 13.4oz; found in the Ethnic aisle at any grocery store or Target!)
- 12 tbsp room temperature butter (1 1/2 sticks!)
- 3 cups of sifted powder sugar (yea i didn't bother sifting...)
- ~1 tsp milk (if needed; i did NOT use and added in a little vanilla extract if it needed thinning)

To make the frosting, cream the butter and dulce de leche. Slowly add the powder sugar, 1/2 cup at a time scraping the sides of the bowl down when needed. When all the sugar is added, increase the speed and mix for 1 more minute until smooth and shiny. (If it's too stiff add few drops, up to 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract).

Because I was making a bigger cake, I made a 2nd batch of frosting just in case and I am glad I did...I still had some leftovers, but I can make some cupcakes for frosting too yay!  It is a tad sweet IMO, and I wouldn't be opposed to throwing in a pinch or two of salt to balance it out.  Again, very excited to make it into a swiss meringue buttercream next time!

The end result was clear: homerun, knocked it out of the park!  Rich, moist cake meets dulce de leche and ganache, it's a no-brainer.  Everyone was so impressed with the exterior, and to find out it tasted good too, that's basically a grand slam IMO!  I am so glad I could make a cute baby shower cake for my friend...the writing on the cake was one of the hostess' ideas, and Andy totally helped with the creative and artistic direction of this, where should the pond go?  How should the pond be shaped?  Where does the tractor look best?  Does this tip look like grass or is this one better?  I sound like I have a lot of self doubt, and to some degree I did after that basketball cake, but he has an Art Degree, it just made sense he be my artistic consultant :) 

Well the only other cake on the horizon is a wedding cake in October...if you have dessert needs, I might be able to help ;) Next blog: ever since i saw Secret Life of Walter Mitty, I wanted to find a clementine cake recipe. FYI: not much on the internet!  The night we got home from our anniversary trip to Tahoe, I got to work and let me just say, it was tasty. The damn oven shut off midway bc i must have hit the wrong button on the stove, but it still turned out once I realized it wasn't baking and fired it back up!  I just want to make again / bake it properly and correct to get an idea of how the texture truly should be.  Plus i want to tweak the icing, but I really liked what I made so I suspect it will only get better.  'Til next week!

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Caramel Apple Crumble Pie... how YOU doing?!

With all of the baking I've accomplished lately, I need to up my game with my blog posts.  I have come to view my blog as a way of saving recipes "on the cloud" so that if something ever happens to my binder of recipes I've been building over the years, i won't be devastated since I will have my backup digital copy.

Also in the coming months, I am trading a wedding cake for services from a graphic/web designer.  I am now charged with the conundrum: do I employ her services for a professional HR personal website or make a kickass blog?  Decisions, decisions...

As for today's blog, you can guess from the title I have been keeping myself BUSY.  Last weekend (as I also posted to FB,) I made my first ever globe basketball cake.  Needless to say, regardless of the hard work I put into it, it still fell short of my expectations...but hey, there's a first for everything, so I am determined to keep trying!  This coming weekend, however, I am working on a super cute "down on the farm" baby shower cake for my friend, aka Andy's co-workers spouse (one of the few non-teacher spouses I get to converse with at predominantly teacher functions!)  BUT FIRST!

Caramel Apple Crumble Pie

I finally snapped a picture of a homemade creation. I use this Caramel Apple Crumble Pie recipe.  I omit the slivered almonds from the crumble topping, but everything else is spot on and I usually make a double batch of topping so I have leftover for next time I need it.  It's an easy recipe that I make with my hands in a couple of minutes and the leftovers are saved in the freezer. As for the pie, I mostly stick to the recipe, but with some tweaks: I use cinnamon, but also add in 1/2 tsp. nutmeg, a couple pinches of allspice, and several dashes of clove.  I also add in a little kosher salt, vanilla extract, and instead of flour I use cornstarch.  Plus if I had to guess, I use more than a 1/2c. homemade caramel sauce (because IMO it is so easy to make, why would I ever buy it?)...I use enough to coat the bottom of the pie shell and a healthy layer on top of all the apples!

Why did I have the urge to make apple pie (a traditional fall/winter pie) right at the beginning of summer you may ask!?  Well I bought a 12pk of granny smiths from costco and never got around to make oatmeal with them as originally planned, and since nothing goes to waste in my kitchen, I decided on the fly on Sunday evening to throw a pie together and send it off with my mother-in-law to choir practice last night.  Since I already had premade crumble topping + caramel sauce, it came together pretty quick (mind you, I bought premade deep dish pie shells since I don't have those laying around!)  I turned on the oven as soon as I got home and thankfully the late hour didn't infringe upon Game of Thrones time!  It baked away while we watched the fav part I think was the sword fight between The Hound and Brienne of Tarth.  NO SPOILERS though in case you haven't watched!

I make this pie every Thanksgiving, along with some homemade vanilla bean ice cream.  I've finally gotten this recipe to where I am happy!  My helpful hints: 1) I par-bake all pie crusts so I get a crispy crust every time, 2) bake the pie on a foil-lined baking sheet (helps with cleanup), 3) bake at 350 for 65mins (i like the topping to get a little more color); it doesn't burn the crust.  The bottom of the pie tin will have juices/caramel sticking to it, so i end up letting it cool on a wire rack and then add aluminum foil to the tin (it will stick on its own) so there's no need to bother trying to get the exterior of the pie tin clean.  And as always, I serve almost all my pies at room temp!  It also doesn't hurt to have some warmed up caramel sauce nearby in case you need a little extra :)

Below is the recipe with my edits!
Up next, Dark Chocolate Ganache, Dulce de Leche Frosting, and Double Chocolate Cake are on their way for my next blog (as previously mentioned with the Down on the Farm cake).  The recipe for the frosting can be found here; I will be providing separate recipes for the ganache and cake, but if you're curious I'm sure the recipes on the website are just as good!  And yes there will be pictures; I bought the cutest John Deere tractor cake topper!

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Recipe Factory

Happy Hump Day all!!  I cannot believe it's Wednesday, and for that I am thankful...halfway there!

This past weekend we had our Housewarming Party (~6mo's after moving in mind you!) and I based my menu largely on two categories: 1) previous party winners, and 2) Pinterest recipes I'd like to try.  The idea was to create party foods folks could just grab n go.  Here's what the menu boiled down to along with all the recipes, hence Recipe Factory...

  • Veggie Platter...sliced cucumbers, celery, baby carrots, grape tomatoes, broccoli florets, and sliced red/orange/yellow bell peppers.  All served with Ranch dressing (I meant to grab a hummus too, whoops oh well.)
  • Fruit Platter: seedless red grapes, fresh cut pineapple, and beautiful strawberries served with this cream cheese dip (my fav!)  Must make with dark brown sugar though IMO!
  • Deviled Eggs by good ol' Better Homes & Garden: recipe here! (the only variation: I used dijon mustard and i added s&p)  throw the filling in a piping bag and knock them egg white halves out in no time!  oh and a side of cooked bacon for those non-veg folks.  mmm...i love bacon!
  • Spinach Dip  from the Knorr packet...with sliced baguette.  I add the optional water chestnuts.  I accidentally bought the whole ones (after accidentally buying baby bamboo or something?!) and instead of chopping by hand, I had the brilliant idea to bust out my mini food processor.  It took NO time and just as good results, I was SO relieved and happy to save time.
  • For the first time ever, I made 7 Layer Dip!  I know I know, how did it take this long for me to finally make, but I just always asked someone else to bring it :) it was SO super easy!  I always read the reviews and get some ideas to modify to recipe... 1) Omit the lettuce layer and add in a layer of guac instead; 2) add tapatio to the bean layer for a little extra spice; 3) drain your salsa really well (i bought a 24oz jar of Safeway Select and wished I had a little more for a thicker salsa layer!); 4) use 1.5 cans refried beans (I bought Vegetarian beans so my vegetarian friends could enjoy); 5) i used a 4.2oz can of sliced black olives and it was fine.  The dish was demolished; SCORE!
  • I didn't have time to make meatballs, so I bought the Aidells Chicken Meatballs/Teriyaki & Pineapple variety, threw them in a slow cooker with a ton of Kinder's BBQ sauce, and let um warm up.  Those were amazing as always and pretty carefree!
  • I also put out a fancy cheese platter with crackers n bread.  Who doesn't love cheese?!
Mains (Andy was in charge)
  • 2-3pks of pork ribs; my dad baked one pack at home and brought with him, Andy smoked the others.  served with Kinder's mild bbq sauce...delish!
  • Beer Can Chicken...wtg babe!
  • Best Broccoli Salad this was a new recipe I'd never tried before and I was pleasantly surprised at the ease and tastiness of it!  Andy never tried it, so I may have to make again.
  • I had to have a couple shortcuts, so the first one was pimping out my Aunt for some KILLER baked beans, via crockpot.  Those were outstanding as always.  And the second one was premade Mac n Cheese from Costco...i really really wanted to make this recipe I'd found on Pinterest, but alas I just didn't have enough time. Plus I've always enjoyed the Costco deli variety.  OF COURSE the Livermore Costco's Deli is getting a flipping makeover and was closed June2-8, grrrrr!  Had to go to Danville Costco and then, they only had one out and were in the process of making more when I showed up.  Just, go figure...oh and of course, I bought some King's Hawaiian rolls, because they're everyone's fav.
  • I had every intention of adding two more sides... 1) grilled cheesy corn, and 2) spinach salad.  Bought the corn...the spinach...pre-sliced the tomatoes for the salad.  Alas, there just wasn't enough time and I didn't have the energy.  Oh well, we had them Monday for dinner with friends instead!!  NOTHING goes to waste in my house :)
And last, but certainly not least...
  • Tried out these triple chocolate cookies.  They were ok...i think they're missing something, but they were easy enough to make.  I would GLADLY take recommendations for triple chocolate cookies!  
  • The clear winner were these gluten-free peanut butter chocolate chunk cookies.  Everyone seriously loved these, but again something funny is going on with the's greasy, and never really comes together, it's weird and annoying.  But hey, who am I to deny someone's fav!?  They even bake off greasy...funky.
  • Spicy Oatmeal Raisin Cookies were probably the least popular, but I felt the need to provide something that didn't have chocolate lol.  This is my go-to Oatmeal Raisin Cookie recipe...I love the clove in it!
  • From my prior blog post, I made the perfect dark chocolate brownie recipe because it was quick and tasty. Totally forgot the vanilla extract though, boo.
  • I made Muddy Buddies and TOTALLY FORGOT TO PUT THEM OUT.  So annoying!  Oh well, more for us to enjoy ;) kidding!
Cocktails! (and all other Beverages)
  • We had a fishing cooler full of beers... AVBC IPA and Winter Solstice (still waiting for the Summer to show up at costco...), Lagunitas Brown Sugga, Kona: big wave, longboard, koko brown (mmm), and fire rock pale, Coor's Light and Miller High Life. Plus some tasty offerings brought by others...
  • White Sangria i now have midori and a ginger liquer should anyone need to use these for a recipe lol.  next time i pick a sangria recipe i am steering clear of having to purchase liquers i'm never going to use again!  le sigh, hindsight right?  Thankfully I got the Moscato fo' free from my in-the-wine-biz brother, yay.
  • Pineapple Margaritas were pretty tasty IMO!  Made a single batch and it was perfect...a little on the weak side, but folks just added more tequila if they wanted.  I always worry if it's too strong people won't drink it.  You can always add, but you can't subtract...
  • Wine: chardonnay, sauv.blanc, and rose (most of which went untouched it seems).  Somebody opened a red wine they brought.  Who drinks red when it's 95F out?!
  • Water!  We're talking all kinds: sparkly, flavored sparkly, and regular bottled.  I think we cruised through 2+ cases easily.  So glad I grabbed 3!  Oh and 120# of ice later too.  In-sane.
  • Soda: got the 8oz cans of Coke/Diet/Sprite cause it was on sale and had a few leftover of course.
Alright I think that covers everything.  Clearly this was a huge undertaking, and it's all in the planning!  Though the week prior leading up to the party was stressful for me because I was up way past bedtime every night.  Prepping either food or the house...and it still wasn't where I would've liked it to be.  At least we have frames on the walls, yahoo!  And curtains installed since we have no closet doors.  Plus all new electrical outlets, switches, and plates.  Our house doesn't look as old as it looks, hello 1956.  Someday we'll paint the exterior...replace the garage door & roof, woof...get that side yard under control and make a nice herb/fruit/veg garden...and take out that HIDEOUS frontyard hedge crap.  Despite the heat, most folks made it out and it was so wonderful to see everyone!  The one thing I hate about parties is not being able to sit n enjoy it, plus only getting to briefly talk to attendees bc you have to try n talk with everyone!

I don't have any pictures to show for it really, bummer.  I bought a new Jawbone Jambox from Costco as a gift to myself so that we'd have a decent sound system for the party and our home in general.  I got it on coupon and apparently it's on Groupon right now too for about the same price.  I love it, it works fabulously and if anyone's curious, "It is so choice...if you have the means I highly recommend picking one up." Name that movie ;)

That's all this week, not so much recipe breakdowns, but just some solid recipes I use and recommend making if you're curious!

Wednesday, June 4, 2014


So this coming Saturday is our housewarming and in true Williams style, we're waiting til the last minute to get everything in our house in order.  We've been sitting on household to-do's for-ev-er. Last night we finally switched out all the light switches/electrical outlets + face plates... Because we had to shut the power off for a few hours, I ended up not doing a workout DVD bc we didn't turn it back on until 8pm!  Ugh.  I hate breaking routine, just makes it difficult to get back on schedule IMO. I digress... also, photos need to be framed (at least we have everything printed now), and then we have to hang everything!!  oh ya and prep the food for the party, aaaagggghhh.

I digress.  So, last night I prepped a cookie dough for our party that I've never made before but thought it would be a good idea... Triple Chocolate Cookies!!  Oh the dough is in the fridge, ready to be baked Saturday AM; the dough was way yummy, so I am excited to share the results.  Here is the  original recipe for triple chocolate cookies; in my next blog post, I will show my edits, though I did not deviate much from the recipe.

As mentioned previously, I made these Iced Oatmeal Cookies.  I think they turned out pretty well!  They sure did make a lot...i suppose the recipe could be halved since it calls for 2 eggs, but whatever.  I know Andy and I ate more than our fair share, but we managed to give some to his dad/stepmom for their travels to Reno.  I was pretty pleased that I didn't deviate too much from the recipe...

So when I saw the pretty pictures on the website, I imagined biting into those yummy Mothers Cookies iced oatmeal cookies you get at the grocery store.  The cookies I made were similar, but not really a true comparison.  Mothers Cookies are crispy cookies; the homemade ones were soft.  I was still very happy with how yummy they turned out, but simultaneously disappointed since I had this idea of how they were going to turn out based on the photos from the website.

As mentioned in the recipe, it ended up making 3 dozen cookies! The glazing is a bit time consuming, esp if you have 36 cookies! I think i OD'd on cookies because some would break so of course, I had to eat the remains.  Andy really liked them, so I suppose it's a winner!  Pretty straight forward recipe which is great.  Maybe next time I will bake a little longer for a crispier texture, who knows.  With so many recipes to try, I may not have enough time!

I also made Peanut Butter Chocolate Chunk Cookies, which Andy & I liked so much we're going to have them on the cookie tray this weekend for the housewarming.  We should have given those away too, but alas, this is what happens when you make cookies on Fridays!!  I was well behaved though and maybe only had a couple out of the ~2 doz. it made.  The first round of cookies came out good but I want to tweak a couple things and verify some suspicions when I make them again... the peanut butter I used made the dough really greasy (and even the final baked product had greasy bottoms!)  Weird, but apparently a common problem when you read the blog comments, so I bought new peanut butter at Costco so I could make again, so I anticipate either two blog posts next week or a twofer post.

I'm trying to be consistent and post weekly on Wednesdays. Seems to be a good day to post. I will also eventually get to making some of the requested recipes y'all have sent me, just hasn't been the right venue yet. Eventually, I will get up to speed on learning Andy's fancy Canon camera so I can take fancy food photos and post here too.  All in due time, maybe 2014, maybe 2015, who knows lol.  Stay tuned, and thanks for reading!