Monday, June 23, 2014

Frozen Inspired Birthday Cake Project: Preparation (work begins Wednesday!)

Following my beloved vanilla cupcake recipe, I'm going to turn that recipe into a cake recipe for a Frozen inspired birthday cake.  I found a handy converter of # of cups of batter per cake size on Wilton's website:
I'm planning to making a 3-tiered cake using a 6", 8", and 10" cake pan, which means i'll need about 16 cups of cake batter, or about 3-3.5 recipes of my vanilla cupcakes. 

I haven't decided yet what filling to put between the layers of the cake...that'll be covered between now and Wednesday. I may stick with the buttercream recipe that I use with the cupcakes.  Just need to determine if I feel that this will be 'stiff' enough to act as a crumb coating prior to covering it with fondant.

Following the rave reviews of marshmallow fondant (, I'm going to make it and dye a portion of it that pretty light blue and keep the other portion white and make a 'snow/ice' sheet to put over the blue layer. 

I'm going to make royal icing in an attempt to make homemade snowflakes to decorate the cake with...this should be a hoot ( 

I also just purchased a set of the frozen character figurines to place on and around the cakes. 

I have some dusting powder and sparkly sugar to also decorate the fondant with. 

I'll be writing up the process as I go along and try and capture photos as it'll be about a 4 day project. It all begins Wednesday!  Stay tuned ;). 

Monday, March 3, 2014

Buttermilk Pancakes - it's what's for breakfast on Pancake Day (tomorrow)!

One of my absolute favourite foods of all...buttermilk pancakes!  Butter, buttermilk, vanilla, and more butter once they're cooked...what could be more delish?
This is my go to recipe for pancakes.  Hope you'll give it a whirl and enjoy!

1 cup all-purpose flour

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Finally, a 'go to' vanilla cupcake and frosting recipe - Whoop Whoop!

If you've been following my blog, you'll remember that I had a post a while back about the hunt for the perfect vanilla cupcake.  I didn't find it, truth be told.  Hence when I was asked to bake a batch of cupcakes again, I found myself scouring the web looking for new and different recipes.  I'm happy to report that I found an amazing recipe...beautiful cake, and absolutely gorgeous vanilla bean swiss meringue doesn't get more divine than this. Definitely my 'go to' recipe from now on.

Interestingly the method in the cake recipe calls for adding the butter to the flour mixture in cold cubes - similar to the method I use when I bake my scones.  I know the idea behind adding cold butter in pastry dough recipes, but don't consider this a method I'd use in making cupcakes.  Alas, I couldn't bring myself to apply this method when using this recipe.  So then, I used the ingredients exactly as they're written, but changed the method. And, oh yeah, if you're going to bother using cake flour, ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS sift it.  You're going for air, clearly, so might as well go all the way ;). 

    Make the Cupcakes:
  1. Preheat the oven to 350F/175C degrees F.
  2. Sift the flours, baking powder, and salt into a mixing bowl and set aside.
  3. Beat the butter on medium-high speed for 1-2 minutes. Slowly add the sugar.  Beat until the mixture is pale yellow and very fluffy ~ 4 minutes.
  4. Add the eggs, one at a time, and scrape the bottom of the bowl to make sure all the ingredients are well-combined.
  5. Combine the milk and vanilla extract & bean paste in a measuring cup.
  6. On a low speed, alternating, add the flour mixture and milk emulsion to the butter mixture. Beat until just combined ~ 1-2 minutes. Scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl, and mix again until the mixture is well blended (30-60 seconds).   
  7. Fill paper liners 2/3 full with batter, and bake for 15-20 minutes - until a tester inserted in the center of the cupcake comes out clean.  Start checking at 15 minutes.
  8. Cool completely before topping with buttercream.
    Make the Swiss Meringue Buttercream:
  1. Place the egg whites and sugar in a mixing bowl. Set over a pot of simmering water, and whisk continuously, until the mixture is hot, opaque, and the sugar is completely dissolved (should not feel gritty between your fingers), about 5 minutes.
  2. Whip the mixture on high speed, until stiff peaks form and it has completely cooled (12ish minutes).
  3. Add the butter, a tablespoon at a time, whipping well after each addition. If it begins to look curdled, continue to beat until it comes back together, before adding the remaining butter.
  4. Mix in the vanilla bean paste until well blended.
  5. Using a pastry bag fitted with your preferred nozzle of choice, pipe the frosting on to the cupcakes.
  6. Enjoy!
  7. P.S. I made about 36 cupcakes from this batter (probably filled them half way vs. 2/3 since I didn't want the cupcakes protruding from the cases - wanted them more tidy and flat).  As such, I ended up needing to make 2 batches of the buttercream frosting since the recipe as is barely covered 23 cupcakes, and I didn't use massive amounts as you can see below. 

Note: This recipe was shamelessly stolen from who stole it from who adapted it from the cookbook, "The Back in the Day Bakery Cookbook" -  I absolutely LOVE how recipes are adapted from one baker to the next.  I'll be curious to hear if anyone adapts this one...

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Salted Caramel's what's for dessert...

I was trying to find something easy yet a bit elegant for a dinner party this evening and came across this simple, yet enticing recipe (love Food and Wine magazine!).  I'm a firm believer in 'simple' recipes with high quality ingredients.  
The result? This cheesecake was very easy to make and a bit different as no base was required and, since it was in ramekins, added a personal touch. The salted caramel came out divine, though it wouldn't be until my second batch that I would discover this.  My first batch I overcooked by about 10 seconds and burned it...sugar is indeed tricky.   The cheesecakes are chilling now in the refrigerator and I can't help but wonder if I should have added vanilla extract/vanilla bean paste to make it a bit vanilla-y.  I believe in pretty much adding good quality vanilla to almost any sweet dessert-y recipe.  Hmm.  I guess i'll be able to tell you this evening when it's being devoured (hopefully!).
Changes to recipe: There was feedback about the cheesecake not being cooked properly according to the recipe's directions.  Upon research, I decided to increase the oven temp to 350F/175C and cooked for 20 minutes, then shut off the oven and left them in the oven for an hour.  They seemed to be pretty perfect when I removed them from the oven.  I'll tell you later if they were cooked properly or not.  And I may or may not advise to add vanilla ;).
If you make this here in the UK, you'll wonder how to 'stir the cream in a thin stream'.  Since the double cream (UK equivalent to heavy cream) here has the texture of whipped butter, that's pretty much an impossible feat.  I dropped the lump of cream into the mixture and stirred it quickly - no issues.  
I had a bit of caramel left over and decided to coat apples in it - absolutely delish and the fleur de sel was an excellent touch.  I'm very much looking forward to seeing how this recipe turned out.  Stay tuned!

Salted Caramel Cheesecake

Salted Caramel Cheesecake

  • ACTIVE: 30 MIN
More and more pastry chefs are raiding the saltcellar. And that includes Michael Moorhouse, who sprinkles crunchy bits of fleur de sel on his moist, intensely flavored cheesecake topped with thick, golden caramel. Moorhouse created the cake for Gaia, a restaurant in Greenwich, Connecticut, and it's a most outrageously delicious desserts.


  1. 1/2 pound cream cheese, at room temperature
  2. 1/2 cup sugar
  3. 3 large eggs, at room temperature
  4. 1/2 cup sour cream


  1. 6 tablespoons light corn syrup
  2. 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
  3. 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  4. 1/2 cup heavy cream
  5. Fleur de sel
  1. Preheat the oven to 325°. In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese and sugar at medium speed until smooth. Beat in the eggs, 1 at a time, then beat in the sour cream. Pour the batter into six 5-ounce ramekins or custard cups.
  2. Set the ramekins in a small pan and set the pan in the center of the oven. Add enough hot water to the pan to reach halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Bake the cheesecakes for 10 minutes, until set at the edges but still quite jiggly in the center. Turn off the oven and leave the cheesecakes in for 1 hour. Transfer the ramekins to a rack and let cool completely.
  3. In a heavy medium saucepan, heat the corn syrup. Stir in the sugar and cook over moderately high heat, undisturbed, until a deep amber caramel forms, about 9 minutes. Off the heat, carefully stir in the butter with a long-handled wooden spoon. Stir in the cream in a thin stream. Transfer the caramel to a heatproof pitcher and let cool. Stir in 3/4 teaspoon of fleur de sel.
  4. Pour 1 1/2 tablespoons of the caramel over each cheesecake and swirl to coat the tops. If the caramel is too thick, warm it in a microwave oven at 10-second intervals. Refrigerate the cheesecakes until chilled, at least 3 hours. Sprinkle with fleur de sel just before serving.
MAKE AHEAD The cheesecakes can be refrigerated for up to 2 days.NOTES Cooking Club Tip: If you see sugar crystals on the sides of the pot while making caramel, dissolve them with a pastry brush that has been dipped in water until well moistened.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Homemade vanilla & cookie dough ice creams...mmm mmm good.

I've said it before and I'll say it again...the dairy here in the UK is phenomenal.  You Brits don't have a clue how good you've got it when it comes to the dairy.  Mind you, you can find crap dairy here, so obviously go for the organic stuff and local dairies when you can. 

The double cream here (what you might equate to heavy cream in the US) is like nothing you could ever find in the US (at least to my knowledge...unless of course you go to a 'boutique' dairy farm, but even then...).  You almost need a spoon to yank it out of the container, it's that thick. 

What you might not know about the UK, is that the ice cream is surprisingly poor, comparatively.  The gourmet ice creams, sadly, are Ben & Jerry's and Haagen Dazs.  Don't get me wrong, I love me some B&J and HD, but living in dairy central, I would have expected some phenomenal UK dairies to be whipping out some awesome ice cream.  Alas, it remains to be seen (a possible new business venture for hasn't escaped my mind).  I digress.  Anyway, I've grown tired of paying £4 for a pint of B&J and since I've made ice cream plenty in my past, thought why not whip some up using that lush double cream and see what's what. 

Yep, there was no disappointment. 

My husband is a huge chocolate chip cookie dough lover and thus stands to reason that his favourite ice cream flavour is chocolate chip cookie dough.  When searching for recipes to make the perfect chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream, I came across a much loved recipe for vanilla ice cream, with the perfect chocolate chip cookie dough balls tossed in to make: you guessed it - chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream.

A thing to note about this ice cream recipe and my ice cream recipes in general: I don't use eggs.  I don't love the idea of uncooked eggs in my ice cream, so I personally don't use them.  It's not say that I wouldn't ever try an egg-based recipe, but my eggless recipes have made me happy enough to not want to venture away just yet. 

Here's what you need for the ice cream:
3 cups or 900 mL Whole Organic Milk
1 3/4 cups caster sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1Tbps Vanilla Extract
5 cups or 1500mL of Double Cream (M&S makes a mean one)

Here's what you need for the chocolate chip cookie dough balls (again, eggless):
1 cup/113g unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups light brown sugar, packed
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 tablespoon water
2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup mini semisweet chocolate chips
To make the cookie dough balls:
  • Cream the butter and sugar in a mixing bowl.
  • Stir in the vanilla, water, flour, and chocolate chips. Mix until well blended.
  • Roll dough into bite-sized balls (or use a small ice cream scoop).
  • Place on a baking sheet and freeze until firm, about 2 hours.
  • Store balls in resealable plastic bags in the freezer.
To make the ice cream:
  • Take the chocolate chip cookie dough out of freezer and leave out until needed.
  • Place milk in a large sauce pan on stove and scald it until bubbles form around edge.
  • Remove from heat.
  • Add sugar and salt. Stir until dissolved.
  • Stir in double cream and vanilla.
  • Cover and refrigerate 30 minutes. *Note: mixture will be very liquidy.  The chilling process takes care of this.
  • Freeze as directed by your ice cream machine's instructions. Note: I have a kitchen aid mixer and I bought the ice cream maker attachment.  It's phenomenal.  It comes with the beater and the bowl and the only requirement is to freeze the bowl (vs. using salt and all that other stuff).  You place the frozen bowl onto mixer, affix the ice cream adapter beater, turn mixer on, add ice cream mixture, leave alone for 20-25 minutes.  Voila, ice cream!
  • Once ice cream has been through the entire ice cream machine process and is now a chilled soft ice cream, add the chocolate chip cookie dough. Just break up the dough as best you can with your hands and drop it in small clusters into the soft ice cream. Try to mix it around to ensure that the cookie dough is evenly distributed throughout the ice cream.
  • Put the ice cream in the freezer for several hours until hardened.
Delicious!  Or, as the Brits like to say, Gorgeous!

Best. Brownies. Ever.

It's been a while, dear baking world, but I'm back.  And the baking has resumed to a pretty normal rate again (thankfully...although my thighs might be thinking something differently!). 

Rarely do we finish a baked good and, as the pan is being scraped, my husband ask if we can whip up another batch.  Alas, these brownies have that exact effect.  They're pretty phenomenal.  And while I'm a pretty decent brownie fan, these brownies just might have turned me into a brownie lover.

What's different about these brownies vs. other brownies, you ask?  These brownies are super chewy, dense, and have the perfect amount of chocolate. They are not 'cakey' as other recipes can be.  Not that I dislike 'cakey' versions of brownies, mind you. But 'cakey' brownies don't make me a brownie lover...dense, chocolatey, chewy brownies do :).

What's missing from this recipe are the baking agents that make cakes cakes (know what I mean?).  Your typical baking soda and baking powder are nowhere to be found.  And the amount of flour is relatively low as well.  What makes a dense chocolately dessert are: small amounts of flour (relative to other ingredients), butter (of course!), eggs, and chocolate.  What makes a dessert moist are eggs and brown sugar. That, my friends, is exactly what this recipe is all about.  See for yourself:

Ingredients to make these bad boy brownies:
1 Cup/113g of Butter (unsalted), melted
1 1/2 cups of caster sugar
1 1/2 cups of light brown sugar
1 Tbsp Vanilla Extract (always use the real stuff)
4 eggs
1 1/2 cups of flour
1 cup of cocoa powder (use a nice one like Green & Blacks)
1 tsp salt
1 cup of semi sweet chocolate chips (again, good chocolate here folks...go Belgian or some other fancy one like green and blacks to make a mean brownie)
optional: 1 cup of walnuts, chopped, and toasted (secret: place nuts in a plastic bag and use a rolling pin to 'smack' the nuts until they're 'chopped' - works a treat; then place under broiler/grill for 1-2 minutes until toasty). 
How to make 'em:
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Lightly grease a 9x13 baking dish.
  • Combine the melted butter, sugars, and vanilla in a large bowl. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each, until thoroughly blended.
  • Sift the flour, cocoa powder, and salt in a bowl. Gradually stir flour mixture into the egg mixture until blended. Stir in the chocolate morsels and nuts if using. Spread the batter evenly into the prepared baking dish.
  • Bake in preheated oven until an inserted toothpick comes out clean, about 45 minutes (check around 40 minutes). Remove, and cool pan on wire rack before cutting.
What could be better with dense, chocolatey, chewy brownies than homemade vanilla ice cream, I ask you?  See my next post for the ice cream (you won't be disappointed).