Monday, January 26, 2015

Naked Neapolitan Cake

Cakes are getting naked. That sound's dirty doesn't it? Far from being XXX-rated, these cakes simply forgo the frosting, ganache, and fondant around the sides. Some might say they look unfinished or plain, but I really think it's the perfect example of "less is more."

photo credit: Rosie Parson's Photography

The taste becomes the main focus when there is no fondant to hide behind. What little frosting is there lies between the layers, complementing the cake, instead of overpowering it. And it can still easily transcend a number of different themes and styles. Decorators can let their creativity shine through with the topping and filling colors, as well as the texture of the cake.

I am--and always will be--a huge fan of fancy, over-the-top cakes, but I am falling in love with this popular trend, so I decided to give it a try for a recent party at my in-laws'. I made a chocolate cake with strawberry, vanilla, and chocolate buttercream alternating between the layers. I went with a Neapolitan theme because, for as long as I have known them, they have always had Neapolitan ice cream in their freezer...and I would always eat it all. This cake was my way of saying: "Hey, I know you guys have a thing for Neapolitan, try the cake version. Oh, and thanks for all the free ice cream."

Do you think naked cakes have an un-fussy, rustic charm? Or does it just look like they ran out of frosting?

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Holiday Baking

Fresh baked goods just seem to go hand in hand with the holiday season. Even back in my pre-baking days, you could find me in the kitchen on Christmas Eve, slicing off pieces from a ready-made cookie dough log. My, oh my, how things have changed. This past season, I really embraced baking sweet treats to fit the winter theme.

It started with a Wilton's "Dear Santa" cupcake class.

For Christmas Eve, I followed this easy tutorial to make an igloo cake.

Try not to be jealous, but I had two Christmases this year- and one was in Florida! I made this Holly Cake for my mom, step-dad, and little brother. It was my first time making Italian meringue buttercream, I watched this video while I made it. You should really plan your day accordingly while making this frosting because it involves a candy thermometer and takes 5x longer to make than the Wilton's buttercream recipe. I absolutely loved how it came out though—really light and fluffy—so, to me, it was worth the extra time.

I got to spend 10 whole days in the sunshine state, and that included New Year's Eve; so, of course, we needed something especially sweet to eat at midnight! My mom and I made these New Year's Eve cupcakes together…and then ate them at 8 o’clock…but it was surely midnight somewhere.

As you can see, my holiday season was actually more of a baking season. What did you bake during the holidays?

 “Opinions expressed are my own and do not express the views or opinions of Wilton Brands LLC”.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

The Perfect Sugar Cookie

The Perfect Sugar Cookie For Decorating
Yields approximately 2 dozen cookies


1 cup butter
1 cup powdered sugar
1 large egg, beaten
2 and 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1 teaspoon salt
2 and 1/2 cups flour


1. In a large bowl, using a hand mixer or a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter until creamy (about one minute).  Add powdered sugar and beat on high until fluffy (about two minutes). Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl, as needed. Blend in beaten egg, vanilla, salt and flour until fully combined (about two minutes). Continue scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl, as needed.

2. Divide the dough into equal parts and roll into two balls. Wrap each ball in saran wrap and chill in the fridge until firm (about two hours).

3. Once chilled, preheat oven to 375-degrees fahrenheit. Grease baking sheets, or line with parchment paper or silicone baking mat. Remove one of the dough balls from the fridge and roll to 1/4" thickness on a well-floured surface. Cut with cookie cutters and transfer cut dough onto prepared cookie sheets. Re-roll the remaining dough and continuing cutting, until all is used.

4. Bake for 8-10 minutes, until very lightly colored on top and around edges. Allow to cool on baking sheet for five minutes; then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely before icing.

Source: Adapted from Annies Eats 

Monday, January 19, 2015

Ugly Christmas Sweater Cookies

Ah nothing say's it's time for the holidays like an elf on a shelf and tacky sweaters. Christmas has become a new excuse to start super trendy traditions... and I LOVE it.

I have been anxiously awaiting an invitation to an "ugly sweater" party for quite some time, and, this year, it finally happened! Of course, I instantly offered to bring sweater-shaped cookies because that seemed like a super easy idea for someone who has never heard of royal icing and has always made cookies with help from the Pillsbury Dough Boy. (translation:  I’m crazy!)

In true procrastinator form, I waited two days before the party to go out and get the supplies. I thought for sure that every store in America would carry ugly sweater cookie cutters. Guess what? They don't. You have to search online and special order them.

Well..."Ain't nobody got time for that!"

So, I put my creative cap on and decided I would hand-cut these suckers myself. I drew an outline of a sweater on a piece of cardboard and cut it out. It really was that easy! I then used a butter knife to trace around the cardboard into the cookie dough. Definitely not as fast as a cookie cutter, but it got the job done.

Clever, no?

Fresh out of the oven.

The final result.

If I’m being honest, I’m super-duper impressed with myself. They came out really well, considering it was my first time using royal icing and baking cookies from scratch (pat on the back). Oh, and they tasted beyond amazing! They kept their shape, and were firm yet soft when bitten. Here is the recipe.

Do you have a favorite cookie recipe? Did you bring them to any parties this past holiday season?

Sunday, January 18, 2015

First Baking Attempt's

From Day One, my first Wilton cake decorating class inspired me to fire up the oven and rescue the dusty kitchen aid mixer from my grandparents’ basement. I was so into it, I found that baking simply to fulfill my weekly class requirements wasn't enough for my growing addiction to confection creation. Like a true addict, I started making baking excuses. For instance, who doesn’t need camouflage cupcakes on Veterans Day?

The following week I searched Pinterest (AKA the best platform for supporting creative genius) and came across this tutorial. 

"Close up" of the best looking one.

Like every good "pinner" with a kick-ass hobby, I dedicated a new board to “Cakes," and spent most of my evenings into the wee hours, pinning all things cake related. I decided to give this polar bear cake tutorial a try. I think he came out cute, but his eyes look a little crappy; seriously, when you mix brown frosting with a round almost always resembles poo (not the adorable bear “Pooh,” but actual poop). I can’t be the only who thinks like this?

After I had learned the pulled-dot method in one of the Wilton classes, I decided to try making a petal ombre cake I saw online. I watched this super helpful video at least 18 times while making my cake. It wasn’t 18 times because I liked it so much—it’s because youtube bakers are the “fastest" bakers on the planet, benefiting from speeding up their videos. I totally could have used one of those fast-forward buttons for myself that day though because my daughter was hanging off my leg the ENTIRE time I decorated this cake. Now, I do most of my baking after the kids go to bed; you bake and you learn ;)

The petal ombre cake was my first totally-from-scratch, not-from-a-box yellow cake. Unfortunately, I wasn't really pleased with how it came out taste wise. My kids had no complaints, but, like most kids, they'd eat dirt, if it was covered in frosting; so, I can’t exactly use them as my official cake testers. And my husband—believe it or not—doesn’t like sweets. I know it’s crazy, but I still love him…more cake for me! 

Where are your favorite places to search for recipes or tutorials? And who do you use to help you “judge” your cake-baking success?

Monday, January 12, 2015

Wilton's Cake Decorating Class Review

This recent obsession with baking tasty treats started when I took the Wilton Course 1 Decorating Basic's in November of 2014. Before this class I had no prior experience in cake decorating. My idea of frosting a cake was grabbing a butter knife and a can of chemicals (AKA ready-made frosting)- and slathering it on some box mix cake while it was still in the pan. I had never held a piping bag and I didn't know any of the cake terminology: couplers, tips, crumb coat, etc. I am constantly searching for a creative outlet, so when I stumbled across cake decorating at my local Michael's Craft Store I fell in love--hard. My grandmother and I signed up together and, although she isn't as "into it" as I am, we both love that we have something to do together-- just the two of this.

The course is four weeks with one class each week:

Week 1: We learned a lot of the basics. The instructor talked about how to bake flat cakes, use couplers, fill a piping bag, and different frosting consistencies. At the very end of class we practiced piping stars and dots on our practice boards that came with our kit. 

Week 2: This is where the fun begins! We had to bring in an un-frosted cake to class. The instructor showed us how to crumb coat and smooth our icing. This took up most of class time because nobody could get their icing as smooth as the instructors cake. I think my class was filled with Perfectionists. The last ten minutes we all rushed to pipe out our designs and do transfers, but nobody was able to finish. I completed my owl when I got home that night and I was so excited with how it came out that I didn't want to stop, so I added borders and wrote "Happy Fall." I felt like I was on a sugar high and I hadn't even taken a bite yet! This was so much fun! I couldn't wait for next week.

Week 3: This class was all about flowers, leaves and using a flower nail. I struggled a bit in this class because the instructor kept using my piping bags and flower nail to demonstrate. By the time he gave them back, the class was moving onto another technique and the instructor was borrowing my piping bags again.When I got home that night, I decorated my brownies while referring to youtube videos for instruction. You can find some pretty helpful videos online…just be careful because “frosting” doesn’t always mean the same thing for everyone! I had no idea there were so many XXX-rated baking euphemisms! 

Week 4: Everybody brought in an already frosted cake to decorate during class showing off all of the techniques that we learned during this course: flowers, writing, and borders. Once again, I surprised myself with my caking skills and patted myself on the back for completing the course and receiving a certificate. (it felt so official!)

I am impatiently waiting to sign up for Course 2: Flowers and Cake design. I call my local Michaels every other week to see when it begins, but it is not scheduled on their class calender yet. In the mean time, I have been making cookies for parties, and cakes for the holidays. A lot of birthdays are coming up and I am excited to make them extra special with my homemade sweets! 

Have you taken any of the Wilton Cake Decorating Courses? Did you like it or LOVE it? Let me know if you have any questions about the class and I will do my best to answer them.

 “Opinions expressed are my own and do not express the views or opinions of Wilton Brands LLC”.

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