Opinions on food, drink and articles/TV shows involving them

Posts tagged ‘Dessert’

Baking with Chef Duff

When I first started watching the show “Ace of Cakes” several years ago, I was amazed and intrigued by what they did with cake. If you can dream it, Charm City Cakes can make it, which is really neat. The bakery is entirely custom-made cakes, so you can’t just walk in and order, say, a cupcake. Duff, however, says that he does not like cupcakes because he says people who make cupcakes think they can actually bake…that sounds a little harsh to me and I’m a big fan of the show.

Duff’s hatred for cupcakes has been going on for quite a while. In my opinion, I think that his dislike for them stemmed from his attempt at setting a Guinness World Record. He made the “World’s Largest Cupcake” and got the award, but it was later taken away because he made his cupcake in two parts. I guess the record-holder made one solid piece of cake. Winning a World Record, then having it taken away is enough to make anyone angry. I’ll get back to the subject of cupcakes in just a moment.

At any rate, I still love Duff Goldman and enjoy watching his show. His cakes, however, are very pricey. The most recent web prices report a minimum of $7 per person for a wedding cake (average is $15 per person) and if you actually calculate a serving size based on a box cake, it’s certainly not as big as a dessert you might purchase in a restaurant. The 3D and sculptural cakes start at $1000, a little too steep for mine as well as most people’s budgets.

A few month back I realized that¬†Michael’s stores sell “Chef Duff” cake mixes, fondant, icing, and a wide array of other cake decorating materials. I was so happy to see this and purchased the white cake mix, white frosting, and white fondant. I also purchased a giant cupcake mold (not from the “Chef Duff” but from another company) and it was then that my idea to make my own “Ace of Cakes” cupcake came to life. Of course, there’s no way a cake from a box will be as delicious as one from “Charm City Cakes,” but it’ll have to do for now.

Like Duff, I made my cupcake in two parts, because of the pan I was using. I decided to make a giant cupcake with frosting filling inside using the special insert that came with the pan. Then, I put frosting on the top of the outside as well. Next, I covered that frosting with the fondant and then created multi-colored fondant “sprinkles” to go all over the top.

Here’s a photo of the giant cupcake pan. It includes an insert to create a dip in the middle of the cake, so that you can put frosting in the middle if you want. I did just that!

Let’s rate the individual parts, then I’ll sum them up as a whole:
Cake batter: I was surprised to see that the only ingredients that had to be added to the mix were oil and water (no eggs were necessary as with other boxed mixes); definitely better than your average store-bought mix; very tasty and I found myself wanting more; 4.5 stars

Baked cake: more buttery than a “regular” boxed mix; more dense than boxed cake also,but still very moist; seems to be good for carving; 4.5 stars

Buttercream icing:
great flavor; the frosting also stays together better than store-bought icing; it was a little hard right out of the package, but after mixing it a little with an electric mixer, it was just as good as home-made! 4.5 stars
Buttercream fondant: this one was a little tricky to rate since I have only had fondant on one other occasion; however, it was this year, so at least I remember the taste; nice and soft; flavor is alright, but not as good as the other one I tried before; 2.5 stars for taste; 4.5 stars for workability

The fondant claims to cover twice as much area as other fondants and I can see how that would be the case. It seems to be very pliable and doesn’t tear easily. It has a very gummy consistency without being sticky. Though the fondant did not taste the greatest, it did an excellent job of covering up the cake. What’s your take on eating the fondant with the cake? I think some people do and some don’t.

Baked cake + frosting: yum yum yum! Good combination. I couldn’t get enough as I carved off a little of the top piece before putting it on; 4.5 stars

Cake + frosting + fondant: The frosting helps make up for the fondant; though I wouldn’t want a lot of the fondant and am glad that I didn’t cover the bottom part with it, it was very tasty when you put everything together! 4.25 stars!

I did have a little trouble with the¬† bottom of the fondant portion as it didn’t smooth out as well as I would have liked. However, that’s probably simply my lack of experience with fondant. Overall, I was very pleased with the way it turned out!

Baking this “Ace of Cakes” cake has been something I’ve wanted to do for quite a while, so I was really happy when it all came together. A big thank you to E.S. for lending me fondant rolling supplies!


Decadent Desserts

Tonight, I’m making an easy and awesome Betty Crocker dessert: Betty Crocker Supreme Bars Cookie Brownie. I thought, what better activity while waiting for these to bake than to update my blog. These will please any crowd and I discovered these little gems while visiting a friend. We went to get some groceries and she had a craving for brownies, while I was craving chocolate chip cookies. The compromise, if you can even call it a compromise was these awesome cookie brownie bars. They are delicious and I give them 3 stars, not bad for a boxed dessert. Here is a picture of the chocolate chip cookie land mines encased in brownie.

Now on to some more desserts I’ve made in the past. Last week, I had some friends coming to visit and decided to shower them with treats when they arrived. I made chocolate truffles and strawberry champagne cupcakes! For the truffles, I used Alton Brown’s recipe: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/alton-brown/chocolate-truffles-recipe/index.html. I did not use the brandy in them, but perhaps I will try that if I make them again.

I made this recipe over the course of a couple of days, as making them is quite time intensive. First, you basically make a ganache, chill it, then scoop it out into balls, chill it some more, roll it/shape it into prettier balls….like I said, it definitely takes a good chunk of time.

Next, I did as the recipe said and used a heating pad to heat the chocolate. This step took a lot of patience because it took a while to heat the chocolate. However, I did not have a candy thermometer to monitor the temperature, so I thought it was the best way to do it. Here’s the chocolate pan surrounded by the heating pad:

Viola: the finished product! On my first batch, I used a dark chocolate coating and topped them with an almond. These are a little rough around the edges as I didn’t let the chocolate melt quite enough; however, I learned from my mistake on the second batch and they came out more truffle-like. I don’t think that these look bad, but they do have a more rustic look than regular truffles and probably have more chocolate since it was not completely melted.

On the second batch, I used chili pepper chocolate and added some cinnamon and cayenne pepper to it. I garnished the tops with a mix of cinnamon and cayenne pepper. They were only slightly spicy and if I were to make these again, I would add more cayenne or add cayenne to the ganache as well as the shell.

Here is a side-by-side image of both truffles. I will give them 5 stars as they are an excellent and decadent dessert. I brought some into work and my coworkers agreed and said that they melt in your mouth!

On to Strawberry Champagne Cupcakes! I used the following DC Cupcakes recipe: http://www.oprah.com/oprahshow/DC-Cupcakes-New-Years-Eve-Strawberry-Champagne-Sparkler-Cupcakes. I’ve used this recipe before and they always turn out really well. The recipe says to use “good” champagne, but I’ve always used the $5 bottle of pink “Andre” champagne and they’ve turned out great! I didn’t put them in champagne glasses as the recipe suggests and I did not make the ganache, but these cupcakes are still amazing on their own or with the strawberry champagne frosting in the recipe. Mini versions of these cupcakes are pictured below:

One bonus of these cupcakes is that after you infuse the strawberries with the champagne, you drain out the champagne, so you have a strawberry daiquiri-type drink to enjoy! A couple hints to making these are: 1) make sure all of your ingredients are room temperature, 2) be sure not to over-mix your batter, and 3) make sure you’re baking with love, it makes a big difference!

I’ll give the cupcakes 4.5 stars. I also brought some of these into work and they were a big hit! One lover-of-sweets said that they were the best cupcakes she had ever tasted! That’s a pretty big compliment coming from someone who eats sweet treats on a regular basis.

Last, but certainly not least, a few weeks ago, I made chocolate ganache-dipped chocolate chip cookies. Here is the recipe: http://whatsgabycooking.com/ganache-dipped-chocolate-chip-cookies/. I made a double batch and made mini cookies so they are “diet-friendly.” I froze half the batter and used it at a later time. Here are a couple of pictures of these tasty treats:

Did you wonder what they looked like even closer? Well, now you know!

These cookies get 5 stars because they are amazing! Is your mouth watering yet?! Mine is!

S’mores and homemade flavored vodka!

Sometimes, all you need is a few simple ingredients to make a wonderful snack. A gas stove is great to roast marshmallows over while making s’mores and that’s just what a friend and I did one night after a stressful day at work.

It’s so easy and can bring so much happiness. These pictures are making me drool as I’m writing this, so I hope they are doing the same for you! Sometimes it’s best to make something simple and delectable that can bring a lot of happiness to your taste buds.

Now it’s time to shift gears from a great snack to a great drink! I like to get creative with alcoholic beverages and sometimes regret the fact that I have never been a bartender. I think it would be an interesting profession for a period of time because I’d be able to use my creative energy and talk to a lot of different people in the process. Maybe someday I’ll go to bartending school just for kicks if I have some extra time.

When I was in college, I’d mix up drinks for my friends and I using whatever ingredients us poor college students had on hand. There was the drink with gin and iced tea, the signature drink I created for our apartment, as well as many others.

Several weekends ago, a friend of mine came to visit and we somehow came up with the idea to make our own bubble gum vodka. “Three Olives” makes a flavor called bubble, which goes well mixed with sprite. It’s so close in flavor to actual bubble gum that it makes me want to blow a bubble! We attempted to recreate it by soaking “dubble bubble” brand bubble gum in vodka and it came out really well. I was so intrigued by the idea that I started dreaming up other vodka infusions. My friend and I also soaked some gummy bears in vodka. Below is a photo of the soaking vodkas:

After the vodka was infused, of course I had to make a tasty concoction! First, I wet the rim of my martini glass and covered it in rainbow sprinkles because well, I like rainbows! I also haven’t really seen drinks at bars decorated with rainbow sprinkles, so I thought, why not?! I mixed the gummy bear vodka with some pomegranate blueberry juice and a little bit of sparkling white grape juice for a tasty adult beverage! It was slightly sweet, fruity, and was reminiscent of gummy bears! See for yourself:

These infusions are an easy way to add extra flavor to a drink. That same friend of mine made some pomegranate lime vodka that was very tasty. Another friend of mine mentioned infusing fresh herbs, such as mint, basil, or rosemary in liquor. Just be creative if you want to infuse your alcohol: you can do lime and lime zest in tequila, mint in rum, or any other creation you can think of. Cheers!


After a nice relaxing Saturday, a friend of mine and I stopped for a bite to eat. Upon leaving, we noticed what looked like a candy store, but realized it was a cupcake store. It was really girly inside and definitely seemed to cater to women; however, I was so excited to have a cupcake store in my new town. Hailing from the Washington, D.C. area, I was spoiled by having Cake Love, Georgetown Cupcake, and a whole slew of other cupcakeries close by. After moving a couple of hours away from DC, I decided that one of the many things that my new town lacked was a cupcake store. That is, until a few days ago, when I was pleasantly surprised to find one.

The store is called SAS Cupcakes (Sweet and Sassy Cupcakes) http://www.sascupcakes.com, and as I said, they definitely seemed to be marketed towards super girly girls, which I am not. This is not necessarily a bad thing, though, because at least they have a marketing tactic. That being said, the staff was really nice. I asked whether the chocolate frosting was more like milk chocolate or dark (I prefer dark chocolate) and the salesperson brought me a small sample of the frosting. The scenario probably wouldn’t happen in the DC area. The chocolate frosting was comparable to that of Georgetown cupcake, whose chocolate frosting is heavenly.

I bought two cupcakes that day, a seasonal eggnog one and a chocolate frosted vanilla one. The only down-side to buying two cupcakes is that they put them in a small paper bag. If I had bought more, I probably would have gotten a box to tote around and had my cupcakes more secure for the ride home. The cupcakes did not get too messed up in the car, but some dents in the frosting may show in the photos as a result.

I dove into the chocolate frosted vanilla one first. After taking off about 1/3 of the icing, I took a bite. The frosting on this one was piled higher than the actual cupcake itself and was leaning over on itself as a result. While I took some of the frosting off, I couldn’t let it go to waste, so I stored it in a plastic container for consumption at a later time. I tried the cake and the frosting separately to review them. The cake part of the cupcake was quite dense but moist. I’d be able to eat it plain without having to grab for milk or another beverage. The frosting was the same frosting I sample and was lusciously whipped amazingness. 4.5 stars for this cupcake.

The eggnog one did not have quite as much frosting on it, so I only nixed about half of it. The frosting on the eggnog cupcake had nutmeg sprinkled on top and a hint of eggnog flavor, but there was something artificial-tasting about it. It might have been an artificial extract added to the mix that turned me off slightly about the frosting, but I wasn’t quite certain. The cake, however, made up for the lackluster frosting. It was full of ginger and nutmeg flavors with just the right amount of holiday spices. Eaten together, the cupcake + frosting was better than I would have expected for the sum of these two mediocre/luscious parts. It yielded a nice spiced holiday treat that made my mouth happy. 3 stars for this one, but I’m a bit partial to classic flavors like the vanilla cupcake and chocolate frosting combination.