Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Birthday Cake with Fondant

Whatever you do, DON'T look at the back of this cake!


I told you not to do that.

*sigh* Let's add "find a how-to video on draping fondant on cakes" to my to-do list, shall we? They make it look so easy on TV. They simply cut away after the fondant is first draped over it, and don't come back until it's all neatly smoothed on. What happens in between? Seriously, there's bound to be extraneous fondant (I'm sure there's some geometry proof I could use as evidence, but I've forgotten all of that), so what do you do with it? How do you get it smoothed out? *FRUSTRATED*

One side turned out okay, but then I got to the part where there was...excess. And there was much cracking and other nonsense. Which I tried to cover up with spider webs. Using storebought (and obviously very runny) black and white (with sparkles!) frosting. The results, as you can see...not aesthetically pleasing.
At least the birthday girl was happy.

In other news, although it didn't look particularly delicious, the cake tasted yummy. Could have been yummier, but my life is crazy right now, so I had to make the cake almost a week ahead of time and freeze it. I think that caused it to not be as moist as it should have been. But the frosting--so easy. Easiest frosting I've ever made (food processor!).

And super super delicious. The fondant, too, was actually nice tasting (I used storebought--Duff Goldman's new brand). But I'm too frustrated with it to give it high praise.

TGIP Rating--Birthday Cake with Fondant--Meh. The cake and frosting I'll definitely use again. I would be perfectly happy to never use fondant again. Ever. I understand why people like it--the clean look for a decorating base. But I'm far from being a professional baker/decorator, so the look of something is less important to me than the taste. Now, to win my children over to my point of view.

Next up: Duff (twice in one post!) talked in an episode of The Best Thing I Ever Ate about a pie from the Dangerously Delicious bakery in Baltimore called the Baltimore Bomb Pie. They use crumbled Berger cookies and a chess pie filling. I'm making my own version and calling it the Salt Lake Bomb Pie. I'll be using black and white cookies from my favorite Salt Lake bakery, Les Madeleines. I think that's about as close as I can come--a cakey cookie with a fudgy frosting. But, really, it's all about the fact that I'm craving pie.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Pumpkin Muffins

A million years ago (approximately), when I worked at UC Berkeley, the department I worked for was full of people who appreciated food. We had food parties a few times a year where everyone brought a passage from a book, or a scene from a movie that involved food, and a dish inspired by that. It was always fun and always delicious. One of those foodie co-workers brought a loaf of the most delicious pumpkin bread to work one morning and the recipe to share. I made it once, way back then, and haven't made it since. But I've always remembered how delicious it was and have always meant to revisit the recipe. Well, now I've revisited AND revamped it.

The most obvious revamping is that I made it into muffins. So much easier to manage, store, take, and eat than a loaf, or even a slice of a loaf. I also replaced half the oil with applesauce to make it a tiny bit healthier. I have tried replacing all oil with applesauce in other recipes and I feel like it makes sweet breads a little too tough. I'm willing to eat a little oil if it means that the muffin is tender. There is still a good bit of sugar in the recipe, but I'm not sure what can be done about that. At least it's not HFCS. :)

You can use an electric mixer if you feel you must, but it's not necessary at all. And I don't know about you, but I like, sometimes, just for a change of pace, to make a recipe that can be done with a bowl and a spoon. So simple.

Pumpkin Muffins *click here for printable version*

adapted from “Joan’s Pumpkin Loaf” from an unknown source
yield: approximately 18 muffins, or ?? mini muffins, or 1 large loaf (10x5x3), or 4 mini loaves

2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1-1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp cloves
2 eggs
2 cups granulated sugar or brown sugar (firmly packed)
1/4 cup Canola oil
1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 pound (2 cups) canned pumpkin--NOT pumpkin pie filling
8 ounces (1 cup) pitted dates, cut into pieces
4 ounces (generous 1 cup) walnuts, chopped or broken into medium-size pieces

Adjust an oven rack one-third up from the bottom of the oven and preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a muffin tin, or use cupcake papers (if using a loaf pan, use 10-cup capacity, butter, then dust the pan with fine, dry bread crumbs, then shake or tap out excess crumbs).

Sift together the flour, soda, salt, cinnamon, and cloves and set aside.

In a large bowl, beat the eggs just to mix. Add the sugar, oil, and applesauce and beat lightly just to mix. Mix in the pumpkin and then the dates.

Now add the sifted dry ingredients and stir, mix, or beat only until they are smoothly incorporated. Stir in the nuts.

Fill each muffin cup about 2/3 full of batter. Bake for 20-25 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the middle of one muffin comes out clean (for large loaf pan, bake 1-1/2 hours).

Cool in the muffin tin for 5 minutes, then turn out onto a cooling rack to cool completely.

When these are warm, they're obviously delicious with butter that gets nice and melty. And when they're cold, I like them with a little whipped cream cheese spread over them. Yummy. Cheesy. Spicy. Creamy.

TGIP Rating--Pumpkin Muffins--KEEPER. Still good after all these eons. Even better as a muffin.

Next up: Prima's 11th birthday is soon. She wants a cake. Of course. But with pink fondant. Yikes. I'll aim to deliver.