March 27, 2012

Make a wedding cake!

And that I did -- but not without a lot of planning and using many many MANY online resources. My 20 year plus career in the consumer research industry has proven useful in more ways that i could imagine...I found that when making a wedding cake for the VERY first time, research was a must!

As my sweet niece was growing up I often made her a special birthday cake...and just recently had the honor of being asked to make her wedding cake. Of course -- I would love to sweet wonderful girl! So the quest began, primarily How In The World Do You Stack a Wedding Cake without it tumbling down? Oh and to make it look pretty and taste delish too?! There the mission began...

But let's start at the ending, my favorite part....

White almond sour cream cake ~ Mocha mousse filling ~ Buttercream frosting

So there you go, the final result. :) The smile on their faces was so rewarding. And....along the way in the process of getting to this point I learned so much.


Now for those interested in how it was done, here's a peek into the "making" and some of what I learned...

PS Because I learned how to make cakes for my family from the cake decorating world online, this is my way of passing it forward. Enjoy my friends!

My go to white cake recipe for many years for birthday cakes has been the White Almond Sour Cream Cake. I don't remember where I first ran across it, but Yum! Here's the recipe:

White Almond Sour Cream Cake (WASC)by Rebecca Sutterby

2 boxes white cake mix
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups granulated sugar
1 ½ tsp salt

2 2/3 cups water
1/4 cup vegetable oil (= 4 Tblsp)
2 tsp real vanilla
2 tsp almond extract
2 cups (16 oz) sour cream
8 large egg whites

Place all dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl and stir together with a wire whisk. Add the remaining ingredients and beat on a low speed for 2 minutes. Bake at 325 degrees until cake tests done.

This recipe makes:
One 14” round and one 6” round or
One 16” round or
One 12” round and one 10” round or
One 12 X 18” sheet cake or
One 12” round and one 8” round and one 6” round or
Two 9" squares

The cake I made was:  14", 10", 6"


And some tips for baking the cake to help make it level, moist and evenly baked:

* I use Bake Even strips to ensure my cake is level  and it  helps to bake it evenly as well so that you don't have dry edges-  you can find these in the cake decorating section of craft stores or online. BUT here's a secret, I have also used paper towels for this for my cakes and it works great! Pull off enough paper towels to wrap around the circumference of the cake with a little extra for overlapping the ends -- be sure to keep them all connected to each other. Then fold them all together into a long thick strip -  wet carefully with water by placing under the faucet. You don't want it to be dripping wet, but do want it full of water. Place the strip around the outside of the cake pan and overlap the ends so that they stick to each other. That's it. You'll see, works wonders. Of course your discretion on whether or not you want paper towels in your oven or not. And if not, the Bake Even strips are great!

* Be sure to bake at 325 degrees, not just this recipe, but most cakes benefit from slightly lower temperature for added moistness.

* The cake is most often done just when it starts to pull away from the sides. Be sure to test with a toothpick near the center.  I also used an upside down "flower nail" on the middle of the 14" cake pan for the bottom tier of this wedding cake. I used it instead of a "heating core".  I put it right in the middle on top of the parchment paper, greased and floured with the point sticking up. Then carefully poured in the batter. Dont' forget it's there when you turn over your cake; I turned it over on a metal cooling rack and made sure the tip was placed where it would go through a hole in the cooling rack when I flipped it out of the pan  

* When right out of the oven, if there is any unevenness or rounding in the middle of the cake, I do this: Wet a clean kitchen cloth to dampen it and place it entirely on the top of the cake while the cake is still in the pan. Put another thick towel on top of that because so not to get hands to get burned. Now press lightly with hands onto the warm cake with the wet towel to flatten the higher areas. Be careful not to press too hard so as not to crack it. This levels the cake, eliminating the need to level the cake by cutting off the mound off the top.


My favorite, not too sweet, slightly crusting frosting recipe has been what I call Jeff's Buttercream. When I first ventured into "teaching myself" online" how to make cakes over 10 years ago, Jeff was a cake decorator on one of the cake forums I used to venture onto in order to soak up their expertise so that I could make wonderful cakes for my family. I wish I had a link to give him credit.  But I do have the 10 year old recipe card I jotted this down on. Here's the recipe..I get so many compliments about the flavor and it is so easy to decorate with and make smooth:

"Jeff's Buttercream"
By Jeff  :)

1 c melted butter
2 c shortening
2 pounds powdered sugar (sifted)
1 T vanilla
1/2 to 1 teaspoon almond extract (this cuts the sweetness a bit)
1-3 T boiling hot water

In mixer, blend melted butter and shortening well. Add the extracts and blend well. Add powdered sugar a little at a time and mix on LOW to avoid air bubbles. Heat the water in the microwave until very hot and add a tablespoon at a time until the texture you want (I often only need 2). Blend well on low. When done, be sure to keep this covered, as it does crust after some time where air hits it.


The bride asked for Mocha Filling, so I used my usual mousse recipe and modified it to be chocolate/coffee flavored. Yummo! Thumbs up from my chef too :)

Mocha Mousse Filling

 1 pint heavy whipping cream
1 small box INSTANT pudding mix (chocolate)
1-2 teaspoons instant coffee granules (decaf)

Add the coffee granules to the heavy whipping cream and allow to dissolve, blend well. Add the pudding mix and whip until you have mousse. Really that's it, easy. Just don't over whip or you will make butter. This recipe of course was not enough to fill the entire cake, but would be enough to fill one tier for a 10-12 cake.


And some things I did that were sooo helpful. Tips:

  • To cut a layer into two for filling, used unflavored dental floss and pulled it through evenly. Good to have an assistant for this to hold the layer steady, and for the cake to be cold or very slightly frozen.
  • Created dams for the filling with frosting
  • Used the viva paper towel trick to smooth the buttercream
  • Boba straws for support under each tier! I stacked the cake on site, but boxed each tier with the boba straws in place. Be sure to bring pliers to remove them when it is time to cut the cake
  • For the ribbon, placed on the cake AFTER stacked. Sprayed the ribbon with PAM before placing around the cake so no intermittent oil spots. Used piping gel (same color as ribbon) to "glue" the ends of the ribbon together.  
  • Placed a small circle of parchment under the flowers on the top layer so the blue orchids would not bleed onto the frosting. 
  • Had an assistant for cutting the cake.
  • One thing I would do different is to put FROSTING in as one of the filling layers before frosting it, so it would be cake, mocha filling, cake, frosting, cake mocha filling, cake -- instead of mocha filling in all three layers. The reason is that unless someone got an end peice (most do not) they did not get much frosting, and that buttercream frosting is too good to miss out on. 

December 9, 2011

It's that magical time of year where we celebrate all the many gifts in our lives. One of my favorite things to anytime of year is spend time with family, laughing, catching up and even baking together with all those wonderful smells from the oven surrounding us. With Christmas it's even more special...coming up is our annual cookie baking day, can't wait! Since it's been a while, here's something I wrote earlier this year as a guest on Frosting for the Cause... a story about strength...with a cupcake recipe weaved in -- Here as my gift to you. Enjoy.


Chocolate Sour Cream Cupcakes w/Raspberry Frosting

Isn’t it amazing, all the ingredients of life we’re each presented with?  Often it seems that challenges can make us stronger and sweeter and so many other wonderful things… unexpectedly.
And we all know there is the alternative, where the same ingredients in life don’t end up the same way from one person to the next.  I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately. The beauty, spirit, strength, faith and love I see surface in women and men faced with adversity or those standing up to make a difference against challenges others are faced with.  These are we all know and love dearly, people we simply know of, people we run across here and there…people with such big hearts, people like Paula. I am so blessed to be able to guest blog on her site today.
So just like (well not just like, but sorta like) the ingredients in life…measured, mixed right, contemplated, tasted and experienced, the individual ingredients in baking can make something lovely and beautiful with frosting on top.   Today I made cupcakes, sour cream chocolate cupcakes to be specific… with a yummy raspberry cream cheese frosting.
I make them in honor of all of those who have allowed their beauty, spirit, strength, faith and love to surface. I think of my aunt, a breast cancer survivor with an incredible spirit.  I think of my amazing sister, my hero, she is a police officer who risks her life every day and who also does so much to raise money to bring a cure to breast cancer.  I think of her sweet friend and colleague who also risks her life on duty and is training like crazy for the Komen 3-day in San Diego this year (on a fantastically lively named team “Protect and Serve the Tatas” no less).  I think of a dear friend of the family who just this week underwent surgery for breast cancer, and who WILL be a survivor. I think of a former colleague of mine who after surviving breast cancer 15 years ago went on to contribute an incredible amount of her time and talent to the cause.
They are all stronger and sweeter and so many other wonderful things….
Very soon I’ll be bringing these little sweet bites of chocolate and raspberries over to breast cancer survivors who volunteer at Komen San Diego. I hope they enjoy them…and that you do too.
Recipe Adapted from “Cupcakes!” by Elinor Klivans (First, if you haven’t had a chance to check out this cookbook, please do.  Such a fun read…that is in addition to the delicious photos and great recipes. Note the title of the chapter “Making Good Cupcakes”, love the directness of that!  )
Chocolate Sour Cream Cupcakes with Raspberry Frosting
“This batter produces a light, moist dark chocolate cupcake. As all good basic chocolate cupcakes should“
Makes enough batter for 18 regular cupcakes
* 3 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
* 1 cup all-purpose flour
* ½ teaspoon baking powder
* ½ teaspoon baking soda
* ¼ teaspoon salt
* ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
* 1¼ cups sugar
* 2 large eggs
* 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
* 2/3 cup sour cream
* ½ cup water
Put the chocolate in a heatproof bowl or the top of a double boiler and place it over, but not touching, a saucepan of barely simmering water (or the bottom of the double boiler). Stir until the chocolate is melted and smooth. Remove from the water and set aside to cool slightly.
Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into a medium bowl and set aside.
In a large bowl, using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat the butter and sugar until smoothly blended and creamy, about 2 minutes. Stop the mixer and scrape the sides of the bowl as needed during mixing. On low speed, mix in the melted chocolate. On medium speed, add the eggs one at a time, mixing until each is blended into the batter. Add the vanilla and beat until the mixture looks creamy and the color has lightened slightly, about 1 minute. Mix in the sour cream until no white streaks remain. On low speed, add half of the flour mixture, mixing just to incorporate it. Mix in the water. Mix in the remaining flour mixture until it is incorporated and the batter looks smooth. The batter is ready to bake at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes.  Check with toothpick at 15 minutes.
And now for my slight variation on the frosting.
Raspberry Cream Cheese frosting
4 oz cream cheese
½ cup butter
3 cups confectioners’ sugar
3/4 cup pureed and strained raspberries ( I used frozen)
½ teaspoon almond extract
Mix butter and cream cheese until well blended, Add the extract, then the sugar a little at a time. When all combined and smooth add the raspberries. Refrigerate a little for easier piping.
♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

October 2, 2011


This is Margarita. Isn't she lovely....

And this is what she taught me how to make today. Deliciously fantastic sopes!

Margarita's husband, is a dear friend of Chef, he considers them family.

And it's easy to see why....
They not only have hearts of gold, but they share so much warmth. They are my family now too...I am so very proud to say!!

And what better to do with family, than enjoy each other's company and cook some delicious Sopes.  When Margarita offered to show me how to make them, well suffice to say that I jumped at the chance. Actually, Chef's sisters and I all jumped at the chance. :)

So, Margarita, showed us how to measure the Maseca (pour it all in)
-and the water (that seems to be enough)
-and add the salt (a big mixing spoon full)

She knew exactly how much of each ingredient to add, and with a big smile and lots of patience showed us how to mix it, form the masa and cook them.

I started to take notes but hands on worked much better and in no time the four of us make a huge batch of deliciousness called Sopes. Yummmmm...and chef approved :)
I don't have an exact recipe to share, but did find this from the Maseca website, which seems pretty much in line with what we did.  So here is is, sharing what was shared with me, with love...

Enjoy! -- We did that's for sure :)

4 cups MASECA Amarilla® corn masa flour
2½ cups water
½ teaspoon salt

Combine MASECA Amarilla, water, and salt and knead for five minutes or until masa is no longer sticky. Divide into 20 small balls. Flatten into thick tortillas approximately three inches in diameter. On a hot skillet or griddle, cook each sope for one minute and then turn; cook until golden. Repeat with remaining masa balls.

Hold each sope with side first cooked facing up; pinch edges to make a border. Be careful as sopes will be hot. Cover with a cloth to keep sopes warm and moist. Oh, and I forgot the last step! Heat up a frying pan, medium heat is fine, brush or sprinkle a little bit of cooking oil on the bottom and top of the sopas and heat up on each side. They'll have more crispness and be a tad bit darker. Serve warm. Top with beans, meat, cheese, etc