Monday, August 31, 2009

When Life Hands You Lemons...

You make Lemon Tassies! August's baking ingredient for Rach's Baking Challenge was, LEMONS- a perfect summer refresher.

I'm usually on the ball when it comes to deadlines and blogging, but I was busy playing board games with my family (Mustang Monopoly and Yahtzee, if you're curious) that I forgot about posting til late last night. I'm supposed to post on the last day of the month, and it looks like I barely made it by the hair of my chinny chin chin. No, I don't have a hairy chin, why do you ask?

So, I have to be honest with you. I made these lemon tassies for Mother's Day. I'm so behind on my posts and I didn't want to make another lemon recipe so I'm pulling this one from the archives. But it's a good one and it deserves to be seen and drooled over. So prep your salivary glands :-)

Their concept is simple but they're tedious to make since you have to portion out 48 pieces of dough then fill the little muffin pans. Not hard, just time consuming. I only had one pan so I went next door to my neighbors' and borrowed their mini pans to get the ball rolling. I'll forever be indebted to them. Because of them I still have hair on my head.

These were very buttery, lemony and creamy. They even tasted like they had coconut in them, but it was just lemon zest. These would also be really good baked into a larger tart. I'll have to play around with that though. They were best the day they were made though because the crust softens over time.

I added a simple lemon glaze to the top of the tassies once they cooled and topped them with jumbo sprinkles for color. Then I packaged them in simple white confection boxes and tied a ribbon around them and tucked in a pretty flower pick. I gave them to my mother, grandmother and mother-in-law. I wish I had saved some for myself.

Lemon Tassies from Martha's Cookies
For the crusts:
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 10 Tbsp. cold unsalted butter, cut into chunks
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp. sugar
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 tsp. finely grated lemon zest
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • vegetable oil cooking spray

For the filling:

  • 8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 3 tablespoons finely grated lemon zest
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees with rack in upper third. Coat two 24-cup mini-muffin pans with cooking spray; set aside.

Make crusts: Process flour and butter in a food processor until mixture in the consistency of fine crumbs. Add sugar, egg yolk, vanilla, lemon zest, and salt. Process until evenly incorporated and sandy; do not overprocess.

Divide the dough into quarters. Divide each quarter into 12 equal pieces. Shape into balls. Place each ball in a muffin cup; press into cup, stretching dough up the sides. Set muffin pan on a baking sheet.

Bake until lightly browned all over and slightly darker at the edges, 18 to 20 minutes. Tap down any puffed centers of the shells with the end of a wooden spoon. Transfer baking sheet with muffin pan to a wire rack to cool.

Make the filling: In an electric mixer, beat cream cheese, sugar, egg, lemon zest, lemon juice, and vanilla on medium speed until completely smooth. Using a 1-inch ice cream scoop, fill the cooled crusts with filling.

Bake tassies, rotating sheets halfway through, until filling is set and just beginning to color at the edges, 10 to 12 minutes. Transfer muffin pan to a wire rack to cool completely.

The tassies may be refrigerated in single layers in airtight containers, for up to 3 days.

Makes 4 dozen.

NOTE: This is NOT the same recipe for lemon tassies that is found on Martha's website. The recipe on her website has the wrong filling to crust ratio so I have not linked to it. Instead I have copied this directly from the Cookies book.

The glaze I made consists of about 1/4 cup of powdered sugar mixed with fresh squeezed lemon juice. You want it just thin enough to drizzle. Add more sugar if too thin. Top each tassie with a dime size amount of glaze then top with a jumbo colored sprinkle if desired. Allow the glaze to set.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Wilton Course 1, Week 2 (And A Review)

Here's my cake for week 2 of my Wilton class. Only one more week to go! In this week's class we learned how to pipe a shell border, make hearts (I suck at those!) make dots of various sizes and how to pipe drop flowers.

Oh and we learned how to pipe using parchment triangles. I officially don't like those. My paper kept shifting at the base by the tip. It was messy and far more problematic than I ever thought possible. I see how they can come in handy and I see how they could be used in a pinch for scribing out a name with melted chocolate on a cake, but if I don't have to use them, I won't be.

The drop flowers also look simpler than they are. They're not hard, but you have to twist your hand while squeezing out the icing. It just takes practice. I think mine came out alright. I was going to pipe a shell border on the cake but my icing was too thick and the ends kept breaking off, causing it to look a little jagged, so I left them off.

This is how I chose to incorporate clowns and flowers. Last week she told us we had to have clown bodies on our cake, but that we could use any head we wanted. Some people did Hello Kitty, others did Sponge Bob and Darth Vader! I chose the clowns because I was determined to make them un-scary. So I piped a field of wild (read: overgrown) grass, some pink flowers (totally not scary!) and the clowns sitting on the side.

I'm pleased with the way it turned out, but I had one minor problem with the clown in the red collar. The orange cream cheese icing below him had gotten a little soft and the weight of the clown body made it look like he had a saggy butt. As soon as I got home I put it in the fridge, but as I was trying to fix it, the other clowns foot fell off- ha! Oh well. Next time I'll use a more stable (a stiffer) icing to frost my cake in.

On to the review part of this post. I love carrot cake so when I saw a commercial for this cake mix I thought I'd give it a try. I like how the box says "decadent" and "ingredient rich". If by that they mean, a spice cake mix with a baggy of dried shredded carrots and raisins, then okay.

It was not bad, but I don't think I'd make it again. The "recipe" calls for rehydrating the carrots and raisins in hot water for 5 minutes. I let them sit for 15 minutes before adding the eggs, oils and cake mix. The end result was a very moist cake, but it was a little too spicy for me and the carrots were a little chewy. Of course if you like spice cake, then you might love this one. I, on the other hand, will be making mine from freshly grated carrots. I prefer a carrot rich cake with added spices, not the other way around. On a good note, those that tasted the cake said it tasted homemade. I iced my cake with orange cream cheese icing.

Has anyone else made this cake mix? What did you think of it? Are there other mixes out there that you love that I should give a try?

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Shades of Blue(berry)

I have to say... these popsicles are quite the lookers. I had so much fun photographing these blueberry vanilla yogurt pops and all their components. I don't know which picture I like best. They make me want to eat blueberries until I turn into Violet Beauregarde.

If you don't want to use blueberries (and I don't know why you wouldn't!) you could use cherries like the original recipe called for. I'm sure strawberries and peaches would be fantastic too!

This adapted recipe comes from Pops! Icy Treats For Everyone. There are so many different and unusual recipes in this book such as Mango & Chile Paletas, Persimmon Pudding Pops, PB & Sesame Raspberry Pops, Blueberry Cheesecake Pops, Root Beer Float Pops, Caramel Latte Pops, Mojito Pops....Do I have your attention?! There is something in this book for everyone so I suggest you take a looksie the next time you're at the bookstore or your local library.

These pops were not only pretty, they were tasty and healthy and simple to make. They were lightly sweetened with honey but I added a little vanilla sugar for something extra. The blueberry flavor shone through but it was balanced out by the tanginess of the yogurt and fragrant vanilla. They were icy and creamy at the same time with the added bonus of the whole berry tucked inside.

Blueberry Vanilla Yogurt Pops adapted from Pops!
  • 2 1/2 cups blueberries
  • 1 cup grape juice
  • 1 cup plain yogurt
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 tsp. honey
  • 1 Tbsp. vanilla sugar (optional)

Combine 2 cups of the blueberries with the grape juice, yogurt, vanilla extract, honey and vanilla sugar in a food processor or blender. Process until smooth.

Pour the blended mixture into molds leaving 1/2 an inch of head space. Evenly divide the remaining 1/2 cup blueberries into the molds. Using the handle of a long spoon or a skewer gently push some of the blueberries down into the mold.

Insert sticks and freeze for a minimum of 6 hours or overnight.

Makes 8-10 pops- depending on size.

NOTE: The original recipe calls for 3 cups cherries (2 c. blended, 1 c. added to blended mixture) and cherry juice.

I have to admit, I had a couple of these for breakfast on my way out the door. It's the perfect travel companion :-)

Monday, August 24, 2009

The Fresh Version

A couple months ago I saw a pineapple upside-down cupcake on A Baked Creation. But this was no ordinary upside down cake. It was made with fresh pineapple and strawberries instead of sugary jarred cherries. Brilliant! Why didn't I think of that? I mean duh! strawberries are my favorite fruit and I've never been known to pass up a slice of pineapple upside-down cake! Ever. So this was immediately put on the very top of my "to make" list.

Funny thing...she got the recipe from Martha's Baking Handbook, which I already owned but looked past because the original recipe was made with mango. I like mangoes but the final product didn't appeal to me. I like mango fresh and raw not cooked. So I set off to my kitchen a couple days later only to find out that Coleen of Coleen's Recipes has posted a fresh pineapple upside down cake the same day!

It was fate. And it was delicious. The cake was fluffy and buttery with a pronounced vanilla flavor and the fruit was sweet and so much tastier than canned. And it was pretty and a great way to use up summer produce. I highly recommend you make this cake using your favorite fruit before summer comes to an end!

Fresh Pineapple & Strawberry Upside-Down Cake from Martha's Baking Handbook
  • 1 1/4 sticks (10 Tbsp.) unsalted butter, room temp, plus more for pan
  • 1 medium ripe pineapple (about 3 1/2 lbs), peeled and cut crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices
  • 4 large strawberries, hulled, sliced in half lengthwise
  • 1/2 cup packed light-brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup sour cream

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter an 8-by-8-inch cake pan, line it with parchment paper, and butter parchment. Using a 3-inch cookie cutter, cut out rounds from centers of four of the pineapple slices. Using a 1 1/2-inch cookie cutter, cut out the centers of each of the four rounds, and discard; set rings aside. Finely chop enough of the remaining pineapple to yield 1/2 cup (reserve remainder for another use). Place chopped fruit in a fine sieve set over a bowl to drain.

Cut the 4 strawberries in half lengthwise. Using the 1 1/2-inch cookie cutter, cut out 8 rounds from strawberry halves and set aside. Discard or eat the scraps.

In a large bowl, beat 2 tablespoons butter with the brown sugar until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Using a small offset spatula, evenly spread butter mixture in the bottom of the prepared pan; set aside.

In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, salt, baking soda, and baking powder; set aside. Place a reserved pineapple ring in each corner of the prepared pan. Place a reserved strawberry round in the center of each ring (the pretty red side down). (You should have 8 strawberry rounds. Place 4 in the middle of the pineapple rings, then cut the others in half or in quarters to fill in the gaps on the sides and corners of the pan).

In your bowl, beat remaining stick of butter with granulated sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition; scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. Beat in the vanilla. With the mixer on lowest speed, add flour mixture in two parts, alternating with sour cream and beginning and ending with flour.

Transfer the chopped pineapple to cake pan; discard juice. Using a small offset spatula, carefully spread fruit in an even layer on top of cut-out fruit, making sure to fill all the empty spaces, including any gaps in the corners. Using the offset spatula, spread batter evenly over fruit.

Bake, rotating pan halfway through, until cake is golden brown and a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean, about 50 minutes. Transfer pan to a wire rack to cool 30 minutes. Invert onto a cake plate; peel off the parchment paper.

Serve cake slightly warm or at room temperature.

Makes 1 8-inch cake.

Wait, I have a question for you: I'm looking to buy a cake carrier so I can transport my cakes to and from my Wilton class. I have a stainless steel and glass vintage version but it's not airtight and the lid just sits on the cake plate so unless you're holding it in place (during transport) the lid can slide off and mess up the cake. I need a cake caddy with a locking lid that is big enough to house my sky high cakes (10"wide x 5"high).

Any suggestions/recommendations would be helpful!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Wilton Course 1, Week 1

This is going to be a quickie!

Thursday night I started a Wilton cake decorating class. Rather than taking the class at Michaels, I decided to take it at a local bake shop since I thought I'd learn more from the pros.

In our first class we watched the instructor make Wilton buttercream, which contains NO butter, in case you're wondering. I've gotta find something different cause it's sickeningly sweet and full of Crisco--eeeew! Oh and it has meringue powder in it, which I've come to realize makes me break out in hives! Long story that involves many welts, raised red bumps and lots of itching. One ER visit at 2am and a prescription for Prednizone later, all is well.

We learned how to frost a cake (this was very boring for me and it took people forever!), how to use a pastry bag and load the tips, how to pipe stars, zig zags, how to write on cakes, how to smooth out a cake using a paper towel (in this cake a patterened one) and then we decorated the cake using these techiniques. It was required that we have two flowers the rest we could get creative with.

Here's my cake! It got smashed by the lid of the cake box on the way home :-( But I'm pleased with the results being my first time ever to pipe icing not using a Ziploc bag :-)

If anyone has any tips, suggestions, advice or you want to share your experience regarding Wilton Class 1 please email me or leave them in the comment section. I'd love to hear what you have to say!

Next week we're making a clown cake (I'll try to make it as unscary as possible!) and learning how to do drop flowers as well as the Wilton rose. How does one incorporate clowns and flowers on one cake? I don't know, but wish me luck!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Autumn To The Rescue...All She Lacks Is A Cape!

This months selection for The Cake Slice Bakers was Pistachio Petit Four Cake. It's a 3 layer pistachio cake with super this layers of apricot jam, marzipan and ganache. It's then coated entirely in a bittersweet chocolate ganache (I used semisweet) and decorated with more marzipan, tinted and shaped into roses.

I made this cake for my step dad's 50th birthday. I assume he liked it, he didn't say much but I know my aunt and uncle loved it. They love anything with marzipan! I even heard from my grandmother who was not at the party how great the cake was from them. So if you love these flavors this cake is for you!

While making this cake the kitchen smelled wonderful! The toasting of the pistachios the baking of the cake, the sweetness of the ganache and the nutty aroma from the marzipan was quite the treat. My husband walked in and said it smelled like a bakery.

I loved the cake batter and all the individual components but for some reason, I didn't love the final product. I think the marzipan overwhelmed and the pistachio flavor of the cake didn't come through as I hoped. I think it would be great as an almond cake because that was the dominant flavor, but I would sub out a different jam if I were to make it again.

Pistachio Petit Four Cake from Sky High Cakes Printable Version
  • 3/4 cup skinned pistachio nuts
  • 1 2/3 cups sugar
  • 2 cups cake flour
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 sticks (8 oz) unsalted butter, at room temp.
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 5 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 3/4 cup apricot preserves
  • Marzipan (recipe below)
  • Dark chocolate glaze (recipe below)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter three 8 inch round cake pans. Line the bottom of each pan with a round of parchment or waxed paper and butter the paper.

Spread out the pistachios in a baking tray and toast in the oven for 7 to 10 minutes, until lightly coloured. Transfer to a dish and let cool completely. Finely chop the pistachios and set ¼ cup aside for decoration.

Put the remaining ½ cup pistachios in a food processor. Add the sugar and pulse just enough to grind them finely. Pour into a large mixing bowl and add the flour, baking powder and salt. Blend with the mixer on low for 30 seconds.

Add the butter, milk and vanilla and with the mixer on low, beat until completely incorporated. Raise the speed to medium and beat until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the beaten eggs in 2 or 3 additions, scraping down the sides of the bowl well and mixing only long enough to blend after each addition. Divide the batter among the 3 prepared pans.

Bake for about 25 minutes or until a cake tester or wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow the layers to cool in the pans for 10 minutes. Turn out onto wire racks, carefully peel off the paper liners and let cool completely.


  • 8 ounces almond paste
  • 1 ½ cups confectioners sugar
  • 1/4 cup light corn syrup

Crumble the almond paste into a large mixing bowl. Use an electric mixer on low speed to soften the almond paste. Add the confectioners sugar and corn syrup and beat until smooth. Wrap well in plastic so it doesn’t dry out and allow to rest at room temperature for 1 to 2 hours before rolling.

NOTE: I made my marzipan but it would be much easier (and less sticky!) if you were to purchase prepared marzipan. It's about the same price.

Dark Ganache Glaze

  • 1 pound extra bittersweet chocolate
  • 1 ¼ cups heavy cream

Chop the chocolate coarsely and put it in a heatproof bowl. Bring the cream to a bare simmer. Pour immediately over the chocolate and let stand for 5 minutes. Whisk until smooth and use the glaze soon after making before it starts to set. Allow to cool and thicken slightly before use.

NOTE: I used semisweet chocolate.


  • Roll out a third of the marzipan on a work surface dusted with a little confectioners sugar to about 1/8th inch thick. Set one of the cake pans upside down on the marzipan and trim around it with a small knife to make an 8 inch round. Repeat twice more with the remaining marzipan. Save your scraps to make roses for decoration if desired.
  • Place one cake layer on a cake board, flat side up. Spread ¼ cup of the apricot preserves evenly over the top, leaving a ¼ inch margin all round to allow for spreading. Place one marzipan round on top of the preserves and spread 1/3 cup ganache glaze over the top of the marzipan so that it is completely covered. Repeat with the second cake layer, adding more preserves, marzipan and glaze.
  • Add the final cake layer and top with preserves and marzipan as before. Place the whole cake on a wire rack set over a baking pan. Pour the remaining dark ganache glaze over the cake, spreading it as evenly as possible over the top and sides of the cake. Allow the ganache to set before transferring to a plate. It should be smooth and glossy.
  • Garnish the top with the reserved chopped pistachios.
  • Optional: Make some marzipan roses with any leftover marzipan scraps if desired.
* * * * * * *

I had one minor disaster while assembling my cake. I pulled it from the oven and it slipped out of my hand and fell on the floor! It was hot so I couldn't grab it, though it was an automatic reflex. Autumn came to check out what was going on (as usual). I managed to lift the cake off the floor and set it on a cooling rack without damaging the cake. I wasn't worried about it getting dirty though because the floor had just been mopped. Autumn took care of the crumbs for me- look at her licking her lips :-P

Happy 50th Birthday Rick!

Be sure to check out all the other Cake Slice Bakers!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Thank you and A Salad

Thank you all so much for your kind and supportive emails and comments on my last post regarding my son. Some of them made me smile, some made me cry (in a good way) and I truly appreciate each and every one of them...more than you know.

Moving on to carrot salad. Simple, delicious and good for you. It's vibrant and orange so that makes it fun! And it's a necessity on any Southern buffet line, IMHO.

Whenever we go to our favorite mom and pop restaurant we go through the salad bar and get carrot salad. I love it when they add mini marshmallows to it, because they add a bite of tender sweetness that is just so good. It's also something we always get when we go to Luby's Cafeteria or "Luly's" as the folk on King of the Hill call it :-) So I decided to make it at home and it couldn't be simpler and the hubs gave it two thumbs up!

Carrot-Pineapple-Raisin Salad from Luby's
  • 2 lbs. raw carrots, peeled and shredded
  • 1 cup chunky or crushed pineapple, drained
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 cup raisins soaked in hot water to plump, then drained*
  • 1/2 powdered sugar

Combine carrots, pineapple, mayonnaise, raisins and powdered sugar; mix well. Chill until ready to serve.

Makes 8 servings. (I halved this recipe.)

NOTE: *I warmed the pineapple juice (from the drained pineapple) to soak the raisins in.

And another for good measure- Autumn eyeing my carrot salad :-)

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