Sunday, June 2, 2013

Oh Mickey, You're So Fine!

You know the rest. But, this isn't about that song, it's about the mouse... Mickey Mouse. You've heard of him, yes? Confession, I haven't baked in awhile. Unless you count the Betty Crocker box brownies (gasp!) that I made for my hubby last week after he spotted them in the grocery aisle and had himself a little craving. Maybe he's preggers?

We are in the midst of remodeling our kitchen, DIY style, and I'm doing my best not to go crazy with the mess and disorder that it has been for longer than I can recall at the moment. Currently we're in the height of chaos and disorder as we're refacing all of the cabinets... ourselves. It's a dirty job, but it's cheaper if you do it yourself. So, there are no cabinet doors or drawers in the kitchen, everything is in plain sight and everything that is normally in a drawer is on the kitchen counter or in appropriately labeled grocery bags in the dining room. It's not ideal, but I'm surviving, and hopefully it won't last too much longer.

Because of the mess I haven't been motivated to create more mess by baking, but a couple weeks ago I was asked to make a birthday cake for this weekend. At the time the kitchen was still in working fashion so I said yes. Of course when it came time to start baking, the kitchen had been slightly deconstructed and we're also in the middle of an obscene heat wave. Perfect.

I was asked to make a Mickey Mouse cake for a 5 year old boy. No chocolate. He sent me a couple pictures for inspiration and I figured out what I wanted to do. I planned on making vanilla cake with vanilla buttercream frosting and marshmallow fondant. My original plan was to use a 10-inch cake for the middle and two 6-inch cakes for the ears. I wasn't sure if these sizes would work out, but those are the pan sizes I have so I was hoping it would be fine. Part of me worried that the 6-inch cakes would be too big for the ears. But, those sizes actually worked out perfectly.

As always, I separated my cake making into 2 days of work. On the first day I baked the cakes and made the fondant. First I made a double batch of the vanilla cake with the recipe that I always use whenever I bake cakes like this. I wasn't sure exactly how much batter I would need, but I knew it would at least be a double batch. The double batch filled one 10-inch pan and one 6-inch pan. So with those filled and ready to go I placed them in the oven together (I'm sure this is a no-no, but it was just too hot to have the oven on any longer than necessary) to bake. The 10-inch cake was done in about 45 minutes, the 6-inch was done in 55. My 6-inch cake pan is 3 inches tall so it always takes a little longer for those cakes to bake.

Knowing that a double batch of batter would get me the right amount of batter for 2 more cakes in the size I needed I made another double batch and filled the pans. When all the cakes were done baking I let them cool in the pan on a wire rack. While the cakes were cooling I made the fondant. I knew I wanted to make 3 colors; white, red and black. I started with white, then made red, and finally the black. This way I could use the same bowl and not have to wash it out every time to make sure the previous color didn't impact the following one. It worked.

When the fondant was done I wrapped all three batches individually in saran wrap and put them in the fridge. If it's cooler you can leave the fondant out until you're ready to use it, but since it was so hot I wanted to keep it in the fridge. If you do keep it in the fridge, just remember to take it out a little before you want to start decorating so it gets a little time to soften up and become more workable.

On day 2 I started by making the icing, and then I started carving/constructing Mickey. I had an idea of what my game plan was going to be, and I pretty much held to it as I worked. I started by leveling off the cakes so everything was flat on top and bottom. Then I cut each of the 6-inch cakes in half horizontally and spread icing in the middle so each cake had 2 layers. Then I also cut one of the 10-inch cakes in half horizontally and made that a 2-layer cake. Because of the height difference in the 10-inch and 6-inch cakes, and to make everything the same height, I only ended up using one of the 10-inch cakes.

With everything the same height I worked on the placement of the cakes. I cut a small football shaped piece out of each of the small cakes so they would sit flush to the middle cake for the ears. When the cakes were placed where I wanted them I iced everything and placed it in the fridge for a little while so it could set. While the frosting set I rolled out the fondant and first placed the black fondant over the cake. It ended up being enough to cover the entire cake, though I didn't need it to be because I was going to cover the bottom half with red. After the cake was covered with fondant I piped a nice edging around the bottom to make it look a little cleaner. I haven't yet figured out how to get fondant to lay nicely at the bottom of a cake, so if I can, I always try to make a little edge with icing or fondant so it looks nicer.
Here's what the cake looked like. I know what you're thinking... who's the cake for?

You're right, now that everything was done I had to figure out how to put happy birthday and the name on the cake. Here's the problem... I was really happy with how the cake looked and I didn't want to mess it up by doing a shoddy piping job or putting poorly cut out fondant letters on it. So, I got to thinking. For my hubby's recent birthday cake I made a little banner to say happy birthday, and I thought maybe I could do something like that for this cake.

I Googled "mickey mouse font" and found one that I liked that I could download for free. I printed out "happy birthday josh" and "5th" in case I decided to include the number and worked on making a little banner. I traced the printed letters onto card stock, filled in the letters, and cut each of the words out separately. I glued each word onto red card stock in the arrangement I liked and cut that out as well. I traced that shape onto another piece of red card stock so the banner would have a backing and so I could glue a toothpick in the middle to have a way to stick it into the cake.
Ta da! I debated for awhile about where to put the banner in the cake, but I finally chose one of the sides since I figured it would be easier to put candles in the middle if they decided to do that. Overall, I was really happy with how the cake turned out and I love the little banner as well. For me it's much easier than piping, I think it looks better and I like that it adds a little height to the cake as well. Hopefully Josh liked it as much as I did.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

German Chocolate Cupcakes

This is Augie.
Please disregard the case of Miller Lite in the background. It was left over from a family visit and we've just now taken back the empties. I didn't want to lose the opportunity for this picture by removing it beforehand. It's very hard to get a puppy to hold a pose. So, like I said, this is Augie. He's the newest member of our family. He's a 9-week-old black lab (he was just about 8 weeks old when this picture was taken) and he's been with us just about 2 weeks. Needless to say we've been pretty busy trying to teach this little guy the ropes and make sure Rollins (our almost 3-year-old yellow lab) still knows we love him. Thankfully the boys actually get along really well, which was my biggest worry. Now if I could only get Augie housebroken... all in good time.

So anyway, that handsome little face is the reason it took me so long to make these German Chocolate Cupcakes.
It's difficult to bake while a puppy is running around under your feet. It's even harder to keep track of him to make sure he's not running around in another room doing something he shouldn't be. For those reasons I waited to bake until my hubby and I would both be home so he could keep an eye on the boys while I worked.

This recipe didn't involve much prep beforehand. I left both the butter and the eggs out overnight to get to room temperature. I had also chopped all the chocolate the day before and just put it in a tupperware until I needed it. I was making chocolate frozen yogurt that also required chopped semisweet chocolate so I figured doing all the chopping at once would save me some time in the long run. I love being efficient. On to the cupcakes... I started with melting the chocolate and after the chocolate was melted I let it cool while I buttered and floured the cupcake pans. One of my least favorite things as I've mentioned many times before.

Making the batter wasn't difficult and it didn't take very long to do. The only hiccup I came across when making the cupcakes was what they looked like when they were done, and getting them out of the cupcake pans. I filled the cupcake pans three-quarters full (or what I think is three-quarters full) and baked them for 20 total minutes with a turn halfway through the baking time. When the cupcakes were done they were very flat and wide. They didn't bake up, they baked across, and in my opinion were quite ugly. But then again, I'm a sucker for a nice round cupcake. I can only conclude that I filled the cupcake pans too full, and since I only got 21 cupcakes instead of the 24 I was supposed to get that's probably the case. So, if I were to make them again I wouldn't fill them quite as full.

The other problem I came across was getting the cupcakes out of the pan. For whatever reason, buttering and flouring the cupcake pans didn't work like it normally does. Out of 21 cupcakes, I think only 2 or 3 of them came out cleanly. For the majority of the cupcakes there was at the very least a small portion that stuck to the bottom of the pan making the cupcakes look very ugly and making me very frustrated. The only thing I can think of is that cake flour doesn't work as well as all-purpose flour, or maybe I didn't butter them enough. I used a paper towel to apply the butter instead of just buttering the pans with the stick of butter itself. The butter was too soft and would have made a mess. I always apply Crisco with a paper towel so I figured using the same technique with butter would work just as well. So it was either the butter or the cake flour, something didn't work right.

After the cupcakes had cooled I set them aside in a tupperware until I could get to making the  Coconut-Pecan Frosting. Time and energy have been lacking for me lately so it took me a day or two to get to it. This frosting was a little more involved than a typical frosting but it wasn't that difficult. First order of business was chopping the pecans so they could be roasted. While the pecans roasted and cooled I worked on putting together the rest of the frosting. The recipe said to heat the frosting over medium heat until it thickened to the consistency of sour cream, roughly 10 minutes. I stirred constantly just like it said and at roughly 10 minutes the mixture wasn't that thick, nor was it the consistency of sour cream. So, I let it go another 10 minutes hoping the consistency would change and that I wouldn't ruin the frosting in the process.

The additional 10 minutes didn't make much of a difference. I suppose it was a little thicker, but it still wasn't sour cream consistency. But, at this point the mixture was boiling and I was worried about burning it, so I stopped when I got to 20 minutes of constant stirring and no success. I was hoping that taking it off the heat would also help it to thicken up a little bit... it did. Once I was done cooking the frosting I strained it through a fine sieve into a medium-sized bowl. I have a small sieve so this took a little while since I had to strain it in batches. Eventually I will invest in a larger sieve. When I was done straining the frosting I stirred in the remaining ingredients and let everything cool before I frosted the cupcakes.

While the frosting was cooling I sliced all the cupcakes in half and entertained the pups for a little while. When the frosting had cooled completely I put one tablespoon on the bottom half of the cupcake, placed the top half of the cupcake on that, and then spread some frosting on the top of each cupcake. This was a bit of a messy process as the frosting was quite sticky, but I thought the cupcakes actually turned out looking quite nice. Especially considering what they had looked like when I took them out of the pan. Don't get me wrong, some still looked a little rough, but they were much improved.

As for the taste of the cupcakes once they were frosted, I didn't love them, but I didn't hate them. I'm not a big fan of coconut or pecans, I know I've mentioned that before, so I didn't expect to like the frosting very much. The frosting itself wasn't terrible, and eating it with the cupcakes definitely helped. The cupcakes themselves, without the frosting were very good and I did actually eat more than one with no frosting at all... less calories! But, when completely finished and frosted I didn't get through half a cupcake. They weren't bad, they just didn't suit my fancy.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Lemon-Yogurt Cupcakes with Raspberry Jam

Originally I had intended to make these cupcakes for Easter Sunday and give them to my neighbors for an Easter treat. I had already made Easter cookies for my immediate family (they’re the same cookies I made for Valentine’s Day only a different shape, different color frosting and Easter-appropriate sprinkles) so I was off the hook there. But, I didn’t have enough cookies for the neighbors and I always think it’s a nice gesture for a holiday. I didn’t end up making these cupcakes for Easter either, sorry neighbors. It’s the same story as always, I was tired after work, and the recipe looked like it required more work and focus than I was willing to give. So, I held off for another week and took a nap.

I woke up “early” (8 am) Thursday morning and while my hubby was still fast asleep I was a busy little worker bee around the house. Since I figured he wouldn’t be up for a little while (he works later than I do, so he sleeps later too) I thought I would do a little baking to keep myself entertained before we ran around and took care of some errands.

As previously mentioned I had been putting this recipe off because it was going to involve a little work, starting with buttering and flouring the cupcake pans. It’s one of my least favorite things when it comes to baking. I don’t have any real reason other than using cupcake liners is so much easier and doesn’t require washing the cupcake pans after the baking is complete. Since this recipe said I would yield 24 cupcakes, I had to butter and flour (and wash) 2 cupcakes pans, not 1. No thanks.

My second reason for putting this off was I noticed I was going to have to use multiple bowls which again means multiple steps and more dishes to wash afterward. Something I wasn’t in the mood for on Easter Sunday. So, now that I had finally mustered up the energy to tackle these cupcakes I started by whisking together the dry ingredients and setting them aside.

Next up, whisking the egg whites into soft peaks. When I have to whisk egg whites, 99% of the time I use my stand mixer. It’s just so much easier. I can turn it on and let it do its thing while I work on something else. This case was no different, except that the recipe said to whisk the egg whites at medium speed. Of all the times that I can remember I’ve always whisked them at a higher speed, so I was a little concerned that medium speed wouldn’t get the job done. While the egg whites were whisking in a different bowl I worked on beating the butter with my hand mixer. I checked on the egg whites every minute or so to see if they were making any progress, and they weren’t. After letting them whisk about another minute on medium without any progress I decided it was time to increase the speed. My stand mixer goes from 0-12. I had started with 6, what I would consider medium, and ultimately increased the speed to 9, what I would consider medium-high. After a couple minutes I started to see some progress and was well on my way to properly whisked egg whites. Once the egg whites were at the right consistency I added in the sugar and continued whisking them on medium-high until stiff peaks formed. The recipe said to put the egg whites into another bowl, but rather than dirty another bowl, I just left them in the stand mixer until I was ready to use them.

I was hoping that after I was done with the egg whites the worst would be over, that was not the case. The most work came when it was time to combine the egg whites with the rest of the batter. The rest of the batter was pretty thick and stiff, and the recipe said to whisk in the egg whites by hand. This didn’t seem like the right approach based on the consistency of the batter, but in Martha I trust, so I went for it. It was tough and it took a while. When it was finally time to fold in the rest of the egg whites instead of whisk them, things were much easier and went much faster, but it still took a little work.

Now that the batter was done I filled each cupcake cup three-quarters full, or my best estimation of three-quarters full. They were probably a little fuller than they needed to be, but I always prefer a rounded cupcake to a flatter one. I just think they look nicer. I ended up with enough batter for 20 cupcakes, so I was 4 short of what the recipe said I would get, which meant I would have 4 cupcake cups lined with butter and flour that was now going to be baked into the pan and harder to clean. Hooray.

I baked each batch of cupcakes for 20 total minutes with a turn halfway through the baking time. They came out perfectly. They were more rounded than the cupcakes in the picture in Martha’s cookbook, but my guess is that’s because I used more batter. As soon as the cupcakes came out of the oven I ran a butter knife along the edges of each cupcake so they would be easier to remove once they were cooled. Then, I let them cool completely in the pan.

I decided to wait until the following day to put the cupcakes together. So on Friday while my hubby was playing FIFA I sliced and layered the cupcakes with raspberry jam. I used a teaspoon of jam per layer and ended up not having enough jam for all of the cupcakes (I bought a 12 oz. jar of Smuckers seedless raspberry jam). I think I had 2 cupcakes that went without jam, but honestly the cupcakes were really good on their own so I wasn’t upset about it. They were very light and fluffy, the flavor was vanilla with a hint of lemon. Yum! After the cupcakes were layered with jam I garnished the one I liked the best with confectioner’s sugar so I could photograph it. The rest I waited to garnish until later that night so they would be ready to take to work in the morning. Sometimes if you dust cupcakes with confectioner’s sugar ahead of time the sugar soaks into the cupcake and is no longer visible when it’s time to serve them. Now that I know that I try to wait to garnish with confectioner’s sugar until the last minute.

Finally, taste test time! I did actually try a cupcake right after it came out of the oven before it was raspberry jammed (technical term). I was curious as to what the cupcakes would taste like before the jam and they were delicious. I would have happily eaten all of them without the jam, but that’s not the point. They were even better with the jam and so much prettier. I love how they turned out, especially when you can see the inside and the layers of jam. I think they’d be even prettier with a whipped cream garnish instead of just confectioner’s sugar, or maybe a little drizzle of glaze. I might try that next time if I decide to make them again. I also made my hubby try them because I like to get his opinion and I figured he wouldn’t be scared to try these (some flavors he just doesn’t dig) and he really liked them. One of his favorite treats is Entenmann’s Raspberry Danish Twist and he said these cupcakes tasted like that. Needless to say he’s eaten more than the one I made him try. So far I’ve managed to restrain myself and have only eaten 1, however there’s a good chance that stat doesn’t make it through the day. I can’t let them go to waste, can I?

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Mint-Filled Brownie Cupcakes

I've been meaning to make these mint-filled brownie cupcakes (no link on Martha's site) for awhile now. I was originally going to make them a couple weeks ago but came down with a sudden flu bug or something. In short, it was a day of unpleasantness spent in the bathroom, followed by a day in bed which all equated to a 5-pound weight loss. So really, all in all I'd call that a win. I actually ended up making these for St. Patrick's Day, for some reason mint makes me think St. Patrick's Day, but I haven't gotten around to posting them until now. Sometimes my life is just madness, I can hardly keep up.

Anyway, I love mint-flavored things... cookies, ice cream, gum, so I was excited to make these cupcakes. I was also excited that these cupcakes were easy to make and I wouldn't end up with a ton of them. I'm in training you know, and ever since Bobby brought home Girl Scout cookies last week I fell off the good-eating wagon for a little while and I'm trying my best to get back on board.

The step that required the most work was chopping the chocolate and butter, other than that it was just melting and stirring. I didn't even need to use a hand mixer! When the batter was done I started layering together the cupcakes. I ended up doing one cupcake at a time because I didn't want to put a tablespoon of batter into each of the cupcake liners to start, and then not have enough batter to finish all the cupcakes. So, I spooned one tablespoon of batter into the cupcake liner, pressed a peppermint patty on top and then spooned two more tablespoons of batter on top of the peppermint patty. I repeated that step until I ran out of batter and managed to get myself 11 cupcakes, just one short of what Martha said I would get.

The recipe said to bake the cupcakes for 35 total minutes with a turn halfway through the baking time. I upped the time by a couple minutes because the cupcakes weren't quite ready (at least I didn't think they were) after 35 minutes. In hindsight it may have been a little too much baking time, but I was afraid they would be too soft and mushy in the middle if I didn't add a little time. If I were to make them again I would probably stick with the 35 minutes and let them set in the pan after they were finished baking.

Overall I was happy with how the cupcakes turned out, but again, I wouldn't bake them as long the next time around. I think they should have been a little softer. But overall they tasted good and I managed to control myself and only eat just one. Small victories people, small victories.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Martha's Meyer Lemon Cupcakes

Curd is the word, lemon curd that is. Lemon curd is the lovely filling and topping for Martha's Meyer Lemon Cupcakes (no recipe on Martha's site). First things first, I don't know what Meyer lemons are nor do I know where to find them. Martha's cookbook says they can be found at specialty stores in winter and early spring. While it is currently winter/early spring in Connecticut (definitely more winter, will the snow never stop?) I didn't go searching for Meyer lemons at a specialty store. I went to Stop and Shop and bought lemons in the produce section. I just didn't think Meyer lemons could really be that important for the recipe. Who knows, maybe I bought Meyer lemons and didn't even know it.

Second things second, my initial thought was to cut this recipe in half because it's supposed to yield 42 cupcakes. My husband and I don't need 42 cupcakes for ourselves. But, after I saw I needed 7 large eggs for the whole recipe I knew I wouldn't be able to cut the recipe in half. I have no idea how to cut an egg, at least a raw one, in half. So, a full recipe it would be.

Beforehand I left out all the necessary ingredients to get to room temperature. Once I started working I realized I was going to have a lot of batter and that I was going to get a lot of cupcakes. Martha did not lie. I was worried that I should have used my stand mixer instead of a large bowl and hand mixer, but in the end it worked out fine. I had just enough room. Because the batter ended up being thick I spooned rather than poured it into the cupcakes liners. I filled each roughly three-quarters full. In the end I must have filled them a little too full (but they were a good size once they were done) because I only ended up yielding 36 cupcakes. I baked each batch for 28 total minutes with a turn halfway through the total baking time.

After the cupcakes were cooled, and a little baking break, I started working on the lemon curd. I've never made lemon curd or any other kind of curd for that matter, so I wasn't really sure what I was getting myself into. But, I was hoping that it wouldn't be too much work. I was tired. Turns out it wasn't too much work, it just took a little time and patience. For awhile I wasn't sure if the mixture was ever going to thicken. I felt like I was whisking, and would be whisking forever. But, once the mixture started to warm up and thicken just a little bit it took almost no time for it to get to the appropriate consistency.

Once the lemon curd was the appropriate thickness I strained it through a fine sieve into a small bowl. I covered it with plastic wrap and put it in the fridge for 2 hours. When the curd was chilled I put it into a disposable piping bag (I buy them by the boxful so I almost always have them on hand) and fitted it with a tip that was closest to the size I thought it should be. I didn't have a round #8 tip, maybe I should buy one, but the one I had worked just as well.

Before I filled and topped all the cupcakes with lemon curd I dusted each of them with confectioner's sugar. Next, I inserted the tip of the piping bag into the top of each cupcake and filled the inside. Then, I lifted the top out and made a pool of lemon curd on the top of each cupcake. When I was done with all the cupcakes I had quite a bit of lemon curd left over. Even if I had made 42 cupcakes I still would have had extra.

Other than wishing I had the appropriate tip to pipe the cupcakes with (it would have made the pool on the top look smoother) I was really happy with how they looked and more importantly how they tasted. I would definitely make them again, and now I kind of want to try to make different kinds of curd to see what I can come up with. But instead I'll just make the next cupcake in Martha's book.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Happy Birthday To My Hubby!

Bobby's birthday was this past weekend, the big 3-2. This is the cake that I made him... I hope you appreciate the Instagram filter and disregard the beaten up paint in the background. We're in the midst of a bit of a kitchen overhaul (check out those new butcher block countertops!) and we haven't started putting up the backsplash tile yet. But, we got the call that they're in, so hopefully that phase will start soon. But, I digress... back to my "old" husband and his recent birthday.

Bobby's favorite cake is carrot cake (it's also my favorite, further proof that we're a match made in heaven), therefore, I baked him a carrot cake for his birthday. At the moment we're currently working hard at becoming supreme physical specimens (we're doing CrossFit and training for a 10-mile run that's in May) I knew he wouldn't want a giant birthday cake like I've made him in the past since we're trying to eat healthy (key word is trying). But, I wanted to make something for him for his birthday. Since it was just going to be the two of us I decided that a small 6-inch cake would be perfect. And, with the rest of the batter I knew I would have, I would just make cupcakes and take them to work, or give them away so they wouldn't go to waste.

The carrot cake recipe I always use is one that I received from my mom, who got it from a former co-worker of hers. It's the best recipe I've found to date and I always use it when I make carrot cake. I also always use cream cheese frosting for carrot cake because in my opinion that's the only kind of frosting one should use when making carrot cake. The recipe I use for cream cheese frosting is from Paula Dean. Yes, that Paula Dean. I first discovered it when using her recipe to make red velvet cupcakes and I've been using it ever since.

The carrot cake is very simple to make (I'll include the recipe below). I just throw all the ingredients in my stand mixer and then let it work for about two minutes blending everything together. I used 3 cups of batter for the 6-inch cake. I baked it at 350 for about 50 minutes. I have found with this recipe that the cake doesn't rise very much, which is nice because I often don't have to do much cutting to get a flat surface when I'm ready to frost the cake. With the extra batter I made cupcakes, I think I got roughly twenty. I baked those at 350 for 20 minutes, turning them halfway through the total baking time.

Going into making this cake I really didn't have an idea of what I wanted to do. In the past I've made Bobby some fancier cakes, but they were quite large. Since I knew I wanted to make a small cake, I felt pretty limited as to what I could do with it, but I wanted to make it special in some way without having to do too much work.

Finally I came up with the idea that's pictured above. I knew I had everything that I needed on hand and the birthday banner probably took me 10 minutes max to put together. I used pieces of card stock from my scrap pack that I have on hand. I highly recommend the scrap pack. It's great, you'd be amazed at how many things scraps of various colors and sizes of card stock can be good for. I think I bought mine at Michaels, but I'm sure you can find one at any craft store.

I grabbed five different colors from the scrap pack and started cutting out little triangles. I did it all freehand because it didn't need to be perfect. Once I had the number of triangles that I needed I arranged them in the color order that I wanted and wrote out a letter on each one with a thin Sharpie. I cut two lengths of red string that I also had on hand and attached the triangles to the string with small pieces of scotch tape. I had some wooden skewers on hand so I decided to use those as my posts since I couldn't think of anything better. Straws would probably work as well, but I didn't have any. The skewers were a little longer than I needed so I just cut them with scissors to make them a little shorter. The hardest part of the whole process was tying the strings to the skewers so they would stay in place and be the appropriate length. It was a trial and error process, but it only took a couple of attempts before I got it right. I've always wanted to try something like this with a cake, and I think it turned out to be a success. I was really happy with how it looked, especially for throwing it all together in just a few minutes. Most importantly, the birthday boy said he liked it and the cake was delicious!

Carrot Cake

2 c. sugar
2 c. flour
1 1/2 c. salad oil
2 c. grated carrots
1 c. well drained crushed pineapple
5 eggs
1 1/2 chopped nuts
1 tsp salt
2 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp baking soda

Put all ingredients in a large bowl, except nuts, and beat 2 minutes by hand (I don't use nuts because I don't like them, and I also beat everything with a stand mixer, but you could probably use a hand mixer as well).

Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes in 9x13 pan.

If you want to you can vary your pan size, you'll just need to adjust your baking time. These are just the instructions I got with the recipe. I have made this recipe with 6-inch and 8-inch cake pans. I've also made cupcakes with this recipe. I just alter the baking time, however I always bake at 350 degrees.

Cream Cheese Frosting

1 lb cream cheese
1 c. butter, softened
1 tsp vanilla
4 c. confectioner's sugar

Beat cream cheese, butter and vanilla until smooth. Add sugar and beat on low speed until incorporated. Increase speed to high, mix until light and fluffy.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Be My Valentine Cookies

I know, Valentine's Day was almost a week ago and I'm a little late. But maybe you want to make your sweetheart some "just because I love you cookies" or maybe you just want to make some cutout cookies for no reason in particular. Whatever the case may be, here are the Valentine's Day cookies I made to give out this year. 

I'm a big fan of giving treats as gifts when I can. I love the baking part and I also feel better knowing that whatever I'm giving is going to be eaten and enjoyed rather than sit on a shelf or in a drawer somewhere never to be seen or used. In short, everyone loves food.

To make these cookies I used a cutout cookie recipe that I've been baking with since I was a little girl baking Christmas cookies with my mom and brother. I'm not sure where the recipe came from, but my family has been using it since I can remember. I've never used another recipe for cutout cookies. The recipe can be easily halved or double if necessary. The full recipe usually yields around 5 dozen cookies depending on the size of the cookies you're making. Because I didn't need that many cookies I cut the recipe in half and I got slightly over 3 dozen cookies.

Soft Cutout Cookies

5 c. flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 c. butter (room temperature)
2 c. sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2 eggs
1 c. milk

Mix butter, sugar, eggs, milk and vanilla. Then add dry ingredients. Chill 1 hour. Roll dough 1/4" thick and cut out cookies. Bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes. Do not over bake so cookies stay soft.

Yes, it's that easy. I highly recommend making sure you chill the batter long enough. It can be a little sticky if you don't. Making sure your rolling pin, hands and cookie-cutting surface are adequately floured will also help.

For the frosting I used the recipe I always use when baking cakes. It's a plain vanilla buttercream. It can also be easily halved or double if necessary. In this case I made the normal recipe and I had just a tiny bit extra which worked out perfectly.

Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

1/2 c. butter (softened)
1 tsp vanilla
1/8 tsp salt
1 (16 oz) package powdered sugar
3-5 Tbsp milk

1. Beat first 3 ingredients at medium speed with electric mixer until creamy.
2. Gradually add powdered sugar alternately with 3 Tbsp milk, 1 Tbsp at a time, beating at low speed until blended and smooth after each addition. Beat in up to 2 Tbsp additional milk for desired consistency.

When making the frosting I usually add in the extra 2 Tbsp of milk just because I like my frosting to be a little creamier and easier to spread. When the frosting was done I separated it into 2 bowls and added food coloring to one of them so I would have pink and white frosting. I also have a ton of sprinkles on hand, people like to give them to me as gifts, so I had several options of sprinkles to use for Valentine's Day. 

After the cookies were frosted and decorated I put them on a cookie sheet and set them in the freezer for a few minutes so the frosting sets. That way when I wrap them up to ship them or personally deliver them they still look good when they arrive. In this case I placed 6 cookies in mini disposable loaf pans which I wrapped in Saran Wrap (to keep the cookies fresh) and then placed in a Valentine's snack bag I got at the dollar store. In hindsight I should have taken a picture of the finished product, but I didn't think of it at the time. I boxed up the packages I was shipping and hand delivered the rest. To quote my neighbor, they were "awesome". Hope your Valentine's Day was a happy one!