Monday, January 30, 2012

Paula Deen's Pecan Praline Cake

This cake quickly became a family favorite after the first time I made it.

But, for fear of heart attack, we only rarely indulge in the pleasure of eating it.  See, I picked up Paula's magazine because I know she doesn't mess around with trying to lower fat or calories in any of her recipes.  She goes all out.  Go full flavor or stay home must be her motto.

Or at least it was up until recently.

And full flavor this cake is.  Rich and decadent are the words that quickly come to mind when recalling the taste of this cake.  And in true southern style she throws in a few shots of Bourbon Whiskey for flavoring.  Can I get a Yee Haw!!?

So why do I refer to this cake as the Heart Attack Cake?  Between the cake and the frosting and the simple syrup let's look at the stats.

  • 6 sticks of butter (that's 1 1/2 pounds of butter)
  • 3 cups of brown sugar + 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 5 whole eggs + egg whites for the SMBC

Enough already, I know, here are the recipes.

Pecan Praline Cake
From: Paula Deen's Best Desserts magazine

1 1/2 cups butter, softened
2 cups firmly packed brown sugar (I used dark brown sugar)
1 cup granulated sugar
5 eggs
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup whole milk
1 T. vanilla extract
Praline Cake Syrup
Brown Sugar Swiss Meringue Buttercream or Paula's Cream-cheese Brown Sugar Frosting.  Both are divine.

PREHEAT oven to 350 deg F.  Grease and flour 3 9-inch cake pans.
BEAT butter and sugars on medium speed until fluffy, in a large bowl.  Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
COMBINE flour, baking powder and salt in medium bowl.  Gradually add flour to butter mixture in 3 batches alternating with the milk, starting and ending with the flour, beating just until combined.  Scrape down sides of bowl thoroughly.
ADD the vanilla and mix on low until well combined.
DIVIDE batter evenly between the prepared pans.
BAKE for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick insert in the center comes out clean.
LET cool in pans on wire racks for 10 minutes.  Remove from pans, and cool completely on wire racks.
DON'T panic if you see dark, sticky spots on the bottom of your cakes.  It just wasn't mixed completely and some of the brown sugar settled to the bottom.

Brush the tops of the cake layers with Praline Cake Syrup.  Spread frosting of choice evenly between the layers and on top and sides of cake.  Store left-overs in refrigerator.

Praline Syrup
makes about 1/4 cup
1/4 cup water
3 T. granulated sugar
1 T. Bourbon Whiskey (I have a bottle of Wild Turkey that I cook with)

In a small saucepan, combine all ingredients.  Bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring constantly, until sugar is dissolved.  Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature.

Cream Cheese - Brown Sugar Frosting (this is the recipe Paula had accompany this cake in the magazine. I used a brown sugar swiss meringue buttercream which I botched when I tried to add some cream cheese to honor Ms. Deen.)
Makes about 5 cups
1 cup butter, softened and divided
1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar (if you use dark brown sugar the color and flavor of your frosting will be much deeper.
1 T. Bourbon Whiskey
1 T. water
1 (8oz) package cream cheese, softened
6 1/2 cups confectioner's sugar
1 1/2 cups chopped pecans

MELT 1/2 cup butter over meduem heat in a medium saucepan; add brown sugar, bourbon and water.  Increase heat to med-high and bring mixture to a boil.  Boil for 5 minutes, stirring constatnly.  Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature.
BEAT remaining 1/2 cup butter and cream cheese on medium speed in large bowl of mixer until creamy.
ADD brown sugar mixture, beating until combined.  Gradually add confectioner's sugar, beating until smooth.  Stir in pecans.

And I thought I'd practice my piping while I was at it.

Clearly I need to practice some more.  Cake anyone?

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Bake through a cookbook week 2 - Classic Birthday Cake(s)

The title of the recipe is officially Classic Birthday Cake, but I made cupcakes.  What better way to use up left-over frosting.

Does that happen to you?  I ALWAYS have frosting left-over.  ALWAYS.  Are all the recipes I use for frosting too big or am I just not using enough?  Whatever the case, this is a frequent problem in my house.  Left-over frosting.

I hate to say it, but many times it just sits in my fridge and rots.  Or at least it sits in there long enough so that I am no longer willing to use it.  And sadly I end up throwing it away.  It's the ugly truth.

So in an attempt to do better with this, I am making cupcakes for the express reason to use up some of the frosting I still have lingering in my fridge.  I had originally thought I would use one of my many favorite recipes from Confetti Cakes Cookbook...But then realized that maybe, just maybe my Williams-Sonoma cookbook, the one I am trying to cook through, would have a cupcake recipe.  And sure enough, it does!  Well, sort of.

Claissic Birthday Cake (in cupcake form)
From:  Williams-Sonoma Desserts Cookbook

2 1/2 c (8oz) sifted cake (soft-wheat) flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 c (6 oz) unsalted butter at room temp
1 1/2 c (10 1/2 oz) granulated sugar
3 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 c (8 fl oz) buttermilk (I don't keep buttermilk around so I use 1T. lemon juice and enough milk to equal 1 cup)

PREHEAT over to 350 def F.  Line your muffin pan with baking cups.  In a bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
BEAT the butter and sugar together in a large mixing bowl on medium speed until it is light and fluffy.
ADD the eggs one at a time, beating well adter each addition, until just blended.
BEAT in the vanilla.  Add the flour in batches alternating with the buttermilk, beating on low speed until well combined.
DIVIDE the batter evenly between the baking cups.  Bake until a toothpick insert comes out clean, 20-25 minutes.
COOL completely and frost with your left-over frosting.

And since I had some time and fondant on my hands I thought I'd attempt a rose.  This is the first rose I've done in a long while.  Not bad, but not great.  More practice.

These cupcakes turned out very flat.  ZERO dome.  Not that there's anything wrong with a flat cupcakes...It just surprised me a bit.  It's probably my method or something that I inadvertently did.  They tasted pretty good.  Tender and moist.  Overall, I'm pleased with the result.  I think you will be too.  You should make these and report back whether your's domed.

OK.  Get to it!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Motorcycle Birthday Cake

I have twin girls.  They like princesses, horses and playing with dolls.  The movie Cars does not thrill them.  Our car is just a means from point A to point B.  So I don't know much about the world of boys and their toys, but growing up my dad was always working on a sports car project.  He'd buy a wrecked up corvette and then rebiuld it - this was his hobby.  So I like fast cars.  I can appreciate a sports car.  The sound of an old American Muscle car.  But motorcycles have never been my thing.  A real life motorcycle scares me.  So this cake was a challenge.

I have blurred Own's last name to protect his privacy.  

Owen say my Lightning Mcqueen and really wanted to eat one of the wheels.  So for his third birthday his dad said a tire and motorcycle themed cake would be perfect.

Tire cake prior to putting everything else on it.  THis shows the treads the best.

The cake was a tire, complete with black chocolate fondant.  I had to really work to get the treads look deep enough.

Here's a close up of my motorcycle.  I found some photos of Harley's on Flickr and picked one to use as my model.  I used Oreos as my wheels.  They seemed to be the perfect size for my fondant vehicles.

Here's a side view of the motorcycle.  I made a wire kick-stand to support the bike on top of the cake. and used a piece of large spaghetti for the sign post.

It needed something else, so I modeled a helmet and driving gloves.  I'm pleased with how it all turned out.  Let me know what you think!

Owen's last name has been blurred to protect his privacy.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Another Triple Chocolate Cake

Yes that's right.  Another one.

This time the combination includes, Chocolate almond cake (from the Confetti Cakes Cookbook) filled with chocolate pudding, and chocolate swiss meringue buttercream.  It was SUPPOSED to be a tasty way to practice some piping techniques that I don't use much anymore.  But instead...

It was just a frustrating lesson in yet another way I can go wrong with this buttercream.

I'm not exactly sure where I went wrong, which makes learning from this experience difficult.  But if I had to take a guess, I'd say that I didn't whip it enough in the beginning and it wasn't stiff / cool enough when I added the melted chocolate.  It tasted fine but it didn't act right.  Almost like it was separating a bit.  So the piping wasn't happening.  Really unfortunate.

But the good news is that cake usually tastes good no matter how ugly it is.  And the proof is in the photos of my twins chowing down on cake.

And here are some more photos of them eating mommy's cake, because I think these kids are beautiful.

Yes, they REALLY are twins!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Chocolate pudding

Have you ever wondered what to do with left over egg yolks?

Me too.  Especially since I discovered swiss meringue buttercream.  See this butter cream uses 10 oz of egg whites.  That's 9 large eggs!  Leaving behind lots and lots of yolks.  There's ice-cream, which I love and make regularly.   But I only have so much freezer space.

Enter pudding.  Now I'm not talking about powder in a box, just add milk pudding (which is nice once in a while - don't get me wrong).  I'm talking about milk, sugar, egg yolks and standing in front over the stovetop for what seemed like an entire year!

But you know what?  It was worth it.  It really was.  I'm enjoying a bowl right now and thinking about
how I'm going to modify this recipe to change up the flavor.  I love Nutella, so I'm thinking of adding a bit of hazelnut flavoring.  And I really like the texture of it.  It some how feels different on the tongue than pudding mix.

Chocolate Pudding
From: Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook

1/3 c cocoa powder
3/4 c sugar
2 T. cornstarch
4 egg yolks
2 2/3 c milk

COMBINE cocoa, sugar, cornstarch and milk in medium saucepan.  Stir and cook over medium heat until bubbly, continue to cook for 2 minutes.  Remove from heat.  Place egg yolks in small bowl and lightly beat.  While whisking the egg yolks add about 1 cup of the hot milk mixture.  Pour the egg mixture into the saucepan with the milk and bring to a gently boil, continue to cook another 2 minutes.  Remove from heat and pour into heat proof bowl.  Cover with plastic wrap so that the wrap contacts the surface of the pudding to prevent a skim from forming.  Chill.

Pudding as an afternoon snack.  I feel like a kid again!

Friday, January 13, 2012

Bake through a cookbook - week 1 Brownies

I know what your thinking...

Gee-Whiz, couldn't you have picked anything with a little more pizzaz?  Maybe, but I like to win.  So let's start this project out right, with an easy win.  And I must say Brownies are both easy and a win.

In fact, it's hard to beat brownies, unless of course you turn it into a brownie sundae, complete with homemade cookies and cream ice-cream and homemade chocolate syrup.  But that's just the way I roll.  You give me a delightful dessert and I can trash it up with more sugar and sweet than some people eat in their entire life.  Of course, those people don't live in my house - so it's cool.

I don't make brownies that often.  And I'm not sure why that is, seeing as how they are VERY nice to eat and quite simple to make.  And I can not tell you how wonderful my kitchen house smells at this very moment.  It is taking everything in my being not to rush into the kitchen and shovel the ENTIRE pan into my face, before anyone comes home and knows I've been baking.  Though I fear the after-glow of a brownie induced coma might give it away, and then of course there would be the crumbs.  My husband's pretty quick, I think he would figure out what happened so I'd better maintain control.

Now where was I, oh yes, simple to make.

From:  Williams-Sonoma Desserts cook book, Page 30

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces, plus extra for greasing
3 oz, unsweetened chocolate, finely chopped
1 cup sugar
pinch of salt
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 tsp. vanilla extract
3/4 cup cake flour
3/4 cup bittersweet chocolate chips (optional - but who are they kidding here?)

PREHEAT the oven to 350 degrees F.  Lightly grease an 8-inch square baking dish, preferably glass. (Which surprised me)
IN a saucepan over low heat, combine the butter and chopped unsweetened chocolate.  Heat, stirring often, until melted, about 4 minutes.  Remove from the heat and stir i the sugar and salt.  Add the eggs and vanilla and stir until well blended.  Sprinkle the sifted flour over the mixture and stir just until blended.  Stir in the chips.
POUR the batter into the prepared dish and spread evenly.  Bake the brownies until a toothpick inserted in to the center comes out almost clean, about 30 minutes or longer if using a metal pan.  Do not over bake.  Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely before cutting.
Makes 9 good sized brownies.

Now go make these for your self and your family if you must share.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Lightning McQueen Cake

Pixar Cars...I love this movie.  I watched it again with my girls, who will be three in February, and enjoyed it as much as if it were my first time watching it.

I have to say, my favorite character is Mator.

This is by FAR the best scene in the entire movie!  In my opinion.

But this blog isn't about movies...It's about cakes and stuff.  So why am I talking about the Cars movie characters?

Because this was my wkend project.  Lightning McQueen.

I had originally planned to sculpt the car out of cake...But, as it turns out, my yellow cake recipe is a bit smaller than I was expecting.  So out came the cereal treats recipe and away I went modeling the car from hot sticky cereal treats.

Is there an unwritten step in the directions for making cereal treats that you MUST dump and spill crsipy rice cereal ALL.OVER.THE.KITCHEN?!  Because I do!  And then I find myself crunching around the kitchen for the rest of the day.  Because those little buggers hide when you get the broom out.

I took a few "project in the making" pictures this time and thought I might give you a look at things as they were coming together.

I had a lot of fun making this one (I say that about all the cakes - usually).  Even MORE fun researching it.  YouTube, Google Images, watching the movie a few times even though the girls get bored and leave part way through.

I'm real proud of this one and I hope you're in the mood to see this cake from all angles, cause I won't disappoint.

As you can see, I used a photo from as my model.  I was so focused on recreating the photo that I didn't even think about putting Justin's age instead of Lightning's number 95.  Next time!  Leave me a comment and let me know what you think.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Merry Christmas & Happy New Year

I have been celebrating the holidays with my family and friends, and completely neglecting my blog!!!  Soorrrry.

But now I'm back and seriously thinking of doing a blog project.  Baking my way through a cookbook I received as a wedding gift (seven years ago) and have never, not once, made anything from.

The Book, The Williams-Sonoma Collection: Dessert

The project is to bake my way through the book.  I can't promise I won't skip around, since Chapter 3 is Summer Fruit Desserts and it's merely the beginning of winter here in Upstate New York.  There are six chapters and 7 recipes per chapter.  If I do one a week that gives me 42 weeks to finish the book.  I never said this was a super ambitious project.

Meanwhile here's a cake I did for the holidays.  Simple.  Yet quite tasty.  Pumpkin spice cake coated in rich cream cheese frosting.  Decorated with holly and a Christmas type ribbon.

Pumpkin Spice Cake
From: Best-Ever Cookies (Cake is named Vermont Spice cake)

1 1/2 c granulated sugar
1 1/2 sticks butter, softened
3 eggs
1 1/2 c solid packed pumpkin
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 c evaporated milk
1/4 c water
3 c all-purpose flour
3 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground cloves

BEAT sugar and butter in large mixer bowl until creamy.  Add eggs, beat for 2 minutes.  Add pumpkin and vanilla; mix well.  Beat in evaporated milk and water.
COMBINE flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and spices in bowl.  Beat into pumpkin mixture.
SPREAD batter evenly into 2 greased and floured 9-inch round cake pans.  Bake in preheated 325 degree F oven for 35 to 40 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.  Cool in pans on wire racks for 15 minutes.  Invert onto wire racks to cool completely.

Cream Cheese Frosting
From:  My Life from Scratch(really good auto-biography with recipes, by Sandra Bullock's sister!)

1 lb. confectioner's sugar
2 (8oz.) packages of cream cheese, at room temperature
1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 tsp vanilla
some milk

In large bowl of electric mixer, beat all ingredients with wire whisk attachment until smooth and creamy, adding milk one teaspoon at a time until desired consistency is achieved.

Happy New Year!  Check back soon to see what's baking.