Wednesday, February 29, 2012

French Toast Cupcakes!!


Begin with a recipe for Vanilla Bean Cupcakes, add 1 1/2 TBSP. of ground cinnamon~


The batter is thick and wonderful, great for using an ice cream scooper to fill the cupcake liners~

Bacon (thick sliced) cooked on parchment paper in the oven at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes comes out perfect! If you coat the bacon with brown sugar, then about 5 minutes before it's done drizzle it with maple syrup, it makes the PERFECT topper to these lovely cupcakes!

Hot out of the oven, these cupcakes have a light cakey texture and the aroma of cinnamon makes these such a comfort food!

Frosted with a rich Maple Buttercream and topped with crispy bacon crumbles, these cupcakes are man pleasers...women love them too, but there's something about bacon that men can't resist!

My New Favorite Coconut X's 3 Cupcakes

 Hands down the new favorite!

Coconut X's 3 begins with a moist vanilla cupcake recipe, infused with coconut oil, coconut milk and a touch of coconut flavoring. The end result is an incredibly light and fluffy cake that takes you back to childhood~

The sweet, delicate frosting is a coconut buttercream~

Then the cupcake is rolled in moist sweetened shredded coconut~

The final test...this triple coconut cupcake passed with flying colors!
If you love coconut, you have to try this one! 

Thursday, February 23, 2012

And so begins the cup-cake journey...

The search for the PERFECT Vanilla Cupcake!

Just as the search for the perfect Vanilla Cookie was an obsession, even more so, was the search for the perfect Vanilla Cupcake. I believe it's the foundation for all great cupcakes.

Baking is a science.

 My very first experience with cooking was actually around about age 6. I remember being too short to reach the stove top, but that wasn't going to stop my attempt at cooking something up, so I pulled up a chair and stood on it. There's truly no telling what all I put into that small saucepan, though I do remember lot's of cinnamon and sugar along with other spices and liquids that simply did NOT belong together. Mostly it was a combo of the things within my reach! I still remember the look on my dad's face as he walked in on me (no doubt mom was not at home that afternoon :o)! I quickly told him that I was 'cooking' for him and it was ready to eat (or drink as the case was). He told me that "I" was going to try it first, since I cooked it! Chicken!! LOL That is undoubtedly the reason why I was so adamant about using cookbooks when I got tasted AWFUL! I recieved my first cookbook shortly after that, appropriately titled, 'My First Cookbook'. I recieved an Easy-Bake oven that Christmas too!

I've been searching for and following recipes for 30 years. In that time, I've found some the best 'concoctions' ever created. I not only love experiencing new foods, but preparing them as well. Even more than cooking, I LOVE feeding people. Being a 6th generation Texan and considering Texas to be 'THE Southern most state', food is not only part of our Southern hospitality, it's a comfort thing. It's a feel good for anything that might 'ail ya'.

What I hadn't given much notion to, was that someone, somewhere had to think up all of the combinations of ingredients that went into making a particular dish and/or food desirably edible!

Cooking is a true science...chemistry to be certain!

The Perfect Vanilla Cupcake with Vanilla Cream Cheese-Buttercream Frosting

Cooking has always been one of my strong suits. I loved it, thus I found joy in it! The holidays being my favorite time of the year because that's when I cooked for the WHOLE family...around 30 of us. It was also just about the only time of the year I baked! In my mind, cooking and baking were two different animals. Oh I baked the occassional birthday cake during the year and a multitude of desserts for the holiday season, but I had never baked for 'the fun' of it until my daughter's bridal shower. I discovered an area of baking that warmed my heart! CUPCAKES!

Vanilla Shortcake Cupcake with Strawberry and Vanilla Buttercream Frosting...HEAVEN~


Coconut Chocolate Chip Pecan Cookie Dough Cupcake with Vanilla Buttercream and Chocolate Swirls...this is the one you get up in the middle of night to sneak an extra bite of :o) Shhh!

So now begins my quest to not only create incredible cupcake recipes, but to begin a cupcake business! The best part of which is taste testing! I have the family involved with weekly deliveries of the newest and improved flavors of cupcake. It's so much fun finding out who loves which flavors and who doesn't. My family is so great! Once they got passed worrying about how I would 'really' react to their comments, the fun and challenges began. I promised they would all survive the crazy ideas...bacon really compliments maple flavored icing and green tea powder creates a wonderful cake flavor! Adding Chia seeds makes for a high fiber cupcake without depleting the taste of the banana-nut! I think they're beginning to trust me with their taste buds~

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

From Cookies to Cupcakes~

A couple of weeks before Valentine's Day 2012, I decided to try my hand at baking and decorating sugar cookies, though I've never personally been a fan of sugar cookies. They seemed not only too sweet, but for me, sugar cookies are somewhat bland. I'm more of an Ultimate Chocolate Chip-Pecan Cookie lover! So the search was on to find a suitable substitute for dullsville. What I found was an incredible, mouth-watering Vanilla Sugar Cookie which tastes much more like a rich shortbread cookie instead; along with that I found I had a renewed fondness for Royal Icing.

The *Vanilla Sugar (Shortbread) Cookie was the PERFECT solution. These cookies are light, buttery and perfect for cookie cut-outs and decorating. It you'd like to make cookies on a stick, simply insert the lolli-pop stick in the cut-out prior to baking. Gently hold one hand on the cookie surface to use as a guide while inserting the stick with the other hand. This prevents the dough from tearing or the stick from poking through. I also highly recommend baking on parchment paper (no added oil involved). As soon as you remove the cookies from the oven, with a small offset spatula, very gently slide the spatula under each cookie just to loosen it from the paper. This prevents the cookie from sticking to the paper once it's cooled. There's no need to move the cookie from it's original baking spot, you don't want chance  cracking it, they're still pretty delicate until completely cooled. Once cool you can easily handle without fear of it breaking! 

Here are a few of my Valentine hearts. There is a plethera of videos on YouTube with instructions on how to pipe Royal Icing and how to achieve the best consistency for Flow icing. With a little practice, parchment paper piping bags are a cinch and there's no sticky bag to clean up afterwards...just toss them out!

These cookies are 4" X 1/2". I prefer the larger cookies! They were so much fun to get as a child. It's kind of like getting that face sized lolli-pop, even though you probably weren't going to eat the whole thing, it was getting the 'BIG' one that made the difference. Though I have to say, pretty much everyone that recieved one of these Valentine Cookie ate the whole thing!

I experimented making my own cocoa Royal Icing. It was heavenly on these buttery cookies! I even added cocoa to the cookie recipe and made chocolate shortbread (that one will need some revamping). All in all these cookies were a huge hit. But this is where my baking journey turned into something more. The cookies are fun and make great gifts. With several friends and family members  suggesting that I start a business, I decided that perhaps I needed to think about my hobby more seriously.

 I've decided I need to fine tune my baking skills. I wanted to do something that expressed my love for baking. For now, experimenting with my own original recipes, perfecting them I should say, is my goal. I will be using the world's finest Indonesian Vanilla Beans and Valrehna Cocoa. It won't be long before I will be going public with my venture. I'm seriously leaning to cupcakes, with cookies being seasonal.

*Recipe courtesty of Elisa Strauss, Confetti Cakes via the Food Network and Paula's Party

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

German Chocolate Cake
With Coconut-Pecan Cajeta Frosting

This is a Bobby Flay recipe!!  Our son, Blair, is a German Chocolate Cake lover. When I asked him what flavor cake he'd like for his 27th birthday (a tradition in our home), he graciously replied 'German Chocolate'. No surprise there! 
That request always meant a Betty Crocker or Duncan Hines box mix with ready made icing. But this year, mom's a baking fiend! When I found this recipe I noticed the recipe level was marked as 'difficult'. I guess I've never really understood the differentiation between 'easy' recipes and 'difficult', other than one has more ingredients perhaps than the other?  Time consuming perhaps, but 'difficult' is not the term I'd use. I was unfamiliar with Muscavado sugar before this cake and had to go to a couple of stores to find coconut milk. Muscavado is the only 'brown' sugar I use now. It comes from the island of Mauritius, off the lower eastern coast of Africa. Muscavado sugar is different from the brown sugar I'm used to cooking with due to the fact it retains much more of the molasses flavor that gets lost in the processing of our local brown sugar. I didn't use the coconut rum, which is optional, but I can't say that the cake suffered in the least from the absence of the rum.

Follow the cake recipe exactly and plan on spending at least 4 1/2 to 5 hrs in the process.

This is our son, Blair and niece, Ashton. Her birthday is the week after Blair's so we celebrated them together!

If you love chocolate, this cake is so worth the time it takes to make. I have to admit, it didn't taste at all like the German Chocolate my family was used to getting from a box mix. What it DID taste like, was the most incredibly decadant 'Death By Chocolate' cake I've ever tasted.
To get the recipe, click on this link:

1.)  The sauce is VERY liquidy in this recipe. I kept expecting it to thicken to consistency of gooey doesn't. I stirred it for an hour, then allowed it to cool completely. It never got to the thick caramel-like texture I wanted. I ended up saturating the cake with the liquid mixture, which as you can from the photo didn't seem to have an effect on the looks of the cake. Though the cake tasted stupendous the next day, it had to sit overnight to soak up the milky consistency of THIS cajeta.  I posted a more authentic recipe for 'Cajeta' that I found at the end of this article and will be using next time I make this cake. If you can't find goat's milk, use whole fat milk. Goat's milk lends to richer flavor and is preferred.

2.)  Make it the day before and refrigerate overnight. Take it out a couple of hours before you're ready to serve it. It will make all the difference in the world on texture and taste. Hands down, the 2nd day was better!

 I truly love that my 'kids' indulge me and let me bake birthday cakes!  Birthday's are one of my favorite days to celebrate. Simply because that is the ONE day that belongs to the birthday person. What better way to celebrate one's life then with a birthday cake?

Here's the CAJETA recipe that I'll use next go round, I recommend reading through the recipe before beginning. This recipe makes more than you need for the one cake, but the candy is so good, you can store it in a jar in the frig and use on ice cream too!

I would recommend using the amounts in Bobby Flay's recipe and adjust the amount of cajeta to your taste. 
I also recommend having a stool to sit on and either a good book or a tv...90 min. is a long time to stand with nothing to do but stir :o)


2 quarts of goat’s milk
2 cups of sugar
1 cinnamon stick
1 vanilla bean or 1 tablespoon of vanilla extract
1 teaspoon of baking soda

1. Stir together the milk and sugar in a large pot (make sure the liquid only goes half-way up the sides as it’s going to get frothy at one point and you don’t want it boiling over) and add the cinnamon and vanilla (if using a bean, split it lengthwise, scrape the seeds into the liquid and add the pod as well). Bring to a boil on medium heat while constantly stirring. This will take about 15 minutes.
2. When milk boils, remove from heat and add baking soda (dissolved in a bit of water) to the pot. The mixture will rise and get frothy, but as long as you keep stirring it will be fine.
3. Place the pot back on the stove on medium heat, and stir and stir and stir (though if you need to take a break, leaving the pot unattended for a minute or so won’t cause any harm to the cajeta). Make sure the milk stays at a gentle simmer rather than a raging boil.
4. After about an hour, the milk should start to turn golden brown. Remove the cinnamon stick and the vanilla pod. At this point, it will start to thicken fast, so it’s important to keep stirring so the milk doesn’t burn on the bottom of the pan.
5. Keep stirring until the mixture is a rich brown and thick enough to coat the back of the spoon, which will happen in about 15 minutes.
6. Pour into a glass container. It should keep in the refrigerator for a week, though mine has never lasted that long.
Notes: You can find goat’s milk at most health-food stores or farmer’s markets. Also, the cajeta gets thicker as it cools, so be sure not to overcook it. If it’s too thick, however, you can thin it by adding hot water.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Caly's Hello Kitty Cake...

With my 4 yr. old niece's birthday fast approaching, I offered to test my skills at yet another fondant covered cake. This would be my second ever cake to decorate using Marshmallow Fondant! Her beautiful mother graciously allowed me to take on the challenge. Ms. Caly was very decided about what she wanted on her PINK cake and she said it had to be a Hello Kitty cake!

After scouring the internet for images of Hello Kitty (my children are adults now, so I wasn't really familiar with Kitty), I came up with some ideas.

Originally, my design was to have Hello Kitty 'standing' upright on the cake. I quickly found that idea better left to the more experienced. So as you can see, Kitty ended up relaxing on her cozy bed pillows instead.
I was really happy the second cake attempt turned out as well as it did, considering it was a six layer cake. It was a true learning experience as in what to do and what not to do. The real lesson was in how much cake actually weighs, especially covered in fondant! I was so focused on the decor for the cake, I didn't focus enough on the structure, which ended up being a challenge. All's well that ended well...

One of the extraordinary things about making cakes for kiddos is how THRILLED they are when they see it for the 1st time! The look on their faces was worth every bit of the time that went into making this cake! They don't care about the details being a little off. All of the kids just loved the cake. Caly was so excited to see that cake was decorated with Hello Kitty.She really did love it!

This is a photo of her, after mom wiped that gorgeous face clean of icing. She even applied her New Lip Gloss for the photo :o)

My 2 yr. old grandniece, Camy, was just as excited about the cake as Caly. I can't wait to make Camy a cake for her next birthday. She's just now at the age she'll be able to tell me exactly what she wants~

Here is a photo of the cake at the party. Hello Kitty lounging on her comfy girly bed, holding Caly's candle.  We did add some ornamental candles (castle's and stars) for her to blow out. I forgot to get them in the time!

As you can see by Calysta's hand, she holding the face of Hello Kitty made from the marshmallow fondant. The children stripped the cake of all fondant..THEY LOVED IT! While the adults stuck with what we like best...the strawberry cake.

This whole cake was a HUGE SUCCESS!

Friday, February 17, 2012

My First Ever - Royal Icing, Fondant Covered Cake

In the beginning - May 7, 2011:

I've always loved to cook, but I had never been much of a baker. My interest in baking peaked when I discovered how much I loved to watch episodes of Cupcake Wars, Ace of Cakes and Cake Boss! All of these shows not only inspired me to make my first ever fondant covered cake, but gave me the confidence too. Thanks guys!

   When one of the bridesmaid's, who was to be in our daughter's wedding, told me she was going to pay $150 for a 'bridal shower' cake, I have to admit I was stunned! Obviously, I had no idea how expensive cakes had become (I was from the old school). So I decided for a quarter of the price I could make the cake myself. She had absolutely no problem with me volunteering my time and so excepted the offer.

 I had seen the shows and watched enough videos on YouTube, I honestly thought using gum paste and creating sugar flowers, and fondant would be a breeze. It was a bit more of a daunting task (LOL on me) than I expected...but I did it!
Considering it was my daughter's bridal shower and to be on public display, it may not have been the best time to experiment with cake baking. The thought crossed my mind...what if I had couldn't pull it off? But as always, I have tendency to prove my capabilities when I'm told a task is too big or out of my realm! Not to mention, I thought well, if I botch the cake, I could ALWAYS order one!

So how hard could it be?

Cake Boss wasn't on the phone singing praises or offering me a position, but for my first ever, completely edible, sugar adorned cake, I really did a pretty bang up job! I found it wasn't quite as difficult as it first appeared, though it was VERY time consuming as a beginner. I believe it took about 5 days of practice to make this cake happen. The cake balls were somewhat time consuming as well, but after a couple of hundred, one does get the hang of things. They were a HUGE hit too!

Though I'm still a far cry from starring on my own television show, I believe I can only get better! Creating artwork is what I love doing the most. I paint and I'm an ametuer photographer, so creating flowers from sugar and piping icing was nothing short of great fun!

The cake was an Italian Cream Cake with a cream cheese buttercream icing. The fondant was a *Marshmallow Fondant that turned out to be so easy to work with and the most wonderful thing about this fondant is the taste! Much to my satisfaction, everyone loved it. Many had tasted fondant before and said it had a rather unpleasant flavor. I personally have never tasted 'regular' fondant, so I decided to take their advice as experience and looked for other options. I recieved rave reviews on this fondant! Many of the women ate it and didn't even know that it was fondant! So this is my go to fondant on ALL fondant covered cakes.

So my journey began, with cake balls and a shower cake!  I've been baking ever since!

Below are photos from the wedding...I did create the centerpiece (non cake part :o) of the wedding cake. My daughter Erin wanted it lit up, so I included LED lights inside the blue glass bead center. I strung Swarvoski crystals around the was really lovely in person with all of the candlelight flickering around it!

 The incredibly beautiful bride and her husband...Mr. and Mrs. Johnson!
Seth and Erin, I love you both!
(Marshmallow Fondant recipe courtesy of 'Diary of a Cake Stylist' )