Monday, April 26, 2010

Angel Food Cake - A 90th Birthday Celebration

We'd like to take this moment, we have one thing to say, the best of health and happiness on this important day! Hey!

As many of you know, those are the words to my family's version of "Happy Birthday." We celebrated Grandma Wanda's 90th birthday this past Sunday. Instead of a gift, she wanted me to bake her a cake, and she picked angel food. (Of course, I got her another gift too. What kind of grandchild would I be?!)

The cake is designed to be light and fluffy, and it definitely was. This is a great recipe for those of you who love angel food cake but think that there are better versions out there than the grocery store bakery or boxed mixes. I've got to give some credit to Ben Allen, who graciously played sous chef. Bake this for anyone you want to impress with a homebaked treat.

Angel Food Cake
From Baking Illustrated

1 cup sifted plain cake flour
1 1/2 cups sifted sugar
12 large egg whites, at room temperature
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 teaspoons lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon almond extract

Adjust an oven rack tot he lower-middle position and heat the oven to 325 degrees. Have ready an ungreased large tube pan ( 9-inch diameter, 16-cup capacity), preferably with a removable bottom. If the pan bottom is not removable, line it with parchment paper or waxed paper.

Sift both the cake flour and sugar before measuring to eliminate any lumps and ensure the lightest possible texture. Whisk the flour and 3/4 cup of the sugar in a small bowl. Place the remaining 3/4 cup sugar in another small bowl next to the mixer.

Beat the egg whites in the bowl of a standing mixer at low speed until just broken up and beginning to froth. Add the cream of tartar and salt and beat at medium speed until the whites form very soft, billowy mounds. With the mixer still at medium speed, beat in the remaining 3/4 cup sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, until all the sugar is added and the whites are shiny and form soft peaks. Add the vanilla, lemon juice, and almond extract and beat until just blended.

Place the flour-sugar mixture in a sifter set over waxed paper. Sift the flour-sugar mixture over the whites, about 3 tablespoons at a time, and gently fold in, using a large rubber spatula. Sift any of the mixture that falls onto the paper back into the bowl with the whites. (Tip: be sure to fold all the way down to the bottom of the bowl, or you might end up with dry ingredients not incorporated into the mixture).

Gently scrape the batter into the pan, smooth the top with a spatula, and give the pan a couple of raps on the counter to release any large air bubbles. Bake until the cake is golden brown and the top springs back when pressed firmly, about 50 to 60 minutes.

If the cake pan has prongs around the rim for elevating the cake, invert the pan onto them. If the pan doesn't have prongs, invert the pan onto the neck of a bottle or funnel. Let the cake cool completely, 2 to 3 hours. To unmold, run a knife around the edges of the pan, being careful not to separate the golden crust from the cake. Slide the cake out of the pan and cut the same way around the removable bottom to release or peel off the parchment paper. Place the cake, bottom-side up on a platter. (Tip: The cake may appear as though it is a little wet still, but just leave it out to dry a little. Don't worry, the cake is fully cooked.) Cut slices by sawing gently with a large, serrated knife. Serve the cake the day it is made; we like serving ours with homemade whipped cream and strawberries.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Frosted Sugar Cookie Bars + Baker's Block

I have been experiencing a serious case of baker's block in the past couple of weeks. My pictures are uninspired + my baked goods have been boringggg. You would think with the great weather + sunshine we've been having that I would be happily fluttering around the kitchen... wrong. I've been tired + crabby (if you haven't noticed already). Luckily my "feeling sorry for myself" period has recently passed + I received some beyond exciting news yesterday (which I will share very soon). Here is a recipe for Frosted Sugar Cookie Bars that I made a while ago. They were good, tasted just like a soft sugar cookie + they take almost no time at all.

I know they are ugly. I know the purple color of the frosting is not appetizing. Let's just say these bars represent my recent period of wallowing + baker's block. Lastly, thanks to my new photo light box for not working at all. I'm super glad I spent time + money ordering you from ebay. (wonk, wonk debbie downer strikes again)

I promise there will be better posts coming soon.

Sugar Cookie Bars
Makes 24 bars

1 cup butter, at room temperature
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
5 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease a 13 x 18 inch sheet pan and line with parchment paper.
In a medium bowl, combine the flour, salt and baking soda and set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixture, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes on medium high. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing after each. Add the vanilla. Add the flour mixture in 2 addition, mixing until just combined.

Press the cookie dough into the sheet pan, using a greased spatula or parchment paper to spread it evenly. Bake for 10-15 minutes until lightly golden and a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean. Cool completely.

Click here for a buttercream recipe.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Blueberry Boy Bait - A Cake Wreck

Thinking I was being cute and clever, I wanted to whip up dessert for a date. He was making dinner, and I was going to bring the baked goods. All was going according to plan: the batter was poured into the pan, pan safely in the oven, and me cleaning up the kitchen. I sat down to finish up watching American Idol, when my mom noticed the smell of scorching sugar wafting in from the kitchen. I was horrified to find that I had accidentally bumped the oven up to 500 degrees while I was cleaning, a stark difference from the 325 degrees it is supposed to bake at.

Once I scraped/cut off all the burnt parts, it tasted like normal, but I'm not going to post the recipe until I can successfully make these again.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Princess Cake

Once upon a time, in a neighborhood not too far away from Piedmont Park, there was a girl under the impression that baking was glamorous. That she would be able to whip up the most delectable dessert in under an hour. I know you're surprised to learn that I am this girl and that I was seriously mistaken. Even with this realization, I am still in love with baking. I even had my first paid gig the same weekend Krissy had hers.

I was so worried that I would embarrass myself with a horrific-looking birthday cake, that I made a practice cake for my coworkers to criticize (and also for my coworker, Dita, who ordered the cake, to approve).I spent hours toiling at something that probably should have looked a whole lot better, but since this was my first attempt at such a grand undertaking, I think it turned out pretty well. When I delivered the cake, the birthday girl, Aaleyah, seemed very pleased so that was good enough for me. Her only instructions on what she wanted was that it be pink. Behold a pink velvet cake with princess pink frosting, the fairest cake in all the land.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

easter cupcakes + tales of a terrible bunny.

I have fond memories of Easter- waking up and searching the house to find where the Easter Bunny had left my basket, always filled with chocolate eggs and silly putty. When I was in high school I volunteered to be Easter Bunny's wife at the local easter egg hunt. I was provided with a wonky looking costume that was too short and small that exposed my ankles (hidden by white tube socks) and the back of my neck. The mask was scary with crooked whiskers and a face that almost looked demonic. To make a long story short, I mayyyybe tripped a few kids on accident causing them to spill their eggs, ultimately ending up with many, many crying children. Needless to say, I was never asked back.

I made these cupcakes to bring for Easter Brunch tomorrow, they are yellow cake with assorted pastel buttercream and sparkling sugar. I've also included a picture of me dressed as the Easter Bunny's Wife. (It was probably also traumatic for children to see that Mrs. Bunny had lost her foot cover and was wearing adidas sandals. woops)
Hoppy Easter, enjoy the weekend!

(this really is me, I promise.)