Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Christmas Cookies - Sugar Cookies

With these cookies intended as centrepiece of my cookie goody bags, I had grand plans and pipe dreams of decorating them magnificently. They would be so beautiful that people would refuse to eat them because they would be quite simply, miniature, edible, works of art greatness! Yup, when I dream, I dream big!
But by the time these cookies had cooled enough to be frosted; I had been baking for almost eight hours and was exhausted. So I resorted to part dipping them in coloured Royal Icing; which was so half heartedly put together that it was too watery.

Oh well, thanks to a great recipe (which I've adapted very slightly) from Annie's Eats, the cookies tasted so great that it didn't matter too much that they weren't perfectly decorated. They’re soft but biscuity with a delicate almond flavour that had a few of my friends describing them as marzipan cookies. Just so you're still slightly enthused by mine, please don't look too closely at hers, they're only, oh, about a hundred times better decorated than mine :)

I would suggest trying not rolling the dough as thin as the recipe requires. I've heard it said that slightly thicker cookies have a little something going for them. Note that if you make slightly thicker cookies, it will affect the yield slightly and perhaps also the baking time.

These don't have to be decorated. They're just as tasty plain. Or you could dust them with of icing sugar.

Yields 40 cookies

Ingredients

1 cup butter
1 cup icing sugar
1 egg, beaten
1 ½ teaspoons almond extract
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 teaspoon salt
2 ½ cups sifted flour

1 - Cream butter. 
2 - Add powdered sugar. 
3 - Blend in egg, almond extract, vanilla, salt and flour. 
4 - Chill dough until firm. 
5 - Roll to ¼ inch thickness on well-floured surface. 
6 - Cut with cookie cutters. 

7 - Place on baking trays lined with grease proof paper. Bake at 190° C / Gas Mark 5for 8-10 min. Cookies should not brown. 
8 - Frost and decorate when cool.

My cookie goody-bags

Monday, 6 December 2010

Christmas Cookies : Salted Chocolate Shortbread Cookies

Every year I say I'll celebrate Thanksgiving. Every year, that last week in November rolls round (very quickly!) and I think of all the cooking it will involve and I think to myself, "Next year. Definitely".
Every year, I say I'll run a marathon. The last couple of years I've run a half marathon and as I cross the finish line and I feel like I've literally run every single step my body is capable of running, it hits me that a marathon would mean doing that 2 hours 21 minutes all over again (but slower) and I think to myself, "Next year. Definitely".
Every year I think to myself that I'll be little miss domestic goddess and make home-made Christmas treats and deliver them round all my friends enjoying the oohing and aaahing that would inevitably follow (They definitely ooh and ahh when I imagine it). Chunks of Christmas cake, pretty bags of white chocolate fudge, intricately decorated sugar cookies; there is no end to the goodies I’ll make in these fantasies.


This year, Christmas has come around really quickly! I would put money on the fact that somebody is playing games with a ginormous calendar up in the sky! I thought about my Christmas goodie bag fantasy, and I thought ... Bring it on!! Yup, I actually did it! I decided to make a variety of Christmas cookies; which is either really brave or really foolish considering I think I might be genetically incapable of baking a good cookie. I'm going with brave! But I did it. It did take up my entire Saturday, and I was only able to listen to X-Factor, but I ended up with 4 different types of perfectly edible, no, make that friggin’ amazing cookies! Even if I do say so myself.


Please note that I haven't delivered said cookie goodie bags yet so if you haven't received yours yet, don't shower my blog with abuse, just be patient, it’s probably winging its way to you right now. Unless of course I don't know you and then it’s safe to say it is never coming ;p


Thanks to Brown Eyed Baker from whom I nicked 3 of the 4 recipes.
First up are Salted Chocolate Shortbread Cookies which were my absolute favourite of the bunch. I LOVE the salty chocolate taste!


Makes about 30 cookies
Prep: 10 minutes | Chill Time: 3 hours | Bake Time: 12 minutes


Ingredients
1¼ cups flour
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
11 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
2/3 cup light brown sugar
¼ granulated sugar
½ teaspoon fleur de sel or ¼ teaspoon fine sea salt, plus extra for sprinkling
1 teaspoon vanilla extract



1 - Whisk together the flour, cocoa and baking soda in a small bowl; set aside.
2 -  Beat the butter on medium speed until soft and creamy. Add both sugars, the salt and vanilla extract and beat for 2 minutes more.

3 - With the mixer off, add the dry ingredients. Turn the mixer on and off low speed (pulse) for a second or two about 5 times so that the flour mixture gets incorporated. Then mix on low speed for about 30 seconds, just until the flour disappears into the dough (the dough will look crumbly).
4 - Turn the dough out onto a work surface and divide it in two. Shape each half into a 9-inch log. Wrap the logs in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 3 hours. (The dough can be refrigerated up to 3 days or frozen for up to 2 months. If you’ve frozen the dough, you don’t need to defrost before baking – just slice the logs into cookies and baking the cookies 1 minute longer.)
5 - Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 170 degrees C/ Gas Mark 3. Line two baking trays with grease proof paper.
6 - Using a sharp thin knife, slice the logs into rounds that are ½-inch thick. Arrange the rounds on the baking sheets, leaving about 1 inch between them. Sprinkle a small amount of extra salt on top of each round.
7 - Bake the cookies one sheet at a time for 12 minutes – they won’t look done, and won’t be firm, but that’s how they should be. Transfer the baking sheet to a cooling rack and let the cookies rest until they are only just warm, at which point you can serve them or let them reach room temperature.
Store the cookies in an airtight container at room temperature.

Friday, 26 November 2010

Guinness Chocolate Cake

Confession time! I confess so much on this blog perhaps I should have named it 'Confessions of a cake-aholic'? Ah well, as usual, I come up with my best ideas (and comebacks) much too late.

Back to my confession. While I LOVE chocolate, I'm not that keen on chocolate cake - it's just too chocolatey. If my mum is reading this, I know she's shouting at the computer screen 'There's no such thing as too chocolatey!'. Well mum, I think there is - chocolate is nice in small amounts but chocolate cake is just too much, too intense ... too everything.

So when I arranged to have friends round for a tea party - Whoever invented afternoon tea by the way is a complete genius! An entire eating occasion based on baked wonderfulness and where the closest thing resembling food is a sandwich ... that right there is my idea of heaven - it seemed like the perfect occasion to try out a new, somewhat unusual recipe and as the resulting cake would be chocolate, it also meant I could have one small piece and get rid of the rest of it. 

Luckily for my friends, this cake was good. Actually, that is a gross understatement; it was incredible!  It's my new favourite chocolate cake ever and probably the only chocolate cake I'll ever make after this. And best of all, it's pretty easy to make! 

Mini confession: once the batter has been transferred to the cake tin, I use my fingers in the only way God could possibly have intended them to be used to lick the bowl clean. At this point, I could taste the Guinness slightly but once it was baked, you couldn't taste the Guinness at all. What it did was intensify the chocolate flavour and make the cake really moist. Did I mention it was amazing??

My cake is a bit flat as I used a bigger cake tin that was recommended. And the frosting doesn't need to be piped on; I just got a bit excited with my new piping bags and nozzle :D

This recipe is by Gizzi Erskine

Makes: 12 slices
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cooling time: 3 hours

Ingredients
250ml Guinness
250g unsalted butter, sliced
100g good quality plain chocolate (70%)
35g cocoa
400g caster sugar
1 x 142ml pot plain yoghurt
2 free range eggs
1 tablespoon real vanilla extract
275g plain flour
2 ½ teaspoons bicarbonate of soda

For the Frosting
300g Philadelphia cream cheese
150g icing sugar
125ml double or whipping cream

1 - Preheat the oven to 180°C. Butter and line a 23cm spring form tin.
2 - Pour the Guinness into a large wide saucepan, and heat until the butter has melted, at which time you should stir in the chocolate, cocoa and sugar.


3 - Beat the yoghurt with the eggs and vanilla and then pour into the chocolatey, beery pan.
4 - Finally whisk in the flour and bicarbonate of soda.
5 - Pour the cake batter into the greased and lined tin and bake for 45 minutes to an hour.
Leave to cool completely in the tin on a cooling rack, as it is quite a damp cake.
6 - To make the frosting lightly whip the cream cheese until smooth, sieve over the icing sugar and then beat them both together.
7 - Separately whip the cream until it just begins to thicken but still holds it shape.
8 - Pour the cream to the cream cheese mix and beat again until combined and reaches a spreadable consistency.
9 - Frost the top of the Guinness cake. 

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Cupcake decorating course!

On Saturday morning I went for a cupcake decorating class at The Make Lounge. It was a two and a half hour class and apart from the fact that I was excited about cake decorating, it just felt really good to be doing something creative! I have recently had the same conversation with different friends about the fact that we use our creativity so rarely that it feels like that part of brain is dead. It made me realise that what I love so much about baking and decorating cakes; and particularly cupcakes, is that I can be creative.

 That evening I went over to a friend's house for the first in our series (friendly; not the TV show) of 'Come Dine with Me' - all in all, it was a pretty perfect day :D

Anyway, back to the cupcake decorating course! It was in a nice bright studio, and I think there were 10 people on the course that morning. The room was set up like so...
And each seat around the table had a set of equipment; piping bags, spatulas, rolling pin, nozzles and most importantly 14 cupcakes between two people! I know you can do the math (and it's pretty simple math so if you can't do it, we, I mean you, have a problem :p) but I'll help out anyway. That's 7 each! At the end, we got a 6-cupcake box to take our cupcakes home, (again more math) leaving 1 for us to eat! Yipppee!

Our instructor Louise makes huge cake sculptures - anyone watch 'Cake Boss' or 'Ace of Cakes’? Yup those kinds of cakes. Through a couple of group demonstrations followed up by her walking round and helping, I learnt how to make this messy swirl that I've always admired in some cupcake chains. I also learnt to make marzipan roses!!! Apologies for the blurry photos but you have to admit; my roses are pretty amazing huh? And to think they began life as a slab of off-white marzipan!

We learnt to pipe roses (again something I have admired on other cupcakes and never realised how easy they were to do), pipe using two different colours simultaneously ...
and finally, we got to play around with glitter and these stamp thingies to turn our cupcakes from merely pretty to these-are-so-beautiful-I-can't-bear-for-them-to-be-eaten :D
I would totally recommend this course to anyone who is interested in cupcake decorating!

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Jen's Cookies and Cream Cupcakes

I seem to be turning my blog into a bit of a confessional - it's just as well not too many people read it! See here for my addiction admission, and here for my geek declaration. As three is my lucky number, I thought "why not make it a hat trick?", after all, third time's the charm ;p So here's another confession ... wait for it ... okay, here goes:
While in life generally, I'm more of a delayed gratification kind of gal, when it comes to food, I'm pretty greedy. I want everything I like, all together, and I want it now!! Don't judge me!
So words like ‘Oreo cupcake’ are music to my ears. It can only be a WIN-WIN ... I love Oreo cookies and I love cake; it's a no-brainer really. 

However I have had some disappointing experiences with Oreo cupcakes at a London cupcakery. Biscuits are dry so with the wrong recipe, you can end up with a rather dry cake with dry bits in it making for a pretty dry experience. Oreos are also very sweet so when you combine them with a really sweet buttercream - it can make for a rather sickingly sweet cake and trust me, there is such a thing as too sweet.

This is where my newest baking blog crush (yeah yeah I know I'm turning into a bit of a chef whore ;p) comes in. I first happened across this recipe on Annie's Eats and since then, I've pretty much stalked ahem, I mean researched her archives and come up with no less than 15 recipes that I want to try!
This recipe is genius. First of all it has half an Oreo (the half with the cream) in the bottom of the cupcake liner, chunks of Oreos all the way through and it is topped with half an Oreo. It also has a cream cheese frosting which balances out the sweetness of the cake and biscuits really well. Everybody  LOVED these cookies so try them if you're trying to impress! It's quite a dense cake rather than light and fluffy but that works really well and the textures of the cake with the cookie at the bottom and all the way through are pretty amazing! My friend described it as a "fusion of textures" and another friend promptly demanded the recipe to make them the very next weekend.


I just realised that this recipe is originally from another one of my blog baking idols; Beantown Baker! Sorry Jen for mis-assigning credit for this. And I just have to say that every time I have made these, I have received compliments like 'The best cupcake I have ever eaten', 'divine' etc. Every. Single. Time. So thank you for an incredible recipe!

A couple of notes:
 - The recipe calls for 3 egg whites and when I asked Annie why not use whole eggs; she wasn't sure but thought it might have something to do with keeping the cake a nice white colour. I suspect the addition of whole eggs rather than just the whites would make the cake lighter and fluffier so it's worth a try. I'm definitely making these again so I'll let you know how it goes using whole eggs.

 - I had some Golden Oreos left over from my last visit to the States so I mixed them in with the regular Oreos but I think these would taste really amazing made entirely of golden Oreos so you lucky people who live in the US, give them a go with Golden Oreos. And make sure you let me know how they turn out!!

24 cupcakes

Ingredients

For the cupcakes:
24 Oreo halves, with cream filling attached
2¼ cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
8 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 2/3 cup sugar
3 large egg whites, at room temperature
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup milk
20 Oreo cookies, coarsely chopped (I quarter them)
For the frosting
226g cream cheese, at room temperature
6 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 tbsp. vanilla extract
4 cups icing sugar
2 tbsp. double cream
For garnish
Oreo cookie crumbs
24 Oreo cookie halves

1 - Preheat the oven to 180˚ C/Gas Mark 4.  Line the wells of two cupcake pans with 24 paper liners.  Place an Oreo halve in the bottom of each liner, cream side up.
2 - In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt; stir together with a fork to blend and set aside.  
3 - In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the butter and sugar and beat together on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.  
4 - Blend in the egg whites one at a time, beating well after each addition.  
5 - Blend in the vanilla extract.  
6 - With the mixer on low speed, beat in half of the dry ingredients just until incorporated.  Add the milk and beat just until combined, then mix in the remaining dry ingredients.  
7 - Gently fold in the chopped Oreos with a rubber spatula until evenly incorporated, being careful not to over-mix.
8 - Evenly divide the batter between the prepared cupcake liners.  Bake for 18-20 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through baking, until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean.  
9 - Allow to cool in the pans 5-10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
To make the frosting
1 - Combine the cream cheese and butter in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat on medium-high speed until smooth, about 1 minute.
2 - Blend in the vanilla extract.  Beat in the confectioners’ sugar until incorporated and smooth, 1-2 minutes.  
3 - Add the heavy cream to the bowl and beat on medium-low speed just until incorporated, then increase the speed to medium-high and whip for 4 minutes until light and fluffy, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.
Frost the cooled cupcakes as desired.  Sprinkle with Oreo crumbs and garnish with Oreo halves.

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Chocolate Sheet Cake

In baking, as in life, you often get out what you put in. May we take a moment to acknowledge how wise that last sentence sounded? Baking is turning me into a right old philosopher! (See Mama? There are some advantages to baking :D)
Anyway, where was I? Ah yes, you get what you put in. There are exceptions to the rule. Like banana bread, and .... well, banana bread. Oh, and brownies! I am not saying you have to spend an entire day slaving over your oven with a list of ingredients as long as the Great Wall of China. All I’m saying is that when picking a recipe, don't go for the one that is simplest because it probably won't be the best.

As usual, in a very long winded way, I finally reach my point. This recipe jumped out at me because it is pretty simple to make and despite the thought of chocolate sheet cake not particularly appealing to me, I thought it would be nice to have a nice chocolatey recipe - where I'm guaranteed to have all the ingredients in my cupboard - on hand for those lazy weekends when I want some home baked goodness. Plus it's a Pioneer Woman recipe and her recipes are decadent if anything! So I made it. And I wasn't impressed. For me, it tasted like a faux brownie. You know how sometimes you're in some generic cafe and they have these huge slabs of brownies, dark and inviting and practically speaking to you. You consider that you’re on a diet and you really shouldn’t and then finally, after mentally beating yourself up, you give in and have one. And after all that it’s extremely underwhelming? Well that's how I felt with this chocolate sheet cake. Plus I thought the icing was too sweet.
However, a couple of friends tried this and they both really liked it. One of them had warned me that she wasn't in the mood for cake so would hang on to hers till later. She opened it in front of me, “just to taste”, and standing there, devoured the whole thing. And she's not a dessert person. She thought it was simple and chocolatey but not too intense. Different strokes for different folks and all that. Perhaps I just expected too much.

Anyway, if I haven't put you off after that review, here's the recipe adapted from The Pioneer Woman’s recipe. Till next time folks!

Ingredients

For the cake
2 cups flour
2 cups of sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
4 heaped tablespoons cocoa
226g butter
1 cup boiling water
½ cup buttermilk
2 whole beaten eggs
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
2 teaspoons vanilla

For the frosting
140g butter
4 heaped tablespoons cocoa
6 tablespoons milk
2 teaspoons vanilla
300g icing sugar

 

 

1 - In a mixing bowl, combine flour, sugar, and salt.
2 - In a saucepan, melt butter. Add cocoa. Stir together.
3 - Add boiling water, allow mixture to boil for 30 seconds, then turn off heat. 4 - Pour over flour mixture, and stir lightly to cool.
5 - In a measuring cup, pour the buttermilk and add beaten eggs, baking soda, and vanilla.
6 - Stir buttermilk mixture into butter/chocolate mixture. Pour into sheet cake pan and bake at 350-degrees for 20 minutes.
While cake is baking, make the icing.
7 - Melt butter in a saucepan.
8 - Add cocoa, stir to combine, then turn off heat.
9 - Add the milk, vanilla, and powdered sugar. Stir together. Stir together, and pour over warm cake.


Friday, 29 October 2010

Tiramisu

From The Pioneer Woman's website - Due to a broken laptop, I lost my step-by-step photos :( 
My name is Vickii and I am a dessert-aholic! If any of you just thought "no sh*t Sherlock", you should be ashamed for even thinking in such language! I think I hide it well. 
Anyway, even a dessert-aholic (it's an actual condition, look it up) like me has some sweet things that they don't like. For example:
o       I HATE Turkish Delight. I don't understand how people can like it AT ALL!
o       Anything liquorish or Aniseed flavoured is a no-no - apart from Sambuca and that's only because I like shots and now that I can no longer drink Tequila (a long story featuring ATL and Patron), it's the only shot I can drink. But Sambuca is not a dessert so it doesn't count.
o       I'm also not the biggest fan of Panna cotta. In my opinion it needs to make up its mind whether it is a mousse or a jelly - how can I possibly like a dessert that is so indecisive?
o       And finally, Tiramisu. I'm not sure why. Maybe it's the coffee overload, the odd I-can't-quite-put-my-finger-on-what-it-is alcohol ... I don't know, I'm just not a follower (Twitter speak)…

… UNTIL my new-ish Sardinian flatmate made a creamy, delicately flavoured, light yet satisfying dessert one Saturday evening - wow! It was Tiramisu. I made a U-Turn then and there on my opinion of it. It was a bit liquidy so you had to spoon tablespoons of left over liquid once you dished a piece. She said it was a mistake but I love it liquidy – it was perfect!

She’s promised to teach me how to make it - although she insists on fixing the mistake so there isn't too much liquid, which I'm not too happy about, but beggars can't be choosers aye? But until then - when I will share the recipe, I promise - I decided to try The Pioneer Woman's Tiramisu recipe. The Pioneer Woman; Ree, is by the way, my new cookery crush. I'm sort of cheating on Nigella with her - although Nigella is my one true food love! Check out Ree’s recipe index - she has some amazing food on there!
I did omit the alcohol though as I realised that's what I like the least about Tiramisu. Although I would like to try it with Amaretto as I love Amaretto! This made a lovely Tiramisu! Not as great as Alessia's (my housemate), in my opinion, but better than all the others I have ever tasted.

Ingredients

5 whole Egg Yolks

¼ cups Plus 4 Tablespoons Sugar, Divided

¾ cups Marsala Wine, Divided

1 cup Whipping or Double Cream

1 pound Mascarpone Cheese, Softened (room Temperature)

1-½ cup Brewed Espresso Or VERY Strong Coffee

1 Tablespoon Vanilla

1-½ packs of Lady/Sponge Fingers – or as many as it takes to line your dish and layer it twice more.

Cocoa Powder, For Dusting


1 - In a saucepan, bring some water to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Find a mixing bowl that will fit over the top of the pan, but not sink all the way in. (A poor man’s double boiler!)
2 - Put 5 egg yolks into the mixing bowl. Add ¼ cup sugar and whisk until pale yellow in colour. Place the mixing bowl on the saucepan with the simmering water.
3 - Add 1/2 cup Marsala wine gradually, whisking constantly as you do. Cook over the simmering water, scraping the sides and bottom occasionally for 5 minutes. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 45 minutes, or until cool.
4 - Place mascarpone cheese in a bowl and stir until smooth.
5 - In a mixing bowl, combine whipping cream and remaining 4 tablespoons sugar. Whip until soft peaks form.
6 - To the bowl of whipped cream, add the softened mascarpone cheese and the chilled zabaglione (the egg yolk mixture). Fold mixture gently.
7 - Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 to 2 hours.
8 - Measure 1 ½ cups brewed espresso or VERY strong coffee. Add remaining ¼ cup Marsala and 1 tablespoon vanilla.
9 - Arrange the ladyfingers in a single layer in a 9 x 13 pan.
10 - Spoon 1/2 to 1 tablespoon of the coffee mixture over each ladyfinger (keep it under 1 tablespoon per cookie and you’ll be fine).
11 - Plop 1/3 of the cold cream/mascarpone/zabaglione mixture on top and spread it into a layer.
12 - Sprinkle a thin layer of cocoa powder. Repeat the process two more times.
13 - Cover and refrigerate for a few hours before serving. This allows for more moisture to soften the cookies and the whole mixture to meld together. To serve, spoon out helpings onto individual plates.

Note: tiramisu does not last beyond 24 to 36 hours, as everything eventually starts to break down and become soupy.

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Red Velvet Cupcakes

My name is Vickii and I am a baking geek! I like hearing and reading about different cakes, I love cake innovation! So when I heard about this bright red cake called red velvet that was taking LA by storm about 4 years ago, I had to try it! I found an incredible recipe then and it still stands as the best red velvet cake recipe I know! This is mainly due to the frosting which as well as the standard cream cheese also contains mascarpone cheese and double cream. I promise to share it with you when next I make it.

Since then, red velvet has taken everywhere by storm and in my opinion is now usually over-hyped - especially since most places make a pretty average version; as long as it's a red cake with a basic cream cheese frosting, they're happy. Well, I'm not! There's a particular London chain bakery where I tried their red velvet cupcakes about three years ago and I thought they were great. However, I'm sure they've changed the recipe since to make mass producing them cheaper and they've lost so much of the wonderful flavour in the process! Oh well, they've also lost me as a customer so the joke is on them as they’ve lost my custom from all of 10 cupcakes I’d normally buy from them in a year! Yup, 10 a year! Read that and weep sub-par red velvet cupcake producers!! ;p

Anyway, talking about average cupcakes, I recently (well, when I say recently, I mean over 2 months ago - yikes!) made some red velvet cupcakes as part of the batch of 60 cupcakes I made for a friend's engagement party. And I have to admit grudgingly that … ummm, well … they were not my best. In my defence, I never knowingly underbake but I didn't want to risk using my layer cake recipe in cupcake format in case it didn’t work and I had 30 bad cupcakes on my hand. So I decided to use this cupcake recipe along with the cream cheese frosting below from my precious Crabapple Bakery Cupcake Cookbook. The cake was good and everybody seemed happy but I know they were not as great as my original recipe. It was dryer and more cake-ey (not usually a bad thing, I know!). However, after having a very small bite of the Brown Betty red velvet cake at my friend's wedding, even my original recipe has some large boots to fill! It was so moist, it was almost wet! Apparently that is real Southern red velvet cake! If anyone has a recipe that creates cake that sounds just like that, please, please, pass it on!

I used the Crabapple frosting because it is thicker than my original frosting so makes for prettier looking cupcakes.

Other cakes on my so-unusual-sounding-I-can't-wait-to-try-them list include 7-up cake (another Southern American cake) and Guinness cake (Irish??). I will let you know how I get on with these and my quest to bake the perfect red velvet cake!

Crabapple Bakery cream cheese frosting

125g softened unsalted butter
400g softened cream cheese
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract (I use about 3 teaspoons)
6 cups icing sugar (I'd probably stop at 5 but start checking for the consistency you want from about 4)

Makes 4 cups of frosting - enough for 24 cupcakes
Keeps 4 Days

1 - Cream the butter for 1-2 minutes
2 - Add the cream cheese, vanilla and half of the sifted icing sugar and beat for 3 minutes or until mixture is light and fluffy
3 - Gradually add remaining icing sugar and beat until the mixture is light and fluffy and of spreadable consistency



Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Dessert Crawl Part Deux!

4th Street Cookie - Reading Terminal Market, 51 North 12th Street

The fourth stop on the tour was 4th Street Cookie. First of all, can I just say Reading Terminal Market! Wow! Love it! If I lived in Philadelphia, I would undoubtedly spend a ridiculously large percentage of my salary buying fresh produce, shell fish, meat and unusual ingredients to prepare lovely meals, and ready prepared food and cake when I'm feeling lazy!

If I'm being honest (and isn't that the whole point after all?), I wasn't so impressed with 4th Street Cookie. It was a pretty basic counter and their cookies looked  ... well ... normal. I'm not sure what I was expecting - actually, that’s a lie. I know exactly what I was expecting. Ginormous cookies that I would ooh and ahh over, beating myself up that I'd never be able to make cookies as nice! Cookies aren't my forte don't cha know?
I bought a white chocolate chip cookie to take away and was pleasantly surprised when I eventually tried it. It wasn't the best cookie in the world - I much prefer Ben’s Cookies in London - but it was everything a cookie should be. Nothing more. But no less either.

 Flying Monkey - Reading Terminal Market, 12th and Arch
Now this was exciting! They had lots of cupcakes, as well as brownies and other baked goodies! Mmmmmm, baked goodies .... sorry, what was I saying? Oh, yes, cupcakes! They had cool colours and lots of exciting flavours; lots! Crème brulee, pistachio, pina colada, baileys, bubblegum, black velvet, rose, chai ... and the list goes on. I wanted to try everything! But you know, the real world being real and all, I can't get everything I want so I settled on the pina colada, my partner in crime had the crème brulee, and I got the pistachio for my pistachio obsessed other partner in crime. My pina colada was good! The cake itself was really good - in Lara's opinion the best we'd tried - but my heart still lies with Brown Betty's pound cake. And the icing was nice but not too sweet. Lara's crème brulee icing didn't really taste like crème brulee; it had more of a burnt caramel taste to it. And when we eventually got round to eating Doyin's pistachio cupcake (I bought it for her, it was only right that she halved it with me :D), that also tasted nothing like pistachio either. So my general impression is nice cake, lots of cool flavours but the icing leaves a lot to be desired. I admire their ambition though!



Final *sob* stop - Serendipity - 225 East 60th Street between 2nd and 3rd Avenues
While we were in NY, we were staying in Queens. Shopping there during the day and then coming into the city at night for dinner and drinks with friends Trouble and First Lady. That schedule, though fun, did not leave much time for dessert crawling, despite my best intentions. I didn't get to walk across the Brooklyn Bridge or do the Sex and the City tour either :( Anyway, we did manage to make it to Serendipity, which was in Sex and the City incidentally. It was very quirky and their frozen hot chocolates - although not really frozen, just really cold and thick – were lovely! The cheesecake was alright but I really wish I had gone to Juniors for cheesecake. And Magnolia bakery for cupcakes. And Make My Cake for cake. And Crumbs for cake. And ... well, you get the picture. I guess I have to save something for next time right? And I did have Coldstone ice cream!