Red Velvet Comeback Cupcakes

A couple of years ago, I started an official committee at work to help me test out cupcake recipes in advance of our wedding.  The experiment was so popular that peer pressure led me to bring it back again, though in a more cooperative fashion, early last year.  Now that I am back at work in St. John’s after my research stint in Ottawa, it is my turn to bake for the Cupcake Committee.  What better comeback cupcake than red velvet?

Now, the reason the red velvet cake is red is very interesting.  Crucial ingredients in this batter include white vinegar and buttermilk.  The acid in these ingredients reacts with the anthocyanin that is naturally found in cocoa, creating a lovely red tint (anthocyanin, by the way, is the same stuff that makes leaves turn red in the autumn). 

Modern cocoa, usually Dutch processed, is much more alkaline than its predecessors, and reacts less with the acid, so contemporary bakers generally adjust the tint of their red velvet cakes with beets or food colouring.  While beets would help to retain moisture in the cake, I have opted to use food colouring instead, because I believe beets taste like dirt, and I don’t want a cake that tastes like dirt.  If you want dirt, go eat dirt.  Or a beet.

This recipe is cobbled together from a bunch of different sources.  I hope you enjoy it.  It makes about 2 dozen large cupcakes.  Because the batter can stain, I recommend you make the kiddies wait to help until the frosting stage.

Preheat your oven to 350°F and line two muffin tins with cupcake cups.  I apologize in advance for the lighting in these photos.  It’s been raining for a month.

In a bowl, whisk together 2 1/2 cups sifted flour and 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder.

In a larger bowl, cream together 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar and 1 1/2 cups softened butter until fluffy. 

Crack in 2 room-temperature eggs, one at a time, and mix well.  Make sure to scrape down the bowl when needed.

To that add in 1 teaspoon vanilla extract and 1 oz red food colouring.  If you are using gel-paste, use half a teaspoon, as that stuff is concentrated.

Wow.  That is RED.

Reduce the speed of your mixture to low.  Grab 1 cup buttermilk.  Add in your flour mix in three separate additions, alternating with two additions of buttermilk.  Whisk well after each and scrape down the sides of the bowl.

In a small bowl, mix together 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda and 2 teaspoons white vinegar.  Stir that foamy goo into the batter for ten seconds.

Divide the batter among the lined cups, filling them about 3/4 full.  Bake, rotating halfway through, until a toothpick inserted in the centre of the cupcake comes out clean, which for me was around 25 minutes

Cool the cupcakes completely before removing them from the tins, because if you drop a hot cupcake, it will explode.  This happened to me.

While they are cooling, chop up 6 oz chocolate and melt that stuff in a double boiler.  We are going to fill these cupcakes with a ganache.

Whisk in 2 cups cold heavy cream (whipping cream) until smooth and glossy and chill that for a spell.

I’m sure you’re still waiting around for the cupcakes at this point, so why not cream together 1 cup softened butter with 2 cups room temperature cream cheese?  Slowly mix in 4-5 cups icing sugar and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract and there you have your cream cheese icing.

Now that your cupcakes are cool, insert a toothpick into the centre of each one, going about halfway down, and wiggle it around.  Try not to make the hole at the top too large, but wiggle the toothpick enough so you get a wee cavity in the centre of the cupcake.

Using a piping bag, fill each cavity with cooled ganache.

Now you can spread on your icing with an offset spatula, or you can pipe it on.  I chose the piping method, as you can see.

Sprinkle each cupcake with red sugar.  You can dye sugar yourself by adding a few drops of food colouring to a sealed bag of granulated sugar and shaking it around, or you can just buy it.  In this case I had some on-hand already.  Clever me.Then make sure to share them with all your friends!

 

Ivy Vanilla Wedding Cake

On Saturday my best friend Chel got married.  To Invis.  For the second time.

Photo by Kurt Heinecke, http://www.khstudios.biz

My wedding present to the lovely couple was their wedding cake, which they wanted to be vanilla flavoured, white on the outside, and have ivy trailing over it.

I practiced ahead of time.  I got the recipe down with the Pie’s birthday cake last summer.  Then I worked on my fondant technique with my own birthday cake, and adapted the fondant flavourings with the moose cake.  I even made my own vanilla for the occasion.Was I ready for this?  I had never made a wedding cake before.  Chel and Invis wanted it simple, but a wedding cake is still a definite challenge.

First I had to figure out how much cake I needed.  I had an 8″ springform pan, an 11″ springform pan, and then a gigantic 16″ aluminum pan (which I think my father now covets).  So I did some mental math and decided to quadruple the recipe that I had for the Pie’s birthday cake and go from there.

That’s a lot of cake.

Four kilograms of icing sugar, 2 of white chocolate.  Two litres of whipping cream.  One and a half pounds of butter and the same in shortening.  Two kilos of cream cheese.  Sixteen eggs.  Two bags of flour.  Lots of mixing.

I gave myself three days to make this cake: the first day to do the actual baking and prepare the decorations; the second day to ice the cakes, and the third day to put the cake together.  So that means you get to have three days of posts, because otherwise you’d be reading the world’s longest essay on cake.  I gotta break it up a little.  Shall we begin?

DAY ONE:

Preheat your oven to 350°F.

Butter your pans generously and dust them with flour, knocking out the excess.Of course, the whole selling point of a springform pan is it makes removing cake from it so ridiculously easy.  Unfortunately, you’d be hard pressed to find a springform pan bigger than 12″ in diameter.  So for the 16″ pan, which wasn’t springform, I had to cut out a circle in parchment paper for it and then butter and flour that as well.Separate 12 eggs and bring the whites to room temperature.  Save the yolks for making custard.

Then you want to do some sifting.  A lot of sifting.  More sifting than you actually want to do, to tell the truth.  I started out with a regular sifter.Then I got bored and my hand got tired so I switched to a fine mesh sieve instead.  In any case, sift together 13 cups flour (I used cake and pastry flour because it’s fortified with a bit of cornstarch, which helps you maintain volume in your cake) with 4 tablespoons baking powder and 4 teaspoons baking soda.  The sifting process helps to eliminate lumps and also serves to add a bit of air into your flour, making it lighter and fluffier.  Volume is key.Now set that aside.  In a larger bowl, beat together 2 cups softened butter with 2 cups vegetable shortening until fluffy and creamy.And I’m talking creamy.Add in 7 cups granulated sugar and 1/2 cup pure vanilla extract.

Make sure you’ve also got all those precious vanilla seeds in there too.Beat that up until it’s fluffy, and make sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl.  Now crack in 4 whole eggs and mix that up as well.Okay so this next bit you mix in your flour mixture, as well as 6 cups ice water.  But WAIT.You gotta do it a bit at a time.  You want to add the flour in three separate increments, and the ice water in two.  So you start with the flour, then add water, then flour, then water, and then the rest of your flour.  And that’s how that is done.Once you’ve done all your adding, scrape down the sides of the bowl and just keep mixing for a further minute or so.  Isn’t that lovely and smooth?Now, in yet another bowl, you want to whip up those nice warm egg whites.  Add in 1 teaspoon cream of tartar to firm things up a little and beat the whites until they are at the soft peak stage, shapely but not dry.Plop those whipped whites into your batter bowl.Gently, ever so gently, fold those whites into the batter.  This is what will give you the majority of your fluffy cake.Now distribute the batter between your three pans and smooth the tops.Now we bake.  Unfortunately the day I did this, Ottawa was in the midst of a heatwave.  So this is what I look like when it’s hot and I’m leaning over an oven: hair in pins, shorts, dishtowel tied around my waist, and a jaunty wet scarf on my neck to keep me cool.  Super sexy, I know.

Self-portrait of the baker in a heat wave.

In terms of baking times, I baked the first two tiers for about 50 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the centre came out clean.   I used a convection oven, so it might take a little longer in a regular oven.  The bottom tier took about 60 minutes to bake, but just keep checking on them to make sure they don’t burn.  The 16″ tier BARELY fit in the oven.When the cakes are all golden-brown and lovely, put them on racks to cool completely.  When they are completely cool, remove them from the pans, wrap them tightly in plastic wrap, and put them in the fridge overnight.  It is much easier to decorate a cold cake than a warm one, trust me.While the cakes are doing their thing, you can make the fondant and frosting, as well as the gum paste for the ivy leaves.

For the fondant, I creamed together 1 cup softened butter, 1 cup vegetable shortening, 2 cups lily white corn syrup, and 6 teaspoons almond extract.When it was all creamy I was ready to add in the icing sugar.By the time I had the texture right, I had added almost 3 kilograms of the stuff (I’m Canadian, so forgive me for switching back and forth between Imperial and Metric.  It’s just what we do).  I had also neglected to take my rings off before I kneaded the stuff.  Shame on me.  Then wrap the fondant tightly in waxed paper and chuck it in the refrigerator overnight.For the frosting, start off by melting 4lb white chocolate, chopped.  I know, it’s a lot.  But it’s necessary.While your chocolate is becoming liquid, cream together 6, 250g packages of cream cheese.Really mix it well to get out all the lumps.Pour in 2 1/4 cups each whipping cream and icing sugar.  Add in 3 teaspoons vanilla extract as well.Whip that extra good until it’s super smooth and creamy.

By now your chocolate should be all melty.Pour that white goodness into your other white goodness and whip it up to create more white goodness.Now put plastic wrap on the surface of the icing and chuck that in the refrigerator overnight.

For the gum paste, I didn’t want to tempt fate (I know my own limitations, folks) so I purchased gum paste mix from a cake decoration store.The instructions on the package are to mix 16oz of the mixture with 1/4 cup water.Then you stir like crazy, eventually using your hands to knead it all in.Then wrap it tightly in a bag and leave it at room temperature for 15 minutes.Now you can dye it.  I used two different shades of Wilton icing colour: moss green and juniper green.It’s a good idea to use gloves when you do this, unless you want green hands.  Apply the colour with a toothpick.   Just remember that a little goes a long way.Then, with gloves on your pretty little hands, knead the gum paste until the colour is thoroughly mixed in.Okay, so now put a bit of spray oil on your rolling pin and roll that sucker out flat.We’re cutting out ivy leaves here, so I thought, what better template than a real ivy leaf?

Cait came over to help me with the cutting out.

First we squished real (washed) ivy into the flattened gum paste.

You can see how the veins show up nicely.

Now we took a sharp pointy knife and cut them all out.

Laid them on waxed paper to dry overnight.

Aaaand … that’s all you get for today.  I don’t know about you, but I’m pooped.  More Friday!

Chocolate Moose Cake

My siblings-in-law Rusty and Mags are arriving today for a couple of weeks.  It’s Rusty’s first time on a plane, so something tells me he’ll need some chocolate when he gets here.  And possibly booze.

I borrowed the actual cake recipe from here, but everything else I made up on my own.  Make sure you’ve got some time when you make this cake, or at least a list of other things to do.  There’s a lot of waiting around for things to cool.

First, you need a springform pan.  Mine here is 10 inches.  Anywhere around that size should be fine.  You see how it has a little lip on the bottom?

Well, flip that so the lip is facing down and lock it in place.

Now butter it like there’s no tomorrow, making sure to fill in all those wee squares, and then dust it with flour.  Knock out the excess and set that sucker aside.

Preheat your oven to 325°F.

In a large bowl, sift in and whisk together 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa, 1 3/4 teaspoons baking powder, and 1/2 teaspoon baking soda.

In a small bowl, whisk together 1 cup water and 3 large eggs.

Chop up about 8oz bittersweet or dark chocolate (or milk, if you prefer, it’s your cake — who am I to tell you what to do?).  Melt that in a double boiler with 3/4 cup butter.

Remove that from the heat and whisk in the egg mixture until it’s smooth and feels like pudding.

Then whisk all that chocolate goodness into the flour mixture and get out all the lumps.

Add in 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar and keep on whisking.  Make sure to rest your whisking hand often, as this is a very whisk-heavy recipe.  How many more times can I say “whisk”?

Pour that glop into your prepared springform pan.

Make sure to rap the pan on the counter to get out all those pesky air bubbles.

Bake for 75 to 90 minutes, until the cake is starting to pull away from the side of the pan and a wooden stick inserted in the centre comes out clean.

Cool the cake in the pan for 20 minutes, then remove the ring and let the cake cool completely, about an hour.  Once the cake is cool you can carefully remove it from the bottom of the pan.

At this point, I brushed the cake with the contents of a wee bottle (50mL) of Grand Marnier, an orange-flavoured liqueur, to keep the cake moist while it awaits the arrival of its consumers.

While your cake is cooking and cooling, you can work on your fondant covering.

We’re going to do a cocoa-mocha fondant today.  So, in the bowl of your mixer, plop in 3/4 cup butter, softened, 3/4 cup corn syrup, and 2 teaspoons vanilla extract.  Mix that until creamy, then add in 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa, 3 tablespoons instant espresso powder, and, slowly, so you don’t start an icing sugar mushroom cloud, about 5 cups icing sugar.

You may need to adjust the level of icing sugar until you get the appropriate doughy texture.  You can always knead in more icing sugar with your hands.  Set that aside.  Possibly in the fridge to firm up a little.

Now we’re going to make the decorating fondant.  In a clean bowl, mix together 1/4 cup softened butter, 1/4 cup lily white corn syrup (because otherwise it won’t turn out as light as you want it to), and 1 teaspoon almond extract.

Mix that until it’s creamy, then add in about 2 cups icing sugar and mix until doughy.  Set that aside.  Again, you can put it in the fridge.  Or next to an open window to catch the cold Newfoundland breeze.  Of course if you live anywhere else at this time of year you probably have your air conditioning on so you could always use that.

Normally, you would create a buttercream icing to go under your fondant, a nice solid glue to hold everything together.  But since when do I obey the rules?  We’re going to go with a ganâche, and that’s all there is to it.

Chop up another 8oz chocolate (your choice, of course), and melt that in a double boiler.

When it’s completely melted, whisk in 2 cups whipping cream until smooth.  Chuck that in the fridge to let it cool completely and thicken.  Stir it around every once in a while.

As this cake is a welcome-to-Newfoundland dessert for my siblings-in-law, I thought I would put a moose on the cake.  The moose, in case you didn’t know, was introduced as a hunting species to Newfoundland at the end of the 19th century and, having no natural predators other than man (because introducing species to island ecosystems is a bad idea), has proliferated and is now one of the province’s biggest pests, wreaking havoc on people’s gardens within the city and accounting for high numbers of traffic fatalities for those unfortunate (or stupid) enough to drive across the island at night.  The moose is an extremely dangerous animal, for all its vegetarian-ness, but Newfoundlanders have adopted the moose as a cute symbol of what makes Newfoundlanders a bit different than everyone else.

What I’m saying is that it’s entirely appropriate to put a moose on your cake when you live in Newfoundland.

I printed out a stencil of a moose from the internet and cut it out.  I rolled out the white fondant onto a piece of waxed paper and laid my stencil on top.

I traced the outline of the stencil with a thin, sharp knife.

Then I peeled away the excess fondant.

And thar be me moose.  I set that aside to dry a little.

When your ganâche is cooled and thickened, you can slather it on your cake.

Like that.  Holy crap does that ever look good.  Chill that in the fridge to let the ganâche set a bit more while you roll out your coffee fondant.

The Pie and I used a rolling pin to ease the fondant onto the cake.  Because the ganâche is soft and squidgy it didn’t provide a very good base for the fondant and so you can see we have some cracks.  But we’re okay with that.  Plus the moose will cover up the worst of it.  For more information on dealing with fondant, check out my Raspberry Trifle Cake experiment.

Trim the excess fondant from the bottom and smooth the sides.

Lay that moose on down on top of the cake and smooth it down as well.

We used Cadbury’s chocolate covered raisins (like Glossette’s) as “moose poop” around the edges of the cake at the bottom.  And of course one big one, just behind the moose in question.

Keep this cake in the fridge to firm up the fondant and to keep the ganâche from spoiling.  Once you have cut into it make sure to keep it covered with plastic wrap, and eat it within a few days.

Cranberry Cobbler

This simple, zesty cobbler has a hint of citrus that takes it from ordinary to extraordinary, and is wicked easy to make.  The recipe, taken from the O Magazine Cookbook, calls for orange zest, but I substituted it for lime, because that’s what I had on hand. 

I also used flash-frozen cranberries instead of fresh, and they worked out just fine.

Preheat your oven to  350°F.

In a large bowl, beat together 6 tablespoons softened butter and 1/2 cup granulated sugar until smooth and creamy. 

Beat in 2 eggs, one at a time, until well blended.

Add in 1 teaspoon freshly grated orange (or lime) zest and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract.

Add in 1 cup all-purpose flour and 1 teaspoon baking powder and beat until fully blended. 

Set that aside for a wee bit.

In a 2-quart shallow glass or ceramic baking dish, pour in 6 cups cranberries.

Sprinkle 1 teaspoon orange zest (or lime zest) on top.  Give it a bit of a stir.

Spread over this 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar and 1 cup cranberry juice.

Spoon the topping batter over the cranberry mixture by heaping spoonfuls. 

Feel free to spread it and flatten it a bit if you like.

Bake for 40-60 minutes (depending on your oven), or until the filling is bubbly around the edges and the topping is brown.  Cool completely on a wire rack.

Serve warm or at room temperature with whipped or ice cream.

Chocolate Fudge Cupcakes

This recipe comes from January’s Canadian Living magazine and it was so fabulous that my parents had to take their share to be redistributed at my mother’s physiotherapist.  They are too delectable.

The amounts below give you about 12 cupcakes but of course I multiplied the recipe, and ended up with a variety of mini, medium, and large cupcakes.  Perfect for sharing.

Preheat your oven to 350°F and line a muffin tin with cupcake cups.

Melt about 2oz chocolate (I ain’t gonna try to tell you what kind, you use your judgment) in a double boiler with 1/4 cup strong coffee until melted and smooth.

In a bowl, whisk together 1/2 cup milk with 1/3 cup cocoa powder and stir into your melted chocolate/coffee.

In another bowl (this time make it a big one), beat 1/3 cup softened butter and 1 3/4 cups icing sugar until light and fluffy — this will take you about two minutes.  If you do this by hand, well, then it will take you a spell longer.  Be lazy: use a mixer.

Beat in 2 eggs, one at a time, as well as 1 teaspoon vanilla extract.

In ANOTHER freaking bowl, whisk together 1 cup all-purpose flour with 1/2 teaspoon EACH baking soda and baking powder.  Stir the flour mixture into the butter mixture alternately with the chocolate mixture, making three additions of flour and two of chocolate.  Stir that sucker up good until the colour and texture are even.

Divide the batter amongst your cupcake cups.

Bake for about 12-18 minutes, or until a tester/toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean.  Let cool in the pan for about five minutes before removing them to a rack to cool completely.

To make your lovely double chocolate fudgy icing, beat together in a bowl 1/2 cup softened butter and 1 3/4 cups icing sugar until fluffy, about 4 minutes.

Melt together about 2oz each of unsweetened and milk chocolates (or use dark and light, I don’t care), and beat the chocolate into the fluffy stuff along with about a teaspoon of milk. You can add more milk if you like until the texture is lovely and smooth.

Spread that brown goo all over your cupcakes.

Be prepared to see them magically disappear!

Simple Chocolate Pudding

It is one of my goals while doing this blog to perfect puddings and custards from scratch.  We have already seen the panna cotta I made last summer, as well as the custardy mixture that went into the vanilla ice cream at Thanksgiving, and the custardy failure during the making of my birthday cake.  Here I thought I would dial it down a notch and go with a simple chocolate pudding.  The process is relatively easy, though you have to pay close attention, and all it needs is a few hours in the refrigerator to encourage you to chocolate gluttony.  This recipe (adapted only slightly) comes out of The Joy of Cooking (1997), as all classic recipes should.

In preparation, finely chop 2oz bittersweet or semisweet chocolate.  Set that aside.

In a bowl, drop 3 tablespoons corn starch.

Slowly add 1/4 cup milk (the fat percentage is up to you, as it’s the starch that makes the pudding thick), stirring until you create a smooth paste.  Set that aside as well.

In a heavy saucepan, whisk thoroughly together 1/2 cup granulated sugar, 1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa, and a pinch of salt.Gradually stir in 1/3 cup warm water, making a smooth, runny paste.Bring to a boil over medium heat, making sure to stir constantly.

Remove from the heat and pour in your chopped chocolate.  Stir until melted and smooth.

Then stir in 1 3/4 cups milk (again, the fat percentage is up to you — I used 1%MF).

Stir in your cornstarch milk paste.

Stirring constantly, cook over medium heat until the mixture begins to thicken. 

Reduce the heat to low and bring to a simmer, then cook for a further minute.  Remove it from the heat and add in 2 teaspoons vanilla extract, then pour the hot pudding into 4 or 5 ramekins or pudding cups.  If you don’t want a skin to form, immediately place a piece of plastic wrap directly on the pudding surface.  I like the skin, so I left it as is.  Refrigerate your pudding for at least 2 hours before serving, and up to 2 days.

I served this version with some finely grated dark chocolate and fresh raspberries.  You could also serve it with whipped cream.  Nothing beats pudding.

Walnut Cheesecake Squares

These were another creation for a research participant, and I like them because they’re not too sweet.  And because the base is the same as the topping the whole thing is incredibly easy.  This recipe is from Esther Brody’s 250 Best Brownies, Bars & Squares.

Preheat your oven to 350°F.  Butter a 9×13″ pan and line it with parchment paper — then butter the parchment paper as well.

Mix together in a bowl 2 cups all-purpose flour, 2/3 cup packed brown sugar, and 1 cup finely chopped walnuts

You’re looking for crumbs here, so if you have walnut pieces, pop them in the food processor (slightly more than the cup measure as it will settle) for a spell.

Using a pastry blender:

Or two knives:

Cut in 2/3 cup cold cubed butter until the mixture is entirely coarse crumbs.

This may take a while, so be patient.  Too large pieces of butter will result in holes in your base.

Pour half the mixture into your prepared pan and press it to the bottom.  Set the other half aside.  

Bake the mixture in the pan for 10-15 minutes or until lightly browned.  Remove from the oven and place on a rack to cool slightly.

In another bowl, beat 1lb (500g) softened cream cheese and 1/2 cup granulated sugar until smooth.

Beat in 2 eggs and 1/4 cup milk, then add in 1 tsp vanilla extract.

Pour the cream cheese mixture evenly over that nice warm base.

Sprinkle the reserved base stuff evenly over the top.

Bake the whole shebang for 20-25 minutes more, or until everything is just set, and then remove the pan to a rack and let it cool completely.

Use the parchment paper to lift the cooled squares out of the pan and cut them into squares.

If you have any left, store them covered in your refrigerator.

Rectangular Chocolate Cake

This is a great cake to whip up for a potluck or casual dinner.  Baking it in a 9″ x 13″ glass casserole dish makes it easy to carry and means you can even freeze the cake if you need it later.

The fudgy icing adds the element of delectability to what is otherwise a regular cake recipe.  Cake recipe from Canadian Living, fudge icing from Chocablog.

Spray the sides of a 9″ x 13″ glass baking dish and line the bottom with parchment paper (you can use metal baking pans as well, but I prefer the even cooking of the glass) and set that aside.  Preheat your oven to 350°F.

In a large bowl, beat together 1 1/2 cups softened butter with 2 1/4 cups granulated sugar.  I ran out of white so I added in some brown.

Add in, one at a time, 3 eggs, followed by 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract.

In a separate container, mix together 3 cups all-purpose flour, 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa, 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder and the same again of baking soda.

Stir your flour mixture alternately with 2 1/4 cups buttermilk (or milk soured with lemon juice or vinegar), making three additions of the dry stuff and two of the buttermilk.

At this point I was slightly concerned because the mixture was the consistency and colour of wet cement.  I figured I might as well forge ahead in any case.

Scrape that cement into the prepared pan and smooth the top.

Bake until tester comes out clean, about 50 minutes.  Let cool on a wire rack for about ten minutes, then turn out onto the rack and peel off the paper and allow to cool completely.

While the cake is cooling you can start on your icing.

In a medium saucepan, melt 10 oz butter at low heat.

Holy crap that’s a lot of buttery goodness.

Stir in 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder and raise the heat a bit before adding 10 oz icing sugar.

Gradually add in 6 tablespoons milk and allow the mixture to come to a boil.

Remove from heat when you have a glossy, smooth paste, and allow to cool completely.

Slather that goodness all over your cake.  Just give ‘er.

Then you get to eat it.  I made this for Cait and iPM and Cait informed me that she had it for breakfast.  So it’s a multipurpose cake.

Make Your Own Marshmallows

Don’t be afraid.  Making your own marshmallows is surprisingly easy.  First, round up your ingredients:

2/3 cup water, divided in half

3 (1/4oz) envelopes unflavoured gelatin (or two packets of 1 tablespoon each)

1 cup granulated sugar

1 cup light corn syrup

pinch kosher salt

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup icing sugar, for dusting

Spray the inside of an 8 x 8″ pan with vegetable oil (I used a 9 x 13″ pan and it worked out fine).  Generously coat this with icing sugar and set aside.  I took the added precaution of laying waxed paper in the bottom to make removal easier.

Pour 1/3 cup water into the bowl of an electric mixer and sprinkle the gelatin over top.  Leave to stand about 10 minutes.

In a saucepan off heat, combine the remaining 1/3 cup water with sugar, corn syrup, and salt.  Place the pan over medium heat.

Clip a candy thermometer to the side of the pan (don’t let it touch the bottom) and cook the mixture without stirring it until it reads 240°F.

Brush down the sides of the pan with a pastry brush dipped in water to wash away the residual sugar crystals.  Be careful — this is boiling sugar, after all.

With the mixer on low, very carefully add the hot syrup to the gelatin.

Add in the vanilla and increase the speed to medium-high.  Beat for 8-13 minutes, or until the mixture is very stiff, white, and sticky.

Spread the mixture into the prepared pan using a lightly oiled spatula.  With wet hands (and I mean SOAKING), press the batter evenly into the corners and smooth the surface.  Allow to sit for about an hour, or until the mixture is firm and cool.

Run a wet knife around the edges of the pan and turn out onto a lightly oiled surface. 

Cut the marshmallow into squares of your desired size.  Wet the knife often to make this less sticky.

Sift the icing sugar into a bowl.  Toss each marshmallow in the icing sugar until completely coated.

Alternatively, you can also toss the marshmallows in unsweetened cocoa (my favourite) or toasted coconut.  You can also fold things into the marshmallow batter (like chocolate chips, dried cranberries, etc.) before you spread it into the pan.

Store the marshmallows in a single layer or in layers separated by waxed paper in an airtight container for up to a month.That wasn’t that hard, was it?  These were quite popular at the hockey team bake sale.

Peanut Butter Cups

I will never understand the obsession the male half of my family has with peanut butter.  To be honest, if I was never allowed to eat peanut butter again, I would probably live a long and fulfilled life.  Not so for the men in my two families.  Peanut butter is a staple.

This recipe is adapted from Karen Solomon’s Jam It, Pickle It, Cure It, and makes 12 large peanut butter cups.

Get your ingredients together:

1 1/2 cups crunchy peanut butter (I got mine fresh ground at the health food store!)

1 teaspoons honey

2 tablespoons icing sugar

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 cups chopped chocolate

Have ready 12 large cupcake liners.  Or more.

Chuck the peanut butter, honey, icing sugar, and vanilla in a bowl and mix it up.  I used the stand mixer because I am supremely lazy.  That’s just how I roll.

Take about two teaspoons of the peanut butter mixture, roll it into a ball, then flatten it into a patty that will fit in the cup but won’t touch the sides.  Do the same with the rest of the peanut butter until you have twelve.  Or, if like me, you doubled the recipe, you’ll end up with more than that.

Melt your chocolate.  I think I used more than was required, because I had to melt additional chocolate.  But there’s nothing wrong with that.

Spoon about 2 teaspoons of melted chocolate into the bottom of each cup.  Place a patty in the centre of the melted chocolate and tap it into place, but don’t let it touch the bottom.

Spoon an additional teaspoon of chocolate on top of the patty, making sure that the chocolate goes up the sides and encloses the peanut butter completely.

Tap the cup on the bottom to smooth out the tops.  Allow to sit undisturbed for at least four hours for the chocolate to harden completely.  Now wasn’t that easy?

Store up to two weeks in an airtight container.  Do not refrigerate.  ENJOY!