Sunday, January 22, 2012


I've always wanted to make a cupcake with a filling, but I never really come across any fillings and cupcake combinations that I would like.  So, I had to take it upon myself to create something I would enjoy.
I had such compliments from the Brown Sugar Banana Cupcakes that I made from the How Sweet It Is recipe, but I decided tweak it a bit this time.  Instead of using sour cream, I simply used milk instead.  I really like how milk creates a denser more moist cupcake. I've used milk in all the recipes I've come up with on my own thus far.

I read on Baking Bites that the higher fat content of the milk the more moist the cake will be!  Good to know :-) And she describes adding milk to baking as creating a "richer mouth feel"...I like that.

Back to my filling....I thought a Banana Cream Pie filling would be a wonderful addition to the already loved Brown Sugar Banana Cupcakes.  I used this recipe from but on a much smaller scale.  I pretty much fourthed the recipe...yes, I fourthed it.  I know, fourthed is probably not a word, but that's okay.

Here's What You'll Need:

1/4 cup white sugar
1.5 tbsp of all-purpose flour
A pinch of salt
1/2 cup of milk
1 egg yolk beaten
1 tbsp butter
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
1 banana - mashed

1) Add sugar, flour, and salt to a medium saucepan.  Stir in the milk gradually.  Cook over medium heat stirring constantly until mixture is bubbly.  Keep stirring for 2 more minutes and then remove from burner.
2) Add small amount of heated mixture to beaten egg yolk and stir.  Place heated mixture back on burner and add egg yolk mixture.  Stir constantly for another 2 minutes.
3) Remove from heat and add butter, vanilla, and mashed banana.  Place in fridge for 30 minutes to cool and thicken.
4) Core middle of banana cupcakes once cooled and add cream filling.  Top with frosting!

Basically the cream filling on its own is a wonderful Banana Pudding! And the size of my recipe would be perfect for two pudding with whipped cream and maybe some chopped almonds or toasted coconut....yum!
Let me know of any filling suggestions you might have.  I'm thinking peanut butter and chocolate for the next a Reese's cup! Oh yeeeeaa :-) 

Happy Sunday!!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

A Feat of Fondant

I think I've been to Michaels probably too many times in January alone and I'm always going down the baking aisles and always seeing the fondant and the fondant tools and the cake stands and...each time I leave without any of these daunting items.

Fondant is something new to me.  I've only seen it being worked with on Cake Boss and Food Network Challenges and The Next Great Baker, but never have I seen, let alone touched the stuff in person.
Today was the day! 
I've been thinking about this venture into fondant-land for some time now and it's about time I took the leap...especially after my boyfriend tells me I should.  If he knows a thing or two about fondant, I need to step up my game!

So I bought a few boxes of fondant: two by the lovely Wilton (one in white and one in pastel yellow) and another box by Duff in bright pink buttercream.

I've been eyeing this yellow cake recipe paired with a creamy vanilla buttercream frosting seen originally on Cupcakes and Cashmere.  This was the perfect time to put these recipes to use :-)
So I broke in my new Calphalon 9" rounds with this delightful yellow cake and learned a new frosting technique from this vanilla buttercream.

Yup, I decided a little pink would be fun for the frosting!
And then, it was onto the fondant....

I got this great tool to not only cut the fondant but make this cute pillowed design! I'm 
telling mom was right when she said kindergartners make master pieces because they are given all the fun crafty tools.  If you're gonna do it right, you need the crafty tools!

As you can see, I even delved into making some fondant roses and used my new silver dusting powder on the flowers... 
and the yellow dots.
So...I think I'll let the pictures speak for itself.  I'm pretty proud of my first attempt at fondant. Of course, I could've done things better and I definitely made my notes on what I would change...(ahem-more kitchen space!) but the next cake will be even better and more creative.
And now what to do with it, you ask?? EAT it!!!

Friday, January 13, 2012

Bringing Back My O-chem Skills

I've been putting the good ol' o-chem skills to use this week.  I know...I shouldn't do that often.  It might induce huge amounts of stress and hair pulling.  But one thing I do remember from my o-chem lectures at Berkeley was...making molecules is just like following a recipe. 

I'm a pro at following recipes...however, I NEVER understood an o-chem recipe...other than they all seemed to be recipes for disaster.  

AND, I could care less about what the outcome was whereas, my baking outcomes are so much more delightful.  So far anyway (knock on wood).  I have yet to burn the place down ;-) 

So this week I was determined to come up with a few of my own recipes.  I didn't want to tweak something and make it my own...I wanted it all my own.  And so I pulled nearly everything out of my baking cupboard and made a solid mess in the kitchen.  It had "chemistry lab" written all over it.  But holy moly was it a ton of FUN!

I don't know where my idea for a Disaronno cupcake came from....probably that we had a full bottle of it sitting in the freezer and I've been dying to make myself an Amaretto Sour but still haven't conquered that goal since my birthday (which was mid-December) I decided to use the Disaronno in a cupcake along with almond extract and chopped almonds.  
Have I mentioned that I love almond? No?...well, I love almond :-)) I didn't want the almond, almond, almond to  be over-powering, and I think I was able to capture a nice balance with a white-chocolate almond cream cheese frosting.  The cake was perfectly dense and the frosting thick and rich.  And the added chopped almonds gave a great texture to the cake.  I love a good texture.

The second idea came to me while reading a blog on granola cookies of all things! Who da thought?  For some reason, when I got to the coconut part of her mind rang "7-layer bars!!!" and I had to zoom right to a simple 7-layer bar recipe to remember each layer.  Then it was off to the kitchen again to get the right concoction of all those 7 layers.  Tricky getting all those ingredients together in a cohesive manner.  I went with a chocolate chip/sweetened condensed milk frosting (there's two of your layers), a butter, butterscotch chip, coconut, pecan cake (that makes 6)....topped with a crumbled gram cracker garnish!  

And that my friends is my 7-layer bar cupcake magic!
And magic it was and has been indeed!
  I can't believe how well my first two experimentations went in the kitchen.  I can't imagine they should all go as well these the first two tries...but I'm hoping for the best!  And thinking....maybe that o-chem wasn't a waste of my time after all ;-) 

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Patience and Sugar Cookies

I must admit, I've never been a good froster of cookies or decorator of gingerbread houses.  It takes patience...and a steady hand for sure.  Now, I'm not averse to hard work but I love moments of magic to happen instantaneously.  And patience is definitely something I need to work on. Maybe should add it to my "goals of 2012" list.

Our 6th President of the United States, John Quincy Adams said, "Patience and perseverance have a magical effect before which difficulties disappear and obstacles vanish."  
Such is true in all these new kitchen adventures.  Patience is necessary when in the first round of sugar cookies...the dough is too sticky to cut out anything easily identifiable. And then you down right throw a fit because you can't even get a good circle on that cookie sheet.  :-/ 

But... you make your notes and continue experimenting till you get it JUST right...right!? 

As for the icing...second times a charm and if you're using Glorious Treats Royal Icing Recipe!! 

Meringue Powder was a new ingredient for me...had to go to Michael's to pick this stuff up.  

According to Wilton, apparently meringue powder adds body to royal icing,  meringue, or boiled icing; it stabilizes buttercream, and it can replace egg whites in some recipes.  Will definitely have to try this with buttercream....beat too much and the results are UNREAL crazy...separation and chunkiness like no other. I beat together all the ingredients until stiff peaks formed.  This was really the winning point in getting the right consistency to work with.  I used a hand mixer rather than a stand mixer.  I find that when working with frostings and icings...the hand mixer works better for me.  

Then for the fun part, I used Duff Food Coloring Gel.  
Ooooh the swirls!
And set up my decorating station.  Parchment paper for a clean surface.  I used two cookie decorating bottles with a size 3 tip (really didn't know how this would work...a size 2 might've been a little better for more detailed accuracy but size 3 worked just fine).
First, you want to outline your cookies and let dry for at least a half hour.  If you can't tell, these will be balloons.  
After the outline is set and dried, you can work on the inside.  No crazy designs for me yet, just wanted to get down the basics this time around.  I added a small little dap of white for reflection ;-) 
As for presentation, I wanted each cookie to be like a special gift. Each wrapped in a plastic bag with a purple tie to finish off the balloon.  
Perfect for someone's birthday, or maybe a Disney themed "Up" party, or....a "She's ready to POP" themed baby shower?? 
Next time, a steadier hand with the icing, and adding some more difficult details.  

I saw this great tutorial on Eiffel Tower cookies ...that'll be something I need to build up to. Pretty spiffy huh?  :-)
Courtesy of The TomKat Studio

Friday, January 6, 2012

In Full Swing: 2012

With the first week of the New Year almost over and the Holiday season having dissipated it's rather sad to see all of it go with the abrupt start of a new year.  Every one is hustling and bustling back to work, in with the new out with the old....and as much as I absolutely love the winter holidays, I find myself doing much of the former along with everyone else.

I've found myself decluttering the house of all the knick knacks that seem to pile up over the holidays from being so busy at family and friends houses and out on vacation. Our place got to feeling like a place to unload rather than home.  The counters are now clutter free, and I've been inspired to put pictures on the wall that have had a permanent address on the floor since we moved into our place. 

One thing that I've been wanting to do since we moved in....purchase new bedding! Now, my boyfriend would totally go into mock mode with a high pitched girly voice and say "Oh yes, the colors are so warm and inviting...I totally sleep better now that we have new bedding." But really, it IS more inviting and I do LOVE the colors but the sleeping better part hasn't come in to play yet ;-) 
(Lovely right!!?) 

And for the last three years I've had the goal of doing a half marathon every year.  So far, it's been the River City Half Marathon.  Last year, I put another half on the list with the Urban Cow Half Marathon in October.  And who knows, maybe I'll do three this year.  But one thing is for sure, on March 25th I'll be at the starting line for the River City Half...third times a charm!  
And so I've been starting the new year out right with simple morning runs with Sophie (she only likes to do a mile, nothing more) and then I tend to get back out there and complete another 1.5 mile loop.  For some reason new gear always gets me excited to go out and run! I've got my new lulu gear from Santa, my new Brooks shoes that were MUCH needed, and some special cupcake socks ;-).  Who wouldn't want to go running with all that awesomeness??

(Built in hand warmers on my Lulu jacket...yet another reason to get my butt out there and run!)

I always think about making resolutions for the New Year but I like to make goals instead.  Goals seem more attainable and more positive than resolutions.  Goals = glass half full...resolution = half empty?  That's the way I see it.  So my goals: Another half marathon or 2 or 3, taking on a new slice of life as a pastry connoisseur, and therefore, create, create, create! It's what I do and what I love. 

So my first creative adventure of the year...

My niece is on the way and should be here shortly...well, at the end of March.  I'm putting together the baby shower for my sister and brother-in-law and am having fun creating all the little things surrounding the theme "She's Ready To Pop".  As of right now, I'm solidifying the menu and making food cards for everything. 

More sneak peeks to come on this fun baby shower!

What are some of your goals this year??

Thursday, January 5, 2012

First Attempt: French Macarons

This was by far the most complicated baking I've done to date.  These little delicate desserts are just that! Very time consuming and if each step isn't done right and with the ut-most attention-to-detail, your macaron could be a serious flop.  And in the macaron world....mine would be considered a serious flop.

I love how this lady at Serious Eats gives you the history and run down of a perfect macaron.  Very insightful and enlightening.

I went to Giverslog to find a great tutorial on how to make these mini sandwich cake/cookies.  She seems to have many tips and tricks on getting each step down to perfection.  From leaving your egg whites out for an entire day to get to the perfect "room temperature" to baking on a dry day because humidity is not your friend in this recipe. It also seems as though this tutorial was not her first rodeo.  I guess practice does makes perfect!

After looking at the ingredients, I made a trip to Safeway....they didn't have Almond Flour.  I bought pastry flour not realizing that almond flour is simply finely finely processed almonds.  And so, I used my pastry flour which of course, did not create an actual macaron.  I don't know what I created since a macaron is almond in flavor.  So, a second attempt will have to follow this blog post, but bear with me for the time being.  

I used Martha Stewart's Coconut Swiss Meringue Buttercream recipe as the filling for my macarons.  Let me tell you...this recipe was just as difficult as the macaron itself.   
(Whipping egg whites and sugar for the meringue stuff)

I couldn't believe how much butter was involved. 
5 sticks!!! But...I seriously only used a SMALL portion for the macaron filling.  Very small I probably have two containers left in the fridge to use for another project (maybe that second attempt ;).

Whenever I've seen these cute little dessert sandwiches they are always in the prettiest of pastel colors, so I decided I wanted a butter yellow cookie with a pink filling.  I was quite pleased with my color choices.  

And although my final product looks nothing like a macaron...get ready for the flop.  (Insert the "wah, wah, wah" sound effects)
 It was rather tasty, so I don't count this as a total failure.  
I promise, the second attempt...will be an actual macaron.  

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The Simple Plan...

For now anyways :-)

So today was an exciting one.  I went to see the Le Cordon Bleu campus and my admissions advisor for the first time.  I was happy to find that the commute was exactly as Google told me.  30 minutes...not bad at all!

Courtesy of: Le Cordon Bleu 

We went over all the details necessary to get me all set up with the program.  The only downfall...every other baking program in the country starts in Feb. but Sacramento seems to be the exception.  I will be starting my program in May.  I'm already beside myself trying to wait for school to start...this wait is going to be agonizing.  I guess I'll try and work on my patience till then.  :-)  

The admissions advisor asked me, "on a scale of 1-10"...and that's literally all he could say before I was piping in, "10!!! I'm so excited, I can't wait!!".  Needless to say, I left them with no doubt as to whether I was serious about this program.

I got to tour the three different kitchens I will be baking in and a description of all the courses I will be taking.  I can't wait till the end of the program when we get into advanced decorating techniques, desserts, specialty event pastries, and chocolates/candies.  Then, the coolest externship!

They start working with us from day 1 to place us in an externship during the last 6 weeks of the program.  And of course, the idea is for us to find permanent employment there after the externship period.

SO, being the good student that I am...I eagerly went home with all my pamphlets and started researching places I could potentially see myself working in.  And by golly, I found a European Bakery right here in Sacramento.  Ettore's European Bakery looks, sounds, and by the reviews IS top-notch!  And they seem to do it all: cakes, croissants, rolls, eclairs, tarts, cookies, Napoleans, petit fours, muffins, danishes...I really could go on and on, but I'll keep your mouth-watering to somewhat of a minimum.
Courtesy of: Ettore's European Bakery (The Princess Torte)

The great thing...this is only one of the places I could potentially see myself at.  This man, Ettore, came from Switzerland with $350 bucks in his pocket as a pastry chef at the age of 20, established himself, and finally opened up shop in 1985 right here in Sac.  I'd like to follow similarly in this guys, experience, and ultimately entrepreneurship.

Maybe I'll call my plan the three E's or maybe "thrEEE" ;-)

Either way, before school starts I'm going to bake my little heart out and gain more experience and baking in my own kitchen and try to teach myself more techniques so when May 21st rolls around I'm a  confident baking student.

And the greatest part about all of this...I have full support on my side!  My parents from day one have always been so positive of everything I've ever wanted to pursue.  From wearing women's knee high fuscia panty hose that were more like thigh high panty hose when I was 3 years old to the grocery store (I know, I'm pretty sure you have a good visual in your head), to wanting to make a lot of noise as a drummer when I was 11, to getting a pre-med degree at Berkeley and then not going down the medical school route at all...and now finding myself here in this new adventure.  And my boyfriend who is so proud of me for pursuing my passions when most people don't have the courage to do so. And with his business sense mind helping me to make a sound plan out of my passion and idea.  But really he's just happy for me that I'm simply happy :-)

So I'm happy to announce that the next item on the menu shall be...French macaroons!!  This could be interesting, so check back soon to see how they fare!

Courtesy of Pinterest

Monday, January 2, 2012

Pastry School

I guess you could say my 2012 started out with huge amounts of sweetness! I made a quick decision over the holidays to venture into pastry school.  Having been laid off from a job in the pharmaceutical industry at the end of September, 2011 has really given me the time to broaden my creative horizons in the kitchen. 
I was always the one of 2 girls at work that would bring in cupcakes and tasty morsels for every one.  I started small...easy by-the-box cupcake mixes topped with Betty Crocker frostings.  I began experimenting more and more outside the confines of a box of cake and really getting into more complex confections.  I started tweaking recipes I liked and expanding my baking vocabulary with things like "soft-ball stage caramel" and "jelly roll pans".  I'd say I'm still at the elementary stages when it comes to baking.  I have always loved the process of creating, and baking seems to always have a happy ending. Even when I've had some failures, such as my coffee cupcakes...the experimentation of something new was fun and exciting.  
And pastry school is just that! Something SO NEW and SO EXCITING! I have never in my life been so excited for school.  I was throwing around the idea of doing something creative for a job, but REALLY... how many people get to do what they love for a living?  Not many! And I was fighting myself with the fact that I have this great degree from Berkeley in Integrative Biology.  I was thinking, what a waste to not continue my path in something science related.  I understand that my undergraduate degree is by NO means a waste and it has given me a broader perspective on the world, strengthened my problem solving skills and the way I process and react to information.  An undergraduate degree (although specified it might be) makes you a more well rounded person.  SO with that understanding and of course the support from my parents and significant other....I delved into my search for pastry schools.  
I came to three options: The Culinary Institute of America at Greystone, The Art Institute, and Le Cordon Bleu.  After really deciding what I wanted to get out of the school and overlooking the curriculums, I decided on Le Cordon Bleu. 
I always have a gut feeling about something.  My gut told me to pursue this.  And the confirmation behind my decision was the motivation and drive I've had since the decision point.  I've been making the important phone calls, researching everything I can get my hands on, messaging friends of mine also going to pastry school, and setting up all the proper meetings.  This is OBviously something that I want to do.  I'm no procrastinator but it definitely takes me longer to do something I hate than something that is right up my alley!
In two days I'll be getting my schedule, taking a tour, and getting acclimated to my second kitchen :-) Get ready for some seriously sweet desserts and maybe a few less-than-sweet concoctions.  I hope I can leave the burning to a minimum.
Here's to new adventures and an EPIC 2012!