Tiffy Bakes

Basic Lemon Buttercream
January 13, 2010, 10:22 PM
Filed under: Recipes

I spent the past week reading, and writing, and not baking; it was a nice respite, though it was even nicer to get my hands on the mixer again. (I just verified — this sounds JUST as dorky, typed out and read aloud, as it does in my head.)

Tonight I made a basic lemon buttercream, adapted from this recipe (I didn’t follow the instructions exactly… To my delight, I’m finding that baking-related ventures are not as PRECISE as people — myself included — make them out to be):

Lemon Buttercream
1/2 stick butter
2 cups confectioners sugar
~2-3 tbsp fresh lemon juice (the juice of half a lemon)
1/2 tbsp lemon zest
1 tbsp vanilla extract (I didn’t add the vanilla extract this time around, but the buttercream would have tasted much more complete with it, I think)

As a whole, I’m not really fond of buttercream. But this one is nice. It cuts through the butteriness, it’s not sugary sweet, and it’s pleasantly rich. It’s like, oh I don’t know, the Zooey Deschanel of all American buttercreams. It’s pretty too — there were these little ochre-ish flecks of zest in the frosting… so charming! It makes me want to fill the rest of this entry with smiley faces.

πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

Here’s a picture. If you squint and use your imagination a little bit, you can see the lemon zest I was talking about:

In the pipeline: Some sort of lemon flavored cake or dessert (I have a butter-granulated sugar-lemon juice mixture sitting in the fridge… It needs to not be there anymore). Swiss meringue buttercream (forever and ever — yes, please!). Whipped cream toppings (peppermint, almond, vanilla, _______-infused, OM NOM NOM). And then some.


Froscipes Pt. 1
January 7, 2010, 4:48 PM
Filed under: Experiments, Recipes

After I made my three different batches of chocolate frosting yesterday, I found myself totally unable to decide which tasted better. At first, I thought, Hey, chocolate frosting. How different can they be, right? I mean, two of them are both ganache-y anyway, and the other one is just buttercream…Β Oh, naive little Tiffy. Little did I know that all three frostings tasted completely different and are not really comparable, on account of their totally different textures and flavors. For a second it felt like that scene in The Devil Wears Prada, where one of the department editors (her name is Lucia, by the way — I looked it up on IMDB) is holding up two similar-looking belts, and she goes, “It’s a tough call… They’re both so DIFFERENT.” Yeah. Just call me Lucia.

To my credit, though, I did spend the greater part of the afternoon melting chocolate and beating butter and waiting for all that ganache to cool, at which point these ingredient-conglomerates felt rather more like my offspring, my brood, my little chocolate progeny, than frosting. To choose the best tasting frosting, to pick one and deem it the crΓ¨me de la crΓ¨me, well, I mean really, you might as well just ask Jon &/or Kate who their favorite octuplet is! Oh but wait, what about those other two? Wait, what? Huh? Oh, yeah… (Ummm, this makes sense in my head? Pinky promise.)

Anyway, as all parents and children are well aware, parents — of three, especially! — almost always have a favorite. I mean, look at Alvin and the Chipmunks. Alvin was CLEARLY David’s favorite, even though he was totally undeserving and mostly a selfish, bossy pain in the ass. Poor Theodore! How wrong is it that the nicest, most non-threatening chipmunk invariably ends up with the short end of the stick? Time and time again! And don’t get me started on Simon, who was clearly way too good for his ‘hood.

I have a point with all of this.

I made three different chocolate frostings: David Lebovitz’s Ganache Frosting, Whipped Chocolate Ganache,Β Β and Chockylit’s Chocolate Buttercream.

The first one, hereby known as my David Lebovitz frosting, was really smooth, rich-tasting (but not buttery-rich, just chocolate-rich)… It had a nice gritty depth to it (don’t ask me what that means, I hardly know myself), and it didn’t overwhelm the cupcake flavor (“yellow cake”). Texture was okay — kind of thick, seeing as it IS ganache, after all. A bit hard to pipe, because while it was thick, it wasn’t really stiff, either.

My whipped chocolate ganache (made using a 1.25:1 ratio of chocolate to heavy cream)Β was lovely… very light and airy. The whipped cream taste was nice, as was the chocolate. It didn’t go well with the cake, but that can be amended, since yellow cake sucks anyway. It had a smoother texture than the David Lebovitz frosting,Β piped the nicest, and it was a cinch to make. (“A cinch.” Check me out, I’m all stuck in the age of outdated slang… Coolio!)

The last one, I think I will retire from all future frosting experiments. Not because the recipe was especially bad or anything… It’s just the chocolate buttercreamy way of things. It was way too sweet, as most American buttercreams tend to be; I had to add a good pinch of salt to tame it… and even then, it was a bit much. In the future, I’d like to play around with vanilla buttercream and add a splash of lemon juice to cut the sweetness… Or maybe just skip the vanilla altogether and test out a lemon buttercream instead.

So… there we are. A few paragraphs and pictures back, I said I had a point with all my Alvin and the Chipmunks talk, but now I simply cannot remember what it is.

Just kidding.

I was going to say how, like all seemingly unbiased, nonpartisan parents, I too have a favorite frosting-child. And its name is… THEDORE THE WHIPPED CHOCOLATE GANACHE! Whistles! Bells! Congratulations! I mean, don’t get me wrong, the David Lebovitz frosting/ganache frosting/”Simon” was super classy, and eating it made me feel all ritzy and swank and very “I’m wearing a little black dress; where’s MY James Bond?” but really, I think it’s better off as filling. On the other hand, the whipped ganache was so light and chocolate-y, but had that subtle whipped cream flavor as well… It tasted low maintenance, but kind of chic too. Shabby chic! Rumpled stylish! Let’s leave it at that.

Oh, and that American chocolate buttercream? Honest to God, just thinking about it still annoys me. Confectioner’s sugar and cocoa powder and butter? Who do we think we’re fooling with that? It’s not frosting, it’s just nasty. And annoying. Totally Alvin. Tooootally, dude.

Mini Cupcake Oven Experiment
January 5, 2010, 1:00 PM
Filed under: Baking Equipment, Experiments

Okay, so this is not frosting, per se… This post is about cupcakes. And bakeware. Yes. Again. I just needed you to know that it appears to me that you don’t actually need to bother with adjusting oven temperatures just because you’re using a fairly dark, nonstick pan. 350 or 325 degrees? Um, just stick with 350 and increase baking time by 2 minute increments as needed. Fancy $239403290 aluminum baking pans? Who needs ’em!

In the dorkiest way possible, I attempted to answer the question “Do you really need to adjust baking instructions for the color of the pan?” And my conclusions were such:

No, you do not need to adjust for cupcakes, especially since you’ll be increasing baking time based on the feel anyhow. If it says 350 degrees by default, stay with 350 degrees; also be careful with portion sizes. 350 degrees plus a dark pan DOES get hot, so if you go overboard with batter, it will get singed on the sides. That’s the good thing about lighter-colored aluminum pans, I suppose… They’re a bit more forgiving with burns.

I love what Joy the Baker saysΒ here, though — makes me feel fifty times better about my non-fancy mini muffin pan…:

Here’s a fun secret. When shopping for these essentials stay away from Crate and Barrel and other fancy shops. Find a good (often dusty) restaurant supple [sic] store in your area and shop for the basics there. Cheap cheap cheap and quality that can stand up to commercial kitchen use. It’s where all of my metal bowl, sifter, sheet pans, loaf pans and measuring cups come from.

Anyway. Other things I noted include:

  • Batter rises and poofs (never mind the improper baking terminology) at 350, but not 325.
  • Be sure to fill roughly 2/3 full. (Two-spoon system works relatively consistently.) Any more than that and you start to get lightly burnt edges.
  • Mini cupcake liners don’t perfectly fit my baking pan, so at 350, if the batter is uneven and expands and pushes the paper liners toward the walls, the shape at the base of the cupcake gets kind of wonky. You could possibly remedy this simply by shaking pan to level batter… kind of.
  • Try using nut & party cups instead? (!)

Top one was cooked at 325, bottom was done at 350. (By the way, please do forgive the pseudo-macro focus. I remember when I used to be awesome at photo. Granted, it wasn’t digital, and it was more fine arts and not so much aboutΒ showing, but even so… I guess that’s what happen when you have no patience for a bulked up digital SLR, and the only other thing you have at hand is a camera on your telephone.)

So, yeah yeah, I mean, like I’ve been saying… Frosting experiment up next! For real this time! Promise.

Refurbished Cake Truffles
January 4, 2010, 2:20 PM
Filed under: Troubleshooting

This is what my cake truffles looked like after I finally (1) stuck the cake balls back in the oven for 15-18 minutes at 350 degrees to dry out and firm up the mixture, and (2) bought a package of chocolate bark to coat.

So, that’s that. Lots of room for improvement, definitely (in terms of taste alone: no more cake from a box, for starters… better tasting frosting… dark chocolate, rather than milk chocolate for coating…), but as for now, I think I’m leaving this little project behind and moving onto CUPCAKES!!!. See you soon. Get excited.

Minor Meltdown Over Some Mini Muffin Pans
January 2, 2010, 8:04 PM
Filed under: Baking Equipment

I worry a lot. I’m a worrier. I fuss over a lot of little things, little inconsistencies that no one else is especially concerned with. I’m slightly neurotic. This particular attribute was made extra evident this afternoon, as I spent roughly three hours debating over which mini muffin pan (the 24 cup commercial Oneida pan from Walmart, or the 24 cup “mini muffin pan” — officially named thusly — from Crate & Barrel?) was superior.

I weighed the pros and cons of cup sizes and cup shapes. I compared customer reviews, cost discrepancies, the color and texture of each pan (because these things matter, you know?). I visited my favorite bakers’ blogs to see what they have to say about baking pans. (None of them care about these finer points, incidentally.) I even looked at images of mini muffins and mini cupcakes on TasteSpotting and clicked through 60 pages of thumbnails on Flickr to figure out which shape I preferred. Yes, I am ridiculous, a total psycho. Tie me up and have me institutionalized.

Long story short (though not really, since I have so graciously — make that gratuitously — shared with you a good deal of the story already), I’ve decided to keep both pans. A single box of cake mix makes 48 mini cupcakes anyway.

So that my afternoon’s efforts are not put completely to waste, please view some of these lovely images I found and favorited on Flickr:

Sigh. These put my cell phone pictures to shame.

Next up: A few notes — or pictures, rather — on my renovated cake truffles. Plus, I’ve got some frosting experiments slated for next week/the week after. Will be making good use of the aforementioned mini muffin pans. Hope you had a happy Christmas!

Experiments with Chocolate and Cream Cheese Spice Cake Balls
December 20, 2009, 7:51 PM
Filed under: Recipes

Oh, Christmas break. I spend the entire semester at school, just waiting for you to arrive, and before you know it, here you are, and here I am, twiddling my thumbs, looking for something to do. What does one DO over Christmas break, anyway? I mean, there’s externships for the extra-ambitious… part-time seasonal jobs for the good kids who just want to help pay their way through college… I’ve been home for a week, and what have I done? Well. I’ve made my way through Season 1 of 30 Rock (ridiculous, I know! And kind of impressive too, right? Right?), and now I am working on the rest of my monthlong baking bonanza!

This baking bonanza will include: testing out different icing/frosting recipes, testing out different cake recipes, testing out decorating methods, and so forth… Very exciting times ahead, my friend.

Before I jump into the cake experiments, though, I wanted to try out this recipe that I’ve been eyeing for the past few weeks.

Bakerella’s cake balls are supposed to be a really easy treat to make. And I’m sure they are. But if you know anything about me… Well, let’s just say I am extremely capable of botching things up in ways unimaginable.

Really classy-looking spice cake. It looks really professional and nice.

In her recipe, Bakerella says to crumble the cake into a large bowl, so I crumbled. Oh, did I crumble. By the end of the whole shebang, my spice cake was little more than a bowl of delicious crumb-y dust. To anyone who plans to make these: You should know that the smaller the crumbs are, the stickier and more integrated your mixture will be once you add the frosting. Which means you should either use less frosting (yeah, do NOT go ahead and dump the whole can of frosting into the bowl like I did… bad idea), or you should be a little less meticulous in the pulverizing of your cake.

I had to refrigerate my cake mixture to let it firm up a bit because I was rolling it with my hands, and I started getting cake glove (this isn’t an actual baking term, as far as I know). I would recommend using a mini spring-loaded ice cream scoop next time.

For the next batch (I only dipped 17 of these things in chocolate, so I have 40-something more left over), I’m going to try to dry out the cake a little more. Maybe stick some in the oven, so it’s less “cat food-bleh-mush” (blehhhh-mushh. Blemish?) and more springy. I’ll do that and report back to you here.

Oh… yeah, I couldn’t find chocolate bark at Publix, and I had a ton of semi-sweet chocolate chips at home, so I figured, oh, maybe I could just use that instead, and it’d be just fine; I would just melt my little chocolate chips in the microwave, and they’d turn into liquid goodness. Um. They did not. In fact, they turned into quite the opposite — non-liquid hot mess. It was more ganache-like consistency than anything else, except after a while, the chocolate started seizing up. (I’m chalking that up to steam sneaking out of my makeshift double boiler.) Next time, either use chocolate bark, or melt chocolate chips with cream or milk or something to keep it liquid-y.

So, here they are. Not very pretty. They certainly leave much to be desired in the aesthetics department. And in the texture department. And, and, and…

I guess the moral of the story is to follow directions when they are given to you. But don’t overdo it, because no one likes a brown-noser. And don’t start making up your own rules either, seeing as they most likely will not be legit and all. And one more thing… do yourself a favor, and avoid the contretemps altogether: Go to Kroger, and buy yourself a package of chocolate bark.

Recipe straight from Bakerella herself:

Red Velvet Cake Balls
1 box red velvet cake mix (cook as directed on box for 13 X 9 cake)
1 can cream cheese frosting (16 oz.)
1 package chocolate bark (regular or white chocolate)
wax paper

1. After cake is cooked and cooled completely, crumble into large bowl.
2. Mix thoroughly with 1 can cream cheese frosting. (It may be easier to use fingers to mix together, but be warned it will get messy.)
3. Roll mixture into quarter size balls and lay on cookie sheet. (Should make 45-50. You can get even more if you use a mini ice cream scooper, but I like to hand roll them.)
4. Chill for several hours. (You can speed this up by putting in the freezer.)
5. Melt chocolate in microwave per directions on package.
6. Roll balls in chocolate and lay on wax paper until firm. (Use a spoon to dip and roll in chocolate and then tap off extra.)