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My first pull-apart

Back in February my second oldest niece celebrated her 8th birthday. The family usually gathers together in masses and sit around eating store bought ice cream cake or Publix bakery cakes. There’s nothing wrong with that but I wanted to try and make something myself this year. I sat down with my niece and asked her what she wanted for her birthday cake. Grandiose cakes and impossible flavor combinations came forth as she explained her perfect cake. Once I was able to talk her down to something actually manageable I had some great ideas in my head.

My sister had mentioned a few weeks before this that she had seen a really cool Pull-Apart cake. I had never heard of them myself. But she insisted that they were really easy and fun for everybody so I did some research and lo and behold, they were. For those of you who have never heard of pull-apart cakes before (although I’m probably the only one), they are just cupcakes set into a shape and frosted like a normal cake, your guests then just pull apart the cake into their own individual cupcakes. Just that simple.

The birthday girl wanted Strawberry frosting on her cupcakes and while this didn’t sound too appetizing it actually was, thought I would throw that in there.

Ingredients

  • 1 box (1lb 2.25oz) Betty Crocker SuperMoist Vanilla cake mix
  • 1 tub whipped Strawberry frosting

Directions

  • Prepare cupcakes as box recommends.
  • Place cupcakes in whatever shape you desire.
  • Frost cupcakes as you would a normal cake.

Notes

  • I did the cake in a heart shape for her birthday.

  • In order to get the frosting to cover all the gaps I just whipped the frosting more than I normally would until it was stiff enough to withstand a little gap here and there. I know that in picture there are some pretty large gaps but as I frosted they all shifted around and eventually fell into place side by side (well as close as you can get round cupcakes to sit side by side)

  • To decorate I simply covered the entire top of the Pull-Apart in strawberry frosting and decorated with multi-colored butterfly sprinkles I found at Michaels. I waited to do her name and the rest of the piping until I had the borders on so I didn’t accidentally pipe over the words.

  • This was my first attempt at piping so the letters look a little bulbous in some points but not too shabby for a first attempt. I am a bit of a perfectionist so I was nervous while I did it though, very very nervous lol.
  • I left the top right corner of the heart blank so we could stick a number 8 candle there. Everybody loved it, the kids thought it was fantastic and even the adults had fun with it.
  • Very easy. Very very easy. You can just as easily make any shape you want. Since we are coming up on the 4th of July soon I have noticed quite a few Pull-Apart American Flags popping up.

Challenge 1: Mint Chocolate Chip Cookies

So I’ve been asking my family for some ideas they would like me to try out to test my baking skills. The first (and only) person to pipe up was my 10 year old niece with the idea for Mint Chocolate Chip Cookies. Sounds easy enough, and it is, but I wanted to find something that would not only taste good but be something to remember visually. I found these cookies on BettyCrocker.com and thought the kids would love them. I really had no idea they would be such a big hit with the family. I made somewhere around 49 cookies in total and the first 1/2 of them were gone by the next morning….yeah, the next morning.

The mint was perfect and not too overpowering, the chocolate was perfect, and with a nice glass of milk they were delicious as a night time snack.

 

Ingredients

  • 1 pouch (1lb 1.5oz) Betty Crocker sugar cookie mix
  • 1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened
  • 1/4 to 1/2 tsp mint extract
  • 6 to 8 drops green food color
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup creme de menthe baking chips
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chunks

Directions

  1. Heat oven to 350°F. In large bowl, stir cookie mix, butter, extract, food color and egg until soft dough forms. Stir in creme de menthe baking chips and chocolate chunks.
  2. Using small cookie scoop or teaspoon, drop dough 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheet.
  3. Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until set. Cool 3 minutes; remove cookies from cookie sheet to wire rack. Serve warm or cool completely. Store tightly covered at room temperature.

Notes:

  • I couldn’t find creme de menthe baking chips in two grocery stores that I went to so I did some online searching and found that the Andes mints you get at some restaurants would do just fine. 1 whole package of Andes mints (4.67 oz package I believe) and cut them lengthwise in half then into cubes (about the size of the chocolate chips)
  • For the chocolate chunks I just bought whatever chocolate chips were on sale.
  • The green color of the cookies was very cool to see. I didn’t have the liquid food coloring but the gel type instead, so measuring out 6 to 8 drops was a little difficult. But I just eyeballed it really, I don’t want to give a tsp size out of fear that it would be more than I put in there. Just know that as green as the batter is it’ll lighten up once it bakes, so make them a little more green than you would normally think ok and they will drop a shade or two baking.

Yummmmmmmmmmmmm

I was trying to come up with a good title for this post but I’m currently floating on cloud 9 thanks to the little goodies I just made. I was invited to a “meeting of the minds” for the next dungeons and dragons campaign my friends and I want to play. So I had to find something that would please everybody. One’s on a diet, one doesn’t eat fruit, one’s pregnant, and the other and myself are just big guys so we can scarf down a good amount. Thanks to Betty Crocker I found something that will fit for everybody. It’s the “Healthified” Mini Chocolate Cheesecakes.

These little slices of heaven were surprisingly really easy to make. It was my first attempt at making a cheesecake desert so I was worried since I’ve heard you have to coddle cheesecakes more than a newborn baby, but they were no problem whatsoever. I did make a few minor changes here and there but nothing to change the dessert itself. For example it says to use Foil baking cups and since I had never used those before I really wasn’t sure how it would come out. I should have just used the foil cups and learned from it, but….well I didn’t so meh. I just used the paper wrappers and dropped them in a 12 count muffin pan. They came out perfect.

Ingredients

Cheesecakes

  • 12 Foil baking cups
  • 12 thin chocolate wafer cookies (from 9-oz package), crushed (2/3 cup)
  • 12 oz 1/3-less-fat cream cheese (Neufchâtel), softened
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened baking cocoa
  • 1 whole egg
  • 1 egg white
  • 1 oz bittersweet or semisweet baking chocolate, melted

Topping

  • 1/3 cup fat-free hot fudge topping
  • Fresh raspberries, if desired

Directions

  1. Heat oven to 325°F. Place foil baking cup in each of 12 regular size muffin cups. With back of spoon, firmly press slightly less than 1 tablespoon cookie crumbs in bottom of each foil cup.
  2. In large bowl, beat cream cheese with electric mixer on medium speed until creamy. Beat in sugar and vanilla until fluffy. Beat in cocoa. Beat in whole egg and egg white until well blended. Stir in melted chocolate. Divide cheese mixture evenly among crumb-lined foil cups.
  3. Bake 28 to 32 minutes or until set. Cool in pan on cooling rack 15 minutes. Remove cheesecakes from pan; cool 15 minutes longer. Refrigerate about 1 hour or until chilled.
  4. To serve, carefully remove foil baking cups. Spread fudge topping on cheesecakes. Garnish with raspberries. Store cheesecakes covered in refrigerator.

Notes

  • As I said, I used regular cupcake papers in a 12 count muffin pan and they came out perfect.
  • For the chocolate wafers, I had trouble finding them in the grocery store. I eventually found them next to the hot fudge topping and sprinkles section by the ice cream freezers, at least thats the layout at Publix. Mine came in a little yellow box and you’ll know what they are when you see them, I wasn’t sure at first.
  • Having never worked with cheesecake before I got worried when I pulled them out of the oven, they were cracked on top and looked really dry. In less than 15 minutes though they settled and were perfect looking.
  • I didn’t measure out 1/3 cup hot fudge, I just spooned enough into the little dent on the top of the cheesecakes and made a small puddle. Then lightly top it with a fresh raspberry.
  • I took mine to a bbq so I didn’t want too much hot fudge in the container, but at home I would put a lot more on there.
  • As for the “Healthified” part this is what the Betty Crocker website says: “57% less fat – 61% less sat fat – 37% fewer calories than the original recipe.”
  • Mini Chocolate Cheesecakes found on Bettycrocker.com

So we learn from our mistakes…

My Aunt’s birthday was a few days ago so I decided to make her a cake. I know she loves the Orange Crunch Cake my grandmother makes all the time, so I wanted to try a Betty Crocker recipe I found online. Recipe seemed easy enough with a few easy boxed ingredients. I usually consider using boxed mixes and stuff a form of cheating considering I’m trying to become a professional baker and all. Not that there’s anything wrong with it, just that I want to be able to make a cake and say I made everything. It’s strange I know, I’m just rambling.

So as I was saying, I made an Orange Crunch Cake for my Aunt. I messed up the batter (forgot an egg…or two), the frosting came out too runny, the mandarin oranges kept sliding off the cake top. All in all this cake was a pain in butt to make. Came out tasting fantastic though, even my sister who doesn’t like it usually, ate a whole piece. I know what I did wrong with the frosting and I am pretty sure I won’t forget the eggs next time, let’s hope.

Ingredients

Cake

  • 1 cup graham cracker crumbs (15 squares)
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup butter or margarine, melted
  • 1 box Betty Crocker® SuperMoist® yellow cake mix
  • 2 tablespoons grated orange peel
  • 1 1/4 cups orange juice
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 3 eggs
  • Orange slices, if desired. *

Frosting

  • 1 container (12 oz) Betty Crocker® Whipped Vanilla frosting
  • 2 cups frozen (thawed) whipped topping
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons grated orange peel

Directions

  1. Heat oven to 350°F. Grease bottoms of 2 (8- or 9-inch) round cake pans with shortening. Line bottoms of pans with waxed paper, then grease and flour entire pans. *
  2. In medium bowl, mix cracker crumbs, brown sugar, pecans, cinnamon and butter. Sprinkle 1 cup pecan mixture evenly into bottom of each pan; press gently. (This is where I messed up, I tried to rescoop the batter out to mix the eggs in and ended up having the crunch layer all mix in. I just mixed all the ingredients together so the crunch was in the batter itself. Came out fantastic, we prefer it now over the two layers of crunch.)
  3. In large bowl, beat cake mix, orange peel, orange juice, oil and eggs with electric mixer on law speed for 30 seconds. Beat on medium speed for 2 minutes, scraping bowl occasionally. Pour evenly into pans.
  4. Bake 8-inch round pans for 45 to 50 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean and tops are dark golden brown. Cool in pans 15 minutes. Carefully run sharp knife around sides of pans to loosen cakes. Remove from pans to cooling rack, placing crumb mixture side up. Cool completely, about 1 hour.
  5. In large bowl, stir all frosting ingredients until well blended. (This didn’t work out as well for me, it just became runny. I think it was because I used Fat Free Whipped Cream, but it also may have just needed proper mixing. Next time I’ll use my electric mixer and try to fluff it up a bit more.)
  6. Place 1 layer, crumb side up, on serving plate. Spread with 1 cup frosting to within 1/4 inch of edge. Add second layer, crumb side up. Frost side and top of cake with remaining frosting. Garnish with orange slices. To serve, cut cake with serrated knife and store covered in the refrigerator.

Notes

  • I’ve described my issue with the frosting so keep an eye out for that. It could have totally been my fault but just wanted to warn everyone.
  • I used the little Del Monte Mandarin oranges in light syrup and drained the slices instead of oranges, adds a sweet  tang. You don’t need much depending on how you decorate your cake, and the kids love the little oranges so it’s worth it to buy the whole package.
  • I used two aluminum foil trays and just sprayed them with Pam, it worked fine for me since I don’t have cake pans yet.
  • Original recipe from Betty Crocker (Note: It is a Member-Exclusive Recipe but signup is free and there’s tons of more recipes)

Mom gets a birthday cake

So my mom’s birthday was a few months back and I wanted to make her something special. Mainly I was too broke to buy her anything so I played the emotional card by saying that a cake that I make myself is more personal than any trinket I buy her. It worked like a charm. The only problem was trying to find something to make that she could have. She’s diabetic so I wanted to make sure she COULD have it, but more importantly I wanted to make sure she enjoyed it. If any of you have ever made diabetic recipes you know they can sometimes be too bland or just not come out right at times.

Turns out my mom loves Germans Chocolate Cake above all else. Problem is every time I found a recipe that was diabetic friendly there were so many mixed reviews I couldn’t tell whether or not it was going to turn out good. So while this isn’t a diabetic friendly cake it is super yummy. I made my mom promise that if she wanted to have a slice of a non-diabetic friendly recipe then she had to keep her sugar levels to a good number for 1 week prior to her birthday. So she kept her sugar levels in check all week and was able to have a piece of the cake. She loved it, as did everybody, even the picky eaters like the kids.

Ingredients

German Chocolate Cake

  • 4 oz semi sweet chocolate, chopped
  • 2 1/4 cups cake flour
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup hot coffee or boiling water (I highly recommend the coffee, adds great flavor)
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 1/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 1/4 cups granulated white sugar
  • 5 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Coconut Pecan Frosting

  • 1 1/4 cups pecans
  • 1 cup granulated white sugar
  • 1 cup evaporated milk (can also use light or heavy cream)
  • 3 large egg yolks, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups sweetened flaked coconut
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Directions

German Chocolate Cake

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and place rack in center of oven. Butter, or spray with a nonstick vegetable spray, and line with parchment paper, three – 8 x 2 inch deep round baking pans. Dust with flour. (The first time I made it I used three, the second time I only made two layers as three was a little more than we could all eat, your choice)
  2. In a heatproof bowl, placed over a saucepan of simmering water, melt the chocolate. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature.
  3. In a separate bowl, sift the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
  4. In a small bowl combine the coffee and buttermilk.
  5. In the bowl of your electric mixer, or with a hand mixer, beat the butter until smooth and creamy. Add the sugar and continue beating until the mixture is fluffy, about 3-5 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add the vanilla extract and beat to combine.
  6. Add the coffee/buttermilk mixture and flour mixtures in three additions, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Beat only until the ingredients are incorporated. Fold in the melted chocolate.
  7. Divide the batter evenly among the three prepared pans and smooth the tops. Bake for about 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean and the tops spring back when lightly pressed. Remove from oven and place on a wire rack with a non stick vegetable spray before inverting the cakes onto the rack to prevent the cakes from sticking. Cool the cakes completely before frosting.

Coconut Pecan Frosting

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Place the pecans on a baking sheet and bake for about 8-10 minutes or until lightly browned and fragrant. Remove from oven, let cool, and then coarsely chop.
  2. In a medium saucepan, combine the sugar, milk, egg yolks, butter, and salt. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, and when the mixture begins to boil and thicken, remove from heat. Stir in the chopped pecans, coconut, and vanilla extract. Let cool until spreadable.

Assemble

  • Place one layer of cake on your serving plate and cover with one third of the frosting. Place the second layer of cake onto the first layer and frost with another one third of the frosting. Then add the third cake layer and frost the top with the remaining frosting (the sides of cake are left bare). The finished cake can be stored at room temperature for a couple of days or it can be refrigerated.

Notes

  • If you don’t have three, or even two, 8 x 2 baking dishes then I recommend the aluminum disposable ones you can find in the paper products aisle of your grocery store. Cheap, disposable, and makes cleaning so much easier. If you do opt for the aluminum disposable ones you don’t need the parchment paper.
  • As I said earlier, I recommend using coffee not water because the coffee adds such a nice flavor to the cake. But we’re heavy coffee drinkers so it may be different for you.
  • Make sure the butter is at room temperature as it makes it so much easier to mix everything together.
  • VERY IMPORTANT: When the frosting says stir constantly, it means STIR CONSTANTLY! I paused to answer a question for about a few seconds and when i turned around it was already starting to clump to the bottom of the pan. Just keep stirring.
  • Joy of Baking: German Chocolate Cake recipe

Chocolate and Coconut Lace Cookies

My first attempt at baking was actually very successful. I was watching an episode of one of the many cooking shows Giada de Laurentiis hosts and she was doing a valentine’s day goodie basket for some of her family. One of the items she did was the Chocolate and Coconut Lace Cookies. They were so unbelievably easy that I ran to the kitchen to see if I had everything I would need and as luck would have it…I didn’t. I mean who keeps flaked coconut on hand at all times*!?

So once I got around to going to the store I tried my hand at making the cookies. Just as it looked on TV they were very easy to make. They were such a hit with my family that I ended up making this same recipe 3 times in a week so everybody could try them. I’ll admit that each time we ran out of cookies was usually my fault, they were too addictive. Before these cookies I wasn’t a huge fan of coconut but I’m glad I gave them a try, I’ve now become a fan of all things coconut.

One last thing, I’ve heard a few pastry chefs say that you should always start out with something easy for your first baking attempt. Kind of obvious advice but I’m really glad I came across these with that advice in mind. These were so easy to make and so delicious that it gave me the confidence to try more baking things. So if you want to try your hand at baking I highly recommend these cookies to start with.

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup sweetened, flaked coconut
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 (4-ounce) bar bittersweet (62% Cacao) chocolate, chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
Directions
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F with oven rack in the center of the oven. Line 3 baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone liners. Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, mix together the sugar, coconut, melted butter, flour, vanilla, and salt.
  3. Using a 1/2-ounce cookie scoop or a tablespoon, scoop 6 balls of dough, 3 to 4 inches apart, on each baking sheet. Lightly flatten the tops of the dough. Cook until golden, 8 to 10 minutes. Allow the cookies to cool on the parchment paper, about 15 minutes.
  4. Place the chocolate in a bowl and place over a pan of barely simmering water. Stir until the chocolate has melted. Using a fork, drizzle the tops of the cookies with the melted chocolate. Freeze the cookies until the chocolate has set, about 5 minutes. Remove the cookies from the freezer and store in an airtight container at room temperature.
Notes
*I now keep flaked coconut on hand at all times just in case.

We all have to start somewhere

I’ve never been good at really introducing myself through posts so I’ll just skip that and get to the good stuff. My name’s Ferg and I am a baker. Well, I’m sort of a baker. I’ve really only just started trying my hand at the art of baking. I’ve made a few things that have been a pretty big hit with my friends and family so that’s good. The plan is to continue baking at home while I finish college then go to a pastry chef school to officially learn the art.

This website is a place for me to keep all of my recipes I find/attempt so that I can get rid of the large loose pile of papers and 3×5 cards I have laying around. I’ll make stuff from online recipes, FoodNetwork.com, and CookingChannel as well as tried and true family recipes passed down from generation to generation.

Take a look around, try EVERYTHING you see here, and let me know what you think. Have an idea for something I should make? Let me know. I’m always interested in finding new recipes to try. And who knows, maybe in a couple of years I’ll be a famous pastry chef and you can all say that you followed me from the very beginning!

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