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Minecraft Birthday Cake!

15 Sep

Hey guys!

How’s everyone doing? I’ve been quite busy this week with some birthday cakes I’ve been making for friends.  One of the cakes I did this week was a Minecraft cake!  I was asked to make a Minecraft themed cake, so I went with the actual Minecraft cake as my theme.  If you’re interested on how to make your own Minecraft cake, follow the cut for my tutorial!

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Tardis Cake

7 Jul

So I’ll be the first to admit that I haven’t quite caught on to the Dr. Who craze going on yet, but my friends have definitely been trying to get me into it! Don’t worry guys, I’ll get there, I’ve just been busy! Just got back from a two week work trip, and I’m finally trying to catch up with some blogging! So what better way to start than with a Tardis cake? This cake was made for my friend’s son, for his 14th birthday : ). Honestly, I was quite concerned about making this cake because it seems rather daunting, since it’s rather detailed, but I’m never one to back out of a challenge, and honestly it wasn’t all that bad! So let’s start!

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Vanilla Adventure!

3 Sep

Today we’re going to discuss vanilla!

In one of my previous entries I spoke about making your own vanilla, and I finally was able to get all of my ingredients to do it, so I thought I’d share my little adventure!

To make vanilla extract you need only two items: vanilla beans, and some kind of alcohol (usually vodka).

Now, if you start looking to buy vanilla beans, I highly recommend buying them online, or from a local farmer’s market.  The price difference is unbelievable!!  A typical vanilla bean from a chain grocery store will cost somewhere between 7-10 dollars, which is much more than the average price online (1-3 dollars).

Buying vanilla beans can be a little intimidating because there are quite a few varieties and grades from which to order.  It should be noted that the two most popular are Madagascar vanilla beans, and Tahitian.

So which one should be used?  From what I’ve gathered in my research it’s pretty simple: if you’re planning on using the vanilla in baked goods, go with Madagascar vanilla beans.  Tahitian vanilla beans are milder and softer in flavor, and thus are much better suited for items that don’t need to be cooked at high temperatures.  However, there is no magic rule that says you have to follow this guidance, it’s merely a suggestion : ).

Because I plan on using my vanilla extract primarily for baking, I went with Madagascar vanilla beans.

I also bought two types of alcohol to infuse, vodka as well as rum.  vodka is often the preferred choice because it’s rather tasteless, and won’t have a flavor that competes with the vanilla.  You don’t have to use a high end vodka, just one that’s relatively tasteless.  I bought some vodka called RÖKK for my extract. I almost bought another type of vodka, but the clerk at the store recommended this brand because it was cheaper, as well as more pure and tasteless than the other brand I had chosen.   As far as the rum, it was something I had seen a few people do, and since I do enjoy rum cake, I thought this could create a really interesting extract!  There are many other types of alcohol that can be used, I’ve heard of people using Brandy as well, so feel free to experiment!  Just remember to use an alcohol that’s at least 35% alcohol (70 proof).

As for sizing, it really depends on how much extract you’d like to make.  Both bottles that I bought where 1.75 liters which is almost 60 oz.

Now let’s discuss the ratio of vanilla beans to alcohol.  There doesn’t seem to any real strict rule on this.  The most common I’ve seen has been 1 bean to 2 oz of alcohol, or 4 beans for 1 cup alcohol (8 oz).   Some other vanilla makers recommend 5 beans to one cup.  Since I ordered quite a few beans, I decided to go with the 5 beans to 8 oz of alcohol.  For my 1.75 liter bottles I decided to use 36 beans for each bottle.

Now with all this background information, let’s move on to the process!

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Chocolate Strawberry Cupcakes

20 Aug

Earlier this month we celebrated my friend Amanda’s birthday, and of course my friend Laina and I had to make something!  I can’t take much credit for the original idea of these cupcakes as Laina showed me a picture of them that she had seen floating around the web, but I found them so cute and easy that I just had to share : ).

For these cupcakes you’ll need…

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An oldie but a goodie! 1234 Cake

19 Aug

Earlier in the week I got back from a lovely cruise trip to the Bahamas. As it happened to be, one of my coworkers had just come back from his cruise to Mexico. I had asked him if he would be so kind as to bring me some Mexican vanilla extract, as it had been quite a few years since I had a chance to visit Mexico. Upon his return he presented me with a very large 500 ml bottle of wonderful Mexican vanilla!

If you’ve never tried different varieties of vanilla, I highly suggest it! It will seriously rock your baking world. There are so many types of vanilla out there, and all are great in their own way. However, I find that when purchasing vanilla at the grocery store you often get vanilla extract that has a bunch of ingredients listed. Pure Vanilla extract really should only have two ingredients: vanilla (or vanillin) and alcohol. Sometimes they will have water, and that’s ok too. There really shouldn’t be anything else in the ingredient list!

Anyways, I was really excited to make something with my new Mexican vanilla extract.  Just smelling it brought back memories of having pastries in South America, because they often tend to use Mexican vanilla extract in their baked goods. The smell is almost floral, and very very sweet.

Ok. I’ll stop talking about vanilla… for now anyways, because I intend to do another post about it later since I’ve now been inspired to create my own vanilla!

In order to test out my new lovely ingredient, I decided to make a quick and easy cake, the 1234 cake. One of the first cakes I ever made was when I was about 5 years old, and it was the 1234 cake. This cake is very simple, and one of the best cake recipes out there! Not only is it easy to remember, but it’s really the ideal cake base for any type of cake. I like this recipe because it delivers a cake that’s moist, spongy, yet firm enough that it could be used on a heavy duty cake being covered by fondant, or buttercream without caving in.

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