\ Joy the Baker

Friday, February 1, 2008


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 It's worth the wait!  I swear.

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 See you there!

Sunday, January 27, 2008

I Have Moved!

I haven't gone far.  Come find me here!

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Fact: the world is better with bananas

Say you're a 17 year old girl, and it's your birthday.  If you can't have a new car, a cute new boyfriend, or a hassle free day from your parents, what would be next on your list?  Probably, Banana Walnut Chocolate Chunk Cupcakes. No?  You'd want one of those super skinny Macbook Airs?  Well let's say, for the sake of... me, that you'd want Banana Cupcakes.  Let's just pretend.  These little gems are far better than anything Steve Jobs could design.  Last time I checked, Steve Jobs didn't make anything that tasted like both banana and chocolate. So... I rest my case.  

Happy Birthday to you Carsen!  Maybe Steve Jobs will make your next birthday cake.  Cross your fingers, or something.

The recipe for this banana cake produces a super moist, but not super dense cake.  It doesn't have the heaviness of banana bread, but it has all the delicious banana flavor.  The walnuts give the cupcakes lots of flavor and texture variation.  And the chocolate chunks?  I try to sneak chocolate into everything, and these were no exception.

Super Moist Banana Cake
1 cup butter, softened
2 1/2 cups light brown sugar, packed
4 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup sour cream
2 cups ripe bananas, mashed 
(about 4 medium bananas)
3 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 cup walnuts, chopped
1/2 cup semi sweet chocolate chunks

Preheat the oven to 350.  Sift together the flour, salt and baking soda.  Set aside.  Mash the bananas and add the sour cream. Set aside.  Cream the butter in the sugar until pale and fluffy, about 4 minutes.  Beat in the vanilla extract.  Add the eggs, one at a time, beating each egg for 1 minute.  Scrape down the bowl after each addition.  Add the flour mixture alternately with the banana mixture, until just combined.  Fold in the nuts and chocolate.  Bake in cupcake papers, or a well greased and floured cupcake pan for 15- 20 minutes.  Check them after 15 minutes.

Brown Sugar Cream Cheese Frosting
1 1/2 cups butter, softened
8oz cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2-4 tablespoons milk
4-6 cups powdered sugar
depending on desired consistency
Cream the butter and cream cheese together in an electric mixer.  (Be sure that the two are at room temperature.  Cold cream cheese or butter can make your frosting lumpy.)  Add the brown sugar and vanilla extract, and beat for about 2 minutes.  Turn off mixer and add 2 cups of powdered sugar.  Turn the mixer on a low speed so the sugar doesn't fly out of the bowl.  Slowly add more sugar alternately with the milk until you reach your desired consistency.  I like my cupcake frosting to be slightly more thick than cake frosting, so it can hold its shape on the cupcake.

Because of the moist bananas in these cupcakes, they hold up very well in the freezer.  Bake them off, and tightly wrap unfrosted cupcakes for freezer storage.  Take them out and defrost as needed (you could even sneak them into the microwave for quick consumption) for a breakfast treat or unexpected company.  They're delicious and flavorful with or without frosting!   Would I lie?  (No.)

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Pink Hawaii

I was recently asked to create a Hawaiian themed cake for a girls first birthday.  Children's theme cakes usually run along a spectrum: from Sesame Street designs to Yo GabbaGabba characters.  I somehow can never find my creative voice in tracing an Elmo onto a cake.  It's just not my style.  Imagine my excitement in having free reign with a Hawaiian cake!

What I came up with is a three layered devil's food cake with coconut cream cheese frosting.  The hot pink dye seemed to call out to me, so the cake became a girly pink with toasted coconut dressing up the side.  On top I fashioned a gum paste (and paper) palm tree with shredded coconut sand, gumpaste coconuts and flip flops.  Yea... flip flops. 

I'm so pleased with how this cake turned out!  I was able to satisfy the desires of the customer and still create a colorful, hip design.  A little pink Hawaii for one year old Miss Lilly.

Devils Food Cake
3 cups sugar
1 cup butter
4 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 2/3 cups flour
3/4 cup cocoa
1 tablespoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/3 cup sour cream
1 1/3 cup hot, strong coffee

Preheat oven to 350.  Sift together the flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt.  Set aside.  Creaming the butter and sugar in an electric mixer.  Beat for about 4 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.  The mixture should be pale in color and fluffy.  Beat in the vanilla extract.  Add eggs one at a time.  Beat each egg into the batter for 1 minute, scraping down the bowlt after each egg.  Alternately add the flour mixture, and sour cream, mixing until just combined.  The batter will be fairly thick at this point, almost like brownie batter.  See the picture above.  With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the hot coffee.  The batter will thin substantially.  Place in greased and floured cake pans ( I used three 10" pans) and bake for 18- 25 minutes.

This recipe produces a deliciously moist cake, but because of all of the liquids, the cake is a bit fragile.  Cake pans should be very well greased and floured.  When cakes come out of the oven, let them rest until cooled, then take a knife and loosen the cake from the sides.  Turn them out, and let them cool further on a cooling rack.  Don't turn them out to cool onto a plate, they'll stick.  Oh yes, I learned the hard way.  

Layer with any delicious frosting you fancy.  I went for a coconut cream cheese frosting.  Say you aren't a wiz at frosting the sides of the cake.  Here's a tip:  always work with a clean cake decorating knife.  Cake knives have a round tip, and no sharp edges.  As your working with the knife, have a deep bowl of hot water on hand.  Dip the knife in and shake it around to clean off the excess frosting.  Working with a clean tool with help ensure clean lines and edges.

When all else fails... hide your mistakes under a layer of delicious toasted coconut!


French culinary terms always seem snooty and unapproachable to me.  Mis-en-place is no different, but it's the concept behind the term that's important.  Translating into "everything in it's place" the term has everyday baking signifigance.  Simply stated, in American English, "get all your stuff together before the flour starts flying."  Soften the butter, get the eggs to room temperature, preheat the oven, measure the flour, leavening, salt, sugar and wet ingredients.  Also have a spatula, towel and greased and floured pan.  When all of that is ready, you know you've got all your ingredients in order. You're not going to find yourself an egg short in the middle of making cake batter.   It's a helpful trick.  Thank you fancy French culinary people!