Saturday, September 24, 2011

The Great Pumpkin Cake


great-pumpkin-cake
Goblins and ghosts are one thing at Hallowe’en, but a full-page glossy photo of Rose’s Great Pumpkin Cake is in quite a separate realm of terror. If you plan to make it, that is. Or, more specifically, if you’ve rashly promised to take that very cake to a Hallowe’en party in full knowledge of the fact that you have never before made either a caramel crème anglaise or an Italian meringue, and that these very tasks now lie between you and the burnt orange silk meringue buttercream that covers this cake so smoothly and so beautifully in that horrifyingly daunting photo on page 127 of Rose’s Heavenly Cakes.
Not only did I promise this cake to my friends and hosts for Hallowe’en this year, but I felt doubly bound to attempt this cake in gratitude to Rose for having very kindly lugged the pumpkin-shaped cake pan halfway across the world in her baggage for me earlier this year.
“I can’t wait to see the look on your children’s faces when they see this cake,” she told me. What she didn’t tell me was that I would be required to boil a supersaturated sugar solution not only once but twice during the process of making the cake’s burnt orange silk meringue buttercream.
Well, there wouldn’t be much for my children to look at unless I somehow managed to overcome my fear of boiling sugary syrups.
When broken apart and concentrated in a supersaturated solution, sugar molecules are unstable. They want to come back together again at any chance to return to their previous crystalline structure. An unclean pot, any jarring or stirring of the supersaturated solution at the wrong time, can send them back to their original crystalline pattern and dry state, crystallizing the mixture and ruining the whole candy batch. (From Baking 911)
I am in awe of anyone who can successfully make fudge and toffee in their home kitchen. When I phoned my Mum several months ago for a bit of motherly sympathy after yet another batch of my fudge crystallized and crumbled, she helpfully told me about the wonderfully shiny, brittle toffees and smooth, creamy fudges she remembers her Gran making for her when she was a little girl. Thanks, Mum! Grrrr.
Perhaps I have the wrong sort of sugar. My sugar has either overly-friendly or pathologically co-dependent molecules that stubbornly stick together regardless of the care I take to keep them apart. I must have sticky sugar. Yes, that’s it – I definitely have the wrong sort of sugar.
Or perhaps I have the wrong sort of weather …
It was procrastination rather than thoroughness that led me to read and re-read Rose’s instructions multiple times through on Saturday morning. The cake itself had baked beautifully the day before and I even tried to convince myself that it would look fine just sandwiched together with a bit of marmalade. After all, once it was covered in buttercream, you wouldn’t be able to see those lovely pumpkin grooves anymore.
In my heart of hearts though, I knew what I had to do. With trembling fingers, I carefully placed my super-sensitive sugar into the centre of a saucepan and poured the water around it. I drew an ‘X’ through the sugar and ensured that not even one single crystal dared to venture stickily towards the edges of the pan. I stirred as the sugar dissolved, I held my breath as the solution boiled … and I watched helplessly as the caramel crystallized.
“IcantdothisitsnotfairwhydoesthisalwayshappentomenobodylovesmeeverybodyhatesmeguessIllgoeatWORMS!”
Some kindly spirit must have had the worms’ best interests at heart because the whole thing wasn’t quite such a disaster the second time around and I was finally able to set aside my burnt sugar crème anglaise and turn to the Italian meringue.
This time, I managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory by knocking the saucepan as my super-clear, supersaturated solution was boiling. Despite being so depressingly frustrating, it was actually quite a mesmerising sight watching the crystals starting to form so insidiously in one section of the pan, then rising and falling on the boiling crest of the sugary bubbles as they linked hands with increasingly more of their crusty friends.
How time flies when you’re boiling sugar. I had donned my apron that morning at 10.30 am. It had only taken me five hours to successfully get my burnt orange silk meringue buttercream ready for slapping on the cake!
pumpkin-cake-assembly
As I painstakingly applied lines of darker orange to mark the segments of the pumpkin’s outer skin, M watched me thoughtfully.
“Is it supposed to look like a pumpkin, Mummy?” she eventually queried. I think she must have inherited her knack for saying the right thing at the right time from her Granny ;-) .
I only had a short time left now before the witching hour, which was when I risked having my pumpkin turn back into a coach if it was still unfinished (magic can be a tricky thing at Hallowe’en). My twirling cocoa tendrils and garish, green marzipan leaves were still a little floppy, but I arranged them artlessly on top of the cake before jumping into my witch’s dress and cape. I grabbed hold of my broomstick, a couple of little witches and an even smaller warlock, and we all set off together down the street with the Great Pumpkin Cake in tow.
witching-hour
No Hallowe’en party would be complete without an unearthly danse macabre …
halloween-dance
… and a suitably ghoulish feast.
halloween-feast
And the Great Pumpkin cake?
It was delicious – moist, subtly spiced and perfectly complemented by the smoothest buttercream I have ever had the pleasure of rolling around my tongue. Every forkful was savoured with relish …
pumpkin-fork
… right down to the last crumbs.
pumpkin-last-crumbs
Although Melinda and I are self-confessed Fallen Angel Bakers, you can see further renditions of the Great Pumpkin Cake by members of the Heavenly Cake Bakers group this month as they work their way through all of the cakes in Rose’s book. My thanks go to Marie for steering the project – it was certainly encouraging to know that I wasn’t alone in my buttercream trepidation!

Found on:
The Great Pumpkin Cake « A Merrier World

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Rainbow Cake in a Jar | Family Kitchen

BabbleJarRainbow2 Rainbow Cake in a Jar
I’ve always had a penchant for sunshine in a jar. Doesn’t the very phrase itself, “sunshine in a jar,” roll off your tongue and fill your mouth with magic? While I’ve never yet found myself a sunshine in a jar, I think we may have just concocted it in our kitchen tonight. In this simple recipe, a basic white cake is turned into a slew of bright colors, baked to perfection, then topped with a creamy white frosting.
Cakes baked in jars can be topped with traditional metal canning lids and stored in the fridge for up to five days. They make a great treat to ship to someone, so long as you can ensure delivery to it’s final destination within 3 days. Of course, you don’t have to do anything special with your cake-in-a-jar. There’s something lively & different about serving personal-sized batched of cake in glass mason jars. They make for great dinner party conversations and ever better after-school suprises for your kiddos. Especially this one. Because, who doesn’t love sunshine in a jar?

BabbleJarRainbow1 200x300 Rainbow Cake in a Jar

Rainbow Cake in Jar

  • 1 box white cake mix made according to package instructions
  • Neon food coloring in pink, yellow, green, turquoise, and purple
  • 3 one-pint canning jars
  • 1 can vanilla frosting
  • Rainbow sprinkles
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Thoroughly wash and dry the inside of each canning jar. Spray the inside of each jar thoroughly with nonstick cooking spray. Set aside.
Scoop about 1/2 cups of cake batter into five small bowls. It doesn’t have to be perfect, don’t panic if you get a little more of less of one color than another. Tint each bowl of cake batter with the food coloring until very vibrant.
Spoon about 3 tablespoons of the purple batter into the bottom of each jar. Spoon equal amounts of turquoise batter, then green, yellow, and pink. Place the jars in a shallow baking dish, add about 1/4″ in water in the baking dish. Place the baking dish in the oven and bake for 30-35 minutes.
Remove jars and allow to cool completely before scooping a small portion from the top of your cake and adding a hefty dollop of vanilla buttercream to the top. Sprinkle & serve, or cover with a lid and store in the fridge or pop into the mail & surprise someone you love!
POST EDIT: Several commenters have indicated that the cake is not cooking all the way through in the 30-35 minutes indicated in the recipe. This was enough time for our cake, but I’m cooking at high altitudes, and my oven tends to bake hot. So, I’d recommend baking the cake for 40 minutes, then return it to the oven if it still doesn’t spring back to the touch when you check to see if it’s finished. As for the cake puffing up and out of it’s bottle, ours did that a bit, as well. Easy fix. We just scooped a bit of the cake out to make room for the frosting and wiped the outside of our jars clean. Several people have indicated that the wide-mouthed mason jars work a little better for this purpose. I’ve not yet baked with wide-mouthed. What you see above is what was baked in my kitchen according to the recipe instructions, and what came out of the oven when it was all. Of course, if you’re feeling wildly impatient, you can also zap the cake in the microwave for 2 minutes. It’s going to bubble up, for sure, but you can scoop the top part of that cake out, frost it, and no one will ever be the wiser. Good luck, everyone! This is such a fun cake. My kids went nuts over it, and I hope it works as beautifully for you as it did for us!
BabbleJarRainbow3 234x300 Rainbow Cake in a Jar

Posted by brooke mclay on April 8th, 2011 at 12:08 am

Rainbow Cake in a Jar | Family Kitchen

Food Food Food - Recipes to Try & Tried: Rainbow Cake in a Jar | Family Kitchen

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Cup Cakes / Frightfully Good Halloween Cupcakes

Source: bhg.com via Peg on Pinterest


Howling Werewolf Cupcake
    This hair-raising cupcake is a frightfully fabulous treat for Halloween parties. To make it, follow these steps: 1. Start with frosted store-bought or homemade cupcakes. 2. Use pieces of shredded wheat to create hair, beard, and whiskers on top of frosting. 3. Press two red mini candy-coated chocolates into the cupcake for eyes. 4. Make a dot with icing on each candy-coated chocolate for the pupils. 5. Press two candy corn pieces on both sides of the eyes for ears. 6. Tear off a small piece of black licorice for the nose. 7. Pipe on white frosting to make the mouth. 8. Press two frosted sunflower kernels on each side of the mouth for fangs.

Frightfully Good Halloween Cupcakes

Source: bhg.com via Peg on Pinterest


Spider Crawler Cupcake
    This creepy-crawly cupcake is a classic Halloween favorite. To make it, follow these steps: 1. Start with frosted store-bought or homemade cupcakes. 2. Place purchased truffle in middle of a frosted cupcake for spider head. 2. Use melted chocolate to adhere two red mini candy-coated chocolates to truffle for eyes. 3. Cut eight pretzel sticks in half. 4. Dip pretzels in melted chocolate to adjoin broken sticks for spider legs. 5. Insert pretzel sticks in cupcake around the truffle for legs.

Frightfully Good Halloween Cupcakes

Source: bhg.com via Peg on Pinterest


Frightening Frankenstein Cupcake
    This cupcake has risen from the dead as a delicious sweet treat. To make it, follow these steps:
    1. Start with frosted store-bought or homemade cupcakes.
    2. Spray frosting and a marshmallow with green spray icing.
    3. Break a pretzel stick in half.
    4. Press pretzel halves into the bottom of the marshmallow to make neck plugs.
    5. Stick marshmallow on the cupcake for the head.
    6. Pipe on black frosting to make the hair, eyes, and mouth.