Thursday, May 30, 2013

Graduation Cake

      My sister graduated today, and I'm really happy for her.  So, to say congrats, I made her a cake instead of saying it directly to her face because I knew that she heard "congrats" a bazillion times already.  I'm going to miss her weirdness next year.  She's going to a college that is pretty far away from my house, but I know we'll video chat often (hopefully).  

     I decided to make a square cake because I've never actually make one before and it just seems right for graduation.  You know, birthday cakes can be round, but graduation cakes just seem like a rectangular kind of cake (and squares are rectangles).  Our school colors are blue, white and yellow, so I made a vanilla cake filled with homemade lemon curd and store-bought blueberry jam and iced with vanilla butter cream.  

Lemon curd is easy to make.  Just cream together some ingredients and cook it over a stove.

It's done cooking when it leaves a trail on the back of a wooden spoon like this.

Then you just refrigerate it until it thickens.
    The cake is perfectly tender, soft, and dense.  It's the ideal vanilla layer cake.  It's simple to make and tasty.  The lemon curd turned out well, and so did the frosting.  The recipe makes enough buttercream to give the cake a thin coat of frosting, but if you love frosting, you should double the recipe.  The buttercream is my go-to vanilla frosting.  It's rich, creamy, and sweet. Perfect for any cake/cupcake.  I'm really happy with how the cake turned out, even though the frosting was kind of sloppy (I couldn't find my piping tip!).

     I made a figurine resembling my sister.  You know, both have brown hair and a light blue graduation gown.  A few tips on making fondant decorations:  (1) Use toothpicks to hold up your figure and attach it to the cake. (2) NEVER put your decorations in the freezer or refrigerator.  The fondant may harden at first, but once you take it out, it will start sweating and become really sticky and gross.  I think it's because since the fondant is cold, a lot of water condenses on the fondant and sticks to the surface.  It's best just to leave the fondant at room temperature lightly covered in plastic wrap.  If you want it to harden, don't cover it.  

     I'm still trying to grasp the fact that my sister is going to college and that I'll be like an only child (except for my brother).  Also, I can't believe that I'll be graduating in just three years!  

To make the cake:

Whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.
Stir in the butter.
Add vanilla and milk.
Beat in eggs.
Prepare a pan.
Spread batter in.
Bake and cool.

Vanilla Layer Cake

enough to make 1 9x13 cake, 2 9" rounds, 3" 8" rounds, 3 9"x9" squares, or 2 dozen cupcakes
recipe modified from King Arthur Flour


2 cups (397g) sugar, preferably superfine or castor sugar (or granulated sugar pulsed in a blender until fine)
3 1/4 (390g) cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup (170g) unsalted butter, soft
1 1/4 cups milk, at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 large eggs, room temperature


  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly butter and flour cake pans.  Line with wax or parchment paper and grease and flour that.  
  2. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the sugar, flour, baking powder, and salt.
  3. Add the butter and beat with an electric mixer at low speed, until the mixture looks sandy.
  4. Combine the milk and vanilla and add, all at once. Mix at low speed for 30 seconds, then increase the speed to medium and beat for 30 seconds. Scrape the sides of the bowl.
  5. With the mixer running at low speed, add 1 egg. Increase the speed to medium and beat for 30 seconds. Repeat with the second egg. Continue adding the eggs, scraping after each addition, until all 4 are added.
  6. After the last egg is added, scrape the bowl once more, then beat at medium-high speed for 30 more seconds.
  7. Transfer the batter to the pans of your choice. For layers, divide the batter equally among the pans. Smooth out the tops with an offset spatula. The whole batter weighs 48 oz so if you have a kitchen scale, you can make sure you divide the batter equally.
  8. Bake for 40 minutes for a 9" x 13" pan; 27 minutes for 9" layers; 20-25 minutes for 8" layers, or 18-23 minutes for cupcakes. The cake is done when it's golden brown around the edges and just beginning to pull away from the edge of the pan. A toothpick inserted in the center will come out clean.
  9. Remove the cake and cool in the pan for 20 minutes, then remove the cake and let it cool completely before frosting.

Vanilla Buttercream

makes about 2-1/2 cups, enough to frost 12-24 cupcakes or one small cake depending on how much frosting you like
modified from Savory Sweet Life


1 cup (2 sticks, 8oz) unsalted butter, softened 
3-4 cups confectioners sugar, sifted
¼ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 to 4 tablespoons milk or heavy cream


  1. Beat butter until smooth and creamy.  
  2. Add 2 cups of powdered sugar and slowly mix with the butter until incorporated. 
  3. Increase mixer speed to medium and beat in the vanilla extract, salt, and 1 tablespoons of milk/cream. 
  4. Beat in another 1-2 cups of confectioners sugar until incorporated, and then increase the mixer speed and whip the frosting for 3 minutes.
  5. For stiffer icing (good for piping) use more sugar. For thinner icing (good for spreading) add more milk or cream.

Lemon Curd

makes about 2 cups


3 oz. (6 Tbs.) unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
2 large egg yolks
2/3 cup fresh lemon juice
1 tsp. grated lemon zest


  1. In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar with an electric mixer, about 2 min. Slowly add the eggs and yolks. Beat for 1 min. Mix in the lemon juice. The mixture will look curdled, but it will smooth out as it cooks.
  2. In a medium, heavy-based saucepan, cook the mixture over low heat until smooth. Increase the heat to medium and cook, stirring constantly (you don't want it to burn), until the mixture thickens, about 15 minutes.  It should leave a path on the back of a spoon and will read 170°F on a thermometer. Don't let the mixture boil. 
  3. Remove the curd from the heat; stir in the lemon zest. Transfer the curd to a bowl. Press plastic wrap on the surface of the lemon curd to keep a skin from forming and chill the curd in the refrigerator. The curd will thicken further as it cools. Covered tightly, it will keep in the refrigerator for a week and in the freezer for 2 months.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Red White and Blue Cupcakes

     Can you believe Memorial Day is next Monday?  I know summer doesn't officially start until June 21st, but Memorial Day is like a signal of the final days before summer break.  The weather starts getting really hot and the pool finally opens.

     Sorry if I misled you, but if you guessed that these cupcakes were meant to celebrate Memorial Day, you'd be wrong because their purpose was different.  It was to celebrate my history class' hard work after we took the AP United States history test.  I felt that red white and blue cupcakes would be appropriate for the occasion.

     I was debating how to make a red white and blue cupcake without changing the cupcakes' color.  You see, I had these nice cupcake liners left over from the Fourth of July last year that I wanted to use, and if I made red velvet cupcakes or dyed cupcakes, the colors would bleed through and you wouldn't be able to see the pattern.  So I stuck with vanilla cupcakes as a base.  Then I decided to make a raspberry filling to fill the cupcakes with and some white chocolate cream cheese buttercream to balance the tartness.  White chocolate and raspberries go really well together.
You'll have some extra raspberry filling, but there'll be plenty to do with it.  You can save it to fill another cake, stir it into some muffins or make pie bars, for example.  

     Filling the cupcakes was really easy.  At stores, you can buy small contraptions which core the cupcake for you, but it's just as easy to use a plain old knife.  Just stick the tip of a small knife a bit away from the edge of the cupcake, tilt it so that the tip is is the center of the cupcake, and rotate the knife in a circle so that you remove a cone-shaped piece from the cupcake.  Take this piece out, spoon a teaspoon of filling into the cupcake, and press the cone back into the cupcake.  Then cover this with frosting so that the cupcake-eaters are surprised.
     The vanilla cupcake recipe is different from the one I usually use, but it is still good.  Instead of the white, fluffy, vanilla-bean speckled cupcakes I make for plain vanilla cupcakes, I chose to use a recipe for a simple cupcake that could hold up against the frosting.  Still, the cupcake was very soft and tasty.

     To decorate the cupcakes, I just sprinkled some red sprinkles around the edges and then piped some melted white chocolate (mixed with blue food coloring) in star shapes onto wax paper and left it to harden.

      So whether you're celebrating a U.S. history class or a national holiday, I hope you enjoy these cupcakes!

Red White and Blue Cupcakes

makes about 3 dozen cupcakes
adapted from Glorious Treats


For the Cupcake:
2-1/2 cups cake flour
1-1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
4 eggs
1-1/2 cups sugar
1 tbs vanilla extract
1 cup vegetable or canola oil
1 cup buttermilk (or 1 tbs vinegar/ lemon juice mixed with enough milk to make it one cup)

1 recipe raspberry cake filling
1 recipe white chocolate cream cheese frosting


  1. Preheat the oven to 350*F and line a muffin pan with cupcake liners.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  
  3. In a large bowl, beat the eggs for about 10-20 seconds, until frothy.  Add the sugar and quickly beat the mixture for anther 30 seconds (you don't want to leave eggs and sugar alone together for too long).  Add the vanilla and oil and beat. 
  4. Slowly stir in some of the dry ingredients until just incorporated.  Add half of the milk and stir.  Repeat until all the ingredients are just incorporated into the batter. 
  5. Fill the cupcake liners about 3/4 of the way with batter. Bake in preheated oven for 10-14 minutes, until golden brown and springy.  Let cool in pan for 1-2 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
  6. Once the cupcakes are cool, take a knife and cut out a cone shape, as described above. Spoon 1 tsp raspberry filling into the hole, and then place the cone bake onto the cupcake.  Pipe or spread some frosting on the cupcake and decorate with sprinkles if desired.  To make the white chocolate decorations: melt white chocolate, mix it with food coloring, pipe it into star shapes onto wax paper and let harden.

Raspberry Cake Filling

makes about 2-3 cups of filling


2 cups (12 oz) frozen raspberries, thawed with juices reserved (if using unsweetened berries, mix with 1/4 cup sugar and thaw)
1/3 cup white sugar
4 tbs corn starch or 6 tbs flour
1 tsp lemon juice


  1. Pour the raspberry juice into a measuring cup and add enough water to make 1-1/4 cups.
  2. Place the water/juice, raspberries, sugar, corn starch/flour, and lemon juice in a medium saucepan over medium heat.  
  3. Stir occasionally until the mixture boils and is thick.
  4. Cool completely.

White Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting

enough to frost 2-3 dozen cupcakes


1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
4 oz (1/2 block) cream cheese, at room temperature
4 cups confectioners sugar, sifted
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
4 oz good quality white chocolate, melted and cooled


  1. Cream together the butter and cream cheese until well combined.  Then add 2 cups of confectioners sugar and mix until fluffy.  
  2. Add the salt, vanilla, and white chocolate to the butter mixture.  Beat until well combined.
  3. Add the rest of the sugar and beat until fluffy.  If the frosting is too thick, beat in some milk.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Lemonade Cupcakes

     It's kind of hard to believe, but summer is almost here.  The weather is nice and it's the season for barbecues, pool parties, and picnics.  Yesterday, I actually went to two different barbecue parties, and I made these lemonade cupcakes for my mom's friends who are apparently big fans of my cupcakes. 

     Lemonade is an icon of summer.  These cupcakes have a delicious lemon flavor just like the cool, refreshing beverage.  In the picture above you can see that I had two different frostings swirled together.  I just took a light cream cheese frosting, split it in half, and put some lemon juice in one half to give it a subtle lemon-y flavor like lemonade.  I also really like how the swirl looks; it's simple yet cute.

      I usually don't like frosting that much, but this frosting was creamy, fluffy, and not tooth-achingly sweet.  It wasn't heavy like normal buttercreams and it had that lovely lemon and cream cheese flavor.  So go for a cupcake with a tall swirl of frosting on top.  Trust me.

      The cake itself was lovely, too.  It was very fluffy and lemony, and it held up nicely to the frosting.  Also, I think that the straw decor thing is really cute if you're bringing these to a party or bake sale.

      In conclusion, definitely try these cupcakes.  You will be happy that you did, and so will all the people around you. Enjoy!

First whisk together the buttermilk and egg whites. Instead of buttermilk, you can mix together 1 tbs plus 1 tsp lemon juice and enough plain milk to make it one-1/4 cup.
Sift together the dry ingredients in another bowl.

In a large bowl, press the lemon zest into the sugar.

Add the butter and cream until light and fluffy.

Alternate adding the dry and wet ingredients, mixing until well mixed after each addition.

Scoop the batter into cupcake liners and bake.
While the cupcakes are cooling, make the frosting.

Cream together room temperature butter and cream cheese.

Add half of the confectioners sugar.

Beat in some cream and salt.

Split the frosting equally into two bowls.  In one bowl, add 1 tbs lemon juice and some  yellow food coloring.  In the other bowl, stir in vanilla.
Put both frostings into the bag.  One vertical half of the bag should have yellow frosting and the other vertical half should have white frosting.
Swirl the frosting onto the cooled cupcakes.

Lemonade Cupcakes

makes 24 cupcakes
adapted from My Baking Addiction


For the Cupcake:
2 1/4 cups cake flour
1 tbs baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1-1/4 cups buttermilk
1 tbs baking powder
4 large egg whites
1-1/2 cups sugar
zest from 2 lemons
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp lemon extract
For the Frosting:
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, at room temperature
4oz (1/2 block) cream cheese, at room temperature
4 cups confectioners sugar, sifted
1-3 tbs heavy cream, half and half, or milk
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbs fresh lemon juice
yellow food coloring


  1. Center a rack in the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a cupcake pan with paper liners.
  2. Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl.
  3. Whisk together the milk and egg whites in a medium bowl.
  4. Put the sugar and lemon zest in a large bowl and rub them together with your fingers until the sugar is moist and fragrant. Add the butter and beat at medium speed for 3 minutes, until the butter and sugar are very light. Beat in the extracts.
  5. Add one third of the flour mixture and mix to incorporate.  Then add half of the milk mixture.  Repeat until all the ingredients are incorporated and well-mixed. 
  6. Beat the batter for two minutes to aerate it. Distribute the batter among the prepared liners.
  7. Bake for 18-22 minutes, or until the cupcakes are well risen and springy to the touch – a thin knife inserted into the centers should come out clean. Cool on wire rack.
  8. Make the frosting by first creaming together the cream cheese and butter.  Add 2 cups of confectioners sugar and slowly mix until well combined.  Add 1 tbs of cream and all the salt.  Beat until fluffy.  
  9. Split the frosting into two bowls.  In one bowl, add vanilla, and in the other, add lemon juice and yellow food coloring.  Beat each frosting until well combined and add more cream if necessary.
  10. Fill the one side (left or right) of a piping bag, fitted with a large tip, with white frosting  Fill the other side with the yellow frosting. Pipe the frosting onto the cooled cupcakes.
  11. Enjoy!

Friday, May 17, 2013

Orange Pound Cake

     Hey everyone.  I know I've been slacking for the past couple of weeks in term of blog posts.  I didn't even have a Mother's Day post (what's wrong with me?).  But let me assure you, I did make a cake last weekend and I did make my mom breakfast.  I just haven't gotten around to posting the recipes yet because I was crazy studying for my Advanced Placement United States History test on lest Wednesday. Now though, I'm done with U.S. history (hopefully forever) and my homework load has been decreased by 50%! That means more time for baking and blogging!

     This is the cake I made.  My mom loves pound cake so I decided to make one with the oranges I had at home and this pretty cake pan I bought at a yard sale over a year ago but never used. Originally, the recipe was meant for 2 loaf pans, but I cut the recipe in half and poured the batter into my 8" pound cake pan instead.  You can also make a glaze out of fresh orange juice and confectioners sugar, but I opted out because (1) I didn't want to juice another orange and (2) my family isn't big on sweet glazes.

     Anyways, the cake turned out wonderfully moist and orange-y.  It was perfect for Mother's Day and I really liked how the cake looked.

     I feel so free with my test finished and only now have I begun to see how close summer vacation is.  It's so strange how freshman year went by so fast, but I am really excited for summer.  Also, next year, I'll have underclassmen to pick on instead of being picked on myself!

First, you bake the cake in a pan and let it cool for 10 minutes.
Then you make an orange syrup.

And finally you flip the cake out of the pan and pour the syrup over and enjoy!

Orange Pound Cake

makes one 8.5" round bunt cake or 1 loaf pan
adapted from Ina Garten


1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar, divided
2 large eggs, at room temperature
6 tbs grated orange zest (about 3 oranges)
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 cup  plus 2 tbs freshly squeezed orange juice, divided
1/4 cup plus 2 tbs buttermilk, at room temperature (or mix regular milk with 1 tsp vinegar)
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract\

Optional Glaze:
1 cup confectioners' sugar, sifted
1 1/2 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice


Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a loaf pan or 8-9" circular pan with a hole in the center.  Line with parchment paper and grease the paper. 

Cream the butter and 1 cup of the granulated sugar in a large bowl until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, and then the orange zest.

In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. 

In another bowl, combine 1/4 cup of the orange juice, the buttermilk, and vanilla.

Add the flour and buttermilk mixtures alternately to the batter, beginning and ending with the flour.

Divide the batter evenly between the pans, smooth the tops, and bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until a toothpick comes out clean. Let cool in pan for 10 minutes.

While the cake is cooling, cook the remaining 1/4 cup of sugar and orange juice together in a saucepan over low heat until the sugar is dissolved.  Flip or remover the cooled cake onto a plate or pedestal and spoon the syrup evenly over the top of the cake. 

To glaze, combine the confectioners' sugar and orange juice in a bowl, mixing with a wire whisk until smooth. Add a few more drops of juice, if necessary, to make it pour easily. Pour over the top of one cake and allow the glaze to dry. Wrap well, and store in the refrigerator or enjoy immediately. 


Monday, May 6, 2013

Strawberry Chocolate Macarons


     Nothing impresses these days like a macaron.  I brought a tray of these to cooking club and they were gone before the meeting started.  Most people think you need magical powers or some innate ability to make them, but that isn't true.  All you need is some patience, precise measurements, and the ingredients.

      I decided to make chocolate-strawberry macarons this time.  I've never made either flavor before, but I figured that they would make the perfect combination.  After shooting the photos, I realized that these would also make really cute "Neapolitan" macarons if you filled them with white vanilla buttercream instead of ganache and strawberry jam.  But I also feel that the ganache and strawberry filling bring out the flavors of the shells. 

      I'm sorry to say I don't really know how the flavors turned out.  As I said, I brought these to cooking club and they just vanished.  I had some extras in my fridge, but those disappeared too.  My family just doesn't understand that macarons need to mature in the fridge for a couple of days before you eat them.  I heard that they were good, though.  And I'm sure they are; I've never had a bad macaron.
This is how the batter should look.

     If you want some macaron tips, basically this is it:
  • bake one sheet at a time on new, unused parchment paper
  • don't over-mix or under-mix (follow directions)
  • make precise measurements with a kitchen scale (I actually bought by first scale for the sole purpose of making macarons, so you should too.  You can get a cheap one for 5 bucks at Target) 
  • let the macarons sit on the baking sheet after you pipe them for about half an hour to prevent cracking
  • after you fill the macarons, let them sit in the refrigerator for a couple of days so that the flavors can develop more
  • have fun and don't worry too much
  • see here for more detailed step-by-step pictures of the process
      I hope you enjoy!

Strawberry Chocolate Macarons

makes about 30 assembled macarons
recipe adapted from Tartlette and Chocoparis


For the strawberry shells:
90g egg whites (about 3) 
30g granulated sugar
200g  powdered sugar
110g ground almonds/ almond flour
1/2 cup (7g) dehydrated strawberries, crumbled to a fine powder
pink food coloring
For the Chocolate Shells:
90 grams (3 ounces) of egg whites (equal to whites of 3 large eggs), at room temperature
125 grams (4 ½ ounces) of ground almonds or almond flour
125 grams (4 ½ ounces) of icing sugar
25 grams (1 ounce) unsweetened cocoa powder 
125 grams (4 ½ ounces) of caster sugar (aka superfine sugar, or regular sugar pulsed in a blender for a few seconds)
For the filling:
6oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup heavy cream
strawberry jam (I used the strawberry balsamic jam I made)


Prepare the strawberry macarons: in a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the egg whites to a foam, gradually add the sugar until you obtain a glossy meringue with soft peaks.  Stir in the food coloring until evenly incorporated. Sift together the almonds, powdered sugar, reserved powdered strawberries. Add it to the meringue, give it a quick fold to break some of the air and then fold the mass carefully until you obtain a batter that falls back on itself after counting to 10. Give quick strokes at first to break the mass and slow down. The whole process should not take more than 50 strokes. Test a small amount on a plate: if the tops flattens on its own you are good to go. If there is a small beak, give the batter a couple of turns.
Fill a pastry bag fitted with a large round tip with the batter and pipe small rounds (1.5 inches in diameter) onto parchment paper or silicone mats lined baking sheets. 
Preheat the oven to 280F and position a rack in the center. Let the macarons sit out for 30 minutes to an hour to harden their shells a bit and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, depending on their size. Let cool.
Prepare the chocolate macarons: Sift together the almond flour or ground almonds, icing sugar, and cocoa powder; set aside. Beat the egg whites with a bit of the superfine sugar for a few seconds until foamy.  Whip the egg whites on high speed, gradually adding the rest of the superfine sugar, until the meringue has soft peaks when you lift out the beaters.  Fold in the dry ingredients until the batter drips from the spatula like a ribbon.  Pipe the batter into rounds on clean parchment lined baking sheets.  Let the batter rounds sit for about half an hour until the surface is dry and firm.  Bake at 325*F for 12 to 14 minutes and let cool.
Fill.  Make the ganache by boiling the heavy cream, then pouring the cream over the chocolate in a small bowl.  Whisk until the chocolate is all melted and let cool until the ganache is thick.  Pipe some jam into the middle of one macaron shell.  Pipe the ganache around the jam and press another shell on top.  Repeat for the rest of the macarons.  Keep the macarons in an airtight container and refrigerate for a few days before serving so that the flavors can develop.